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 13 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the 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.
Petition received and read.
-A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Chipp.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. On Thursday, 15 November, in answer to a question from Senator Melzer as to whether it was unprecedented both to give a pardon and to offer a sum of money for assistance to the police, the Attorney-General stated that there was no record of this happening in recent years and it concerned him greatly. Has the Attorney-General now considered the matter and can he confirm this action to be not only unprecedented but also highly improper?
– What I said in answer to Senator Melzer ‘s question was that an examination had been made of records and that no record could be found in my departmental area where a pardon and a reward had been granted to a person. I went on in answer to that question to say that what was particularly concerning me was the fact that the information in relation to the reward had not been disclosed in the material on which 1 considered this matter. It was unknown to me as it was unknown to everybody who was advising me in relation to this matter. That is the point that I was making.
I have given the matter further consideration, as I said I was doing and would do. I already knew that Mr Nakis had given evidence. I have checked on that matter. He has given evidence. I understand that he will be recalled to give further evidence. He has given his evidence on the basis of the immunity that he was given. I believe that in those circumstances it would be quite unthinkable to take any steps in relation to the pardon that he has been given. There are very grave doubts about whether that could be done. Therefore, in my view the pardon must stand.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I draw his attention to an announcement made last week by the Deputy Prime Minister to the effect that Australia might be prepared to send military forces to Zimbabwe as part of a Commonwealth effort to aid the peace settlement there and that it will take other steps to facilitate the sending of other Commonwealth troops to the region. Does the Minister recall that this is now the second commitment to send troops, if required, to Southern Africa, the other case involving the United Nations proposal for a peace-keeping force in Namibia? Does the Minister recall telling me on 2 1 August that he would seek to facilitate a debate in this chamber on the issue of Namibia? Does he accept that Australian forces should not be sent overseas where lives may be in jeopardy without the issues involved being fully debated by both Houses of the national Parliament, something which the Government has failed to facilitate in this chamber? Are the issues of Australian overseas military involvement and peace in South Africa regarded as not important enough to warrant debate in the Senate or as too important?
-I regret that there has not been sufficient time for us to have had a debate on the Namibian situation. That situation, of course, is still fluid. There is no clear picture in that regard. Certainly the Government regards the sending of forces overseas as of very great significance to the Australian people both with regard to the safety and security of those forces and in terms of the international involvement. In Namibia the aim of the forces was simply to have been supervising peace-keeping forces at the time of the election. Their role in Zimbabwe would be much the same.
I will have a hard look at the question that has been posed by Senator Puplick. I hope that all honourable senators have been gratified by the progress that seems to have been made in the London talks and the fact that Australia has been able to play such a significant role to get a difficult situation to this point. I will refer the whole question of the commitment of forces to Zimbabwe to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. For my part, I will consider again whether in the course of this week there is any way in which some debate on the matter can be engendered. The whole program is very tight.
-Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister noted the statement by the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, Mr Smith, that the Victorian Liberal Government’s financial support for the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd Brooklyn abattoirs was purely a matter of electoral expediency and that the Victorian Government had been pre-empted by the Federal Government’s decision? Was the Federal Government’s decision to support the abattoirs also motivated purely by electoral expediency?
-I would have thought that the Labor Party would have started from the premise that it would be very important to protect a significant rural co-operative. I take if from Senator Primmer ‘s question to me that the Labor Party is opposed to the rural co-operative and, indeed, would want to see it destroyed. I only want to say, as one who took part in the Government ‘s decision on this matter, that the decision was made in the belief that, if it were possible to do so, a significant co-operative should be helped to continue, and that there was absolutely no thought in mind of any electoral expediency in the decision. The only revelation of political policies on this matter has come out of Senator Primmer ‘s question, which is a clear indication that the Labor Party would have been willing to destroy the co-operative.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I did start my question by asking the Minister whether he had noted the statement by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Smith. I repeat: Has he noted that statement?
– I heard on the air, or I read in the Press- one or the other- of the basis of a statement purported to have been made by Mr Smith. As I have heard it, it was to the effect that Senator Primmer indicated. As I understand it, the statement related to decisions of a State government; it had no relationship to the grounds for the decision of the Federal Government, and I have responded on behalf of the Federal Government.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs why the titles to Aboriginal reserve land in the Northern Territory, which were presented to Aboriginal land trusts in September last year, have not yet been registered by the Northern Territory Government. Also, is the Minister aware that Aboriginals are denying European residents of the Gove Peninsula road access across Arnhem Land?
-The matter of the registration of titles has been a rather long running saga. The Northern Territory Government refused to register the titles on the basis of a difference of legal opinion between the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governmentsand, indeed, between the Northern Territory and the Aboriginal land owners- as to whether or not it was necessary to exclude certain additional roads from the titles. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act requires the titles to exclude roads over which the public has a right of way. I think some five roads were excluded from the titles, and the argument of the Northern Territory Government is that additional roads should be excluded. That has been the subject of a series of discussions between the various interested parties. In Darwin recently I indicated to both the Northern Territory Government and to the land councils that I would propose to deal with the problem by removing the requirement that roads be specifically excluded, putting in its place a general exclusion. This would permit the titles to be registered. It would not solve the problem of precisely which roads should be excluded; that would be a matter which would have to be determined either by a discussion and agreement between the land councils and the Northern Territory Government or by litigation. The important thing is that the solution does not change the position of the parties but I think it would get over the technical problem of registering the titles.
In respect of the second part of the honourable senator’s question, I am not aware of any current attitude by the owners of land in Arnhem Land to refuse permits to residents of Gove. Certainly there was a period- some months ago- when there was a hold-up on permits, and that was eventually dealt with. The Northern Land Council had discussions with the traditional owners concerned and permits were eventually granted. If there has been a further outbreak of that problem, it has not been drawn to my attention. I will check with my Department to see whether there are any continuing problems. The control of access to land is central to the Aboriginal enjoyment of land. The Northern Territory Government has been co-operative in the sense that it has said that any roads which are opened through an agreement with the land councils and the Northern Territory Government will still be subject to a permit system. 1 think that that is an important safeguard which will be maintained by the Northern Territory Government. It will be subject to an appeal to the Administrator in Council but it will mean that there remains a control over general access.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that on 15 September 1977 a meeting was held in the office of her DirectorGeneral in Juliana House, Phillip, attended by Mr Lanigan; Mr Corrigan, First Assistant Director-General of the Department; Mr Prowse, First Assistant Director-General; Mr Lang, First Assistant Director-General of the Department of Health; Mr Davies, Assistant Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police; and Mr Thomas. Detective Chief Inspector in the Commonwealth Police? Is she aware that at this meeting it was decided that a short note in the form of a ‘ministerial’ be directed to Mr Lanigan from the Commonwealth Police for presentation to the Minister, setting out a system of assessment for recommendations on whether any reward should be paid for evidence in the alleged social security frauds case? If she is not aware of this meeting, and if she is not aware of this decision, will she please make inquiries to find out why she is not aware and was not made aware of the meeting at the time?
– I have some knowledge of the matters referred to by Senator Grimes. I will make inquiries to see whether there is any matter in the question raised by him of which I am not aware at this stage.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister also let us know when she became aware of the meeting?
– I will give the whole question consideration. If there are any matters that need to be advised to the Senate with regard to the question asked by Senator Grimes I will see that that advice is given.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Transport will recall that last year a delegation from the Northern Territory inquired of the Minister for Transport and later the General Manager of the Australian National Line about the future of the Darwin Trader. Discussions between the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government concerning the future of this vessel, which plays an important role in the supply of goods from the eastern States to the Port of Darwin, followed the delegation’s representations. A report in the media now suggests that because of a breakdown in the arrangements for the supply of Australian cement as cargo, problems exist once again in regard to the future of this supply vessel servicing Darwin. Is the Minister in a position to advise on the matter? What is the Government’s attitude to the continuity of operation of the Darwin Trader in its present role?
– I recall hearing of a delegation which Senator Kilgariff led to the Minister for Transport on this subject. I also recall that he raised the matter in questions in the Senate at about the same time or perhaps a little before that time. I have some information from the Minister for Transport on the matter which the honourable senator has raised. I am advised that over recent months the Australian National Line has been pursuing a number of options which could make the operations of the Darwin Trader commercially viable. The option which held the best prospect of success was the possibility of the vessel being used to transport cement to Darwin from the southern States.
The ANL has been actively negotiating with cement interests to secure this trade for the Darwin Trader but the Line has recently informed the Minister for Transport that these negotiations have been unsuccessful. In the light of this development ANL is examining its options for continuing the service on a commercial basis. But as the answer I have given indicates, there is still some uncertainty in this matter.
-The Attorney-General will recall that last Wednesday, following other questions on the alleged social security frauds case, Senator Cavanagh and I directed questions to him in respect of possible breaches of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act and the by-laws governing Telecom Australia. Is the Minister now in a position to decide whether there have been breaches of this Act and the bylaws? If so, can he advise the Senate as to what directions he has given or what opinion he has reached in respect of the matter?
– I am not in a position to give any opinion at this stage in relation to breaches. As I explained last Wednesday in answer to the questions by Senator Bishop and Senator Cavanagh and, I think, in the censure debate that ensued, the matter would involve an examination of the transcript of all the evidence. Chief Inspector Thomas is still under crossexamination and his evidence has not been completed. Another aspect, of course, is that when the facts are fully ascertained the matter will require legal consideration. One cannot give a firm legal opinion until all the facts have been ascertained.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: What is the present status of the Government in Uganda? Is it a fact that Uganda is really under Tanzanian occupation with a puppet regime kept in power by Tanzanian guns? How do we distinguish the principles in Uganda from those in Kampuchea? In each case was not a horrible and genocidal regime deposed by external force and a puppet regime installed and kept in power by the invader? If there is no distinction in principle, why are we recognising the invaders in Uganda and the deposed regime in Kampuchea? Would it not be more sensible, in both cases, to withdraw recognition from both sides- as the United States, for instance, has done in Kampucheaand to work for a genuinely independent national government in each country?
– The situations in East Africa and Indo-China are not comparable. That is the Government’s view. The Commonwealth Government continues to recognise the Pol Pot regime of Democratic Kampuchea. It does so because the Pol Pot Administration at the time of Australia’s recognition in 1975 satisfied the generally accepted criteria of recognition. The Heng Samrin regime of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, which was installed following Vietnam ‘s armed intervention in Kampuchea, does not have superior claims to recognition.
Australia and other like-minded countries in the region cannot condone Vietnam’s use of force to overthrow the legitimate Government of Kampuchea and believe that a political settlement must involve the withdrawal of Vietnamese forces and the opportunity for the Kampuchean people to determine their own form of government. Neither side in the Kampuchean dispute has effective control over the country. The Government is accordingly keeping the recognition question under close and continuing review. The Government’s recognition of the Pol Pot regime does not carry with it any implication of approval of the policies of Democratic Kampuchea. The reverse, of course, is true. Australia had condemned the excesses of the Pol Pot Administration and will continue to make its position clear on the question of the massive violation of human rights which this regime perpetrated.
On 17 April the Australian Government announced its recognition of the new Government in Uganda headed then by Dr Youssufu Lule and now by Mr Godfrey Binaisa. The Australian Government upholds those general international principles which call for respect for international borders and the sovereign integrity of states, and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means. For this reason it cannot condone the Tanzanian incursion. There are, however, elements in this situation which make it a special case. The authority of the Administration in Kampala extends throughout the country, whereas the Heng Samrin regime in Phnom Penh does not effectively control the whole of Kampuchea and would not in any case survive without the support of the Vietnamese armed forces. Furthermore, there is no evidence that at the time of the change of government in Uganda, or subsequently, Tanzania has had any expansionist motives.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Labor, Liberal and National Country parties have in the past received millions of dollars in election expenses from interests which will not disclose themselves and which are not disclosed by those political parties? Is it a fact that the policies of those parties in government have been and are influenced by this secret bribery? Will the Government move urgently, in the interests of a genuine democracy in this country, for a system of public funding of all political parties similar to that applying in most Western democracies, to be introduced before the 1980 election?
-It is a fact that all political parties receive donations from a wide range of people and institutions. Each of the political parties applies rules regarding those matters. It is the question of the nature of those rules and the ethical code that follows which is important. For example, I can speak with some personal authority and I reject entirely any suggestion of secret bribes. In my life I happened -
– You were the Ash Street bagman.
– Let the cry out occur. For 23 years I happened to be in charge of a political administration whose integrity in terms of funding was beyond question. It was beyond question because the ethical processes were such that those who raised the finance had nothing whatsoever to do with the policy-making of the party concerned and there was no dialogue whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, between those who gave the money and those who made the policies. Let that be perfectly clear now. I can only say that in 23 years of political administration I was never pressured, either directly or indirectly, in terms of policies. What is more, the party to which I belong and belonged then would not accept money either with strings attached to it or from trade groups or associations. So the individuals who give money to it give it in the clear knowledge that there can be no influence. No parliamentarian is involved in any way with the collection of those funds. So the making of policies by the parliamentary sections of the party is completely free of any kind of outside influence.
Let other parties speak for themselves. Let the Australian Labor Party speak for itself. I can only say that those who talk of secret bribes have no understanding of the matter, unless their rules permit secret bribes. Let the mote be in their eyes and in nobody else ‘s. I think it is clear that no one can legislate for honesty. The fact is that the decision as to whether an individual parliamentarian acts with freedom of conscience and free of all outside influence is a matter of the honesty and integrity of that individual. We on our side of the chamber happen to be proud in that regard. We happen to separate our parliamentarians from any pressure financially. All I can say is that in the past the financing of the coalition parties has been such that no pressure at all has been applied.
– I ask a supplementary question. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has answered a series of questions which, with respect, have been largely in his own mind. I asked: Will the Government move urgently in the interests of a genuine democracy for a system of public funding in Australia before the 1980 election? I would like his reply to that question.
– The questions that I answered were not largely in my mind. They related to the questions asked earlier by Senator Mason. He asked me to respond to a question about whether political parties have received funds in the past from particular groups. I answered that question. Was that question in my mind or was it from the mouth of Senator Mason? I do not know about extra-sensory perception. The honourable senator asked whether those funds were, in conscience, secret bribes. Was that question in my mind or from Senator Mason’s mouth? I answered exactly the question Senator Mason asked. He should not ask a convoluted supplementary question. I cannot say whether the Government is contemplating any kind of process of change in this regard. That would be a matter of policy. I will refer that part of the question to the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. What is the present situation in respect of exports to Iran, particularly meat, livestock and wheat exports, with regard to, firstly, problems associated with discharging cargo at Iranian ports and, secondly, payment for those exports, bearing in mind the United
States of America’s decision to freeze Iranian investments in that country?
– I am unable to tell the honourable senator this morning exactly what is the situation in relation to exports to Iran. Obviously, there is a difficult situation currently in relation to payment for and shipment of exports. I will attempt to obtain that information from the Minister and provide an early response.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and follows the answer he gave to the question asked by Senator Mason. Is he aware of the publication in the United States this month of a book called The Falcon and the Snowman by Robert Lindsey, who is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief of the New York Times, in which Mr Lindsey claims that the American Central Intelligence Agency heavily financed Australia’s Liberal and National Country Parties in 1975? In view of the Minister’s previous answer to Senator Mason’s question and his undoubted knowledge of financial matters involving the Liberal Party of Australia over the past 23 years, can he give the Senate an assurance that that assertion is incorrect?
– I have not seen the book or the assertion. I can only say this: The rules of the Liberal Party on the collection of fundsincidentally, we are much more outgoing in stating them here than is the Australian Labor Party; it would be good if the Labor Party were to tell us, for example, how much funds it gets from communist unions and for what purpose -
Opposition senators interjecting-
– We see what happens when one states that question. Let me simply say this -
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Order, please! There will be no more interjections. The Minister is replying to the question.
- Mr President, nothing could be a more forthright answer than that noise. I had not even mentioned the Iraki breakfast. In answer to the Leader of the Opposition, I say that each donation is carefully vetted to ensure that its source is an Australian source which is fully acceptable to the Party. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, any kind of donation from the CIA would be totally unacceptable to the Liberal Party.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister saying that he is not in a position to tell the Senate whether the claim of the Liberal and National Country Parties having been financed heavily by the Central Intelligence Agency is correct? Presumably, he cannot say whether that claim is right or not.
– That question is another classic non-supplementary question. What I said was that I had not read the book and that therefore, of course, I had no knowledge whether such a claim had been made in that book. But I will say this: My recollection is that the Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia, Mr Eggleton, some time ago responded to some kind of assertion or rumour of the CIA financing the Party and he gave a categorical denial. I have no doubt at all that, as he has a wider knowledge of the whole situation than I have, what he said is totally correct. I responded to Senator Wriedt ‘s question from my knowledge of my State and my administration in my time and the rules which have applied in that time. But this is a two-way thing. The fact of the matter is that one only has to speculate upon the sources of funding of the Australian Labor Party and its non-disclosure of those sources to realise that, if there are pressure groups, they come from the communist unions which have dominated Labor Party policy and which were having a merry and successful time at the weekend at the ALP conference. Incidentally, Mr Hawke identifies them as the real villain inside the Labor Party.
– I will not ask about the Russian roubles, Mr President. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Whilst the choice of aircraft is the prerogative of the airlines concerned, will the Government’s energy conservation policy be a factor in the choice of the next generation of aircraft for Australian airlines? Will the significant relative fuel efficiency of the Boeing 767, which is reported to be of the order of 23 per .cent better than that of the Airbus for the same passenger load, influence any advice tendered by the Government to the airlines?
-I think that question really should be directed to the Minister for Transport although, of course, the question of energy conservation is undoubtedly within the area of the Minister for National Development. I will refer the question to both Ministers and seek an early answer from them.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, concerns the responsibilities of the Australian Government in seeking to quarantine us from overseas political cum terrorist activities as exemplified by a statement by the President of the Croatian National Council in Victoria in today’s Age. He referred to a demonstration yesterday outside the West German consulate which concerned a person whom I would call a former Australian resident, who is now in West Germany and who has been subject to investigation by the West German police. The Victorian demonstration yesterday implied that if we do not get into the act we could have violence here. I put it to the Minister that if the gentleman concerned, Mr Pizir, has an Australian passport we have an obligation in this regard; but if, as I suspect, he does not have an Australian passport, can the Minister give me an assurance that our attitude on terrorism will be even-handed and that ultra right wing sources will be told that they will be in serious trouble if they push their cause beyond legal, lawful assembly?
-As I heard Senator Mulvihill ‘s question, it was really in two parts. The first was: Will we be even-handed in our approach to terrorism? The answer is emphatically yes, we will be, whether terrorism comes from the extreme Right or the extreme Left, and I have no doubt that that approach has Senator Mulvihills support. I cannot answer at this moment the other question of whether Mr Pizir possesses an Australian passport. I will find that out. I have not seen the article in the Age. I will have a look at it and, if a further response is necessary, I will let the honourable senator have it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, concerns interest rates. In view of spiralling interest rates overseas, can the Minister advise the Senate of the current situation in Australia in relation to interest rates in comparison with the United States and the United Kingdom?
– Following the increase in the United States Federal Reserve Board’s discount rate from 1 1 per cent to 12 per cent on 6 October and associated measures to reduce the growth in the money supply, commercial prime lending rates in the United States have risen to around 15Vi per cent. Where customary United States banking arrangements for compensating balances apply, prime borrowers are paying effectively higher rates than this. On 15 November the Bank of England raised the minimum lending rate to 1 7 per cent. In Australia the overdraft rate charged on small overdrafts, that is, those under $100,000, is 10 per cent. Rates charged by banks on large overdrafts generally range above 10 percent.
The monetary authorities are very carefully watching the implications of increases in interest rates overseas for our domestic monetary conditions to see that they remain consistent with domestic monetary policy objectives and balance of payments management. The honourable senator will appreciate that the overseas pressures make the day-to-day management of the economy in Australia a very sensitive area indeed. But happily at this moment, in relation to inflation and interest rates, we stand in a very promising position compared with other countries.
-Is the AttorneyGeneral aware whether permission was sought from or given by the court for Mr Chris Nakis to leave the country? Does the Attorney-General know the present whereabouts of the Crown’s chief witness, Mr Nakis?
-I have not the ability to answer that question at the moment. I will have to make inquiries as to what transpired in the court.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware of an article which was published in the Australian earlier this month detailing the development of an alternative energy alcohol engine which has the capacity to be used in light aircraft and remote pilot controlled military aircraft? As this engine has now reached the marketing stage, can the Minister inform the Senate whether any interest in this development has been shown within government departments and whether this engine and /or fuel has been considered in principle as having a broader application in the transport area?
– I am not aware of the article to which Senator Jessop refers, but certainly the possibility of an engine operating on alternative sources of energy is of great interest. I will refer the matter to the Minister concerned and ask for an early reply.
– I remind the Attorney-General of certain matters about which he told me last Wednesday. He said:
No officers of the Crown Solicitor’s Office or the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s Office in Sydney were engaged in any discussions with Mr Nakis in relation to the payment of a reward. In fact, I have inquired into this matter and I have been assured that no one involved in the prosecution of the case- the Crown law officers or counsel- was aware of the fact that there had been any discussions with Mr Nakis in relation to a reward. . . two officers of the Attorney-General’s Department attended some early meeting with representatives of other departments in relation to the payment of a reward to an informer who was not named.
Is the Attorney-General able to say whether any officers of the Crown Solicitor’s Office or the Attorney-General’s Department attended any meeting at which both the matter of an immunity from prosecution or pardon and the payment of a sum of money by way of reward to an informant were discussed in return for the contribution to the case that the informant might make and for the informant’s assisting police in penetrating the conspiracy? Finally, I ask: Will the AttorneyGeneral table the file?
– The only record that has been obtained in relation to officers of my Department is the one that I referred to previously. There was a meeting in August 1 977. The officers attended a meeting with other departmental officers in relation to a report from Detective Inspector Thomas to his superior officers. The meeting was held in relation to the advice that Mr Thomas was giving that there was an informant. There were questions about the way in which the matter should be handled. That is the information to which I was referring last week. I have no other information which would indicate that there were any other discussions in relation to the general question which was the subject of discussion then. I think I went on to say that some further information had been obtained from my Department on what had been subsequently occurring but that no officers of the Department attended any further meetings or took part in any further discussion on this matter.
I really have nothing to add to what I said last week in answer to a similar question. The officers who attended the meeting in August 1977 were not then officers of the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s Office in Sydney. The two officers were from the Department in Canberra. One of them was Mr Mahony, who was then a deputy secretary of the Department, and the other was Mr Leader, who is in the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Canberra; they were not officers of the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s Office in Sydney. I will give the question of tabling the material some consideration. The report of Inspector Thomas in relation to which the meeting was held, along with some other reports from him, has been produced in the proceedings in the Sydney court. I do not know whether that report actually has been produced in evidence. It has been produced in response to a subpoena. I will have to make further inquiries as to the situation in regard to that report.
-Can the Minister for Education indicate the justification for building an additional technical and further education college in Canberra, the Woden Technical and Further Education College, when it appears that educational facilities in Canberra are already well above the national average?
– There is very good justification for the Woden College of Technical and Further Education. A large portion of the TAFE College’s initial enrolments will be drawn from the Canberra College of Technical and Further Education, the capacity of which is severely strained at present. That should be kept in mind. Its enrolments exceed 1 1,000. To compound the problem of student numbers, there are a number of areas at the Canberra TAFE College where poor and crowded accommodation presents health and safety hazards. Solutions to these problems are possible only with the operational commencement of the Woden institution. The Woden TAFE College is planned to serve the Woden, Weston Creek, Tuggeranong and Queanbeyan districts. The population of this area, which is approximately 47.7 per cent of Canberra’s population, will continue to be poorly served by TAFE until the Woden College is functioning.
It should be noted that northern Canberra has two TAFE colleges. The bulk of courses at Woden will be vocational in nature. The fields of study currently planned for the College at its opening in 1980-81 include business and administration, secretarial studies, fashion, home science, horticulture and migrant education. Whilst some non-vocational courseswhich are an integral part of total TAFE responsibility- will be offered, they represent little more than 2 per cent of the teaching effort of the TAFE college. This is a lower percentage than generally applies in the States.
National studies indicate the importance of establishing TAFE facilities in or near employment centres and coincident with transport modes. Woden TAFE College will meet these locational criteria. The need to establish Woden TAFE College in the Woden Town Centre is reinforced by the fact that it now appears unlikely that the Tuggeranong district will develop to the levels originally planned. A major consequence of a reduced development for Tuggeranong is that it is now envisaged that the Woden Town Centre will take on an expanded role in providing town services to Tuggeranong for the foreseeable future.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It relates to medical research, which is an issue which she surely recognises is causing some concern and controversy. Given this Government’s professed desire to hold down health costs to the community, why is it that only 35 per cent of new projects are to be funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council? This is down from 45 per cent last year and 55 per cent in 1 977. Why is it that funding of these projects is, on a per capita basis, half that in Canada and New Zealand? Is the Minister aware that every dollar spent on biomedical science represents an eventual saving of $100 from the national health bill?
– I will need to refer the matter to the Minister for Health. I am not aware of the figures that were stated by the honourable senator in his question or whether the comparisons were accurately drawn in the light of medical research which is done at universities and in other areas of government responsibility. However, I will refer the matter to the Minister for Health and seek information from him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It now being November, and the National Health Act providing that the audited accounts of registered health funds should be in the hands of the Director-General of Health by 30 September each year, can the Minister advise whether those funds that last year defaulted on providing audited accounts by the required date- especially Medibank Private, which functions as the Health Insurance Commission- have this year submitted audited accounts by the date required under section 76(2) of the National Health Act?
– The Minister for Health has advised that section 76a of the National Health Act provides that the permanent head shall, as soon as practicable after 30 June each year, furnish to the Minister for Health a report on the operations of registered organisations during the year to that date. Such organisations are required to submit the relevant financial statements within three months of the close of the financial year or such further time as the permanent head allows. There is no requirement under the National Health Act for the financial details submitted to be audited, although I understand that the Department of Health does require this to ensure that the report to the Minister and to the Parliament is accurate. Mr President, I have a two-page list for the 1978-79 financial year indicating the dates of lodgment of audited annual accounts by registered organisations after 30 September 1979. I seek leave to have the list incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– Because of changes in 1978-79 to the health insurance system, the Minister for Health has agreed to the DirectorGeneral’s giving funds an extension to 31 October 1979 to submit financial accounts in accordance with the Act. I am informed that, as far as the Health Insurance Commission is concerned, difficulties have arisen in the separation of Medibank Private from Medibank Standard, particularly in relation to the allocation of assets and in the establishment of Medibank Private as a fully operational and independent health fund in competition with other registered organisations.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to the comment of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in his second annual report, 1979, that in relation to the Department of Social Security in his view ‘in a handful of cases concerning the payment of unemployment benefits, the Department has not been helpful’? Is it departmental policy not to be helpful to the Ombudsman in his inquiries? If not, has any action been taken following this assertion by the Ombudsman?
– I have noted the Ombudsman’s second annual report as it relates to my Department and the fact that 380 complaints, of a total of 2,680 received in the 1978-79 year, related to the Department. As the Ombudsman mentioned, this represents an insignificant proportion of the clients of my Department. I was pleased to read on page 29 of the report that the Department responds adequately to requests made by the Ombudsman, and I have noted other comments throughout the report which I am sure have not escaped honourable senators. I note further that the Ombudsman refers particularly to three broad areas, in respect of which he questioned the departmental interpretation of the Act.
The first concerned the refusal of unemployment benefit to some members of a union who had been stood down by their employer because of strike action taken by other members of the same union. In this regard, the Ombudsman’s view was accepted, a general instruction was withdrawn, and each applicant’s eligibility was tested on an individual basis. It will be noted that the Ombudsman was satisfied with the departmental action taken. The second matter concerned the refusal of special benefit to single prisoners. This also was dealt with to the Ombudsman’s satisfaction. The third was that referred to by Senator Colston: The refusal to make retrospective payment of unemployment benefit to ‘a handful of young persons’ who left school in 1976 and were denied benefit for the period up to the date when school resumed in 1977. In this regard, the Director-General reexamined each individual case in the light of all the information provided but took the view that he was not satisfied that, during the period in question, the persons concerned had met the requirements of section 107 (c) (iii) of the Social Services Act, which requires that the DirectorGeneral be satisfied that a person has taken reasonable steps to obtain suitable work to be qualified to receive an unemployment benefit.
According to the Canberra Times of today’s date, the Ombudsman proposes to submit a report to the Parliament in connection with the third category I have mentioned. I am not in a position to comment on the accuracy of the Press item or on whether the Ombudsman is contemplating submitting a report to the Parliament. If he does, it will certainly receive careful consideration. However, I repeat that the DirectorGeneral did re-examine each case that was brought to his attention and made a determination on it.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of advertisements proposing the negotiation of a treaty, covenant or convention of peace with Australia’s Aboriginal people, which would protect their culture and land rights and detail conditions for the mining of Aboriginal lands, compensation for the loss of traditional lands and damage to traditional life? Does the Minister agree that these proposals are worthy of support if they could be carried out in a manner that does not alienate the Aboriginal people from the remainder of Australia’s multicultural society? Can the Minister say whether the Government is prepared to adopt the proposals?
– I am aware of the advertisements to which the honourable senator refers. I think all senators and members were written to by the organising committee drawing our attention to those advertisements. There is something of very great value in the proposition that there should be agreement between Aboriginals and the governments that concern them so much about what are appropriate measures which are to be taken on their behalf. Some concern has been expressed about the concept of a treaty because of the implication that one is in some way talking about more than one Australia or more than one nation within Australia. I would share that concern if the proposal meant that. The honourable senator may not know that last week the executive of the National Aboriginal Conference, which is the elected body representing Aboriginal opinion around Australia, dealt with the proposal for a treaty. It preferred to deal with it on the basis of an Aboriginal word ‘makarrata’. The word suggests an agreement between people after a dispute.
The executive is dealing with it on the basis that Aboriginal people are Australian citizens with respect to whom the Commonwealth Government plays a very important role. The executive has established a sub-committee which will look at this proposition in more detail. It will consult with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal groups around Australia with a view to coming forward with some definite proposals. It has been made clear to me by members of the NAC that they do that as Australians within the Australian nation. I think that removes one of the fears that some people have had about the proposal. The Conference sees what it is doing as being a relatively long term proposition. It has set something like 1 8 months for the task it has undertaken. I have indicated to the Conference that the Government would be happy to consult with it on what it has proposed. Some time ago the Prime Minister indicated that he would be prepared to talk to the NAC at an appropriate time about what it has in mind.
I think something of great value for Aboriginal people could be developing here. I think some of the negative aspects and fears that first appeared have been demolished by the Aboriginals themselves. I look forward to pursuing that line.
The idea of arrangements with Aboriginals which have Aboriginal consent is one that the Government intends to pursue. There has already been extensive consultation with the Aboriginals in regard to legislation to be introduced shortly for the Aboriginal Development Commission. It is anticipated that there will be even more extensive consultation following the introduction of the Bill. I mention that because I think this is a pattern which governments in Australia- not only the Commonwealth Government- might well like to pursue in the future.
– My question which is directed to the Attorney-General follows other questions this morning concerning Mr Nakis. What information was given to Sir Zelman Cowen when he granted a pardon to Mr Nakis? Was the Minister aware that Mr Nakis also sought a reward and that discussions had been held by officers concerning the amount that Mr Nakis should receive?
– The basis on which I presented documents to the Governor-General in respect of any decisions he made is not disclosed, nor are the documents produced. I do not think it would be proper for me to make that information available. I simply say in broad terms that the Governor-General was provided with the information which was available to me and to my Department in relation to this matter. I do not know how many more times I have to emphasise that neither I nor any of the officers of my Department who are advising me on this matter were aware of the question of any reward being paid to Mr Nakis.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question in order to clarify the matter. As the Minister is not able to divulge the information that I seek, will he assure the Senate that he is personally satisfied that the GovernorGeneral was properly informed on these matters before any decision was taken?
– I have had wide inquiries made into the circumstances in which the advice was given to me. I am perfectly satisfied that nobody in my Department knowingly withheld any advice from me. The information that was given to the Governor-General was based upon the information that was given to me.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs aware that at present the Australian clothing industry would appear to have in the order of 2,000 unfilled vacancies, both skilled and unskilled, and that some firms have had vacancies for 40 or 50 positions for some considerable time? Is he aware that at present large numbers of vacancies are being filled by IndoChinese immigrants? If it is found that existing vacancies cannot be filled by those Australians currently in receipt of unemployment benefits, would he support approval being granted for firms unable to fill positions to make overseas arrangements?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and ask him to give an early reply.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, is one of a series of questions on the Youth Transitional Training Scheme. In answer to my last question on this matter Senator Carrick referred me to the about to be tabled findings of the Australian Education Council. I have now had an opportunity to read those findings. Does the Minister recall a recommendation that there needed to be a rationalisation of existing benefit schemes so as to ensure that there were no disincentives to participation in education and training? Does this recommendation of the Council, endorsed by Senator Carrick, mean that any Commonwealth benefit paid to a youth undertaking transitional training shall not be less than the unemployment benefit available to potential trainees, lest many of our under 19-year-olds, may be forced by financial pressure to choose unemployment without training rather than unemployment with training?
– I well recall the resolution of the Australian Education Council. The Commonwealth had been taking significant initiatives in that regard. I recall that the Council agreed that there should be a look at the rationalisation of benefits. I have directed the attention of the Commonwealth Government and the relevant Ministers to that matter. I understand the difficulties. Under the Education Program for Unemployed Youth- that program has been a conspicuous success in itself- an amount equivalent to the unemployment benefit, plus a fares allowance of $6, has been paid to EPUY students. So in the past such a recognition has happened. It so happens that over a period a series of schemes have evolved. Alongside that is the general collection of Tertiary Education Assistance schemes. It is necessary for the Government to look at all these schemes and to see whether an equitable path can be found through the lot. We are doing so now.
-On 14 November Senator Rocher asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, a question without notice concerning the participation of South Africa in the talks in Geneva on matters relating to the implementation of the United Nations settlement plan for Namibia. I am informed that the talks in Geneva took place from 14 to 16 November. The South African Government was represented at the talks as well as Namibian political parties.
-A little earlier in Question Time, Senator Lewis asked me a question about the treaty of commitment. I stumbled over an Aboriginal word, the Yolnu word makarrata’. I would like to incorporate in Hansard a brief Press statement by the National Aboriginal Conference. I have not had a chance to show it to the Opposition. It sets out the position of the National Aboriginal Conference on this matter which I think would be of interest to honourable senators.
The statement read as follows-
At its meeting in Canberra the NAC Executive formed a committee to consult with Aboriginals and Aboriginal organisations on the proposed ‘Makarrata’ to be negotiated by the NAC with the Australian Government on behalf of the Aboriginal people.
Makarrata’ (Yolnu word for ‘agreement’) signifies the end of a dispute between communities and between a community and an offender and the resumption of normal relations.
The committee will also consult with Aboriginals throughout Australia and prepare a submission to the Government on the Aboriginal Development Commission Bill which is to be introduced into Parliament soon.
A submission will be forwarded to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for funds to allow the NAC committee to travel throughout Australia, commencing in March, 1 980 to determine from the Aboriginal population their views on what should be contained in the ‘Makarrata’ and on the ultimate structure of the Aboriginal Development Commission.
The subcommittee anticipates that it will complete its Development Commission task during March, 1980.
The ‘Makarrata’, however, is a longer term project and the NAC expects to take 18 months of discussion with Aboriginals and Aboriginal organisations and the Government before its final views are formulated. 12 November 1979 (Further information can be obtained from Mr Lyall Munro, National Chairman, NAC, 108 Gwyder Street, Moree. Telephone (067) 523 36 1 ).
-Senator Archer recently raised with me a question relating to monthly progress reports on all joint fishing feasibility studies. The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer:
The Minister for Primary Industry is conscious of the need to keep the Australian fishing industry informed of the progress of feasibility fishing projects.
To this end, interim reports for the two feasibility fishing projects for squid which have completed their first year of operation have been forwarded to the Australian Fishing Industry Council together with summaries of progress results of other continuing projects.
Articles on feasibility fishing projects have been featured in most issues of ‘Australian Fisheries’ this year and such articles will continue to be published on a regular basis.
The question of having monthly progress reports on all feasibility fishing projects distributed to industry and summaries included in the publication ‘Australian Fisheries’ is currently under examination by the Commonwealth and State Governments concerned. It is anticipated that when results of projects have been thoroughly assessed, detailed reports on all aspects of feasibility fishing projects will be prepared by Commonwealth and State fisheries authorities for dissemination to industry.
-Recently Senator Primmer asked me a question as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry as follows: . . whether the Australian Fishing Industry Council has referred to the recently signed Australia- Japan fishing agreement as a sell-out? On what criteria was the $ 1 .4m paid by Japan for fishing rights based and what, if any, supervision does Australia retain under the agreement?
The reply is something over a page in length. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The reply read as follows-
The Federal Executive of the Australian Fishing Industry Council has expressed concern over certain aspects of the recently signed Australia/Japan agreement on fisheries in a telex to the Minister for Primary Industry and State Ministers responsible for fisheries dated 24 October 1 979.
The fee of $1.4m covers 12 months access from 1 November 1979 for up to 350 Japanese vessels to the tuna longline fishery in the Australian fishing zone. The access fee is related to the value of fish taken by Japanese tuna longliners in the Australian fishing zone and compares favourably with fees charged by other countries in the region and the fees charged by the United States and Canada.
The Subsidiary Agreement concerning Japanese tuna longline fishing sets out the detailed procedures for the conduct of Japanese tuna longline vessels in the AFZ. Under this agreement, terms and conditions imposed upon vessels include:
exclusion of operations from, inter-alia, all areas of the Great Australian Bight north of latitude 35° South and from waters north of 40° South landward of the 200 metre isobath in south eastern waters, except for a seasonal opening in the area between 32°45’ and 35° South beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast;
b ) reporting of position by each vessel every two days;
catch-and-effort reporting requirements every six days;
provision of relevant economic and marketing information; and
operations being subject to inspection by Australian officials at any time.
In addition, under the Head Agreement signed by both countries at the same time as the Subsidiary Agreement on tuna longlining Japan has agreed to ensure compliance by Japanese vessels with respect to Australian laws in respect of fisheries.
It should be noted that prior to the signing of this agreement, the Japanese have been able to operate to within 12 miles of the Australian coast.
– by leave- On behalf of Senator Ryan and on my own behalf I would like to make an explanation about a news report which I gather was carried on radio and in the Press in Australia last week relating to statements which we made in Phnom Penh. As honourable senators are aware, Senator Ryan and I travelled to Phnom Penh last week and were involved in a number of functions there. There were news reports that at those functions we had given undertakings that Australia would give additional aid to war victims in Kampuchea. The reports were inaccurate only in that they were incomplete. The references to additional aid were in relation to the United Nations pledging conference of the previous week. We referred to the fact that the Australian Government had announced at that conference that it had decided to double the amount of aid that it was going to give to war victims in Kampuchea. That announcement, I might say, was welcomed by the officials within Kampuchea. We were certainly not taking it on ourselves while we were there to make grandiose promises off the tops of our heads on behalf of the Government.
– I present the sixty-eighth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to matters considered by the Committee during the second half of 1979.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume) agreed to:
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 1 975-76 and 1 976-77.
Fourth Annual Report of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, for the year 1 976-77.
Seventh Annual Report on the Operations of Registered Medical and Hospital Benefits Organizations, fortheyear 1976-77.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
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 McLaren) 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 Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
This Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision, announced in the statement by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) of 24 May 1979 to reintroduce a value limit on qualifying homes, including land, for which home savings grants may be made. These new arrangements will ensure that available funds are directed to assisting those people in most need of financial help in purchasing their home. Other eligibility conditions of the scheme will not be altered by the Bill. Grants will continue to be payable to single as well as to married people, and for both established and newly constructed homes, whether purchased or constructed through a building contractor or by an owner-builder. Qualifying homes include separate houses, semi-detached dwellings, home units and flats; whether in suburban areas, in country towns or on rural properties. The home must be the applicant’s first home in Australia, and he or she must own the land or hold tenure in an approved form. Newcomers to Australia also qualify if they had a right of permanent residence here when they acquired their home.
I remind honourable senators of the savings provisions in the principal Act. In order to qualify for the maximum grant of $2,000, an applicant must have held acceptable savings of $6,000 or more, and have saved over a period of at least three years ending on the date of the contract to buy or build the home. The maximum grant of $2,000 is payable for homes bought or built since 1 January 1979. Smaller grants are payable, at the rate of $ 1 for each $3 acceptable savings, on shorter savings periods of one or two years, or on acceptable savings of less than $6,000. The main forms of acceptable savings are those held with savings banks and building societies, which provide the bulk of the long term finance for private housing. The new value limit will apply to people who contracted to buy or build their home, or who commenced construction of their homes as owner-builders, after May, when the new arrangements were announced.
The Government decided that it was necessary to reintroduce a value limit so that the limited funds available for payment of grants would be directed to those people in greatest need of assistance. People whose first home is a more expensive one stand less in need of assistance from the Commonwealth, and hence the taxpayer, to achieve home ownership. A value limit on homes, which applied under the first Home Savings Grant Scheme and was envisaged in our 1 975 pre-election policy statement foreshadowing reintroduction of the Scheme, which the former Labor Government had legislated to abolish, is generally regarded as the fairest practicable way of directing assistance. We believe that a value limit on qualifying homes is a more equitable course than the alternatives of paying smaller grants to all first home buyers, regardless of need, or of excluding from eligibility particular groups, such as single people.
Industry groups agree. The Australian Bankers Association Research Directorate has described the value limit as ‘a sensible decision’ and the Real Estate Institute of Australia welcomed the measure as ‘a simple and effective form of means test’. Before the decision was announced, the Opposition spokesman on housing had been critical of the fact that people buying very expensive houses were eligible for a grant. At the time of the announcement of the value limit earlier this year it was recognised that the limit would need to be reviewed from time to time to ensure that the amounts remain appropriate.
The Bill provides that a grant will not be payable if the value of the home, including the land, the dwelling, and any other improvements to the land, exceeds $40,000. People acquiring homes valued at less than $35,000 will continue to be eligible for the full grant of up to $2,000, subject, of course, to their qualifying savings. Where the value of the home falls between $35,000 and $40,000 the grant will reduce progressively as value increases. The Bill permits variation of these limits by regulation.
The value of the relevant interest in the home is to be determined by the Secretary to the Department, of Housing and Construction, having regard to certain matters. The value will be the value of the home when it is erected in its completed state, including the value of any work not completed at the date the value is determined. In most cases, the point in time at which the value is determined will be the person’s prescribed date. This date is referred to in the existing legislation and is the date the applicant entered into the contract to buy or build his home, or commenced its construction as an owner-builder. It is the date to which all eligibility requirements relate.
Honourable senators might appreciate an explanation of clause 4. There are situations where an applicant owns a dwelling jointly with another person, but where the dwelling is for the exclusive use of the applicant and is not occupied by that other person, who may have jointed in the title merely to assist in the loan security. That other person may own another home or be otherwise ineligible, and it would be unfair to disqualify the genuine applicant because of this type of joint title situation. The existing legislation enables the interest of the other person to be disregarded where there is a joint ownership in these circumstances. Clause 4 of the Bill extends this provision to joint ownership of shares in a block of home units.
In the majority of applications, the value will be the cost set out in the purchase or building contract, excluding the value of any chattels, and excluding also the value of any part of the land or dwelling not used for domestic purposes. For example, where a property is used for primary production, land in excess of one-fifth of a hectare will be excluded from the value. The value of the business area of a shop and dwelling also may be excluded. Correspondingly, savings expended on the non-domestic element will be excluded from savings that attract a grant.
To ensure that the limit applies uniformly and equitably to all applicants, in cases where the Secretary has reason to believe that the figures shown in the contract or the stated cost is not a reasonable approximation of the value, for example, a home bought from or built by a relative of the applicant at a concessional price, or a home built wholly or partly by the applicant with his own labour and materials, arrangements will be made for the true value to be assessed by the Commissioner of Taxation. Work done or items supplied outside the main building or purchase contract will be valued and included in the value for the purposes of the limit. The value of land, gifted by another person and improvements or fixtures such as a carport or stove will also be included.
It must be realised that the majority of people who have received grants under the Scheme are young married couples on moderate incomes acquiring modest homes. The intention of the Scheme has always been to assist such people and the new arrangements enable this assistance to continue.
First home buyers purchase far less expensive dwellings than families purchasing a subsequent home. Australian families have long had a tradition of starting out by purchasing a modest home suited to their current needs and realistically within their reach. Later when their circumstances permit some will move to a larger house or to a more expensive location.
Figures for home savings grant approvals for 1 978-79 show that for Australia as a whole about 80 per cent of recipients who purchased a home paid less than $40,000. For New South Wales the figure was 78 per cent and for Victoria about 72 per cent. The figures show that the average first home buyer in Australia is a young family purchasing a house costing about $34,000, although this varies between cities. Details are available in the interim statement on the operation of the Scheme in 1 978-79 which was tabled on Thursday, 8 November. Since the Home Savings Grant Scheme first commenced in 1964, some 500,000 grants, totalling nearly $300m have been made to help people buy their first home. This year $75m has been provided- an increase of $55m over last year. This is substantial evidence of the Government’s continuing commitment to home ownership. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Repeal Bill 1979
The purpose of this Bill is to terminate the arrangement under which States are required to report in respect of funds provided under the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act. The termination is subject to the proviso that States apply any remaining funds towards assistance of a type provided under the States and Northern Territory Grants (Rural Adjustment) Act. which is the subject of a separate amendment. I commend the Bill.
States and Northern Territory Grants (Rural Adjustment) Bill 1979
The main purpose of the States and Northern Territory Grants (Rural Adjustment) Bill is to authorise the Government to enter into an agreement with the States and the Northern Territory to amend the existing Rural Adjustment Agreement in two ways. The first amendment is to bring the Northern Territory into the Rural Adjustment Scheme on the same basis as the six States. This move is, of course, a direct result of the Government’s transfer of autonomy to the Northern Territory in July 1978. The Northern Territory has, heretofore, provided some forms of rural adjustment along the general lines of the Rural Adjustment Scheme. The second amendment is to formalise a number of machinery procedures which have been used during the currency of the Rural Adjustment Scheme and its predecessor, the Rural Reconstruction Scheme, on an informal basis. There are three procedures involved.
The first is to authorise the Minister for Primary Industry to make supplementary determinations of the amount of assistance a State may approve under parts A and C of the Rural Adjustment Scheme during a year. The existing Rural Adjustment Agreement provides for the Minister to make one determination, before the commencement of each financial year, of the amount of assistance a State may approve during that year. There have, in the past, been special circumstances where a second determination has been necessary. For example, in 1978 the Minister’s initial determination was made on the Basis of an interim governmental decision regarding 1978-79 Assistance. Additional funds were approved in the 1978-79 Budget and a determination was necessary to distribute them between States. The amendment to the agreement makes specific provision for such supplementary determinations.
The second amending procedure is to permit the transfer of approvals authority from one State to another, within the same category of assistance, subject to the agreement of the States concerned. The States must estimate their rural adjustment requirement in February of each year for the next succeeding financial year. They are thus required to look almost 18 months ahead, an exercise which can be extremely difficult in the uncertainties of the rural sector.
The procedure which will be authorised by this amendment will allow the transfer of excess approvals authority for a particular category of assistance from one State to another State which has an unsatisfied demand for the same category of assistance.
The third amending procedure is to enable the Minister to authorise a State to pre-commit, in exceptional circumstances, approvals authority which it is anticipated will be allocated in a subsequent financial year. This measure is in a way complementary to the second one mentioned above. If through circumstances beyond its control a State finds that the demand for rural adjustment assistance exceeds the amount of approvals authority available and no other State has excess approvals authority which could be transferred, the practice in the past has been to permit the State to approve additional assistance on the basis of using funds to be provided in a subsequent year. This approach necessarily reduces the amount which will be available to the State for new approvals in the subsequent year, but it provides a most useful degree of flexibility. The pre-commitment procedure proved, in fact, to be most useful to Western Australia when the demand for rural adjustment assistance was significantly increased by the long drought of the mid- 1 970s in that State.
Finally the amending agreement formally incorporates a number of small changes to the Schedule to the principal agreement. These changes may, under the agreement, be made on the basis of an exchange of letters between the Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned. The necessary exchanges of letters have taken place and they are now to be formally incorporated in the Agreement. The changes are: To extend the Rural Adjustment Scheme to apiarists; to allow household support to be provided, at the discretion of the State authority, for up to three years; to extend the period during which household support assistance will be converted to a grant from six months to twelve months; to increase the lump sum payable to recipients of household support who make a prompt decision to adjust out of farming from $3,000 to $5,000; and to amend the wording of the farm improvement criteria to ease the restriction on this form of assistance.
The Bill also provides for consequential measures arising from the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Repeal Bill. The original Act imposed certain reporting requirements on the States and the Commonwealth Auditor-General which, due to the passage of time and the expenditure of funds provided under this Act, have become increasingly difficult to satisfy. Any funds that may be remaining after the repeal of the Act are to be applied towards assistance of a type provided under the Rural Adjustment Scheme. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) 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 Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
Honourable senators will recall that the creation of the Australian Federal Police was the central recommendation contained in the ‘Report to the Minister for Administrative Services on the Organisation of Police Resources in the Commonwealth Area and Other Related Matters’ by Sir Robert Mark. All honourable senators are aware that that recommendation has been embodied in the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 which received royal assent on 15 June 1979 and subsequently all provisions of this Act were proclaimed by His Excellency, the Governor-General in Council, on 19 October 1979, and the Australian Federal Police officially commenced operations on that date.
The purpose of the Australian Federal Police (Consequential Amendments) Bill is to make amendments to existing Commonwealth legislation consequential to the enactment of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979. These amendments are primarily aimed at changing references to Australian Federal Police from references to Commonwealth Police, as well as to preserve rights under the Officers ‘ Rights Declaration Act, where appropriate, to members of the Australian Federal Police. Specifically, this Bill provides for amendments to existing legislation, as set out in the Schedule to the Bill, to come into operation, or be deemed to have come into operation, on the date fixed for the coming into operation of the remaining provisions of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979. As previously mentioned this date was 19 October 1979.
The one exception to this, as set out in clause 2, sub-clause (2), amends sections 87 and 87J of the Public Service Act 1922, which are in relation to the preservation of rights under the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act, which are to come into operation on the date of the commencement of section 32 of the Public Service Amendment Act 1978. This is in line with assurances that have been given by Ministers that jobs, career prospects and terms and conditions of employment of members of the previous two police forces will not be at risk. In this instance, the amendments provide for the preservation by some former Commonwealth Police officers, who have been appointed to the Australian Federal Police, of their rights under the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act in respect of their former service in the Australian Public Service.
The Schedule sets out in detail those Acts which are to be amended consequential to the enactment of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979. Apart from amending references from Commonwealth Police to the Australian Federal Police, they also provide consequential amendments to such Acts as the Superannuation Act, the Public Service Act and the Audit Act for reference to the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Australian Federal Police. I have arranged for an explanatory memorandum and notes on clauses to be distributed to all honourable senators. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) 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 Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
Honourable senators will be aware of the Government’s policy to strengthen the parliamentary system and to enable Parliament adequately to review the activities of government administration. One facet of this process is the broadening of parliamentary scrutiny of public expenditure. As an early step the Government agreed to the establishment of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure on 29 April 1 976 in response to the need for a greater indepth examination of public expenditure in relation to effectiveness and economy in the delivery of given Government policy. As a further step the Bill now before honourable senators to amend the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951 is designed to strengthen the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts.
In introducing the measures contained in this Bill, the Government’s aim is to bring within the Committee’s purview a range of statutory authorities and other governmental bodies currently subject to the Committee’s examination only insofar as information on these bodies is contained in the Auditor-General’s annual report or supplements to it. This is to be brought about by giving the Committee the power to examine, on its own initiative, the financial affairs of all statutory and other Government bodies. The only exceptions are to be the Northern Territory and the administrations of the external Territories, and inter-governmental bodies. The Government had decided that in view of the changed and changing relationships between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory, and the external Territories, the financial affairs of their present and future administrations should not be subject to scrutiny by the Committee. Expenditure incurred by Commonwealth departments in the Territories would continue to be subject to scrutiny by the Committee. The Bill provides for a special procedure with respect to bodies jointly established by the Commonwealth with the Government of a State or States or with another country. In these cases, it would clearly be inappropriate for these bodies to be subject to examination by a committee of this Parliament without the express agreement of all the governments concerned. Where such agreement is forthcoming, however, the Committee will be able to examine the financial affairs of such bodies. A further development in the Committee’s role is provided for in the Bill by enabling the Committee to examine special reports made to Parliament by the Auditor-General.
Currently, the Committee is not empowered to examine reports to Parliament by the AuditorGeneral outside his annual report or supplements to it. In particular, the Government believes that when the Auditor-General makes a report to Parliament on the results of any efficiency audit, the matters contained therein should be examinable by the Committee. Henceforth, the information contained in all reports of the Auditor-General transmitted to the Parliament would be subject to the Committee’s scrutiny, except insofar as the Territories and intergovernmental bodies are concerned. The opportunity has also been taken to introduce certain measures to improve the operations of the Committee. Sometimes the Committee has experienced difficulties in forming a quorum because many of its members are also members of other parliamentary committees. It is therefore proposed to reduce the quorum from six members to four members. This proposal is in line with recommendations made by the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System in relation to certain other committees. A further provision would remove the present restriction on the number of sectional committeescurrently not more than two- that can exist at the same time. The change would enable more enquiries to be held simultaneously. For some time the legal position with respect to the Committee’s power to meet anywhere in Australia and to sit during a parliamentary recess has not been clear. Amendments to the Bill have been included to remove these doubts. It is perhaps noteworthy that the Public Works Committee has both of these powers, and the Government believes that the same powers should be conferred on the Public Accounts Committee. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17 October, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I foreshadow that at the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving the following amendment:
Page 5, clause 5, after proposed section 12DC, insert the following new section: “ ‘ 12DCA. The Tribunal may, if it thinks it desirable to do so, inquire into the level of post-graduate awards that should be used as a basis for recurrent expenditure on such awards under the Students Assistance Act 1973.’ “.
Claims for increases in wages, salaries, benefits, awards and so on are matters which are constantly before the Parliament and on which the community at large expresses an opinion from time to time. Wage and salary increases are the subject of repeated claims before the Australian Industrial Court and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. When the Whitlam Government came to office it introduced the Remuneration Tribunals Act for the purpose of establishing a procedure by which an objective and regular examination would be made of parliamentary salaries, salaries of judges in the Federal jurisdiction and salaries of senior public servants. In the ensuing years the legislation has been amended to bring matters relating to salaries as they affect those involved in institutions associated with education and academic studies under the consideration of the Remuneration Tribunal. As this process has continued and the Remuneration Tribunal has assumed a more important function, an expanded function, it is argued that the Parliament should give the Tribunal the opportunity, should it so desire, of hearing submissions from post-graduate students and their associations and give them a chance to express a point of view, present a case and have their views adequately considered in a calm and objective way. That is the purpose of the proposed amendment on which the Opposition will seek to obtain the views of the Parliament.
When one examines the matter of postgraduate awards one sees that a close relationship exists with the area of academia. That relationship ought to be recognised by the Tribunal. This is relevant because of the growing deterioration in the awards which are currently paid to post-graduate students. We are dealing with a particular group of people who, in the sense of their education and development, play a significant part in the leadership of our country in both the private and public sectors. It is incongruous for them to be in the position during the period of their advanced study of being placed at a serious financial disadvantage knowing that that is soon to be remedied when they move into the private or public sector.
If there are grounds for the Remuneration Tribunal associating itself with and considering academic salaries, which is one of the additional responsibilities which the Tribunal has taken up, it seems logical, reasonable and equitable that it should consider this matter at the level immediately prior to persons reaching the position of becoming academics in the sense of seeking higher education. If one examines the current award rates being paid to post-graduate students, one can only say that they have fallen considerably behind those received by the rest of the Australian community, whereas the purpose of the Remuneration Tribunal was to keep those areas which I have mentioned in some relationship to the movements in the consumer price index. There has been a desire to maintain a form of indexation, a form of equity and a relativity that bear relationship to the current moves that take place in the consumer price index. I submit to the Government that, if we examine what has happened in terms of post-graduate awards, we see only a continuing decline in real value and a decline which for a number of reasons ought to be recognised and adjusted.
The Tribunal ought to be given an opportunity calmly to assess the representations which postgraduate students have made to various members of Parliament. Both sides of the House have been requested to give consideration to this matter. It is in the light of those considerations that we believe that it is reasonable that we should propose an amendment to this legislation. Our Amendment does not establish unequivocally the right of the Tribunal, but it gives it the opportunity, given the case to be presented, for it to consider the views of post-graduate students. In that sense it also gives the Parliament a much better say in what should happen concerning post-graduate students. As we know, there are provisions in the original legislation establishing the Remuneration Tribunal which enable the Parliament to set aside a determination if it feels that there has been some inequity created or, in fact, if in the view of the Government or the majority in either House of the Parliament some part of the award of the Tribunal should be set aside. Perhaps we will debate that aspect later in the day.
I am prompted to move this amendment because the 1 978 Budget, for the first time as far as post-graduate students were concerned, provided for taxing these payments. That move introduced a new factor. We are now concerned with not just a two-year period but really a threeyear period as no adjustments have been made to post-graduate awards since 1 977. In that year alone, in round figures, a change of approximately 20 per cent occurred in the inflation rate and, consequently, a reduction in the real value of the post-graduate awards. If we look at what has happened in recent years- I hope to relate very shortly what has really happened to movements in the consumer price index in Sydneythere has been a reduction of some 64 per cent. The problem with post-graduate students is that they have restricted access at the moment to areas to which they can present their point of view. If the amendment were accepted by the Parliament, post-graduate students would then be given access to the Tribunal and the Tribunal would be given an opportunity to consider whether it should hear a claim. So basically we are not moving anything that could be regarded as too revolutionary or too drastic. We seek only to provide the opportunity for the Tribunal to act on this matter.
When the award for post-graduate students was originally determined it was based on a parity arrangement with another award consideration. That consideration was the payment made to the university departmental researcher whose salary has increased as a result of internal arrangements and decisions by the Tribunal to about $11,000. It is a considerable departure from the original salary that was paid. The award has not changed since 1977.
I think we are entitled to say to the Government that there is genuine concern and general dissatisfaction amongst post-graduate students. Whilst it will be argued by the Government that these are matters which, at the moment, come within another jurisdiction- Government policy and decision making at the time of the Budget- we submit that a fairly strong and reasonable case has been put to the Government for some change. We are not talking about large sums of money; we are talking about principles. Just as the Government has slowly but surely moved to include institutions, more academics and more public servants into the jurisdiction of the Remuneration Tribunal, so we believe that there is a reasonable case to be presented that the Government ought to give the Tribunal an opportunity, should it so desire, to inquire into postgraduate awards and not leave them under the Student Assistance Act 1973. There was some justice when the Whitlam Government related the awards for post-graduate students to a researcher’s salary at the university level. The fact that the salary has fallen behind to the degree that it has is a very substantial reason why some consideration ought to be given to the amendment which I propose to move.
The consumer price index for the Sydney area- one has to relate it to a capital city- shows that in the quarter ending December 1976 the ratio was 222.8 per cent. By June 1979 it had moved to 274.3 per cent. Assuming that the inflation rate is 9 per cent which is provided for in the Budget- I think that it will probably exceed that but I will stick rigidly to the Budget projections- it is anticipated that by December 1 979 it will have moved to 3 1 2. 1 per cent. That is the movement that has taken place in the CPI. In 1976 the value of the award was $3,250. In January 1977 the award moved to $4,000 per annum. In January 1978 it was $4,200. In that year there was a Budget decision to apply a tax component from 1 November. To maintain at December 1979 the value of the award of $4,000 tax-free at January 1977, the award would need to be $5,600. For a post-graduate student to receive $5,600 after tax in December 1980 prices the award would need to be $6,410. 1 will use the 32 per cent flat tax rate that will apply in December 1980 after the lifting of the surcharge- I assume that it will not be reapplied- and the $3,893 tax threshold. Taxable income should be the taxed income plus the taxable income threshold multiplied by the tax rate. At the moment, the award is $4,200. The tax on this is $98, at the 32 per cent rate. Therefore, the money value at December 1 980 will be $4, 102. In fact, in January 1977 terms the award is worth only 64 per cent in terms of real buying power after paying tax.
If we were to have an equitable system which applied to all of the other areas to which I have referred- the Tribunal has approved it and the Parliament has subsequently approved it in respect of judges, public servants and parliamentarians- and if there were to be the same buying power in September 1 980 as there was in January 1977, with the payment of tax the award would need to be $6,410 a year. That is the assertion that the Opposition makes; that is the view that it believes has some credence. But the Opposition is prepared to say that that award needs to be examined and substantiated before some body. I think it is better that that examination be carried out by the Remuneration Tribunal than that it be applied in respect of consideration of the Budget documents which come out once every year. The Government has been forced to revert to twice-yearly adjustments of social security payments for pensioners. It has not objected to the annual consideration of the salaries of parliamentary officers, academics and judges.
I think it is logical and reasonable to say that there is one section that has been left aside in this whole area, and that is post-graduate studentspeople who should not be called upon to make financial sacrifices different from those of the rest of the community; a group of people who, having attained a certain level of education and having a tremendous contribution to make to the development of our country in both the public and private sectors, ought to be recognised and therefore ought to have access to some public consideration, to some public tribunal. The Opposition believes that the Remuneration Tribunal cannot be said to be overworked. It does a very fine job in overall objectivity in the areas in which it has jurisdiction. It seems logical and proper that the Opposition should ask the Government and the Senate to look at the amendment, and ask the Senate to endorse the proposal that the Tribunal may, if it thinks it desirable to do so, inquire into the level of postgraduate awards that should be used as a basis for recurrent expenditure on such awards existing under the Student Assistance Act 1 973.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its consideration of this legislation. I indicate to the Opposition that the Government does not propose to accept the amendment which has been foreshadowed by Senator Gietzelt. I doubt that the Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill provides the appropriate opportunity to debate in detail the adequacy of post-graduate awards. I can assure the Senate that the Government is aware of the sorts of views which have been expressed by Senator Gietzelt on behalf of the Opposition. Substantial representations have been made by postgraduate students and supporters of postgraduate students over the earlier part of this year in the lead-up to the Federal Budget. Indeed, there have also been meetings with, as well as written representations to, Senator Carrick and me. Some time ago the Government indicated that it did not propose to change these awards for 1980. I have recently responded to further representations on the matter, indicating that the views put forward by the representorsthey are the same views as those put forward by Senator Gietzelt today- will be examined by the Government again next year in the course of its consideration of expenditure for the following financial year.
The amendment the Opposition intends to move in relation to this legislation certainly is the sort of amendment put forward by oppositions and not by governments. Essentially, it proposes to extend the jurisdiction of the Academic Salaries Tribunal into the area of student awards, and that is a proposition which I do not believe any government is likely to embrace with any enthusiasm. The number of student awards provided by government is fairly considerable. The number of post-graduate awards is a relatively small part of the whole. The Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme assists a much larger number of students. I suppose that one might argue on a future occasion that they also ought to be given consideration by a salaries tribunal rather than being treated as student allowances. But it is the view of the Government that these are essentially student allowances and that they should remain to be determined by the Government as part of its Budget process.
I think it needs to be remembered in this situation that the people who are receiving these awards, who are in general receiving substantially less than they would receive in employment, are in fact in the process of obtaining senior qualifications which will stand them in good stead in the future. They are improving their ability to do senior work and they are, in character, students. Obviously at times it involves a degree of sacrifice and that is something which has traditionally been associated with people who are students. Representations are frequently made pointing out that one perhaps can get more on the unemployment benefit than one can get as an assisted student in different circumstances. The fact of the matter is that people who are engaged in study, either as undergraduates or as graduates, are improving their position in a way that a person who is unemployed or seeking employment and is unable to find it might envy. I think that some false parallels are drawn in this area.
Senator Gietzelt put some figures before the Senate on the Government’s performance in respect of post-graduate students. I had not seen them before he put them before the Senate, but as he has done so I accept that they are accurate. I simply put some other figures which indicate the general comparability of the position now with the history of the matter. The increase in the consumer price index from June 1976 to June 1979 was 33 per cent. The awards were adjusted in 1977 to effect the following changes: In 1976 a scholar received an award of $3,250. The award is now $4,200 a year, which is an increase of 29 per cent. In 1976 a scholar with a dependent spouse received $4,030. The award for such a person is now $5,833 a year, which is an increase of 45 per cent. In 1976 a scholar with a dependent spouse and one dependent child received $4,394. The award for such a person now is $6,223 a year which is an increase of 42 per cent. Even allowing for the approximate rate of inflation to June of next year predicted in the Budget, there has been, at a minimum, a maintenance of the value of the awards over that period.
I do not wish and I have no power to pre-empt the view the Government will take in the future about the level of these awards. I close by stating that the Government acknowledges the representations that it has received and the views which have been put about what the appropriate level of the awards should now be. The Government does not propose to put the level of these awards within the jurisdiction of the Academic Salaries Tribunal. The Tribunal makes recommendations only in respect of the amounts to be paid to academics rather than research students, and on that basis it would be a change to the character of the Tribunal to accept the amendment which is to be proposed by the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Page5, clause5, after proposed section 12DC, insert the following new section: 12DCA. The Tribunal may, if it thinks it desirable to do so, inquire into the level of post-graduate awards that should be used as a basis for recurrent expenditure on such awards under the Students Assistance Act 1973.’
I have already canvassed the arguments in support of the amendment during the second reading debate.
– I have already canvassed the Government’s position on the amendment during the second reading debate, and I have nothing to add to that.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 November, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-Whilst the Opposition does not formally oppose any of these Bills, it responds to them with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The simplest and shortest of the trio is the Evidence Amendment Bill, which contains no really substantial changes to the law. It contains an amendment of a small and consequential kind arising out of the High Court of Australia Bill and a change there made to the title of a key judicial officer. More importantly, it also contains a clarification of Parliament’s power to disallow all kinds of rules of court made by the judiciary. This represents a response to a recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I both acknowledge the promptness of the response to that recommendation from the Attorney-General (Seantor Durack) and thank him for clarifying the matter in giving the recommendation legislative form in the way he has in this Bill.
The second Bill is the Judiciary Amendment Bill (No. 2), which is part of a general reorganisation of the legislation relating to the High Court aimed essentially at cleaning up the statute book, primarily by disposing of a series of High Court Procedure Acts which have been promulgated over the years. Again, to that extent this is a welcome change. The main substantive change in this particular Bill is the removal of the power of a casting vote from the Chief Justice where there is an equality of judges, an evenly divided court, in appeals from the Federal Court, from Territory Supreme Courts, or from the Family Court. Hitherto, in those situations where there has been an equal division of judges, the Chief Justice has had a casting vote, unlike the situation which has obtained in the State Supreme Courts, where appeals coming from those jurisdictions and resulting in an even division of opinion have resulted in the majority decision at the lower level- the State level- prevailing. It has now been decided- the Opposition welcomes this- to extend that State Supreme Court status, as it were, to the Federal courts to ensure that where there is that even division of opinion the original decision of the lower Federal Court prevails.
This would appear to be a response both to the creation and to the status of the new courts in the Federal system.
It would also appear, certainly to the Opposition, to be very appropriate to be reducing the personal power of the Chief Justice in this respect. As we had occasion to say a number of times in 1975, the Chief Justice is, after all, but one judge among seven. His particular prejudices or the prejudices of any chief justice of the day should not be given any unnecessary weight such as was given under the system which has prevailed pending the passage of this Bill today. Of course, this represents an interesting dimuninon in the power of the present Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, and his successors, -to which they will be obliged to accommodate themselves. But I suspect that Sir Garfield at least will bear that dimunition of power in this respect with some fortitude, given the aggrandisement of power which has been accomplished in recent years and is now formalised in the further provisions of the High Court of Australia Bill, to which I will turn in a moment, relating to the financial administration on an independent basis of the affairs of that Court.
I wish to mention in passing one other small matter in relation to the Judiciary Amendment Bill. Whilst this Bill is primarily concerned, as I indicated, with repealing previous legislation in this area scattered about the statute book and with consolidating procedural matters in the Judicary Act- a wholly worthwhile enterpriseone of the procedural matters thus consolidated relates to the conduct of jury trials by the High Court. I refer to clause 13 of the Judiciary Amendment Bill and in turn to new section 77D (2) of the Judiciary Act. This provision amounts simply to a direction that certain jury rules should apply in the trial of indictable offences. That raises the issue, which I want to mention briefly in the Senate, of the meaning and application of section 80 of the Constitution which is the provision in the Constitution which purports, on the face of it, to guarantee jury trial in Federal criminal matters. But the text of section 80 only states:
The trial or indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury . . .
As is reasonably well known, the High Court has construed that part of section 80 as meaning only that the right to jury trial applies where an offence is described in Commonwealth legislation as, in fact, indictable. But in normal legal language, indictable offences are those where there is a two-stage proceeding involving a committal initially followed, in effect, by a jury trial.
This phenomenon has led generations of law students to puzzle why the Constitution should go to the trouble of stating that there shall be trial by jury in those cases where it is provided that there shall be trial by jury. In other words, that is a quite empty proposition.
I am not suggesting for a moment that we should use the occasion of the passage of these Bills to resolve this long-standing situation; but I hope that one day either the Constitution can be changed to give genuine meat and content to section 80 or, alternatively, that Commonwealth legislation, of which this is a central part, can be amended to provide for a genuine right of trial by jury in all serious cases. The relevant criterion perhaps might be imprisonment for six months, one year or more. Over the years a great deal of comment has been made about the desirability of some extra guarantees in that respect, but nothing has ever been done about it. Today, with legislation of this kind before us, is one of the numerous occasions on which Bills referring to the exercise of jury trial in Federal courts is allowed just to go through. It seems appropriate to make that point in passing.
Let us turn finally to the High Court of Australia Bill 1979, which is the central Bill in this package of Bills and which certainly is the most substantial in its range and content. It contains three main elements, the first of which is a series of administrative provisions associated with the establishment of the seat of the High Court in Canberra. That is the material in Division 2 of Part II and in Part III of the Bill. Those matters essentially are uncontroversial. I take the occasion to note only that the Opposition certainly shares the view which has been espoused in many quarters that the High Court should continue to travel around the country fairly extensively, even when it is located in the new building in Canberra, especially when matters such as applications for leave to appeal are in issue. Whilst it may be quite appropriate for big constitutional cases to be conducted in the pomp and majesty of the new national building across the way, it seems to me, and to the Opposition, that in quite a number of other cases the convenience of litigants, especially their financial convenience, perhaps should be the primary consideration.
The second element in the High Court Bill is the important and new provision it makes for the High Court to have separate administrative powers with respect to its financial affairs. That is the material in Part III of the Bill. The Bill will create a new statutory office of Clerk of the High
Court with the function of assisting judges, I imagine especially the Chief Justice, in his and their performance of those administrative functions. The powers now vested specifically in the High Court, which presently are exercised by the Attorney-General ‘s Department on behalf not of the Court but of the Commonwealth generally, include the power of the Court to enter into contracts, its power to deal in various ways with property, its power to manage buildings and the staff of the Court and also its power, which has raised some rather quizzical eyebrows in various quarters but 1 suppose one can assume that it will be administered sensibly to accept gifts, devices and bequests directed to the courts- one hopes with the best of motives- from various sources. The financial arrangements set out in more detail in Part V of the Bill provide for the Parliament to appropriate moneys on the basis of estimates approved by the Minister- who for this purpose, one assumes, is the Attorney-General- with specific ministerial approval being required for expenditure or contracts entered into by the Court involving sums of $ 100,000 or more.
The Opposition makes several critical points about those provisions. The first such point is that the so-called justification in principle for that change of arrangements does not appear to be especially persuasive. The Attorney-General put in his second reading speech, and it has been put in debate in the other place, that the overwhelming justification and legitimisation for the new arrangement is the traditional notion of the independence of the judiciary and, accordingly, the propriety of the judiciary having independent control over finance- it being one of the three major arms of government. Associated with that, of course, have been the particular claims of the High Court to enjoy this right of control over its own affairs as being the pinnacle of the Federal judicial system, it being argued to be appropriate to accomplish the transfer in this respect, again, at the time of the High Court’s shift to Canberra. But the notion that this kind of arrangement is demanded by the separation of powers does not carry much conviction. The point has not been taken for some 79 years of which I am aware. The claim that is being made is a very recent argument. It has been floated from time to time by individual judges, but it is not something which can be seen as having a long ground swell of support behind it. It is not a luxury that is to be enjoyed- not for some time anyway, if indeed there are any proposals in the pipeline- as I understand it, by the other Federal ^’courts in the system; yet there would appear to be no difference in principle between their position and that of the High Court.
Further, the credibility of the separation of powers doctrine as a rationale for this arrangement is not really heightened by the failure of this Government, like its predecessors of all parties, to make similar arrangements for the Parliament- the third arm in the separated powers trio. It has long been the subject of complaint- it is currently the subject of quite vociferous complaint by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I know that you, Mr President, have joined with him in making noise about this matter- that the Parliament does not enjoy any degree of budgetary independence from the Government and that this is quite in conflict with Parliament’s standing as an equal arm of government along with the Executive and the judiciary. So, I suggest that the Government’s credibility in advancing separation of powers arguments as a justification for this new arrangement so far as the High Court is concerned would be enhanced by extending the same honour and courtesy to the Parliament.
Another point to make is that, notwithstanding these new arrangements, the Court is still capable of being cut off without a penny by the Parliament and the Executive. There is absolutely nothing in this legislation which can be construed as guaranteeing any ultimate financial independence for the Court. It will just have to operate on a hand to mouth, year to year, appropriation to appropriation basis like everyone else. It is clear, then, that this is really just a symbolic gesture to satisfy the Court’s and, especially Sir Garfield Barwick ‘s, desire and passion for the trappings and appearance of power as well as, of course, the reality. I am not suggesting for a moment that there is any lesser disposition to settle for trappings than there is for the reality.
The second point I want to make in this general discussion of the weaknesses of the arguments that have been advanced in favour of separate administration for the High Court is that the track record of the High Court in recent years in the administration of its own affairs has not really been such as to encourage enormous confidence in its financial or other administrative responsibility. I say that, first of all, in the context of the erection of the temple across the road in respect of which it is well known- this has been the subject of considerable comment inside and outside this Parliament- that Sir Garfield Barwick has played a quite considerable role. Indeed, by reference to criteria such as passion for ostentation, obsession with detail, incapacity to make up one’s mind and indifference to cost, it could indeed be argued that Sir Garfield has been indistinguishable from a Toorak matron in his approach to the erection of this building.
With regard to the furnishing of the temple across the road, again there has been very considerable room for concern about the way in which costs have escalated, largely at the instance, it appears, of requests made and generated from within the existing High Court organisation. Some quite interesting information has emerged in this respect in the course of Estimates committee hearings. I refer in particular to the material derived by Senator Mcintosh in the course of the recent round of hearings of Estimates Committee E in relation to the list of proposed furniture for the High Court. Whilst one does not wish to be too carping about this, certainly anyone who has had any joinery put together or purchased any furniture recently will know that the costs are really quite extraordinary. One notices things such as the justices’ book trollies- four at $1,740 each- on the purchasing list when lesser mortals within the library and among practitioners have to settle for book trollies at a mere $790 each. There seems to be something of a passion with book trollies in this list. There are to be over 40 of them, in my count, which rather suggests, given the very limited working space in the new building as compared with the grand public space, that most people will spend a good deal of time stepping around book trollies.
The egalitarian spirit equally does not appear to have been extended to the provision of coffee tables- to make just one more point about the apparent financial extavagance. It is to be noted that the justices’ coffee tables are to cost $1,370 each, whereas the lesser mortals who practise before the justices have to settle, in the rooms provided for them, for coffee tables at a mere $ 1 60 each. These points raise questions with which it is perfectly appropriate for Estimates committees and this Parliament to be concerned.
One of the general problems about these new arrangements is the extent to which- I will come to this in a moment- there will be genuine accountability in the way that money is spent by the Court.
A further matter of the Court’s administration that perhaps needs to be mentioned as giving some ground for concern is the allocation of staff and the priorities that have been evident in the appointment of staff. There is reason to believe- as I have had occasion to say in earlier debates on this subject- that the proposed staff structure for the new High Court is somewhat erratic by most rational standards, with the proportion of uniformed attendants to researchers and associates being such as might be appropriate in a Roman emperor’s bath house but not all that obviously so in the context of a working national institution such as the High Court. The problem is, of course, that to a very large extent, even if the High Court continues to be administered from outside, from the Attorney-General’s Department, one is very largely in the hands of the judges and the recommendations that they make. It may not mean that any great changes of significance will result by virtue of vesting the administration in the Court itself, but I simply repeat the point that the track record of the Court in these matters and perhaps even more importantly in the matter of its administration of its cases- the timing of them, the setting down of cases and the production of statistics concerning the work and output of the Court- has left something to be desired.
The remaining point that I make about financial administration is the genuine concern that the Opposition has about the financial accountability of the Court and those administering it to this Parliament. I hope that this Legislation- I would appreciate the Attorney-General’s confirmation of this- is to be read as being satisfied not simply by a one-line appropriation. One notes that there is a requirement for ministerial approval of the estimates which can, I take it, be regarded as an implicit direction to the Minister to require something better than a one-line appropriation being put before him and before the Parliament. But I am not sure whether detailed estimates will in fact appear in the legislation. I would appreciate the Attorney-General’s confirmation that they will. I hope further that it can be assumed by the Opposition- again I would appreciate the views of the Attorney on this-that the Clerk to be appointed to head the High Court administration, in fact, will appear before Senate Estimates committees when it comes to the determination and analysis of the High Court’s budget. That in itself, however, does not take us very far because the question arises as to what happens if Parliament is not satisfied with those estimates after the event- through the Public Accounts Committee or some other vehicle of that kind- with the way in which expenditure has actually been incurred.
It would appear that this is a recipe for ministerial buck passing of a fairly high order. We know how easy it is for ministerial buck passing to take place even when the departments of the Ministers in question are in issue. How much easier is it going to be when the doctrine of the separation of powers can be called in issue and the Minister can claim to have no responsibility at all to the Parliament for the way in which this money is spent? On this accountability question there are a number of aspects involving, firstly, simply the physical appearance of the Clerk before the Senate Estimates committee, but, more particularly, the larger question of where the buck passing will finally stop when some cause for concern does appear.
The final matter dealt with in this legislation, and the final matter on which the Opposition comments, is the very important question of the appointment of High Court judges and the new clause in the legislation which now appears as clause 6 of the High Court of Australia Bill in the following terms:
Where there is a vacancy in an office of Justice, the Attorney-General shall, before an appointment is made to the vacant office, consult with the Attorneys-General of the States in relation to the appointment.
This represents a major concession to what the States have been trying to achieve ever since Federation, or at least since about 1920, when in the engineers case for the first time the Court started behaving as a truly national institution, concerned to interpret and to apply the Constitution, where there was ambiguity in its terms, in such a way that national interests and concerns took precedence over parochial ones, and in such a way that there would be a possibility for genuine national-sized solutions to national-sized problems. The Opposition believes that it is absolutely crucial; as the Minister said in his second reading speech, that ‘the Court continues to be truly national in character’. However, we believe that in order to achieve this the critical consideration is not a question of geographical balance sustained over time, or at any given point of time, in the composition of the Court, but rather the certainty that the best men and women in the nation are appointed to the Court,, the best both in terms of their scholarly ability and technical expertise across the range of law with which they have to deal- especially constitutional law- and in terms of the kind of vision and breadth of understanding and approach that they bring to their job.
It is fair enough to acknowledge that, in the course of pursuing presumably those goals in the past, Commonwealth governments have demonstrated a somewhat cavalier indifference to the claims of judicial appointees from the smaller States. Indeed, it was only with the appointment of His Honour Mr Justice Wilson very recently that Western Australia had its first appointment to the Bench, and it remains true that neither South Australia nor Tasmania has ever had members on the High Court. The Opposition is perfectly ready to accept that over the years there may have been some very suitable candidates from those States who, for one reason or another, were overlooked. It accepts that, for those reasons, perhaps some more formal consultative arrangements to supplement the eastern States grapevine might be desirable. It has said so in the other place and, indeed, at the Constitutional Convention in Perth. But the Opposition is concerned that that should go so far as to be now incorporated in the legislation in formal, statutory terms. We certainly would resist any move that this Government or some future government might be tempted to make, by virtue of its now being incorporated in statutory form, to provide that in the future there will be some kind of rotating arrangement for membership of the High Court- a kind of judicial Buggins ‘ turn syndrome. We would resist that very vigorously.
Moreover, we would resist especially any notion that the language now to go on the statute book is to be taken as implying that judges should be appointed only on the basis of some collective or majority view having emerged, on there being in effect some kind of vote in which the Commonwealth has but one voice among others. The Opposition insists that the national importance and character of the High Court demands that the perspective which only the Commonwealth can give, irrespective of which party is in. government, should be dominant, the one that actually applies in the determination of High Court appointments. We do not want to see a situation in which exciting or potentiallycontroversial appointments to the High Court will be submerged by the demands of the lowest common political denominator.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Australian Democrats would like to put in on this subject a few words not unlike some of the comments that Senator Evans has made on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. Indeed, the points of the Bill which concern us most are those found in clauses 1 7 and 40, which are concerned directly with the High Court’s proposed new powers to control its own finance in certain ways. It is relevant to comment that the High Court appears to have started off very much on the wrong foot, with a reputation for extravagance. I suggest that that is relevant to clause 1 7, because what begins badly can often continue badly. The Australian Democrats feel that it is quite unnecessary to have this extravagant Taj Mahal. If the law needs pomp, ritual and extravagance to justify itself, that is a great pity; it should not need those things. We feel that it is a very awkward precedent to establish in a nation that has, I might say, rather overcrowded, grubby and ancient courtrooms which are an inconvenience to litigants and to everybody who appears in them. If any additional money is to be spent in improving court facilities in this country, surely it should be spent on these lower courts rather than on the High Court which I suggest, because of its stature, prestige and elevation, needs it least. It should perhaps have tolerated austerity better than could any other court.
While I am on the question of precedent- I think this has a very important bearing- I note that the excuse given for clause 17 is that the High Court must have power over its own finances and spending because only in that way can it be seen to be truly independent. That reasoning could be applied to any other court or tribunal in the land. Indeed, I suggest to other courts and tribunals that if they have any brains they should start using them to that end. Every court and tribunal, at whatever level, should surely be able to be independent and to make an argument for independence. If the principle applies to the highest it must also apply to the lowest. The Australian Democrats would suggest that this is very much an argument against clause 17, to which we thoroughly object in almost every particular. Our second point concerns the fact that the Court exercises legal functions. That is its preoccupation and its work. The people at the head of the Court are the nation’s most eminent jurists. It is not in the nature of things that men of this type have the time, the experience or the knowledge to worry about the details of administration of a large building and everything that goes on within it. Yet in this clause we are saying that.
Where does the matter stop? It might be said that it is the Clerk who will decide and have the discretion and that his masters- the justices- will say to him: ‘You do what seems right and then come and tell us’. But is he going to run to the justices every time he wants to spend some money and say: ‘This costs this and this costs that’? Of course he will not do that. In the course of human nature and the nature of institutions, this matter will descend on to the bureaucracy. Without in advance questioning that bureaucracy in any way, it is the nature of things in this world that such organisations are the very ones which, only too readily and with the best of intentions, and feeling completely justified, are going to spend large sums of money on things which seem to them to be necessary.
I think that that covers the main points that I wish to make. I believe that the Australian Democrats have made two points which we feel are relevant and to the point. We believe that those points are related to the ordinary human nature of things which is something the Government seems to forget. The Government seems to feel that it can set up an institution which will operate like some machine, but that does not happen. I have one final comment to make on clause 40. We implore the Government to alter that provision for the enormous sum of $100,000 which is to be spent without reference to the Minister on a building completely fitted out and operational. I ask honourable senators: What possible expenditure- perhaps as much as $10,000- would that Court need to incur that could not be referred easily to the Minister?
– It would buy plenty of Scotch.
– It would by a lot of Scotch, but what if the building has to be cleaned after 10 or 15 years? The cost would perhaps be $80,000 to $90,000. Surely that can be referred to the Minister. The Minister and his Department are experienced on these matters and they would have a far better idea of what was going on. The whole question of this $100,000 is an outrage to this country and this provision should be changed.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for the support which is obviously going to be given to the High Court of Australia Bill 1979 and the Evidence Amendment Bill 1979. The principal Bill when enacted is to be known as the High Court of Australia Act. There are some major amendments to the existing Judiciary Act, which now provides for the constitution of the High Court. The purpose of this legislation is to enable the constitution of the High Court, and matters relating generally to it, to be the subject of a specific Act of Parliament which will be known as the High Court of Australia Act. This is desirable for a number of reasons. The immediate need for it is the fact that next year the High Court will be moving into its new building in Canberra. The establishment of the principal seat of the High Court at the seat of government is a major occasion.
This time last year the High Court celebrated the 75th anniversary of its establishment. By the time it moves into its own building in Canberra, the High Court will have been established for over 76 years. That is a rather long time for the High Court to wait in order to obtain its permanent position at the seat of government. That permanent move has been policy for a long time. The establishment of a supreme court at the seat of government is a policy pursued in Washington and London. This will be a major occasion. The High Court of Australia Bill has been proposed to coincide with that event.
Obviously some legislative changes had to be made to accommodate the new situation of the High Court in Canberra. One important thing which this Bill does and which has not been commented upon relates to the Registry of the Court. Under the existing arrangements a district registry exists in each capital city. In Melbourne and Sydney those registries are at the High Court itself and in other capital cities they are located in the supreme courts of the States. When the Principal Registry of the High Court is established in Canberra it will be necessary to preserve the facilities in each of the capital cities where the solicitors and the parties in proceedings in the Court over the years have been able to lodge their documents and to have them accepted by the Court. Under this Bill, although the Registry of the Court will be in Canberra, arrangements will be made so that branches of the Registry can be maintained and will have to be maintained in each of the capital cities. Those arrangements are yet to be made, although as I have said, arrangements already exist in the capital cities other than Sydney and Melbourne. Arrangements will be made in Sydney and Melbourne so that documents can not only be lodged for filing in the Court but also be accepted as being lodged in the Court and as satisfying the rules of the Court as to the time in which such documents may have to be lodged. In other words, what was most important to ensure was that litigants in the Court and their solicitors would not be in the position of having to send documents to Canberra or of having to lodge documents in Brisbane, Hobart, Perth or even in Sydney, and not know whether the documents have been accepted until they have been removed to Canberra in one form or another and accepted in the Registry there. I regard that as one of the important features of this legislation. It preserves a most important facility which litigants have enjoyed around Australia for 76 years. Although the Registry of the Court will be in Canberra, the litigants and their solicitors will not be disadvantaged. Indeed, with modern methods of transmission of documents, such as voca-dex machines, telex machines, the telephone and so on, there should really be a better service because, if there is any problem in relation to these documents when they are lodged in the various States, it can be readily discussed with the Registrar of the Court, even though he may be in Canberra. So, when a litigant lodges his document he will know whether it is in a form which is acceptable to the Registry.
There are several other major matters in relation to this Bill to which I should refer. They were commented on by Senator Evans who spoke on behalf of the Opposition. There are two features which I think are of great importance. One is the provision which accords to the High Court in future a measure of responsibility for the administration of its affairs. I want to say a little more about that later. The other is the principle of consultations with the States on the appointment of High Court judges in the future.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was indicating that I wished to comment on a couple of - important matters which are contained in this Bill and which have been raised in the debate. The first is the provision in this Bill which accords a measure of independent administration to the High Court. That provision is effected in this legislation by clause 17 and subsequent clauses. It will be carried into effect by the appointment of an officer to be known as the Clerk of the High Court. He will be responsible for the administration of the Court, subject, of course, to the overall direction of the justices of the Court. The present administration of the High Court, like that of other courts set up by the Parliament, is carried out through officers of the Attorney-General’s Department and the appropriation is included in the estimates for that Department. Those estimates are discussed each year in some detail in Estimates committees and in the Parliament itself.
The establishment under this Act of the power of the Court to administer its own affairs and of the office of a Clerk of the High Court places the High Court in a position analogous to that of an independent statutory authority. The High Court itself is created by the Constitution, so there is no question of creating any new independent statutory authority.
asked whether there would be a one-line estimate for the High Court. That matter has not yet been determined; an appropriation Bill in which provision is made for this item has not been introduced. There will not be an appropriation Bill in which provision is made for this matter until the legislation is passed. The matter will then be considered. I think that there would be a strong case for a one-line estimate. I am looking at the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) in which there is a one-line estimate for a number of other statutory bodies which come under my Department. I notice that the Australian Institute of Criminology has a one-line estimate; the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission has a one-line estimate; the Australian Law Reform Commission- this will interest Senator Evans, in particular- has a one-line estimate. The Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations has a two-line estimate. It is pretty common practice for bodies of this character which have an independence in their administration to have a one-line estimate. I cannot say whether the High Court will have a one-line estimate because that matter has not yet been resolved. I think there is a very great likelihood that it will have a one-line estimate.
The Bill provides, as the legislation dealing with these other statutory authorities provides, for estimates of expenditure to be submitted to the Minister. They cannot be varied, except with the approval of the Minister. The detailed estimates, which are considered by the Minister and which are involved in the budget-making processes of government, are available to the Parliament. No doubt the details of the expenditure would be made available to the Parliament, and in particular to a Senate Estimates committee, if such information were sought. The information would probably be volunteered to the Estimates committees in the material which is made available to them for the purposes of their work. So even though this is the way the financing will proceed there will be control by the Government of course, and ultimate control by the Parliament, over the finance that is made available to the High Court.
The other matter to which I wish to refer and upon which Senator Evans has commented is the provision in clause 6 of the Bill which reads:
Where there is a vacancy in an office of Justice, the Attorney-General shall, before an appointment is made to the vacant office, consult with the Attorneys-General of the States in relation to the appointment.
I regard that as a most important provision. It is new and is based upon an undertaking which I gave on behalf of the Government at the last Constitutional Convention. It was given after a great deal of concern had been expressed about the fact- which Senator Evans has recognisedthat over a period of 75 years until early this year there had been no appointment of any lawyer from the States of Western Australia. South Australia and Tasmania as a justice of the High
Court. Indeed, I think a select committee of the New South Wales Parliament, in looking at this question amongst others, commented unfavourably on that situation.
– It shows how broadminded New South Wales is.
– Yes, it does. I hope that that broadminded approach will be shared in this Senate and in this Parliament. I am sure it will be. I believe that the situation was serious. In order to seek to correct it, the Government felt that it was important that before an appointment was made to the High Court the Government’s attention should be drawn to the widest list of names of suitable lawyers throughout the whole of the nation who could be and ought to be considered for the appointment. We thought that this provision was a fair way of doing that. The provision does not involve any of the problems to which Senator Evans referred. It certainly does not mean that there will be or has to be any rotation of appointments among States. It does not mean that there has to be a vote by which some sort of majority view is obtained.
The power of appointment remains exclusively with the Governor-General, of course on the recommendation of the government of the day, as has been the case all along. There is no suggestion that there will be any direction to the government or any restrictions on its absolute power and discretion to decide whom it will recommend for appointment to the High Court. All this provision means is that the government will have available to it a name or names from each State’s Attorney-General to make sure that it gives the widest consideration possible. I suppose it can be said that there is no absolute need to place that in statutory form. Because of the experience that the States had over 75 years of appointments to the Court it seemed to me and to the Government that a proper assurance should be given to the States that that is what the Government will do. I had given it a personal undertaking as Attorney-General of the day.
– Wouldn’t they accept that? They wanted legislation?
– That remark by Senator Evans is very clever. If the States did not accept it at the time- I do not believe they did not- they certainly accepted it when I put it into practice at the beginning of this year. If there were any doubts about my credibility, they were removed then. The States might have doubts about the credibility of Attorneys-General of other political parties which may be in office at some remote time in the future: they might be worried about that. Senator Evans has seen fit to make some comments about the ostentation of the buildingwhat he called the temple across the road- and so on. I know that that was the subject of a debate earlier this year at which I was not able to be present, but I do not think today is a suitable occasion on which to pursue the matter. We are discussing a Bill before the Senate not expenditure on the High Court building. Nevertheless, I want to make the comment that the design and contract for the building were entered into by the Whitlam Labor Government. If there were deficiencies in the contract or grandiose schemes for the building, I think the responsibility for them must lie fairly and squarely with that Government.
Senator Mason raised another matter which I think is one for consideration at the Committee stage. However, as it has been raised in the second reading debate I will refer to it. He expressed concern about clause 40 of the Bill, which states:
The High Court shall not, except with the approval of the Minister, enter into a contract under which the Court is to pay or to receive an amount exceeding $ 100,000.
That has to be read in conjunction with the provision that the High Court is to be given administrative independence. The High Court’s ability to enter into contracts, of course, will depend upon the money that is made available to it in accordance with the estimates to which I have been referring. The object of the High Court’s having administrative independence- it is the same privilege as is accorded to independent statutory authorities- is that it does not have to obtain ministerial or departmental approval for the contracts or expenditures it enters into. On the other hand, a limit of this kind is usually provided, depending upon the size of the contracts that may be entered into. In fact, the limitation of $100,000 in relation to statutory authorities is rather on the low side. Statutory authorities, particularly if they are commercial undertakings, usually have authority to enter into contracts for higher sums than this without the approval of the Minister. As the sort of contract that the High Court might enter into would not be in excess of that figure, except in very unusual circumstances, it was thought reasonable to have a lower figure than perhaps would be provided for independent statutory authorities. As I have said, the ability of the High Court administration to enter into those contracts will, in the end, be dependent upon its obtaining money to satisfy them. So it has to be very cautious about the level of expenditure it incurs in this way. In the ordinary course of events, it would be incurring expenditure only of what might be called the running expenses type. This provision is more to control expenditure of a capital nature that the High Court may enter into. As I said at the beginning, I am happy to note that the Senate supports this measure, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 7 November, on motion by Senator Webster:
The the Bills be now read a second time.
– A superficial examination of the Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1 979 may convey to honourable senators that it is not a very important Bill or that it is of secondary importance insofar as it disallows certain awards given to members of Parliament and changes their salaries and allowances. However, I think that it gives the Senate an opportunity to look at the annual charade that takes place every time the Remuneration Tribunal, having examined evidence from members of Parliament and made a determination in accordance with the wishes of the Parliament, makes changes to salaries, conditions and allowances and then sees a challenge to the determination handed down by the Executive government. This means that despite evidence placed before the Tribunal by various members of Parliament in respect of their salaries, allowances and awards, the Executive government decides to set the Tribunal’s decision aside.
In some quarters this might be construed as a popular decision, but I suggest that the Government, in setting aside the umpire’s decision, is negating its approach to determinations handed down by the appropriate tribunals in respect of wages, salaries and conditions. The Remuneration Tribunal is charged with the annual responsibility of examining salaries, conditions and other factors relating to the operation of the Parliament and occasionally those relating to judges and other persons. That is what this legislation is about. Members of Parliament experience the problems of inadequate resources to carry out their parliamentary functions. When one looks at what is done in this area one sees a degree of bipartisanship. There seems to be a recognition, by members of all parties, of the need for members of Parliament to have adequate resources.
I recall that on the few occasions I have spoken on this matter I have had a commonality of attitude from Senators Withers, Chaney, Missen, Baume and others- but particularly those honourable senators- when the opportunity has presented itself. They have expressed their concern about the inadequacy of resources for members to carry out their public functions. It is not just a question of whether the salaries are adequate, because that is not an area on which I have a great deal to say. What I want to speak about is the inadequacy of resources. I would expect that former members of the Government who were members of the Cabinet, would agree with me that the resources available to that side of the Parliament which is in government are almost unlimited. Those members have not only personal resources of greater magnitude than the Opposition and other smaller parties, but also they have resources at the departmental level. This means that it is not the lack of human resources that fails to provide them with infor.matién, research, the answers or the investigations necessary to properly fulfil their role as members of Parliament.
It disturbs me that, each time we feel there is a case for better facilities to be made available for members of the Parliament, particularly for research so that we can play a more meaningful role in the Parliament and in promoting public debate on the various issues which ought to be publicly debated, one can only say that when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) issues the edicts- as he has from time to time- and when he adopts a somewhat arrogant position when the Leader of my Party goes to him in relation to maintaining the determinations that have been awarded by the Tribunal- he is being mean and miserable in respect to his responsibility to provide more equity and resources for members of the national Parliament. It is not hard to understand that he would adopt such an attitude. We are really not talking about great sums of money. We are not talking about huge costs. We are talking about the ability of the Parliament to play a more informed and purposeful role, not only in respect of what the Parliament does but also in respect of creating a better understanding in the Australian community.
It might be recalled that the last time there were any substantial changes and improvements in this situation was in the period of the Whitlam Government. Honourable senators will be aware that the then Minister for Administrative Services, Mr Daly, doubled the amount of resources available to ordinary members of the Parliament. Rather than just having a person in the office backing a constituency we were given the capacity to employ an extra person more substantially on the research side of the Parliament. Some members with difficult electoral commitments have applied those resources to a purely administrative area. Nevertheless, there was a 100 per cent improvement in the amount of human resources available. Subsequently, representations were made to the Tribunal to increase that resource. It is on the record that the members of the Remuneration Tribunal have agreed that there is a case for members of Parliament to have a third person employed but because of the constraints that naturally exist in this place it is not physically possible to provide members of Parliament with additional staff to operate from within Parliament itself. So whilst admitting the case, the Tribunal has not been prepared- knowing the problems that you, Mr President, know in relation to accommodation in the Parliament- to take that next step. Obviously, if approximately 100 members of the Parliament were to be given additional staff, that would impose tremendous accommodation difficulties in Parliament House. Nevertheless, that requirement ought to be met. I am sure that dramatic changes could be made to the accommodation in Parliament House to provide those resources, even if it were done on a piecemeal basis.
When we look at resources as a component part of the Parliament it has to be admitted that there is no such thing as equity. The government of the day has virtually all the resources. The Opposition is limited to a very small amount of additional assistance. The four leaders of the parliamentary Opposition have a few extra staff. More recently, there has been some improvement in the staffing arrangements for shadow Ministers. As a result of representations that members of my party made to the Tribunal, the Tribunal said that it was prepared to determine that each shadow Minister should have an additional member of staff for the purpose of carrying out his responsibilities in the Parliament and outside it. The Prime Minister, in his usual style, refused to allow that decision to stand. He cut back the number of additional staff to 10. That meant that some members of the shadow ministry were forced to share an additional member of staff, even though that person might have certain expertise in one area and might not necessarily be able to fulfil a proper function in respect of other areas. To share a person when dealing with different points of emphasis and philosophical standards is impossible. That son of arrangement is not satisfactory. We were arguing about six more staff members being employed for the shadow ministry. We were not concerned about getting additional staff for the four leaders of the parliamentary Opposition. We were concerned about having one additional member for the 16 members of the shadow ministry.
– What staff do the 16 members, other than the leaders, have now?
– They have 10 staff members between 16 of them. I do not think that it is an unfair characterisation to say that the Prime Minister is acting outrageously about this matter. He is acting in a way which is very restrictive and discriminatory against the Opposition’s having better resources to carry out its functions properly. It ought to be stressed that, politics being as they are, parties are one day in government and the next day in opposition. The Government may, as it did in respect of the Tribunal ‘s recommendations last year and this year, cut back on the resources available to shadow Ministers, but I remind it that in a year’s time it may well find itself in opposition and, therefore, in exactly the same position as the Opposition finds itself in today. It would be regressive and it would not solve any of the fundamental problems if a new government were to take the shortsighted view that this Government is taking with regard to resources. In relation to this legislation that we are being asked to approve, the Tribunal has submissions from numerous shadow Ministers who were seeking unlimited travel allowance. Of course, the fact is that shadow Ministers have additional responsibilities to those of ordinary members of the Parliament insofar as they are required to travel interstate and to attend a whole range of seminars, party discussions and public activities in addition to their normal parliamentary duties. The Government, acting at the behest of the Prime Minister, has reduced the unlimited travelling allowance which had normally been available and which had been recommended by the Tribunal this year, to 40 overnight stays per annum. No reason was given for this in the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney); it was just stated that the decision had been taken.
It is probably true that some members of the shadow ministry would not take up their entitlements to travelling allowances for 40 overnight stays because of the areas of responsibility that they have; but other members would be required to make up to 100 overnight stays, and would have many more commitments in respect to their particular shadow portfolios. For example, because of the prevailing economic conditions and the interest of the Australian community in economic matters, for example, one would imagine that every week Mr Willis and Mr Hurford would have many commitments, some of which would take them outside their own State. Restriction will be placed upon them in meeting their requirements to address seminars and mix with captains of industry and commerce, who have no restrictions at all placed upon their capacity to pay for stays in the best hotels and entertain at the highest levels. The mistaken view has been taken that if those in the public sector exercise what I believe to be their rights and obligations it is a cost to the community. Of course, the suggestion is that in the private sector the cost is borne by some nebulus mythical organisation other than the Australian community.
We all know that there are no taxation restrictions upon the capacity of industry to spend generous amounts on expenses. If companies want to conduct seminars and it costs $70 to accommodate a guest speaker, in the best hotel and so forth, that is a charge which is accepted by the private sector company or group that is organising the function. It seems incongruous that the private sector can do this and the public sector cannot. Yet the Government has cut back the emolument that was granted to members of parliament on an unlimited basis and has restricted it to 40 overnight stays, even though members’ staff, because of their classification, have unlimited travel rights. What is this Government really about? What is the Prime Minister about when he imposes that sort of restriction?
– What do you think his reason was?
– I suggest what is reasonable is what is reasonable for all other public servants- unlimited.
– What was his reason?
– He just hates the Opposition; he hates the Labor Party and does not want to give its members access to any resources at all. That was indicated in the discussions that Mr Hayden had with the Prime Minister about these matters. He would not give an answer; he would not give the Opposition any reason. He was not prepared to discuss it or debate it with any sense of reasonableness. The number 40 was part of the determination the previous year, but he did not set it aside then. At that time, in 1978, the Prime Minister set aside the staff arrangements which had been recommended by the Tribunal. Honourable senators will agree with me that nobody abuses the travel allocation. Nobody goes away from home just for the sheer sake of it. Members do not go unless they have a commitment. There is no suggestion that members of Parliament, particularly members of the front bench of the Opposition or even, I would concede, members of the Government front bench, would go away just for the sake of doing so. Members of Parliament travel because of the demands made upon them. I think that is borne out by the fact that nobody abuses the travel allocation. In fact, there ought not to be restrictions on the resources available to members of Parliament. There ought to be recognition of the rights of members to carry out their responsibilities and to be adequately compensated in the same way as those who work in the private sector are compensated.
There ought not to be this annual event of the Government or the Prime Minister rejecting the umpire’s decision. What is the purpose of presenting arguments before the Tribunal if its decisions are rejected? Its members are men who are regarded as reasonable and competent in their area. The Tribunal asks questions and examines all the evidence. It does not make an award or a determination unless it is borne out by the facts. It seems to me that unless recommendations and determinations are not reasonable the government of the day ought to accept them. We have quite a degree of criticism to make for the second year about the distribution of resources as distinct from the fixing of salaries. As you will probably appreciate, Mr President, there is discrimination in respect of salaries and allowances for officers of the Parliament, particularly as they relate to the Senate. There is no doubt that you, Mr President, have been discriminated against as a result of the decision of the Executive of the day.
Of course, another area of discrimination in this legislation concerns the role of the Whips of the Senate. This discrimination is unforgivable. After all, the Senate was responsible for the Prime Minister being able to make his grab for power in 1975 following the dissolution in 1974 and prior to the dissolution in 1975. Is it suggested that the Whips in the House of Representatives play a greater or more effective role? I imagine that this Government would be the first to say that the Whips here play a more effective role, because unless the job here is done the Government is in great difficulties, as was borne out by the events in 1975 when obviously the then Opposition Whip was a fairly effective sort of person.
Leaving aside the controversy and what has been said by even Government members in recent times about the alienation that has taken place as a result of the events of 1975, 1 just do not believe that the salaries and allowances of officers in this place, whether they be the President or the Whips, should be in any way different from those for the House of Representatives. As has been indicated, we find discrimination in respect of the Senate Whips travelling to Canberra during non-sitting periods to carry out some of their responsibilities. That situation is provided for in respect of the House of Representatives but is not provided for in respect of the Senate. How one can gauge that as equitable is beyond my comprehension. It seems a totally illogical step. Therefore, I believe I am entitled to move the amendment which I propose to move at the Committee stage and which would give to the Senate Whips, and to any honourable senator acting in that capacity, the same sort of emoluments as exist for the Whips in the House of Representatives. Here again I think it is fair to say that I am sure that neither Senator Baume nor Senator Georges will travel to Canberra during a period when the Parliament is not sitting just for the sake of receiving travelling allowances. It is absurd to suggest that that situation would be abused because I know that they are both family men who want to spend as much time as conceivable with their wives and families in their own homes.
We are not talking about large sums of money but we are talking about important principles. Although we are not moving an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time, we certainly foreshadow amendments which propose to insert new sections to establish without any equivocation the right of the Senate to be treated equally with the House of Representatives. I hope that that is a principle which will enjoy the support of the Senate. For those reasons we ask the Government parties, whilst they may not agree with all that I have said about the question of resources for members of parliament, to consider seriously the points I have raised and to have them discussed in their party room and by their party committees which deal with such rights so that we can come to an understanding about the need for adequate resources to be available to members of parliament. I know that members of Government committees to whom I have spoken from time to time share that view. Just as they have problems of resolving the matter with their Government, I had the same sort of problems when I was chairman of my party’s committee because Mr Daly said: Those so-and-sos did not give it to us. Why should we give it to them?’ I do not support that principle.
I think the principle is whether we should have resources and, if the answer is yes, it does not matter who they apply to on the basis that one day the opposition is in government and the next day the government is in opposition. I am concerned with establishing the principles. My role, if I became a Minister in a future Labor government, would be to persuade my colleagues to adopt the principles that I am enunciating. My job would be made so much easier if the government of the day, particularly its back bench, were able to show, when it had the opportunity to do so, that it gave me some moral support for the views I have presented to the Parliament today. I give notice that at the Committee stage I will be moving to insert, after clause 5, a proposed new section dealing with the matters which stand in my name but which I shall be moving on behalf of Senator Georges, who would have moved them himself had he been here. I am fulfilling only that part of an obligation which he felt very strongly about and which was part of a submission he made to the Tribunal.
– I thank the Senate for its consideration of the Remuneration and Allowances Bill. I have noted the comments made by Senator Gietzelt on behalf of the Opposition. This is one of the more difficult areas of activity for the Parliament when we come to the point of having to consider our own conditions of work. The previous Government, I think, instituted the Remuneration Tribunal, which took some of the difficulty out of this area by having an independent report to the Parliament which takes effect in the absence of some contrary action by the Parliament. It should be noted that this Bill exercises a degree of restraint right accross the range of parliamentary and government emoluments. In my view, it is not a case of the Government’s having made fish of one and fowl of another.
I think the Bill would have widespread support in the community in the sense that it ensures that the rises in salary which are afforded to everybody from the Prime Minister on, or down, according to one’s point of view, are no more and no less than in line with the rises which have been received by wage and salary earners in Australia who have had the benefits of indexation. I think, in that sense, that the Bill would have very widespread support in the community. It is important to note that not only are you, Mr President, put under some restraint in the matter, as was mentioned in the debate a few minutes ago, but also every Minister and office bearer of the Government is affected, as are the office bearers of the Opposition. I simply voice my personal support for the concept that the Parliament should exercise the same restraint as it urges upon the citizens of Australia. I think it is entirely appropriate that the Government in particular, having taken the view before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that there should be restraint in this area, should impose the same rules upon itself.
A number of points have been raised by the Opposition in this debate. I will touch on them very briefly. Firstly, concern was expressed by Senator Gietzelt about restrictions on the number of staff available to the Opposition. I can only say that, if we look at the position as it applied when the now Opposition was in government, we find that there now is, in fact, a more generous provision of staff for the Opposition than then existed. There are 44 positions available to the Opposition now- that is, of course, apart from the individual entitlement of senators and members to two personal staff eachwhereas only 38 staff positions were shared by the coalition parties when we were in Opposition. On the other hand, if one looks to the Government position, Ministers of the present Government are provided with 198 positions compared with 244 positions during the period of the Whitlam Government. So once again the Government has shown restraint in its own staffing of its ministerial offices whilst, at the same time, permitting an expansion of the positions available to the Opposition. The figure of 40 which was referred to- I am not quite clear-
– The 40 overnight stays.
-Oh, the 40 overnight stays. I thank the honourable senator for that reminder. I can only conclude that the original recommendation from the Remuneration Tribunal related to the 40 days spent in the wilderness in biblical times. I suspect that the extension to the permanent wilderness that is sought by the Opposition is something that we should all resist. However, I can clear up one point. Senator Gietzelt suggested that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) hates the Opposition. I would hasten to assure Senator Gietzelt that the Prime Minister thinks the Opposition is the finest possible Opposition the country could have. All members of the coalition parties are united in that view. We intend to ensure that members of the Opposition maintain the high standards of Opposition that they have maintained for about 27 of the last 30 years in the Australian Parliament.
The Bills also affect the Whips. I think it should be noted that, in fact, under the provisions which these Bills will permit, for the first time the Whips in both the Senate and the House of Representatives will receive an allowance as part of their emoluments. I think that is most appropriate. In fact, it is a view which I expressed to the Tribunal last year when I ceased to be Government Whip. I think it has been an anomaly that no provision has been made for the Whips until the present. The Government has acknowledged that and Opposition members will see that on this occasion the Whips in both chambers will be receiving, as part of their emoluments, an expense allowance. The complaint has been made on behalf of the Whips in the Senate- and an amendment is to be moved to cover this complaint- that they have been discriminated against because there is no provision for a daily allowance while Parliament is not sitting. I understand that, in fact, no submission was made to the Tribunal seeking that allowance for Senate Whips. Although I can see that there is not necessarily any logical distinction to be drawn between the House of Representatives and the Senate in this matter, the fact is that the Tribunal has instituted the proposal for the House of Representatives Whips and has not made any recommendation for the Senate Whips. I would suggest that the appropriate course is for interested senators to make submissions to the Remuneration Tribunal with respect to the Senate Whips to demonstrate-
– They have done that now.
-Have they done that now?
– They have made a joint submission.
-Senator Peter Baume, who is usually well informed on all matters, seems to be well informed on this matter also. I am assured that that has been done. The Government regards that as a matter which now should be left to the Tribunal to determine next year. I thank the Senate for its consideration of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bills read a second time.
– The Committee is dealing with the Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1979 and the Ministers of State Amendment Bill 1979. An amendment relating to the Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1979 has been circulated. Is it the wish of the Committee, therefore, that we deal with that Bill first? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1979
Clauses 1 to 3- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Allowances to be paid to office holders of the Parliament).
– I rise as a member of the Parliament to express my concern at the way in which this Government is treating the Parliament as a whole. I think that clause 4 of the Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1979 sets out graphically the scant regard the Fraser Government has for what is commonly referred to as the doctrine of the separation of powers. When I was a young boy at school I was always told that there were three arms of government: One related to the Parliament, one related to the Executive and one related to the judiciary. Earlier today we had before us a Bill which virtually gave complete independence of operation to the High Court of Australia, to the judicial arm of government. But here in the Bill before us we have the Executive downgrading and underwriting very considerably the amount which has been recommended for payment to the Presiding Officers of this Parliament- the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.
At page 47 of the 1979 determination of the Remuneration Tribunal one sees that the rate per annum of additional salary recommended by the Tribunal for the President of the Senate was an amount of $ 1 2,8 1 6. The Bill which is now before the Committee recommends for the Parliament’s approval an amount of $1 1,269 for the President of the Senate. The same amount applies to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. As an amount of $12,61 1 per annum was recommended by the Tribunal for payment to Cabinet Ministers and under this Bill that amount will be paid to Cabinet Ministers, one can see that there has been a downgrading in salary payments to the Presiding Officers of the
Australian Parliament. Frankly, this is a case of the Executive getting what it considers it deserves. It has slightly downgraded its allowances, I understand, from $7,200 to $5,903, but the basic additional salary for the position is $12,611.
This is not the first occasion on which that has happened; it happened in 1978 when the Remuneration Tribunal recommended that an additional salary of $12,323 per annum should be paid to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In fact, last year the Bill that was presented to the Parliament provided for an amount of $10,500, which was the exact amount payable to the Presiding Officers in 1976. So there was a very serious downgrading in 1978. This year, 1979, the Remuneration Tribunal has recommended that the salary be in line with the amount payable to a Cabinet Minister. This Bill has, in fact, reduced the additional salary payable to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives from $12,816 to $11,269, which appears less than the additional amount being paid to a junior Minister not of Cabinet status. This is a case where Parliament is being given by the Executive the amount that the Executive thinks is fit for the Parliament.
Since this Government came to office there has been a constant down-grading of Parliament and of the approach by the Executive to the Parliament. It concerns me greatly that the positions occupied by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives should be treated in such a cavalier way, immediately after a Bill has been presented which gives practically complete independence to the judicial arm of government. I raise my complaint and I express my strong concern about the way in which this matter is being handled. I think this legislation only adds to the very strong argument that it is about time that Parliament took unto itself the right to determine the amount that it will have to spend on its own behalf. I criticise the Government for its action in downgrading Parliament in this way.
– I support what my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, has said. I have also been concerned by previous actions of the Executive; and in its attitude to drawing up this Bill Parliament seems to have been downgraded. The status of Parliament has suffered because of the regard, or indeed the disregard, that is being given to the President and to the Speaker in the other place. It seems to me to be traditional for the Executive to clash with the Parliament, but I believe it is also traditional that the Parliament is supreme and should be so. Therefore, I regard the treatment of the Presiding Officers in this Bill as reprehensible. I support the idea of a review with the object of reinstating the position of the Parliament and, in particular the Presiding Officers, as our titular head, to the status of a Cabinet Minister.
I was also interested to read in the Tribunal ‘s report that a recommendation was made with respect to Chairmen of Committees. We must remember that the Tribunal is an independent body consisting of experts who have conducted inquiries into these matters and have come forward with what I regard to be a restrained recommendation with respect to allowances made to various office holders in the Parliament. It seems to me to be quite incredible that, although the Tribunal recommended that the chairmen of Senate committees be granted an allowance of $ 1 ,090, that has been ignored and $644 has been provided. Yet, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Works receives $ 1 ,073 additional salary plus $590 in the way of special allowance. In my view, the chairmen of standing committees of the Senate have responsibilities which are way and above those of backbenchers. Our expenditure is quite unusual. The position of chairmen of Senate standing committees ought to be regarded in the same way at least as that of the Chairman of the Public Works Committee. I ask the Government to take cognisance of what Senator Douglas McClelland and I have had to say. I believe this view would be shared by 100 per cent of the back benchers of the Parliament and, if not all, perhaps most, of the Ministers. In my opinion the Parliament deserves proper recognition. 1 believe that this recommendation is flying in the face of our proper role in the Australian community.
– I desire to lend my voice to this protest. For many years I have been protesting about the downgrading of Parliament. On this occasion some concern has been expressed about the Presiding Officers. On previous occasions my contention has been about the treatment of heads of departments. Heads of the departments of the Parliament are by far the lowest paid of any departmental heads in the Commonwealth. The Clerks of the Parliament are also underpaid for no other reason- it is not a reflection on capabilities or duties- than that they happen to be heads of departments of the Parliament. This Parliament is not given the importance of other parliaments. I am considering whether that contention has the same force of argument it had previously in the light of what has been revealed in the social security conspiracy scandal. It is apparent from the information we have received that departmental heads are carrying on government in Australia without the knowledge of Ministers. Ministers have to justify such action after it has been taken. We are letting this continue today.
We also have to consider the position of a Minister in questioning an officer of his department who receives a higher salary than the Minister. 1 think that no matter what the cost we should take pride to ensure that the Parliament is recognised as the institution in Australia which is the most precious. Office holders in the Parliament should receive remuneration accordingly. I do not complain about my salary, but this whole question of salary needs some reconsideration. The salaries connected with the whole Parliament are given less consideration than the salaries in any other department of the Commonwealth.
– I refer the Committee to a comparison of the salary of $10,500 proposed for the President of the Senate in 1976 and the amount of $ 1 2,8 16 recommended on this occasion, which has been reduced to $1 1,269. This represents an increase of $769 over a three-year period. The proposed allowance represents an increase of $903. One might say that these increases, if stood alone, are adequate, but the salary for junior Ministers is recommended to increase by $952 after the same period. This means, of course, that we are talking in round figures of a difference of about $ 1 80 between the 1976 salaries and the proposals that are recommended in this clause of the Bill.
I take up the point of Senator Chaney about the need to exercise restraint. We do not quarrel with the exercise of restraint. However, one section of the Australian community that is not exercising restraint is the business sector. No restraint is being exercised in that sector in regard to salaries or allowances. If the Minister is really suggesting that that is the case, I ask him to give me some figures showing that directors’ fees have remained within the area of the comparable increase to which I have referred. He will find that in fact directors’ fees have increased very considerably over the three-year period. He will find that no restrictions have been placed on allowances paid by the private sector to those people who occupy a management position. When we are talking about restraint, let it be right across the board. At present it is not right across the board. The Government talks about restraint only as it relates to members of Parliament, or lower income wage and salary earners.
Every time this Government goes before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission we are told that its policy is to exercise wage restraint. When it comes to the Parliament, we are told that we must exercise salary and resource restraint. But there is never any evidence that that course is being followed by those who occupy a very important place in our society, where they are able to make decisions without any public accountability except to the shareholders of a particular company. Because of the way in which many of these companies operate, shareholders can exercise very little restraint upon those who make management decisions about their own emoluments and salaries, about the way in which shares are issued, about increases in share returns on capital funds invested. This is just another of the specious arguments that we get in this Parliament from time to time. As these figures show, the Government increases the salaries of its junior Ministers and decreases the salaries of Presiding Officers in an unfair manner.
I now refer to the rate the Tribunal offered to the President of the Senate in 1978. lt offered an amount of $12,323, the same rate as that for Cabinet Ministers. The rate of $12,816 offered to senior Cabinet Ministers is the same as that being awarded under this legislation to the Presiding Officers. But the amount recommended by the Tribunal has been reduced by $1,550. Again I emphasise, as have all members of the Parliament who have debated this question, that there is a great deal of inconsistency in respect of the specific matters that have been raised. On the questions of restraint, there certainly is a great deal of challenge and contradiction about what really happens in the private sector.
– I have noted the comments made by honourable senators about the various salaries with which they are concerned. In response, I would like to make a couple of brief comments. I preface those comments by saying that I have no doubt at all in my mind that the public of Australia would regard it as being part of the duty of this Government to impose the same rules of restraint on itself and on those positions for which it has the clear ability to control the increases received as it has sought to impose on the wage and salary earners of Australia for the good of Australia. I make no apology to the Senate on behalf of the Government for the view which has been adopted.
As far as the Government’s attitude to the Executive as against the Parliament is concerned,
I suggest to honourable senators that an examination of the facts will show that the Government has been as hard, if not harder, on the Executive- on itself- as it has been on any other offices being dealt with in these determinations. If honourable senators refer to paragraph 22 of the Remuneration Tribunal 1979 Review they will find a useful guide to that. The Tribunal reports:
On this occasion no minister sought an increase in additional ministerial salary. It was, however, strenuously represented by others that the additional salaries of Ministers are grossly inadequate, the margin above the salary of a private member having been heavily eroded since the early 1960s.
I interpolate that those honourable senators who have been here for a long time would be aware of the relatively high ministerial salary, compared with the rate of normal pay, which existed at that time. In fact, during the last 15 years there has been a substantial reduction in the margin received by Ministers, both Cabinet and nonCabinet, compared with that received by honourable senators and honourable members.
Parliamentary officers have been treated in exactly the same way as the Government has treated itself. There has been no distinction. For example, we find that the President of the Senate, who has been specifically referred to in the debate by Senator Douglas McClelland and by Senator Jessop, currently receives a salary of $10,500. The Tribunal determined that he should receive $12,816, which represents a 22 per cent increase. In fact, as was indicated in the second reading speech, the Government has applied the same percentage increase across the board in order to arrive at an increased salary of $11,269. That is precisely the salary that is proposed for a Minister who is not a member of the Cabinet. It is true that a margin above that sum would be payable to a Minister in the Cabinet, who would receive a salary of $12,61 1 following the passage of this legislation. But the Government faced the fact that the Tribunal made a series of recommendations, some of which involved increases that were well outside the indexation increases permitted by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In the case of the Presiding Officers, the increase amounted to 22 per cent, in the case of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives 34 per cent, in the case of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate 1 10 per cent and so on. Each has been treated in the same way. The percentage increase granted has been in the order of 7 per cent, equivalent to the indexation increase.
The other point to which I wish to draw the attention of honourable senators is that, in a number of respects, officers who perform functions in the Parliament have received new allowances under these determinations, which have been agreed to by the Government. As I mentioned earlier, for the first time the Whips are to receive an allowance. The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, who formerly did not receive allowances, are each to receive an allowance of $590. Thus, those officers have received an allowance where previously none was paid. In each case I would argue that clearly those payments are warranted. They represent novel payments which I believe are not consistent with the view expressed by honourable senators that in some way the Government is seeking to denegrate the Parliament. I say quite clearly to the Committee that it is not in the mind of the Government to reduce the apparent influence of the Parliament; rather, it seeks to set an example to the community with respect to government and parliamentary salaries and wages and to increase them to the same extent as the increases that have been provided for other wage and salary earners in Australia. Each of us has great difficulty in assessing how much he is worth to the community. I think it sits well in our mouths to be modest, because I suspect that if the amounts that were to be paid to us were to be determined by the electorate we might find that we would be living rather more leanly than we are at present.
– I will not labour the point. All that I wish to say in reply to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) is that in 1978 the Remuneration Tribunal recommended that the amount payable to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives should be the same amount as that payable to a Cabinet Minister. The amount determined by the Cabinet that should be payable to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives was less than that payable to a Cabinet Minister. This year the Tribunal again recommended that the amount payable to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives should be the same amount as that payable to a Cabinet Minister. This legislation once again reduces the amount payable to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to an amount less than the amount now payable to a Cabinet Minister. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansarda table that I have had prepared of the of salaries and allowances payable to the President of the Senate, the Leader of the
Opposition, junior Ministers and Cabinet Ministers from 1 976 to 1 979 under the terms of the existing Bill.
The table read as follows-
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 5a.
– I move:
I think we canvassed the arguments on this matter during the second reading debate. I know it will be said that probably this matter will be rectified in the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal in 1980 when it considers the submission that has been made by the two Whips. The original submission was made by Senator Georges and subsequently- by a letter substantially agreeing with Senator George’s submission- by Senator Peter Baume, the
Government Whip. If there is any credence in the submission that has been made about the inability of the Tribunal to properly understand its function here, then I think it is proper that the Senate, in Committee of the Whole, should accept the amendment that I am proposing. I understand it was as a result of submissions made by the Opposition and Government Whips in the House of Representatives that that decision was shown on page 61 of the Remuneration Tribunal’s report. Both Whips made a submission which was incorporated as a determination by the Tribunal. It is probably fair to say that the Tribunal did not take into consideration the fact that that decision should also have been applied to the Senate. I make no criticism of the Tribunal. It received a submission from one section of the Parliament and it can put that submission into effect.
I think the Tribunal erred in not saying: ‘If it is good for one, it is good for the other’. But surely if Parliament has any relevance at all, if the criticisms that are being made outside this Parliament by Mr Killen and Mr Hawke about the relevant roles of Parliament are true, and also when it has been fairly conceded that that decision will probably be put into effect at the time that the Tribunal meets again next year, then the Government can now vary the determinations by accepting the amendment. If that is the case- I believe it is- if Parliament has any real, meaningful role, and if it can make certain decisions without bringing down the Government, then surely it is not seeking too much to ask the representative of the Executive who is here- the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator
Chaney)- to accept the amendment that is being suggested. As I understand it. there is unanimity about the proposition embraced in the amendment which 1 have moved on behalf of Senator Georges. I do not think I am stretching credibility by saying that I understand that it enjoys the support of the Government Whip. I ask the Minister: Are we in such a position that if the Government were to accept the amendment all hell would break loose? ls there no way in which the Government can concede the matter or would such a concession be regarded as a slap in the face of the Executive of the day? If it is competent for the Parliament to set aside the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunalthat is what we are being asked to do in dealing with this legislation- it is competent for it to amend or add to them.
I am concerned at the comments that Mr Killen has made in recent times about his great concern for the way in which Parliament is regarded following the tragic events of 1975. I am concerned also about the statements made by another person who aims to be a member of Parliament in a year or so, and about what I believe to be the irrationality of some of the proposals that he is putting forward. I do not think he understands the system that is operating. To the extent that the Parliament does not occasionally have the opportunity to put forward a viewpoint which is reasonable and rational, the sorts of criticisms that are being made outside the Parliamentary system- by Mr Killen and Mr Hawkecertainly fall on fertile soil. I know that it has probably already been determined that the Government will not accept the amendment. All I can say is that that is part of the reason for the distress that exists in the community about the irrelevancy of- the Parliament. No matter how logica! argument is and how reasonable amendments may be, nobody has the power, without consulting someone higher, in some sort of a fuhrer concept, to adopt a reasonable approach to a reasonable proposition.
– This is not a matter of the Government setting its face against amendment in some blind, unreasoning manner. I can assure the Committee that this matter and the arguments which have been put forward by Senator Gietzelt have been very carefully considered by both the Government and the Government parties. In the light of that very full consideration the Government does not propose to accept the amendment. I indicated some of the reasons for this in my reply at the end of the second reading debate but I will not repeat those comments here. I can assure Senator Gietzelt that the matters he raised have been canvassed and considered very fully by the Government and by Government members and senators. The determined notion was that we should maintain the position that is here advanced.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Ministers of State Amendment Bill 1979
Bill agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 November, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Whilst not opposing the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1979, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I move:
We believe hopefully that the current general aviation study will move some way towards correcting some of the imbalances across the whole spectrum of aviation in this country. I know that with the serious consideration of the user-pay principle by the Parliament in recent years there has been a growing belief that public enterprises should stand on their own two feet in their general administration. Of course, there is an acceptance of that view as well as a challenge to that viewpoint. Taxation in this country has now developed a class characteristic. As the Budget shows, nearly 50 per cent of general Federal revenue comes from pay-as-you-earn taxation, the great bulk of which is paid by the lower and middle income earners. The principle of user-pay ought to be considered in the light of that and the fact that before the 1970s there was heavy subsidisation of most of the aviation industry in this country. That is just one observation I make about the general problem that we are concerned with.
The present inquiry into general aviation, I understand, is designed to look at the overall position of aviation charges. Since this Government came into office the use of air transport in this country has increased dramatically. There is no doubt that there is a case to be made out for increased air navigation charges. Nevertheless, an inquiry is presently being conducted into general aviation and we submit that it is premature to raise charges before that inquiry is completed. The object of this legislation is to increase air navigation charges by some 25 per cent and to make other changes concerning these charges. The present inquiry is investigating these very subjects of economics, operations, framework and structure. We wonder why it is that the Government is acting peremptorily upon the legislation without allowing the inquiry to complete its work. It seems to me to be a typical example of the Government putting the cart before the horse.
In the five years between 1972-73 and 1 977-78 there were large fluctuations in the ratio of costs of services provided by the Government to aviation compared to revenue raised in the same period. If I may be forgiven for dealing with some figures, the costs of services have increased in real terms by 6.3 per cent. The actual figures are $1 16m in 1972-73 and $229m in 1977-78. When one takes into account those sorts of costs and the costs of petroleum products it is no wonder that aviation charges have doubled in recent years. Federal Government returns have risen by 30 per cent in real termsfrom $57.6m in 1972-73 to $139.7m in 1977-78. Obviously on those figures the Labor Party does not deny that some increase in charges is necessary. Of course, even though I query what is being done and has been done all I am suggesting is that before one takes the definite step of increasing the rate of charges to the extent that this Bill would, one ought to have another look at the policy, not necessarily for the purpose of changing it but- I think it is worth it- for a reevaluation of it in the light of the experience of what is really happening.
It is the priorities of this Government which we question. For example, who will bear the brunt of these proposed increases? Will it be those who can afford to pay, such as Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, or those who can least afford to pay, such as small commuter services, crop dusters, pleasure seeking operators and the like, many of whom cannot absorb a 20 per cent increase in the air navigation charges without some adverse effect on the standard of living of those involved both within and out of that industry? As I hope to show, some increases are justified and some sections of the industry can absorb the increases. It is all right for the Government to say that the Aviation Industry Advisory Council is reviewing the criteria for allocation of costs and services. No matter how well intentioned and progressive the findings of that body may be, they are still no guarantee that the Government will treat the smaller concerns equitably. I do suggest that there is a case for some equity between the large airlines which are the profitable sections of the industry and the smaller lines which are the less profitable sections of the industry. We have seen some evidence of the smaller lines finding it difficult to carry out their responsibilities particularly to non-metropolitan areas of our country.
The very act of presenting this Bill at this time, well before the inquiry is complete, confirms the view that the Government is somewhat insensitive and that its insensitive ideology will prevail no matter what recommendations are made to it by that inquiry. We believe that the inquiry has a role to play and charges ought to be the consideration of that inquiry before we start to put them up. We know that this Government is interested in raking in every sheckle upon which it can get its hands. In Australia Ansett Transport Industries had a consolidated net profit of $ 19m in 1977-78. The company’s airline operations contributed something like 65.3 per cent of its total revenue for that year. It is obvious that Ansett as an example is quite able to contribute enough as a domestic airline to alleviate the burdens that the Government intends to place on commuter and other general aviation sectors of the industry should this Bill be passed by the Senate in its present form.
The fact that Ansett and TAA agreed to waive the 10 per cent increase limit on the ANC to accept a 25 per cent increase is hardly indicative of their generosity. Rather it indicates a typical conservative lack of farsightedness when the 10 per cent limit in clause 8 of the airlines agreement was set by the Menzies Government in 1961, which, of course, is almost two decades ago. Meanwhile, back in 1979, we can expect to see a nice little windfall for the airlines when they use these government rises- we are only questioning the degree of them at this stage- as an excuse to increase charges to their customers by a lot more than is justified by this levy. The temptation to say that the Government has done a deal with the airlines is strong. That might be contested by Government senators, but so little information is available to us as members of the Parliament that one is entitled to make that assertion. I believe that these two large airline companies can absorb these charges without putting up their prices to consumers. We must surely be getting to the stage where the cost of air travel in this country is becoming prohibitive. It is becoming an important part of the whole cost structure.
The Government, through the Minister, has made various statements at various times as to whether these types of price rises should be passed on. The tenor of these statements over the years has depended on whether the coalition parties have been in government or in opposition. Honourable senators have only to look at the record to see whether or not that is borne out in fact. The latest comment by the Minister, which I presume, is binding, was on 22 August in answer to a question without notice. The Minister suggested that any price inceases due to the passing of this Bill will be insignificant. For example, he said that on the Sydney to Perth route the increase in air navigation charges for a one-way economy fare would be only $2.42, that on the Melbourne to Hobart route it would be 60c and that on the Canberra to Sydney route it would be 33c. It will be interesting to see in the future how accurate these figures are.
We must all be aware of the fact that in the life of this Government air travel in this countrythat is, the cost of transporting individuals from one place to another- has doubled. I would be surprised if my prophecy of a two-airline price rise does not come to fruition. Ansett ‘s recent share activities practically guarantee that the airline traveller will have to pay more. Recently I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether, because of changes in the share composition of that private airline operator, there would be. some renegotiation of the airline agreement, and I was informed that there would not be. What has happened? In the last Vh years seven increases have been granted to the major airlines. There is no doubt in my mind that before long we will be looking at the eighth. We would expect the Government to be much more obstinate if an attempt were made by the airline operators to raise charges as a result of this legislation. The Opposition believes that the profitability of the major airline companies could quite easily absorb the charges that are suggested here.
Given this Government’s record of aligning itself with the strong against the weak, it is obvious that the writing is on the wall for the little people in the aviation industry. When I say the little people’ I am including neither the large number of professional and business people- the doctors and others- who set up taxation schemes or who would avoid their community responsibilities and any other shady operators who prey on the industry and whose livelihoods are not directly affected by hasty decisions, such as the one currently contemplated by the Government. I am talking about the little people in the industry and the person who occasionally wants to use the air as a means of travel.
The proposed 20 per cent general aviation increase will serve only to exacerbate the already parlous state within that section of the industry. The problems surrounding aviation fuel- avgas -as regards both cost and supply have not been handled competently by the Government. Recently smaller commuter airlines have been forced to cut their services. To give one example, Bizjets, a commuter airline based in Melbourne, cut out flights to the Tasmanian west coast and Smithton last month because of the irregular suplies of fuel. One other company, Katoomba Air Services, ceased operations altogether because of the avgas shortage. Now the Government is proposing to harass the smaller services further by increasing air navigation charges by 20 per cent.
Let us not forget that a great many people affected by this increase will be involved in agricultural activity. They are men and women whose jobs and living standards are assailed so often by the Liberal and Country Parties. I think that we ought to consider what effect this will have upon those important sections of the Australian community. Compared with prices paid by the international oil companies, the Federal Government has imposed excessive charges on Australians who use aviation fuel. For example, from the end of October 1978 to April 1979, the Prices Justification Tribunal approved price rises totalling 10.85c per litre. Correspondingly, the increase from October 1978 to June 1979 for overseas cargo lots was between 5c and 5.4c per litre. One can see how inequitable this fuel pricing policy is and it exposes the Government’s interpretation of the word ‘equity’. The public is entitled to speculate on the collective mentality of a government that can allow large exports of avgas to overseas countries like Fiji and, of all places, the United Arab Emirates and then to penalise Australian citizens by expecting them to pay more in fuel levies and to accept rationing of avgas. Now, before the results of the inquiry are known, Australians will be slugged again by this
Government’s proposal to increase general air navigation charges.
The Government has to draw the line somewhere. For a government that purports to have some ability to manage the economy- it has misled the Parliament in that regard- it has shown itself to be very vulnerable in this area. Mr Tony Eggleton might like to include the word ‘mismanagement’ under the Government’s minuses when he prepares his next confidential election campaign strategy. The whole approach by the Federal Government towards avgas has created financial problems for commercial trainee pilots, for small operators and for persons living outside the metropolitan area. For example, if honourable senators look at commercial trainee pilots, in the space of one year the cost of fuel associated with the number of flying hours necessary to gain a licence has risen by $1,000. This proposed 20 per cent increase will have the effect of further deterring young people from a career in aviation. These situations add up to a decline in both employment opportunities and flying standards.
As I said when debating the 1978 version of this Bill, those people who cannot afford to use airline services on a regular basis and are not in a position to have their flights subsidised by their employers, whoever they may be, will be squeezed out of the market more and more by policies which can only be described as increasing the cost of travel. I think it is fair to say that the Government’s high air fare policy is acting as a deterrent to travel. The current proposal can only mean that people, particularly those in the less centralised areas of Australia, will be penalised further. The Government should withdraw this Bill in its present form. It is in this light that I have moved the amendment to the motion for the second reading.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
-In speaking to the second reading of the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1979, I do not wish to spend much time talking about points raised by Senator Gietzelt. I think he was incorrect in quite a few of them.
– Almost without fail.
– A little courtesy does not go amiss, Senator Rae. Senator Gietzelt might reflect on the point that ‘a profitable airline is a safe airline’, as Sir Donald Anderson said nearly 20 years ago in talking about airline operations in Australia and their safety record.
Costs of running airlines have gone up enormously in recent times as, in fact, have all aviation activities. I have no evidence at all- and I would be interested to find what evidence Senator Gietzelt has- that there has been a deal done between the airlines and the Government. That is not a point that I wish to pursue.
Air navigation charges are bedevilled by this cost recovery doctrine which was introduced by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. This doctrine has persisted with the subsequent governments even though it is purely a socialist piece of dogma. I think it is time that the cost recovery doctrine in relation to aviation was reexamined on its merits and assessed as to how it was affecting the community. There are many illogical, unjust elements in this system of cost recovery. It is hampering the development of aviation and of Australia. It is an argument that pervades everything associated with aviation in Australia. Even the submissions before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works held several weeks ago on stage 1 of the Brisbane Airport were pervaded by the cost recovery doctrine. Quite clearly one of the factors that weighed heavily with Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia in their appeals against the development of Brisbane Airport, among the much incorrect and erroneous data they presented, was the belief that they were going to have to pay for that airport out of their fair structures. The user-pays concept is superficially very attractive. The community has recognised that, where there are large costs involved, such as in health, these costs are supported by community activity.
I have talked about safety and safety with airlines is most expensive. I think that the community has a vested interest in maintaining safe airlines. Many parallels exist in this country where the wider benefits for the service to the community are recognised. Education is a classic example. This parliamentary chamber rings with pleas against bringing back fees for higher education, university courses and all the rest. People doing university courses place themselves, by and large, in a position where they can earn a higher income than their fellows. I mention also television licences. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is a classic example of a service provided at no cost to the members of the community directly because of the wider benefits that it is believed to entail.
I would submit that it is time to think about aviation in this country, not on a basis totally funded by the Consolidated Revenue- I think there has to be a mix- but acknowledging that the 100 per cent cost recovery doctrine cannot be sustained any longer. It cannot be sustained any longer because the benefits of air transport are shared by the entire community. People who never get inside an aeroplane benefit from having an aviation transport system in the country. The tourist industry is a classic example that comes to mind. We have to move people over very large distances in this country. The foreign exchange that overseas tourists bring to this country and the great natural assets that we have for the tourist hold out the promise of rich rewards to our balance of payments and, most importantly, provide employment for many people in this country serving those tourists.
The defence facilities that the airline service and the whole of the aviation facilities provide are also enormous. The airfields, aircraft and the skilled personnel we have in the country to operate and to service them give us a very important addition to our Defence Force. Of course, we have the business community. It is not one level but all levels- all the stratas- of the business community which benefit from an aviation service. I flew this morning from Brisbane to Canberra and there were many businessmen on the aircraft who also travelled from Brisbane to Canberra. Some of them will fly back at the end of the day. This ability to fly over vast distances in Australia, do business and return to one ‘s home the same night is of very considerable economic benefit to the community. But it is just as important for a tractor salesman or mechanic to be able to fly from Sydney to the back of Dubbo to service a tractor and go back that night. The community benefits from the facilities that all these people can use in the air transport field.
Air navigation charges are levied by a complex formula which is partly logical and partly illogical. Part of the classification or assessment of the charge is based on weight. The other section is based on use. Three categories are defined. Category 1 is private. The second category is aerial work and the third is charter. The cost recovery doctrine as applied to sections of aircraft on the register is said to be equalling or exceeding the cost for international traffic. Regular passenger transport traffic is said to be equalling the costs involved. But the general aviation community which includes air work or charter, training, aerial agriculture, the business community and sport and recreation is said to be contributing only about 20 per cent of its costs. I am a little vague on that figure but it sticks in my mind from what I have heard the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) say. I will refer in detail to the inadequacy of this doctrine as applied to the general aviation sector. The general aviation sector has had very few people to speak for it, yet it is a very big component of all air transport activity in this country.
– It is very important to Queensland.
– It is very important for Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. I shall look at general aviation in three categories- the resources it requires, the distribution of cost recovery in that section and the consultation which has taken place between the bureaucratic elements in the Department who assess these fees and the users. First I refer to resources. Aerial agriculture requires almost no facilities whatsoever from the Department of Transport. It requires minimal air fields. Mostly aircraft are based away from licensed airfields in the country. Usually they operate at heights below 500 feet above the terrain. Aerial agriculture is a purely local operation requiring no resources from the Department, or airways control or airfields facilities. The same requirement basically applies for the sport and recreation category. It requires almost no facilities. That is not to say that many facilities are not devoted to it but those facilities are imposed on it by the Department when they operate in secondary airports in capital cities.
It is worth looking at the situation at Archerfield which is my home field in Brisbane. When I learnt to fly some years ago we operated from a field which was one mile square without any runways. Now we have a triple sealed runway system, a huge team of people in the tower and complex air traffic control procedures. It is a moot point amongst those of us who fly whether we would be able to put more aircraft into the circuit at one time if we did not have the triple runway system but had the one mile square allover landing field as we once had. The basic point I am making is that a large category of aircraft in the Australian skies operates purely on a visual flight rules basis. Two weekends ago I spent nine hours 15 minutes flying over a large part of Australia by myself. In those nine hours 1 5 minutes, spread over three days, the only demands I made on the Department of Transport were those I made when I entered the controlled airspace around Archerfield airfield. I operated outside controlled airspace but from licensed fields all the way. The characteristics of this type of operation are that a person requires minimal navigation aids, minimal fields- grass fields will do- and the minimal air traffic control.
The requirements for air work, training and commuter aircraft vary enormously. Commuter aircraft can require almost the same type of facilities as regular public transport. When we consider the distribution of costs in the general aviation sector we find that the true commercial sector, that is training, air work and commuters, is being subsidised very heavily by the other aircraft in this category. Even though the cost recovery might be less than the total sum involved, the commuter operators are the great beneficiaries of the air navigation charges. I am not asking that those charges be levied at a higher rate. I think that this legislation represents the reduction to an end point of the doctrine of cost recovery. The point has been reached where I believe that the commuters can not pay much more than they are paying at the present time. Certainly all those other private business, recreational and agricultural people in the general aviation sector cannot pay any more. The airlines have the capacity to pay the charges which are placed upon them because they have the facility of transferring their costs directly to the public. Whilst that acts in a deterrent way insofar as it diminishes the number of people who travel on the airlines, at least they have this facility which is denied people in the general aviation sector. The consideration of air navigation charges, or the whole operation of air transport in Australia, has always turned about a concern for the airlines. The Department of Transport and its predecessor, the Department of Civil Aviation, always has been primarily concerned with airline operations. From what Senator Gietzelt said, it was interesting to see that he was primarily concerned with airlines, too. But in 1977 only 138 aircraft on the Australian register were airline aircraft, compared with 4,948 in the general aviation sector. More importantly, in 1977, 361,200 hours were flown by the airlines but 1,416,100 hours were flown by the general aviation sectoralmost five times the number of hours flown by the airlines. There are about 20,000 private pilots in this country, which is quite a large body in the community.
The final point I wish to talk about in regard to the cost recovery part of the general aviation sector is the lack of consultation. Consultation does go on with the commercial users- with the airlines in particular- and with the commuters, industrial maintenance organisations and groups like that. But the largest body in the flying community- which comprises the sport and business pilots- has no direct channel of communication with the Department or the Government. Most importantly, those pilots have no say in what facilities are imposed upon them. That would not matter, except that in the user-pays concept they are then asked to pay for them. It is a classical case of taxation without representation. Charges- not only air navigation charges- are going up the whole time. The price of fuel and the fuel excise have gone up. The imposition of a pilot licence fee is pending, a publications fee is pending and we are to have a biennial pilot’s review imposed upon the general aviation sector. I will come to that in a few minutes.
As I have said before, the calculation of air navigation charges is illogical, complex and time consuming. As one very senior member of the Department of Transport said to me a year ago- he is retired now so I feel safe to quote him anonymously: ‘The first person who ever thought of classifying aircraft by weight was stupid’. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard three pages from a Department of Transport publication relating to air navigation charges.
The document read as follows-
– A glance at that document will show the great complexity under which the Department has to operate in assessing charges. Staff in the Department of Transport dealing with air navigation charges find their assessment quite unnecessary and time consuming. I would like to illustrate this by citing the anomalies that exist in relation to a Cessna 150 aircraft when aircraft are classified by weight. The weight classification in the existing air navigation charges starts at a weight of 700 kilograms and the next category is 900 kilograms. In Class 1 , the rate for a 700 kilogram aircraft is $93.60 a year but for a 900 kilogram aircraft it is $327.60 a year. In respect of Cessna aircraft, the 150- which is the smallest aircraft built by Cessna- the Mark A to Mark C have a maximum all-up weight of 680 kilograms. The later ones, the 150 Mark D and the 150 Mark H, weigh 730 kilograms. Essentially the same aircraft, it moves into a higher category of air navigation charges. It does the same job; it carries the same load; essentially it has the same performance capability. Yet in this category the charge is $327 a year compared with $93 for the earlier Mark model because fortuitously it happens to be a few pounds lighter in weight. It is an utter illogicality and quite unnecessary. I think the air navigation charges for this category could be revised. There could be one or two single-engine charges and then the imposition of some classification based on whether the charge applies to private, business or aerial work. I think that how an aircraft is used has some basis in assessing charges.
I come back to a point I made earlier on the biennial flight test, which will be imposed on the pilots of this country insofar as I can determine. I have taken this up with various people in the Department. I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about it and, presumably acting on departmental advice, he wrote to me. He made the point that the major difference is that in general the general aviation sector operated at a much lower level of supervision. He said that the biennial review is aimed at remedying this situation. Later on in the same letter he said: ‘It is significant that this group of pilots has the highest accident rate ‘. It is a popular misconception in the community that the general aviation section has a higher accident rate than any other section of Australian aviation. I find that staggering. I cannot work it out. I telephoned the aviation division of the head office of the Department of Transport in Melbourne some while ago and asked for statistics on which this claim was made. I was sent the latest document that was available a month or so ago. It was entitled ‘A Survey of Accidents of Australian Civil Aircraft 1 977 ‘. I spent some time perusing it. It was my business previously to know a little about statistical analysis. Although I certainly would not hold myself out to be an expert on this I am surprised that on the figures in that document anyone could come to the conclusion that there is a higher accident rate in the general aviation sector. This document makes no interpretation of the data that is presented in it, therefore there is no indication of how the Department came to its conclusion. Table 40 in this document is quite interesting. It relates to private and business flying. In conjuction with graph 2 it gives no evidence at all of a worsening accident rate in the general aviation sector. If anything the trend is towards a lower rate. For example, since 1968 there has been an increase of approximately 70 per cent in the total hours flown and the number of hours flown per accident has increased by about 60 per cent. The number of accidents has certainly not kept pace with the extra hours flown. The same trend is obvious in general aviation generally. Table 41 shows that the number of hours flown has increased by about 40 per cent while the number of accidents per 100,000 hours flown has dropped from 1.84 to 1.27. Whilst there is a variation from year to year in these figures, there is an indication of a general trend towards a lower accident rate.
One of the other hoary cliches in this departmental assessment of accidents is that recent aeronautical experience is of relevance to an accident rate. Table 3 1 on page 39 of this document provides some interesting information. It indicates that the lack of recent experience has little relationship to the accident rate at all. Those pilots with less than 10 hours experience appear to have been involved in a proportionally lower number of accidents than those who had more recent experience. This group with experience of less than 10 hours in the previous 90 days would include probably a majority of private licence holders. One can hardly support any suggestion that flight tests based on aeronautical skill would significantly affect the accident rate, which seems to be the purpose of this biennial review.
A consequence of bringing in a biennial review will be that the 20,000 pilots in this country will be required to do at least two to three hours, may be four hours, of flying with a flying instructor to see whether they are safe to fly. This will cost the community about $120 to $200 per pilot and cumulatively the cost will be about $2m a year. An industry will be created by the stroke of a pen. It is no wonder that the flying schools think it is a wonderful idea. Most importantly, at a time of crisis in fuel supplies we will burn off unnecessarily millions of litres of avgas per year. With 10,000 pilots a year doing the test, each flying for three or four hours and burning about 30 litres to 40 litres an hour, we will burn off about 1.3 million litres of avgas with no benefit at all to the community. To ask someone to fly for three or four hours with a flying instructor will not improve any defects in his flying skills. The problem with flying instructors in Australia is not that they cannot fly- most of them fly superbly well- but that they have never been taught how to teach. With all the money we spend on education and on subsidising other things, it is a great surprise to me that we cannot find some money to spend on teaching flying instructors in this country how to teach a craft that they themselves know very well.
We have a direct parallel in regard to this biennial review with what happened in the United States. About six or seven years ago the United States introduced a similar scheme, and a statistical analysis of that scheme shows that since the biennial, review came into existence the accident rate has actually gone up. I am not so naive as to suggest that there is a cause and effect relationship here, but quite clearly there has not been an improvement and the biennial review has not acted in the way in which it was meant to act. I think that this biennial review is a classic example of bureaucratic interference in a subject by people who are concerned only with shuffling figures and looking at a balance sheet and who have no concept of what is going on. We need to rethink the whole of the cost recovery doctrine. If we do not do so, we will deny air transport its rightful place in Australia. Air transport is very fuel efficient and is a convenient way to travel. It is important that we have an airline system which moves people as cheaply and efficiently as possible. It is very important that businessmen, whether they be in groups of one, 2 or 20, can move around on their legitimate purposes as cheaply and quickly as possible. It is also important that a private pilot, when he flies for recreation, can fly in the same way as someone else can ride a pushbike, sail a boat or partake in any of the other liberties which are part and parcel of being an Australian citizen.
The great problem we have is over prescription. Some of the requirements that are imposed on people operating in aviation bear no relevance to safety or to need, but the cost of them, when it is levied against the whole of the community, is quite enormous. One of the tragedies in this situation has been the absorption of the former Department of Civil Aviation within the Department of Transport. I have had a long involvement with aviation and I have some very close friends in the Air Operations Divisions of the Department of Transport; I am not conscious of having one enemy there, I do not know one person in the Department of Transport who at the drop of a hat would not go back to a department of civil aviation. The morale of the staff of the former Department of Civil Aviation has fallen since it became absorbed into . this amorphous and large Department of Transport. It is certainly my plea that the Government give consideration to re-forming the former Department of Civil Aviation.
-The Commonwealth Government first became involved in civil aviation in 1920. Even then it was found necessary to control aviation, and so the Air Navigation Act was introduced. Charges were not really made until 1 2 August 1 947, when they were imposed by regulation under the Air Navigation Act. The regulation was challenged because some sections of the industry were paying charges and some were not. A conference was held, ultimately everything settled down and the Air Navigation (Charges) Act commenced to operate on 16 December 1952. Of course, ever since then we have had amendments to the Air Navigation (Charges) Act. Air navigation charges for international operations were provided for at the Convention on International Civil Aviation held at Chicago, United States of America, in December 1944. A quick look at the positions in the countries of the world provides us with the fact that most countries accept the need for air navigation charges and, indeed, are accepting the need for almost full cost recovery, at least for international services.
Senator MacGibbon has rightly touched on some of the problems. He referred to the fact that there does not seem to be an audit to determine whether we are getting the best value for our money. He instanced different aircraft weight categories. I cannot help but think of the difference between the categories of light and heavy aircraft as basically being a cut-off point of 5,700 kilograms. Irrespective of whether an aircraft is made without any structural limitations up to a weight of about 6,500 kilograms, it will be certified only up to a weight of 5,700 kilograms as being a light aircraft. That is done for the pure and simple reason that the 5,700 kilogram cut off point was arrived at many years ago because it was half the weight of a DC3. We are still hung up on that idea. I think that there should be an audit of how our money is being spent.
Our Department of Transport examiners of airmen are quite competent, good airmen who are keen on their jobs. Yet for some unknown reason we send them to the United States of America to become endorsed to examine airmen flying commercial aircraft such as the DC9 and Boeing 727. They come back to Australia and are quite unable to keep up their flying hours. We find that the men they are examining have far more flying hours, far more experience and, I suppose, one could say that they are more competent than those who are examining them. Therefore, I think that there is a need for an audit of how our money is being spent and how it can best be spent under the Act.
Be that as it may, we have a cost recovery system under the air navigation charges. Although there would be disagreement on the method of cost recovery, I think everybody agrees that the industry has to bear some of the costs. Many of the charges within the Department of Transport are attributable to cost recovery and some are non-attributable. For example in 1977-78, 90 per cent of the Airways Operations Division’s costs were attributable, whereas 100 per cent of,
Air Transport Policy Division’s costs were nonattributable. Within the airways operation division, 100 per cent of the costs of the operational service branch was attributable whilst the total costs of the environmental and security branch were non-attributable. So there are pretty clearly defined sections which are attributable and nonattributable to cost recovery.
Among the factors taken into consideration for the cost recovery are the cost of sealed runways to all sectors, that is done by reference to the runway length and the number of aircraft movements on the runway and the cost of terminal buildings to international and domestic operators. Where there are separate terminals, the costs are directly allocated to each sector; where there are joint terminals, it is done on a passenger basis. Also taken into consideration are the cost of navigation aids, air traffic control and flight services and so on. The formula, complex though it might be, seeks to be fair to all concerned. One thing many people do not realise is that the excise on aviation fuel is a fully attributable revenue against the cost recovery. The air navigation charges make up about 4 per cent of the full operating costs of any airline and about 16 per cent of the direct operating costs of a particular type of aircraft. It has already been mentioned that the increase will probably add about 60c to the cost of a Brisbane-Sydney air fare.
I have, in previous speeches touched on the many problems Australia has in communication and transport. We are a vast nation with a very small population. Not only do we have a small population but also the location of that population adds to our problems. Centres of dense population are located on the eastern seaboard. The Commonwealth owns 82 airfields and 201 airfields are financed on a local ownership basis, making a total of 283 airfields financed one way or another by the taxpayer serving a population of about 14 million people. In my State of Queensland, which has a smaller population than Sydney- this figure is off the top of my head- eight airfields capable of accommodating jet aircraft operate every day of the week at a not inconsiderable cost. So we are bedevilled and we will be bedevilled for many years to come with the problems associated with having a small population, the distribution of that population and the vast distances which have to be traversed. Australia does have unique problems in that respect.
I was interested to read a scale of cost recovery for each international passenger. I understand that the situation with domestic travel is much the same as for international travel, but I do not have the figures for that. After talcing into account consumer price index changes, air navigation charges, per passenger, have actually been coming down since 1969. The figure for 1969-1 shall use that as a base figure- was $7.4 for each international passenger. It is now down to about $6.2 seasonal adjusted, for each international passenger. Obviously our Department of Transport has been doing its work in trying to keep down those costs. We hope it can keep doing that.
We are often criticised for our high air navigation and landing charges. In Australia the charges are made in one hit, whereas overseas quite often many charges have to be paid. I illustrate the situation this way: A Boeing 747 aircraft landing at Sydney would be subject to a charge of $2,764. The landing charge for that aircraft at Heathrow would be $709, but there would be an additional charge of $1,722 for passenger services related to the provision of terminal facilities and the aerobridge, a security charge of $488 and navigation aid and control fees of $244. For a trip from Europe to Bahrain there would be navigation aid and control fees of $ 1 ,676. The charges for arrival at Heathrow in summer- they are less in winter- total $4,839. The charges for departure are somewhat different- they total $2,994-making a total charge of $7,833 for arrival and departure at Heathrow in summer. Most people do not realise that. If they do, they do not mention it when they seek to subject the Australian system of charging to some of the unfair criticism to which we are becoming rather used.
We are often stated to have the highest air fares in the world. That is a patently wrong assumption on any analysis. In the United States of America, air fares are subjected to an 8 per cent tax, but that is not obvious in the air fares per se. In order to recover a portion of the cost of providing aviation facilities, a principal tax of 8 per cent is imposed on the value of airline tickets for domestic use. Many countries have various ways of recovering costs. We are no different from people in any other country. Ours is a once only charge, which is very easily defined and very easily seen, whereas in other countries the charges are hidden.
The issue which exercised the mind of the two previous speakers in this debate was that of general aviation. General aviation has played and will continue to play a tremendous part in the servicing of the needs of people going about their normal work in inland Australia. It is not now playing as great a part in the development of inland Australia as it has in the past, although it is playing a fair role in the development of mining industries. Senator MacGibbon touched on the question of cost recovery for general aviation. He mentioned all the attributes of general aviation and all the problems associated with it. Of course, a light aircraft does not need concrete two feet thick on which to land and it does not need 10,000 feet of runway. But, as I understand the situation, all those things are taken into consideration.
In 1977-78 the cost attributable to general aviation was $60.8 m and the cost recovered was $9.7m. The recovery rate was about 15.9 per cent. I have no hangups about that recovery rate at all, recognising full well the role that general aviation plays in Australia today. I welcome the fact that a study into general aviation is being carried out under the auspices of the Australian Aviation Industry Advisory Council and I await its report with interest. We can then, in fairness, attribute costs to general aviation. We will know more about whether general aviation is being treated fairly. I think it should be recognised that the Government takes into consideration the fact that general aviation is a community service. I believe that it should do so and that it should continue to do so. The Government should recognise that the community should pay a fair bit towards general aviation ‘s existence.
Senator Gietzelt, on behalf of the Labor Party, has moved an amendment which I find rather ironic because some of the highest increases in cost recovery or air navigation charges for general aviation occurred under the regime of the Labor Government. In 1974-75, the Labor Government actually recovered 17 per cent of costs from general aviation. But more significant is the fact that as of 12 December 1973, all general aviation aircraft weighing 9,000 kilograms or less incurred a cost increase of 100 per cent. On 1 December 1974 another 50 per cent increase was imposed on general aviation. So it is rather ironic that Senator Gietzelt should come into this chamber and lambast us for all we are doing to general aviation. It indicates the very short memory he has of what his Government did to general aviation during its reign.
I must mention the meteorological services when considering the problems associated with cost recovery. I think that the costs attributed to the airline industry are more than a fair share and I hope that they can be looked at very shortly. A lot of people use meteorological services and do not pay anything for them. But the aviation industry is hit very heavily in this regard, and unfairly so. Curfews are another matter that must be considered. The airlines rightly claim that they cannot use the air facilities at all times. I hope that when the wide bodied aircraft come into service the Government will bite the bullet about some of these ridiculous curfews and abandon them. It is a well-known fact that aircraft such as the airbus, which has been mentioned lately, has a noise footprint something similar to the Lockheed Electra and yet the Electra does not incur any penalties curfew-wise. Unfortunately, a lot of people who live near airports seem to think when they look up and see an aircraft that just because it is big it is a lot noisier; but this is not borne out by facts. If we are going to have air navigation charges, I think we have to look at where the best benefits can be obtained.
Dare I mention, as a Queenslander- I am sure most people here would be disappointed if I did not- Brisbane Airport. I must be critical of the submissions put recently to the Standing Committee on Public Works by the airlines. I was not at the Committee hearings relating to Brisbane Airport but from reading about them in the newspapers, I have not seen or heard of such short-sighted submissions in all my life as those put in by the airlines. They even flew in the face of the statistics, including those concerning current increases in air traffic, that have been compiled by the Department of Transport over a long period. It is obvious that if the Brisbane Aiport is updated more international tourists will be attracted to Australia. Surveys have indicated that the two things most people visiting Australia want to see are Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef; yet the planes carrying these people land in either Sydney or Melbourne. We have a problem at Brisbane Aiport. Fully loaded Boeing 747s cannot fly directly to Singapore because of fuel limitations imposed by the runway length.
The short-sighted attitude of the airlines cannot be allowed to intervene. They are probably looking only to about 1985. Anybody in his right sense of mind who is thinking of establishing a tourist industry and an international airport must be looking at least to the year 2000. Such an airport would not only help the tourist industry in Queensland but also would relieve some of the air traffic congestion around Sydney. Such an airfield would be free of curfew and would afford many advantages to the aviation industry overall as well as the tourist industry. The current Brisbane Airport has technical limitations which I touched on in a speech in the Senate once before. A Boeing 727 has a cross-wind tolerance of about 25 knots. The runway is not aligned with the prevailing wind and at certain times of the year a problem known as compressor stall affects aircraft. On occasions jet services have had to be severely curtailed because of the problem.
Let me mention my home airport at Rockhampton, which we hope in the not too distant future will be the centre of increased tourist activity. Work at that airport will have to be contemplated. There is no use international entrepreneurs looking at eight and 10 year programs if the Department of Transport is not prepared to do the same in relation to an area which could attract hundreds of tourists a week. I hope that the Department of Transport starts looking, once again, at the plans for the Rockhampton Airport. Already, the Department of Defence uses it quite considerably during activities in the area. We could well do with a parallel taxiway. It would help a lot in the usage of the airport and the handling of aircraft particularly when exercises such as the recent Kangaroo III exercise take place.
Our own domestic airlines have had to absorb many costs lately. Increased air navigation charges will not be their major cost increase. The major increase has been in fuel costs. I take my hat off to the airlines for the fact that they have tried to rationalise more. I know that even that statement flies in the face of the recent air transport domestic review policy paper. The airlines, in their rationalisation, are hoping to lift their load factor from about 68 per cent to about 73 per cent, and thus keep their fare structure down. The fare structure in Australia is not bad. By rationalisation we get better use of the aircraft and better use of our fuel. Indeed, of all the industries- I have said this before- I think the aerospace industry has probably done more to give us fuel efficient vehicles than any other industry. If the motor industry took a leaf out of its book, maybe we would be much better off. A lot of fat can be trimmed from the transport industry generally before we can truthfully say that we have no problems with oil supplies generally. The airline industry has played its part, and the new generation jets are a tribute to the technical expertise of that industry. For the reasons outlined I reject the amendment moved by the Labor Party and I support the Bill.
Senator CHANEY (Western Australia)Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (4.44)- I thank honourable senators for their support of the Bill and particularly Senator Collard, who has removed the need for me to reply on most matters since he covered most of the points raised by the Opposition in his speech. There are a couple of matters which I want to mention though. For reasons that are not quite clear to me, Senator Gietzelt said that pay-as-you-earn tax collections would account for 50 per cent of the Government’s revenue. That figure seemed a little odd to me. I would just like to confirm to the Senate that it is a little odd. The figures on page 1 1 of Budget Paper No. 4 show that in 1978-79 payasyouearn taxation brought in $10,397 billion out of a total of $25.48 billion. This year the estimate is $1 1.95 billion out of a total of $39,414 billion. I mention that in case the figure mentioned by Senator Gietzelt in respect of this Bill was thought to be significant.
The main point that the Opposition made was the concern about the cost recovery program and general aviation. If I could briefly refer to the figures shown in the domestic air transport policy review report, volume 1, at chapter 1 1. There are some interesting historical comments about cost recovery and there is also some useful general statistical information.
– Is that in the old testament or the new testament?
– No, this is the new testament. This document is a post- 1975 document. It is after the resurrection. In 1973-74 the previous Government, supported by Senator Gietzelt, had something to say about cost recovery. The Treasurer of that Government made two major statements on cost recovery in his 1973-74 Budget Speech. He said:
We propose to increase the rate of recovery of the costs of civil aviation to 80 per cent within five years.
Of course by now we would be well beyond the current rate of cost recovery if that policy had been fulfilled. Paragraph 1 1.2.7 of the review report states:
In relation to cost recovery the Transport Policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties for the 1975 elections stated, amongst other things, ‘We will defer the further implementation of the . . . cost recovery program until proper studies and comparisons of cost recovery programs for other forms of transport have been made ‘.
In fact, we have not achieved the level of cost recovery which was promised by the Labor Party in 1973-74. The other item to which I wish to refer is the Table 1 1.2 at page 88 of that report. This table sets out the figures for the 1976-77 period. A recovery rate there ranges from 122.9 per cent for international operation; 75.9 per cent for domestic trunk; rural airlines 27.4 per cent; commuter 6.8 per cent; and general aviation 14 percent.
– What year, Minister?
-This is for the year 1 976-77. So in fact there is a relatively low level of cost recovery. It is in that context that the Government does not accept that amendment which has been put forward by the Opposition during this debate.
The level of cost recovery from general aviation is such that we have a growing deficit. In 1974-75 the deficit was $36.9m. For the year 1979-80 the deficit is estimated at about $76m. With a 20 per cent increase in air navigation charges the recovery rate for 1979-80 is expected to be about 15 per cent in the combined commuter and other general aviation section. There is an extremely low level of cost recovery in that section. The increase does not prejudge the general aviation study which is being undertaken by the Department of Transport at the direction of the Government. The primary purpose of this study is to achieve higher levels of cost recovery in the various sub sectors of general aviation on a more equitable and efficient basis. The study team in making its recommendations is to take account of ability to pay. It is expected that these recommendations will be available to the Government in March 1980. I have no doubt that next year we will see the results which will flow from that study.
Senator MacGibbon made a couple of points to which I would like to refer. He expressed concern- as did Senator Collard- about a number of technical points. For example, both senators referred to the weight of aircraft. 1 confess that those matters are beyond my competence, but I will ensure that those remarks are drawn to the attention of the Department and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) for consideration. However, Senator MacGibbon expressed concern about the fact that general aviation had no channel of communication with the Government. I am advised that general aviation representatives consult regularly with the Minister and the Department of Transport, both on an informal basis and through the Aviation Industry Advisory Council and the Council’s committees and sub-committees which have reviewed matters such as cost recovery allocations, flying training and rental and leasing policies. I am sure that the wish of the Government would be to be in close touch with all sections of the aviation industry. If the general aviation industry does not feel that it has adequate communication with the Government it should itself take action through the Advisory Council or, if this does not produce satisfactory action, pursue direct representation to the Government to ensure that its message will get through.
Senator MacGibbon made reference to his dissatisfaction with the biennial flight review and indicated that since it had been instituted the number of accidents had worsened. I assume that those comments related to Australia?
– No, it has not been instituted here.
– In the United States?
– Then my puzzlement has increased. My attention has been drawn to the International Civil Aviation Organisation ‘s bulletin General Aviation of August 1979 and to an article therein by Mr Malcolm S. Harned, Senior Vice-president of Technology, Cessna Aircraft Company of the United States. On page 1 6 of the bulletin reference is made to the biennial flight review in these terms:
Fatality rates were increasing with the growth of the fleet until they were dramatically reduced by the institution of the Biennial Flight Review in 1 974. It is also promising that with almost twice the number of aeroplanes in the field today, the fatalities per year are less than they were eight years ago, which is a tribute to the success of the Biennial flight Review.
That does not tell us anything about the rate of accidents, merely the rate of fatalities, but I draw the attention of the honourable senator and the Senate to it and to the accompanying graph, which shows that since 1974 there has been a steep drop in both fatal accidents and fatalities. There has been a gradual increase over a period of some five years but that has occurred during a period of considerable growth in aircraft numbers. The figure has increased from 46,000 in 1970 to 81,000 in 1979. 1 commend the article to the honourable senator for study. If he feels that it contains matters that are particularly relevant to Australian aviation, I invite him to pass on those views to the Minister and to the Department. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate. As I indicated earlier, the Government does not accept the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to speak briefly on one or two matters that relate to clause 8. We are discussing, of course, a proposed increase in air navigation charges. I understand that according to the airlines agreement under which the two major domestic airlines operate the rate of increase in air navigation charges is limited to 10 per cent per annum, yet last year the airlines agreed to a 15 per cent increase and this year they have again agreed to waive their rights in order to permit a 25 per cent increase, as proposed by the Government. I feel that the airlines have little option but to agree with what the Government requests, irrespective of the agreement. If they did not the Government might not approve an air fare increase. They could be sent into a position of insolvency. We heard earlier that an airline which is making money is a safe airline. 1 would not like to see an airline running short of funds. I rise at this stage mainly to ask for the incorporation of a letter dated 16 November 1979, which I received from the First Assistant Secretary, Finance and Commercial, Department of Transport. I have shown it to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and I seek leave to incorporate that letter in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Dear Senator Townley,
Further to the information supplied to your Committee on a number of subjects, I am now able to provide you with the details you sought on cost recovery achieved from the aviation industry during the past seven years.
I must apologise for the time taken to respond. This is due to the work, including investigations associated with the allocation of rentals held in trust to the years to which they related, together with an adjustment resulting from the very recent Ministerial decision to refund some part of rentals collected in respect of 1 975-76.
You will recall that a substantial amount of Terminal Rental receipts have been held in trust pending a Ministerial determination on the amounts, if any, to be refunded. Whilst not legally obligated to do so, the Minister gave an undertaking to review the situation following a High Court decision in 1977 after several cases dated back to 1976. In the event a total refund of the order of $ 1.08 1 m is likely.
The following table represents the cost recovery situation for the past seven years based on the standard method of calculation of actual costs and actual credits to revenue.
When adjusted to account distribution of airport rentals held in trust, to the years to which they fell due, the recovery rate varies as follows:
The reduced rate for 1975-76 is due to the fact that all amounts to be repaid were collected and credited to revenue in that year.
YOU may be interested on the following additional information:
The costs over the period concerned show an increase of approximately 1 10 per cent (revenue 160 percent).
During the same period the C.P.I. has increased by 101 per cent. The provision for superannuation has been increased from 1 1 per cent to 25 per cent of salaries, this together with the increase in the general level of wages has resulted in an escalation in this provision from $5.3 1 3m in 1972-73 to $24.328m in 1978-79.
As a result of increases in asset values, stemming to some extent from investment decisions taken before the period in review, and the increased interest rates, the annual interest bill has risen from $ 1 8.4m to $32. 8m while depreciation provision has risen from $12.1m to $17.7m
Some idea of the increase in the task performed over the same period may be gained from the increased performance of Australian domestic and international airlines.
Passengers embarked by the two domestics and Qantas increased from 7.795 million to 12.122 million (55 per cent) and passenger kilometres performed rose from 1 1,30 1 ,08 1 million to 20,552,790 million (82 per cent).
The approximate recovery rates quoted by Mr O ‘Halloran during the Senate Estimates Committee hearing were based on preliminary details of attributable receipts and expenditure for 1 978-79 and assumed that the accumulated terminal rentals held in trust would be credited to 1978-79.
I trust that this information is satisfactory to you.
– I thank the Senate. If honourable senators look at that letter, they will see that it shows the costs and revenues and therefore the deficit with regard to air navigation charges. It also shows the percentage recovery in the financial years from 1972-73 through to 1978-79. 1 think that it would be of use if I detail the way in which air navigation charges have increased in those years. In the financial year 1972-73, there was a 5 per cent increase in all sectors. In the financial year 1973-74, there was a 10 per cent increase in all sectors plus a 100 per cent increase for general aviation aircraft weighing 9,000 kilograms or less and a 300 per cent increase for general aviation aircraft greater than 9,000 kilograms. For the financial year 1974-75, we saw a 1 5 per cent increase in air navigation
charges in all sectors and a 50 per cent increase on general aviation aircraft weighing less than 9,000 kilograms. The financial year 1975-76 snowed a 1 5 per cent increase on all sectors, as did the year 1976-77.
For some reason there was no increase for the financial year 1977-78. For the financial year 1978-79, we saw an increase of 15 per cent in the domestic airline charges only. That means that the international airlines have not had an increase requested of them for some three years although the domestics have. In the coming year, we have a 25 per cent domestic increase only and a 20 per cent increase in general aviation costs. When one looks at those figures in relation to the figures in the letter one will see that in the last year the costs of the Department were $243. 6m. The revenue was just under $150m and, therefore, the deficit was just on $94m, with a percentage recovery of 6 1 .5 per cent. The Budget Speech stated that this matter would bring in about $8m in a full year. We are looking for some $94m which we are told will be recovered in the next three years. That means that we will see fairly sizable increases in air navigation charges in the next two years if we have to get $94m and we have only got $8m, as said in the Budget. I believe the sum of $ 1 1 .6m was mentioned in the Minister’s speech. I do not know why there is a difference. It will need sizable increases during the next couple of years in air navigation charges to correct the matter. I am worried that these air navigation charges will be putting increasing costs on the very safe and very efficient transport system that we have.
I would be grateful if the Minister could tell me how much extra money will come from general aviation this year and how much extra will come from the domestics? I would like to know what the present loss is in the general aviation sector. I do not know whether the Minister has this information available. If not, he could get it for me. The letter from the Department of Transport states that passengers embarked by the two domestics and Qantas increased from just under 8 million to just over 12 million but that period is not stated. I presume it refers to the period from 1972-73 to 1978-79. There is one other point in the letter that I think we should look at when we talk about the operating costs of the Department of Transport; that is the cost to the traveller of the superannuation payments that is now beginning to show up. I am sure that if Senator Wright were here he would hit the roof if he read this. The letter states:
The provision for superannuation has increased from 1 1 per cent to 23 per cent of salaries, this together with the increase in the general level of wages has resulted in an escalation in this provision from $5.313m in 1972-73 to $24.328m in 1978-79.
I make no comment on that other than to ask: Will the country eventually be able to afford the kind of superannuation that is imposing those kinds of increases within a Department and therefore on the taxpayer or the traveller? I wish to make just one other point. I think it is time that the Department of Transport could tell us which sectors are already contributing 100 per cent. I think the Department should be able to say, for instance, whether the section from Hobart to Melbourne is contributing 100 per cent or more. It may not be contributing 100 per cent yet, but if it is, why should that section be asked to subsidise an area, say, from Perth to Broome in Western Australia, which I do not think would ever get close to having 100 per cent recovery? In other words, I think that some of the air navigation charges should be put down to the Department of National Development.
Perhaps some should go to the Department of Defence. There is some argument that defence aircraft allow commercial aircraft to use some of their fields and vice versa, so there may be a balancing effect there. Certainly with regard to the Department of National Development, I think it is time that the Government attributed some of the air navigation charges- say 20 per cent- to that very important part of the industry. Everybody around the country benefits from people travelling.
– I have some information which answers the questions raised by the honourable senator. I am advised that provision is made in the Budget for additional revenue from air navigation charges in 1978-79 of $7.6m from the domestic airlines and $.8m from general aviation. The 25 per cent increase in air navigation charges for domestic airlines is estimated to return the Commonwealth $3. 7m of this revenue and growth in airline operations a further $3. 9m. The 20 per cent increase in air navigation charges for general aviation operators is estimated to return the Commonwealth $.4m and growth in operations a further $.4m.
I do not have the overall figures but I have available some figures relating to the air navigation charges paid per passenger for all international airlines operating to and from Australia from 1969 to 1978. They are interesting figures. They relate to the section of traffic which in fact has more than 100 per cent cost recovery. There is a considerable impost on that section of operations. The figures show that in constant money terms air navigation charges paid per passenger have declined. In 1969 the amount was $7.4 per passenger and the estimate I have for 1978 is $14.1 per passenger. In constant dollar terms that is $6.2 in 1969 values. So although there have been the sorts of substantial increases which have been referred to by the honourable senator in his speech to the Committee, if one takes into account the change in money values over the period of which we are talking, the position is a little different from the position if one simply takes dollar amounts.
I do not think there is anything else that I can usefully add to those comments. Senator Townley has taken a constant interest in the area of policy. He has certainly raised on prior occasions a number of the matters which he has brought forward today; for example, the defence element in these matters. I think that it is within his knowledge that some of these views have already received the consideration of the Government. However, I will ensure that the contents of his remarks are sent to the Department for further consideration.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 November, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The Opposition is not opposing these Bills. Therefore. I shall keep my remarks brief. The first three Bills- that is, the Defence Amendment Bill 1979, the Naval Defence Amendment Bill 1979 and the Air Force Amendment Bill 1 979- provide for formal determinations of increases in salaries and allowances for members of the Defence Force by way of ministerial determinations as notified in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. These Bills are significant inasmuch as the Minister for Defence will now have a capacity to determine conditions and salaries for members of the forces. Although the Opposition does not oppose what is being done, it has some reservations about the manner in which it is being done. The legislation has been occasioned by the need to improve or to streamline the effect of decisions which affect members of the Defence Force.
Because of the rather cumbersome manner in which the system has been working over the years, there have been considerable delays in the payment of benefits to servicemen due to the complexities of regulations and the difficulty of changing them quickly. Many members of the Defence Force have been disadvantaged as a result of that. Obviously the legislation is an attempt to overcome that problem. Although not opposing the Bills, we will be proposing an amendment to the motion for their second reading. The purpose of that amendment is to provide that the tribunal be empowered to make determinations instead of recommendations to the Minister, that those determinations have the same standing as determinations of the Public Service Board, and that the tribunal operate in a manner similar to that of the Remuneration Tribunal. Of course, we. are not questioning the good faith of the Minister in trying to arrive at some solution to this problem that has existed for some years.
We do not favour a proposition whereby the Minister may make these determinations if he accepts the recommendations of the Tribunal. That means that the Minister, under these arrangements, could defeat the recommendations of the Tribunal simply by making no determination. The suggestion that the tribunal should operate in a manner similar to that of the Remuneration Tribunal is based upon the fact that there are no associations or organisations that can really speak for or represent members of the armed forces. The concept of course is not new. It has been suggested before. I believe that we all accept the proposition that members of the armed forces are entitled to at least the same procedural advantages in the determination of their salaries and allowances as the rest of the community. We are putting to the Government something that of course will not be decided immediately but we hope that at least it will be considered. The proposal that is contained in the proposed amendment we believe would be a major step forward to assist members of the armed services to receive the same benefits as others in the determination of their salaries and conditions.
In clause 14 of the Bill is a recognition of the complexities that almost certainly will arise under the legislation in the future. I will not read out clause 14, but it is apparent that it indicates that almost certainly difficulties will arise and that there will be inconsistencies in the operation of the legislation. The matter will be complex. I imagine it will be debatable when these problems inevitably arise in the future. As I have indicated, the Opposition proposes an amendment to the motion that these Bills be now read a second time. I therefore move:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bills be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that:
the Tribunal be empowered to make determinations instead of recommendations;
such determinations have the same standing and application as determinations of the Public Service Board;
the Tribunal operate in a similar manner to the Remuneration Tribunal in respect of submission and evidence ‘.
Those comments are the only ones I wish to make in respect of the Defence Amendment Bill, the Naval Defence Amendment Bill and the Air Force Amendment Bill. The fourth Bill being considered in this cognate debate is the Defence Force (Retirement and Death Benefits Amendments) Bill (No. 2) 1979. It introduces changes that will benefit a number of pensioners who have lost their right under the existing Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act to seek reclassification to higher grades. Under the Bill those persons in future will have a right to apply for reclassification to higher classes of pension. The Bill obviously is basically beneficial to a significant number of members of the armed forces and removes one or two anomalies which are currently in the Act. On that basis the Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– I acknowledge and am grateful that the Opposition supports the Defence Amendment Bill 1979, the Naval Defence Amendment Bill 1979, the Air Force
Amendment Bill 1979 and the Defence Force (Retirement and Death Benefits Amendments) Bill (No. 2) 1979. The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by Senator Wriedt. Essentially, the amendment goes far wider than the Bills. The concept of the tribunal and its ramifications is far wider than the contents of the Bills. 1 will refer the concept of the amendment to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) for his study. We do not consider that the Bills should be held up for that purpose. I am advised that clause 14 is a transitional provision. The Minister and the Government recognise that the method is somewhat cumbersome but they believe that it is one that is now necessary. Therefore, they have proceeded with it. I commend the Bills to the Senate.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is a very important Bill indeed, being the first of a proposed series of major enactments implementing a scheme of company law and securities industry regulation on a uniform national basis. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill outright, but it does have a number of quite serious objections and reservations to it which are perhaps best expressed in our amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. I therefore move:
At end of motion add ‘, but the Senate:
expresses its concern at the Government’s apparent abdication of its responsibility to make national laws for corporations and the securities industry pursuant to the Commonwealth’s own constitutional powers, and in accordance with the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange in 1974 (the Rae Report);
notes that the proposed legislative scheme places uniformity before reform, and creates both the danger and the likelihood that lowest common denominator standards will prevail;
expresses its concern at the lack of effective accountability of the proposed Commission to either the Government or Parliament of the Commonwealth, or to any other single elected Government or Parliament;
expresses its views that the Bill should be improved by redrafting it to provide for:
an extension of the scope and enforceability of its financial interest provisions;
a requirement that hearings of the Commission be normally held in public;
the establishment of the proposed Companies and Securities Law Review Committee on a firm statutory basis;
the establishment on a firm statutory basis of an Accounting Standards Review Committee; and
the explicit prescription of the matters on which the Commission must annually report;
while acknowledging that pursuant to the scheduled Agreement any such proposed amendment may need to be the subject of consultation with the Ministerial Council before final acceptance by the Government, nonetheless insists upon this Parliament’s right to properly scrutinise and amend all legislation put before it by the Executive; and
f ) calls upon the Government, in the event of the breakdown for any reason of the scheme embodied in the Bill, to immediately proceed to the introduction of Commonwealth legislation for the national regulation of corporations and the securities industry’.
The Bill before us today, the National Companies and Securities Commission Bill, establishes the basic structural or machinery framework within which the regulation of the companies and securities industry will continue in the future. The scheme of which this is the basic machinery part is to be filled by a number of later Bills dealing specifically with takeovers, the securities industry, and the body of company law. The overall scheme is contained in a formal agreement reached between the Commonwealth and the States- the so-called Maroochydore agreement- on 22 December 1978. In essence, the proposal is that for all the elements of the scheme there is to be but one piece of basic legislation for the whole of Australia, passed by the Australian Parliament in respect of the Australian Capital Territory, which the States will pick up and adopt and validate for their own respective jurisdictions. There is to be a ministerial council comprising the relevant Australian and State Ministers who will decide upon the shape of the new legislation and subsequent amendments to it. The legislation will be administered primarily by the newly established National Companies and Securities Commission but also by the existing State corporate affairs offices exercising a kind of delegated function from the national body.
As I have indicated, the scheme- both the basic machinery before us today and the subsequent body of” substantive law- is proposed to be implemented primarily by the Australian Government passing legislation jurisdictionally confined to the Australian Capital Territory and, constitutionally speaking, passed in pursuance only of the Commonwealth’s territories power. As I indicated, it is proposed that the States will pick up this legislation in each instance by Bills of their own saying, for example in the case of Victoria, that the company law of Victoria shall be that prevailing in the Australian Capital Territory for the time being. The initial body of legislation- both the Bill before us today and the takeovers, securities industry and companies Bills which will follow- has to be agreed upon unanimously by the Ministerial Council in order to get off the ground. However, it is part of the general agreement that any subsequent amendments to that legislation be the product only of majority support. So far perhaps this is an impressive exercise in co-operative federalism. Certainly that is the way the Government has been anxious to dress it up.
However, the Opposition takes the view that there are a number of quite serious problems with this scheme and with this Bill. The first of those problems is spelt out in our second reading amendment in the following terms: . . the Senate:
That is better known as the Rae report. That there is a need for the national regulation of the corporations and securities industries is now pretty well unequivocally and universally recognised. Certainly this was amply demonstrated by the Rae report which made a very strong argument for the operation of a single national system of company law, implemented and enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament, pursuant to its constitutional powers and also for a single national governmental regulatory body. The basis on which those recommendations were made is spelt out amply in the report. I have no doubt that Senator Rae who will follow me in the debate will give further information about the basis of those recommendations. I think that it is important to note them. The first major and substantial argument underlying this approach is as the Committee put it at the beginning of chapter 16:
The evidence has repeatedly established that the securities market is a national market. Each of the stock exchanges functions as part of a national network. A large proportion of the business of the smaller exchanges is transacted in Melbourne and Sydney, and a substantial proportion of the total business in Australia is effected across State boundaries. For most listed securities there is, in practice, one market in which prices are set by national forces of supply and demand.
Further down, it states:
To a great extent, listed public companies, investment companies and others with which we have been concerned carry on business nationally. They use professional assistance from around the country. They raise capital nationally in the securities market, and (to facilitate the creation of a national trading market for their securities) are frequently listed on the stock exchanges in several States.
The report continues:
A major purpose of federation was to create a national economy. The growth of a securities market in which funds can be raised nationally to finance capital formation must be regarded as a logical, and presumably, expected result of that objective. It would, therefore, appear that the regulatory system should facilitate and encourage the development of a national securities market . . . One of the effects of having separate laws rather than national legislation has been to obstruct and burden unnecessarily the development of the national market.
– You may be interested to know that they are exactly the quotes which I had marked to refer to in relation to that matter.
-Perhaps, Senator Rae, we can shorten each other’s speaking time. The honourable senator may anticipate some of the other quotes that I may leave out because of shortage of time. It is an excellent report. The other main limb on which the basic recommendation is founded is another passage in the report which talks about what has gone wrong in the operation of the securities market. The Committee states:
We found in the securities markets a high level of abuse and much behaviour falling short of minimum acceptable standards of fair dealing, competence and responsibility. After examination of the existing body of law, rules and administrative practices, we have concluded that these failed to provide adequate and effective regulation. In our view, there is a need for a new approach to securities regulation in Australia.
The new approach the Rae Committee recommended was built very much around the concept of national legislation and national machinery established by that national legislation in pursuit of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers. That the Commonwealth does have power to act in this area is, in my submission, as clear as it could be, given that the area has not yet been completely charted by High Court decisions and, to some extent, one does have to rely on analysis and extrapolation of likely trends in those decisions. The Labor Government, when introducing its own corporations and securities industry legislation in 1 974 and when foreshadowing the further introduction of substantive companies legislation which was to be introduced in that illfated week in November 1975, was certainly satisfied that the corporation’s power in section 51(xx) of the Constitution in itself, provided sufficiently ample constitutional foundation for this kind of legislation. In addition, it is possible to rely constitutionally on the trade and commerce power on a number of individual heads of power like the postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications power, and incidental power. Even if, in fact, everyone were genuine about cooperative federalism the reference of particular powers presently enjoyed by the States to the Commonwealth -
– And the banking power.
– The banking power and insurance power; I will not stop and endeavour to lecture the Senate on the constitutional possiblities. I simply suggest, indeed assert, that there is a substantial body of learned legal opinion which does not suggest that these powers are available. I am well aware that there are some uncertainties. I am well aware for a start that section 5 1 (xx) refers to financial and trading corporations and there are a number of statements, particularly in the very early cases, suggesting that that concept might not extend to manufacturing or mining companies, even though one would have though that the purpose, if not the sole purpose, for the entering into of such enterprise was, in fact, to sell the products of one kind or another of those enterprises and thus to bring them on an expansive definition within the scope of that concept of trading corporation. Again there is a very oft-expressed uncertainty as to whether company law can operate at the Commonwealth level so as to deal with the incorporation for the future of new companies as distinct from merely bite upon or operate upon companies formed in the past. That depends on a rather pedantic argument about the grammatical meaning of the word ‘ formed as it appears in section 5 1 (xx) of the Constitution, in the context of the following phrase:
Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
The cases in the past have tended to proceed on the grammatical assumption that that word formed’ was being used as a simple past participle referring to companies already in existence, whereas the counter-argument, if the grammarians want it put precisely, is that really it is a contracted form of the future perfect and refers to companies which may be formed in the future. This is the kind of argument that would have to be fought out in the High Court were the Commonwealth to be adventurous and courageous enough to legislate unilaterally in this area. I am confident that the High Court would be supportive of expansive interpretations. Certainly one would hope that the Commonwealth would not retreat from adventurous legislation in this area, particularly given the attitude of at least one former Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, to these matters. It may be recalled that Mr Ellicott in 1974 in speaking to the Whitlam Government’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill made the following remarks:
Certainly I have noticed no great constitutional timidity on the part of the present Government when it has been enacting new sweeping draconic amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in fairly obviously blithe indifference to the possible constraints imposed by section 5 1 (xxxv.) of the Constitution. It is odd and interesting that an attack of the constitutional jitters seems to overcome it whenever the matter of corporations law and securities industry regulation comes in issue. There is need, as the Rae committee put it, for national legislation in this area. There is, in my submission and certainly in the Labor Party’s view, the power to proceed in this way. It is very much our thinking that with the Commonwealth ‘s timidly operating in the way that it has, with the whole matter being contingent, as it is, on the continued cooperation of the States, the Commission is likely to prove an unsatisfactory abdiction of Commonwealth responsibility. It certainly looks like it at the moment and it is likely to prove unsatisfactory as time goes on. This takes me to the second point of the Opposition’s amendment to the motion for second reading. Paragraph (b) states that the Senate: notes that the proposed legislative scheme places uniformity before reform, and creates both the danger and the likelihood that lowest common denominator standards will prevail.
The real problem with legislation of this kind, contingent as it is initially on unanimous agreement and thereafter majority agreement, is that the lowest common denominator of standards will apply. This was the experience in respect of the three-State agreement when New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland established the interstate Corporate Affairs Commission. It is even more likely to be the experience when there is a conflict between the more conservative and the more progressive States in the approach to these very large, complex and important areas of company law and securities administration. The likelihood of there being weak legislation in this area, particularly the likelihood of there being sustained conflict and an inability to reach agreement about anything in this area, has been commented upon by many analysts of the legislation and this scheme, perhaps nowhere more succinctly than in the Australian Financial Review editorial of 1 November this year when the following was said:
Co-operative federalism is a fine principle, but falls down as soon as there is an aggrieved State party. Both New South Wales and Queensland have demonstrated that they are prepared to play their own game whatever the Federal rules.
The reference to New South Wales is, of course, a reference to the brawl that erupted about the threshold question as to where the National Companies and Securities Commission would be located which has only very recently been resolved. The reference to Queensland, however, is more pointed still. The editorial continues:
If New South Wales threatened to disrupt the NCSC and the takeover laws before they got off the ground, Queensland is threatening a permanent spoke in the wheel.
The Bjelke-Peterson Government is gearing up -
Organising itself seems to be the expression - to protect Queensland companies from ‘southerners’.
This comment is inspired by the Queensland Government’s drum beating on the subject of the putative CSR Ltd takeover of Thiess Bros. Pty Limited, in rapt admiration and in an attempt to repeat the performance of Mr Bolte in Victoria in 1971 in beating off the Huns and Visigoths of Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd from its takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, the idea being that individual States have interests in maintaining the operation of their industrial base intact for employment, taxation generation and other reasons. For those reasons States are quite likely to behave in a cavalier fashion, whatever the existing overall company law and securities industry structure is, if they perceive their interests being at stake. The Australian Financial Review editorial, in winding up, said:
But the national lesson is that whatever Federal-State legislation emerges from next week’s Perth meeting -
That is the Ministerial Council meeting- it is bound to run foul of outbreaks of State chauvinism.
That I think is the fundamental concern the Opposition has about this legislation. It is concerned that the body of substantive law dealing with takeovers and the other very important matters of securities regulation and corporate behaviour will be weak legislation, because it is only weak legislation that will be likely to get the necessary degree of initial unanimous support and subsequent majority support. The Opposition is concerned further that the administration of the legislation by the multiplicity of agencies that are still presently contemplated will create very great problems indeed. The Rae report, in chapter 16 also, deals at some considerable length with the problem of administering securities and company law. It rejects quite unequivocally and very robustly the Eggleston Committee notion of a joint commission and, indeed, the kind of three-State joint commission which we have seen before. The kind of legislative scheme we have at the moment was not present to the mind of the Rae committee at that time. Senator Rae no doubt can tell us more about what was to that committee’s mind.
A clear cut concern is expressed about the possibility of different interpretations of the relevant single body of law prevailing between the various administering agencies and the possibility of a great deal of practical problems arising as a result of that competing and possibly conflicting pattern of administration. The existing legislative scheme before the Senate attempts to deal with that to the extent that it vests basic powers, for a start, all in the national commission and proceeds on the basis that the various State administrative agencies will operate thereafter by means merely of delegated power and be subject always, as I understand it, to the overriding direction of the national body. The Opposition simply expresses a very considerable foreboding as to whether in practice that kind of arrangement is likely to work out in quite as streamlined and cool a fashion as that particular formal legislative scenario would seem to suggest.
The difficulties are that we see very real dangers in that the kind of ongoing co-operative model that this legislation represents will prove to be a very thin reed indeed. The kinds of arrangements embodied in this legislation simply will not be able to withstand the kinds of outbreaks of State chauvinism to which the Australian Financial Review editorialist referred. The third major problem with this legislation is that expressed in paragraph (c) of the second reading amendment, which states that the Senate: expresses its concern at the lack of effective accountability of the proposed Commission to either the Government or Parliament of the Commonwealth, or to any other single elected Government or Parliament.
This is a very serious problem. The principle of ministerial responsibility has, as we have discovered only too clearly in the last few days, something of a hollow ring about it these days but it does have value in principle to the extent that it means that a Ministei can influence the policy pursued by a particular department or agency and, of course, it means that the Minister is also accountable for what he does in relation to that department or agency. Under the previous Labor Government’s proposals, where the whole machinery and administration of the new companies and securities industries law was to operate simple at the national level, there was absolutely no problem on the score of accountability. One Minister was responsible for the administrative operation of the whole system; one Minister took the kicks and accepted the knocks when things went wrong. The buck stopped in a very visible and single location.
Contrast the present proposals. The concept of ministerial responsibility almost completely disappears. The proposed new national commission will be subject in the main to direction from the Ministerial Council, as clause 7 of the Bill and paragraph 32 of the national agreement underlying that Bill provide. In other words, the Commission will exercise its major functions without being directly answerable to a particular Minister and in particular without being answerable to the Australian Parliament. This derogation, this retreat from ministerial responsibility, becomes particularly clear when one looks at the Agreement, notably paragraphs 32 ( 1 ) and 38(1). I will quote from paragraph 38(1) because I think it makes the point very clear. It states:
The policy direction and general control over the administration of company law and the regulation of the securities industry throughout Australia by the Ministerial Council and by the Commission in accordance with this agreement shall … be exercised to the exclusion of . . Ministerial direction and control by the responsible Minister of the Commonwealth or of the State.
I will repeat that quote because it is quite a startling proposition.
– What paragraph is that?
-That is paragraph 38 ( 1 ) of the Agreement. It states:
The policy direction and general control over the administration -
That is, of this new body, of company and securities law- . . shall … be exercised to the exclusion of . . . Ministerial direction and control by the responsible Minister of the Commonwealth or of the State.
In other words, the only line of responsibility is to the Ministerial Council as a whole and therein lies a perfect answer for a Minister either in this Parliament or in any State Parliament who is asked: ‘What in the hell is going on?’ Ail the Minister has to do is point to that paragraph and say: ‘ It is not my responsibility; it is a matter for the Ministerial Council’. No doubt, as Senator Rae will tell us, this is exactly the kind of thing that was anticipated by the Rae Committee report and is the subject of the strongest possible condemnation as a rational basis on which to erect an important new body of commercial law. It is not rational; it is positively irrational. It is no way in which to ensure the fundamental responsibility and accountability on which our system depends.
There is one final aspect of this matter of the by-passing of Parliament which I specifically want to mention. It is the subject of further elaboration in paragraphs (d) and (e) of the second reading amendment. It concerns the problem of the status of proposed amendments to this legislation. During the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving some 26 reasoned amendments based on its assessment of what it perceives to be significant deficiencies in the legislation. This is accepting for the purposes of debate at the Committee stage the basic thrust of the legislation which, as I have indicated, we do not like very much- the co-operative federalist basis of it rather than the exercise of Commonwealth power. But accepting all that, there is still a number of individual things the matter with the legislation, not least of which, for example, is the inadequate provisions relating to pecuniary interests of staff of the Commission or indeed the commissioners themselves. That is the kind of matter which we think ought to be the subject of much tighter and more specific control. We will be moving amendments to try to achieve that. What will be the Government’s attitude to those amendments?
There was certainly no disposition in the other place to accept any one of the Opposition’s amendments. Was that for the usual reason- that the Government is quite indifferent to the merits of any rational argument about anything; no matter what kind of Bill is before the Parliament- or was it additionally because the arrangements into which the Government is locked by virtue of the Agreement underlying this legislation are such that it cannot accept any amendment moved in the Parliament, at least without going back to the Ministerial Council with its tail between its legs? This is the sort of pass we have got ourselves into. We are supposed to be a sovereign parliament enacting legislation in the national interest. But we are quite incapable of sensibly debating legislation or quite incapable of pursuing the logical outcome of that debate in moving amendments where deficiencies reveal themselves. If it is a matter of going back to the Ministerial Council, I suppose the Opposition will simply have to accept that with as much fortitude as it can command. Indeed the Minister, I understand, has had an opportunity to go back to the Ministerial Council since this legislation was debated in the House of Representatives. I for one will certainly be very interested to hear from him in his reply as to whether in fact the Government even demonstrated the slightest interest in referring back to that body the kinds of amendments it was asked to make to the legislation. I make these points because once again they point to some of the fundamental problems associated with the implementation of any significant national policy or program on the basis of this kind of co-operative federalist legislative program, dependent, as it is, upon the goodwill of the Sir Charles Courts and Mr BjelkePetersens of this nation whose goodwill has been a commodity not in spectacularly full supply in recent years.
We believe that there is a very real prospect of this legislation breaking down for any one of the number of reasons I have indicated. For that reason the last paragraph of the second reading amendment calls upon the Government, in the event of the breakdown for any reason of the scheme embodied in the Bill, to proceed immediately to the introduction of Commonwealth legislation for the national regulation of corporations and of the securities industry. The Labor Government between 1972 and 1975 believed that that was the only rational way to approach the regulation of this commercial law area. I believe that history will justify the sense and the accuracy of that approach and show the Bill before us today for the rather empty and inefficient, although ambitious, sham that it is.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Collard)- Is the amendment moved by Senator Evans seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– In dealing with the National Companies and Securities Bill, the basis of which and some of the history of which was referred to a short time ago by Senator Evans, let me first draw something of the perspective in which I see us operating in relation to this type of legislation. In 1 975 the SenateHouse Conference Committee of the United States Congress, when dealing with the Securities Act amendments, said:
The securities markets of the United States are an important national asset. Under this system of federal regulation, established in the 1930s, these markets have flourished. They have provided a means for millions of Americans to share in the profits of our free-enterprise system and have facilitated the raising of capital by new and growing businesses.
I would like to adopt those words as my hope for the future as a result of what we are proposing to do here in this legislation. To me the objective is the creation of a regulatory framework which is intended to provide for the operation of a free, fair, open and efficient capital market and which is designed to ensure the enjoyment of freedom of enterprise in the same way that our traffic laws provide for the enjoyment of our right of freedom of passage over our public highways.
With that brief introduction, let me have a little look into history. In the history of the various forms of stock markets that the world has known there has always been a problem of the appropriate method to achieve the objective without overly restricting the operation of individuals and without too much regulation, but to try to ensure that they are fair, free, open and efficient in their operations. Of course, the strains on any such system become very great when there is a boom; and booms are part of the inevitable cycle which seems to take place in economic activity. I think it is not inappropriate to remember at the moment that it is highly likely that next year there will be a very substantial increase in boom activities in Australia, some of which started to take place on the stock exchanges and securities markets of Australia during the past months of this year and continued until the recent but, I believe, temporary downturn.
It is regrettable that, notwithstanding that recommendations were made by a committee of this chamber in a very detailed way some five and a half years ago, we are only today dealing with a Bill which, whilst not precisely implementing the recommendations of that committee, is the way in which the government of the day has seen fit to try to achieve the committee’s objective. This matter all started with the Poseidon boom at the end of the 1960s, when the stock exchanges of Australia took on an atmosphere more akin to a casino than to an important part of a responsible economic system. It was in 1970 that the Senate, at the suggestion of the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Murphy, now Mr Justice Murphy of the High Court of Australia, and with the support of all parties established the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange.
That Committee worked diligently for a period and presented its report, in which it found very substantial abuses, malpractices, and regulatory deficiencies. There was massive insider trading which very soon became apparent to members of the Committee as the Committee started to lift the veil on what had been talcing place. What also became very apparent were such practices as short selling; cornering of markets; brokers’ house trading in which they took on the position of being very privileged speculators; and manipulative practices such as runs, pools and rumours. If any honourable senators want to read a good and quite exciting bedtime story I commend to them the section of the report of the Senate Committee which deals with runs, pools and rumours.
At the same time, if they would like to find out that there was nothing new about what was happening on the stock exchanges of Australia in the late 1960s and the early 1970s and, to some extent is still taking place, I refer them to a book called Once in Golconda which describes the identical practices taking place on the New York Stock Exchange in the 1920s and early 1930s. In fact, I found it quite fascinating as a member of that Committee to treat the book Once in Golconda as something in the nature of a textbook. We found that there were so many people operating within the securities industry in Australia who were obviously doing likewise that it was a good way to find out what they might do next.
– They probably read the book too.
-That is what I mean. That is what I said. They were obviously reading it. Because of time limitations I will not dwell too long on that subject. I refer to one of the things which gives an idea of the extent to which abuse was taking place and can take place. The Committee considered placements of shares. This is an area of activity where the Committee, as a result of a broker’s clerk becoming concerned about what had been happening and informing the Committee anonymously of some of the activities of which he bacame aware regarding some of the abuses in relation to private placements, decided to take a random selection of placements not involving any one firm or any one State. Five placements were selected. In one of them two firms of brokers were involved. The placement was divided in half. Of the five selected at random, four and a half were subject to identified abuses which are set out in the report. That was a random selection. I refer to that because I think it gives some idea of the sort of situation which the Committee found existing in Australia which is a very far from desirable situation. It called out for action to start to bring our extremely important markets back to a situation where they were at least of a standard which could be expected on a racecourse from the point of view of stewards’ control.
In relation to brokers, it was identified that there was a lack of training and qualification. There was a lack of adequate capital requirements. It was identified that brokers were trading, some of them to a substantial extent, with their clients’ funds. Others were fuelling the boom with credits. There was confusion between agency and non-agency activities. There were- I found this one of the quite extraordinary revelations in the inquiry and I am sure that all other members of the Committee would agree with this- totally irreconcilable conflicts of interest between people who, in one capacity, were the self-regulators, in another capacity were the brokers agents and, in another capacity, were running investment companies, share trading companies, mining and exploration companies, and were acting as intermediaries in the market. Yet they could not really see that they had a duty to give some thought to whether there was any way in which those conflicts of interest could ever be reconciled. When some of them were asked about reconciliation of those conflicts of interest they found it hard to comprehend that there was a problem.
The which-hat-am-I-wearing problem was one of the problems which became very obvious. In each of the cases identified and studied by the Committee, which adopted a case study approach to the problem, it was found and identified in chapter after chapter of the Committee’s report that there was both a failure of regulation by the Government on a State by State basis and a failure of self-regulation. In relation to that, I quote briefly from page 121 of chapter 10 of the report, which states:
In the Committee’s view, while there is co-operation on joint investigations once major abuses have come to light, there is not in practice the continuous co-ordinated monitoring of the entire national market which is necessary to reveal and prevent practices of the kind disclosed by our investigation of private placements. The case studies of this chapter provide evidence of not only the breakdown in effective regulation by various stock exchanges and State authorities but also of the intrinsic difficulties of trying to regulate effectively a national share market with a fragmented structure of regulatory bodies.
Because of the shortage of time, I simply refer back to the sections of chapter 1 6 of the Committee ‘s report which Senator Evans quoted and ask honourable senators to read them as part of my speech because they were identical to the parts of the report which I had thought introduced matters of relevance and significance to this debate.
In order to give honourable senators an idea of the sorts of things which were identified and referred to in the report, I shall read briefly some of the headings which appear in chapter 1 5 of the report, which is entitled: ‘Summary: The Failings of the Existing Regulators’. Under that appears the heading ‘Failings of the Stock Exchanges’, followed by the sub-headings Regulation of Stock Exchange Members’ and Regulation of the Market’. The Committee found failure in both those types of regulation. It found failings of the State companies offices and the relevant law and a lack of uniformity in administrative practices and in the quality of administration. In relation to that, it was found that there was an extraordinary failure. Since the inquiry took place and the report was printed endeavours have been made to achieve a greater degree of uniformity in that area. I pay credit to those who tried to achieve that uniformity.
Unless one national approach to this is adopted, I do not believe that we are likely to achieve uniformity. Unless we achieve uniformity in dealing with what is undoubtedly a national market, undoubtedly a market which has international ramifications and certainly a market which is intended to be part of a national economy- that was one of the bases upon which federalism took place in Australia- I believe that we are not likely to be successful in overcoming the sorts of problems which were identified by the Senate Committee. Unless we achieve that uniformity, we are not likely to be successful in achieving the sorts of objectives which the United States Congress referred to in 1975 when considering amendments to its securities legislation, which had arisen as a result of the creation in 1933 and 1934 of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
What we are dealing with is a market which is national and has international ramifications. When the sitting of the Senate is resumed after the suspension for dinner, I shall proceed to deal with some of the aspects of how we should deal with that national market which, as I mentioned, far more importantly than any State by State ramifications, has international ramifications which can be approached only by a national government acting nationally.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed).
– I shall resume discussing a matter of some significance to the country and not worry about some irrelevancies such as the Opposition obstruction. The matter we are discussing is the National Companies and Securities
Commission Bill. Before the suspension of the sitting, we had reached the stage in discussing the Bill of identifying the need for a national approach; the fact that we have a national market with international ramifications, the fact that the prices of Australian stocks on the London Exchange materially affect what happens in Australia, and the fact that during the boom times there is a great deal of trading opportunity on the London Exchange for assisting in the various sorts of manipulative practices which can take place. So there is a need for a national approach to the provision of a framework necessary in which the capital markets of Australia can be conducted efficiently on a free, fair, open and efficient basis.
The Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, in presenting its report, said at chapter 16, page 15:
This legislative action should be in pursuance or two broad, sometimes conflicting, objectives of national policy.
The first is to maintain, facilitate and improve the performance of the capital market in the interests of economic development, efficiency and stability.
The second is to ensure adequate protection of those who invest in the securities of public companies and in the securities market.
I imagine that there would be many people in Australia who would have felt the sting of the failure of regulation at various stages of the past 10 years and who would believe that the second objective was an extremely important aspect. The attempt which is now being made is one which we hope will be at least the start in achieving those objectives.
The Senate Select Committee recommended that there should be one national approach to the problem, but in doing so it was not wholly concentrating on such government regulation, for at page 16. 12 it said: . . we stress that there will be a substantial role and need for self-regulatory bodies in the system of securities regulation which we recommend. Indeed, we see this selfregulatory function as an essential ingredient of a total regulatory system.
I emphasise that that is a situation of importance; that self-regulation should be seen to be an important part and in fact should be an important part of the regulation of the system.
The history since that report is that in December 1974, some five months after the Senate Select Committee had reported, the then Labor Government introduced what has become known as the Murphy Bill. After the then Senator Murphy went to the High Court, the Enderby Bill was introduced. They were regarded by many as being draconian in that they went too far. In 1975 the Enderby Bill was referred to a Senate committee which considered it. However, the point which I think should be made is that during the debate in 1975-1 would have loved to have had the time for the sake of history to refer in particular to parts of the debate which took place then in the House of Representatives- it was made quite clear that the parties were ad idem, that they had no difference on the need for a national approach. That was made abundantly clear in 1975 and has remained so as far as the present Government parties are concerned.
I believe the only difference which has occurred since the change of government in 1975 is that a different approach has been adopted which I find- I will refer to this aspect in a moment- less than the most desirable. However, it is a perfectly justifiable approach. The stance taken is to see whether the federalist approach will work. If that cannot work the Government can turn to legislating in the way Senator Evans suggested; that is, the Commonwealth, going it alone. This legislation is a challenge to federalism. It is my firm belief that there is no real doubt that the Commonwealth has the power and the duty in this area. If the federalist approach does not work, if there is obstructionism from the States, it will be the responsibility of whatever government is in power in Canberra to ensure that this national approach is adopted. If necessary, it will have to go it alone. That is the challenge of this legislation.
Negotiations during 1976, 1977 and 1978 led - as Senator Evans said - to the Maroochydore agreement of December 1978. We then saw a piece of pettiness which I thought was unfortunate and which is why I say that a real challenge to federalism is involved. We had an undignifying dispute as to the site of the proposed Commission’s headquarters. Because of the delay this Bill, which could have been dealt with during the autumn session of this Parliament, did not reach us until the Budget session. In other words, the matter was held up for six months as a result of a dispute which could have been and should have been resolved much more expeditiously.
The proposed Commission is, I fear, on paper, something in the nature of a toothless tiger. But it has the capacity to develop. If the Commission has the goodwill of the ministerial council made up of the six Attorneys-General from the States and the Commonwealth Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and provided it also is composed of people who are keen and who have the capacity and the vision to make it work, it can play the part that was envisaged by the Senate Committee in its report and which was envisaged by people in other countries such as the United States which introduced the system which has worked extremely well in that country.
Let me try to deal very speedily with some of the things that I believe will be desirable and necessary. I draw the attention of those who have a copy of the report to look at- I have not time to quote from the relevant sections- to the part concerning the commissioners and the structure of the Commission. The Committee in chapters 16.23 and 16.24 set that out in detail. The Bill substantially goes along with the recommendations of the Committee on that aspect. In relation to staff, which is a matter to be considered after the commissioners have been appointed, I draw attention to chapter 16.26 of the report.
It is important, I believe, that we look to the things that can happen and should happen and at what will be the problems confronting the new Commission when it is created. We must look at the areas of activity. I trust that the chairman to be appointed to the Commission will not be a person who is regarded as a ‘ member of the club ‘ but rather a person who is, by a cross-section of experience, able to guide the Commission in its establishment period.
There will be a need for a variety of things to be done, and relatively soon. In fact, the delay which has taken place since 1974 has done nothing to improve the efficiency, the operation, and the effectiveness of our capital markets in Australia. I wish to mention some points very briefly. The special study role is a very important role which I trust the Commission will undertake. Through that we may be able to develop accountancy and audit standards and practices, which many people in Australia believe need further consideration, discussion and development. We need to develop an efficient and upgraded companies Act, and a new securities Act which is more relevant to the needs of the national market than were the provisions of what we were going to have through the existing legislation, now to be introduced by the Commonwealth as a national companies Act and a national securities Act on the basis of what is most common to the States at the moment. There is an urgent need for some takeovers legislation, and the Government and the ministerial council have been working on that. I believe we will see that in the very near future. As soon as we can get this Bill passed, and the Commission established, we will see the introduction of the necessary legislation. The Commission then can start to look at what further developments within a concept are needed for the integration and development of a national market.
We need to consider questions such as the incorporation of stockbrokers. We need to consider how to add breadth and depth to the market. We need to consider whether we are going to deal with white collar crime through systems of early disclosure rather than just by belated resort to the criminal courts, which has not worked in the past. We need to encourage the small investor back into the market. We need to develop some greater concept of participatory capitalism. We must consider a number of matters such as the scrip bank system and the development of the Australian market as the finance centre for the Pacific area. The qualifications of securities advisers need to be considered. In the last boom we had a situation where anybody, whatever his occupation may have been, could get off a tram walk into a broker’s office, and become a securities adviser. The boom was such that it was quite incredible to see some of the people who were giving advice without any background or qualification.
We need to develop a system of greater professionalism. We need to consider the position of geologists and other experts, their qualifications, ethics and liability. The criteria for fixing brokers’ commissions and related questions need to be determined. We must consider how we are going to go about prosecutions, and the specialist role involved so far as prosecution is concerned. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which has not been able to develop its own special prosecutors, complains bitterly that there is a lack of expertise and experience. That is one of the things which will have to be considered by those people who are appointed as commissioners and develop the Commission.
In the co-ordination role, where we have vastly differing State organisations, the problem will be how we go about actually co-ordinating the existing State organisations with this national Commission having the responsibility for coordination. I believe we need to defend and identify and extend the power of the Commission to be able to publish its thoughts, its investigations, its reports. We need to consider the current limitations on special investigations. Investigators need the power to operate nationally. Investigations should not simply be passed from one State to another. Investigation is one of the most essential parts of the whole system and it needs to be done by some person or group who will follow it right through. So far as the Commission is concerned, there will be an education role. A vast number of problems have been neglected. The discussion, the debate and the differences that have occurred, from the excesses of the Murphy legislation, which was introduced in 1974, through to the present stage, have led to a lack of consideration of many matters. Our market development has been held back. The development of Australia, of the dynamic capital growth which leads to industrial development, I believe, has been held back as a result of what has taken place in the last few years. I see it as essential that this Bill be passed by this House tonight at the first possible opportunity so that we may get something going. Something is better than nothing. I do not see it as likely that what I would have regarded as the most desirable will actually be possible in the near future; so let us get on with what has been agreed to in a federalist approach, by a combination of the efforts of the Commonwealth and the States. Let us get something under way concerning these and a horde of other matters about which I would have liked to have spoken tonight but which, unfortunately, the limitations on speaking time preclude me from so doing.
– The admirable objectives that are sought by Senator Rae and that have been outlined by him during the last quarter of an hour are, I fear, highly unlikely to be achieved by this Bill. However, they are encapsulated in the amendment that has been moved by Senator Evans on behalf of the Opposition, and for which I anticipate Senator Rae’s enthusiastic support. The plain fact is that this Bill not only paves the way for the enshrinement of the lowest common denominator approach to companies and securities legislation but also ensures that at any time any State unilaterally may set its own even lower standard. States, according to the articles of the formal agreement, may not only veto changes to whatever ultimate Act is finally decided upon; they may also, at any time they choose, withdraw from the jurisdiction of such Acts.
The Bill establishes a National Companies and Securities Commission, the operational methods of which have been mutually agreed upon by seven governments. At some unspecified time the Commission will supervise the operation of a uniform companies and securities law which has not been drafted but which must also be unanimously agreed upon by seven governments. When and if that happens another lowest common denominator companies and securities law will be introduced into the Parliament. This Bill sacrifices, as the Opposition’s amendment says, reform for uniformity, a uniformity that is highly vulnerable to disintegration at that. It is not as the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) claimed in the House of Representatives on 28 August, ‘tangible evidence of the success of the Government’s policy of cooperative federalism’. It is, indeed, telling evidence of the Fraser Government’s political cowardice disguised as co-operative federalism. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. That policy decision is prompted by the hope which Senator Rae has just expressed, that this Bill might be better than nothing. Our sentiments towards it are set out in the amendment that has been moved by Senator Evans. I will not read it in detail but, summarised, it expresses the concern of the Opposition at the Commonwealth Government’s abdication of responsibility, about the fact that the Commonwealth has chosen to put uniformity before reform, about the lack of any effective accountability of the proposed Commission to any Minister and calls upon the Government, in the event of this approach breaking down, to introduce promptly effective legislation.
The attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the matter of companies and securities law was accurately set down by Mr Fife in the House of Representatives on 28 August, and I give him credit for that. He said:
The former Labor Government opted for unilateral action by the Commonwealth insofar as it proposed to legislate without consultation with the States and rely solely on the Commonwealth’s . . . powers. This Government, however, has consistently preferred an approach of cooperation with the States rather than enacting unilateral legislation.
It is indeed the attitude of the Opposition that the Commonwealth Government should unilaterally legislate in this field.
I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill which was appointed in 1975 to study the then Bill which was before the Senate and which was introduced originally by the Australian Labor Party Attorney-General, Senator Murphy. The deliberations of that Committee ceased on 1 1 November 1975 at a time when the fact that Appropriation Bills had not passed the Senate was considered to be a matter of sufficient importance to justify the dismissal of the Government. The fact that four years later- on 19 November- Appropriation Bills have not passed the Senate does not seem to concern anyone on the conservative side of politics or their friends outside.
As a member of that Committee I have heard legal disputation about the limits of Commonwealth power in this area, legal argument and a great deal of legal sophistry. I came to the conclusion then- I acknowledge that it was a layman ‘s conclusion- that the matter of Commonwealth jurisdiction, or the limits of Commonwealth power, was co complex that it could only be satisfactorily settled in the courts. I note that the one-time Attorney-General of the Fraser Government, the present Minister for Home Affairs and the former Solicitor-General, Mr Ellicott, came to exactly the same conclusion. In the House of Representatives in 1974 he stated: . . uncertainty as to the extent of constitutional power should never of itself be a reason for opposing an otherwise worthwhile legislative exercise of power, nor should it prevent a government, properly advised, treading where angels of constitutional probity have formerly feared to tread. The High Court, as we know, will readily give us the answer . . .
The Government rejected that view of its one.ume Attorney-General and its one-time guru who in 1 975 was said to be infallible on constitutional matters when he presumed to advise the Governor-General and everyone else as to the correct procedures that should be followed. Apparently his advice on the matter of company law and securities legislation today is not considered to be of any consequence by the Government. More importantly, the Government rejected the unequivocal recommendations of the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange which ultimately was chaired by Senator Rae. After more than three years of intensive study the Committee stated:
Our recommendation is that the new national regulatory body should be established by the Federal Government. It is clear from the powers given in the Constitution, that this government was created to meet national needs relating to foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations . .’ and interstate and overseas trade and commerce In our view the time has come for the Federal Government to step in to assume responsibility for seeing that the securities market is properly regulated.
I am aware of the fact that some lawyers have expressed doubts- I think Senator Evans expressed the same doubts- that the Commonwealth power may not be wide enough to cover manufacturing corporations. But as Mr Ellicott said, and as I concluded after listening to the evidence as a member of that Committee in 1975, it seems that that matter, given the fact that reputable legal opinions can be given or have been given on both sides, can be settled only in the courts. The Senate Committee ultimately chaired by Senator Rae also stated:
It is impossible to ensure uniformity when the States disagree amongst each other as to whether a proposal for reform should be adopted. If you are to have truly uniform legislation then if one State stands against the introduction of a piece of amending legislation which is regarded as important, clearly the other States should refuse also to introduce these amendments . . .
In other words, if one is going to have uniform legislation on this basis, the most reactionary or the most inept or, if one likes, the most corrupt State government will retain at all times the power of veto. The report continues:
Five years after the bipartisan committee, ultimately chaired by Senator Rae, tabled the report in the Senate which included those comments and recommendations among many others, finally this Bill has been produced. Compounding the fundamental inadequacies of a Bill like this one to which the Rae report, in advance drew attention, is the administrative procedure explicitly stated in clause 38 (1) of the formal agreement. That clause states:
The policy direction and general control over the administration of company law and the regulation of the securities industry throughout Australia by the Ministerial Council and by the Commission in accordance with this agreement shall, subject to Pan VI and to clause 25 and to sub-clause (2), be exercised to the exclusion of individual Ministerial direction and control by the responsible Minister of the Commonwealth or of the State.
I repeat the final couple of lines: . . shall . . . be exercised to the exclusion of individual Ministerial direction and control by the responsible Minister of the Commonwealth or of the State.
In other words, nobody is responsible for the Commission. That clause, which is part of the formal agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, institutionalises the doctrine of non-responsibility. It is a formula, for inertia and/or failure and it can only be changed, I repeat, if the principle of uniformity is to be adhered to by the Government, with the unanimous agreement of the seven governments involved. Instead of legislating effectively and having that legislation tested in court if necessary, the Fraser Government relied on unanimity, based on an assumption that States will be honest, competent and responsible. Given the nature of the regimes in at least two States, that belief is compounded of wishful thinking and self-delusion.
– Which States are they? Tasmania and New South Wales?
– Just be patient. The commercial morality one can expect from some State governments was detailed by Trevor Sykes, whose nom de plume is Pierpont, which is probably a better known name than Trevor Sykes, in a book he published recently which detailed the events of the 1969 to 1971 period. On page 198 of The Money Miners, Trevor Sykes, or Pierpont, refers to a private placement of shares by Comalco Ltd on 29 April 1970. The organising brokers were asked to make offers of shares directly to what it called selected parties. Shortly afterwards, in May, the then Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, was offered shares. He rejected them. He told his Ministers not to accept shares in the float either. In New Zealand, the then Nationalist or Liberal Prime Minister, Mr Holyoake, issued the same instructions to his Cabinet. In the States, however, the position was different. I quote Sykes directly:
When the float list became available in June the Melbourne Age inspected it and discovered that thousands of shares had been allotted to high-ranking politicians in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and in Queensland (where nearly half the Cabinet was involved). Allotments included 1500 to Mrs M. I. Askin, wife of the NSW Premier; 1000 to Tom Lewis, the then NSW Minister for Lands and later Premier; 1500 to Queensland Treasurer and Acting Premier, Gordon Chalk, and another 1000 to members of his family; 15 16 to Sir David Brand, Premier of WA; and 1500 shares to Charrita Pty Ltd, a private company associated with Charles Court, the subsequent Premier. The Victorian Premier, Sir Henry Bolte, received shares and there were also financial journalists on the float list.
Evidently this information came to light only because of a co-operative and probably innocent junior employee of the company who assisted investigative journalists in tracing through nominee companies and anonymous companies, the real identity of the people who took those private placements, one of whom would have been Sir Charles Court, the Western Australia Premier. That morality- or more accurately, I suppose one should say, lack of morality- demonstrated by the actions of ‘ Ministers in governments of that time is extant -
– If you want a mud slinging con: test, I have some mud that I could sling too.
– I ask the honourable senator to go ahead. That morality, or the lack of it, is extant in Queensland and Western Australia. Until this year the Liberal Party President in Western Australia was a close associate of the Premier, Sir Charles Court. Noel CrichtonBrowne was the major shareholder in a company called Burrill Investments, which also attracted considerable attention from the committee chaired by Senator Rae. In fact, from memory, it was the subject of 25 or 30 pages in the report which was finally presented to the Senate. The original directors holding one share each were Messrs Burrill and Jones, who doubled up as consulting geologists to Poseidon Ltd. At the time the company was established on 22 May 1969, 20,252 shares had been issued, the nominal capital of the company being $100,000. Of those 20,000-odd shares issued at that time, one each was held by Burrill and Jones. Out of the 20,000 shares at the time, 5,000 were held by Noel Crichton-Browne. His brother, Peter John Browne, held 3,250. Two thousand were held by Esther Grace Stevens, who was then Noel Crichton-Browne ‘s fiancee, now his wife. A further 2,000 were allotted to Norma Rosa Stevens, mother of Esther Grace Stevens and now the mother-in-law of Noel CrichtonBrowne. A further 1,000 shares were allotted to Malcolm Scott Holdings, the family investment company of former Liberal Party senator from Western Australia and Federal Minister, Malcolm Scott.
This company in which Noel CrichtonBrowne was a founding shareholder, and the major shareholder throughout the period in which we were interested, used inside information gained by Burrill and Jones to rip off the uninformed and deliberately misinformed on the securities market to the extent of at least, according to the Senate report, $1.3m. About the activity of this company and other people operating in close association with Poseidon as directors, the Rae report said:
During the period leading up to the announcement of the discovery of nickel and copper sulphides the consulting geologists and one of the directors misused their official and fiduciary positions to buy Poseidon shares for private profit.
The geologists also sold many of the shares at a dme when they had a greater knowledge of the prospects than the general public whom they had informed about the Windarra field. Another conclusion of wide significance is that the Windarra announcements, which gave nickel prospecting a new glamor and gave rise to a great wave of mineral company flotations and placement issues, can now be seen to have been misleading in significant respects and made on careless, to say the least, reporting of assays.
The operational method of the company, having had prior and inside knowledge of the initial strike at Windarra in September 1969, was to buy shares on the Perth and other stock exchanges with around $5, wait until a misleading and overstated report of the initial assay of the strike had been made available to the public, and then unload the shares at anything up to $100, or even more. Firstly by buying up the shares because of improper insider knowledge and secondly by maximising gains by selling off at a time when the market was misinformed in the other direction, the company of which Noel Crichton-Browne was a founding and the major shareholder cleaned up profits of at least $ 1 .3 m.
At that time Noel Crichton-Browne was also the mining registrar in Marble Bar. Under section 8 of the Western Australian Mining Act at that time it was an offence punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment to be a mining registrar or warden and at the same time to hold shares in a company engaged in or associated with mining directly or indirectly. He was charged with that offence on 1 1 February 1978. The facts- that he was the registrar and that he had an interest at least in Burrill Investments- were acknowledged. The defence rested its case on two grounds: Firstly that the Western Australian Act was derived from a New South Wales Act and the comparable section of that Act was worded differently. The significant difference, it was claimed, in the wording was that the section of the New South Wales Act applied only if the company in which the registrar or warden held shares was engaged in mining within the area over which the registrar or warden had jurisdiction. Therefore the defence argued that because the Act was derived from the New South Wales Act and in that section the New South Wales Act said something different, the Western Australian Act really meant the same thing that the New South Wales Act said and not the words that were actually written into it. The defence claimed that the Act meant the same as the words written into the New South Wales Act instead of the words that were actually written.
The second ground of the defence, supplementary to the first, was that obviously the Act was not meant to be applied to a person like Mr Crichton-Browne otherwise it would disqualify registrars or wardens from having a life assurance policy with the Australian Mutual Provident Society because AMP held shares in mining companies. In other words, the second ground of defence proposed that holding a life assurance policy with the AMP was inseparable from being the major shareholder in a company established to speculate in the shares of mining companies. No rebuttal to that argument was offered by the prosecution. The case was dismissed. That extraordinary behaviour in that case by prosecuting authorities in Western Australia should be contrasted with their actions with respect to people who sabotaged a woodchip loading belt in Bunbury. They were sentenced and the Crown appealed against it on the basis that it was not severe enough. Unionists were pursued by the Court Government through three courts because charges had been previously dismissed by two courts. But the prosecution in the CrichtonBrowne case offered no rebuttal to the defence. The Government was not at all disturbed.
The answer to the extraordinary behaviour of the prosecution can perhaps be found in this anecdote The son of an endorsed candidate for the Liberal Party in the forthcoming election in Western Australia was apprehended on a drink driving charge by the Road Transport Authority. I know something about this case. It is quite conceivable indeed that the young man in question was being victimised, although technically he was guilty. The candidate went to the Deputy Premier of Western Australia and said: ‘How are you going to get him off?’. The Deputy Premier, with appropriate shock, horror and sanctimony, said: ‘We can’t do a thing like that’. The candidate replied: ‘How did Crichton-Browne get off?’. There was a long and embarrassed silence from the Deputy Premier.
– You sat there and watched it, did you?
– I heard it from a very good member of the Liberal Party, and I daresay that at least one other person here would know about it, too. Mr Crichton-Browne is, by any reasonable standards of commercial behaviour, a most unsavoury character. He is a sleazy operator. He is indeed more than that. He is a crook who, but for the selective application of the law of Western Australia, would have been gaoled. Knowing all this the Liberal Party in Western Australia, with the full support of Sir Charles Court and some other prominent Western Australian Liberals, especially State politicians, and in spite of the spirited opposition of Senator Durack and Senator Withers, has endorsed this man, Crichton-Browne, as a member of its Senate team for the next election. Indeed, he very nearly beat Senator Durack into third place on the ticket. Does the Fraser Government believe that a State Government dominated by people like that will crack down on corporate malpractice? Does the Fraser Government believe that a Liberal Party State Government dominated by people like that who are quite happy to put a man like Crichton-Browne on their Senate ticket and who almost put him in front of a senior Minister of the Fraser Government, Senator Durack, will crack down on corporate malpractice? I have not said anything about another State government of which the commercial business behaviour of many of its senior members has caused eyebrows to be raised all over the rest of Australia and, indeed, in Queensland itself- that is, of course, the Queensland Government. I think this legislation was very succinctly put in perspective by my colleague Ralph Jacobi in the House of Representatives on 23 October when he said:
This legislation could be summed up in two simple, brief sentences: If you are an honest investor, beware. If you are a market or company shark, it is business as usual.
Finally, I have a question for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), if he ever returns to Parliament. Perhaps we ought to consider having Parliament sit on the weekends instead of in the middle of the week so that the Prime Minister can attend. He is fit and well enough to attend Liberal Party conferences but he says that he is not fit and well enough to attend Parliament. Frankly, if I were in his shoes I would not be coming here this week if I could get out of it. However, I have a question to put to the Prime Minister which I am not permitted to put on the Senate Notice Paper. I asked a question without notice of Senator Carrick. He told me to put the question on the Senate Notice Paper. I was not permitted to put the whole lot on the Senate Notice Paper. The question, as it appears on the Notice Paper, is Question No. 2076, and reads:
Is the impending companies legislation intended to prevent consulting geologists and their friends establishing -
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. There is a Standing Order which relates to referring to questions which are on the Notice Paper and trying to elaborate on them in this way. I think the honourable senator has either to refer to the part that he has not been allowed to put on the Notice Paper or else to say nothing about it.
– I uphold the point of order.
– Perhaps the Government will think about answering some questions on notice. The question I was not allowed to put on the Senate Notice Paper was: Does the Prime Minister believe a man like Crichton-Browne is a fit and proper person to represent the Liberal Party in the national Parliament? I would welcome a reply from the Prime Minister or, indeed, from Senator Durack as to whether that is the considered view of the Government.
-There is no doubt about Senator Walsh. Some honourable senators may say that he speaks straight from the shoulder; I say, Mr President, that it is a pity that Senator Walsh’s speeches do not start slightly higher. He manages to find something bad in everything he sees. It does not matter what it is; Senator Walsh will try to denigrate some member of this community or some member of this Government. Somewhere along the line he will be character assassinating people as best he can. I am very pleased that he is the shadow Minister for Primary Industry because the farmers of this country will reject him and his policy whenever the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) decides to have an election. They will not have a bar of this man. I have not the slightest doubt about that. The longer he remains in the portfolio of the shadow Minister for Primary Industry, the more rural seats this Government will win at any election.
Senator Walsh- What do you think of Crichton-Browne?
-I dismiss Senator Walsh.
– Do you welcome him as a colleague?
– Order ! Senator Walsh, you have spoken. Senator Lewis has the call.
-Thank you, Mr President. In this debate, the ALP has adopted the policy that it must gather unto the Commonwealth all powers. It must ride roughshod over the States. These centralist policies have been rejected by the people. The ALP does not recognise that those Ministers and those governments which are elected by the people in the States have any knowledge of the problems associated with this industry. It believes that Canberra is the fount of all knowledge. On the other hand, this Government has acknowledged the fact that people in the State parliaments may know something about this problem and may recognise the problems surrounding this legislation. Accordingly, the State governments have been consulted and brought into the arrangements so far as this legislation is concerned.
The Federal Government is to be congratulated. Not only has it had consultations with State governments but also has it finally agreed unanimously upon legislation which will be passed by all State governments and the Commonwealth Government. The people of Australia wil] recognise that fact and applaud the Federal Government for achieving that result regarding this legislation. (Quorum formed). I shall not keep the Senate long, because I support this legislation. I support this legislation and I am sure the people of Australia will support this legislation. Indeed, let there be not the slightest doubt that Senator Rae in a very well prepared speech, even though it had to be reduced to 30 minutes for today, explained quite clearly to the people the desperate need for this legislation, the desperate need to establish this Commission at this time.
The point I wish to raise before the Senate is that this Commission will develop a life of its own. The most vital part of this legislation relates to the commissioners who will be appointed. The Parliament can set the rules and the pattern, but it will be the commissioners who will establish the life of this Commission. The most important factor is one which the Parliament is not debating and that is where this Commission will be in a few years’ time. That will depend very much upon the people who take the positions of commissioners as appointed by the Government. I hope that they take unto themselves the words of Senator Rae and think very carefully of the way they will lead this Commission into the future.
It had been my intention as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations to suggest to the Senate that there ought to be sunset legislation in relation to this Commission because it is another statutory authority which the Commonwealth is establishing. The Parliament creates the statutory authorities but once it has created them the Parliament has no further control over or knowledge of them; they develop a life of their own. I would have desired- that this Commission be placed with a sunset provision to enable the legislation to come back into the Senate in about 10 years’ time so that the Parliament could reconsider the establishing legislation. The Government in its wisdom in getting together all of the States in unanimity is not in a position to push on the States a sunset provision from this Parliament without their unanimous support, which it has not been able to achieve at this stage. I say that I would not require the Government to impose that upon any of the States. I do not adopt the centralist approach as the Labor Party does. This is a matter for discussion and negotiation.
I have today obtained from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) an undertaking that he will raise with the Ministerial Council referred to in the Schedule to this Bill- and he will place before that Ministerial Council, as an agenda item- a suggestion that it may consider introducing sunset provisions to this legislation throughout the States and in the Commonwealth. I am prepared to accept that undertaking. I thank the Minister for it. I congratulate him for adopting such a far-sighted view. I support the legislation and trust that the Senate will pass it.
– Today is a very significant day in the life and the role of the Senate because we are considering the establishment of a National Companies and Securities Commission, the first of its kind to be established in Australia at the national level to provide a broad and active role in the administration of companies and securities law throughout the Commonwealth. I say it is significant for the Senate because it represents the culmination of policies which were developed by the initiative of the Senate and in the work of senators. Today in this debate we should as a Senate pay very considerable tribute indeed to Senator Rae who has spoken in this debate on a plane and with a contribution that are not often matched in the Senate in discussions of legislation. Senator Rae was not the original chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange but he became chairman of it about a year or so after it was established. At all times he was a very active member of the Committee. It was under his leadership that the all-party Committee of which I was also proud to be a member did an enormous amount of work. I think that it probably achieved greater public recognition for the work of the Senate than any other committee that the Senate has ever established. It was the recommendation of the Senate Committee, namely that a national regulatory body be established in the area of the companies and securities industry, which is now embodied in the legislation before us. I hope that it will be on the statute book later this evening.
I suppose that the cynics could say that it has taken a long time. The wheels of parliament and government move very slowly. They could point to the fact that the Senate Committee was established in 1970 but it was 1979 before the legislation was on the books. This has been a very difficult task. It required, as the Senate Committee proved, a great mass of evidence to be collected. A great deal of thought had to be given to it. The Committee itself took some years to make its recommendations. Then, of course, the problem before government- it was a problem facing the former Labor Government as well as the present Government- was how best to implement the broad recommendations of the Senate Committee. The former Labor Government in pursuance of its philosophy decided upon a national companies and securities Act which would cover the field entirely and exclude all State participation in this area of the law and administration. As Senator Walsh said, that proposal was referred to another Senate committee of which Senator Walsh and I were members. That committee was considering the legislation when the Labor Government was dismissed in November 1975.
When the present Liberal-National Country Party Government came into office one of its earliest responsibilities was to decide what it would do about the Committee’s recommendation. There was no question that it wished to give effect to the Committee ‘s proposals but the question was how to do it. The Senate Committee which was considering the Labor Government ‘s proposals had already received a great deal of evidence and had given a great deal of consideration to the proposals. I think it is fair to say that very considerable criticism and concern was expressed in many quarters about that approach. In any event, the present Government believed that, regardless of questions of its constitutional power, the proper approach would be one in accordance with its policies and philosophy of co-operative federalism. It embarked upon discussions with the States to see whether a co-operative agreement could be reached to implement broadly the proposals of the Senate Committee that there needed to be national regulation of the companies and securities industry. This took time. These things must take time. People must understand that they take time because they are very complicated matters. Ultimately, agreement was reached and the Bill now before the Senate is to implement the first part of that agreement; namely, the establishment of the national commission.
Further legislation will- follow this. A takeovers code, a national companies Bill and a national securities Bill will be proposed to the Parliament in due course. So the implementation of the scheme will take some little time further. However, the basic provisions of the scheme have been agreed to. I emphasise the fact that this is the first but probably the major step that is to be taken. It implements the major recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, of which Senator Rae was Chairman. Honourable senators have considered the question of proceeding by way of cooperative federalism rather than by sole legislation by this Parliament. Senator Evans said that we should have proceeded at the national level only and imposed national companies and securities legislation by virtue of the powers that, in his view, the Commonwealth Parliament has and leave it to the High Court to resolve any doubts about it. Although there certainly are doubts about the extent to which the Commonwealth Parliament can pass legislation to cover the whole of the companies and securities area, doubts about the Commonwealth power are not the basis for the Government’s approach. The Government has taken this approach because, as I have said, it believes that there is great benefit to be achieved by not setting up a centralised bureaucracy in one place, whether it be in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne. In this case, the Commission will be set up in Melbourne. The Government does not believe that that is the right approach. It believes in attempting to reach a solution to these problems by discussions with the States and by co-operation with the States.
Let us consider the situation of companies in Australia. I am advised that there are some 400,000 companies in Australia. Ninety-eight per cent of them are private companies, operating not just at the State level but very much at a local level. They are operating as small businesses, very few of which would have any operations at the national level.
– Proprietary companies.
– As Senator Rae said, they are proprietary companies. What clearly came out from all the discussions and most of the evidence that was given to the Senate committees that I have mentioned was the need for national legislation and a national commission in order to have a body at the national level to regulate the national market and, as Senator Rae said in his speech tonight, the international market as well. The Commonwealth Government does not want to be involved in the detailed administration of these thousands of companies that have no significance as far as the national market is concerned. Regardless of the legal power, the practical common-sense approach to this subject is that the Commonwealth Government should concern itself with the national securities market and with companies that are acting on the national and international levels.
The ordinary administration of this vast range of proprietary companies- and I suppose even some small public companies that do not operate nationally- should be left to the States. The States have developed their own corporate affairs commissions, and the people in those bodies have been administering the company law over the years. That is all established and in place. Why on earth would we want to uproot all that and presumably bring all those people under some national body, which would result in their being disturbed and perhaps displaced? It would create a total upset in what, broadly speaking, is a system of administration operating for the vast majority of the small proprietary companies around Australia.
We are trying by this co-operative arrangement to establish a national body, under a Ministerial Council comprising State and Commonwealth Ministers, which will concern itself with the major public companies operating nationally and with the national securities market. The State machinery is in place, and is operating with experts in the administration of small companies. Unless any of their activities impinge at the national or international level, they will be left to get on with the job they have been doing. That is the philosophy behind this legislation.
Several matters have been raised in this debate. One related to whether there has been an abdication of ministerial responsibility. The matter of whether the Government has abandoned attempts at reform for the sake of getting some uniformity from the lowest common denominator was also raised. Certainly there has to be agreement between the Commonwealth and the States as to the terms of the companies Act and the securities Act in the first place, but amendments to that legislation, once it is in place can be made pursuant to a majority view of the Ministerial Council. It is not fair to say that we will have to use the lowest common denominator, that is, that something can be done only if all States agree to it.
– What about the initial package?
-I said that in the first place. It is quite unnecessary to repeat it. It is pity Senator Evans is wasting time. As far as ministerial responsibility is concerned, that cannot be affected by the exercise of the powers of the Minister under the legislation. We have entered into an agreement, and the Commonwealth Minister will have to abide by the terms of that agreement, so long as the legislation remains in place. He will still be answerable to the Parliament for what he does and for what the Ministerial Council does. The Minister cannot escape that responsibility.
The Commission will report to Parliament. That is provided for in the legislation. As Senator Rae has said, and I am sure Senator Evans would not doubt it, the Minister and this Government and this Parliament will still retain what powers they have. We believe that the scheme will work. Certainly it has great prospective advantages, and every effort should be made to make it work. In the end, of course, there will be responsibility to the Parliament, and, let us not forget, a responsibility of the Parliament to take steps if it does not work. The Government believes that it will work and certainly intends to make every effort to ensure that it will do so.
I mention just one other small point which I thought was really irrelevant but which Senator Walsh made a great feature of in his speech. It was most unfortunate that the debate, which otherwise has been on a high plane, on a matter of such importance should have been sullied by the introduction of personal matters and by Senator Walsh’s references to Mr Crichton-Browne.
– He cannot help it.
– It would seem that he cannot help it, I agree, but he introduced the subject. I thought it was most unfair that he should have mentioned some criminal proceedings which were taken against Mr Crichton-Browne, and which were dismissed. A man is entitled to his good name and it should not be besmirched by remarks in this place, particularly when proceedings which were taken against him have been dismissed.
As I have said, I believe that this is a notable day for the Senate. It is the culmination of an enormous amount of work that has been done by the Senate, by a Committee of the Senate and by a great many honourable senators. Perhaps I should have mentioned also Senator Georges, who unfortunately is not here because of illness. I am sure that he would have been very pleased to be here, although perhaps he would have had some critical remarks to make. Senator Sim also was a member of the Committee.
– And Senator Wriedt.
- Senator Wriedt was also a member, as Senator Sim has reminded me. I should not really be mentioning names because a great many honourable senators were associated with the work of both Senate committees which were involved in the inquiry and in the recommendations which have led to this Bill before us today. I thank the Opposition for not opposing the Bill, although it is proposing amendments to it. As a result of the work that has been done by so many people to get solutions to this matter, I believe that we can have every confidence that the step we are taking today in passing this legislation will have the utmost significance for Australia, not just because it deals with such important matters in the organisation of the economic life of this nation. I am sure also that the legislation will have the greatest significance and the Government believes it will have great benefits.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Evans’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 1 8- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 1 9 (Register of financial interests).
-Mr Temporary Chairman, I seek leave to move together the first nine amendments on the sheet circulated by the Opposition, all of which relate to this clause.
– I do not have a copy of any amendments which have been circulated.
– I am sorry; there certainly was an intention to have them circulated some considerable time ago.
– Are they the same as the amendments moved in another place?
– They are identical to the amendments moved in another place, so there will be no surprises.
Before proceeding to speak about those amendments, right at the outset I ask the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) what his Government’s attitude is to the moving of any amendments to the National Companies and Securities Commission Bill. I ask him to comment in that sense not on the merits of each amendment, but rather on what the status of any amendment would be if it were accepted by the Government. Is it the fact that the moving of any amendments to this legislation is something of a charade, given that presumably the acceptance of the Ministerial Council would be required before any such amendments could be finally accepted by the Government?
Has the Government in fact taken to the Ministerial Council any of the amendments to this Bill which, for some time now the Government has been aware the Opposition proposes to move? These are points which the AttorneyGeneral will recall were made by me in the second reading debate when I spoke of the peculiar character of this legislation, demanding, as it does, not only the Commonwealth Government’s approval but also the approval of the States. I think it would help if the AttorneyGeneral’s attitude, not only towards this Bill but also towards all the others in the series of Bills which is about to confront us in the next session of Parliament, were put on the table and made clear.
The amendments I have moved to clause 19 are concerned with the matter of the pecuniary interests of members or staff of the proposed National Companies and Securities Commission and the requirement, of which the Opposition wholeheartedly approves, that such person in fact sign a register of such interests. The Rae report is very strong indeed on the matter of the pecuniary interests of people associated with the administration of the proposed Commission. In fact, at a later stage, the Opposition will move amendments to later clauses of this Bill which are rather more stringent than what we are looking at at the moment.
We see the provision relating to the register as being defective in several respects. Those are the matters to which the amendments I have moved are, in their various ways, directed. Firstly, the provision requires the person making the disclosure to reveal only his or her interest. One of the easiest ways of avoiding financial disclosure is simply to transfer assets within a family. In that sense, our amendments pick up the interests not only of persons themselves but also of their spouses and dependent children.
The second matter is that we do not believe that the range of financial interests referred to in clause 19 is anywhere near wide enough. Clause 19 as it stands refers only to directorships in what is termed ‘relevant interest in securities’. A relevant interest will have to be determined not on the face of this legislation but in accordance with criteria that are to be specified by regulations. So at the moment there is a lack of clarity on the face of the Bill. The Opposition’s view is that the concept of financial interest should be extended beyond that of the core notion of directorships, which is what is in issue here, to include any interests in securities, benefits or income paid to a person or his or her spouse or dependants. Our amendments Nos 2 and 3 are directed to that end. Amendment No. 4 makes it clear that what is an interest that has to be disclosed for this purpose is something denned on the face of the legislation and is not something to be settled by regulation.
The final defect which we see in clause 1 9 and to which these amendments are directed is this: Essentially, the clause is not tough enough in the kinds of sanctions it imposes for those who either fail to disclose relevant interests or in fact make inaccurate declarations of such interests. This clause is to be compared with clause 49, which is much more stringent in this respect, and we suggest accordingly that there be some amendments. Amendments Nos 6, 7 and 8 have the combined effect of making it an offence to fail to disclose an interest or a change of interest on becoming a staff member or a member of the Commission and providing for a penalty of $5,000 or imprisonment for one year, or both, under those circumstances. Finally, the last amendment in the series, amendment No. 9, provides for an offence punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for two years, or both, for providing for the register information which is knowingly false or misleading.
– I would simply like to respond to this first group of amendments in the way in which I would like to respond to all the proposed amendments. I am not sure whether any honourable senators think the legislation in its current form is perfect. If they do, I would be happy to discuss with them at some other time how they reached that conclusion. There are a number of things which one can expect will need to be reviewed, developed, or added to. A number of amendments could be considered. But the point is one which has already been made during the second reading debate, and that is that this legislation constitutes an agreement reached between the members of the Ministerial Council- the six State AttorneysGeneral and the Federal Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The discussion about amendment reflects the problem which is inherent in the Ministerial Council co-operative federalist approach, and that is that inherently we run the risk of delay because propositions for amendment have to go back to the next Ministerial Council and at this stage would require the approval of all seven members. After this legislation is enacted the Commission will be under way and, as has been indicated earlier, it will require only a majority decision. It seems to me that it is far more in the best interests of Australia and the development and regulation of our capital market that we should get this proposal off the ground and get the Commission under way.
I hope that the Ministerial Council and the commissioners in due course will give consideration to all the proposed amendments which, as I understand it, Senator Evans is to move. But it would be putting back the development of a commission in Australia and putting back any form of reform in this area of the law by a period of at least six months if the Committee passed these amendments tonight. Therefore, I believe that it is not so much a matter of the Committee considering the amendments on their merits as the Committee considering the fundamental merit of getting under way the National Companies and Securities Commission and then the Commission, as one of its major functions, considering through the appropriate system any necessary legislative amendments and making recommendations in relation to them. A number of these things, I believe, not only can be considered by the Commission but also should be considered by the Commission. For that reason, whilst there may be merit in a number of Senator Evans’s proposed amendments, I do not intend to support anything which would delay the creation of the Commission.
– I speak because I am surprised at what Senator Rae said. Let me commend him on his address during the second reading stage of the Bill. I think it is regrettable that his speaking time was restricted. What he has just said shows that he supports what the Opposition is saying on this question and that he is afraid of defeat and therefore does not want to delay the passage of the legislation. I am of the opinion, and have been for a long time, that the power of the Parliament seems to disappear on matters relating to the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers and its attempt to get uniform legislation. It is not even the Executive but six or seven Ministers who decide such questions. The Parliament has simply to acquiesce in what six people throughout Australia have decided. I do not think that that is good enough. We have just heard an admission that, whilst Senator Rae is not opposed to the amendments and thinks that they would strengthen the legislation, nothing can be done because of this desire for uniform legislation. We have given away certain rights.
We have asked whether it is proper to accept the lowest common denominator. Senator Rae knows full well that this matter- what he has said shows that he thinks the legislation needs strengthening- will be a point of argument amongst Ministers at future conferences. He knows perfectly well that if honourable senators vote for these Opposition amendments they will strongly induce State Ministers to support alterations in future. He does not escape from what he is trying to do by saying that he will not vote for the amendments. He is saying that he has to vote against the amendments although he believes the Opposition is right. This weakens his case for bringing pressure on State Ministers in future. If Senator Rae believes that the amendments put forward by the Opposition are correct we would expect him to vote for them as an added inducement to show the strength of the Committee’s opinion on this question to State Ministers at their next conference on the issue.
- Senator Evans asked me to make a general statement on the Government’s attitude to these amendments. I have been trying to get the call to do so because I thought it might- as he suggested- shorten the Committee debate. I, of course, concede that it is entirely a matter for the Committee to debate amendments at any length it wishes. Let me emphasise the fact that the amendments that Senator Evans is moving have been exposed in a debate in another place. He has already indicated to me that the amendments- I have now had the opportunity of checking this factare the same as have been moved in another place. The Government indicated in the debate in the other place that the amendments were not acceptable, and that is still the policy of the Government.
– That is not the point. I was asking about the implications of there being a Ministerial Council.
– The honourable senator should wait till I come to that. The Government did not take the amendments to the Ministerial Council.
– Why not?
– It did not take them to the Ministerial Council because it was opposed to them. If the Government had seen merit in a particular amendment, it may have done so. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) had decided that there was not any justification, certainly at this stage, in proposing the amendments to the Ministerial Council. That is not to say that the Government will not, of course, be suggesting from time to time amendments to legislation which is before the Ministerial Council. But the Government just took the view that these amendments were not such that it was justified in putting them before the Ministerial Council. As Senator Rae has suggested, any further discussion of amendments to legislation which has already been agreed upon would undoubtedly delay the creation of this body even further.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 35- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 36 (Hearings before Commission).
-The Opposition is undeterred by the indication in prospect of the Attorney-General that no more generosity is about to be demonstrated by the Government towards the Opposition’s endeavours than was the case in the other place. On the other hand, the Opposition derives some small encouragement from the fact that the AttorneyGeneral did seem to indicate that if at any stage in the forthcoming debates on other Bills in this series something does strike the Government as being, extraordinarily enough, worthy of the attention of the Ministerial Council, it will take the appropriate steps to check out the amendment before finally passing the Bill through this Parliament. So out of such straws is parliamentary sovereignty made these days. Nonetheless, the Opposition will proceed on that basis. We believe that it is important that we state our position on these amendments, as we did in the other place. We regard these amendments as important and we hope that the Australian people regard them as important. Perhaps by exposing them again tonight there will be some slight momentum contributing towards their ultimate acceptance. The amendment to clause 36 that I am about to move on behalf of the Opposition has been circulated as No. 10 on the list. I move:
10) Page 17, clause 36, sub-clause (2) lines 5 and 6, leave out all words after ‘Commission ‘, insert ‘shall direct that the hearing take place in public unless the Commission is satisfied that the holding of the hearing in public would, or would be reasonably likely to:
The effect of the Bill, as it stands at the moment, is that hearings being conducted by the Commission can be held either in public or in private. The Opposition is not happy with the generality of that expression. It gives the Commission an unrestricted discretion to hold its hearings in private. In our view the proper policy to adopt here is that hearings should be held in public unless there is some compelling reason to the contrary. The amendment proposed would provide that unless the kind of principles which the Government has already accepted in its Freedom of Information Bill apply- that is, that a hearing in public would prejudice the investigation of the law or the fair trial of the person and the several other matters then set out- the hearing should be held in public and not in private. The detailed language, which I do not stop to recite, in the amendment indicates clearly the Opposition’s view as to the precise circumstances in which it is appropriate that these hearings be held in private and, equally, indicates that the priority and the emphasis should always be on public hearings and that it ought not to be completely a matter for the Commission ‘s discretion.
-This amendment deals with Part VI of the proposed legislation, which is one of the most essential parts of the Bill before us. It is through the capacity to conduct hearings that the Commission will be able to fulfil the role of getting away from red tape. Rather than trying to apply the criminal law in relation to the regulation of the securities industry, we will be able to pursue the concept of ensuring disclosure and ensuring that people are informed in relation to activities and, therefore, can make an informed judgment, being in many ways a better basic approach to the regulation of the industry than the reliance upon some idea that if we catch one person out of 1,000 people who have breached the law we then prosecute that person and, if we are lucky, we might get a conviction for failing to file an annual return when in fact that person has blown through to South America with $ 1 m or whatever it may be.
I just wish to comment that it is important that further consideration be given to the form and powers of the Commission in relation to hearings. It would be appropriate, in due course, for the Commission and Ministerial Council to consider the son of approach suggested by Senator Evans’s amendment. However, I reiterate, it would not be appropriate at this stage.
I refer to clause 36 (2) and ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the power to hold a hearing wherever the Commission chooses is implied therein. That is a matter which relates to the clause generally. Although a specific direction is not given in the Bill I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) will be able to confirm my understanding that that is the intention.
– It was my wish to move amendment No. 1 1 at the same time as I moved amendment No. 10, because they are associated. I seek leave accordingly.
– Accordingly, I move amendment No. 1 1:
Clause agreed to.
-Might I indicate that the Opposition does not propose to proceed with amendment No. 12 to clause 37.
Also, the Opposition is indebted to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) for his courtesy in replying at the time when he replied to Senator Rae, to the reasons given for its last amendment.
Clauses 37 to 43- by leave- taken together.
– My curiosity has been aroused by clause 38(2) and paragraph (a) thereof, which reads -
) At a hearing before the Commission-
Could the Minister tell me what is a ‘natural person’, in clause 38 (2)? A person may appear, but a body corporate may be represented. Is there any significance in the word?
- Senator Cavanagh is a natural person although it may be a surprise to the honourable senators. The law creates bodies corporate and they are in contradistinction to a body created by the law, a person -
– What is an ‘unnatural person ‘?
-We are not talking about a natural or an unnatural person, we are talking about a distinction between legal persons; those who are created by law and those who are created naturally.
Clauses agreed to.
Proposed new clause 43a.
-The Opposition proposes the addition of a new clause 43A, which is amendment No. 1 3 on this sheet. I move:
To assist the Ministerial Council in discharging its functions under … the previous sub-clause, there should be a Companies and Securities Law Review Committee-
to carry out research into and advise on law reform in relation to the legislation and regulations referred to in that paragraph:
the number of the members of which is to be determined from time to time by the Ministerial Council:
the members of which are to be appointed and may be removed by the Ministerial Council and will be engaged on terms and conditions determined by the Ministerial Council.
It is obviously proposed that the Companies and Securities Law Review Committee be a significant and important advisory body. We in the Opposition believe that it will be a significant body and that it ought to be given statutory form. The main reason advanced by the Minister in the other place- we would be interested to see whether the present Minister, if he is in the mood to answer, can in fact be a little more enlightening than was the Minister in the other place- is that this would cause unnecessary administrative difficulties, particularly since this was only an advisory body. We are not at all clear what those difficulties are. We would understand, if not entirely applaud the Government’s attitude, if it simply did not want to create a proliferation of statutory bodies perhaps because of some intimidation from Senator Rae, who seems to regard it as a matter of moral evil for a statutory body to be created these days unless there is some overwhelming justification for it, such that all mortal men, natural or otherwise, would unequivocally agree. The Opposition is interested to know precisely why the Government has set its heels against this particular proposal which seems a not especially controversial one.
– The Government takes the view that the onus is the other way from that proposed by Senator Evans. It has been agreed that there will be a Companies and Securities Law Review Committee established. The Government feels that the proposal that that should be a statutory committee is one that needs to be argued for. The Committee can operate perfectly effectively without statutory force. It is not like a body that is going to be acting commercially. It needs to have statutory provisions. We already have the Ministerial Council. We also have the Commission which is being established by this legislation. The Government cannot see the particular need for the body to be established as a statutory body.
-Perhaps the answer might be that it would be a darned sight more difficult to get rid of under those circumstances. In any event I am interested that the answer of the Attorney-General does not rely on the question of administrative difficulty, as was the reliance in the other place. That at least clarifies something that was puzzling the Opposition.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Clause 44 agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 44a and 44b.
-by leave -I move:
Although a number of other options might be canvassed I believe the successful implementation of whatever course may be selected would require the co-operation of the professional accounting bodies as the repositories of the very considerable expertise which they have developed in the research and formulation of exposure drafts.
This is the course which is supported by the New South Wales Attorney-General. As you will be aware he has called for the establishment of an Accounting Standards Review Board comprised of five persons experienced in industry, commerce, economics, law or public administration. As he saw the Board it would not be concerned with the promotion or development of proposed standards; its functions would be confined to reviewing and either endorsing or rejecting standards proposed, although not necessarily exclusively so, by the accounting profession.
Although the Attorney-General has not said publicly very much more than that about his proposal … it might provide that the Board would have power: to invite or receive draft standards from the accounting bodies to negotiate with those bodies as the prorities to be followed in the development of specific standards and as to the timetable to be followed (subject to the provision for relief) to require the general adoption of a standard endorsed by the Board to reject a proposed standard and refer it to the originating body for modification.
That is the kind of model which was promoted in New South Wales by the then Commissioner for Corporate Affairs. It may well provide one very appropriate model, properly developed, for the kind of standards review committee that we are referring to and which we propose to give statutory identity in this legislation. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) in the other place said in his reply to the honourable member for Hawker that the Ministerial Council had given and indeed was giving consideration to this proposal. It is my understanding that there has been at least one and maybe even two meetings of the Ministerial Council since these amendments were debated in the House of Representatives. In those circumstances the Opposition would welcome at the least some indication from the Attorney-General as to what progress has been made in this matter even if, as regrettably seems likely, the Government is not prepared to accept this amendment here and now.
– In many ways I would like to support what Senator Evans said and to refer to the fact that Australia is in urgent need of adopting some form of accounting standards review committee. I would like to broaden what has been suggested a little further and to say that it is an accounting and auditing standards review committee which is essential. The auditing function, I believe, at this stage is subject to a number of areas of confusion, a number of degrees of deficiency, which need to be overcome in relation to the preparation and presentation for auditing of company accounts. I do not see tonight as the time to discuss that in detail. We should rather direct the attention of the Ministerial Council- one would hope- and the new National Companies and Securities Commission, when it is created, towards the need for something along the lines of what has been discussed by Senator Evans and by many other people, and what is discussed frequently within the accountancy profession at accountancy seminars and meetings of accountants. There seems to be a general feeling that there is a need for some support for the profession’s own attempts to develop and to enforce standards.
The accountacy profession is not like the legal profession or the medical profession in that it does not have a form of statutory limitation as to entry. The form of statutory enforcement for its professional standards I believe needs to develop in a way which will enable it to insist in not only the creation of standards for both accounting and auditing in relation to company accounts, but also the enforcement of the adherence to those standards by the members of that profession. I think that that is the view of most of the sincere and significant members of that profession. Without going into detail, I just indicate that I hope that this will be one of the matters considered by the Ministerial Council, or further considered by the Ministerial Council, at an early date and that it will be one of the matters considered by the National Commission when it is created.
– I have been advised that the matter has been under consideration by the Ministerial Council. The Council has decided that the question of the establishment of an accounting standards review committee should be one of the early tasks of the Companies and Securities Law Review Committee when that is established.
– That is a very satisfying answer.
Proposed new clauses negatived.
Clauses 45 to 47- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 48 (Restrictions on dealings in securities).
– by leave -I move:
Interests of members of the person’s immediate family should similarly be disclosed. In the event that arrangements satisfactory to the Minister or commissioners (as the case may be) cannot be arrived at, the offer of appointment should be withdrawn, or where the interests accrue or the person becomes aware of them after appointment, the appointment should be subject to termination.
This should not prevent holding assets in the form of Government securities or land, or other property not in the form of company securities or ‘interests ‘.
Trading in shares or other securities by any commissioner, officer or employee of the commission or trading on behalf of such a person should be forbidden.
Compare that with the language of the present Bill, which is much milder. Under the terms of clause 1 9, all that commissioners really need to do is register their pecuniary interests. Also under clause 1 9, staff members need only declare on an ad hoc basis pecuniary interests or former employment relationships that are relevant to any particular matter. Under clause 48, commissioners and staff can in fact deal in securities so long as they do not ‘deal in, or cause or procure any other person to deal in’ securities about which they have ‘information that is not generally available but, if it were, would be likely materially to affect the price of any securities ‘.
I take the view that the Rae Committee was right and that there should be an outright ban on members and staff of the Commission dealing in securities once they have been appointed. There are equally good arguments that members and staff of the Commission should not even hold any shares for the duration of their appointment. It may be that business appointees would need to place their holdings in a blind trust for the period of appointment, or some arrangement such as that. Certainly, to my knowledge, this has been the practice of members of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States of America, where it has been felt that they should be completely above suspicion of possible personal gain arising out of that position and the information to which that position gives them access. In the event, after considering the ramifications and the fairly severe restrictions on individuals that would be effected by an absolute blanket ban of this kind, the Opposition has moved an amendment of a somewhat softer kind, but nonetheless one which is considerably more stringent than the proposed clause 48.
The particular proposal that the Opposition moves here is best understood I think by approaching clause 48 on the basis that it has three distinct elements which have to be made out if a prosecution is to stand up. The first is that a person who has been appointed to the Commission, or is a staff member of it or has some associated role, must have information relating to the securities in question and have dealt in those securities. The second element that has to be made out is that the information is not generally available. The third element is that if the information had been generally available it would be likely materially to affect the price. The view of the Opposition is that that sequence of requirements, in fact, makes the prosecution’s task so difficult as to be almost incapable of being made out in any given case.
In respect of the third element about the material effect on price, we believe that the prosecution would face almost insurmountable obstacles in trying to prove in advance that the situation existed. It would be to prove in the abstract as it were. If a person who is working for the Commission uses insider information to gain advantage for himself or herself, the Opposition takes the view that it does not really matter whether that information would be such as to affect materially the price. It may be desirable to be able to establish this in a particular case but the difficulty of establishing it tends to make this whole clause a non-threatening one in respect of the members and employees of the Commission. We think that it ought to be a clause which operates as a genuine disincentive to dealing in interests in this way.
Similarly, the second element that I mentioned, namely, that the information be not generally available, also creates difficulties for a prosecution, perhaps intolerable burdens. It is a matter of approving, in effect, a negative- that the information is not generally available. That is always difficult to do to the satisfaction of any tribunal. We take the view that the basic principle should be that members of the Commission are persons committed to absolute probity in security dealings. They should never do anything that would raise the slightest suspicion about their behaviour. In terms of the actual drafting of this clause, we would say that it should not be the burden of the prosecution to prove that information which has been used in an insider trading context is generally available but rather that the burden should lie on the defence to establish that fact. So it is a matter -
– That is not what you usually say about the burden of proof.
– I accept, Senator Puplick, that an amendment involving a reverse onus in this way is rather an unusual kind of amendment for the Opposition to be moving. My personal preference, as I indicated at the outset, would be for a clause that got rid of all this business about allowing dealings or the possession of interests in certain circumstances except where other criteria could be made out. I would rather get rid of that altogether and prohibit absolutely the possession of any interests or the dealing in any interests. If the Government took the view that it did not like reverse onus clauses but would be prepared to accept a more stringent approach such as was recommended in very precise terms by the Rae Committee, as I read out, I for one would be only too happy if that approach were adopted. But the amendment represents an endeavour to meet the
Government halfway and, in fact, to say that an individual can continue to hold shares and interests and deal in those interests provided he is prepared to face the possible consequences of a proceeding in which an onus would be placed upon him that it would be very difficult to extricate himself from. That is a half-way house. To some people that might seem a more satisfactory gamble than giving up the possession of interests entirely or dealing in such interests. It is in that spirit that the Opposition puts forward the amendment in those terms. I acknowledge that this is a rather unusual situation for the Opposition but, as I have indicated, our preference is for something rather more stringent.
– The Opposition’s proposed amendment would place a more stringent legal responsibility on members or staff of the National Companies and Securities Commission in dealing in securities. This clause deals with a person who has been appointed, for the purposes of the National Companies and Securities Commission Act, or a person who has been engaged as a staff member or authorised to perform or exercise any function or power of the Commission. So the clause embraces a very wide area of people. It does not include just the members who may be full-time or part-time. One has to have regard to the range of people who will be affected by the clause in considering the level of legal obligation that would be placed on such people not to deal in securities. In broad terms the standard, legal obligation imposed is that such people do not engage in insider trading.
The Opposition’s amendment deals with the burden of proof. Clause 48 requires the prosecution to establish insider trading. The amendment, moved by Senator Evans- somewhat surprisingly, as he admits- proposes that there should be a reversal of the burden of proof and that a person should establish as his defence, to the satisfaction of the court, that information to which the prosecution relates was generally available to the public. In other words, a person must prove that he was not doing any inside trading. This would place a heavy burden on a defendant. The Government takes the view that in these circumstances the provision in clause 48 is adequate in relation to any legal obligation imposed on members or staff of the Commission or persons authorised to perform functions on behalf of the Commission.
I think it is unwise certainly for any full-time mem u.* rs or staff of the Commissin to be dealing in … I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange- to which Senator Evans has referred- and that was the counsel of perfection that we expressed. I do not resolve from that. My opinion is that members of the Commission would be unwise to deal in securities. Here we are not talking about what might be considered the standards adopted by an individual member or standards which I may adopt if I were in that position. We are determining what is the level of a legal obligation. It must be recognised that there are people who come within the provisions of clause 48 and whose income is not solely obtained from a salary from the Commission. Some people might do only part-time work. It may be very difficult for them to be covered by such a high legal prohibition. They may be people who are obtaining an income by dealing in securities. I think that that is the reason why clause 48 appears as it does. It reflects the fact that this is a piece of legislation which has had to be worked out in consultations with a large number of other people. It is the result of a co-operative exercise, as we have said. There has been some compromise in order to get a clause which is agreeable. As I say, although there may be a lot of wisdom in having stricter rules, the Government believes that this clause provides a sufficiently basic legal obligation. If we were to amend it in the way proposed by the Opposition- although I gather from Senator Evans that that probably is not his ideal solution either- there would be a very heavy burden of proof cast on a defendant.
-There are some remaining matters in clause 48 to be considered as the Opposition continues its futile efforts to make this Bill a counsel of perfection. I move:
– It is usually six years.
– Well, a lot of statutory limitation periods are less than that. Two years is the period which has been agreed on in this instance as being adequate. Whether some member or staff of the Commission was engaging in this type of activity would probably be revealed in that time and that would enable proceedings to be brought.
Clause agreed to .
Clause 49 (Notification of interests).
-by leave- On behalf of the Opposition I move:
-These amendments are not so much consequential upon as being to the same effect as earlier amendments. Rather than leaving it to regulations to prescribe what is a relevant interest we would prefer that to be identified on the face of the Act even though so identifying it is to broaden considerably the scope of the interest that would be so caught. We regard it as quite appropriate that a person with any kind of interest of the kind set out which could conceivably bring him into a conflict of interest situation or involve him in something which could be perceived by the community at large to involve a lack of probity should be precluded by legislation from possessing such interest or dealing in them. To that extent the proposed amendments are on all fours with the earlier amendments.
– As I said, the interests that are to be disclosed by members of the staff of the Commission are to be determined by regulations which are in the process of discussion at the Ministerial Council. These provisions will be contained in regulations.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 50 and 5 1 -by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 52 (Annual report and financial statements).
-by leave- I move:
– Yes, it is a big improvement.
- Senator Rae agrees that that is a very good provision. Clause 52 says that the Commission will do so in such form as the Ministerial Council approves. That report will be submitted to the Auditor-General, who shall report to the Ministerial Council in relation to it, and then the Minister shall cause copies of the report and financial statements together with a copy of the report of the Auditor-General to be laid before Parliament within 15 sitting days. There seem to be very adequate provisions as to the reporting by the Commission, and all this amendment does is to say that the Commission in its report shall also report on recommendations of the Review Committee and on the Accounting Standards Review Committee. The Government has not included such a provision in the legislation, although such a committee may well be set up. The amendment also refers to other matters. The proposal is that these matters should be specifically drawn to the attention of the Commission. I would have imagined that the Commission would be reporting on many matters, and no doubt would report on matters of that kind. If it fails to do so the Ministerial Council, under its powers as stated in clause 52, could require it to deal with these matters. I do not think it is necessary to spell out in the detail of this amendment the additional legal responsibilities of the Commission. The Government is opposed to these amendments.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
– The question is: That the Bill be reported without amendment.
– I must apologise to Senator Evans about the amendments he moved at an earlier stage on the question of the National Companies and Securities Commission holding hearings in public. As a result of a question asked by Senator Rae, I indicated that I would consider the matter and perhaps report later in the Committee stage, but I have not had an opportunity to consider the matter of whether there is anything which would prevent the Commission conducting hearings anywhere in Australia. I will need to give that some further consideration. I will provide an answer to the question raised by Senator Rae.
In dealing with that question I omitted to comment on the argument of Senator Evans in favour of his proposal that the Commission should hold hearings in public except in the specific circumstances which he set out in his amendment. I apologise for that. It was simply because of the speed with which the clause was dealt with by the Committee, for which I congratulate the Temporary Chairman of Committees. I have no complaint about that, but I am sorry that Senator Evans did not get an answer from me.
The Government wishes the Commission to have wide powers as to how it will conduct its affairs. The clause in question lays down some provisions whereby it will have to sit in public or in private, depending upon the particular powers that it is exercising. Apart from that, the Government believes that the Commission should be able to have a good deal of flexibility as to how it conducts its hearings. That point was well expressed by Senator Rae in speaking to the amendment when he said that the Commission should be able to act in a non-legalistic manner and be able to meet the exigencies of the commercial operations which it will have to face throughout most of its existence. We believe that it should have the maximum flexibility in this area. That is why the Government is not prepared to accept the proposal of Senator Evans that the Commission should be restricted in the manner proposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 14 November.
Human Rights Commission Bill 1979
Clause 9 (Functions of Commission).
-Mr Chairman, the production changes but the cast of characters remains the same! When consideration of this Bill was interrupted last week we had reached the stage of having accepted the amendment which was moved by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) to clause 9(l)(c) and which had the effect of clarifying some aspects of that clause to make it clear that the functions of the Commission, amongst others, were to report on its own initiative or when requested by the Minister as to the laws that should be made by the Parliament, or action that should be taken by the Commonwealth, on matters relating to human rights.
The next matter that remained to be attended to was the Opposition’s amendment and the Attorney-General’s amendment, both to clause 9(1) (d) which provides at present that the further function of the Commission should be: when requested by the Minister, to report to the Minister as to the action (if any) that, in the opinion of the Commission, needs to be taken by Australia in order to comply with the provisions of the Covenant or of any relevant international instrument;
As I understand it, the Attorney-General’s amendment, which he foreshadowed when this matter was last considered, was to delete that sub-clause entirely as being now unnecessary and redundant, given the extension and the extended operation of clause 9 ( 1 ) (c) which refers not to the Covenant but to human rights generally. On the other hand, my proposed amendment is a little sceptical of the AttorneyGeneral’s optimism in that respect that the sub-clauses are completely overlapping. Accordingly, the Opposition wishes to proceed with its amendment which has been circulated on the sheet as amendment No. (3) and the effect of which is to insert at the beginning of clause 9 ( 1) (d) the phrase ‘when it appears desirable to the Commission to do so, or when requested by the Minister’.
The object here is to make it clear that the Commission still has a quite explicit function to investigate the matters relating to the operation of the Covenant and that it should have that power not merely when requested by the Minister but also to initiate such an investigation on its own. On the last occasion I did not take the Attorney-General to be resisting in any way the notion that the Commission ought to have some capacity on its own initiative to look into matters relating to the Covenant. I took it that he wanted to omit that particular sub-clause not for any reason of that kind but because he took it as being subsumed under the new model clause 9(1) (c). The point that the Opposition wants to make in justification of pursuing its proposed amendment and .in arguing accordingly that clause 9 ( 1 ) (d) does not just cover the same territory as clause 9 ( 1 ) (c) but might add something to it is that it seems to us that there is an advantage in having an explicit reference to the Covenant.
True it is that human rights are denned in this Bill as meaning the rights and freedoms recognised in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or in any relevant international instrument and true it would be that a general power under clause 9 ( 1 ) (c) to investigate matters relating to human rights would accordingly enable a good deal of the matters associated with the operation of the Covenant to be specifically dealt with; but our concern, for example, is with something like Article 4 1 of the Covenant which on its face is not concerned with the subject matter of any of these human rights but with the procedure whereby a state- that is, a country which is party to the Covenant- may declare its recognition of the competence of the international human rights committee. Again questions might arise as to the proper construction or application of Article 50 of the Covenant, a very important article, which states:
The provisions of the present Covenant shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.
It may well be that if clause 9 ( 1 ) (d) is retained this can be a vehicle whereby the Commission can properly investigate the extent to which human rights are being effectively looked after in the State areas of the Commonwealth to which this Article of the Covenant applies. But in the absence of clause 9 ( 1 ) (d) it might be that a reference to human rights would have to be read down to mean simply human rights applying in the Commonwealth area. Because of the absence of a specific reference to the Covenant and having simply the reference to human rights which happen to be defined in the Covenant, it seems to me that the procedural clauses in the Covenant and those parts of the Covenant which are not directly concerned with human rights as such but rather with the scope, operation and procedures associated with the Covenant, may be outside the Commission’s scope. Again, of course, questions arise as to the potential application of the optional protocol which is the kind of question which it seems to us the Commission ought to be able to investigate and which might conceivably be outside the range of clause 9 ( 1 ) (c) but not outside the range of clause 9(1) (d) if the clause is left as it is.
For all those reasons- it may be that the Opposition is being excessively cautious in this respect- we believe, nonetheless, that there is some utility in preserving that specific reference to the Covenant and, indeed, to other relevant international instruments. We would ask that the Attorney both accept the Opposition’s amendment and not persist with his own amendment which would repeal the sub-clause entirely. Accordingly, I move:
-When I considered this matter the last time we were discussing the legislation, I certainly was of the opinion that what the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) was proposing was perfectly adequate. It seemed to me, by expanding the terms of paragraph ( 1 ) (c) of clause 9, that that widened the coverage of human rights. I listened to what Senator Evans said and certainly agree that there is some possibility of a restriction on the meaning of human rights which are, of course, defined as human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I put to the Attorney that there is another reason that gives me some doubt about the desirability of wiping out this paragraph; that is, that it still leaves paragraph (e) as it stands.
Paragraph (e) is curious in some respects because it is a very limited reference to international instruments. It gives the Commission the power to examine any relevant international instrument that the Minister requests- and as I understand the situation the Attorney might accept the amendment I am proposing or the Government may move the amendment on its own initiative- the Commission to examine for the purpose of ascertaining whether there are any inconsistencies between the instrument and the Covenant. This is a very limited reference in paragraph (e) to the international instrument.
-Yes, that is what I fear, that it may well be thought that this is the only power that relates to the investigation by the Commission into international instruments and which relates to that very specific provision to look for inconsistencies which surely must be only a small pan of the interest which the Commission ought to have in international instruments. Bearing that in mind, in addition to the argument which Senator Evans has raised, I wonder and I put it strongly to the Attorney, whether it would not be safer to allow paragraph (d) to be amended in order to leave it open to the provision- the Government may also do this on its own initiative- rather than remove it and rely entirely on paragraph (c).
– I think that the more words that are used the more room there is for doubts as to what those words are all about. I have considered paragraph (d) of clause 9 ( 1 ). I was advised that the purpose of paragraph (d) was to enable the Minister to ask for a special report on. what action needed to be taken by the Commonwealth Government to comply with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Paragraph (c) gives the proposed Commission a very wide charter to operate of its own volition, but it does not give the Minister the power to ask the Commission to report specially to him. The Minister might want a special report in relation to what action might need to be taken in Australia in order to comply with the Covenant.
In view of the fact that the Committee has now agreed to give the Minister power to commission reports from the Commission under paragraph
-With respect to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), some kind of argument- I do not know how sophisticated- has been advanced by me and Senator Missen to which the Attorney-General has not addressed himself in his reply. I know that the Attorney-General is preoccupied with people peering over his shoulder and talking into his ear, but my argument was concerned with particular issues, such as the meaning and application of Article 41 and Article 50 of the Covenant and the possible application of the optional protocol, all of which seem to be outside the immediate sphere of dealing with human rights. They deal not so much with human rights as with the machinery by which those human rights are protected.
Senator Missen advanced similarly a kind of expressiounius argument of some force- I adopt it myself- in respect of the possible disadvantage of now getting rid of paragraph (d) but retaining paragraph (e). That would rather suggest a quite limited power being vested in the Commission in respect of international instruments, given the fact that that matter has been singled out specifically to the exclusion of any other matter as far as international instruments are concerned. So although I can understand an argument that paragraph (c) does cover the whole field, I hope that the matter will be given serious attention before we rather relaxedly just consign paragraph (d) to the dust and possibly find ourselves in some legal trouble later on.
- Mr Chairman, I have an amendment to paragraph (e) of clause 9(1).
– I have an amendment to delete paragraph (d) of clause 9(1) altogether, but in the light of the doubts which have been raised about whether that would restrict the Minister in what he may be able to ask the proposed Human Rights Commission to do under paragraph (c), I would like to think the matter over. I think it is a bit late in the day to make decisions of that kind, particularly after the day we have had. Senator Evans and I already have dealt with three Bills in some detail today. Perhaps we would be better served if we were to consider the matter further. I suggest that, in view of what has been raised in relation to paragraph (d), we should postpone consideration of that paragraph.
-On that subject, I am indebted to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) for that suggestion. I certainly support it as, I take it, does Senator Missen. In the light of the Attorney’s willingness to postpone consideration of this clause, might I take the opportunity of asking him whether he is willing to share with the Committee the Government’s precise intentions regarding the future of this legislation this session. 1 understand that certain changes of heart having been accomplished by my colleagues opposite, Senators Missen, Puplick and Bonner.
– There have been no changes of heart whatsoever.
– There may have been no changes of heart, but at least there was a change of willingness to demonstrate that heart in public. As a result of the Press release that has been issued, I understand that certain amendments will not be voted upon favourably by those honourable senators, in return for which, I understood, the Government was in fact proposing to proceed with the legislation and not to consign it to the limbo where it might otherwise have resided. However, I am further led to understand that all this may be a complete waste of time anyway because the Government has no real intention, if the legislation is passed through this chamber this week, of taking it into the House of Representatives and seeking to get it through there before this Parliament rises. Before we all participate in what is fast assuming the appearance of a charade on this legislation, is the Attorney prepared, whether it is tonight or tomorrow morning, to indicate to the Opposition, to this chamber, to the public and to his own Government back benchers what precisely the Government’s intentions are regarding this legislation this session?
– The Government is in the hands of the Committee with this legislation. A great deal of time has been devoted to consideration of this measure. The Government has accorded it a great deal of time and certainly a great deal of time has been taken by honourable senators speaking on it and in progressing as far as we have. The Government was hoping that consideration of this measure might be speeded up and that it might be completed this evening. A very heavy legislative program is listed for the rest of the week and other Bills will be brought on for debate during the next few days. Whether the matter can be returned to during the rest of the week again is a matter in the hands of the Committee and will depend on how far other legislation which has to be passed urgently is dealt with. The Appropriation Bills and other urgent legislation must be passed. I cannot say any more than that. As I said, the Government was hoping that consideration might have been speeded up and that the Bill might have passed through the chamber tonight. Certainly progress so far has not indicated that that will happen unless we sit here all night, and we certainly do not intend to do that.
-With respect to the Attorney, I think it must be said that there has been a great deal of expedition on the part of the Opposition and everyone else in getting through a very heavy program today. We have had some extended discussion of this complicated matter concerning clause 9 ( 1) (c) and (d). We knew it was complicated when we last adjourned debate on this Bill. I do not think that it helps the expedition of these matters to suggest that unnecessary waffling has been going on on this particular clause tonight. The Opposition stands quite cheerfully ready to battle on on this Bill but we would just like to know where we are going. If the Attorney wants to get the Bill through tonight, could he please indicate how late he is going to make us sit to get it through and we will see what we can do to help.
- Mr Chairman, how late we sit is another matter for the Committee to decide.
– With respect to the AttorneyGeneral, he does not give those of us on this side of the chamber much chance to contribute to that decision.
– We can, by voting against the motion for the adjournment, and I hope that we will do so.
– There is one remaining matter in relation to clause 9 then, Mr Chairman.
– I have an extra amendment to clause 9(1) (e).
– We must clear up the situation with respect to clause 9. Does the AttorneyGeneral desire that I put his amendment to the Committee?
-I have asked that it be postponed.
– Is that the whole clause?
– No. We are referring to clause 9 (l)(d).
– Is it the wish of the Committee to postpone consideration of clause 9(l)(d)?
– It has been postponed. Both Senator Missen and Senator Evans have indicated that they have doubts about its being deleted. I thought that Senator Missen agreed that it could be deleted. I am not prepared to make any decision on that tonight.
– I do not understand why the Attorney should be angry. We are agreeing that consideration ought to be postponed. I understood that it was agreed that clause 9(1) (d) ought to be postponed tonight. I would be very happy if that were done.
-If consideration is postponed tonight the Bill will not be passed tonight.
– In that event, I will withdraw my agreement. I would rather see the matter decided now. I do not see any reason why the passage of the Bill should be stopped after we have considered the amendment. Whichever way it goes, I think that this is not one of the most important of the amendments. If it is not to be, I think that we ought to vote on the clause.
-With respect, the Opposition will not be intimidated in that way. For God ‘s sake, if it is simply a matter of sleeping on it over night, coming back in the morning and finishing the Bill off in five minutes surely the Attorney-General ought to be able to co-operate. It seems to me that he is getting tetchy because for once the Senate is behaving like a proper House of review and matters are emerging in the course of argument rather than people simply adopting predetermined postures. It seems to me that that is the way we must proceed. Matters such as this will arise which will require consideration. Another one or two might even emerge in the next hour or so which we can clean up tommorrow morning in the light of further consideration. On that basis, I would prefer that we postpone consideration, continue the debate, and get done as much as we can, with or without the presence of Senator Archer, who appears to be leaving the chamber, and whose contributions are not especially helpful on this or anything else, for that matter.
– I have requested that this clause be postponed in the light of arguments that have been advanced and which I propose to consider.
-Thank you. That is appreciated.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That consideration of clause 9 ( 1 ) (d) be postponed.
– The Committee will proceed to consideration of clause 9(1) (e).
– I wish to move an amendment. This paragraph, which relates to further functions of the Commission states, as it stands, that the Commission is to examine any relevant international instrument that the Minister has requested the Commission to examine. I move:
The amendment would bring the paragraph into line with the provisions which the AttorneyGeneral has suggested in relation to paragraph (c). I understand that the Attorney has agreed to this proposal, which relates to a relatively minor and specific power concerning the investigation of an instrument to see whether in fact it may contain inconsistencies by comparison with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This seems to me to be something that the Commission ought to be able to do on its own volition. It would be self-motivating and there would be no delay. The Commission could proceed to look into such matters. I do not propose to say more on the amendment at this stage.
– The amendment is accepted by the Government.
-The amendment is one that the Opposition wanted to move in its own right, so we too are very happy about it.
Amendment agreed to.
-Once again there is a small matter in clause 9 ( 1 ) (f) about which I wish to ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I wish to know whether he has been approached by distinguished international lawyers and others with a view to adding a phrase to clause 9 ( 1 ) (f) where it says:
What is the attitude of the Attorney-General to the insertion after the words ‘human rights’, of the expression ‘and of international humanitarian law’? Honourable senators will be aware that the International Committee of the Red Cross has recently circulated a pamphlet to all of us indicating the nature and content of international humanitarian law.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I do not labour the point but the main content of the international humanitarian law is the Geneva conventions associated with the conduct of war, matters certainly unequivocably related to human rights and the dignity of the individual. I simply raise the question, as I understand that it has been put to the Attorney-General from some quite distinguished sources, of whether that amendment is in any way acceptable to the Government.
– At this stage we do not think it is appropriate to add to the functions of the Commission. As is set out, the purpose of this Commission is to have regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is provision in the Bill to adopt other relevant international instruments. They would be tabled and would be subject to disallowance. If it were thought appropriate, the provision dealing with humanitarian law conventions, which has been mentioned, could be adopted at some other stage. But as I have said, at this stage the object of establishing this Commission is to give effect to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
– I move:
The Commission then may examine- I will paraphrase- any State Act or Northern Territory enactment and may also inquire into any Acts and practices that may be inconsistent with any human right. The point I wish to make is that this clause does not go to the extent to which the amendment of Senator Evans and the Opposition would have gone into State acts and practices. Under the definition clause of the Bill, State acts and practices are defined as relating to Commonwealth laws. I am sorry, that is not the relevant point here. The amendment enables the Commission to examine the laws and also the acts and practices that are performed under State laws. The Commission’s examination would be limited by the requirement that it be ‘relevant and conducive’ to the performance of its other functions. In other words, it is not intended that it should be a fishing expedition, with the Commission going all over the place looking at State acts and practices. Those acts and practices must relate to the powers that are already in the Bill. Also, they must be shown to be for the protection and advancement of human rights in Australia.
The argument that the great majority of breaches of human rights in this country occur under State laws, acts and practices has already been made. There is no doubt about that. That is where the people are most greatly affected, where police actions happen, where actions concerned with housing and other activities are encountered and where discriminations and objections are likely to be raised. It cannot be said that we are complying properly with this particular Convention if we do not examine the major areas in which breaches take place. Therefore one has a situation- quite apart from the requirement under Article 50 of the Covenantwhereby actions and laws shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions. To comply with that, and to be seen to comply with it, we need to have this relationship with the investigation of State laws. One of the reasons why it ought to be considered in this broad way is covered in a letter that I received today from Professor Julius Stone, the Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales. Professor Stone had read and spoken of the critique that I had written on the two Bills. He writes:
Your points on both Bills, if I may say so, seem to me powerful and persuasive.
Perhaps I may add that, in the present state of international alignments, it would be hazardous for the Commonwealth to enter into new international obligations such as the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and yet not assume legislatively the necessary powers to secure respect for those obligations throughout Australia. This might produce situations custom-made to provide pretexts for politically motivated intrusions of unfriendly groups of States in our affairs. Such dangers, of course, always exist; but we should not increase them by making empty gestures. 1 suggest that honourable senators should take into account the fact that Professor Julius Stone, who is an expert on international law and matters of law generally, points out that we really need to take up the legislative powers under the Covenant and see that they apply throughout Australia, or we shall leave ourselves open to criticism and attack by people who may say that we are not complying with our duties under the Covenant.
Likewise, among the submissions that have been made to the Government in this area are those made by the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties. The Council has also pointed out the necessity to go as far as this in order to give a new and vital impetus to the question of investigation of the laws. In addition, we are covering here an area in which the major contests are likely to occur. If we are not in a position in which the Commonwealth and the Commission have the power to investigate those matters it may well be argued- as was argued by the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties- that we are not acting in conformity with the Covenant when we fail to take up the necessary power. In fact, our external powers may not apply. We may not, in fact, be complying with the Covenant and using our external affairs power if we do not take up the duty to investigate, or look into at least, interstate laws. I know that that is opposed by the Government. I could understand the opposition to that situation if it were an interference with State laws and an attempt to change them. But I cannot understand the suggestion that the Commission is not. to have the power to compare State laws with Federal laws, to compare one State law with another, or to come up with draft suggestions to try to give leadership in this country on the question of improving the various laws relating to human rights. It is for these reasons that I have moved my amendment which I trust, even at this late stage, may be accepted.
– I was puzzled for a time when I heard Senator Missen commence his speech on this proposed new clause 9 ( 1 ). I had understood that this was one of those matters on which he was engaged in something of a contretemps with the Government and on which he had not, along with his colleagues, retreated into a state of monastic abstention. But it appears that Senator Missen is pursuing this clause. Indeed, the Opposition supports him. It would add another string to the bow of the Human Rights Commission to at least be able to investigate and report upon the state of human rights, by reference to the standards in the Covenant, in the States and in the territories where most of the civil liberty interfering action, as we know, takes place. However, when one closely examines this kind of clause one sees why it is that Senator Missen, and no doubt his colleagues, were able to accommodate themselves to it and, in particular, how the Government was able to accommodate itself to the chance of a clause such as this appearing in the final Bill.
The reality is that a clause of this kind by itself will not do very much at all to improve the actual situation on the ground. The real thing that matters, if one is talking about the enjoyment and the protection of human rights in the States, is to have some enforcement mechanism attached to provisions of this kind which would enable the investigation of particular complaints and the following up of such investigation by, where appropriate, court proceedings and by, where it is even more appropriate, the striking down in those court proceedings of particular pieces of obnoxious legislation. Of course, nothing of that kind is within the compass of Senator Missen ‘s amendment. There is a certain capacity which one notices from Senator Missen from time to time for what I might describe kindly as selective indignation; the problem is identified with some vigour but the solution is perhaps somewhat less robust than the nature of the problem might tend to make one believe.
– It is still too robust to be accepted.
– It may be too robust to be accepted, but I am glad to know it is at least in that middle category of matters which the Government does not accept but if, by some fortuitous turn of the voting cards, it should be defeated on it will not take its bat and ball home and deny the Australian public such merit as this legislation may possess. It is pleasant to have at least that understanding, which I hope the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will now confirm. I simply reiterate the Opposition’s support for a small, additional string to the Commission ‘s bow which will at least get it into the area of looking at State laws. Hopefully that might provide the foundation on which some more substantial excursion into the correction of real injustice may, in the future, take place.
– I rise very briefly to support this proposed new clause 9(1) moved by Senator Missen. I think it goes a little further than Senator Evans conceded, although not so far as to make any finding by the Commission in relation to State laws such as would render a State law that is inconsistent with a human right inoperative. It does go so far as to not only permit the Commission to examine any State law or enactment in a general way but also to look at a particular instance where it is said that the State Act or some activity authorised by State law does violate a human right as judged by the criteria set out by the Human Rights Commission Bill. It is in this particular area, where the Commission is authorised to inquire into any Act or practice that may be inconsistent with a human right, that I think this particular amendment suggested by Senator Missen can do some good. This particular amendment ought to be supported by honourable senators. It goes a fair distance towards enabling this Federal Commission to look at that vast area where human rights violations may occur within Australia, namely within State jurisdiction and under State law. It also deserves support because it continues to amend the Bill in a way which is only in harmony with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Bill is said to be attempting to bring into some operation within Australian law.
As has been pointed out time and time again, if Australia is to go into the international community and say that as a nation state it will try to ensure that all the rights outlined in the Covenant are recognised throughout Australia, it has an obligation under Article 50 of the Covenant to ensure that as far as possible recognition of those rights goes beyond any barriers arising from our federal system. Insofar as this particular amendment is in accordance with the total spirit of the intention of the Covenant, particularly Article 50, I commend it to the Committee.
– I wish very briefly to indicate my support for the amendment which Senator Missen has moved. I said, I hope fairly clearly, during my speech at the second reading stage, that I believed that failure to extend the power of the Human Rights Commission to examine matters under State law was an unnecessary weakening of the effective role that the Commission could play in the protection of human rights in Australia. I drew attention to an impressive letter that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 October 1979 from Mr John Dowd, M.P., a member of the New South Wales Parliament, who is President of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists. In his letter he stated:
Governments are the greatest violators of human rights and in the Australian federal system the overwhelming majority of these violations occur under State law.
The proposed Commission is limited to Commonwealth laws, and indeed excludes, unless the responsible Minister refers it, all proposed legislation. Conciliation, a useful technique in the discrimination context, is an inadequate tool to deal with rights such as those of an accused person on arrest, or matters such as the death penalty, to name but two of the matters covered by the Covenant.
I agree very strongly with those comments. My views on that matter were reinforced in a document which I received today, which was prepared by the office of the Commisioner for Community Relations under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. It is entitled: ‘Queensland Aboriginal Reserves Policies, Administration and Discrimination’. In that document the Commissioner referring to the practices of the Queensland Government, says in part:
The powers of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and of Community Councils- which are merely fronts for many administrative decisions and actions- are destructive of communities in that they allow the removal of people from reserves often for minor reasons. The impression is gained that segregation and protection are still current practices.
Without full consultation and full knowledge and understanding of administration and operations on reserves, Community Councils can only be regarded as fronts for achieving goals which appear alien to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and human rights.
Frankly, if the Human Rights Commission is to have any validity I think it should have the power to inquire into breaches of human rights which takes place under State jurisdiction. It is no more than that; it is not an enforcement mechanism or anything else, but an ability to make an inquiry, an ability to draw these matters to the attention of the Federal Parliament and the people of Australia. It is for those reasons that I support the amendment moved by Senator Missen.
-I oppose this amendment. I accept the purpose which lies behind it, which is that we must make sure that this Bill will be effective and will justify us in ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, we live in a federal system and I think it is essential that first we should try to reach co-operative arrangements with the States. I have very great doubts whether this will be possible, but we must try. I would be heartened in my belief in this position if I could have an assurance from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) that if the Senate passes this Bill, which is openly designed as a mechanism by which we can ratify the United Nations Covenant, the Government is determined to make the human rights legislation effective in Australia by any means in its constitutional power. I should like an assurance that it will try co-operative arrangements with the States and that if they do not work it will use its constitutional power to make the Bill effective.
Senator BONNER (Queensland) C 1 1-19) - I wish just to indicate my support for the amendment moved by Senator Missen. I do so because we are not asking for the Human Rights Commission to go into the States and to change or condemn their laws. All we are asking is that there be an examination of: . . any State Act or Northern Territory enactment or any law (including rules, regulations or by-laws) made under a State Act or Northern Territory enactment for the purpose of ascertaining whether the State Act, the Northern Territory enactment or the law, as the case may be, is inconsistent with or contrary to any human rights, and report to the Minister . . .
This amendment simply asks the Commission to examine the Act or law and report back. Then perhaps, as Senator Hamer has suggested, the Minister may be able to negotiate with the Ministers of that State who are responsible for that law or Act. He may be able to negotiate, point out where it does offend against the Federal Human Rights Commission, and maybe he will be able to persuade them to change their law.
It gets a little tiresome when we are trying to assist, change and bring amendments to legislation, because we believe that what we are doing is right and we are exercising the right of our conscience, and we continually receive criticism and innuendoes from God’s gift to the Senate in the form of Senator Evans. He has been a member of Parliament for a short time. When the time comes that he has the courage of his convictions to vote against his party then I will doff my hat to him.
– This amendment seeks to extend the function of the Human Rights Commission to an examination of State laws, Acts and practices to see whether they conform with the principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I thought I had made it perfectly clear- I hope 1 did in my second reading speech when introducing this proposal and in my reply to the debate during the second reading stage of the Bill- that the Government is not prepared to agree to the Human Rights Commission having a function in relation to State laws and practices. I have said that the Government believes that the Federal system is one to which it is entirely committed. The Government is following a policy of cooperative federalism in this respect and all other respects. Therefore, the Government is not prepared to make what would be an absolutely fundamental breach of that principle to establish a Commonwealth commission whose business it was to look not only over the States’ laws but also the acts and practices adopted by State governments or indeed any acts and practices within the power of the States Governments.
That would be an extremely wide-ranging power and would change the whole character of this Commission as proposed in the Bill. I have said that the reason for that policy is that not only do we espouse the principle of federalism but also as a government we propose to live by it in the actions we take. We believe that a federal system of government is one of the major bulwarks in preserving human rights and in the dispersal of power away from central government. The concentration of all power will not be vested in the hands of one person, one body and one place. The exercise of power will be by those who are close to the subject, that is, of course, those who are being governed. Therefore, this amendment is opposed by and totally unacceptable to the Government.
asked me for some assurances about what the Government’s future policy will be in relation to these matters. I can give no assurance at all of the kind that he seeks in this matter. In fact, any assurances I would give would be in the opposite direction, namely, that this Government does not propose to exercise certain powers that Senator Hamer seems to think it has. Many constitutional lawyers have expressed doubts about whether it has those powers. Assuming that it has the powers which Senator Hamer thinks it has, the Government does not propose to exercise powers under the International Covenant to impose on the States, contrary to any co-operative arrangement that may be entered into, any of those principles in the Covenant which it is adopting as guidance in respect of its own laws, acts and practices.
I want to make quite clear, insofar as the ratification and the future implementation in Australia of the Covenant are concerned, that we are engaged in a co-operative exercise with the States and the obligations that we can undertake internationally are only those such as can be agreed to by the States as well as by ourselves. Therefore, as I have said, the Government is opposed to this amendment. 1 can give no assurance that it is likely at any time to change that approach to this legislation.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Missen’s amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 10 (Powers and duties of Commission).
– I move:
The requirement that a complainant have a ‘sufficient interest’ is an imprecise formula which could prove very restrictive if traditional views as to what constitutes a ‘sufficient interest’ in law are to be adopted. The Australian Law Reform Commission, in its Discussion Paper on Access to the Courts, criticised traditional rules on standing. It opted for giving courts power to reject actions “if satisfied that the plaintiff has no real concern with the issues”.
That discussion paper is an indication of the expression of the Law Reform Commission. The language of concern does not seem to have anything like the same real legal connotation but it may well be sufficient. I am certainly prepared to accept that.
-Very briefly, I support the amendment proposed by Senator Evans, namely, that clause 10 (4) (f) be deleted. I do so simply because I find the substitution proposed by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) very difficult to comprehend. The Attorney’s amendment provides that the matter ought not to be proceeded with by the Commission if the subject matter of the complaint is not of sufficient concern to the complainant. To be quite frank, it is difficult to conceive of somebody going to the trouble of mounting a case before the Commission, going through all the difficulty, the expense and certainly the consuming of time to bring before the Commission’s notice an alleged violation of human rights, if it were not of sufficient concern to the complainant. It seems to me that these are very empty words which are so vague as to be meaningless. Perhaps that is the intention of the Attorney; perhaps his amendment is a compromise which he knows does not have any substance or meaning.
The real point is that there are sufficient other criteria present in clause 10 (4) to enable the Commission not to have its time wasted by matters which are frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith or where the subject matter of the complaint is merely trivial. In that case, I cannot see that this added criterion is needed in order to ensure that the Commission is not swamped with too many cases for it to make sensible reports. After all, matters of standing are designed largely to enable a court, as far as possible, to deal with cases of some importance rather than to be subjected to every person’s whim or trivial complaint.
My further objection to the suggested substitution of words by the Attorney is that surely the question is not whether the subject matter of the complaint is or is not of sufficient concern to the complainant; the question is whether the matter is of sufficient concern to the person whose right is alleged to have been violated. It may well be that the complainant and the person whose right is said to be violated are not one and the same person. It may well be that the Commission could form the judgment that the subject matter of the complaint is not of sufficient concern to the complainant. But it may well be of very real and vital concern to the person whose right is said to be violated by the act or practice complained of. In that case I would say that this particular criterion should be struck out of the Bill because it may lead to a situation where somebody who does not have the fortitude or the strength or who cannot afford to take the risk of being the complainant when his or her right has been violated relies on some other person. The fact that that other person cannot demonstrate a sufficient concern should not disable the Commission from dealing with the complaint, which may very well vitally affect the human right of the person whose right is said to be violated.
– The purpose of this paragraph (f) of clause 10 (4) is to deal with the sort of situation that Senator Tate has envisaged If a person has sufficient concern personally in the matter it is fair enough that that person should bring the complaint, and no doubt he or she will do so. Paragraph (f) deals with the situation where people who do not have sufficient concern and who act as officious by-standers or general busybodies bring a complaint and thereby create a lot of work for the Commission. It may be difficult to say that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or trivial, but the object of a clause such as this is to control the volume of work coming to the Commission as indeed the whole question of requiring people to stand before courts is to control the volume of work that may come to them. My first proposal was, as printed in the Bill, that the complainant should have a sufficient interest. Representations were made to me that the word ‘interest’ has a rather technical, legal meaning, and it has been interpreted in such a way that the complainant had to have some financial interest. That may well be the interpretation. That is not really what was intended. In order to make it quite clear that that was not to be the controlling factor we decided on the words as proposed in the amendment that I shall move. There is nothing much that I can add. I trust that the Committee will agree to delete the paragraph and to insert the words which I will propose.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
This clause provides that:
1 ) The Minister may make an arrangement with a Minister of a State or of the Northern Territory for or in relation to . . .
Whilst on the face of it this is a somewhat innocuous provision, perhaps even a convenient one, it has given rise to a good deal of concern, particularly in the context of the administration of the Racial Discrimination Act. This clause, if applied literally, would enable the new Commission to divest itself of the administration of the Racial Discrimination Act and to vest that in the Queensland Government. In other words, the Commonwealth could hand back to the Queensland Government the administration of the Racial Discrimination Act. That is a thoroughly unsavoury prospect. Perhaps it is one that not even this Government would be tempted to entertain. It is a prospect that concerns the Opposition. It is concerned that things of this kind, in an excess of federalist sentiment, might take place. We believe it is appropriate that the Commission may on occasion engage jointly with the States in the exercise of human rights protection but we do not think that it is ever likely to be appropriate that the Commission divest itself entirely of this function. For that reason we support the deletion of the paragraph entirely. I appreciate that Senator Missen has similar concerns about the possible operation of clause 1 1 ( 1 ) (b) and proposes a different solution; namely, that any such divesting take place with the consent of the Commission. That is an alternative which we would support in the event that our own more radical and drastic surgery proves unsuccessful.
– I think that Senator Evans’ proposal is too drastic. There may be a need for work to be done by a State or a State authority, not only jointly as provided for in clause 1 1 ( 1 ) (a). Sub-clause ( 1 ) (b) involves a provision under which one could imagine, particularly in circumstances where a limited number of persons is available, that a State authority would be suitably able to carry out some of the Commission’s functions. On the other hand, it seems to me that there is a grave danger that an arrangement could be made by a future Attorney-General with a future State Attorney which the Commission is without any ability of its own to refuse. It could be bypassed and some of its functions taken away. I put this view in my speech on the second reading, so I will not expand on it. That seems to me to be a dangerous situation, and it is encompassed by the amendments of both the Opposition and myself.
My proposal is to offer two amendments to provide that, firstly, it should be done only by regulations, and those regulations would be subject to disallowance by the houses of the Parliament. The Parliament would therefore keep control over any breaking up of the powers of the Commission. Secondly, it should be done with the consent of the Commission, so that the Commission, which is the expert body in this field, knows what is being done and agrees to it. Those are the amendments, Nos. 6 and 7, that I will move and I suggest that they are preferable to the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition or Senator Missen’s proposed amendment. It does seem that there is a misunderstanding of the purpose and, indeed, the effect of clause 1 1. In order to facilitate a lot of the administrative arrangements that will be required in the performance of functions by the Commission and to rationalise as much as possible the whole area of administration of human rights matters at Federal and State levels, hopefully with the prospect that there will be firm cooperative arrangements in all these matters, it is desirable to provide in the legislation that arrangements may be made between Commonwealth and State Ministers in relation to the performance of functions and in order to provide for State or Territory authorities to act on behalf of the Commonwealth in some respects.
This clause provides a framework which would have to be adopted by the Human Rights Commission. It does not give the power to the Minister to hand over functions and prevent the Human Rights Commission from performing those functions. It is simply a matter of the Minister entering into arrangements with the States by which certain functions will be taken over by those States if the Human Rights Commission thinks that is suitable. I cannot see how clause 1 1 can have the effect which both Senator Evans and Senator Missen seem to think it will have. As far as Senator Evans’s amendment is concerned, obviously it is part of the Government’s policy that where in some places it may be desirable to utilise a State body or authority to perform work for the Commonwealth, that is all part of the good sense of rationalisation of the administration of matters in the area of human rights. For that reason alone, the Government would be opposed to Senator Evans ‘ amendment.
Senator MISSEN (Victoria) < 1 1.55)- I seek leave to move amendments Nos 6 and 7 together because they are specifically connected. As I explained earlier, they are the alternative way in which I suggest the arrangement should be included in the legislation.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Clause agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
Did the advertisement appear anywhere other than in newspapers; if so:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (l)and(2)-
asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The officer concerned did apply for transfer at reduced status and his application was approved by the Department in accordance with normal procedures. The appeals against the promotion as Airport Manager were negated when that promotion lapsed on confirmation of the officer’s promotion as Air Traffic Controller Grade 5.
The Department believed that to omit the officer from consideration for reasons quite outside his or the Department’s control would have been an unreasonable denial of his legitimate claims for promotion.
The Public Service Board has advised that it does not consider in these circumstances that there was an unethical promotion situation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 29 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following data were supplied by the State Housing Authority in each State:
New South Wales
1 ) The number of houses financed from funds from the States Grants Housing Act 1971 and previous Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements which was sold during the years 1973-74 to 1978-79 is as follows:
1973-74, 640; 1974-75, 940; 1975-76, 1,249; 1976-77,974; 1977-78, 108; 1978-79,265.
A specific answer is not available. Part of the money collected was used for repayments of principal and interest to the Commonwealth and the remainder for purposes duly authorised by New South Wales Housing Act 1912-75 and Housing Act 1941-75, and having the approval of the State Government. The principal such purpose would be the construction of new housing for eligible applicants to the Housing Commission.
1 ) The number of houses financed from funds from the States Grants Housing Act 1971 and the previous Commonwealth/State Housing Agreements which was sold during the years 1973-74 to 1978-79 is as follows:
1973-74, 1,922; 1974-75, 1,484; 1975-76, 1,160; 1976-77, 1,520; 1977-78,933; 1978-79,538.
A specific answer is not available. In general, as the great majority of houses sold were on a terms basis, such additional funds that were generated would have been re-invested in housing.
1 ) The number of houses financed from funds from the States Grants Housing Act 1971 and previous Commonwealth/State Housing Agreements which was sold during the years 1973-74 to 1978-79 is as follows:
1973-74, 1,578; 1974-75, 1,305; 1975-76, 591; 1976-77,779; 1977-78,573; 1978-79,330.
) All monies returned were re-used on welfare housing. South Australia
1 ) The total number of rental houses sold by the South Australia Housing Trust during the years 1973-74 to 1978-79 is as follows:
1973-74, 354; 1974-75, 129; 1975-76, 142; 1976-77, 126; 1977-78, 126; 1978-79, 124.
In supplying this information the Trust was not able to distinguish readily between dwellings financed under the States Grants Housing Act 1971 or previous Commonwealth-State Agreements and those financed under other arrangements.
A specific answer is not available. It is the policy of the South Australian Housing Trust to re-invest monies received from the sale of rental housing into its building program.
The number of houses financed under the States Grants Housing Act 1971 and previous Commonwealth/State Housing Agreements which was sold during the years 1 973-74 to 1 978-79 is as follows:
1973-74, 258; 1974-75, 364; 1975-76, 608; 1976-77,733; 1977-78, 103; 1978-79,72.
All monies so collected were re-invested in further housing.
1 ) The number of houses financed from funds from the States Grants Housing Act 1971 and previous Commonwealth/State Housing Agreements which was sold during the years 1973-74 to 1978-79 is as follows:
1973-74, 198; 1974-75,44; 1975-76, 15; 1976-77, 3; 1977-78,2; 1978-79,7.
All funds received were re-invested in housing.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 28 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 30 August 1 979:
What is the reason for the continuing delay in promulgating regulations under the Family Law Act 1975, s. 1 1 1, to enable performance of Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance signed on 20 June 1956, which matter was the subject of House of Representatives Question on Notice Nos 233 of 1977, 121 of 1978 and 799 of 1978, by the Honourable E. G. Whitlam.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There has been a need to devise procedures appropriate for proceedings of an unusual nature in that the claimant will at all times be in another country. The procedures must provide for representation of that party and for the expeditious hearing and determination of claims notwithstanding that the party is unavailable locally to give evidence or to be cross-examined. They must also be made available in courts throughout Australia and be agreed to by the States in respect of their application to maintenance claims that are still governed by State law (e.g. maintenance of ex-nuptial children). Consideration of these matters has been proceeding but is not complete.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 29 August 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 29 August 1 979:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
Up to 29 August 1979, one senior Counsel and ten junior Counsel had been paid fees directly by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department for professional services on behalf of the prosecution in respect of the alleged frauds. The total amount of the fees paid to 29 August 1979 was $341,246.20. Officers of the Attorney-General ‘s Department who are lawyers have also been engaged in these cases on behalf of the prosecution. No separate accounts have been kept of salary payments made to these laywers in respect of work done on these cases.
As to the lawyers for the defence who are being paid directly by the Attorney-General’s Department in respect of these alleged frauds, I refer the honourable senator to the answer given by me to Question No. 1855.I would add that certain officers of the Australian Legal Aid Office who are lawyers have also been engaged on these cases on behalf of defendants. No separate accounts have been kept for salary payments made to these lawyers in respect of work done on these cases.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 29 August 1 979:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
1 ) (a) and (b) In relation to all the cases before the Court (including those in respect of which committal proceedings are current)-
In regard to (a), the amount stated does not include any amount in respect of salaries for lawyers and support staff in the Attorney-General’s Department who have been involved in these cases. The costs are costs met from votes under the control of the Attorney-General ‘s Department.
In regard to (b), relevant costs have been incurred before Court proceedings commenced, in respect of interlocutory Court matters and, since the commencement of the committal proceedings, both in relation to sitting days and nonsitting days.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(a) There are 30 firms of solicitors representing persons to whom legal aid has been granted by the Australian Legal Aid Office. Twelve of those firms are involved in the current committal proceedings. Eleven barristers have been briefed on behalf of legally aided defendants in the current committal proceedings. In addition, one senior counsel has been retained by the Australian Legal Aid Office from time to time.
Payments by the Commonwealth up to and including 29 August 1 979 totalled $ 1 42,87 1 . 00.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 12 September 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice, on 18 September 1979:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs referred the question to me as the subject falls within my portfolio responsibilities. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 1 8 September 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 19 September 1979:
Have Australia’s two private mortgage insurers, namely Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Company of Australia, and Australian Mortgage Insurance Company, lobbied the Government to have the Government-owned Housing Liabilities Insurance Company compete in the market-place on the same footing as do these private insurers; if so, why has the Government decided to sell the Housing Liabilities Insurance Company instead of following the course of action that was suggested by its competitors.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has received a number of representations from interested parties concerning proposed amendments to the Insurance Act 1973.
The decision to sell the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is based on the viewpoint that Governments should wherever possible avoid direct involvement in activities in which the private sector has a demonstrated capacity. As indicated in the announcement of the sale by the Treasurer and the Minister for Housing and Construction, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has been highly successful in serving as a catalyst for the development of a mortgage insurance industry in Australia and the encouragement of lower deposit loans to home buyers. Since the Corporation’s establishment in 1965 private sector companies have entered the field and a vigorously competitive market has developed, providing a wide range of mortgage insurance services at relatively low cost to consumers.
Now that the industry is established on a sound footing the Government believes mortgage insurance should be provided by the private sector.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 10 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Auditor-General of Queensland has commented that of the amount shown in the statement as expenditure by the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education on ‘college purposes’, the following amounts were not, in his opinion, college purposes:
The first-mentioned amount has been queried because the Auditor-General believes the payment is of a capital rather than recurrent nature. The second and third amounts have been queried because they involve the acquisition of an item of equipment at a cost of more than $2,000 in respect of the year, which is the limit imposed in the States Grants Act.
It is a condition of the Act that the State will ensure that recurrent expenditure in relation to a particular college should be at least equal to the amount of the grant available under the Act. After deducting the amounts queried by the Auditor-General from the amount expended by Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education, the net expenditure by the Institute for recurrent purposes exceeds the Commonwealth grant for the Institute in respect of 1 978. Accordingly, the State has met the condition of the grant in respect of the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education in 1 978.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 10 October 1979:
Has the Government considered introducing a system, on a means criterion, of identification cards for persons on superannuation benefits who are experiencing hardship because of inflation, but who are ineligible for concessions offered by local and State Government authorities, so that such persons would be eligible to receive sundry benefits and discounts for which other aged persons are eligible.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government announced in the recent Budget that increases in income test limits for eligibility for Commonwealth pensioner fringe benefits will apply from 1 November. This decision will benefit many people in need, some of whom will be receiving superannuation benefits. Further extension of these limits for recipients of superannuation benefits is not currently under consideration by the Government.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 16 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Electoral: Inclusion of Party Affiliations on Ballot Papers (Question No. 2121)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 24 October 1 979:
Did a discussion paper prepared for the South Australian State Council of the Liberal Party in Adelaide contain the suggestion that candidates for trade union elections should have their political party affiliations included on ballot papers; if so, what action, if any, is proposed to extend this principle to Federal and State elections.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not for me to comment on whether or not a paper has been prepared for the South Australian Liberal Party.
As far as State election laws are concerned these are matters for State Governments and Parliaments.
No changes to federal legislation are proposed to be put forward on this subject in the immediate future.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 24 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 24 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
If a pensioner or beneficiary considers that the Department has not satisfactorily explained the reasons for a decision, a more detailed explanation will be provided. Pensioners and beneficiaries may also obtain copies of any documents they have provided in connection with their claims or any statements made to officers of the Department. The secrecy provisions of the Social Services Act limit the extent to which other documents can be made available.
The pensioner or beneficiary is also advised that the case may be reviewed by a Review Officer and of the right of appeal to a Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
In the course of the review by a Review Officer and /or the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, the pensioner or beneficiary has the opportunity to make oral and written representations on any matter that is relevant to the appeal.
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 25 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 8 November 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Other major sources of funds for research are the Australian Research Grants Committee, the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council which are the responsibility of my colleagues the Ministers for Science and the Environment and Health respectively.
- Senator Thomas asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, the following question on 2 1 August 1979, without notice:
I direct a question to the Minister representing both the Minister for National Development and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. It is illegal at present for small unlicensed distilleries to be operated in Australia. Because of the increasing cost and the risk of irregular supplies of oil-based fuels for rural production, will the Government consider allowing small distilleries to be operated in country areas to provide ethanol or grain alcohol as a fuel supplement and, depending on the product used for distillation, a high protein stock food as a by-product?
The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As a matter of priority, the Government is currently examining the question of the application of excise regulations to ethanol production very closely, including small scale production in rural areas. A decision on this matter will be announced soon. Until this decision has been made, current laws relating to the distillation of alcohol must remain in force.
-On 20 September 1979 Senator Watson asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, the following question without notice:
Bearing in mind that single unemployed have not received any increase in unemployment benefit for two years, and bearing in mind that 24 1 ,500 people are involved, or 77.5 per cent of those receiving the unemployment benefit, I ask: What further measures will the Government implement to alleviate the range of problems of unemployed persons, especially those with no dependants and living away from home?
The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following information:
In 1 979-80 it is estimated that 2 1 2,000 persons will obtain assistance under the Government’s manpower programs. Nearly 152,000 of the participants will be receiving assistance for the first time. Details of the estimated number of persons in manpower programs in 1 979-80 are presented in the below table.
Kampuchea: Conversion of Food to Ethanol
-On 27 September 1979 Senator Mcintosh asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, the following question without notice:
The question is rather apt in view of the situation in Kampuchea. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether his Government is prepared to support Ampol Petroleum Ltd in its stated proposition of converting food to ethanol for the purpose of decreasing reliance on imported fuels.
The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I assume that Senator Mcintosh is referring to the recently announced agreement between Ampol Petroleum Ltd and Biotechnology Australia Ltd to develop a pilot plant for the production of ethanol from cereal grains. Under the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Program, the Commonwealth Government is supporting laboratory research at Biotechnology Australia Ltd on the process, based on continuous fermentation, which will be used in the pilot plant.
The process being developed is not simply one of conversion of food to ethanol. In addition to producing ethanol from the starch in the grain, the process would yield a high quality concentrated protein food which could perhaps be made available for export or used in aid programs.
It might also be noted that should a fuel ethanol industry develop in Australia, it would most probably be based on expanded, rather than existing, production of cereal grains or other crops, and would not necessarily result in any decrease in food production.
-On 9 October 1979 (Hansard, pages 1054-5) Senator Hamer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning cigarette smoking. In my answer I undertook to refer his question to the Minister for Health.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
The situation is basically as outlined by my colleague, Senator Guilfoyle, on 9 October. However, since then, a meeting has been held of representatives of the Advertising Standards Council, the New South Wales Health Commission, the Australian Publishers’ Bureau and the Tobacco Institute of Australia, under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Kirby, to discuss advertisements relating to the New South Wales north coast ‘Quit for Life’ anti-smoking campaign. The matter is still under consideration by the interested parties.
Duty Free Purchases
-On 10 October 1979 Senator Townley asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, the following question without notice:
I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that in some countries persons arriving from other countries can make duty free purchases after their arrival but of course prior to declaration of Customs. As an attempt to have Australians returning to this country spend their money in Australia, will the Minister examine whether such a practice could be worked out to be feasible in Australia and, perhaps I should add, particularly in Tasmania when the Hobart-Christchurch air link commences?
On that occasion I replied:
I will pass that constructive suggestion to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and invite him to consider whether it is feasible.
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has now supplied the following answer:
This matter has been raised on a number of occasions in the past, but more recently firm proposals have been put by Qantas, enumerating a variety of advantages, but limiting the range of goods to spirituous liquors and tobacco products.
An inter-departmental committee was formed earlier this year to examine the many relevant influences as well as to consider the claimed advantages for both passengers and airlines. The Committee is chaired by an officer of my Department and an economic evaluation of the proposal has already been undertaken by the Bureau of Transport Economics.
The committee is to meet again in December when a final recommendation will be made to the Government. Certainly, if the proposal is adopted, it would be essential that similar facilities be provided at each international airport in Australia. You will, of course, appreciate that, at the moment, Hobart Airport is not designated as an airport for entry of international aircraft direct from overseas.
-On 18 October 1979, Senator Bonner asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs the following question without notice: 1 refer … to a recent report of the Department of Transportation in the United States which showed that 65 per cent of American cars and 25 per cent of imported cars tested would not protect the front seat passenger from fatal injuries at a speed of 60 kilometres an hour and the subsequent recommendation of the head of this department and the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that a rating system to assess at a glance a particular vehicle’s measure of safety protection in the event of a crash. In view of the mounting road roll in the nation and the needless waste of human life, could the Minister give consideration to a similar scheme of safety rating being introduced into Australia.
The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer:
The report which you mentioned referred to tests where the vehicle is crashed head-on into a concrete barrier. This type of test has been required of all new passenger car types in Australia since January 1973 by Australian Design Rule No. 10B (Steering Columns). The intrusion of the steering column into the passenger compartment during a crash at 48 km/h must not exceed 127 mm. A similar requirement applies to passenger cars in the USA.
The recent tests in the USA are reported to have been done at the higher speed of 56 km/h (35 mph) with instrumented dummies representing the vehicle occupants and wearing seat belts. The Administrator of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Joan Claybrook, was reported as saying that these were experimental tests and that further tests of a range of models may be necessary with the ultimate goal of providing consumers with comparative ratings of crashworthiness, damageability, and ease of diagnosis and repair.
I have asked the Office of Road Safety of my Department to obtain details of the NHTSA work and any future developments in the USA on this subject. The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design which is responsible to the Australian Transport Advisory Council for the development of Australian Design Rules will be kept informed on the matter so that it can assess the need for any changes in Australian Design Rules which may be needed at an appropriate time, to take advantage of the findings of this testing program.
Oil Supplies from Iran
-On 18 October 1979 and 13 November 1979 Senator Wriedt asked the following questions without notice:
I was seeking from the Minister the implications for the other countries that Iran supplies with oil. This is the issue. It is not a question of the percentage supplied to Australia. If, for example, there is a sudden downturn in exports from bran, its major customers, such as Japan and the United States, will have to look elsewhere for their supplies. They will look mainly to Saudi Arabia, and Australia, as the Minister has just indicated, gets 3 1 per cent of its supplies from Saudi Arabia. What happens to our supplies from those countries if that eventuates.
Does the Minister representing the Minister for National Development recall my question to him on 18 October 1979 in which I drew attention to inform; don that was received by the Australian Government concerning increasing uncertainty in Iran over the question of oil production and supply, his subsequent answer to me on 23 October and the further clarification that I sought as a result of that answer? In view of the current events in that coutnry, is the Minister able to give additional information now as to the possible implications for Australia?
The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer:
Let me remind the honourable senator first of all that Australia is 70 per cent self-sufficient in supplies of crude oil. Our imports of crude oil from Iran this year are estimated to total about 134,000 tonnes, which is much less than 1 per cent of total Australian crude oil requirements.
Let me also point out that Australian crude oil import requirements at about 200,000 barrels per day represent much less than 1 per cent of OPEC production which runs at about 3 1 million barrels per day.
Iran is, of course, an important supplier of crude oil to a number of countries. It contributes about 3 million barrels per day to world trade, or about 10 per cent of total world trade in crude oil.
This year the United States has reduced its dependence on Iranian oil from about 12 per cent of its oil imports to about 4.5 per cent. The cessation of trade in oil between Iran and the United States should be seen in the light of this trend. Moreover, any oil that is not sold to the United States is likely to be sold to other buyers. The total quantitative effect of such an adjustment should be neutral if Iranian production is maintained.
Even if Iran stopped exports completely- and that would have major implications for Iran ‘s economy- any direct impact in a quantitative sense would not be felt for some time because, based on IEA information, stocks in Western countries are at an all time high and there are substantial stocks on the water. These stocks can be drawn on to offset any loss of exports from Iran.
Moreover, the possible effects of any Iranian cessation of exports would have to be considered against actions likely to be taken by consuming countries to conserve oil supplies and to encourage increased production from non-Iran and nonOPEC sources. The world’s experience earlier in 1979 when Iran ceased exports for some time gives some indication that appropriate adjustments can be made.
Notwithstanding problems with supplies from Iran earlier in 1979, world oil production is higher than ever before and conservation efforts by consuming countries have led to a situation where oil stocks have improved considerably ovr 1978 levels.
A far as Australia is concerned, we have, in fact, been able to import more oil this year than in 1978. Our imports of crude oil and feedstocks in the first nine months of 1 979 were about 6 per cent higher than in the same period of 1 978.
The Government does recognise that further difficulties with Iran may increase nervousness in the oil market and this could affect price levels. The impact of increased spot purchases and associated uncertainties are difficult questions to assess but they will almost certainly have some impact on the price discussion that OPEC has planned for 17 December in Caracas.
To summarise, whilst it is impossible to predict with any accuracy the precise effect on Australia’s situation of these inter-connected developments it would be fair to say at this stage that any limitations on export of crude oil from Iran would have little direct impact on Australian crude oil supplies in the immediate future.
The Government will, of course, continue to watch developments in Iran for any possible future implications for Australia.
Aid to Kampuchea
-On 25 October 1979 Senator Mason asked Senator Durack the following question without notice:
My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to the method of distribution of Austraiian aid to Kampuchea. Is the Minister aware of complaints about diversion of some Australian aid supplies to soldiers in Kampuchea and of negotiations currently under way in Phnom Penh for United States aid to be distributed by truck convoys which are planned to proceed across the Thai-Kampuchean border at Arunya Pratet into areas of northern Kampuchea which are reported to be among the worst affected by famine? Since this method of distibution ought to achieve fair and equitable distribution of aid to people with the current Phnom Penh negotiations with the aim of also providing Australian truck convoys to distribute our aid supplies.
The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is aware of allegations that part of Australia’s food aid to Kampuchea has gone to soldiers of Democratic Kampuchea. The allegations, first made on 2 October, concerned the distribution of some of the 1 ,000 tonnes of rice provided from Australia’s 4,000 tonne contribution to the World Food Program (WFP) for distribution to Khmer civilians in areas adjacent to the Thai border in Kampuchea.
WFP gave the Government a firm assurance that it was satisfied that the supplies made available by Australia had been distributed to needy Kampuchean civilians. It must, however, be accepted that, in the circumstances prevailing in Kampuchea, neither WFP nor the other international relief agencies can give absolute guarantees that relief supplies distributed through Phnom Penh or across the Thai border will reach only the non-combatants. We should not lose sight of the overriding need to provide as much relief as possible to the suffering people of Kampuchea with minimum delay.
The Government remains convinced that at present there is no viable alternative to the well established and reputable international agencies, such as ICRC, UNICEF, WFP and OXFAM, for the most effective distribution of relief supplies to the civilians in greatest need in Kampuchea. The international agencies do their utmost in difficult conditions to ensure that the relief supplies reach those for whom they are intended.
As regards the proposal by the United States for a convoy of trucks carrying relief supplies from Thailand into Kampuchea, I now understand that despite earlier optimism, the idea has been rejected by the authorities in Phnom Penh. The Government is currently examining the best means of contributing further to efforts to alleviate the plight of the Khmer people.
Australian Coal Reserves
– On 8 November 1979 Senator Young asked me as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, the following question without notice:
Does the Minister representing the Minister for National Development recall my asking on 19 September this year whether it was intended to forward the figures on Australian Coal reserves to the 1 980 world energy conference to be held in Munich, and, if so, whether the figures could be released on a State by State breakdown in Australia? I have received a reply from the Minister for National Development stating that such figures have been supplied to the world energy conference. I again ask: Can these figures be supplied also to us in this chamber?
The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The World Energy Conference has provided the attached amended tables of Australian coal resources, production and consumption.
SOLID FOSSIL FUELS
Solid fossil fuels include the high and low ranking coals and peat. National standards vary for each rank-type of coal and up to now there is no universally accepted classification of coals by rank. Therefore national standards currently in use should be listed in the space provided in this table (Explanatory Notes) or separately.
Lignite brilliant or Glanzbraunkohle is approximately equal to sub-bituminous coal and should be listed in this column.
Peat is defined as an unconsolidated mass of organic (mainly plant) origin with a high water content which has passed through a process of transformation and which contains, when completely dehydrated, not less than SO per cent organic matter. Estimates of peat reserves and resources should refer only to deposits which are economically suitable for and likely to be used as fuel.
Proved Reserves represent the fraction of total resources that has not only been carefully measured but has also been assessed as being exploitable in a particular nation or region under present and expected local economic conditions (or at specified costs) with existing available technology; proved recoverable reserves are the fraction of proved reservesinplace that can be recovered (extracted from the earth in raw form) under the above economic and technological limits.
Probable Recoverable Reserves include inferred reserves in known coal basins/peat occurrences, which are either not sufficiently delineated to be rated as ‘proved’ or which presently are not economically exploitable, but which might become recoverable under foreseeable economic and technological conditions. (If final data of reserves at end of 1978 do not exist yet, give estimates and mark figures with + ).
Additional Resources embrace all resources, in addition to proved and probable reserves, that are of at least foreseeable economic interest. The estimates provided for additional resources reflect, if not certainty about the existence of the entire quantities reported, at least a reasonable level of confidence. Resources whose existence is entirely speculative are not included.
Additional resources in proven coal or peat provinces include resources additional to those known deposits reported in A1, 2 and 4, but which could exist in unexplored extensions of known deposits or in undiscovered deposits in proven coal areas.
Additional resources in other areas include resources inferred through knowledge of geological conditions favourable for the occurrence of coal. The estimates should be based on the results of geological and exploratory information or on evidence of duplication or parallelism of geological conditions that occur in proven coal provinces.
PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION
In case annual production 1978 does not represent full capacity, report maximum production capacity for 1978.
C 12 and 13:
If estimates for all these dates do not exist, report as far ahead as possible, if necessary give range.
Report properties of the 1978 production.
If definitions given do not apply to your data, please quote your data, together with the definitions used (if it is impossible to convert the data).
For peat the basis commonly used is air-dry, ash-free.
If possible, indicate the geographical distribution (coal /peat provinces) of reserves/resources.
SOLID FOSSIL FUELS
References and Explanatory Notes:
A.1 Brown Coal: Australia has 35,440 million tonnes of proved (or measured) economic brown coal reserves remaining in-place, including 6.000 million tonnes under township planning scheme areas, et cetera. Taking account of 30,330 million tonnes of proved sub-economic resources in seams of greater thickness than 3 metres to a depth of 500 metres, which are included in the 89,030 million tonnes of additional resources, the total proved resources are 65,770 million tonnes; some of the proved sub-economic resources would not be recoverable with existing technology.
A.2 Brown Coal: Only brown coal that could be won by surface mining is considered economically recoverable. The criteria used to define economically recoverable coal, with minor exceptions, are those reserves having a minimum seam thickness of 1 5 metres, maximum overburden of 90 metres above the uppermost coal seam, an overburden to coal ratio not greater than 2:1 and a maximum open pit depth of 200 metres. For this survey a recovery factor of approximately 92 per cent also has been assumed.
A.2 (b) Bituminous Coal: This item represents a recurring problem in WEC surveys of coal resources. Much Australian coal, particularly in New South Wales, in the raw state rates only as steam coal but after washing can meet coking coal specifications. If the recoverable coal resources are classified on the basis of properties of the as mined coal, then 41 per cent of Australia’s proved recoverable reserves are of coking quality. If coals which after washing yield coals of coking quality are included, then the percentage of raw recoverable reserves of coking quality rises to 74 per cent. Market demand, including price differentials, will determine the type of market ultimately supplied.
A.3 Both costs of production and selling prices for coal cover a wide range but for 1977-78 the average pit-top price of all the bituminous and sub-bituminous coal produced in Australia was$A22.2 per tonne of saleable coal or $0.8 1 per gigajoule. This price does not include any subsidy. It includes, where applicable, the coal export levy.
There is no reason to believe that, because of mining difficulties, it will not, in general, be possible to maintain for many years the costs, in real terms, implicit in this 1977-78 price.
For brown coal a corresponding price is not available. Brown coal sales are small, and most coal recovered is used by the producer for electricity generation.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 November 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19791119_senate_31_s83/>.