31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) leaves Australia later today to visit France and India and to attend the Thirtysixth Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to be held in Bangkok. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) will act as Minister for Primary Industry until Mr Nixon ‘s return on 2 1 March.
– I present the following petition from 1 9 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the 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.
That in the 1976 census 78.6% of Australian women said that they belonged to a Christian denomination, so that, it is very likely that a large percentage of Australian women have views which are not reflected in those parts of Draft Plan of Action issued by the National Advisory Council concerning family issues.
That your petitioners are very concerned that the National Women’s Advisory Council does not take into account the views of the majority of Australian women.
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 representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 7 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate and the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, as it is clear that unemployment is a long term problem in Australia, the Government should extend to the unemployed the same assistance as is given to any other disadvantaged member of the community. There is an urgent need to alleviate the financial hardship and emotional stress that the unemployed are suffering.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Government adopt positive policies to reduce unemployment.
That the basic Unemployment Benefit be raised to at least the level of the poverty line as calculated by Professor Henderson.
In line with other Social Service additional income awards, and in order to encourage work creation schemes and the fostering of initiative and self respect, that the $6 per week additional income limit be raised to at least $20 per week.
That the financial penalties above the earning of $20 per week, assessed on a monthly basis, be calculated at the same rate as other Social Security benefits.
That the Commonwealth grant subsidies to State governments so that the unemployed can bc granted transport concessions in order that they are not penalised in job seeking.
That pharmaceutical and medical concessions bc granted to the unemployed equivalent to those received by other Social Service beneficiaries.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because we already inherit constitutional safeguards and many free institutions which assure to us as an unconditional right, the enjoyment of all basic human rights.
And because the exercise of our true common law rights is the proper means of dealing with attempted infringements or abuses of our human rights or personal freedoms within the Commonwealth of Australia and its territories.
And because the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 would virtually eliminate our common law rights and heritage by substituting so-called rights and freedoms as defined under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of December, 1966, which does not correspond with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in fact deletes some of its essential safeguards.
We have the conviction that the above-mentioned Bill would in due time destroy much of our traditional liberties and rights and established system of law, remembering that it calls for all ‘the laws of the Commonwealth ‘to conform to it, that we would be liable to the definitions, whims and decrees coming from a foreign source instead of our own sovereign, elected, constitutional parliamentary democracy, that the United Nations today is composed of a large majority of totalitarian-type States, and that the Bill must certainly result in a quickly expanding costly bureaucracy with wide and alarming powers of investigation and opinion-making.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia will withdraw, or repeal as the case may be, the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 to protect the rightful interests of Australia and all Australians.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sheil. Petition received.
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 representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council.’
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Evans, Dame Margaret Guilfoyle and Lewis.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: What consideration has the Government given to the proposal by the British Foreign Minister. Lord Carrington, for the neutralisation of Afghanistan? In view of the fact that this proposal has the support of the major Western governments and that there are reports that it has not been rejected by the Soviet Government, does the Australian Government intend to use its good offices to see whether this may be a basis on which the Afghanistan issue could be resolved? Finally, has the Australian Government indicated any attitude to any foreign government in respect of this proposal?
– The question covers a range of quite significant matters. I believe I should refer it to the Minister concerned and seek a detailed answer. I will so do.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It refers to the Australian Army detachment in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Does the Government have any serious concern for the safety of the Army detachment and other Australians, including the parliamentary observers, in ZimbabweRhodesia? Is it true that our Army detachment is not organised or equipped for fighting or for a peacekeeping role? Is a CI 30 Hercules aircraft on standby in Nairobi, as has been reported, to evacuate the Australians if necessary? Is it true that it is planned to start withdrawing our Army detachment next Monday when the election is over?
– The Government is very conscious of its responsibilities for the safety of the Australian contingent in the ceasefire monitoring force, the members of the Australian Liaison Office in Salisbury and those persons who on its behalf are in Rhodesia to observe and report on the forthcoming election. When decisions were made to send these various groups to Rhodesia, the Government looked closely at the security situation then obtaining in the country and the assessments then available of any likely changes in that situation. It is well aware of current tensions and of the possibility that these will increase during or after the elections. In co-operation with the British, who are administering Rhodesia, measures have been developed for providing for the security of all those Australian personnel in Rhodesia in the event of an emergency. These measures include provisions for personnel to be withdrawn from any area of particular danger as well as an overall withdrawal from Rhodesia should the situation deteriorate to the extent that this may be necessary.
All these measures are under constant review to ensure that any changes in the situation are adequately taken into account. I assure the Senate that the best possible provisions are being made to ensure the safety of Australian personnel in the event of an emergency. The British Government has made a request for some members of the Australian contingent of the ceasefire monitoring force to stay in Rhodesia for some time after the elections. The request is now under consideration by Australian Ministers. It involves a small team of men performing an important liaison role in the continuing effort to reconcile and eventually integrate the Partiotic Front and the Rhodesian security forces. The team would remain in Rhodesia only if the
Government were completely satisfied with the arrangements for its security. The team would leave Rhodesia before the country’s accession to independence. Clearly there has been no suggestion that Australian troops in the ceasefire monitoring force should perform a peacekeeping role, nor are they equipped so to do.
– I refer the Minister for Social Security to the question which I asked her yesterday and which was couched in the terms of whether she was aware that a subpoena on the files of the Director-General of Social Services was answered in the social security frauds case in Sydney’s Central Court on 12 December 1979 and when that happened whether it was found that a document had been removed from one of the files. I also asked the Minister whether she had ordered an investigation into this matter. I now ask her whether she is yet aware of that matter of fact about which I asked her yesterday and, if so, whether she has ordered an investigation, as asked yesterday.
As I observe the Notice Paper, that question is on notice and will be answered as a question on notice is entitled to be.
– I raise a point of order. The question goes to the state of the Minister’s awareness. A Minister who requires notice before she will answer whether she is aware of a particular situation was given that notice yesterday. With respect, it is a matter which she has not properly answered. It goes to her awareness of a matter of fact. That is all she is being asked about. 1 ask the Minister again: Is she aware of that fact or not?
– There is no point of order. Does the Minister wish to add anything?
Only to reiterate the answer that I have given; that the question is on notice and will be dealt with as a question on notice is entitled to be.
– You are becoming a bigger liar than Fraser.
- Senator Walsh, you have referred to the Minister as a liar. Withdraw that remark immediately.
– I withdraw,
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Government aware of the conclusion reached by the management consultants, Peat, Marwick and
Mitchell Services, in its recent study of the Australian Film Commission that the incentives provided under section 10B of the Income Tax Assessment Act have, by and large, failed to attract the level and type of non-government investment that is currently required in the Australian film industry? Has the Government given any consideration to the consultants’ suggestion that investment in the Australian film industry should, in the future, be provided along the lines of that currently available to investors in the mining industry under sections 77A and 77D, or to those in the oil industry under section 160 ACA of the Income Tax Assessment Act? In making its decisions about the possible reconstruction of the Australian Film Commission along the lines suggested in the consultants’ report, will the Government also take this opportunity to put the question of taxation incentives for the development of the industry under urgent review?
– The Government is aware of the consultants’ report on the Australian Film Commission. At the same time it is rather early to reach any definitive conclusions as to the effectiveness of an income tax concession that has been available to the film industry only for some 15 months. On the other hand the Government has heard several reports that the concession is being misused for tax avoidance purposes in ways that are not only detrimental to the revenue but also may be having distorting effects on patterns of investment in Australian films. The Government therefore will be reviewing the question of effectiveness of the concession. I will refer the remaining suggestions in Senator Puplick ‘s question to the Treasurer and ask him to give them consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Government view with concern rising interest rates and their inevitable flow-on to housing loans? I refer particularly to the statement made by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation in this respect. I refer also to a statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister on 25 November 1 977 that he would eat his hat if interest rates did not drop by 2 per cent by the end of 1 978. As it is now accepted that interest rates have not only not fallen but have increased to the highest level for many years, what steps does the Government contemplate should be taken to have the hat eating ceremony held?
– It was because of the pressure of massive inflation and soaring interest rates that the people of Australia elected and reelected the Fraser Government. The success of its policies has been demonstrated at the ballot box. The Government views with concern, as do the people of Australia, any pressure on inflation or interest rates that can be detrimental. The Government has had massive success in reducing the inflation rate in Australia from something like 1 8 per cent to the basic figure of 10 per cent.
– You are telling fibs again.
-Senator Gietzelt refers to the reduction of interest rates. It so happens that over the years the Government has been able to make very significant reductions to the interest rates that prevailed during the time of the Whitlam Labor Government.
– The long term bond yield is at an all-time record this year.
-The fact of the matter is that when this Government came to office it found that Australia had been moved from a situation where it enjoyed the lowest inflation rate in the world to one which placed it in the top 25 per cent of all member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Of course, that was done by a Labor Government. This Government has managed to lower the level of inflation so that Australia is now in the bottom 25 per cent of OECD countries as far as inflation is concerned. Australia is now strongly competitive with the world. There is pressure in relation to world interest rates, which are very significantly higher in America and Britain. They are moving by whole percentage figures, whereas in fact the movement in Australia is by fractions. Australia’s performance, compared with that of the rest of our trading partners, is very significantly effective in world terms.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. With respect, the Minister did not answer my question. Does he not acknowledge that the long term bond rate is now the highest it has ever been? He failed to answer the question I posed to him about the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister.
-Senator Gietzelt could not have been listening because I did refer to the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister. I pointed out that over the years from the end of 1975 this Government has been able significantly to lower interest rates by something between one per cent and two per cent from the level to which the Whitlam Labor Government, of which Senator Gietzelt was a member, brought them. The fact of the matter is that the Government is concerned about the pressure of interest rates, but we in Australia are talking of interest rates at about 10 per cent compared with other countries, such as America and Britain, where they are running at 1 7 per cent or 1 8 per cent. By comparison Australia looks respectable. The Government intends to continue monetary policies which have been eminently successful.
– A 19 per cent growth rate in M3.
– Those policies are now respected throughout the world. That is why we are now capable of trading throughout the world.
– What happened to freedom?
-Order! Senator Walsh, under standing order 438 (e), I name you for persistent rejection of the authority of the Chair. This institution cannot operate with persistent disregard for the authority of the Chair.
– I apologise, Mr President. With respect, if the Minister would restrict himself to the facts there would be much less provocation.
– The honourable senator having apologised, I call the Minister.
-I accept the apology. With the leave of the Senate, I say that all members of this Parliament must accept the sanction that I read in the Press today, namely that the people of Australia are not happy with the general standard of conduct of their parliamentary chambers. All of us, in both chambers, have a responsibility for this.
– I wish to raise a point of order. Mr President, you have made a ruling and Senator Carrick is now making a political speech, seeking to make capital out of something said on the radio this morning. That goes to canvassing your ruling. Surely it is your job to say that, not his.
– There is no point of order. Senator Walsh has apologised and by leave the Minister made a short statement. That completes the situation.
-I had not quite completed my statement, and I had sought leave -
– No, I refused leave.
– At the time leave was not refused.
– At the time you did not put the question. I now refuse leave.
– I accept the refusal of leave of the Labor Party to discuss the deterioration of standards caused by the Labor Party in this chamber and in the other place. Let that be taken notice of by the Australian community.
- Mr President, the Minister is clearly defying your ruling and canvassing your ruling, and he is turning this into a political bun fight, which he enjoys. It is the sort of nonsense which has provoked the behaviour that has gone on in this place. I suggest that you censure the Minister as well as honourable senators on this side of the Senate because it is a two-sided chamber and it depends on fair play from both sides for it to work.
– I trust that in those remarks, Senator Grimes, you are not implying that I am not impartial.
– I did not imply that at all.
– I trust that I am impartial at all times.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware that the Willesee At Seven program has been investigating the trafficking of” drugs through the over-supply of barbiturates by some corrupt doctors, pharmacists and drug manufacturers. As it is reported that many hundreds of young people have been killed and others tragically affected by this type of drug abuse, will the Government take steps to have discussions with Mr Mike Willesee to see what assistance he can give further to control drug trafficking? Will the Government also take steps to make sure that any doctor or pharmacist involved in this type of trafficking is banned from his profession for life?
– I am aware of what I think is a useful service being done by the program Willesee at Seven. It serves to emphasise that very valuable service done by the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse which I think Senate Peter Baume chaired and which I think is a source of information for the whole of Australia. There is no doubt that drug trafficking is one of Australia’s greatest evils. There is no doubt that we should all be directing our minds to its reduction, and there is no doubt that those who traffic in and peddle drugs should receive very severe penalties for what is a heinous offence. I will refer the substance of Senator Young’s question to my colleague the Minister for Health in another place and invite his attention to it.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that a freeze has been placed on new appointments to the Queensland branch of the Department of Social Security? If so, was this a Cabinet or a departmental decision? What is the reason for and the extent of the freeze? Are positions advertised recently in the Press included in the freeze? What effect will the freeze have on temporary staff employed by the department in Queensland? Finally, does this freeze apply to other State offices of the Minister’s department?
I will need to seek advice on the questions raised by Senator Georges. I will see whether I can have some advice by the end of Question Time.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General, although I think it involves also the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs. I refer to the article in today’s Financial Review in the ‘Saleroom’ column which states that a collector from the United Kingdom has paid $61,000 for an Australian coin and is awaiting permission to take the coin out of this country. In the light of the strong demand for coins, antique articles and other cultural items that exists today, and the strong possibility of Australian items going out of the country, has the Government any plans for restricting the movement out of this country of such valuable items? As the United Kingdom has an embargo on the export of what might be called national treasures, will the Government examine the possibility of establishing a similar embargo in Australia?
– Like Senator Davidson, I am not quite sure whether this is a matter of my responsibility. I think it is probably for the Minister for Home Affairs. Senator Davidson has raised an interesting and important matter. I will have it investigated in the appropriate area as soon as possible in an endeavour to obtain an answer for him.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Just prior to the Prime Minister’s last trip overseas did he receive a report from an interdepartmental committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence stating the position in Afghanistan? Did that state that the situation in Afghanistan did not represent any direct threat to Iran or Pakistan?
-I will refer that question to the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and follows the question asked by Senator Cavanagh. Is it a fact that conditions allow the Leader of the Opposition to be briefed by the Office of National Assessments, that Senator Cavanagh talked about, on request by the Leader to the Prime Minister and that the Prime Minister would normally approve that request? Is it also a fact that not only did Mr Hayden not seek this briefing in regard to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but also the Opposition, instead of wanting the truth, was willing to repeat uninformed rumours of the report from the Office of National Assessments to the Government?
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I think that you will note by the phrasing of the honourable senator’s question that she is in fact making a statement, giving information and not asking a question.
– I cannot sustain your point of order.
-It is a long established practice that leaders of the Opposition in this Parliament have access to private briefings by the intelligence and security people. This information is available and has always been available to Mr Hayden. I learnt this morning- I think from a statement made by the Prime Ministerthat there had been no approach from Mr Hayden. If that is so that would be at Mr Hayden ‘s initiative and nobody else’s. He could have sought a briefing from the intelligence area according to the protocol that has always existed.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that the policy enunciated by the Opposition through Mr Hayden is, in fact, in line in substance with the recommendations of the Office of National Assessments to the Government and which were rejected by the Government? Will the Minister give this Parliament the benefit of the advice that was given by the ONA to the Government so that the Australian people can make their own judgment whether the advice accorded by the ONA to the Government has been acted upon?
– It is an extraordinary irresponsibility on the part of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate that he seeks to suggest that intelligence documents should become public property. Opposition senators are willing to use allegedly leaked documents for their purposes. I adhere to the statement I made in this Parliament. I will not contribute to the breach of security in this country by referring to the contents of any restricted intelligence document. That is the practice of all governments. I think that Senator Wriedt asked what parallel there was with this and the Labor Party’s policy. It is quite clear that the Labor Party’s policy is in direct contradiction of the United Nations Assembly vote, the vote in the European Parliament and the statement from the Middle East, from Sheik Yamani. In each of those cases the people who are close to the threat recognise that the Afghanistan action was an aggressive and military threat to the stability of world peace. If Senator Wriedt wants us to draw attention to the fact that his policy and Mr Hayden ‘s policy are contrary to the European Parliament, to the nations of Western Europe, to the statement in the United Nations and to the statement -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order and ask whether you are going to permit this when everybody in this chamber, including the Minister who is saying these things and his colleagues on his side of the chamber, knows that he is speaking untruths when his is saying the things that he is. Are you going to permit that? I put it to you that you should not permit him to continue in this way. If you are going to allow it and if Senator Carrick, who has always been careless with the truth in this place, is to be allowed to continue in this vein, that is the standard that will be set. I ask you to draw to the Minister’s attention the fact that he is not permitted to make untruthful statements in this Parliament about Opposition policy.
– It is not for me to determine the veracity or otherwise of statements in this place. It is up to individual senators to take points of misrepresentation and so on. To accuse an honourable senator of making untruthful statements is not, in my estimation, a desirable practice. I have every respect for honourable senators and I take it that the truth is always told in this place on both sides of the chamber. I call the Minister.
-As Senator Wriedt has intervened. I say that the whole theme of the Labor Party’s statements in both Houses, with the notable exception of one person in each House, has been that Afghanistan was not a threat of aggression but that it was basically a defensive situation. They have been -
- Mr President, I take a point of order. I feel that after the statement that has just been made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, it is totally inconsistent for the Minister to continue to tell untruths about statements allegedly made by members of the Opposition.
– This is another accusation of untruth. It is so undesirable that it is not permissible. If we all have a real desire for this place to work we must all avoid provocation as far as it is possible.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to the long-standing proposal for the appointment of a Defence Force ombudsman. I ask: What stage has been reached in the consideration of the proposal for a Defence Force ombudsman and, particularly, when might some decision be made for the appointment of someone to such an office or for similar provisions to ensure that appeal avenues are available to Defence Force personnel on a range of issues that are very important to them?
-The Department of Defence proposals dealing with the establishment of a Defence Force ombudsman have been examined by the Administrative Review Council. That body has recommended that Defence Force jurisdiction should be exercised by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and specially identified in a separate part of the Ombudsman Act. The recommendations of the Administrative Review Council have been accepted by the Minister for Defence. Proposals for draft legislation for the appointment of a Defence Force ombudsman within the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, as recommended by the Administrative Review Council, are now being prepared.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs what, if any, protest has the Australian Government made to the Argentine Government, given the consistent and continuing reports emanating from that country of torture and death at the hands of the ruling military junta? If no protest has been made, is the Government prepared to raise this matter with the Argentine representatives in Australia and elsewhere in the interests of human rights for the people of Argentina?
– I will seek information on that matter and let the honourable senator know.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer noted the increasing number of unresolved objections to taxation assessments which are awaiting decision by the taxation boards of review? Has this number risen dramatically from 2,501 in 1972-73 to 7,434 in 1 977-78 while figures show that the total number of assessments issued by the Commissioner of Taxation have remained fairly constant during the period? Can the Minister offer any explanation for this increase? In particular, does he regard the recent practice of widening the Commissioner’s discretionary powers to too many areas of the taxation law as a major contributing factor?
– I am not aware of the exact statistical problem. If it is as Senator Messner suggests, some rectification is necessary. I will refer the question to the Treasurer.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education noted the reported statement of Mr Alan Marriage, the chairman of the working party which drafted the Australian Teachers Federation’s new schools policy, that all government funding for independent schools should cease unless they come under complete government control and that independent schools have allegedly badly abused the needs system? Is this same Mr Marriage a part time member of the Schools Commission? Has the Minister ever received any evidence from Mr Marriage for his gross libel of the entire non-government school system when he claims that it has badly abused the needs system? Has the Minister ever received any evidence on this claim, whether from Mr Marriage or other members of the Schools Commission? Has the Schools Commission ever advanced such an outrageous claim to the Government?
– I cannot speak about the position in the last few months since my colleague Mr Fife became Minister for Education. I cannot speak about any approaches. It is true that Mr Marriage was the recommended appointee from the Australian Teachers Federation which, of course, has a strong subjective preoccupation with government schools and which seeks, quite properly, their advancement.
I am aware that Mr Marriage was party to a document some time ago in which a strong view was held, I think both by him and his Federation, that there ought to be government control over independent schools. We would reject that suggestion because it would be fundamentally opposed to the dual stream of education and to the United Nations charter of freedom of choice.
I have not seen the statement that suggested an abuse of the needs system. If it were made it would be totally wrong. The fact is that all reports of the Schools Commission have shown that the needs principle is heavily necessary in the independent school system. Whereas the government schools- thank goodness- have reached and surpassed their resources targets years ahead of the Karmel and Schools Commission goals, the independent schools are still lagging badly although they are making useful progress. Quite clearly, the Schools Commission has been saying that there was a need for significant resources to be put into the independent schools in order to bring them some measure of social justice as, happily, we have been able to do for government schools.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The Government has indicated many initiatives that will be taken in upgrading the defence forces of Australia, such as equipment, personnel, bases et cetera. Having in mind that industrial support for Australian defence needs and allied matters has depreciated to the stage where it appears that Australia is most reliant on overseas purchases, what action has been taken to upgrade the defence scene to make Australia more self-sufficient in these matters?
– Complex items of equipment such as tanks, fighter aircraft and guided missiles are required in such small quantities that local production, even assuming that we had access to the technology, would be prohibitively expensive, fraught with high technical risks and subject to delays. It is items such as these that constitute the greater part of defence expenditure on equipment overseas. I think defence expenditure related to overseas items in the last financial year, 1978-79, was about 49 per cent of expenditure on capital items. Every effort is made to ensure maximum possible local industry involvement in defence procurement. Where direct involvement is not practicable the Government’s offsets policy is exploited to obtain worthwhile work in related technologies in Australian defence oriented industry. Automatic preference of 20 per cent is accorded to purchases under $5,000 and discretionary preference oversighted by a committee of Ministers is applied to those large purchases not requiring Cabinet endorsement. I think I should also refer to the fact that Defence maintains at a cost of some $100m each year specific capabilities in Australia such as the munitions and aircraft factories and naval dockyards. It also directly supports the establishment of particular specialised capability in private industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Is he or the Government considering the granting of sectional exemptions for certain favoured industries from future price rises and/or taxes on petroleum products and/or reducing existing taxes? If so, which industries will be affected?
-Whether or not a particular policy was contemplated by the Government would be a matter for announcement by the Government when it announced its policies. I am not going to indulge in the sport of chasing hares that Senator Walsh seeks to set running.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. If, as the Minister said, such policy options should not be publicly canvassed, can he explain why the Minister for Finance at yesterday’s Australian Passenger Transport Conference said:
Some of you would like the Government to give passenger transport operators preferential treatment by way of remissions from fuel taxes and future fuel price increases. On these matters I can only say that the Government is taking note of your strongly-held views and that they will be given appropriate consideration.
I ask: Does the Minister for Finance know more about Government policy in this Minister’s area of responsibility or is he or Mr Robinson misleading the Parliament or the Australian Passenger Transport Conference?
– As to the two questions, the answers are no and no. As to the general thesis, it is not at all inconsistent, assuming Mr Robinson said what is claimed, with my statement that I would not peddle these things. The fact of the matter is that the Government at all times is giving consideration to a wide range of matters which will form a total package and produce a very successful energy package.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. I preface it by reminding the Minister that six months of daylight saving was introduced into Tasmania several years ago at a time when there was a shortage of water to run the turbines to produce electricity. From that it can easily be shown that daylight saving does help to reduce the amount of electricity used and therefore of fuels used. I ask: Will the Minister take action to ascertain whether the length of daylight saving next summer can be extended to at least six months or even longer?
– Both the length of daylight saving and the matter of political enlightenment essentially are matters for State governments, although the Commonwealth can give some suggestions and leads. I believe it is important that daylight saving be looked at as a means of saving energy. I think it is a most useful idea. I will see what can be done. I imagine that if it is to be done it would have to be by discussion with the Premiers because only one or two of the Premiers are in step in the regiment. We will take up the matter and have a look at it.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development and Energy. Is he aware that various domestic gas reticulation suppliers in Australia, including the Launceston gas works, claim that they are going out of business as a result of the Government’s decision to implement parity pricing for liquefied petroleum gas? Will the Government consider a subsidy to such organisations to ensure that they do not go out of business?
– I am aware that, as a result of the fixing of prices by the Prices Justification Tribunal, certain utilities, the Launceston Gas Co. more than any, have expressed difficulties. I discussed the matter with that company’s general manager in Melbourne some weeks ago. When meeting representatives of the Australian Gas Association I had the opportunity to have a personal discussion. One of the particular difficulties for Launceston is that it, by its choice, went on to an entire use of butane and propane or any mixture of those. Whereas previously the PJT had fixed the price for butane at a considerably lower level than that for propane, to, I think, everybody’s surprise it fixed the price for butane at some $50 or $60 higher than the price for propane, which has caused great concern. I understand that, nevertheless, the suppliers are taking a sympathetic approach. It is quite possible for those who supply liquefied petroleum gas not to use the maximum price.
I am concerned, as the Government is concerned, that these kinds of anomalies should exist. We have been looking at the price fixing mechanism. But, as to the general principle, there is a bipartisan policy between the two parties. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hayden, says that if we want to ensure maximum domestic consumption of LPG we must ensure that producers obtain a domestic price reasonably related to the export price. The only way in which we would depart from the general principle is that if we were fixing the price we would fix it on a lower price, the import parity price, and not on the higher export parity price. Because it so happens that our oil policy takes the lowest import price in the world and not the highest export price we think that there is an anomaly between choosing an export price in that regard.
I am well aware of the difficulties of country gas producers in particular. One of the real difficulties is that it is a problem which is not easy to understand because at the moment we are exporting the great majority of our LPG. The fact of the matter is that Australia will be facing a scarcity situation in LPG, as we will in oil in the years to come. I think that we will be using all that we produce in the years to come and we will need to divert it to automotive use. What we have to do is to be able, consistent with that, to help those who are in some difficulties.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Does the recent decision by the Government to deny traffic rights to Ansett Airlines of Australia to operate a TownsvilleSingapore service indicate an inflexible position by the Government in denying the use of Townsville Airport as an international port of entry? In view of the great tourist interest in and the potential of the north Queensland area and the Great Barrier Reef and the value of that trade to Australia, and considering the almost impossible economic burden of upgrading Townsville Airport to take Boeing 747 aircraft, is there not an overwhelming argument in favour of permitting smaller aircraft, such as Boeing 727s, which have the performance characteristics required to operate, for example the Singapore-Townsville,
Manila-Townsville or Fiji- Townsville sectors? Is it not reasonable that Australian carriers, such as Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett, should be permitted to share in the development of that trade?
-The honourable senator’s question raised matters of policy on which I do not think that I can give a full response, except to say that it has been the policy of successive governments in this country that Qantas Airways Ltd should be Australia’s sole overseas carrier. I think that that has been a long standing policy and there has been no variation to it. But, with respect to the various detailed matters which were raised by the honourable senator in his question, I will refer them to the Minister for Transport, Mr Hunt, for his consideration and reply.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. If that matter of policy is such that Qantas Airways Ltd is the designated carrier, is the Government prepared to instruct Qantas to buy suitable aircraft for those route sectors?
– It is my understanding that again it is a long standing policy that the airlines are not instructed as to which aircraft they should buy. But, again, I will refer that matter to Mr Hunt.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. It refers to a statement in this morning’s Age- the report comes from a correspondent with long experience- that the Australian Embassy in Washington advised the Australian Government recently that the expertise on foreign affairs of President Carter and his staff was to be queried and suggested that in future when the consideration within America has become more stabilised there will be much criticism of the American policies. In view of the very close association between the Prime Minister and the President, has consideration been given to the advice from the Embassy? If it is considered by the Government that the statement is incorrect, what action does the Government intend to take about the matter?
– The Government is aware of Press reports that purport to comment on reporting by the Australian Embassy in Washington on the Carter Administration. It is not the policy of this Government to comment on the substance of confidential reporting received from its posts abroad, whether the reporting is correct or otherwise. The Department of Foreign Affairs processes 10,000 diplomatic messages a week. I observe in passing that it is part of the normal reporting activities of posts overseas to provide assessments on domestic attitudes and reactions to events of major international significance.
More importantly, however, the Government’s position is clear. It has welcomed and given its strong support to the actions of the Carter Administration in responding to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. President Carter’s determination and resolve have given notable leadership to the western alliance in responding to Soviet aggression. The State of the Union message sets out clearly the determination of the United States of America to act in concert with its allies in responding to the new strategic environment brought about by the Soviet invasion. The Prime Minister’s recent discussions with President Carter and the current meeting of the ANZUS Council demonstrate the identity of purpose between Australia and the United States on this matter. I think that would be the desire of Senator Bishop in posing his question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to an answer given by the previous Minister for Health to my question without notice of 5 April 1 979 in respect of the lead content of petrol. In answering my question on this important issue, the Minister said:
There is no doubt that continued reduction in the human intake of lead from all sources whether from air, water, food or from lead in paints used on buildings or on toys is needed to protect the population as a whole and particularly the developing child.
With this in mind, I draw the Minister’s attention to the recent reported comments of Dr Gerard Vaughan, a Victorian member of parliament and a former Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientist, regarding the lead content of vegetables grown in areas of high traffic density. Will the Minister comment on Dr Vaughan ‘s claim that home grown vegetables could contain an excessive amount of lead, especially those grown in areas adjacent to major roads? What investigations are currently being conducted by the Government or its agencies into ways of reducing the human intake of lead, particularly that associated with petrol fumes released from car exhausts? In the interests of public health and safety, will the Minister assure the Senate that any attempt to use lead to raise the octane rating of petrol will be discouraged until such time as the results of these investigations are known?
I have some information from the Minister for Health on this matter. I am advised that the lead emitted in the exhaust gases from motor vehicles is of varying particulate size. In general, the larger panicles tend to fall to the soil in close proximity to the highway and the highest contamination is restricted to an area of 20 to 30 metres. Except for those roadways with high traffic density the amount of lead is not such as to cause immediate concern in relation to crops grown. It is accepted, however, that if vegetables are grown in the more highly contaminated soil there is an uptake of lead which could result in the consumer ingesting higher concentrations in his food. The National Health and Medical Research Council has for many years, particularly during the last two decades, made recommendations designed to reduce the lead intake by the population from various sources. These include, for example, water, foods, paints, glazed pottery, petrol, toys, crayons and other articles in common use.
The Council, at its eighty-eighth session in October 1979, proposed goals for lead in air and lead in the blood. The details of these have been given wide publicity. The Minister for Health will ensure that copies of the recommendations are placed in the Library. The recommendations were made largely because of the concern that unduly high quantities of lead in the air may have been contributing to the total body burden, particularly for those people living in the urban environment. The recommendations of the Council are advisory and consequently it remains for the State and Territory governments to take appropriate legislative action should they see fit.
The report of the Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions, which is an advisory committee to the Australian Transport Advisory Council, has been released following the meeting of this Council on 8 February. From this report the honourable senator will note that the health recommendations are incorporated in this document and in methods suggested as a long term strategy. Although the report must at this stage be accepted as a preliminary assessment it is hoped that further work during the forthcoming year will allow firm decisions to be reached. The report indicates that the introduction of lead-free petrol and the adoption of catalyst technology may meet energy, economic and health requirements. The Minister for Health stresses that his concern is essentially with the health implications of lead and that those people with expertise in other areas must be looked to for the development of appropriate technology.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. By way of preface I refer to the numerous occasions on which senators find that people, particularly people in the low income groups, have a lot of difficulty in obtaining tourist visas to visit Australia. I ask the Minister to contrast the situation with the situation in respect of the growing number of United States nationals who are involved in semiwhitecollar crime and who are able to enter Australia easily. A classic illustration of this unfairness is an article in this morning’s Press regarding a Miss Judy Chavez, whom I might call a Central Intelligence Agency sex decoy and who has come to Australia to flog a book of her association with a Soviet defector. What explanation can I and other senators give to many middle and lower income Italian, Yugoslavian and Greek families whose relatives find all sorts of obstacles placed in their way when they seek to obtain tourist visas to enter Australia?
I am not aware of the method by which the visa was obtained for the person mentioned by Senator Mulvihill. I am aware of his interest in assisting people to obtain visas to enter Australia. I believe he has a great deal of information on the way in which that system works. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to see whether there is any further information that he can give so that this matter may be promulgated through Senator Mulvihill. I will also seek any comment that the Minister wishes to make on the matter of the person who entered Australia and who was mentioned in this morning’s newspapers.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications indicate what stage has been reached in relation to the consideration of providing to northern Tasmania access to the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio second channel program? Does the Minister agree that this could be obtained relatively cheaply by relay of either the Hobart or Melbourne second network broadcast?
– I have no information on that matter and I will refer the question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the projected military exercise to be carried out in the area of the Ben Lomond uranium deposit to be done in co-operation with overseas troops trained in counter-insurgency methods? What is the total number of troops and other Service personnel engaged in the exercise and what is the purpose of the training? Is the exercise related to the fact that the Ben Lomond uranium deposit is partly owned by the French Government? Is the Minister also aware that the French Government has consistently resisted international pressure to become a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty?
-I will have to refer that question to the Minister for Defence. There is quite a lot of detail included in it and I will endeavour to get an early answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment. It follows the question recently asked by Senator Missen. Is it a fact that work done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Sydney indicates that petrol evaporation rather than exhaust fumes is one of the main causes of smog? Does this make the New South Wales Government’s determination to impose phase three of our emission control standards out of step with reality?
– This is the first of many questions which will make honourable senators regret that Senator Webster has left us, because I am unable to give the erudite and detailed reply that he would have given the Senate. I am forced to seek a reply from the Minister whom I represent in this place.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs aware that the Australian Olympic Federation launched a fundraising campaign in Sydney yesterday and that the Olympic Supporters Club of Australia, the body raising funds to send the Australian team to Moscow, will be promoted on radio and television advertisements that show former
Olympians Dawn Fraser and Herb Elliott encouraging people to ‘Kick in for your countryIt’s the Aussie thing to do’? Can the Minister guarantee that the Government will take no action to sabotage this campaign by putting pressure on the media outlets running these community service announcements or by attempting to stop the Commonwealth Banking Corporation acting as a collector for the campaign?
– I am not aware of the matter referred to by the honourable senator. No doubt, to this point it is within the realm of the Australian Olympic Federation to take action as it sees fit. I shall refer the matter to the Minister concerned and get a more detailed reply for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. No doubt the Minister is aware that the major portion of finance for wool promotion is raised in Australia by way of levy on wool produced in Australia and by contributions from the Australian Government. Is the Minister aware that the Australian Wool Corporation has to receive approval from the United Kingdom as to the expenditure and thrust of any local campaign or promotion? Will the Minister review the situation and transfer the administration from Ilkley, in the United Kingdom, to Australia?
-The matter raised by the honourable senator is of considerable interest. I am aware that the funds for promotion of wool produced in Australia are raised from the industry, from the producers themselves, and by contribution from the Government. The control that exists in Ilkley over local promotion is a matter which I shall refer to the Minister for Primary Industry to get his views, and I will forward them to the honourable senator.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, although I realise that he may prefer the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to answer the question. On 7 December last did the Minister for Defence say that the unanimous decision by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works to reject the Casey University proposal was ill-founded? I ask also whether the Minister for Defence, on the same date, said:
Parliament will be informed as to the Government’s reasons for not accepting the Public Works Committee’s report.
When will this chamber be given a clear statement as to why the Government plans to override a unanimous decision of a parliamentary committee so that honourable senators will be able to debate the Government’s decision?
– I am not aware of the statement of the Minister for Defence of 7 December but I can accept that he may well have made a statement to that effect. I imagine that he has indicated also that he will convey to Parliament the Government’s reasons for not accepting the Committee’s report. My understanding is that, in due course, the Government will bring to the House of Representatives its report. I will look at providing in due course a statement which will be tabled in this place and which will enable a debate upon the subject.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Minister know that the yield on long term bonds reached 1 1 .2 per cent this week, which is an all-time record? How does he reconcile this fact with the Prime Minister’s 1977 election promise to reduce interest rates by 2 per cent and his simultaneous boast that ‘it is a target which can and will be achieved ‘?
– During that period the Government did reduce interest rates, I think by slightly less than 2 per cent. That was a very commendable situation. It was done against a background to which the Prime Minister then referred, when world interest rates were very much lower. Today world interest rates are at an unprecedented height and the pressure on Australia in that regard is immense. So the two matters are not irreconcilable in any way. In the conditions in which the statement was made, great progress was made. In the conditions that exist in the world today, the fact that Australia has interest rates so much lower than its trading partners is highly commendable and the Government intends to keep it so.
– I ask a supplementary question. Senator Carrick has tried to duck out of the question that I asked by using an excuse. I ask him this: Does he remember Mr Fraser making the statement on 2 1 January 1 975:
When political leaders say the present situation cannot be helped, it is part of a world situation, they are expressing the futility of their own leadership when, if they were men of real stature, they would be saying, ‘we can overcome’.
– The principle itself is an impeccable one and in fact it has been exactly what has happened. In two elections, the 1975 and the 1977 elections, the Australian people commended the Fraser Government for its capacity so to do. In fact, by reducing the interest rates, as it did at the time, it proved that what it said it meant. Nobody can look ahead so far as to commit any government in the long range future. Nobody could have foreseen what would be the unfortunate and even tragic circumstances of overseas countries soaring into high inflation and soaring into high interest rates. Suffice to say that this Government needed no alibis because it took an inflation rate that was running beyond 1 8 per cent in 1975 and brought it down very drastically, to the immense satisfaction of the Australian people and the praise of people abroad.
- Senator Primmer asked me recently about Argentina. The Government has on many occasions made it clear that it deplores the violations of human rights wherever they occur. The Argentine authorities have been informed at a senior level of Australian concern regarding the human rights situation in Argentina and of the desirability of moderation in matters concerning fundamental human freedoms. The Government will continue to ensure that its concern is conveyed to the Argentine authorities.
Australia is participating in the consideration of the question of disappeared persons in Argentina at the 36th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights which is currently being held in Geneva.
– Yesterday during Question Time, Senator Sibraa asked me a question concerning a proposed meeting of the Middle East Sub-Committee of the Joint House Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, which was due to conduct its second public meeting on Thursday, 28 February 1980, between 6 and 8 p.m. The witnesses to appear before the Committee were to be from the Office of National Assessments. I am advised by the Clerk to the Committee that he informed the Chairman, Mr Barry Simon, M.P., on 26 February that it was not possible for witnesses to be taken from the Office of National Assessments on Thursday next. The Clerk was advised that the evidence was to be given by the Director-General of the ONA , Mr Furlonger, and that he was ill and would not be available for that meeting.
In the circumstances, the Chairman, after discussion with the Clerk to the Committee, advised that the meeting should be postponed and that arrangements be made for the ONA to appear before the Committee on the following Thursday night, 6 March, or as early as possible.
– I was asked to arrange for my Department to bring into constant terms the amounts of money spent from 1970 to 1980 on exploration and development in Australia. In a moment I will seek leave to table a document which gives the relevant information. It shows -
– Have you the figures for exploration only?
– The table shows separate figures for exploration and development and the total. For example, it shows that in the three years before the Whitlam Government $406m was spent on exploration and this fell to $263m in the years of the Whitlam Government. In development the figure fell from $268m to $162m but the total amount spent on exploration and development was $674m and this fell to $425m. However, I am happy to say that in each of these categories, in the three years from 1976 to 1979, the figures have risen above what they were when the Labor Government was in office. I seek leave to incorporate a table.
The table read as follows-
In the light of this, the Department has restricted recruitment to essential requirements. This was a departmental decision. On 14 February 1980, a directive was issued to all Directors on freezing recruitment so that the Department can comply with its ceiling figure by 30 June. The positions advertised in the Press in Queensland will take some time to fill. A period must be allowed for the receipt of applications, their consideration, interviews and the processing of appointments. So, by the time these actions have been completed in the normal way, it is likely that the Department will be recruiting again. As I understand it, the positions advertised in the Press relate to social workers and liaison officers. The usual practice, with regard to complying with staff ceilings, is undertaken by the Department. At present the Department has the staff required for the early part of the year. Effort will be made by the Department to comply with the ceiling figures by 30 June.
-by leave-I claim to have been misrepresented at Question
Time today in an answer given to a question relating to Afghanistan and associated matters. Senator Carrick said that all members of the Opposition, with the exception of two,- he pointed to Senator Wheeldon ‘s desk at the time when he answered that question- had adopted a theme in relation to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, contrary to the United Nations resolution and, by implication, contrary to the Government’s view about the invasion of Afghanistan. Senator Carrick was described in the Australian in an article late last year as a master of the inoffensive waffle. Today I found the waffle offensive and claim to have been misrepresented. I refer to what I said in the Senate debate on this issue on Wednesday, 20 February. I said:
Last night Senator Durack moved a motion condemning the Soviet invasion. Those are the matters which are the subject of debate in the Senate tonight. We on this side of the House have little disagreement with the motion moved by Senator Durack. There is only one silly phrase in it. That is the reference to the invasion of Afghanistan as being potentially the gravest threat to international peace and security since 1945. That is an example of the Liberal Party and Malcolm Fraser’s wishful thinking in domestic political terms rather than a realistic assessment of what the Afghanistan situation amounts to.
That comment by me on behalf of the Opposition indicated that we would support the Amendment moved by the Government with the exception of that phrase, which is a value judgment of the Fraser Government and a value judgement which was not made by the United Nations or the European Economic Community, to which Senator Carrick referred in answering the question this morning. I claim to have been grossly misrepresented by the Leader of the Governent in this place in the answer which he gave. That misrepresentation is documented in Hansard both in the answer to the question given today and in what I said last Wednesday.
– by leave- I claim to have been misrepresented during an answer given by Senator Carrick to a question asked today by Senator Wriedt. In that answer Senator Carrick said, as Senator Button has explained, that the speeches on Afghanistan by members of the Opposition with the exception of one person in this place and one person in another place- and I saw Senator Carrick indicate Senator Wheeldon ‘s desk- opposed the motions passed by the United Nations and the European Parliament. I wish to read from Senate Hansard, page 1 1 5 of 20 February 1 980, what I said about this subject, as I was also an Opposition speaker in the Afghanistan debate. I said:
The invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union has been rightly condemned by all sensible people in the world. This condemnation crosses ideologies. It crosses the whole political spectrum. The vote in the United Nations was a considerable setback to the Soviet Union because of this broad spectrum of countries which opposed what it had done . . . The Australian Labor Party joins with this condemnation . . .
I went on to talk about the motion of the Socialist International. Normally I do not make personal explanations about remarks made by Senator Carrick or anybody else, but I find Senator Carrick ‘s imputation of what I had said during the debate offensive. Like Senator Button I regard his remarks as offensive waffle. I am not surprised at them, coming from someone who I find is pathologically incapable of handling the truth.
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I draw your attention to Standing Order 4 1 8. 1 suggest that whilst no unparliamentary words were used by Senator Grimes, the imputation against the Leader of the Government was highly improper and should be withdrawn.
– It was an improper imputation, Senator Grimes. Would you please withdraw it?
- Mr President, I did not believe that I made any imputation at all. I believed that I made a direct statement. However, I will withdraw that remark.
– Offence has been taken. The honourable senator will withdraw.
– The statement has been withdrawn.
– by leave- What I said was that the Australian Labor Party had not considered the Afghanistan action by the Soviet Union as an act of aggression threatening the world. I drew upon the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) representing, as I believed, the views of his party. Hansard shows Mr Hayden as saying:
Soviet aggression then seems to have been a result of a perceived weakness to the South, rather than a confident step in a steady expansionist drive.
In Hansard on 19 February Mr Keating is quoted by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) as saying:
It is so far away from our area of interest and Australia is not threatened . . .
It is extremeley unlikely that the Soviet Union will attack Pakistan or Iran. After all, who would want Pakistan? Or for that matter, who would want Afghanistan?
There is a great volume of statements in which the Labor Party shows that it has seen the Afghanistan situation as a defensive situation.
– Order! Under Standing Order 408 statements in relation to which misrepresentation has been claimed may not be debated. Honourable senators may make a personal explanation but the statements which they claim constitute misrepresentation may not be debated.
– by leave- I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Carrick during question Time. I would appreciate being able to look at the Hansard pinks’, but I believe Senator Carrick said that with the exception of one member in either House the Australian Labor Party is not opposed to the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan and is out of step with the overwhelming majority of members of the United Nations and the unanimous decision of the European Parliament. I believe that that is an accurate summary of what Senator Carrick has said. I claim that it grossly misrepresents me.
I have not spoken in the debate on Afghanistan in the House as Senator Grimes and Senator Button have done. I am, however, on the public record- and have been so for some weeks in one weekly newspaper and privately- as having consistently expressed the view that the Soviet aggression against Afghanistan is inexcusable. Like Senator Button, I reject the assertion by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan represents the greatest threat to world peace since 1945. The United Nations and the European Parliament -
– The honourable senator should make his personal explanation.
– Have not endorsed that extravagant rhetorical nonsense -
– Which is a measure of desperation of the Prime Minister in his desire to divert attention from his domestic failure.
– Order! Sit down please.
– I raise a point of order. I am appalled that the honourable senator would not sit down when you, Mr President, rose to your feet.
– I didn’t hear him.
- Senator Walsh has gone beyond making a personal explanation and is debating the Afghanistan issue. You ruled on this matter a moment ago.
– Personal explanations must be restricted to showing where honourable senators have been personally misrepresented. The matter cannot be debated.
– by leave- I claim to have been deliberately misrepresented by the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) in his reply to a question today regarding Afghanistan. Pointing to Senator Wheeldon ‘s desk he said that of all Australian Labor Party members only one in each chamber had condemned the aggression of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Afghanistan and supported the United Nations ‘ resolution on that invasion. As recorded at page 107 of Senate Hansard of 20 February 1980 1 said:
I want to make it abundantly clear that the Australian Labor Party joins with the Government in its unequivocal condemnation of this invasion by the Soviet Union of a free and independent nation, transforming that nation of Afghanistan into a colonial vassal of the new policy makers in the Kremlin.
Further on I stated:
The Labor Party supports entirely its -
That is, the Australian Government’s- being pan of the 104 nations in the United Nations which voted for a resolution calling upon the USSR immediately and unconditionally to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
I applaud the Australian Government’s participation in that vote.
This is the first occasion that I have had to make a personal explanation. I regret having to do so. I believe that I was deliberately and grossly misrepresented by the Leader of the Government. Mr President, I ask whether there is any way whereby personal explanations rebutting falsehoods and deceit contained in Minister’s answers can be included in the tape recording which is broadcast later in the day or will the broadcast calumnies continue to go unreported around the country? Does this not encourage mendacity and deceit in Question Time on a non-broadcast day as occurred today?
-by leave- I claim to have been misrepresented also by Senator Carrick at Question Time today. When I spoke in the debate on Afghanistan yesterday I emphasised those sections of the Labor movement, both domestic and international which had condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I also made the point that as Chairman of the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party’s Foreign Affairs and Defence
Committee I in fact had moved the motion in my State condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I have not had a briefing by the Office of National Assessments. As a member of the Middle East sub-committee of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee I have had a briefing by Mr Ashwin and Dr Merrillees from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The speech that I made yesterday would be closer to their point of view than speeches made by those opposite. I take the strongest objection to the Minister’s statement this morning.
– by leave- Along with those of my colleagues who have taken exception to the misrepresentation by Senator Carrick, I too join in the criticism. I point out that at page 138 of the Senate Hansard of ‘20 February I went on record as saying:
The body to which we are affiliated internationally and the body to which my colleague Senator Wheeldon referred last night, the Socialist International, went on record on 8 February this year at its leaders conference in Vienna as saying that the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan has violated international law as well as the sovereignty and the right of self-determination of that country. The Socialist International condemns the intervention of the Soviet armed forces in Afghanistan and calls upon the Soviet Union to withdraw all of its troops from that country. We make no apology for that determination because our party is affiliated with that organisation. It has, as a body, pleaded for the withdrawal of Soviet troops; so do we of the labor movement.
I also said:
We opposed American and Australian involvement in the war in Vietnam. We opposed military intervention in or military occupation of Timor. We opposed the overthrow of the Allende Government in Chile. We objected violently to the overthrow of the Labor Government in this, our own country. Because we must be consistent, we oppose the military involvement in and the military occupation of Afghanistan.
– by leave- I join with my colleagues in expressing my own disgust at the way in which Senator Carrick has misrepresented my position and that of other honourable senators in claiming that we have not opposed the Soviet oppression in Afghanistan or indeed acknowledged the seriousness of that situation. I put my own position, I thought, unequivocally on the record as recently as last night when I said:
It cannot be stressed too much or repeated too often, that the Australian Labor Party condemns without qualification the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was mounted without a shred of legal or moral justification. It constituted a violation of the integrity of that proud and independent nation and it constituted a breach of all those standards of civilised behaviour which the international community has been striving so laboriously to construct since the end of the Second World War.
Later in my speech I said:
When a country is engaged in the kind of flagrant violation of international law in which the Soviet has been there is no doubt that some response is appropriate. I am not suggesting, nor does the Labor Opposition suggest, that we should in any way turn a blind eye to this or any other violation of this kind; . . .
In the remainder of my speech I went on to point out that any such response had to be appropriate, effective and credible. I was making the point that the nature of the Government’s response satisfied none of those criteria. But the point should be obvious, even to Senator Carrick, that the nature of the claim that he made this morning about my own position, and indeed that of my colleagues, is nothing other than a deliberate, grotesque fabrication.
-by leave- I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Carrick this morning. My colleagues on this side of the House and I, in speaking on this matter of the Afghanistan invasion, have soundly condemned the Russian intervention. I point out that I started my speech, as is recorded at page 300 of the Senate Hansard of 26 February, by saying:
We on this side of the chamber and all reasonable minded, thinking people, irrespective of their political persuasion, would have to condemn intervention of one country in another. It is not only morally wrong but also unjust.
I went on to say:
I condemn Russia most certainly for its intervention in Afghanistan. For many years Afghanistan has had a reasonably good relationship with Russia.
I take strong exception to what was said here this morning. It was done for political reasons. I think it is totally wrong for Senator Carrick to misrepresent our position. We on this side are undeserving of such criticism and I do not believe it is in the best interests of this place.
- Mr President, earlier today I directed a question to you. I realise that perhaps I should not have done so when making a personal explanation. Would you care for me to repeat it?
– No. I listened to it. In response to your question, Senator Tate, I point out that under existing procedures and arrangements a personal explanation which concerns a question asked previously does not form part of the rebroadcast of Senate Question Time.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. In view of the fact that quite a number of honourable senators on this side of the chamber have proved that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) misrepresented them today, will we now get an apology from the Leader of the Government in the Senate because he did misrepresent us, or will he just let the matter slide and not apologise to the honourable senators whom he has offended?
– There is no provision for apologies to flow from a personal explanation setting out an individual honourable senator’s position in respect of any matter.
-by leave- I consider that my views as a member of the Australian Labor Party have been misrepresented, although at this stage, because of committee obligations, I have not spoken in the debate on the ministerial statement on Afghanistan. But, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) might recall, I have in questions directed to him indicated that I and, as far as I know, the whole of the Labor movement have condemned what has taken place in Afghanistan. We think that the campaign by the Government is simply an election stunt. But I say clearly that the policy of the Australian Labor Party is as stated by our Leader. In Caucus we have condemned the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan. I do not think that any member of Caucus holds an opinion other than that. That is party policy. I echo what Senator Douglas McClelland said about Socia list International, with which we are affiliated. It has indicated very clearly that Labor parties throughout the world should be opposed to the Soviet action in Afghanistan but that they should take whatever initiatives they can to restore the world to a position of detente. 1 think that our position in that respect has been put already, particularly in the questions concerning the neutral zone, which were asked this morning. I hope that the intention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate is not to describe members of the Labor Party hysterically. I ask him to respect their integrity in relation to their policies.
– by leave- I take great offence at the statement made today by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). I do so as Secretary of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party Resources Committee and as one of a number of members of the Labor Party who attended the Bureau of Agricultural Economics Agricultural Outlook Conference in Canberra in January. A Press statement was issued on behalf of all the members of the Resources Committee on 31 January 1980, long before debate on the Afghanistan issue commenced in the Parliament. The statement included, among other things, the following:
We and the Labor Party detest imperialism of the Russian or any other variety, but thousands of Soviet troops have been in Afghanistan since the early 1970s, without apparently exciting President Carter and Mr Fraser.
Mr President, I seek leave to have the full text of that Press statement incorporated in Hansard
The document read as follows-
STATEMENT FROM MEMBERS OF FEDERAL A.L.P. RESOURCES COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURAL OUTLOOK CONFERENCE-31.1.80
A large proportion of farm industry leaders are justifiably concerned about the short and long term damage to our agricultural exports which could follow the Fraser Government’s clumsy use of trade as a political weapon.
This concern would be mitigated if the Government had handled the issue consistently, competently, and if there was a reasonable chance of achieving the stated objective- a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
None of those conditions have been met. Wheat exports are to be restricted. Course grain exports are banned. Exports of wool- a quasi military material- will not be impeded, and the Government is happy to export anything at all in Soviet ships. The degree to which wheat exports will be limited has yet to bc spelt out.
The Government’s haste and incompetence was manifest earlier this week when it moved to impede exports of a strategic military material- titanium- after a Sunday newspaper exposed the Government’s failure to do its homework.
Any meagre chance of President Carter’s ultimatum to withdraw Soviet troops within a month had of succeeding, was sabotaged by Mr Fraser’s published admission that it is unrealistic to expect a Soviet withdrawal.
Vague Government assurances that compensation will be paid, will comfort only the most gullible disadvantaged exporters. Even in the short term how can one variable be isolated? How can the price effects of the restrictions be separated from all the other factors affecting price? If the Russians in retaliation boycott wool sales how will the resulting price fall be assessed, and will compensation be paid?
Mr Fraser is clearly more interested in being an international tourist and playing the global statesman than in addressing himself to these mundane problems at home.
We and the Labor Party detest imperialism of the Russian or any other variety, but thousands of Soviet troops have been in Afghanistan since the early 1 970s, without apparently exciting President Carter and Mr Fraser.
Domestic political considerations seem to be paramount, in Fraser’s case a desire to divert attention from the return of double figure inflation, record unemployment and Ministerial scandal.
– I have received a letter from Senator Grimes proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The need for reform of the taxation and social security systems to improve the position of low income families.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-In proposing this very broad and general matter of public importance for discussion today, I seek not to be combative, not to be provocative and not to indulge in the sort of debate which has been going on all week on another subject. My concern is to broaden the debate on the need for tax reform and for reform of the social security system to assist the position of low income families in the community. I believe that in the past few months the debate has become quite narrow. One point of view, that put by a Government back bench committee, particularly the chairman of that committee, seems to me to be the only view getting any discussion and publicity in the community. I think that is unfortunate and unwise.
This group of citizens, families with children who are on low incomes, be they incomes from work or incomes from government payments, have been hard hit by the economic recession of the past few years and have been hard hit by the economic measures which have been adopted to combat the recession, albeit unsuccessfully, in the past few years. The working families on low incomes who receive little assistance from our social security or taxation systems consist of the families of the unemployed and the pensioners, whose numbers are increasing and whose numbers certainly do not look like decreasing in the next few years. They consist of single parent families, particularly those on single parent pensions. All those groups of people have been increasingly disadvantaged in recent times. Real wages have fallen and the relative position of the low income family in the wage scale has worsened, as it will under systems of wage indexation and under the legalistic arbitration wage fixing system which we have in this country.
Allowances for pensioners’ children and the supplementary rent allowances paid to the poorest of all those people have not increased since 1975, despite an accumulated inflation rate of almost 40 per cent in that time. Family allowances have not been increased since they were introduced in 1976, despite an inflation rate of some 36 per cent since then. They have hence lost considerable value in that time, a fact admitted by all. It was admitted even by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services at a recent conference. Those groups of families contain family groups which exist on an income of up to $20 to $30 a week below the poverty line as calculated by Professor Henderson and his colleagues. They have been badly affected by the changes made to our health insurance scheme. Unless they live near an accessible public hospital system or unless they have a doctor who will treat them as disadvantaged people, they have to pay considerable sums of money for private health insurance. Many of them live in private rental accommodation. Whilst their relative income has dropped, rents have increased with the inflation rate.
That the situation cannot remain as it is has been obvious to all of us. The solutions which have been put forward, which have been getting the most publicity, have caused concern to some of us, certainly not only honourable senators on this side of the chamber. We have had a tendency in the past, in seeking solutions to problems concerning disadvantaged people and poverty, to come up with answers which are a compromise between equity, simplicity and political expediency. Often the end result has been that the people with the most political influence, the upper and middle income earners, receive the most from reforms and the people most in need receive the least. The tax cuts of 1978 had a considerable bias towards the high income earners. We have had plenty of debate on that aspect in this place. The change from applying a means test to applying an income test on pensions and benefits has benefited most the people with highly valued assets, whether they were in property or cash. People with considerable cash deposits in banks or building societies who are capable of putting that money into non-interest bearing deposits or delayed interest bearing deposits, which have been established for that purpose, can get a full pension with full fringe benefits, despite their wealth. However, people with small, regular incomes from superannuation payments or people who, by doing a small amount of work, manage to earn a small amount of income have their pensions reduced and frequently lose their fringe benefits. Similarly, the abolition of death duties and estate duties, in the absence of capital gains taxes in general, has assisted the high income earner and the property owner in this country. I see a danger that the widely publicised proposed reforms which the Government’s back bench committee, led by Mr Wilson in another place, is urging on the Government will produce the same result- the greatest benefit for those in least need.
– Can you explain how?
-I will come to that. It is not an easy thing to do, as the scheme changes from week to week, but I will attempt to do so.
– There is still a consistent trend.
-There is nothing very consistent about it. I note that on 1 3 November last Senator Hamer expressed the same sorts of misgivings in this place as I am expressing now when he asked a question of Senator Carrick. He said:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer considering a proposal for income splitting for tax purposes between husbands and wives with a view to helping the one income family unit? Is it a fact that such a scheme would be very regressive, of little value to a low income family, but worth more than $5,000 a year to a professional man with a taxable income of $50,000? What would be the cost to revenue of the income splitting proposal? Accepting the desirability of ensuring equitable tax treatment for the single income family, as I am sure all on this side of the chamber do, could not this result be achieved more simply, more economically and more equitably by increasing the tax allowance for a dependent spouse and making the allowance a tax credit rather than a deduction from taxable income?
Other people have expressed concern in the Press and other places that the amount of publicity and support the income splitting proposals were getting would lead to the Government’s making a decision which may not help those in most need. My concern is not merely to express my qualms about income splitting proposals in general and about Mr Wilson’s proposal in particular. I do not want to enter into a debate only on Mr Wilson’s income splitting proposals. I want to impress upon people that there are alternative approaches to take to deal with the specific group I am talking about, the poor and disadvantaged in this community. There is a broader debate in the general community and in the welfare community on this subject, despite the fact that the publicity and the Press reports would seem to have us believe that the alternatives are the Government back bench committee’s proposal, or nothing.
I recently took part in a seminar conducted by the Australian Council of Social Service on this subject. At that seminar there were many speakers, including Professor Henderson, Professor Groenewegen and others. The seminar took all day. The agenda included a discussion of Mr Wilson’s proposal. Unfortunately, the reporting of that seminar resulted in the impression being given that it was a seminar about Mr Wilson’s proposal, about one person in particular who had questions about Mr Wilson’s proposal and nothing else. It is this sort of thing that concerns me. I said before that we tend to come up with solutions which favour the middle income earners and the middle clasess in this country. I suggest that one of the reasons that Mr Wilson’s proposal has received such persistent attention is that it is an attractive proposal to those who edit and write newspapers, most of whom would benefit considerably from it.
Mr Wilson has considerably modified his proposal. One of the difficulties at the ACOSS seminar was that proposition he put forward on that day was very different from the proposition he put forward a couple of weeks before at another seminar. The proposal has changed from what was initially a pure income splitting proposal to a very complex proposal, introducing, as well as optional income splitting, an increased but taxed family allowance system, an increased spouse rebate which was named, for some reason, a household income rebate- why the name has been changed one finds difficult to understand -a small increase in the supporting parents rebate and a living alone allowance. All these changes were in response to various criticisms made of the original income splitting proposal. I am not critical of someone who modifies his proposal and takes on board criticisms by others. All I suggest is that it is now a much more complex proposal than it was initially.
It is alleged that all this could occur by allowing for a $2 per week tax cut for all taxpayers, at a cost to the revenue of $ 1,800m to be paid for from windfall gains achieved by failing to index taxes and from the oil levy. I merely remark that I would have thought that we should all be highly suspicious of any scheme which depends for revenue on the windfall gains of inflation and a politically sensitive levy like the oil tax. I would have thought that one would be very suspicious- I expect the electorate to be very suspicious- of any scheme which allegedly benefits every one, rich and poor, and costs no one, not even the single taxpayer, anything. There have been considerable criticisms of the scheme and the claims made about it, but time permits me to say only that proposals involving income splitting, making respectable the present tax avoidance practices of the wealthy, in fact benefit most the high income family without children, and benefit least the low and middle income family. It will assist least of all the single parent family which has no one to split income with and whose increased single parent rebate in this scheme is less than the inflation rate. These people make up a large proportion of the group which I think we should be determined to help.
This proposal seems to be to be the old, old story. The reform will entrench the status quo, work in reverse of the fair redistribution of wealth and be of little use to the truly poor. I ask all people on both sides of the Parliament and outside to take a critical look at the proposal in the light of these assertions which are made not only by myself but also by others in the community. I feel that the proposal is being viewed in isolation, with the feeling that it is the only proposal which will solve the problems. We know that the unstated aim of the proposal is to get women out of the work force. If the effect were to give those women working, through economic necessity, in dreary jobs, a chance to get out of the work force, it would be laudable. But the scheme will not do this. The benefits will be inadequate and these women will still have to work. In theory, the proposal will encourage those with high incomes to get out of the work force, but in trying to do so it attempts to reverse the trend of the last 20 years when women in our community have, very rightly, sought self-fulfilment and have sought to use the skills and training that they have. I do not think this scheme or any other scheme will succeed in reversing that trend; nor do I believe that we should reverse such trends in this way, even if we think they are undesirable.
We need tax reform. In the words of Professor Mathews at the Australian Institute of Political Science conference a few years ago, we need to ensure that those on high incomes and those who are self-employed not only pay taxes but also pay their fair share of taxes. But we also need to identify the disadvantaged and those who are in need now, and to take measures to correct their disadvantage at the same time as ensuring that those who contribute a fair share to the community do so.
It is all I can do in the 20 minutes in which I have to speak today to point to some alternatives to the sorts of income splitting proposals that Mr Wilson and his colleagues present. I am concerned that the incomes of all single parent pensioners are from $4 to $20 below the poverty line. Low income earners are in the same situation. The incomes of all unemployed people with two or more children are in fact from $10 to $20 below the poverty line. We must do something about these people and we must do something about them now. In all these cases it is parenthood which increases the costs and puts the families behind economically.
I believe it would make sense in our present economic crisis to introduce measures which in the short term will relieve the acute problems of these families while trying to work out the long term economic problems besetting the nation. These families need income and access to health care and housing at a reasonable cost. These problems are not going to be solved by general income splitting proposals and complicated methods of increasing family allowances and then relying on the tax claw-back to cut increases to the higher income earners. To provide income commensurate with the needs of low income families, the mechanism we can easily use to assist those families is the family allowance system which is efficient and well accepted. One could say that family allowances could be indexed, but this would give inadequate payments to the low income families and give payments of no interest at all to the high income families in general. But we could, better still, 1 believe, pay a system of supplementary allowances to low income earners, dependent on the number of children and dependent on their income. It uses a mechanism which is accepted, which is efficient, which has a high take-up rate and which would be a straightforward measure aimed at the heart of the problem.
I believe alternative proposals to tax family allowances after increasing them would create problems of administration and the opportunity for tax manipulation while the system remains as complex as it is. It seems to me that it will be for some time. Consideration should be given to a child care allowance paid to all families with preschool children in recognition of the cost of child care in this age group, whether that care be at home or outside. Provision of access to health services for such families through health insurance and through a sensible and clearly defined disadvantaged patients scheme would lift another cost burden from these people whose problem is not only just lack of income but also frequently whose problems are aggravated by the recurrent illnesses of childhood. If the child has a chronic illness like asthma or epilepsy and many other illnesses which affect children, then these families are further behind because of the problems with health insurance at the moment.
We also must recognise that there is a third factor, which is that most low income groups in the community are in expensive rented accommodation. Sixty per cent of lone parents spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. The Government should introduce a scheme in co-operation with the States to overcome this. One cannot expand on a scheme of this type in two minutes, but housing, as those associated with welfare, including other honourable senators, know is absolutely critical in the poverty situation of these low income groups. I believe we should use our limited resources to help those in need. I believe there is a great danger that in introducing income splitting devices we will not do this, we will dissipate those resources that we have across the community often to those who are not in need. Any scheme which costs the revenue $ 1 ,800m, and which is going to rely on windfall gains from inflation and on a tax as sensitive as the oil levy, must be in danger all the time.
I think it is quite wrong to dissipate that amount of money across the community instead of directing it particularly to those whom we can identify and do something about. It may be that people have an earnest and conscientious desire to reverse the sociological changes of the last 20 years to get women back in the home and force them to stay there. I do not think the taxation system or the social security system is an appropriate way to do this, nor do I think it is appropriate that we try to do this by legislation. I merely ask for a broader debate on this subject and that is why I brought up this matter of public importance.
( 12.25)- I acknowledge that Senator Grimes has brought forward a broad and general motion, as he terms it, and I welcome the opportunity to have some more general discussion on matters of assistance to all people in low income groups in Australia. I recognise that the breadth of” the matter raised does not allow us to pursue at any great depth many matters. But what has been said by Senator Grimes has raised many questions and perhaps we would be entitled to seek some views from the Opposition with regard to those questions. It is a wide debate, but despite that fact we would need to see what specific reforms could be proposed in this country if we were to direct more assistance to those who are in need and not one particular group. I refer to not just those who might be entitled to pensions but all low income groups.
Honourable senators have to ask: Would we change the tax scales, because tax is mentioned in the wording of the matter raised? Would we look at the tax threshold? Would we look at the indexation of tax to see that inflation does not increase tax year by year? Would we look at how we give allowances, whether they be for children or dependent spouses or in whatever other area? Because of the high level of expenditure in the social security area we would need to ask ourselves about the levels of pensions and about what ought to be an income-free area which would have relationship to the pension. We would need to see what are to be the fringe benefits, those things outside the pension entitlement which undoubtedly are of very real value to those who receive them. We would need to look at income tests that would be placed on the various pensions and benefits. I think it is fair to say that Senator Grimes has not attempted to be specific on any of these issues and I am not able to canvass these issues in a general debate.
Senator Grimes has spent some time discussing the Wilson proposal, as it is referred to in the Press. Perhaps I ought to say that that is a proposal which has been developed by a subcommittee of the Government members Health and Welfare Committee and is one that has had some discussion in the general community. The purpose of raising the matter, I think, is to have some discussion. If we could have some discussion in Australia about welfare matters and assistance to low income groups, then I think it would be a very helpful and healthy sign because whenever matters such as these are raised it usually is in a combative sense. It usually is not so that we can have a discussion about these matters. It usually is to point to many things and to seek more expenditure in welfare or reductions in tax or to try to get commitments that perhaps are not within the reach of all Australians.
On this occasion, when perhaps some time has been given to discuss one proposal from a subcommittee of Government members, I ought to say that it is not the only proposal that the Government would have in its mind if it were seeking to have reform either of taxation or social security systems. The Government is not available to canvass publicly what its proposals would be either for the next Budget or at any other stage. It makes these proposals and uses input and information that comes from a number of sources. But it is true to say that we do not have nearly enough public discussion about these matters.
We could recall that about six months ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in his reply to the Budget Speech was very careful to avoid any specific commitments. I think that that would be conceded by anybody. There were no effective alternatives proposed. Indeed other than the matter that Senator Grimes raised today with regard to supplementary assistance through the family allowance scheme, nothing that could be regarded as a real alternative was suggested in the discussion that has been raised. For some time I have been talking about the relationship of income security payments to what has been called a poverty line in this country. I have expressed in this place and in other places my concern. I doubt that we have an Australian poverty line that relates to present day conditions.
I have recently asked the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat, in consultation with my own Department, to examine the whole issue of alternative approaches to measure a poverty line that would be relative to Australia in the 1980s. I have asked the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat to take up this matter with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and to look particularly at the ways in which we could use household expenditure data so that equivalence scales that would have some meaning could be derived. The Senate will recall that Professor Henderson’s poverty lines used equivalence scales that were derived in New York in 1954 because there was no Australian data that could be applied. If we are to read in our newspapers and to hear through our media, as we do at such frequent intervals, that certain numbers of people in this country are living below the poverty line, it seems to me that there ought to be some contemporary measurement of what would be an appropriate poverty line below which no person in this country should be allowed to fall.
The matters that have been raised bring to mind some of the things that have occurred since this Government came to office. If we are to relate to tax the motion before the Senate, we cannot ignore the Government’s actions in Budgets since 1976 which have assisted families. The tax adjustments introduced in the Budgets of 1976, 1977, February 1978 and July 1978 have meant an increase in the basic threshold of 54.5 per cent, an increase in the dependent spouse rebate of 49.25 per cent and an increase in the sole parent rebate of 108.5 per cent. The full movement in the consumer price index since 1975-76 has been about 47 per cent. The figures I have given could be related to that movement. So it can be shown that in real terms there has been a benefit.
The February 1978 tax reform introduced a standard rate of tax for some 90 per cent of taxpayers. This reduced at most income levels the difference in tax payable by one and two income families. The family allowance reform introduced in 1976 extended additional assistance to families who, only because of their low income, could not avail themselves of the former tax rebates for dependent children. Government action in the social security area, which is designed to assist families, needs to give recognition to the concept of full indexation of basic pension payments and basic benefit payments for those who are over 18 with dependants and those who are under 18 and married. Assistance has been provided to sole fathers since 1977 when supporting parents’ benefits were introduced, and fringe benefits were extended to supporting parents in 1979. I mention those as some examples of assistance that has been given.
There has been quite some debate in the public arena recently with regard to tax. We should recognise the matters that have been referred to by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) with regard to steps that have been taken towards creating a more equitable taxation system and the number of ways in which the Government has reduced the tax scales. It changed the spouse rebates and it has done the things that I mentioned earlier. They have been of assistance to all those people who pay tax. Of course, with the increase in the tax threshold there are many people in the low income groups who now pay no tax. That is a considerable and direct benefit to them. It should be recognised that a taxpayer with a wholly dependent spouse is now able to earn up to $5,698 without paying any income tax. That shows that there has been an improvement in the position of that very low income group of people which was previously subjected to taxation and which now, through those increases I have mentioned, is not subjected to taxation at all.
Senator Grimes referred briefly to the attitude of his party to the introduction of a capital gains tax. I think that other members of the Opposition have spoken about that matter. He said that a change to the income test would benefit those with large assets. He did not include in the groups of people he mentioned those living in rural poverty who, through the means test as it formerly applied, may not have been entitled to the receipt of pensions but who, through changes to the income test, may be eligible to receive pensions or part pensions.
– Were they not particularly identified by Professor Henderson’s inquiry as being in need?
They were, because in some years these people had absolutely no income.
– Their homes were never considered in the means test. You know that.
Their properties meant they were unable to receive pension entitlements, but the change to the income test has now allowed them to receive benefits. The problem of a lack of cash income for many people in rural areas has been alleviated by that change. It is a change that I think has assisted families in Australia. It is not a change that I believe has related only to the people who have been mentioned by Senator Grimes. Senator Grimes mentioned the seminar that was arranged by the Australian Council of Social Service. 1 agree with him when he says that not enough discussion was given in the media to the many matters that were raised at that seminar. It is unfortunate that a simplistic approach can be taken in discussing welfare matters. If one were to ask people in this country what were the issues involved, they would have very little understanding of the issues that have been raised by Senator Grimes or those which would be of concern to me in putting forward proposals for future Budgets.
We need to find the answers to some of the issues. When I put forward my proposals for forward expenditure for the next three years I will need to look at the increases in costs that will be required to be found to maintain the present system, given the increases in the number of beneficiaries in all the categories. I will need to take account not only of the large number of intergenerational transfers that occur from the taxpaying group to the ageing group but also the fact that there will be inescapable expenditure if we are to maintain the income security system. It is fine to pose the questions but there is a need to determine what some of the answers can be. When the Government introduced the family allowances system in 1976 it brought increased assistance to 300,000 families who had not enjoyed tax rebates because they were at a very low income level. Since 1976 those family allowances have been paid to over two million families, covering more than four million children. This has been of benefit to those who have dependent children and for whom the cost of children is a primary responsibility.
No one ignores the fact that it would be of great expense to index family allowances. When the amount of $ 1,000m is paid out under any government scheme, the cost of indexation in relation to that scheme, with inflation running at anything up to 10 per cent or thereabouts, soon reaches an amount of $ 100m. Therefore, the fact that the benefits have not been increased is acknowledged. It was not possible to do these things in more recent Budgets. The pensions and benefits which must cover those who are in the lowest income groups- they are the groups in the large majority of cases who have no income other than social security pension or benefit payments- have increased significantly faster than prices since the mid 1960s. Under the Fraser Government most social security and benefit payments have reached record levels relative to average weekly earnings, and it should be recorded that the standard rate of pension has increased from $14 a week as at December 1968 to $57.90 a week as at December 1979. That is an increase of over 300 per cent. As a percentage of the average weekly earnings the pension during that period has risen from 20 per cent to about 24 per cent. The married rate also has increased substantially. They may just be figures but they are an acknowledgement of what has been achieved and what has been provided through using the resources of the Australian people to direct those payments to people who are in need.
If we are to discuss Senator Grimes ‘ motion, I should mention that he does refer to the need for reform of the taxation and social security systems to improve the position of low income families. We would then have to look at the performance of the Labor Party when it was in office. We see that there were promises to raise the basic pension rate to 25 per cent, which could not be achieved. That rate moved from 1 9.9 per cent to 23. 1 per cent, but it was not able to reach 25 per cent. The Labor Party promised to abolish the means test within the life of the next Parliament. It was not abolished in the three years of office of the Australian Labor Party, and I think if we were to read the statements of Senator Grimes and look at the platform of the Labor Party we would see that that is no longer a promise that would be made.
The Australian Labor Party has constantly criticised the family allowance scheme, although more recently it is finding that it is a scheme that is well accepted and efficient, as mentioned by Senator Grimes in the Senate Hansard in 1979. 1 must say that the policy of the Labor Party with regard to family allowances is not clear. It speaks of a review of the family allowance program in order to direct resources to low income families and to provide for an annual review of payments to maintain their value. But we would need to ask the question: Would the current scheme be means tested to limit family allowances to higher income families, or would the increases in the future be means tested and, if so, at what level of income? These are the questions which seriously ought to be posed if we are talking about reform of the social security system. Does the promise of an annual review mean indexation? I think Senator Grimes referred to that and its cost today. (Quorum formed). I was referring to the Australian Labor Party’s policy. As I conclude my remarks, I should like to mention the national compensation scheme and the national superannuation scheme to which the Labor Party is committed through its recent conference, and line up those policies with the other needs that there may be for a reform of the taxation and social security system, and pose the question: What effect would they have in light of expenditure, and what reforms would then be proposed by the Labor Party to maintain the existing system and to improve it? These are questions which are raised in a serious manner, and I think at some time we would like to hear answers.
-I rise in this debate glad, I must say, that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) has shown concern that these issues should be given wider debate and discussion, and very pleased to hear that we will not have any income splitting forced on us by the people on her side of the Parliament who seem to see it as an answer to the unemployment problem, an answer which will push women back into the home and, they say, provide jobs for the many young people who cannot find jobs in this country at the moment. This question of additional assistance to improve the position of low income families comes at a time when it is becoming more and more obvious that the bulk of the population in Australia is falling into that position of being a low income family. I think the latest figures show that about 70 per cent of the workers in this country receive below the average weekly earnings, which means that people in a family position are having a very hard time in making that income go around and being able to do for their children what they want to do.
The Minister made some comment on the fact that over the last few years pensions have risen in proportion to earnings. But when one recalls that, after tax, incomes have risen by 52.8 per cent since December 1978 and prices have risen by 40.6 per cent in that period it means that even though their position may have been improved on a percentage basis, people on low incomes in this country are having an increasingly hard time in filling that gap. What fascinates me is that while the Government shows some concern for the position of low income families, it does very little for them, but it actively encourages the corporate section of our country. I think this was shown in the last Budget Speech, when the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said:
Overall business profits improved last year. This process must continue if recovery is to be consolidated.
But while we know that the percentage of people on low incomes is increasing, and the percentage of people on pensions and social welfare and unemployment pensions is increasing, very little is being done to help those people exist in the community. In fact the Government is actively pursuing some of those people. While it has a policy of assisting the process in which profits will become larger and larger, it does extraordinary things such as this current review of invalid pensions, in which the Department of Social Security tells its officers, for instance, that it is important to impress upon all staff who handle invalid pensions that its acceptance of a doctor’s recommendation that a person be granted an invalid pension can never be automatic. The Department further instructs its staff to pursue valuable evidence of the true position. It states that this can be obtained by visiting the claimant’s former employer and obtaining details of why he left his employment, of his work history immediately prior to departure, and that his earning history can also be obtained from the Taxation Office. We seem to be pursuing the unfortunates in this community to an extraordinary length, and while we pursue those unfortunates we are ignoring the real problems which exist in areas of the community which depend on a social security system.
There has been some mention of single parent families. When we recall that one-quarter of all the children now being born will live in oneparent families before reaching the age of 15, we are talking about a very important section of the community. Although the Minister has recalled that family allowances were brought in and made available to sole parent families, and although in 1975 the sole parent rebate was introduced at $417, it still is a rebate of $417. Although sole parent families do get that rebate, even though at the 1975 rate, the dependent spouse rebate which two-parent families receive is $597. Why that difference should exist, why the two parent family should get that sort of advantage, small though it is, I fail to see. I cannot see why a sole parent family cannot get a similar advantage, especially as the sole parent family has a lower ability to earn than has the family with two parents, and also a lower ability to pay than a single taxpayer. The sole parent family does not have the advantage of a spouse at home to care for the children and so has to find the extra income to pay for the care of the children while the parent is out working. The sole parent family does not have the advantage of a spouse at home, who may be able to earn extra income and so help the family along. Countries such as Canada and New Zealand have partly recognised this problem. Sole parent allowances in these countries are of the same value as the dependent spouse rebate.
Since the Government has had since 1975 to look at this problem, it is about time that it did something about it. We have had some discussion about family allowances. Of course this allowance could be used to provide greater assistance, extra assistance for families that are in a delicate income situation. Their incomes are not indexed; they are set at 1 975 rates. But the recipients have to buy goods at 1 980 prices. Families in receipt of family allowances lose the right of a tax deduction for children. It was proved at the time and has been proved since that in some instances a number of families finished up worse off than they were before the system was changed. Perhaps it will be better seen as a form of tax reduction- a reduction in tax for those who have borne a disproportionate share of the tax burden; the people who in my opinion carry a disproportionate share of the tax burden in this country are parents with dependent children. I think they need some real relief from the burden, some real relief is well overdue.
As the Asprey Taxation Review Committee reported, some concession should be made in the law, not because of any policy encouraging persons with children to seek employment but so that those who are employed- whether through choice or necessity- might be assisted in meeting the costs of discharging the responsibility of caring for their children when the services of others must be employed. The need for a concession will be less if the Government provides child-minding facilities directly by way of free or subsidised creches and the like. However, it cannot be anticipated that such facilities will ever be universally available. The need will also be less if generous child endowment grants are made but such grants will favour all those parents and not provide especially for those who must incur the expenses of child minding facilities. For so many families this creates a very real problem; for the single parent family, it is an extraordinarily difficult problem.
The Government has done very little about child care even though we have spoken about it in this place ad infinitum. We all believe in it, we believe in motherhood but very little is done to provide assistance for people who need to earn an income and who really need child-minding facilities. For families where two parents work, the wage that the wife earns- and I reflect on the energy that she has to put into her family and work responsibilities- often results in her bringing into the family a very small amount of income. I cannot help but wonder what the Government thinks of the level of unemployment benefit paid to people when it takes into account that these people too have the petrol tax imposed on them. Everyone now who pulls up at a petrol pump in Australia suffers the imposition of a petrol tax. This has dramatically reduced the value of all social security pensions. It has dramatically reduced the value of the unemployment benefit.
When honourable senators remember that single unemployment benefit paid to people under 18 has remained at $36 since 1975 they will wonder just what value is left in that amount of money. I notice that, in varying reports from people who provide services to homeless people, almost all have mentioned the fact that the number of people under 20 years of age that they now have to cater for has doubled. It is no wonder when we look at the sort of pension that unemployed people in that age group are paid. When we remember that this year the single unemployed person over 1 8 will receive no increase in the benefit despite the fact that he or she must pay the petrol tax that is dragging millions of dollars out of the pockets of all Australian people we wonder again what the Government’s view is of the sort of benefit that it is paying to these people especially as they are paying such high taxation. The fact that neither of those areas of the unemployed will receive any increase in their pension means that almost 80 per cent of all unemployed will receive no increase, but they are paying greatly increased taxation because of the petrol tax that has been imposed on them. I do not think that some people realise that the unemployed are taxed. But even without the petrol tax extraordinary anomalies exist, where people are taxed to a point where in certain areas they are being victimised.
I notice that in a recent report on taxation it was pointed out that unemployed beneficiaries with three or more dependent children receive a greater benefit than those with fewer children. Hence their total income exceeds the tax-free zone. Therefore, they become subject to tax simply because they have many children. These are areas that must be looked at by the Government because they cover such a very large proportion of people in our community. While these areas are ignored, while policies such as income splitting are thrown around as the answer to problems that families have, while the Government shilly-shallies over the question of there being so many families these days who are in a very bad financial situation because of rising taxation, rising costs and fewer jobs, it is contemplating spending $75m on a military academy. This is a Government that welcomes the sorts of profits that Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has just reported. It made $250m in six months. This is the Government that takes millions of dollars in the form of a petrol tax out of the pockets of low income people.
The reform of the taxation and social security systems is well overdue. It is about time that we stopped paying lip service to the fact that it should be done and that something is really done about the matter. I think what worries honourable senators on this side of the chamber is the fact that the Government feels it cannot be pushed into doing something about people who are suffering in the area because they will no longer have any clout. This Government feels that it can control people and hold people in fear by not doing anything about unemployment. This Government knows very well that while there are long lines of unemployed people waiting at the factory gate there are not likely to be people who are actively pursuing better conditions and higher wages even though prices are going higher and higher. People will not actively pursue higher pensions because they are afraid that, under the current circumstances, the Government will reduce pensions rather than increase them. I think that this sort of fear that we have about the action that the Government will take in relation to these matters was summed up in the debate in this place last week on the question of Afghanistan. I quoted Senator MacGibbon ‘s remarks in the debate on Afghanistan and I will quote him again now because as I said the Government has not denied that this is the way it feels about the problem. Senator MacGibbon said:
All of us in the West have been too concerned with welfare; too much emphasis has been placed on social security and not enough has been placed on national security.
I think that we are afraid that that sums up how this Government feels about welfare. It believes that it is time that we put more of our money into national security.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch the Senate was discussing a matter of public importance submitted by Senator Grimes which reads:
The need for reform of the taxation and social security systems to improve the position of low income families.
Necessarily this debate has ranged fairly widely. But the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) in responding first for the Government has already identified that the Government, in fact, has been moving to reform both the taxation system and the social security system during the period that we have been in government. She has already identified the steady movement that the Government has made to assist families, especially low income families, by means of changes in welfare and taxation policies. These changes have not reached the very central nature of our taxation system or our welfare system. The changes nevertheless have been significant and very welcome.
We have improved both tax and welfare arrangements. We introduced the family allowance scheme which has been so widely criticised by some honourable senators. We have created a greater tax-free zone of income. It is this tax-free zone, as the Minister has already said, which has exempted large numbers of families, almost a quarter of a million families in 1977-78 alone, from any need to pay income tax. We have made increased amounts of money available for different kinds of benefits which are available to families. We have increased the number and range of benefits and eligibility for them. Indeed, some of these arrangements include a commitment to pre-schools and provision for them; a commitment to children’s services programs which are used very extensively by low income families; the family support services program, which again will assist low income families; and the introduction of sole parents benefits and the availability of fringe benefits for many of these people. Through other kinds of programs directed towards Aboriginal Australians and migrants, we have also made special provisions in areas for families generally of low income status.
Senator Grimes, in opening up this discussion for the Opposition, and several other speakers have referred to the work that has been done by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and to the Government back bench subcommittee, of which he is chairman. It is a fact that welfare policies and taxation policies are linked and that changes in taxation have implications for families. Every time a change is made to what the taxation system lays down, it has an effect on families. The two systems, the welfare system and the taxation system in this country, are not only linked but also two sides of the same coin. One cannot consider welfare policy without it having taxation implications.
Honourable senators on the other side of the chamber have had occasion to speak, I think in critical terms, of my colleague, Senator MacGibbon. But what they fail to understand is that Senator MacGibbon- and I might not agree with the exact conclusion he reaches- is drawing to our attention that if we want more welfare there are implications for the amount of tax we have to pay and for the tax burden. Equally, for decades in Australia too little attention has been given to the link between taxation policy and welfare policy and the need to consider them as a unity.
There has been far too great a tendency to look separately at taxation policies or to look separately at welfare policies and to think that by looking at one we are fixing the problem. The debate seeking to link welfare policy and taxation policy is what the Ian Wilson sub-committee is all about. That is the central issue which he and people like him have been trying to address. Commentators in the daily Press are starting to understand what Mr Wilson and those of us who serve on his committee have been trying to do. In the Bulletin of 4 March 1 980- and it is interesting how the Bulletin comes out some days ahead of the actual date of issue- under the by-line of Peter Samuel, there appears a brief article entitled: ‘Time to untangle the taxation skein’. The article includes the following statement:
But within families the taxation system has had the effect of making it pay the family to have the lower income earner work more and the higher income earner work less. The marginal tax rate of the lower income earner, usually the wife, has been much lower than on the husband . . .
Peter Samuel drew conclusions from that which are true. The fact is that the kind of tax system we have, the kind of marginal tax rates which exist and the kind of effect they have on families are producing structural effects upon how families work and on what those effects are. We find some observers of the scene who welcome this. There are people who actually welcome the changes occurring in Australian family life. That is their value position. There is no need for all of us to adopt that value position. It is an attempt to cope with this kind of situation that has given rise to the work that Mr Wilson and his subcommittee are doing. In fact Senator Grimes, in introducing this matter today, spoke mainly about the Wilson committee and about the proposal which it is putting forward which has to do with aggregation of income and the creation of household units for taxation instead of having our present emphasis upon individual units as the only basis for taxation.
We know that this Government has exempted large groups of Australians from any need to pay tax. But the fact remains that one of the groups which appear to be disadvantaged is the Australian family with dependent children and a single income. I do not object to Senator Melzer drawing attention to other groups in need; but I do not think that she would deny that the Australian family with a single income and dependent children has needs, and needs which are often not being met. My attention was attracted to today’s Australian newspaper, where it is reported that yesterday the Treasurer (Mr Howard) freely admitted that there were tax faults. The newspaper carries the headline
Howard admits tax faults: Anomalies “Problem for Families” ‘. It is this kind of problem which we are seeking to pursue. Honourable senators should recognise that the Treasurer, Mr Howard, and this Government have no difficulty acknowledging that there are problems. They have no difficulty in acknowledging that we want to examine this kind of problem and reach a solution.
Senator Grimes explained his value position. He would favour a response according to need at the expense of universal entitlements. But what Senator Grimes did not identify, and what he has to identify before his contribution will become credible as an entire package, is who the losers will be under his kind of proposal. We have to be able to say to people that if they buy Senator Grimes’s proposal they will be the groups that will lose. It is this kind of issue which has, in fact, kept the Wilson committee meeting. This committee consists of a group of Government back benchers and it includes several senators- my colleagues Senator Teague and Senator Walters and myself. It includes Mr Hyde, Mr Roger Johnston and Mr McLean from another place. We have worked together to try to identify how one marries taxation and welfare policy in some way that is just and equitable.
It is not an easy problem to solve. It will not be of any help if any honourable senator or anyone else in the community enters this debate and attempts to treat it in a flippant fashion. There are problems which affect Australian families. The opposition comes from people who have a different set of values. I refer, for example, to the most vocal critic of the Wilson committee’s activities, a lady named Ms Meridith Edwards. She mounts a coherent case against the Wilson committee proposals simply because she holds a different set of values. She does not attach to the Australian single income family with dependent children the importance which some of us attach to it. She attaches greater value to individuals seeking to live their own lives and being recompensed for it.
It is a question of values and how the values fall. I will not criticise the fact that someone with a different set of views enters a discussion as basic and important as this. It is how we reconcile the rights and needs of individuals with the rights and needs of families which is what the Wilson committee proposals are about.
– That is not the only reason for criticism.
– I am interested that my colleague interrupts me. He says that it is not the only reason for criticism. I would be grateful to hear from him some time. I assure him that it is an attempt to solve that kind of problem which has led the committee to its examination of the matter. Whilever a husband and wife on one income pay more tax than a husband and wife earning two incomes, families will be disadvantaged. There has to be some way, if we value the family, to respond. There may be many ways to respond.
– Hear, hear!
-Senator Missen, I acknowledge that there may be many ways to respond. We are trying to attack the problem. The Wilson proposal is one offer of a solution. The Wilson plan is receiving considerable support. I was attracted to an article in the Age newspaper- I am sorry I do not have the date- in which Mr Michael Barnard was commenting on the plan. He called it a ‘tax plan with a bit of heart’. He wrote:
Whatever might remain to be refined among the Wilson team’s other proposals and, however much other areas of badly needed tax reform may come to mind, the tax anomaly between single and dual-income families, especially among the lower paid, is morally indefensible.
That shows the value position we take.
-Who said that?
– It was a man named Michael Barnard writing in the Age. The designs of this scheme can be varied depending on a number of factors; for example, whether a government wishes to make the scheme neutral with regard to revenue, whether it is willing to accept a loss to the revenue or whether it wishes to gain revenue. A government can vary the scheme in many ways. The limits can be set to concentrate benefits wherever a government chooses.
The problem of tying in welfare and taxation policy has attracted us. It is a problem on which we have been working. I do not believe that any proposal that I have seen from the ALP is yet as developed, as complete and as coherent. I welcome expressions of concern on this matter. The fact that the matter was brought up in the Senate today as a matter of public importance is, I think, proper. Whilst the proposals contained in documents written by Senator Grimes and other Labor spokesmen are an attempt to address themselves to the question, I cannot see that they are complete, coherent or credible. I look to see that they do not just turn out to be threadbare proposals which do not get to this unresolved problem of the single income family.
I believe that the Government’s response in the welfare area generally has been reasonable. It has moved to improve conditions, to simplify taxation and to exempt many Australians from any necessity at all to pay tax. The Government ‘s committee is examining the problem and trying to offer one solution. It is not the final solution. We ask that it be examined on its merits and not rejected on some ideological grounds.
– I agree with Senator Baume about one thing. The questions of taxation and welfare ought not to be considered in isolation from each other. A package deal- at least to some extent- is necessary. I am also deeply touched by the expressions of concern which came from Senator Baume for the progressiveness or otherwise of the taxation system in Australia. His claim that the Fraser Government had initiated major tax reforms which had benefited substantially many of the less advantaged people of the community is a commendable sentiment. The trouble is that the facts do not support it. The fact is that in the four years that this Government has been in office- this Government, which has been dominated by land barons, land speculators, land market manipulators and insider traders- it has presided over what the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research describes as the greatest redistribution of the taxation burden in favour of the rich that has been attempted in any democratic country probably in this century.
I will not leave that charge hanging up in the air. I will back it up with some hard facts from the same source. The Institute’s analysis shows that the proportion of income that a person on $140 a week- that is only just above the minimum adult wage- pays in tax has increased in real terms by nearly 12 per cent since this Government came into office. On the other hand, the amount of tax paid in real terms by the $25,000 a year income group has gone down by 10 per cent. I am talking only about income tax. If we were to consider all taxes, including indirect taxes and in particular the great oil tax rip-off, we would find that the regressive redistribution of the taxation burden is even greater. Of course, as Senator Missen obviously knows, and as Senator Hamer made very clear in a question in the Senate in November last year, the socalled Wilson proposal to split incomes falls into the same category. Whether it is consciously designed to do so or otherwise, the plain fact is that the greatest beneficiaries of a tax rearrangement of that nature would be high income families where either the incomes earned by two people are substantially different or where there is only a single income earner.
It is interesting to note that Senator Baume saw fit to quote Peter Samuel. I have not read the article, but the point he was making, as explained by Senator Baume, is that where there is a large disparity in the respective incomes of a couple there is a definite incentive for the lower income earner to work overtime to try to build up that income and for the higher income earner to work less and not take home as much money. Under certain circumstances that could be true.
Let us look at those circumstances. The marginal tax rate does not change until the individual’s taxable income approaches $17,000. That argument is valid for about 5 per cent, at the most, of the highest income earners in the country. That is the group, whether consciously or otherwise, that Senator Baume and, I presume, Mr Samuel, if he was quoted accurately, want to assist. Senator Baume tried to suggest that the major opposition to the so-called Wilson proposal, whatever that is- it is hard to know what it is because it seems to change every week, as my colleague Senator Grimes observed in proposing this matter for discussion- comes from Meredith Edwards. The honourable senator suggested- again I pass no judgment on the validity or otherwise of this-that that person has an ideological preference for some system of basic social organisation other than the nuclear family. I do not think that is an entirely fair representation of the position of Meredith Edwards, but I will leave that aside.
Senator Baume conveniently chose to ignore the very telling criticism made of the same proposal by Paddy McGuinness of the National Times and the Australian Financial Review, by Ross Gittins of the Sydney Morning Herald, by Senator Hamer in a question to which I will refer shortly and by Senator Missen by way of interjection today, if I interpreted it correctly and I am sure I did. Senator Baume then fell back on Michael Barnard who said it was a wonderful measure- the greatest thing for the equality of income and wealth distributions since, I suppose, the Fraser Government abolished all taxes on capital thereby making Australia the only democratic country among the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that does not have at least one form of taxation on capital. Anyway, Michael Barnard said it was a great idea.
In order to evaluate that view it is necessary to look at some of Michael Barnard’s other views. I remember very well that, shortly after Mr Fraser decided that he would try to divert attention from the mess he had made of the domestic economy by grandstanding around the world over Afghanistan and the alleged greatest threat to the security of the world that we have seen since 1 945 and so on, Michael Barnard described the action of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as courageous and consistent. It was very fitting that immediately above Barnard’s article there was a Nicholson cartoon which showed athletes loading bales of wool and bags of wheat on to a ship marked with a hammer and sickle and being supervised by Mr Fraser and Mr Anthony who were saying: ‘This ‘11 keep them fit for the next four years’. It was most appropriate that the Age chose to publish the cartoon directly above Barnard ‘s article. I cannot imagine a more effective way of ridiculing Barnard’s ludicrous allegation that the Prime Minister had shown courage and consistency than through that medium.
I will deal specifically with the central theme of the Wilson proposal. I recognise that other pieces are being tacked on to it on an ad hoc basis from time to time. The central feature of it in the beginning was the proposition- it is still the proposition that a couple’s incomes should be aggregated and then divided in half for the purpose of assessing tax liability. It is claimed that this will help families. There are a number of glaring weaknesses in that proposition. Perhaps the most spectacular of all those weaknesses is that according to the 1976 census there are 1.65 million households with two adults and children and there are 1.33 million households- almost 80 per cent of the previous figure- that do not have any children. The tax benefit effect at the same level of income would be the same for households with children and those which do not have children. I stress that there are almost as many households which have two adults and no children as there are two-adult households with children. So almost 50 per cent of it can be written off as far as benefiting families is concerned, if families are defined as those with children. That is one of its greatest weaknesses but it is by no means the only one. It will not do anything for the single parent family.
– That is wrong.
– I know you have tacked something new on every week but the central proposition will do nothing for the single parent family. If the Government is genuinely concerned about helping families, particularly those on lower incomes, it can be done most effectively, but not by introducing yet another tax rort through which the highest income earners in this country can shift the burden of taxation regressively on to the lower income groups to extend the process which Malcolm Fraser first initiated in 1976. The obvious way in which those families with children could be assisted would be, of course, if there were a substantial increase in family allowances, and I know that has been tacked on to the proposition also. I am not sure what the latest version of it is, whether it is Mark VIII, Mark IX or whatever numeration it now has. The point is that the money would be much more effectively directed into that area than into the income splitting proposal.
Tax rebates for a non-earning spouse could be increased. That also would be more effective in areas of real need, although again that is subject to the weakness that people who could take advantage of that do not necessarily have children, and there is a 45 per cent chance that they would not. If the object of the policy is to assist those families with children then to that extent it is being misdirected. Assistance could be given in the area of child minding. If we are to operate through the taxation system the expense incurred in child minding- I am not necessarily arguing that this is the most effective way of doing this- by a single parent family, as distinct from a single income family, could be deducted from income on the grounds that it is necessary for the parent, if the parent has young children, to have the children minded while the parent is at work. ( Quorum formed).
– I welcome the opportunity to discuss the following matter of public importance:
The need for reform of the taxation and social security systems to improve the position of low income families.
Senator Grimes, in introducing that matter, spoke directly about the so-called Wilson package, that package of nine proposals which has been put forward by Government back bench members for the consideration of the Government. As Senator Grimes pointed out, that package has won enormous attention around Australia, not just in this Parliament. He claimed that in fact it is winning all the publicity and that, therefore, he should bring the Wilson package under debate in this chamber. I welcome that opportunity. I think that Senator Grimes ‘ attempt to discuss the matter took the form of his wanting to jump onto the bandwagon, to try to identify himself a little with it. He hinted that he supported the income splitting scheme and the massive increase in the family allowance which we believe is equitable as an essential part of a package on social security and tax reform. He wanted to say on behalf of the Opposition: ‘I want to be in on this bandwagon. Me too, please’. Let the Opposition not lose out altogether in the momentum that has been generated by the back bench members of the Wilson committee’. He hinted that he did not understand the proposal. He implied that the Government record in this matter was very good, but indicated that he wanted to try to develop some kind of momentum at least, on the Opposition side.
In his specific remarks about the package, he made a number of very distinct errors. He claimed that the proposal had changed week by week. As a member of the committee which put forward the package, I point out that six months ago when the package was first discussed publicly it consisted of nine aspects. It did not start off with only income splitting, with the other issues being tacked on later; all along the whole area of social security reform and tax reform was linked in nine aspects, namely, an income splitting scheme, a family allowance scheme, a sole parent rebate scheme, the interface between the age pension and other pensions and the tax system and so on. But the first concept to be explored publicly was the income splitting scheme. Since then additional concepts have been elaborated on publicly.
The most recent statement is specific because it is geared to the present fiscal arrangements in Australia, as at February this year. It is specific because it directly relates the Wilson package to the windfall increase in revenue which the Government has received from the oil levy. Because of the very distinct possibility that that windfall revenue will be redistributed by way of tax cuts, the Wilson committee, in its eight or nine aspects of the package, proposed a specific way in which the Government could distribute that revenue by way of tax cuts. All along in the public statements we have made there has been a consistent trend. Copies of the speech which the honourable member for Sturt, Mr Ian Wilson, made to the Australian Council of Social Service seminar on 8 February have been widely distributed and are available in the Parliamentary Library. It sets out quite specific proposals which would begin to implement the total package.
Senator Grimes alleged that the package was complicated and that it would take a great deal of effort to understand the aspects of the proposal. I agree that any matter concerning major tax reform, discussing the interface between the social security income maintenance system and the tax system, will contain a number of quite complex concepts. But once those concepts have been discussed and understood, once they have been presented in this Parliament and have been announced publicly, we propose that only a onepage statement containing six quite simple and straight forward announcements will need to be made.
The first announcement that will need to be made is that there will be a general tax cut for all taxpayers. The second is that the family allowance will be very substantially increased and that it will become taxable. The third is that there will be an increased rebate for supporting parents. The fourth is that there will be for taxpayers who live alone a new living alone rebate to give some degree of equity to those persons. The fifth is that there will be a supplementary household rebate, that is, that the spouse rebate will be almost doubled. We want to call the spouse rebate a household rebate. I will come back to that. Those are the quite specific proposals which, in the speech made by the chairman of our committee on 8 February, were outlined specifically in money terms, giving the macro effect on revenue. They came together as a consistent whole. Those quite simple statements were then explained in the remainder of the speech, outlining the underlying concepts. So I reject the accusation that this set of reforms, which has won the imagination of the Australian people, is complicated.
The third criticism of the scheme which was made by Senator Grimes was that the vocabulary was confused, that at one time it was proposed that we should introduce income splitting whereas at another time it was proposed that we should introduce a spouse rebate. It is a fact that with family tax reform one can gain the same end either by adding to the spouse rebate or by allowing the two spouses in a family for tax purposes, to share their incomes and so gain a reduced overall tax payment. If we increase the spouse rebate, the family gains in terms of retained income. If we allow income splitting between the two spouses, again the family will gain by paying less tax. The overall comparison is: How does that family tax compare with the general rates of tax paid by other taxpayers? We set forth the view that this proposal, whether expressed in the vocabulary of spouse rebate or in the vocabulary of income splitting, will achieve a more equitable tax result.
Senator Grimes and Senator Walsh alleged that this whole scheme was cooked up to give benefits to the wealthy. I feel that that shows their gross ignorance of the details of the scheme, even those contained in the first page of the committee’s statement of 8 February. In the initial proposal, for family incomes- that is, combined incomes- of less than $20,000 there is an estimated tax transfer of $500m, but for the remainder of family incomes, those of above $20,000, there is a transfer of $70m. In that comparison $500m will go to lower income families and $70m will go differentially to other taxpayers, to those families on higher incomes. This proportion in the redistribution to assist families is consistent with the differential tax rates that already exist and have long existed in our country. We do not believe that the inequities of the present system should be overcome only for low income families. We believe that the present inequities should be overcome for all families. Senator Walsh said very specifically that there was nothing in the package for single supporting parent families. That is wrong. We have proposed a rebate of $540 for all sole parents in Australia. We have addressed ourselves specifically to that matter, given the full perspective of the tax reform package.
I will now talk directly about the family allowance reform. I note, as the Minister for Social Security, Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, said in speaking in this debate, that the Government is proud of its measures in recent years towards income security in Australia. These include the pension system for supporting parents, assistance to the handicapped, emergency relief and also increases in the real value of pensions in Australia. Similarly, the Government has provided increasing amounts to Aboriginal people to meet the priorities as expressed by Aboriginal people themselves. Those persons, who are for the most part, among the low income members of the Australian community, have received real assistance from the Government.
Overall, under the present Government in the last several years there has been a reduction in the amount of tax which has been paid by all people, compared with the levels of taxation that prevailed at the conclusion of the Labor Government ‘s term in office. But it is especially in the area of family allowances that I believe the Government stands on a very proud and good record in its assistance to those on low incomes, not least of all women and children. The family allowance scheme directly pays the same allowance for children to all mothers in Australia irrespective of income. This reform has been welcomed by the Opposition. It is regarded by the Opposition spokesman, Senator Grimes, as working efficiently. It has broad acceptance by the people of Australia. I am one in the Parliament who believes that since there has not been an increase in the amount of the family allowance since the scheme was introduced in 1976, the Government should be urged to consider proposals such at those contained in the Wilson package that there be a very significant increase in family allowances to help women and children.
Given the revenue constraints of the Government, I believe that the only way in which there can be a significant increase in family allowances is for the allowances to be taxed. I do not agree with proposals that have been put forward by the Opposition that a means test should be directly applied to the family allowance at the point of its receipt by mothers in Australia. I think that would be complicated, bureaucratic and an unnecessary duplication of the taxation system.
– It would also be inequitable. If we regard the family allowance as part of the taxable income of a family we will give the greatest benefit to low income members of the community, especially those who do not pay any tax at all. There will be a transfer of family allowance from those most well cared for by way of income to those in most need.
– Would you apply that only to increased family allowances?
– I believe that the tax should be applied only if there are increases in family allowances. That is why we propose that there be, broadly speaking, an increase of about 60 per cent- in some cases even 75 per cent- in family allowances on the basis that one-third of the total allowances would be taken in tax. If one-third of the allowances were to be paid in tax we would need to increase family allowances by more than 50 per cent. In this way we could give an even better family allowance scheme to the people of Australia. I encourage honourable senators to study the recent statements about our package of proposals. My time has run out. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of Senator Durack and for the information of honourable senators, I present a report on the acquisition of replacement computing equipment for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present volumes I and II of the Trade Practices Consultative Committee report on small business and the Trade Practices Act.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of Senator Chaney and for the information of honourable senators, I present the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme Recommended Rates of Assistance at 31 January 1979.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Committee of inquiry to examine Commonwealth and State meat inspection systems 1980.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to clause 1 1 of the Sugar Agreement 1975 I present the annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee 1 978-79.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator KILGARIFF (Northern Territory)In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Replacement of cranes, Cockatoo Island Dockyard, New South Wales.
The Clerk having presented certain papers;
-I raise a point of procedure. Mr President, are copies of the papers lodged with the Clerk available for scrutiny? Is it the practice to make them available? It would be advisable that some move be made to give the Opposition access to the reports before they are put down in case there is some matter that we might need to take note of. I do not mean on this occasion, but on future occasions.
Motion (by Senator Harradine) proposed:
That notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, General Business, Notice of Motion No. 1 8, standing in the name of Senator Rae, relating to the proposed appointment of a Select Committee to report on passenger fares to and from Tasmania, be listed as General Business, Notice of Motion No. 3.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-by leave- I withdraw General Business, Notice of Motion No. 3 standing in my name.
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 Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 to enable references of inquiries into matters relating to financing of works and services provided in respect of the Australian Capital Territory to be considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commonwealth Grants Commission presently performs three basic functions:
First, it enquires into and reports upon applications by States for special assistance, which is defined as financial assistance for the purpose of making it possible for the States concerned, by reasonable effort, to function at a standard not appreciably below the standards of other States, lt also enquires into and reports upon applications by the Northern Territory for special assistance.
Secondly, it reviews the per capita relativities on which tax sharing assistance to the States is based.
Thirdly, from time to time, it advises on the percentage distribution as between the States of the local government tax sharing assistance.
As a result of performing these functions the Commission has established a reputation as an independent expert body in relation to arrangements for financial assistance by the Commonwealth to the States and local government. Against this background the Government considers it appropriate that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should also examine and advise Government on matters referred to it from time to time in respect of the financing of works and services provided in the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly supports this approach. Residents of the Australian Capital Territory are required to pay municipal rates and State-like taxes in a manner similar to residents of the rest of the nation. The Commonwealth in determining the recovery of costs incurred in the provision of services to the residents of Canberra has regard to State practices in determining the level of local and State-like fees and charges.
Consideration of Grants Commission reports on matters referred to the Commission will provide a valuable source of advice to the Government and will promote equity in decisions on finances affecting residents of the Territory. The unique nature of Government in the Australian Capital Territory whereby the Commonwealth is also responsible for State and local government functions, means that the Commonwealth has a responsibility towards the residents of the Territory as well as to the nation as a whole. The Commonwealth has always sought to achieve an equitable balance between these responsibilties. The proposed amendments would not have any effect on existing financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27 February, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Upon which Senator Durack had moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion addand the Senate-
condemns the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union as a gross violation of the United Nations Charter and of Afghanistan ‘s non-aligned status: as involving acts of aggression and tyranny: as having a critically destabilising effect on the region; and as potentially the gravest threat to international peace and security since 1945;
notes that a significant majority of world opinion, including Islamic opinion, has viewed the invasion with grave concern- as expressed in resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly on 14 January 1 980 and at the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers on 29 January 1 980;
calls for the immediate unconditional and total withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in order to enable that country to regain its sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and nonaligned status; and to permit its people to determine their own form of government free from external intervention, oppression, coercion or other constraint;
) with a view to the furtherance of the aforementioned objectives, urges all independent-minded nations to take action separately or in concert to register with the Government and people of the Soviet Union, their abhorrence of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and
urges the provision of humanitarian relief assistance to alleviate the hardships of the Afghanistan refugees in co-ordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and calls for the attainment of conditions necessary to permit the voluntary return to their homes of the Afghan refugees-
And upon which Senator Button had moved by way of amendment to the proposed amendment:
At end of the proposed amendment, add:
– Last night I did not get much time to speak on this matter of Afghanistan, Government Business No. 1. 1 think I got about 30 seconds. I have never been the one to create a record, but I think last night could have been a record for one of my speeches- the shortest one.
– The best one too.
– So my colleague tells me. During most of the time that has been taken up with this debate it is very obvious that Government senators do not have their heart in the statement that was put down by their leader. Other records have been broken also I refer to the number of times a quorum was not present during the debate on the statement. Government senators had to be brought into the House to listen to their people holding forth and giving their ideas as to why we ought to be supporting in full the statement put down by their leader.
Senator Wriedt opened the debate for the Opposition and took the attitude that it was to be a bipartisan debate, but we quickly found that that was not to be the case as far as Government senators are concerned. They have turned the debate into a sabre rattling exercise. When honourable senators look at Hansard they will see that most of the people who have been doing the sabre rattling are the young Turks of the LiberalCountry Party. None of them have ever faced the traumas of war. It is obvious that senators opposite who have faced the horrors of war have been very noticeable by their absence from the debate. I will come to some of the reasons for their absence later on. My mind goes back to the Vietnam war when we had the same sabre rattling. We were told that the country was in danger. Yet one of the then rising lights in the Liberal Party, one Andrew Jones, who could quite well have gone to the defence of the country, had the gall to have a soldier in uniform, who was giving out how-to-vote cards at an election in South Australia, arrested by the military police. A man who was prepared to serve his country was arrested at the instigation of another who was not prepared to do so but who was prepared to stand up in this Parliament and speak in favour of sending many of our young boys to Vietnam. This seems to be the trend that this debate is getting into.
This is an election year. The Government has nothing on its plate to discuss in this Parliament, nothing of importance in its view except a socalled problem that has arisen in Afghanistan. The Government is trying to frighten the people, who do not take an interest, into the belief that we may be invaded by the Soviet Union before the next election. That is a lot of poppycock. That is something which we have had to put up with every time a Liberal-National Country Party government is in danger of losing an election. It trots out the old communist bogy. Last night in the House of Representatives there was a matter which prompted our leader (Mr Hayden) to rise. Mr Viner said: ‘kick the old commie can, there is value in it’. That is all honourable senators have to do. Yet the latest statistics of the Commonwealth Employment Service show a record number of registered unemployed in this country.
The Government is not prepared to discuss that problem or to discuss the rapid increase in interest rates- another broken election promise. It is not prepared to discuss inflation or many of the important things that we ought to be discussing in this Parliament. We are now at the end of the second week of the autumn session and all we have heard from members opposite is their view of the Soviet Union. We have heard nothing about the local issues on which people are vitally concerned. I would say to senators opposite that this ploy is not going to work this time. The people of Australia are more politically aware now than they have ever been. They have been fooled too often by Liberal-Country Party governments, and they are not going to be fooled on this occasion.
I pose this question to members opposite: What action would they be taking, as a government, if there were no Olympic Games being held in the Soviet Union this year? That is the only peg they have to hang their hats on. As I will point out later, there are many other actions the Government could take but of course it is not prepared to do so because its own supporters would be losing the dollar. All it is prepared to do is to keep our athletes away from the goal they have been training for for years, to participate in the Olympic Games in Moscow. The Government is using the athletes as a political ploy. It is using them just as it used the youth of this country during the Vietnam war to bolster the phoney political argument that it put forward. I would again ask honourable senators opposite- there is no comment from them and no comment from Senator Baume who was most irate about the dangers when he spoke the other night what they would do if there were no Olympic Games being held this year. I ask Senator Baume, through you, Mr Deputy President: What action would you have taken? You have no action that you could take and you have to admit that you have done nothing at all. All the Government can do is use the youth of this country for its own direct political ends and it has to live with that whenever the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) calls an election whether it be in early July or towards the end of the year. The Senate is supposed to be a House of review, but what is it doing? Is it reviewing the statement put down by the Prime Minister? Of course it is not. All that Government senators are doing is running off at a tangent and getting right away from the statement. When the Government is put under challenge, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) was today, honourable senators opposite come into the chamber and make filthy insinuations against members on the Opposition side of the Parliament. When Opposition senators proved that those insinuations were wrong, the Leader of the Government would not even rise in his place and apologise for misrepresenting us. That is the type of person with whom we have to deal in this Parliament.
I was pleased to have incorporated in Hansard a statement by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party Resources Committee which met in Canberra during the parliamentary recess. It was one of the first groups from this Parliament to put out a statement, apart from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) who is the spokesman on foreign affairs, in which we expressed our disapproval of incursions by any nation into the territory of another nation. The Opposition deplores war. The Labor Party is a peace loving party and whenever this country has been led into war by Liberal-Country Party governments, it has been our party which has had to pick up the tab. Members of the Government have short memories if they have forgotten what happened in 1939. Which party had to carry out the war effort? It was not the Liberal Party, or the United Australia Party as it then was; it was the Australian Labor Party Government under the leadership of John Curtin, a man who goes down on record as one of the best Prime Ministers Australia has had.
Liberal governments like to create wars and, as soon as they are created, they run for cover as quickly as they can. It is left to somebody else to carry the burden. Then, members of this Government have the gall to say that the Labor Party is not prepared to safeguard the interests of this nation. The record of the Labor Party is second to none. Our party has always been in the forefront in relation to the defence of this nation. As I have had to point out at functions of the Returned Servicemen’s League, one should look through the ranks of the Labor Government Cabinet from 1972 to 1975 to see the number of people who served with distinction in the armed forces and compare that with the number of Cabinet Ministers who served in the armed forces during the 23 years that the LiberalCountry Party governments were in power prior to 1972. What war service do the members of the current Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, have? They have absolutely none.
– That is absolutely disgraceful.
– It is not disgraceful. I am pointing it out to the Senate because of the action that the Government took in the other place this week.
– What about Senator Carrick? That is an absolutely disgraceful statement. He was a Changi prisoner, and you know it.
– I am well aware that he was a prisoner.
– Why don’t you admit it?
- Senator Baume is very touchy on this point. Far more members of the Labor Party Cabinet of 1972 to 1975 had a distinguished war record than did members of Liberal-Country Party Cabinets. One can go back as far as one likes. That is the point I was making. I give great credit to Senator Carrick, I am well aware that he was a prisoner in Changi. So were Mr Uren and other members of the Labor Party, but the Government is not giving them credit in the filthy statements that have been made in both Houses of the Parliament in the last couple of weeks. The Government says that the Labor Party is not concerned about the defence of the country. That is the reason I raise this matter today. I wish to put on record, for those who are not aware of it, that the Labor Party has always been to the fore when the country has been in danger. It ill-becomes people, such as Senator Baume and a few others, to stand up in this place, as was the case a few nights ago- and as Senator Carrick did todayand to accuse the Labor Party of not having the concern of this country at heart. Of course it has.
Honourable senators opposite ought to read the record. Let us look at the statement of the Prime Minister. The first thing he said was this:
In the first weeks of 1980 the world is facing probably its most dangerous international crisis since World War II.
Let us look at some of the statements made by this same gentleman when he was Minister for Defence. It seems that every time there was an election around the corner we were facing the gravest crisis since World War I, World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam. There is always the scaremongering tactic, trying to frighten little old ladies who know no better. Further on in his statement, the Prime Minister said:
The immediate short-term policies to meet the crisis have already begun to take shape. They are based largely on the recognition of the fact that, whilst the Soviet Union is a super-power, it is an unbalanced one whose economic and technological development do not match its military strength. It needs access to Western grain . . .
That is one of the points in relation to which the Government could be taking some action. The Prime Minister admits that the Soviet Union, which all members of the Government are vilifying in this Parliament, needs access to Western grain. Yet this year the Government, through its Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), its Prime Minister and its Minister for Foreign Affairs ( Mr Peacock), is to sell the Soviet Union $3 50m worth of grain. I do not need to go into the arguments that have been raised about the wool market. I was at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics Conference when the Chairman of the Australian Wool Corporation, Mr Asimus, was asked: If the Soviet Union dropped out of the wool market, what would be the effect on Australia’s wool and the wool growers? He said that it would be catastrophic. In the latest issue of the Australian Wool Corporation Bulletin, No. 22 dated February 1980, Mr Asimus corrected a mistake in a previous issue of that booklet. The erratum stated:
The Australian Wool Corporation’s Chairman, Mr Asimus, was quoted as saying Russia took 400,000 bales of Australian wool in 1978-9 out of a total for Eastern Europe of around 700,000 bales. This should have read; 530,000 bales out of a total of around 850,000 bales.
Mr Asimus was quite correct when he said that if the Russians dropped out of our wool market it would be catastrophic for our wool growers. Of course, Mr Anthony has said that wool is not a strategic material, just as he has said that wheat and some other materials, such as rutile, are not. As members of the Opposition have said many times- I do not have to go on repeating it- this Government is not at all interested in carrying out an effective boycott such as that which the Opposition says ought to be carried out. It is interested only in making some cheap political capital because this is an election year.
Let us move away from wool and grain and look at the report of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation which was tabled in Parliament the other day. With regard to the total veal and beef sales to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it is found that in 1978 the Soviet Union bought 34,229 tonnes of beef and veal and last year it bought 13,346 tonnes. Will the Government cut off that market? Some very good articles have been written in some newspapers, from which I will quote, about the danger that the Government is now running into because of its attitude. In his statement, Mr Fraser went on to say:
Significant measures have therefore been taken to limit access while the Soviet Union persists on its present course.
He listed quite a few of those measures, and then said:
The other immediate means available to impose a cost on the Soviet Union is through the Olympic Games.
It is quite obvious that the Olympic Games boycott is just a second thought on the part of the Government. That is the thought that will backfire on it, and it will backfire very heavily. There is no way that the Government can get out of accepting responsibility for this chaos it has created in this country on top of the financial chaos that its policies have caused. The Prime Minister went on to say:
The indefinite suspension of all visits by Ministers and senior officials between Australia and the Soviet Union.
Are the senior officials and representatives of the Australian Wool Corporation, the Australian Wheat Board or the Meat and Livestock Corporation still negotiating with the Soviet Union to carry on trade? On the one hand we find that the Department of Foreign Affairs representative in the Soviet Union is not allowed to negotiate on behalf of our athletes but, on the other hand, there has been no public announcement that the Government has withdrawn the salesmen who sell meat, wool and grain in the Soviet Union for those statutory authorities. The Government is very hypocritical in the attitude it is taking. I am sure that the young people of this country will give the Government their answer when the time comes.
Honourable senators receive the Overseas Trading Bulletin fortnightly. In the issue dated 1 5 February we find the addresses of our Trade Commissioners. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the name and address of the Australian Trade Commissioner is: W. J. Tinney Australian Embassy, 13 Kropotkinsky Pereulok
Moscow. We still have our trade commissioner in the USSR selling the commodities that the farmers produce. I do not object to that because Australia is a trading nation and should be trading with every country. What I do object to is the fact that the Government is just picking out our young athletes and using them as scapegoats to bolster up its phoney argument that Australia is in danger and that it is this Government that will save it. As I said earlier, that is the old story that it trots out every year when it is in danger of defeat. It has to tell the people something. It is not prepared to face the people on the real issues about which they are concerned, that is, improving their living standards and social service matters, and achieving full employment, which the Government in many of its policy speeches, including the policy speech in 1 975, told the people it would instigate for them. It has never honoured any of these promises, nor has it honoured the promise in relation to interest rates with which the small home buyer will be hit severely in a very short time.
We find the Prime Minister setting up an Office of National Assessments to advise the Government. But when it advises him, what does he do? Because that advice does not suit his own political ends, he pushes it completely aside.
I refer to the National Times of 17 February 1980 and the headline, ‘Who Buys the Boycott?’ The article reads:
The Prime Minister’s commitment to an Olympic boycott may prove a serious political miscalculation.
There is growing evidence that the Government cannot sell both the boycott and its sensible policy on continued trade with the Soviet Union.
As I have said, we believe in trading with all nations. The article continues:
In a poll commissioned by the National Times:
Sixty-eight per cent did not think it right to boycott the games while continuing to trade with the Soviet Union.
Seventy per cent of respondents did not think the Government should prevent athletes who want to compete from going to the Olympics.
Few of those polled felt personally affected by the Soviet Union ‘s recent actions, while a significant majority believed that Mr Fraser is making the Games a party political issue.
So there it is shown that 70 per cent of the Australian citizens polled by the National Times recently did not agree that the Government should be boycotting the Games. The article continues:
Australia cannot afford to sever trade links with the USSR, but the Government’s policy is perceived as confused and destructive by the very primary producers it is under attack for protecting at the expense of our athletes.
Those are some of the things of which we have to take very serious cognisance in the months and years ahead. What damage has this Government led by Mr Fraser done to trade relations with a country which I think buys about $600m worth of goods from us each year, and from which we in turn buy $ 10m worth of goods? We could lose that trade, although we may not lose it overnight. The Soviet Union is not as big a fool as members on the Government side are, and if it can find those commodities elsewhere it will buy them. I would not blame it in view of the way it has been abused and accused in this Parliament. That is what the debate has developed into. It is developing into a witch hunt against the Soviet Union. I am reminded of the time when I left school and worked for a small grocer in a country town. One of the first things he said to me was this: ‘You have got to be civil to your customers and you treat them all alike’. He told me the story of a small country storekeeper who had some fights with some of the local people in the community. He used to abuse them, and my employer likened that to the effect of him opening his shop every morning and going out and abusing his best customers, in which case he could not expect them to come and buy from him, unless they could not get it anywhere else. That is what we will see happen in this country if we are not very careful. It is not so very long ago that we read headlines in the Press that Mr Anthony and Mr Sinclair had gone overseas. We had a beef crisis in this country at that time, and they went overseas in an endeavour to find a beef market in the USSR. They were trying desperately to find a beef market because the Americans would not buy our meat because of sanctions and quotas imposed by them against Australia. And where were we going to find that market? We were going to the Soviet Union. If we are not very careful, we will find ourselves in the situation that those people will not trade with us if they can buy those commodities elsewhere. So I think we have to give very serious consideration to the actions we are taking.
I think it is on record in most of the speeches which Opposition senators have made, and in the Press statement that the Opposition released as a resources committee, that we do not agree with any country taking another country by force or interfering in another country’s affairs. But that cannot be said for the people who sit opposite, those who were here in government during the days of Vietnam. They were very willing to interfere in the affairs of another country to such an extent that Mr Menzies, the then Prime Minister, wrote to the President of the United States and asked him for a letter inviting us to send troops to Vietnam. On that issue he was exposed by another Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, who divulged in the Parliament that Australia was not invited into Vietnam by America until Mr Menzies had written to the United States. He wanted to be involved. Of course, that was another election year, and the Government won an election on that issue. But it also lost an election in 1972 because of its attitude. These are the things which people will remember when next they go to the ballot box. In his speech on 26 February Senator Peter Baume said:
What about the Olympic Games? Why is it so important for us to consider that the Olympic Games should not be held in Moscow? Why do I feci so committed to this fact. Alone in this Senate I represent a religion whose members lost six million people in a war that need not have occurred.
I reminded Senator Baume by way of interjection that at that very same time that his own people suffered this loss- we all have a lot of sympathy for them and what happened to them- 25 million Soviet citizens were slaughtered by Hitler.
I have had the opportunity to visit the Soviet Union. I have had the opportunity to see its war cemeteries. Some of them have half a million people buried in them. Talking to the people and looking through the museums while I was in Russia it was brought to my attention, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, that the Soviet Union itself has a long history of being under attack. Who can blame it if it is trying to preserve its own entity in its own country?
– Especially from a strong country like Afghanistan.
– If the honourable senator is as concerned as he and his fellow members say they are, the Government would cut off every assistance that is possible to the Soviet Union. I do not advocate ceasing trade, but if the Government were consistent and dinkum that is what it would do. But it is not prepared to do that because it knows the political fate it would suffer if it lost the support of the rural industries, the wheat growers, the wool growers and the beef growers.
– Just like pig iron Bob.
– That is what I was going to say, coming back to what Senator Baume was talking about, and what happened in 1 936 at the Olympic Games. The Government is taking a hypocritical attitude. It was not very long after the 1936 Games that we found Prime Minister Menzies forcing the unions of this country to load pig iron for Japan. We do not hear any mention now of the threat that this country was under because of the Japanese. I come back to the 25 million Russians who were slaughtered. If that slaughter had not taken place, if Russia had been on the side of nazism and fascism, we would not be standing here in this Parliament today debating the fate of Afghanistan.
– They were, only they got stabbed in the back.
– We would not be standing here debating the matter that we are debating today. If we have a look at history we will find that in the two great world war conflicts in which we have been engaged, World War I and World War II, the Soviet Union has been on the side of the Allies. That cannot be said of Japan, now our greatest trading nation.
– Tell us about the Molotov-von Ribbentrop treaty.
– I am dealing with specific issues. I do not go back to all those things that the honourable senator raised the other night. We have to look at the hard cold facts and what really is behind the issues being raised in this Parliament by the people who sit opposite. As I have said, as many Opposition speakers have said, as the Press has said and the public opinion polls have said, the Government is not consistent in its attitude.
The other thing I want to follow up is what I said about the Prime Minister not taking notice of the advice of the Office of National Assessments. I come to the matter of credibility. This is the great crux of this debate today and the debate which has taken place over the last fortnight. I refer to the credibility of the Prime Minister and the people who sit behind him. That credibility is under very careful scrutiny, and I think it is on very thin ice at the moment. If we look at the Melbourne Age today we find an article by Laurie Oakes headed, ‘Carter credulous, says our embassy’. Our own Foreign Affairs officials in Washington are casting some doubts on the credibility of Mr Carter, and on the credibility of the Prime Minister in tagging along behind him, cap in hand, doing what the Americans tell him to do, with not a thought of his own. This is something with which we have to live. We have the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) making all these statements about the dangers that we face and his credibility is on the line. This is not the first time that Mr Fraser’s credibility has been under challenge. It has been under challenge by many citizens of Australia, but it was under challenge some years ago by one of his senators. I quote from a transcript of a talkback program with ex-Senator Wood which reads:
Liberal Senator Ian Wood was talking about the Government’s policies on a talk-back radio program on 7 March 1 977 and he was asked: Do you think it ‘s an integrity gap or a credibility gap we are talking about? Senator Wood replied: Well, I think definitely it’s a credibility gap and the way the Government is going on it will be hard to get anybody to believe what they say.
That statement came from a former Government member, Senator Wood. He knew what took place in the party room and he was very disturbed at the Government’s credibility. Almost three years ago he made the statement that the Government’s credibility was under challenge. The situation has not changed since and it is under challenge again today. This fact is borne out in no uncertain terms by that leaked cable which was referred to by Laurie Oakes today in the Age. Regarding the credibility of this Prime Minister I reflect on the events of 1975, when he usurped the present Speaker in the House of Representatives. I had occasion to speak about that matter in this Parliament some time ago. I think it was in an adjournment debate on 30 September 1975. 1 quoted from a lot of Press statements put out by the present Prime Minister denying that he was trying to usurp Mr Snedden. I quoted the events chapter and verse and it is all recorded in Hansard for people to read. So, when honourable senators look at the record of this present Prime Minister, they see that his credibility is as weak as water. It has as many holes in it as a colander has. I know that honourable senators opposite are not too happy with the way the Prime Minister is carrying on.
Let us have a look at the reversal in the attitude of this Government at present compared with what it was in the days of Vietnam. At this stage we have a government trying to prevent our youth taking part in a major world sporting event. It is not so many years ago when it was forcing the youth of this country to take part in an illegal war. It was sending young people to their deaths. If they did not go, what did the Government do with them? It threw them into gaol. I visited one or two youths who were imprisoned because they would not fall into line with this Government which was forcing them to go to fight in Vietnam. So that is the Government’s standards. Both of these events were major political issues. When the Government was in danger at the polls it wrote to the United States of America and asked it to invite Australia to participate in the Vietnam War. Then Australia introduced conscription and sent our young people over to Vietnam to slaughter.
Now, because it suits its political ends, the Government has drummed up this myth about the country being in danger and consequently will not let our youth take part in a friendly sporting event. That is the double standards that this Government deals with.
To get back to the Prime Minister, a most interesting matter to look at is what he was doing when he was Minister for Defence in 1970. At that time the great bogey for this country was Communist China, as he used to call it. 1 refer to a statement on defence which he put down in the House of Representatives on 10 March 1970. He talked about China and said:
Its purpose was to perpetrate the revolutionary spirit of early Communism. Its immediate results are difficult to ascertain, let alone assess.
Nearly every time the Prime Minister rose in the Parliament to speak on defence matters he castigated China. What does he do about China now? At every opportunity he is encouraging China to go along all the way with the USA. So, it suits the Government’s purpose to adopt that attitude. The people of Australia have to be made aware of this fact, and of the reasons for the actions of the Prime Minister. He continued:
China is developing a nuclear capability. She continues to give encouragement and support to revolutionary movements in neighbouring countries. She has border disputes with India. She maintains pressure on Burma. She is engaged in building roads in northern Laos that could facilitate activities directly against Thailand.
These are the things he told us about 10 years ago. Now we find that, because there is an election, the Government is suddenly spending a lot more money on defence.
– Now he is encouraging.
– The Prime Minister is encouraging China. Of course the Government has not changed; its policies have not changed from what they were then, but the Liberal Country Party’s policy, under Fraser- who was then the Minister for Defence and who is now the Prime Minister- has changed somewhat because the political circumstances have changed in this country and he is trying to fool the people.
I could continue to read through that defence statement and many others. If I took the time to go through Hansard, we would see what he said at various times.
Another important remark he made was:
I have already said Australia cannot confront the Soviet Union . . .
That is what he said in his statement in 1 970. What is he doing now? Of course he is confronting the Russians. Every honourable senator who has spoken in this chamber supporting Senator Carrick is doing the same. A policy of antagonism is being pursued. Mr Fraser is on record 10 years ago as saying that Australia cannot confront the Soviet Union. What is the whole purpose behind the two ploys that the Government has engaged in? Of course we cannot confront the Soviet Union because when honourable senators opposite are in government they let the defence of this country run down. I well recall what happened when World War II broke out. Young chaps went into the Army. The predecessor of the Liberal Party, the United Australia Party, was in government in 1939. At that time young men had to be trained with broom handles because there were no rifles with which to instruct them. They were on the lowest rate of pay- and this Government talks about running a war effort! If honourable senators look at the record they will see that what this Government did with respect to the defence of this country was deplorable. It took a Whitlam Labor Government to give returned servicemen proper rates of pay and proper benefits. It lifted the war service home loans from $10,000 to $15,000. It allowed the female section of the armed services to participate. We did all these things and yet honourable senators opposite get up here and blithely say that the Labor Party is not concerned.
One other aspect is of great importance. What did we find happen to the Minister for Defence when we had conscription during the Vietnam war? I refer to an article in the Australian of 24 March 1975. 1 am not one who quotes the Australian too often, but it has been quoted here on many occasions by honourable senators opposite because they have wanted to bolster their argument. The Australian is about the only newspaper in Australia at present which consistently supports the Government’s attitude- and it is owned by Murdoch. Let us have a look at the article. It is headed: ‘The Honourable grazier goes out to meet the people- carefully’. It was written by Mr Peter Ellingsen and he interviewed Mr Paltridge who, at that time, was manager of the Fraser property at Nareen- the property which we hear so much about in the news because Mr Fraser is shipping wool off to Leningrad. Mr Paltridge said to the journalist who interviewed him:
He does a lot for the area and he ‘s well liked for it. During the Vietnam war he helped graziers who were battling to get their sons out of the draft.
That is what Mr Fraser did; that is why he became popular with the wealthy graziers whom he represents in Wannon. His own farm manager said that he became popular because he was helping the wealthy graziers to get their sons out of the draft and from going to Vietnam. Yet, the sons of the working people of this country were forced into the draft-to go to Vietnam or be thrown in gaol. That is why the people of Australia took to the streets.
My main concern now, arising out of this debate, is the front page headline in the Sunday Mail in South Australia of last Sunday. The article was headed: ‘PM to look at training for 100,000-Teenage Army Call-up Scheme’. Mr Neil last week in his contribution to this debate, in the other place, let the cat out of the bag. That is what this Government is all about. It will introduce conscription again. Mr Neil no doubt has had his ears battered back by the Prime Minister for saying this. He came forward with a policy that the Government will have school leavers conscripted into the army to train. He said that unfortunately they would need to have a ballot because they could not be coped with all at once. Are we again going to witness the same thing as we witnessed during the Vietnam war? The then Minister for Defence, now the Prime Minister, intervened on behalf of those who supported his party to see that their sons did not go into the draft, into the ballot and that probably they would not do national service like the sons and daughters of the working people of this country. Every time this country is under threat, who are the people who pay the piper? It is the sons and daughters of the people who can least afford to lose. Those who can most afford to lose are like some of the Democratic Labor Party members we had in the Senate. They prattled on about a war effort. None of them ever went to fight for their country. Yet to listen to them and to read their speeches one woud have thought they were the greatest experts on defence we ever had.
These matters which are concerning the Australian people today are matters such as that statement by Mr Neil last week when he let the Government’s policy out of the bag. It is all very well for Senator Peter Baume. He does not like the truth but that is what it is. If this Government is allowed to have its head, the young people of this country will again have to go to the alter of sacrifice to suit the Government’s own political ends. I would hope that when the people of Australia get the opportunity to go to the ballot box they will pass a decision on the Government in no uncertain manner. I hope that before very long we will have a government in this country that is concerned with the welfare of this country and the people who live in it in every way, shape or form. We will then have a government that will not use red herrings to divide the nation as this Government has done. It will not use red herrings to try to force the people to vote for it at the ballot box.
This Government has lost control of the economy. The whole exercise in this Parliament over the last fortnight has been taken up with the spurious issue of Russian intervention in Afghanistan. That is all that the Government has spoken about. When we get near to the the end of the session we will find that the Government will introduce legislation in a rush, legislation which we should be dealing with now. We should be dealing with major issues affecting the man in the street. At the end of the session we will find Senator Carrick threatening that if we do not get on and pass legislation without any debate, he will keep us here again until 5.30 in the morning. I will say now that I am quite prepared to stop here for 24 hours and 48 hours at a stretch. We will see who will wear out first. The Ministers got very frazzled at the end of the last session. The Government will be made to pay the penalty for what it did to us last year. I give it fair warning. I gave the Government warning last year and I give it warning again now. Unless the Government comes to its senses and introduces legislation so that we can have a proper debate on it and not be pussyfooting around in the Parliament with spurious issues, it will face not only the consequences of not getting any co-operation in this chamber but also the consequences of being thrown out of office at the first opportunity that the electors of Australia get.
– For approximately the last three quarters of an hour we have heard much which I think can only be described as flotsam and jetsam being thrown into the stream and drifting down the muddy river. Practically everything Senator McLaren said in his speech can be disproved. I will start with one of his last points and refute it very strongly and very conclusively. He insinuated that in the remarks that may have been made in the House of Representatives by Maurrie Neil-I have not read them- Mr Neil disclosed Government policy on conscription. That is a lot of poppycock. The Government has absolutely no plans for conscription, teenage conscription or any age conscription of the people of Australia. This has been most strongly refuted in the Senate in an answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick. As members of the Parliament would know, Mr Maurrie Neil served very well in
Vietnam and in other places. He has proved himself in the Defence Force to be a very able person. Of course, having seen and experienced war, he is interested in this matter and wishes that Australia should be defended. When one sees the thousands and millions of people who are in the armies of those countries which oppose our way of life, it is most natural that people who have experienced war start adding up the figures to see how Australia could withstand the hordes if they descended in our direction. This is not poppycock or warmongering. This is is what is happening at the moment.
Senator McLaren spoke of Government members kicking the communist bogy can. He said that governments of the same political persuasion as the present Government had created wars. He spoke of warmongerers and scapegoats. He said that the Soviets are abused and accused. He said it is just a question of markets and that if we do not behave ourselves the Soviets will not buy from us. I presume he would say also that the Soviets are to be excused for the 25 million people who were lost in the Second World War.
– I did not say that at all and you know it.
– Very close to it. Perhaps I may be wrong. He said that we practise a policy of antagonism. Then he went so far as to say that the Soviets have to save their identity by moving against the Afghans.
– I never said that at all.
– I suggest that the honourable senator look in Hansard at all the wild statements he made and he will see what he said. Let us look at a few of these situations. I strongly support the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) regarding Afghanistan and Australia’s assessment of the situation. His statement went further and discussed the defence needs of Australia in the future.
We have been accused of making the Soviets scapegoats. In every decade since the Second World War the Soviets have gone to war, and always against a small country such as Afghanistan. Can anyone excuse the invasion of Hungary in 1956 or the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968? Have the people who publicly support the Soviets now and who have supported them in this Parliament in this last week or so; ever taken the opportunity of speaking to their fellow Australians, the Hungarians and the Czechoslovakians who live in Australia today? They are the young people who in 1956 and 1968 escaped from those countries and came to Australia looking for peace. Have the people who publicly support the Soviets asked what happened in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia? Have these people perhaps been on a parliamentary mission to Hungary or Czechoslovakia and listened to the people who still live in those two countries today and who experienced the traumas and witnessed murder that took place in those years? Not only did the Soviets invade Hungary but they also killed off thousands and thousands of young people. One can go to Hungary today and be shown the square and the main street where the tanks of the Soviets ran over the young people and crushed them to death as well as doing other things. This applies to Czechoslovakia too.
In this decade the small country of Afghanistan has been invaded by the Soviets. For the last 50-odd years Afghanistan has been fearful of such a move as has happened in the last few weeks. Report after report keeps coming from Afghanistan day after day. Two weeks ago a report appeared in a paper which I see no reason to disbelieve. It stated that in one village 1,200 men of 12 years of age and above were lined up and shot. This army is surely barbarian. There can be no excuse for these atrocities. Not only have we heard of murder and the rape of women and children but also we have seen several reportsthey have not been proved- that the Soviets are using nerve gas. If the Afghanistan people are being murdered by the use of gunships, tanks and bombs, how can anyone excuse the actions of the Soviets? Yet people say that there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the Soviet actions. They say that perhaps the Soviets felt that they were being forced into such a situation. Anyone who thinks along those lines is an absolute fool.
It has been proved, and can be read in the papers of the USSR, that the Soviets’ future thinking is world control. Decade by decade their areas of control and influence have been extended. In this context we must also look at the influence of the democracies. This influence has decreased in the last two decades. The Soviet forces are gradually being strengthened as country after country is being taken under their control.
Senator McLaren had some very harsh words to say about members on this side of the House. It is not my intention to name the honourable senators from this side of the House who have spoken or are listed to speak. To imply that they are amongst the warmongers and have not participated in the defence of their country is a sheer and straight-out mistruth. Equal numbers on both sides of the House have served their country. I would say that the bulk of the people within the age group which was able to serve its country did so. Many of them -
– I was talking about the Cabinet.
– It is all right for the senator to excuse himself now. It is quite true, as the honourable senator said, that Russia lost a tremendous number of people in the last World War. I do not know the number. The honourable senator says that it was 25 million; I would not argue with him. But that is no excuse. Many millions of other people were killed, as the honourable senator said. Some six million Jews were gassed and were removed from this earth. They were put in trenches like a lot of animals that had been destroyed in a field. Because the Soviets lost so many people in the Second World War is no excuse for their continuing on through the decades treating the smaller nations as they were treated in Leningrad. I have been there. I know what they went through there. There is absolutely no excuse for them to continue on in the present manner. It is no good this country or any other saying that we must not stand up to the Soviets. The honourable senator is implying that because Russia is a market for us we must keep on selling things to the Russians and we must not do anything to upset them. This is absolutely playing into their hands.
The word ‘detente’ has been used to quite an extent in debate in the last week or two. What does detente mean? I have listened to the debate and know what has happened in countries such as the USSR. Detente has many different meanings. The democracies- let us call ourselves the flower people- would like everything in the world to be nice, everyone to be happy and so on. In fact our actions ensure this to quite a degree. If there has been trouble, fighting or an invasion we regard that as very bad, but we should endeavour to overcome it so that in the future the world will live in peace and there will be no further invasions. That is our definition of detente. We have seen the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. If we do not look out now we will start waving the flag of detente again even after the invasion of Afghanistan. We will note that the Soviets have invaded Afghanistan and will say that they should not do anything further and gulp up more small countries. So, we will practice detente. If we do not look out we will again feed in technology and do other sorts of things in an endeavour to make friends with the Soviet.
How does the USSR look at detente? I suggest that its thoughts are very different. In all the deliberate moves the Soviets make in swallowing up these small countries they go only so far- as they have done in the case of Afghanistan- and then they halt. They then talk to the democracies and endeavour to get the message across that they will not do anything further, that they will not be naughty again or carry out any further invasions. While all detente and talks on peace, liaison and co-operation go on- as they have over the years- the Soviets are preparing once again to flex their muscles and move into the next country. Detente to the Soviets means not peace, liaison and co-operation but a breathing space so that they can gather their strength for the next invasion. I ask anyone to dispute that. Surely we have learnt enough over the last few years to know that this communist country’s only intention is to continue on until it has world control.
I believe the action that the Australian Government and the Prime Minister have taken in the last few months has been invaluable in very many ways. Australia is a small country, but it was one of the first to stand and to indicate to other nations that we should all join together and resist this continuing peril from Russia. I think the Prime Minister is to be commended. He has made these visits and moved from country to country. I believe he has brought about a liaison and a co-operation that were most necessary. Someone asked in the debate last week: Why should the Prime Minister, the leader of the country, do such a thing? Why do we not leave it to the Department of Foreign Affairs? What absolute rot! As the leader of Australia, the leader of the Government, it was his responsibility to do exactly what he has done. I believe he has achieved tremendous results.
Let me refer to the situation of America. Surely it is apparent that in the last few years America has grown more and more inward looking. It has withdrawn from the troubles around the world. It has presented a low profile. It has been withdrawing within itself. In the last few years when it has had a responsibility- I believe that as a super-power it always has had this responsibility to help to achieve reasonable control in a world crisis situation- it has withdrawn. This has happened particularly since it withdrew from Vietnam. It would be true to say that in this last year or two Australia would not have known where it stood in regard to American policies. But now there has been a move by the Soviets. It has been an aggressive move which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people in
Afghanistan. Russia, by taking over Afghanistan, is now situated in the heart of the world ‘s oil producing countries and in very close proximity to a warm water port. At last the Americans -
– Are you sure you have the right country, because you are not pronouncing it correctly?
– The honourable senator has had his say. At least now we can see that America has once again become the strong country- strong in outlook, as it was before. I believe that Australia, in indicating its support for American policy, has been a part of this situation, which has given America a stronger resolve.
– Grovelling, just as in the dark days of the late sixties.
– There are many things that some members of the Opposition do not like. We have at times discussed the possibility of having a bipartisan approach to the situation. England has achieved it. That country under the leadership of Mrs Thatcher, is to be commended because all parties have seen their way clear to agreeing on a common outlook.
– And the Opposition there is to be commended.
– Yes, I very much agree with the honourable senator. The Labour Party in the United Kingdom is to be commended. I am not saying that many members of the Labor Party in this Parliament are not to be commended; they are. We have heard some very fine speeches on their attitudes to the Afghanistan invasion. The people I refer to are the moderates and the people who are looked upon as members of the right wing.
– Who- Paul Keating?
– You do the naming, Senator. It is not for me to name those people on the Opposition side. As I have said before, I believe that there are many Opposition senators who come into that category, such as Senator Wheeldon perhaps and Dr Klugman, to name two. Why is it that the left wing members have not seen fit to come forward as have their partners in the Labor Party? I think the answer on this issue is very plain, and I think they have publicly displayed their attitude. They have shown to the communist-led unions of the country that they are loyal to them. (Quorum formed). Some members of this Parliament have indicated to the communist-led unions that they have said the things that are expected of them, and I would say that that is to the detriment of Australia. Of course the communist-led unions can then say to the Soviets: ‘What good boys we are’.
– What a load of codswallop you are talking.
– Where are your guts? You name them and name the unions.
– The honourable senator has asked me where are my guts. May I ask him where are his. Is he naming himself as one of the communists that I am describing who feel they have to answer to the left wing controlled unions?
– You are the one making the accusations but you will not name anyone.
– I am not making accusations. The second part of the statement on Afghanistan is directed at Australia ‘s defence requirements. I applaud this part of the statement. I also applaud the first part because, as I have said before, I believe that the Prime Minister, despite the derogatory statements and attacks that have been made on him, has achieved tremendous results. It is surprising that in this debate he has been singled out and attacked maliciously on many occasions by honourable senators who should have been getting on with debating the statement.
The defence of Australia is an extremely important subject. To a person such as myself who comes from the north it is probably more important than it is to some people because in the north we can still see the scars of the Second World War. At Broome we can see at low water mark the wrecks of 1 8 to 20 large seaplanes which carried refugees. They have been a reminder all these years that if we are to keep Australia safe certain things have to be done. Japanese, American and Australian bombers and fighters still lie around the coastline where they crashed many years ago. They are memorials of the past and reminders of what should be done now.
The people of the north are very heartened to see that action has been taken by the Government to build up our defences. Despite the assurances that were given after the Second World War the people of the north at times still feel that the Brisbane line thinking still exists. They have been afraid that in the future planning for the defence of Australia the north would once again be forgotten and not developed, and that whatever defence facilities were established would be located in the southern part of Australia. The people of the north were afraid that the Brisbane line mentality still exists. But this statement gives an assurance- the first real assurance that has been given- that the north is looked upon as the frontier of Australia. Because it is the frontier of Australia, that is where Australia must be defended- along the Indian Ocean coastline. We will see some 75 new fighters in Australia. It has been suggested that the squadrons of Mirages presently based at Butterworth in Malaysia will be returned to Australia and will be positioned in the north.
– Who said that, Senator?
– I said that it has been reported. Senator Bishop might remember that the other day I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the report that those squadrons were returning to Australia, which was supposed to have emanated from the Department of Defence, was correct. The Leader of the Government refuted that claim and said that there were no such plans at present. But I think it is reasonable to assume that that will happen. It is possible that we will have another FFG destroyer. We will have more patrol boats. Aerodromes in Western Australia will be upgraded or new ones will be built. A new supply vessel for the north is to be constructed. An aircraft carrier possibly will come from the United States of America.
So many tangible developments are occurring that I think we can feel assured that at least some realistic measures will be taken. But I think that one of the real indications to the people of the north that that is so is that not only will the Government spend some $95m this year on defence- there is more to come over the next few years- but also, more money is to be spent within the Navy and the Air Force on training and on sea and air movement. As far as surveillance and other operations are concerned, that will mean that more steaming will be done by the Navy and more flying will be done by the Air Force. Previously there have been restrictions. To my mind, there has been a lack of reconnaissance and surveillance in the north. I believe that with this extra funding that will be rectified.
In the Darwin area, as in Cairns, patrol boat bases are being constructed. That, together with the use of the new Fremantle type of patrol boat, will be an advantage in the patrolling of and reconnaissance within the Indian Ocean area. Those patrol boats will be able to operate further out to sea than the earlier patrol boats were able to operate. So those bases will be of considerable benefit. I suggest that, as the Navy base just off Fremantle in Western Australia is to be upgraded for use by the Americans and for use by our boats-I applaud that-a further base should be built in the north. I think that the facilities at the new patrol boat base which is being constructed now in Darwin should be extended so that when FFG destroyers arrive there shortly they will be able to be maintained and serviced there. Once again, I think that that would be most advantageous.
There is to be an increase in the strength of the Services. That surely will have to be a morale lifter for the people who are now serving Australia. Last Friday I had an opportunity to attend, as did members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, including Senator Reg Bishop, a firepower demonstration at Puckapunyal. I saw the young officers there and watched a demonstration of the firepower of the weapons used. I believe that, particularly among the young officers, the morale was considerable. One aspect we ought to consider when we are enlarging our Defence Force- the Navy, Army and Air Force- concerns industrial support to meet defence needs. Although today I asked the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) a question relating to industrial support to meet defence needs and allied matters and asked him what was happening in that direction, whether we will be more self-sufficient in armaments than we have been, I was not really given an assurance by the Attorney-General.
I draw attention to the October 1 977 report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I think that the conclusions drawn and recommendations made in that report are very pertinent to the problems being experienced in the munitions and defence industry. The Committee stated:
The Committee sees the munitions industry as an essential national defence industry which is in serious decline as the result of a very severe decrease in defence workload since 1970. In the government munitions factories, which form the backbone of the industry, the workforce is down to a level which is barely capable in most areas of maintaining essential capabilities and skills. There are clements of the workforce that are not gainfully employed. The costs of maintaining capacity arc increasing and yet not enough money is being spent on the necessary up-grading of facilities to achieve higher levels of productivity.
That report was printed in 1977. I hope that in the intervening period there has been further upgrading in the industry and that, particularly now, we will see further upgrading. In the most recent reports of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Australian defence procurement, which was produced in November 1 979, the Committee stated:
On several occasions the Committee has supported the gradual consolidation of personnel expert in foreign contract administration, procurement practice or law. Such a group could form part of any career procurement service which is formed for the Defence Department. In this way, it will be possible to collect ‘under one roof all the procurement skills necessary for defence procurement both inside and outside Australia.
For these reasons, the Committee recommends that those functions of the Department of Administrative Services relative to the procurement of major military equipment for the Defence Force be transferred to the Department of Defence.
The Committee considers that such a transfer will add further to Defence Department capacity in the fields of: drafting of specifications: contracts and contract management; foreign procurement law and practice: local procurement law and practice, as necessary . . .
So it goes on. The Committee recommended that the administrative part of government should be reviewed and that work undertaken by the Department of Administrative Services should be handed over to the Department of Defence. (Quorum formed). Before the quorum was called I was saying that while we are now upgrading our defence forces let us also look at our munitions industry and the defence related industries to ensure that they are in a better condition than they have been over the years.
A lot of nonsense has been stated in this debate. I suggest that a lot of that nonsense emanated from the other side of the chamber prior to my speech. However, I compliment the Australian for its editorial of Monday, 25 February. I think that what it said is what many people have tried to say over the last two weeks. 1 believe that it has a message for everybody- the people in the Parliament and the people of Australia. I seek leave to have the editorial entitled ‘There are no medals for the dead’ incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Australian society is dividing dangerously into two camps- each standing on the edge of its own precipice created by an ever-widening division of opinion on whether or not to boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow. The division must be closed so that all Australians stand on common ground.
Regrettably and wrongly, the debate has turned into an “us versus them” conflict, as though one side is trying to prevent our athletes from competing for reasons which are entirely bloody-minded and cynically political while the other side is trying to ensure our athletes go to Moscow so time spent in training is not wasted.
This is not what it’s all about, lt is not about athletes winning medals. There are no medals for the dead in Kabul, only bullet holes in the chests of those who are fighting for their freedom, as our story today reports. There is no peace in Afghanistan, although many would like to pretend there is. There is anger and brave opposition and a call for support which we cannot ignore.
A boycott of the Moscow Olympics is all about stopping the Soviet Union from continuing its calculated policy of expansionism aimed at world dominance. A boycott of the
Moscow Olympics is all about getting a message to the Russian people that the world abhors the Soviet Union’s denial of human rights to dissidents within its borders and its subjugation of free people and nations- in particular, Afghanistan. A boycott of the Moscow Olympics is all about Andrei Sakharov. about the tens of thousands of Russian Jews who want freedom but may not journey to it and about the unknown multitude of political prisoners denied ordinary civil liberties within the Soviet Union.
Most of all, a boycott of the Moscow Olympics is about preventing World War III.
With hindsight, it is apparent that a boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics might well have changed the course of history. A Germany still not entirely convinced of the rightness of Hitler’s policies and wary of where he was taking it was, without doubt, strongly persuaded by the world’s attendance at the 1936 Games that those policies were acceptable to the world. No stronger evidence could possibly have been placed in Hilter’s hands. The nazi propaganda machine made sure this was the message the Germans received- and the takeover of Europe, the pogroms and the mass murders proceeded with awful inevitabiltiy to World War II.
Can anybody seriously believe the Soviet leadership will not make the same use of the world ‘s attendance at the Moscow Games? Can the leaders of the Olympic movement who doggedly stick to the line that sport has nothing to do with politics really believe their athletes in Moscow will not be presented to the Russian people as living evidence of international support for the Kremlin and its policies?
It must be realised the Soviet leadership is desperately in need of a boost. Communism, as it was and as it is still practised by the leaders in the Kremlin, has run its course. It is collapsing economically (after 60 years the USSR is still inefficient and far from being self-sufficient) and morally (as dissidents like Sakharov demonstrate). Yet the Soviet Union today is militarily strong- as strong, comparatively, as it will ever be: superior in conventional forces and at least equal in nuclear power. This is its crucial time. The push for world domination must go forward now . . . or never.
Debate in Australia has become confused over the issue of exports of wool, wheat and rutile to the USSR. There is hypocrisy apparent in this and the Government has handled the matter badly. But political ineptness- or avarice or whatever it might be- should not bc allowed to conceal the fact that a ban on all Australian exports to the USSR would go unnoticed by the Russian people. Indeed, a world ban on trade with Russia would have no immediate impact. But a boycott of the Games will have an immediate, sledgehammer propaganda effect.
That is the distinction we must get clear in our minds. A Games boycott will visibly deliver a salutary, moral condemnation of Soviet policies without harming Soviet development or the Russian people. It will strike a powerful blow for peace. A trade boycott, history has shown, is more likely to cause war than to prevent it.
These are the factors the free world’s Olympic athletes and their officials must weigh. Can they go to Moscow in the knowledge their attendance will encourage Soviet aggression? Will they- will any of us- be able to live content if, for example, a reassured and emboldened Soviet snaps up Yugoslavia during or soon after the Games. Can Olympic officials continue to put off making a decision- in the dithering hope something will turn up- knowing the free world ‘s divisiveness is encouraging the enemies of freedom (as evidenced by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s suddenly renewed toughness on the release of the wretched, almost forgotten hostages in Tehran )?
As for the waste of training and talent involved, our story today tells of plans for alternative world games. They could be held later this year or next year, contested by all athletes secure in the knowledge they will not be helping sow the seeds of a whirlwind to sweep the world.
The Moscow Olympic boycott is not about winning gold, silver or bronze medals. It is about winning peace and freedom- for Afghanistan and for the world.
– This is the second week of our discussion on the incident in Afghanistan. As one could expect, we have heard many speakers, both in the Senate and in the other place. In the main they have gone over the same ground, each one repeating what the other had said. Very little has been said about the matter under discussion. The debate appears to have been based on which side can condemn the other the most. We need to consider some basic facts to see where we are going. Those on the Government side have repeated what was said in the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Opposition members have followed their leader and repeated his utterances in this important debate. Why we should accept the word of the Prime Minister rather than the word of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and his followers in the debate? It necessitates more than the statement by a leader for us to accept something as being gospel or being justified in what it sets out to do. Possibly, it needs more than the statement by a Leader of the Opposition to say what is the right policy on the matter. If we, as a Senate, tried to get to the truth of the matter we would achieve a lot more. Indeed there has been an appeal for bipartisanship. If we expect to adopt a bipartisan attitude we must be on common ground about truth and justice in this conflict.
I will seek to examine how we should find out what is the true position in Afghanistan. I condemn the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet forces. I am prompted to do this. I did not think it would be necessary but I felt like Robinson Crusoe this morning when other honourable senators had the opportunity to claim that they had been misrepresented. I was the only one who was unable to say it. Possibly, because I was unable to say that I had been misrepresented, I was one to whom Senator Kilgariff referred when he said that some members of the Labor Party could be commended. I thank him for those remarks. As I said, I condemn the invasion by Soviet Russia, but I give it no greater condemnation than I did America’s invasion of Vietnam or Russia ‘s invasion of other countries surrounding its territory. The interference by armed forces in another country’s troubles is something to be deplored. If we all agree on that, we can take a bipartisan attitude, but let us not be one-sided.
I acknowledge that there could be some sympathy for Russia when one remembers what has not been mentioned, such as the three years of intervention in Russia by the combined forces of the world in 192 1 and the opening of the lands of Finland to allow the Germans free entry to the borders of Russia for the purpose of attacking it. That may be some justification for Russia’s wanting to protect its borders. But to my mind there is insufficient justification for the use of armed forces in another country. If we still have to use armed force, all our previous wars and the establishment of peace organisations such as the United Nations will have been useless and of no avail. When condemning Russia we have to be effective in ensuring that its actions in Afghanistan cease and do not happen again.
Let me analyse the Government’s position. I would like Government members to listen because I do not want to misrepresent them. I think I can sum up the Government’s position in this way: The Government believes that when a number of Soviet troops entered Afghanistan in December last year it constituted an invasion of a non-aligned independent country for the purpose of proceeding, through either Iran or Pakistan, to a warm water port and gaining control of oil wells, oil traffic and the supply of oil to America, Australia and other countries. It believes that depriving such countries of oil could lead to a third world war and create one of the most serious threats to peace since 1945. It believes we should do everything possible by way of protest to stop this advance and threat. It believes that the best way to protest is to threaten a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow and to increase our defences. I think that is a fair and accurate summary of what we gather from this debate to be the Government’s attitude to the Afghanistan issue.
The Labor Party’s attitude could be summed up as being a condemnation of the Russian activities in Afghanistan. But it sees no value in a boycott of the Olympic Games, without a ban on trade. It is simply hypocritical. That is the difference between the two attitudes. We all condemn the Russian invasion. The Government says it is the most serious threat since 1945. We say that it is not. The Government plans to prevent further occurrences of this nature by stopping our athletes from going to Moscow and by spending more on defence. We say that this is not a method of stopping further occurrences. Now let us see what the Government’s proposals are all about. From reading the statement we gather that that is its policy, but how much is it supported by any authority or facts? How much can we rely upon the Government on the question of Afghanistan? The statement says that Afghanistan was a non-aligned country. Russia has been in there since 1978. There has been a Marxist government or dictatorship. Presidents friendly to Russia have been there since the coup in 1 978. There has been some commitment to Russia. Russia claims that President Amin invited its troops in to stop insurgents from causing trouble in Afghanistan, to stop the invasion by Pakistan, to stop the exodus of refugees who were forced out at the time of the coup and to keep order. This statement comes from the Russian foreign affairs department. No one has put up any argument to say that that is not so. The statement says that it is hard to believe. Possibly the Russians were invited into Afghanistan. We cannot contradict that statement. The Prime Minister established an organisation on similar lines to that of England to keep him advised on overseas events and to assess situations. Mr Fraser set up the Office of National Assessments. It was headed by a Mr Bob Furlonger, a former senior ambassador. He was the Prime Minister’s choice. He must be a man of some capabilities. He has a job to do and a staff. He has a committee to assess situations and advise the Prime Minister accordingly. That organisation advised the Prime Minister that the Soviet move was defensive and that Afghanistan was not a non-aligned nation. The Soviets were not aiming for oil fields. ( Quorum formed). I direct attention to the state of the House mainly to attract audiences. I hate knowing that we do not have a constituted Parliament here. The Standing Orders make provision for the calling of a quorum and I appreciate anyone drawing attention to the state of the House at any time because I think it is a bad reflection upon Government members that they do not keep a properly constituted House. They forget the whole system of Standing Orders to suit their own conveniences.
I had pointed out that this organisation formed by the Prime Minister was done so for the purpose of advising the Government. It has the best brains that the Prime Minister could select to keep him advised. That body reported, as I have already said, that the Soviet Union was acting defensively, that Afghanistan was not a nonaligned nation, that the Soviets were not aiming for oil fields and that the real danger in the region was not the Soviet Union but the internal instability of countries. The invasion reflects Soviet military arrogance and its defence paranoia -
-Is that the ONA’s assessment?
-That is the Office of National Assessments. That assessment supports the idea that the invasion of Afghanistan is not the most serious threat since 1945; which has been the Opposition’s claim. I asked Senator Carrick to clarify a situation for me. He referred me to the decision of the European Parliament and the United Nations where 104 countries condemned the invasion by the Soviet Union. The ONA does not praise Russia or say that it is correct. Everyone condemns the invasion, but that condemnation does not mean that the invasion is a threat to world peace. Senator Carrick ‘s answer was no reply to the recommendations of the Office of National Assessments. The only support for the statement that it is not a threat to world peace is the ONA ‘s assessment.
The Prime Minister has established an interdepartmental committee to advise on defence and foreign affairs matters. It is reported in the National Times that that committee stated, before the Prime Minister went overseas, that it could not see this invasion into Afghanistan as being a threat to world peace or Australia. The Prime Minister’s advisers- the brains- have made a contrary statement to that contained in his statement. All he can say is that the ONA is complacent. He knows because he visited President Carter. In today’s Age we see from a leaked document that President Carter and his advisers are very naive and hopeless on foreign affairs. That statement came from no-one less than Sir Nicholas Parkinson. He was another Fraser appointment and a highly capable officer in our embassy in America.
– He has got to go as well.
-The Government could get rid of him and possibly get a coterie that would agree. While we make decisions and accept the Prime Minister’s statement we do not ask for support for it and we do not seek authorities for it. If there is going to be a bipartisan attitude honourable senators cannot expect a party that seeks the truth blindly to accept a statement just because the Prime Minister has said it, when that statement is contrary to all the expert advice. It is like someone employing a specialist to treat him for an illness and then that person doing something else because he thinks the specialist is complacent. The Government’s attitude is that there is a threat to Iran and Pakistan. That assertion has been denied by the Office of National Assessments. It is denied in a statement that was referred to by Senator Melzer and Senator Evans last night from Dr Joe Camilleri who is the senior lecturer in politics at the La Trobe University. One would not think that he is inexperienced, or a stupid goat with party prejudices involved in making decisions.
We now come to the main question in this matter. Even if it is agreed that the intervention by the Soviet Union is wrong, but not that the crisis is as bad as is made out, how can anything be done? The United Nations organisation has been built up. The matter was taken to the United Nations and it condemned Russia’s actions. I would have thought that all moves should come from the United Nations. If there is no solution from that organisation then there can be no solution to any conflict in the world today. If it has no solution, we must create a solution and come together in a united action to stop any form of aggression.
There has been criticism of the holding of the Olympic Games in Moscow. As the Government has said, there would be some impression on the Russian people if they knew that numerous countries would not be competing at the Olympics. Therefore, a boycott may have some effect. However, does anyone think that Russia would pull out of Afghanistan if the Olympic Games were a failure? Does anyone think that the attendance or otherwise of Australia’s athletes at Moscow will be the deciding factor in whether they continue their activities in Afghanistan? Will the Olympics control Russia ‘s foreign policy and will they allow sportsmen and women to decide the issue? Of course they will not. If it does cause some embarrassment, that is all it will cause. If the proposed boycott goes ahead we will be depriving those who have trained for a goal in life from achieving that goal. It might be their only opportunity because in four or six years’ time they will have passed their prime.
If a country is untouchable as a result of its actions- if we should have no relationship with it then not just the sportsmen and women should suffer, but everyone. It has been stated that Australia is trading in wool, wheat and raw materials with the Soviet Union. In the Daily Commercial Shipping News of 25 February, which shows the movement of freight, we find in the section concerned with the London office, under the dateline of 25 February the following:
Miscellaneous chartering including alumina from Gladstone to the Soviet Black Sea at S54.12W fio for March and ore from Tubarao to Japan at $ 1 3.60 fio for March.
Soviet charterers fixed a vessel of 33,634 long dwt for a voyage from Taiwan to Cape Passero/Skaw via Australia at SI 3,000 daily March.
Under the heading ‘Australian Freights’, also with the dateline of 25 February, we see the following:
John Gregos fixed 25,000 long tons alumina from Glad”one to Soviet Black Sea at $54. 1216 fio for March 20-3 1.
Timecharter Nikes 33,634 long dwt 15 knots on 45 long tons fuel oil delivery Taiwan March 5-15 voyage to Cape Passero/Skaw via Australia $ 1 3,000 daily Sovfracht.
Timecharter Captain Rahiotis 27,503 long dwt delivery Taiwan March 30 voyage via Australia/Black Sea redelivery Bosphorus $1 1,000 daily Romanian charterers.
Bunbury to one port Soviet Black Sea 20,000 long bulk ilmenite offers fio March/April.
– That is 45,000 tonnes of alumina from Australia.
– Alumina is being shipped up to March and April. Think of the value of that. Senator McLaren supports the attack on the sale of wool and wheat to Russia even though, generally, he supports trade. The Government has said that it is justified in keeping trade links open because the Soviet Union could get somewhere else the products we stopped trading with it. The accusation was made in another place that the wool from Nareen was on the wharf in Melbourne, having come from the Prime Minister’s farm. The Prime Minister was more interested in roubles than in runners. The allegation in regard to that matter was denied. Mr Howard yesterday confirmed that denial, pointing out that the last sale of wool from Nareen was on 22 November and that the occupation of Afghanistan did not take place until 12 December.
However, that explanation is not valid. All of the denials of the fact that an incorrect statement was made indicate that the Prime Minister accepts that what he did was wrong. He does not want to be accused of selling wool to Russia at this time. Government members have gone out of their way to follow up the details, to find out when the wool was sold so that the Prime Minister can say that he is innocent. Is that not an admission that the explanation is incorrect? Is that not an admission that if we were to take one side in a war we should not be shipping wool to the opposition? The Prime Minister’s attitude in regard to the shipment of wool is wrong. Australia should not be shipping wool to Russia at the present time. He protects himself but he does not get away from the question by saying that the last sale of wool from Nareen took place before the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan began. The wool is still on the wharf at Melbourne and it could be withdrawn. It has not been withdrawn because it is valuable. Honourable senators will remember an answer given to Senator Wheeldon when he asked a question about this matter in the Senate last year.
Canberra Comments, a circulated publication, pertinently asked why the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) did not take part in this debate. He left for London the night the debate began but he stayed overnight in Singapore, so he had plenty of time to participate in the debate if he so desired. The Office of National Assessments, comprising representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence, advised against the line taken by Fraser. It is suggested that the Department of Foreign Affairs does not agree with the attitude of the Prime Minister and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs supports his Department. Therefore, he has kept out of Australia while this debate has been going on so that he would not have to tell us of the attitude of his Department to this whole question. Senator Carrick may put things on notice until doomsday, but we have to wait for the Minister responsible to come back to answer them. He would have difficulty in not answering promptly if the Minister was in Australia. The Afghanistan issue seems to make one suspicious, to say the least. I have said that both sides of the House condemn Russia for its actions and think that some method should be found to stop Russia.
Let us get down to the facts. If there is to be a ban at all, let us have a complete ban. One cannot forget the statement containing the views of the Prime Minister, who ignored the views of the experts from his own Department. This statement was supported by the President of America who, unfortunately, has incompetent foreign affairs advisers, according to our Embassy in Washington. For both of them this is an election year, and both of them were down badly in the polls. As soon as the threat of war came about we saw a big jump in the rating of the American President in this pre-selection and we saw also an improved rating for the Prime Minister of Australia. The President and the Prime Minister must maintain in people this fear of war for the purpose of gaining some popularity in the community. The Prime Minister’s popularity has gone down in Australia. It is not what it was when he returned to the country from his overseas trip.
The first thing that we must consider is that the Secretary of the Department of Defense in America, Mr Clifford Clark, has said that if Russia takes over one of the countries with a sea port, there would be war. But he said also that there would be no war over Afghanistan; it is another Hungary, it is another Czechoslovakia, it is another Vietnam- although I suppose the Russians think their successes in Hungary and
Czechoslovakia were better than they were in Vietnam. There will be no war, but the Government considers that it must create war hysteria and increase expenditure for our defence forces. No one disagrees that we need a proper defence force. I do not think the amount that we are capable of spending on defence will frighten the Russian Navy and the Russian forces very much. I do not think that will make Russia withdraw from Afghanistan. Although the threat supposedly is so great, the proposed expenditure on a military build-up in Australia is less now than the proposal contained in the White Paper in 1976 when there was no threat; so the need for war materials, the need for a defence build-up has not increased since 1977, it has decreased. This contradiction is hard to understand.
I should like to refer to one or two points in the Prime Minister’s statement:
Why did the Soviet Union invade Afghanistan? The explanation of its own leaders is that it responded to the request of the Government of Afghanistan and that there was already interference in the country by other powers. As to the first part of this explanation, in light of the fact that the Soviets went into the country days before they claim to have received the request, and then promptly killed the head of the Government which had supposedly invited them in, it is insultingly unconvincing.
There we have the accusation that the Soviet Union killed the head of the Government which invited it in. There is not one iota of evidence to support the contention that that did happen. A man was killed, and the Soviet general, whose duty it was to guard him, was taken back to Russia on reprimand to be tried on the charge of neglect of duty.
– Is he going to get a trial?
-This statement does not say whether or not the general is going to get a trial. It does not support any suggestion that he was taken back on reprimand, nor does it support a suggestion that the Soviet Army dispensed with Amin.
– There is no report to suggest that he is not going to get a trial.
-That is a question of human rights. The honourable senator might be right, but I do not suggest it. I suggest that it would be contrary to the whole suggestion that it was an action of the Soviet Government. But this is contained in the Prime Minister’s statement as a matter of fact, and this is what we are asked to believe because the Prime Minister says it. As I showed in relation to other things, it is contrary to the best advice in the world -
– Who killed him?
-I suppose they are trying to find out now. The statement continues:
Indeed the fate suffered over the years by those leaders who have allegedly invited the intervention of the Soviet Union in their affairs is such that one must conclude that no sane person would even extend such an invitation.
That is the basis of that statement, that one must conclude that no sane person would do this. Whether they were sane or not, the question is did they issue the invitation? A little later in the statement the Prime Minister said:
The fact that 104 countries, most of them non-aligned, voted in the U.N. General Assembly to condemn the Soviet action clearly reflected that change.
I refer to that passage because that is what the United Nations General Assembly voted for, to condemn the Soviet Union, Later on the statement continued:
The fact that India is concerned about the prospect of military support for Pakistan does not mean that she is unconcerned about the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. The fact that some Western European countries have their own views about the appropriate ways of responding to the Soviet Union does not mean that their condemnation is in any way muted or qualified. The fact that some of the Islamic countries disagree with aspects of United States policy in the middle East and West Asia does not mean that they are tolerant of Soviet aggression against one of their own.
This statement suggests that all we have heard is a condemnation from 104 nations. That paragraph suggests also that they do not intend to do anything. There is nothing to support a belief that there will be any worthwhile response to the suggestion of boycotting the Olympic Games. The British Government has stated that while it opposes the boycott, the Olympic Federation can make up its own mind, and I believe that it has done so. Continuing with the statement:
It is important that there be clarity about the aims of those policies. Their purpose should not be to outlaw or humiliate the Soviet Union. The existence of the Soviet Union is a fact we have to live with. What these policies must do is to make it clear to the Soviet Union that if it persists in its occupation of Afghanistan or engages in any other expansionist moves the costs to the Soviet Union will be prohibitive.
The cost to the USSR is that it will not get our athletes. It will get our wheat, our wool, our alumina, our rutile, our grain but not our athletes. That cost is going to be prohibitive! That is the threat that we make to the Soviet over this invasion, which is the gravest threat to world peace. The Prime Minister’s statement continued:
The policies will be successful insofar as they signal these messages clearly and unambiguously to the Soviet Union, so that there can be no basis for miscalculation or confusion on its pan.
What is not generally known is that this is being done through three trade unionists from the Soviet Union who are on a reciprocal visit to their counterparts in Australia. Within the last month they have been denied visas to visit Australia, yet those involved in wool sales can attend.
– That is not true.
– They were denied the right of attendance at the ram sales but Mr Fraser has stated that buyers attending wool sales will be permitted in.
– An agent bought on their behalf.
– And he was Mr Fraser ‘s farm manager. Haven’t you read the paper today? In the Land there is a photo of Dalgety ‘s manager.
– Order! Senator McLaren, I call you to order. If you want to speak, you can speak on the adjournment debate later this evening.
– I will do that, Mr Acting Deputy President.
-The Prime Minister’s statement continued:
Immediate short-term policies to meet the crisis have already begun to take shape. They are based largely on the recognition of the fact that, whilst the Soviet Union is a super-power, it is an unbalanced one whose economic and technological development does not match its military strength, lt needs access to Western grain.
We are supplying the commodities that the Soviet Union is short of. It has the arms strength, but it has a shortage of economic and technical development. It needs grain. So, we are supplying the grain, having given an assurance to America that we will not supply Russia with grain to meet the quantity that America is refusing to supply. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) said that all grain orders, other than orders made before a certain date early this year, will be considered on their merits. If it can be shown that those orders are not replacing American sales, or if they are not being sent in a round about way, Russia will be supplied with grain. We are supplying at least one of the two products mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement and of which Russia is embarrassingly short. Possibly the second is minerals. Where is the logic in the Government’s argument? The immediate means available to the Government to make an impression on the Soviet Union is through the Olympic Games. Therefore we have two avenues available to build up our defences and stop the Soviet Union- the Olympic Games and trade. I do not think that I can take the matter any further. I will not go out of my way to condemn either that policy or the Government senators who exhibit some loyalty in following their leaders. But if they have a responsibility to this country, a responsibility to the people of Australia, should they not examine the question to see what is the true position, supported by facts?
The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, has stated on every occasion when we have asked for intelligence information, that this Government and no other government would give it to the Parliament to be published. That is not so. The Parliament has a right, unless there is some infringement of security involved in releasing information, to know all information that the Government possesses. To have knowledge of an intelligence report which does not affect security is properly the right of Parliament. When the Office of National Assessments simply says that it does not agree with the Government and that it sees no threat to Australia’s security, we have a right to know about it. The Government has no right to keep security documents private, if the release of the documents would not affect the security of Australia. This practice has been a long tradition of Parliament. In fact on many occasions there has been no hesitation on the part of a Minister because of special circumstances involved to release a security report, although he may claim that it is not the policy of any government generally to release security reports. If what the Office of National Assessments has reported is not correct, it would be a wonderful opportunity for the Minister to repudiate it. In this case, the Minister hides behind the shield of saying: ‘I will not tell honourable senators’.
– The Senate is debating the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on Afghanistan and the amendment moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). (Quorum formed). Before I deal with the statement, I point to one matter which, to me, seems very important and proper. Whenever we refer to Russia, we should refer to it as the Soviet Union because in fact we are referring to a system, to a multinational state, not to one part of that multinational state. Also it is unjust, when we refer to nazi Germany or fascist Italy. We should always refer to the regime because the regimes are perpetrating the atrocities and the injustices in the world. Therefore, I hope that any honourable senator who follows me in this debate will say what is proper and just- Soviet Union and not Russia. I agree with an advertisement which appeared in a newspaper recently and which was put in by the ‘Australian Citizens of Russian Descent’. The article headed ‘Australian Public Please Note’ states:
Soviet is not Russian.
The Government of the USSR is not Russian.
The Government of the USSR is communist, international and anti-Russian in its essence.
In 1917 Russia was the first victim of Marxist-communism.
And so the article goes on. I believe that the Australian Citizens of Russian Descent’ were right to inform Australians of this point.
– The Russians are only 52 percent of the Soviet, aren’t they?
– That is quite right, Senator Missen. They represent only 52 per cent of the total population of the Soviet Union. It would be just as unjust to say that the Ukrainian army invaded Afghanistan, the Byelorussian army invaded Afghanistan or the Armenian army invaded Afghanistan. It was a Soviet Union army and they were Soviet Union troops that invaded Afghanistan. I would like to draw the attention of the Senate to a section of the statement made by the Prime Minister. He said:
From the beginning of the Cold War there was a persistent and deepset longing in the West to escape from its strains and tensions, and from the ever-present threat of nuclear war that it presented. That longing found expression in a succession of phrases such as ‘relaxation of tension’, ‘disengagement’, ‘coexistence’ and, latterly, ‘detente’. All these terms had two things in common: They were ambiguous, capable of different interpretations: and they represented less a realistic appraisal of what was possible than the wish to be free of the harsh logic of the Cold War and the burden of responsibility which it imposed.
At the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s statement he said:
Before the decade began the international prospects for the 1980s were not such as to arouse great optimism. But I do not think that anyone expected such a serious deterioration in so short a time. Tension between the super powers has increased greatly. Detente has been dealt a terrible blow.
The fact is that detente has been dealt a terrible blow. Opposition senators say that there is no threat to world peace. I would like to remind them that all those who are old enough or who cared- I emphasise the words ‘who cared’- in 1938 and were listening to Hitler’s pronouncements would remember that at that time some people in Europe, America and other parts of the world said: ‘But he is not a bad boy. But if he is a bad boy we should be good to him because if we do not handle him properly he will do nasty things to us’. That was the atmosphere in 1938.
The same argument is brought forward today in this country and in other countries by apologists for Soviet expansion. Senator McLaren said that if the Soviets had not fought the nazis the nazis would never have been defeated. In a moment I shall quote from a recent interview published in the magazine Encounter in December 1979. Milovan Djilas was being interviewed. For those honourable senators who have never heard of Milovan Djilas I point out that he was second in command to Tito during the 1941-45 war. Later, in 1958, he was expelled from the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party because he wrote a book entitled The New Class. The interviewer asked:
For example: In 1939 you approved of the RibbentropMolotov pact because -
Djilas wrote: we had . . . absolute confidence in the Soviet Union . . . We saw no fundamental differences between Hitler’s Germany and the Western Democracies.
The interviewer said:
You were, in the same year, opposed to the mobilisation of the Yugoslav forces because you thought it was -
And Djilas answered: conducted under pressure from London and Paris, and to satisfy national aspirations. Besides, Germany and the Soviet Union were acting in concert . . .
This is the crunch of the matter. I repeat that in 1939 Djilas said:
Besides, Germany and the Soviet Union were acting in concert . . .
So much for the so-called enmity between Stalin and Hitler.
– They were treaty allies, weren’t they?
– They had a treaty of friendship and non-aggression. Djilas also said:
The annexation of the Baltic republics and the partition of Poland didn’t bother me at all. Indeed, I was fully in favour of both.
Then strangely Djilas said:
We didn’t at the time know about the Secret Protocol and the Supplementary Provisions of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact which had assigned these states to the Soviet orbit- but I don ‘t think we would have cared of we had.
That is a man who met Stalin, who was second in command to Tito, who was the leader of the Communist Party in Yugoslavia and who proclaims to be a socialist even today. Recently it was said that there is no threat to world peace. The Canberra Times on Wednesday published an item headed ‘Oliphant warns of possible World War III’. The article stated:
The distinguished nuclear physicist Sir Mark Oliphant warned yesterday that the world had reached the situation in which World War III was not unimaginable.
Later in the article Sir Mark Oliphant is reported as saying:
But there seems to be something inexorable about the present situation where detente and disarmament negotiations result in even greater mutual distrust and fear, with an inevitable growth in armaments on both sides.
World War III is no longer unimaginable . . .
It is the irrational, rather than the rational, part of human behaviour which is the danger.
The question of detente is being discussed all the time. The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought which was published in 1 977 shows the definition of detente as:
The reduction of tension in relations between states and consequent reduction of the possibilities of WAR.
At the end of the definition it is stated:
However, the rivalry between the two super-powers in, e.g., nuclear arms and extension of world influence has not been eliminated, and detente does not necessarily mean an end to ideological . . . propaganda against the different social systems.
I will refer again to Djilas because I feel it is important in this debate that we bring out the ideological differences between our two systems. Unless we do that I feel that the whole issue would be clouded. I feel that the best man to throw light on communism and socialism is Djilas. In his interview he said:
When the Russians preach detente they make it very clear that, in their propaganda and, in fact, in everything that does not come under the rubric of direct involvement in war, they will go on pushing against Western interests. The West is not responding to this because through the ideological incompetence and indecision of its politicians, it is mistaking detente for peace.
It is quite true. As soon as the Soviet Union and its fellow travellers talk about detente, peace and disarmament, the so-called fellow travellers, the apologists in the West, say: ‘Well, they don’t want war. We should be as they are. We should disarm and we should not think about the war. They are good boys, like Hitler was’. Again I quote from Djilas. In December 1 979 he said:
It is an unsupportable American hope that the Kremlin may be pressured or humoured into a type of comprehensive detente which would guarantee Soviet moderation in Africa and Asia as part of a SALT settlement or any other settlement.
He followed that statement with these words:
I do not want to see us return to the Cold War. But I do think there is an urgent case for giving the Soviet and East European peoples the hard, analytical facts about the differences between the Soviet and the Western system, the ambitions and practices of Soviet expansionism, and the rest.
Further on he said:
History stalks from country to country. The spirit of liberty has now begun its march through the communist world.
I return now to the Prime Minister’s statement and to that part in which he said:
They are based largely - he is talking about immediate policy decisions- on the recognition of the fact that whilst the Soviet Union is a super-power, it is an unbalanced one whose economic and technological development do not match its military strength. It needs access to Western grain, Western technology and Western credits. It was part of the implicit bargain of detente that such access would be available in return for restraint in international affairs; but it was also implicit that, conversely, if restraint was not shown that access would suffer.
We have seen the Soviet Union restraint in international affairs and the effect of the Helsinki agreement on human rights! I refer now to the editorial of the Australian of Monday, 25 February which states:
It must be realised the Soviet leadership is desperately in need of a boost. Communism, as it was and as it is still practised by the leaders in the Kremlin, has run its course. It is collapsing economically (after 60 years the USSR is still inefficient and far from being self-sufficient) and morally (as dissidents like Sakharov demonstrate). Yet the Soviet Union today is militarily strong-as strong, comparatively, as it will ever be: superior in conventional forces and at least equal in nuclear power.
Compare that editorial with these remarks of Djilas
Ideas, even false ideas, are powerful weapons. It is quite possible, as the Soviet case proves, to have a weak economy, a very strong military posture and a seemingly invincible ideology. The net result is strength, despite the underlying weakness.
How does the Soviet economy function? In 1 92 1 , three years after the Revolution, Lenin had to introduce his famous NEP- the new economic policy- which somebody described quite properly as ‘industrial cohabitation with the capitalists’. It was NEP which saved the Soviet Revolution. Lenin realised that only private initiative by farmers on their own little blocks would produce food. That is still a fact today. Food production in the Soviet Union is lower per capita than it was under the czars. I refer now to an article in Newsweek which states:
In recent years the Soviets have imported vast quantities of Western technology, consumer goods and food . . The communist appetite for Western technology is staggering. The Russians have purchased nearly 1 ,000 ‘ turnkey ‘ plants- ready-to-go enterprises complete with a trained technical staff. Some of the current deals are even bigger. The Russians are buying several chemical plants, a new steel mill, oil drilling equipment and a complete shipyard from Britain. France is putting up a timber complex in Siberia and chemical refineries in central Russia.
Time magazine had an article which states:
Now the Soviet bloc is following (a) heretical strategy that might be called credit-card communism . . . Totally violating Marxist prejudices, the Soviet Union and its . . . economic allies in Eastern Europe are trying to modernize their antiquated economies by borrowing heavily from their supposed class enemies, the capitalists of the West.
So, that system which is supposed to be the paradise of the modern world and of modern man and which is supposed to be the solution to all economic problems and so on is borrowing heavily from the West. Let me refer again- to ideology and turn to a recent article from James Reston in Washington which states:
President Brezhnev has just made another of these interminable and impenetrable communist speeches that illustrate once more the puzzle of negotiating with the Soviet leaders.
They are masters of the mystifying clarification and negotiate with vague hints that may be meaningful, meaningless, or downright deceptive.
It is unfortunate that the West has still not learnt that it is impossible to negotiate with, believe in or to give any credence to a totalitarian system like Soviet socialism which is sometimes being called communism, but it is agreed that it is npt yet communism because the official title, as we all know, of the USSR is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I turn again to Djilas in relation to ideology, conquests by and expansionism of the Soviet Union. In referring to what happened during the war- he was one of the top men at that time- he states:
What our five senses tell us is that whether with brute force or without- with military occupation or without- Soviet hegemony has been gradually expanding in all pans of the world.
Soviet imperialism is on the march, and is very close to threatening the West ‘s access to oil in the Middle East.
Those remarks are taken from an interview in
December 1979. He continues:
The West will have to say to the Soviets ‘This is where you are going to stop’. At the moment they -
That is the West- are actively supporting the Soviet system with the vast shipments of grain, technology and credits.
Who would be better qualified than Djilas to say something like that? He knew that the West would have to say to the Soviets sooner or later: This is where we stop, otherwise it will be like it was in 1938 in Europe with Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland and so on’. We all know what was the total result of that.
When we talk about what would happen if Afghanistan were freed from the Soviet troops and when we demand that Soviet troops leave Afghanistan we forget that even if they leave they will have achieved what they wanted to do. Soviets have liquidated all those who were opposed to their ideology. Soviets liquidated not only those who are opposed to it but also those who could be opposed to it because it is the communist system. Djilas tells us that when he says:
We had a highly developed sense of ideological discrimination- sniffing out opponents and branding them as enemies.
But the discrimination we practised on ideological ground was fierce, because ideologically was, to be completely frank with you, only a name for us under which we would summarily deal with our opponents whoever they might be.
This was the rationale which governed our behaviour during the war and for some years after the war too.
Can we expect anything else from the Soviet troops in occupying Afghanistan? Would they allow anyone to oppose them? Would they allow anyone, even somebody who could be an opponent in the future, to live.
I would like to talk about the Olympic Games in the context of what a boycott would achieve. It is said that the Soviet people would not know or maybe would recognise that one of the nations is not at the Games, but generally they would not know. The best way to see what a boycott would achieve is to look at the handbook which was issued to the communist cadres in Moscow. It describes how the Soviet Government considers the role of the Olympic Games. It reads:
This in fact, is how our state will carry out the international obligations it has taken upon itself, including those that appear in the final Acts of the Helsinki Accords on Security and Co-operation in Europe.
How cynical of the Soviets to put that section in the handbook when everybody knows that the Soviet Union has breached any and every point of the agreement of Helsinki. The dissidents in the Soviet Union and those outside the country are daily pinpointing ways in which the Soviets have broken the terms of” that agreement. I feel that only a system like a communist system is cynical enough to say something like that. The handbook also states:
The 1980 Olympics will serve as an important contribution not only to the development of the Olympic movement, but also to the matter of international detente, the strengthening of peace and the friendship of people.
This booklet was issued a few months before the Soviet Army marched into Afghanistan. That illustrates the Soviet’s view of peace and friendship to people. I will quote further just to point out how the Soviet Government sees the Olympic Games and why the apologists of the Soviet Union all over the world are pushing and doing everything in their power to prevent the boycott of the Games. I again quote:
It is interesting in this connection to stress that the largest countries in the capitalist world which in the recent past occupied a notable position in world sports (England, France, Italy and others) were not even among the top ten Olympic powers, while six socialist countries were represented therein.
That passage referred to the Montreal Games. So much for that idealistic approach of sportsmen who intend and who would like to be a part of this ‘impartial, non-political games’.
Let me deal with some other aspects of the Olympic Games. What would happen if the
Western countries together were to boycott the Games? According to the handbook the Soviets are expecting in Moscow in 1 980 the following numbers of visitors: 13,000 sportsmen and officials; 3,500 sports judges; 3,000 participants of congresses of the International Olympic Committee and international sports federations; 7,000 representatives of the Press, television and radio; and 300,000 foreign tourists. It is no wonder that the Soviets are afraid that the Olympic Games will be boycotted. It is not because of any idealistic approach to the Games; it is because of the hard cash which they would lose. One study shows that profit from one touristhonourable senators should bear in mind the Soviets reckon there will be 300,000 tourists from foreign countries- is equivalent to that from the export from the Soviet Union of nine tonnes of coal, 15 tonnes of oil or two tonnes of grain. Anyone who computed the value of 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or 50,000 tourists not attending the Olympic Games and calculated the amount of hard currency the Soviet Union would lose it would be clear to everyone why there is such a concerted effort all over the world to go to the Olympics in Moscow because we cannot forsake the idealists and we cannot forsake our athletes who have trained so hard. If people would only look at the figures and look at what is behind all that they would realise that it is hard currency, hard cash, which the Soviet Union would lose.
The dissidents have continually stated that the only way in which the Kremlin and the Soviet leaders could be influenced in a small way is by the public opinion of the West. That is why all of those people who are able to come to the West, all of those who write in the Samizdat publications continually say: ‘Please do not forget us. Please do make representations’. Otherwise they would not come to the West. They would not stay in Gorki. They would all be in Siberia or somewhere else. The Opposition has said that only Australia and the United States of America oppose the Soviet Union. It says that we are opposing the Soviet Union because of the impending elections and so on. It has forgotten about the European Parliament. A report on the resolutions on Afghanistan of the European Parliament reads:
The resolution of 16 January was finally carried by a large majority although the resolution of 15 February on Afghanistan was only carried by a small majority. It was opposed by most French members of the Parliament and by the liberal group, while the socialist group abstained.
This is the important part:
The resolutions on the Olympic Games and Sakharov were carried by very large majorities. The French communists and a small number of socialists opposed the resolution on the Olympic Games, while the French and Italian communists did not take part in the voting on Sakharov. Two members of the socialist group voted against it.
Honourable senators can see that even the French and Italian communists did not take part in the voting on Sakharov. They knew that people all over the world know that the humanitarian system does not exist in the Soviet Union. It is important to note that not one of the communist members of parliament in the European Parliament dared to say: ‘I support the exile of Sakharov in Gorki ‘.
Lastly, I refer to the latest Brezhnev or Kosygin attempt to bring the whole issue back to prior to the Afghanistan invasion. A long time ago somebody wrote: ‘Nothing will happen in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will be occupied by Soviet forces, but immediately after that the Soviet Union will start a peace offensive. It will send out its people to talk about a new system. Let us make Afghanistan a neutral zone ‘. That is the latest: ‘Let us make Afghanistan a neutral zone ‘. Hitler had neutral zones in Austria and in Czechoslovakia because he was being attacked by little Austria, just as the Soviet Union reckoned that little Afghanistan would attack the mighty Soviet Union. The neutral zone issue is a complete farce and an attempt to make world opinion forget that there are 85,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan, forget that the opponents of the socialist ideology in Afghanistan have been liquidated and forget that once the socialist regime is in power it will never be able to be thrown out; it will stay there forever, Soviet troops or no Soviet troops.
– I am sorry that Senator Lajovic, who preceded me in this debate, sees the proposal concerning a neutral zone as nonsense. I interpret his remarks as indicating that he wants a stronger line followed than that the super-powers should start to talk about establishing a neutral zone. He might not know that presently the United States of America is in favour of holding a discussion which will bring into focus the question whether neutralising Afghanistan might be a possible solution to a crisis which, in terms of history, is very serious. I am sorry that Senator Lajovic has taken the view that such a proposal should not be pursued.
The statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) contains a lot of padding. It is inciting the Australian people to take more interest in defence in order to make them worry about the Moscow Olympics. The statement is very mixed up. No doubt the section which I will read outlines the views of the professionals- the foreign affairs experts. At page 8 it states that the United States President, President Giscard and Chancellor Schmidt have together condemned wht has happened in Afghanistan. I make it clear that in no way do we separate ourselves from that son of condemnation. I am not here to defend the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or to defend many of the actions which Senator Lajovic spoke about tonight. Those sorts of actions speak for themselves. However, the occupation of Afghanistan, which was based on reasons which the Soviet Union or members of the Politburo thought sound, is bad. To me it is clear that, on that occasion, within the Soviet Union the old hands lost their power and the new hawks took over and influenced the Soviet Union to take an action which clearly is bad in terms of world peace and about which the nations of the world, including our country, should be very concerned.
As I mentioned, it would seem to me to be essential that, having so condemned that action, we should not lose our intelligence and we should not lose sight of the advantages which history provides concerning the super-powers and what has happened since the advent of their more friendly arrangements, called detente. I read what the Prime Minister said in that regard- I think this comes from the more professional side of his advice. The following appears at page 8 of the statement:
It is important that there be clarity about the aims of those policies.
Honourable senators will remember that he said that they must be translated into effective policies by all of us. The statement continues:
Their purpose should not be to outlaw or humiliate the Soviet Union. The existence of the Soviet Union is a fact we have to live with. What these policies must do is to make it clear to the Soviet Union that if it persists in its occupation of Afghanistan or engages in any other expansionist moves the cost will be prohibitive.
Clearly, that is a statement with which we would all agree.
Having spoken of the Prime Minister’s statement, I refer to another point concerning Yugoslavia which was raised by Senator Lajovic. I understood him to criticise what has been a favourable international role played by Tito since he has been in command of Yugoslavia, in that presently he is maintaining an independent nation. That independence is of concern not only to the Yugoslav people but also to the United States and Britain. The honourable senator might have missed the point that in fact the
United States has indicated to the Yugoslav people that it is ready to assist them in the event of there being a threat to their independence if President Tito should die. That is good.
In addition, I mention to the honourable senator the advantages I see in detente. Although it is true that detente is not all embracing- it is not global; it has been limited mainly to the super-powers- out of that detente, that understanding and the strategic arms limitations talks which presently are baulked, has come some determination by the people within the sphere of the Soviet Union, for example, Romania, to pursue playing something approaching an independent role. As the Senator Lajovic may know, Romania presently maintains the view that it will act as Yugoslavia did. It will continue to trade with the West. Romania is presently arranging with British aviation representatives and other industry experts to set up partnership deals in Romania. They are good things which should be supported by everybody. They are the sorts of things to which the Australian Government should pay attention. The Prime Minister, in the opening paragraph of his statement, talked about Willy Brandt, that famous anti-fascist fighter who not only became the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany but also had great influence in Europe. Of course he would be resisting what the Russians are doing. Of course the West Germans are concerned about the military power of the Soviet Union, bordering as they do the Soviet Union and East Germany.
I point out to the honourable senator that he might be better informed if he read the statement by the Socialist International Party, which is the international body with which the Labor Party is affiliated. In addition to condemning the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, the statement- it has been quoted in other places, including the Parliament- points out that the Soviet Union has violated international law as well as the sovereignty and right of selfdetermination of Afghanistan. It states:
The policy of detente and the search for harmonisation of differing interests which was begun more than a decade ago has led to significant results which are noticeable in the every-day lives of many people, although this process is restricted mainly to Europe and the world powers.
As I have said, that point was also made in the Prime Minister’s statement. The Socialist International Party continued:
It is in the interest not only of one side but to the benefit of all concerned that the tensions between east and west be reduced and that cooperation be extended.
This progress of detente has gradually deteriorated. This has clearly been demonstrated by the new developments in the field of medium-range nuclear weapons.
The statement then refers to the unfortunate breakdown in self-determination. We believe that the qualifications which the Labor Party put upon the Government’s stance and the Prime Minister’s opinions in respect to this matter, are correct. The outcome of the discussions today defends the viewpoint of the people who were critical of the stand which President Carter took. I am not talking about his accent on defence spending in the United States of America. It must be clear to everybody today that the President’s stand is largely influenced by the forthcoming presidential election. Previously, he was under great challenge from Senator Kennedy but today he has reached the top of the scale.
Laurie Oakes reported in the Press this morning that the Australian Ambassador in Washington, Mr Parkinson, recently sent advice to the Government. This advice indicates to me that a certain immaturity in the stance which President Carter has taken is seen not only by the professionals to whom I referred earlier, our own Australian foreign affairs officials, but also by other experts such as the former United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union, George F. Kennan. Kennan said recently that a war atmosphere was being created and discussion in Washington had been dominated by talk of American military responses, the acquisition of bases and facilities, the creation of a rapid deployment force and the cultivation of military ties with other countries along Russia’s sensitive border.
The Labor Party wants to see the Government take some new initiatives. They ought to include a ready response to the recently floated idea of a neutralised zone. The Soviet Union may have found that it has made a mistake in occupying Afghanistan. James Reston’s article which was published in Australia yesterday stated that the Soviets, as Senator Lajovic mentioned, are now trying to find a gateway, a loophole, to allow discussions in respect of such a neutralised zone.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to inform honourable senators of recent events concerning the accommodation available to the Parliament outside the parliamentary building. Honourable senators are aware of the inadequacies of the accommodation for senators and members and their staff and the staff of the parliamentary departments in this building and at the Hotel Canberra.
Mr Speaker and I have been seeking additional accommodation to meet the needs of the Parliament pending the completion of the new parliamentary building in 1988. In particular, we sought to have the West Block building, because of it size and location, made available to Parliament to provide additional accommodation within close proximity to Parliament House. Towards the end of last year the Government advised that West Block would not be available for parliamentary use and, as an alternative, offered the former Hotel Kurrajong in exchange for the present Parliamentary Annexe located at the old Hotel Canberra. After examination Mr Speaker and I determined that this proposal was unacceptable. Honourable senators will recall that on 22 November 1979 the Senate discussed the matter of the use of the West Block building and passed a resolution seeking the Government’s advice as to its intentions in respect of the use of that building.
A letter from the Government on this matter which was received earlier this month gave Mr Speaker and me cause for concern and, as a result, Mr Speaker and I met with the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, and following discussion it has now been agreed that:
The whole of the Hotel Kurrajong will come under the control of the Presiding Officers as a parliamentary building for the exclusive use of Parliament. Funds will be provided for basic refurbishing and alterations.
Parliament will continue to occupy the Hotel Canberra unless an alternate use is decided for it whereupon further discussion will ensue to identify substitute accommodation.
If, in the meanwhile, there is a need for further space the Parliament will occupy areas of the Hotel Canberra adjacent to that now used, such as the dining room and staff areas with appropriate alterations.
Control of all works and budgeting for the Hotel Kurrajong will be within the control of the Presiding Officers.
West Block is to be very extensively renovated over a lengthy period. The Government has indicated its intention to apply the accommodation in that building, when available, to Public Service use. The Presiding Officers will consider their attitudes to this and any other matters after the full use of the Hotel Kurrajong and Hotel Canberra has been implemented or, of course, some earlier time should new factors arise for consideration.
We appreciate the Government’s co-operation in this matter and its undertaking to assist further to ensure that the proper needs of senators and members are met. We propose to proceed immediately to plan and undertake the required work at the Hotel Kurrajong without delay.
-by leave- I move:
I commend the Presiding Officers for their efforts but trust that the Government will at an early opportunity give the Senate a chance to debate this proposition because the use of this extra accommodation may involve some changes which will affect members and services to members. Without extending the debate at this stage I ask that the Government take that request into consideration and give us an early opportunity to debate the matter. Perhaps by that time you, Mr President, will be able to indicate what intentions you have in mind for the use of this extra accommodation. Let not my words take away from you the appreciation of the efforts which you have made on behalf of the Senate. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.-
Motion (by Senator Georges)- by leaveagreed to:
That the Senate take note of the 1 75th Report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, brought up by Senator Lajovic on 9 October 1979, and his statement relating thereto.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave- agreed to:
That consideration of General Business, Notice of Motion No. 2, be postponed until the next day of sitting.
– I move:
This is a matter of considerable interest and concern to the State of Tasmania. After some consideration of the issues with which we are inevitably involved when we have a federation of six separate States and two Territories, we must consider the identification in particular terms of what is being sought in the Senate. For that reason I have, after some considerable discussion, sought to clarify the matter further for the Senate by proposing certain amended terms of reference as follows:
That a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into and report upon passenger transport needs and fares to and from Tasmania with particular reference to the relationship and type of sea ferry and air transport both for tourist and Tasmanian business and private travel.
The remainder of the motion would remain as it is. I understand that there are some senators who find that this matter has come on more quickly than they had anticipated. I am both prepared and anxious to continue. However, so that people are not in any way caught by surprise I would take the opportunity to indicate that I propose to amend the terms of reference so they will be in those terms and to seek leave to continue my remarks, bearing in mind that I, and I know many other senators regard this as a matter of considerable importance to the State of Tasmania and to its adjacent State of Victoria. It is a matter which has gained the priority that it has tonight as a result of the Government and the Opposition’s acceptance of Senator Harradine’s outdated motion not being proceeded with because it was no longer relevant. This was an excellent opportunity for us to have the matter brought up. I would not wish that there would be a situation where the matter could not be dealt with expeditiously. I accept that this matter has come on more quickly than some honourable senators might have anticipated. The terms of reference that I propose are rather different from those spelt out in the original notice of motion. For those reasons I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That the resumption of the debate be made an orderof the day for the next day of sitting.
-I seek leave to propose a motion to suspend Standing Orders.
– Leave is not granted.
Motion (by Senator Harradine) proposed:
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent discussion of General Business, Notice of Motion No. 3, being proceeded with forthwith.
– A motion has been agreed to that this matter be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Therefore, it is out of order to move for the suspension of Standing Orders at this stage. The matter has been disposed of.
– by leave- I wish to make a brief statement which might help Senator Harradine. I have every reason to believe that this matter can be dealt with with reasonable expedition. Already there has been an indication, by the fact that there was agreement to Senator Harradine’s motion being declared formal today, that the matter came up before a number of other matters in which people may be interested. I believe that the matter can be proceeded with. It is certainly my wish that it be proceeded with expeditiously. I wish to assure Senator Harradine that, whilst what I have moved and what has been carried may mean a very brief delay, that delay will not be for very long. It is better that the matter be dealt with fully and properly when it comes on for debate than that it be dealt with on some other basis.
– by leave- As a senator from Tasmania, I accept that this is an important matter. Like other honourable senators on this side of the chamber, I accepted the substituting of Senator Harradine ‘s previous notice of motion for the one originally moved by Senator Rae. Now I view with interest the amended motion of Senator Rae. One hears a lot in this place about bipartisan approaches and about co-operating with each other. It has been very interesting for Opposition senators to hear of the cosy little arrangements that have been made between Senator Rae and Senator Harradine. The Opposition is perfectly happy to co-operate but I merely make the request that when these arrangements are made the Opposition occasionally be consulted, especially when people are going to move the suspension of Standing Orders and things of that nature. It is a non-contentious issue and an issue on which we can all agree. What is proposed will be of great benefit to the State.
Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania)-by leave- I can assure Senator Grimes that there was no cosy arrangement, or any arrangement at all, for that matter. I was not aware of the fact that apparently Senator Rae has some support to have this matter debated first the next time the Senate is dealing with General Business, Notices of Motion. I sought to move for the suspension of Standing Orders only because I believed that in the normal course of events the motion would go on the bottom of the Notice Paper. I am now satisfied that the matter can be dealt with expeditiously, presumably next week or the following sitting week. In that case, I accept the situation. While I am on my feet, I mentioned to Senator Rae that he is being less than fair in suggesting that my motion was totally out of date. Certainly some of it was, but that part relating to family allowances was not. I believed that that could best be dealt with in another manner; that is to say, the Senate could deal with the substantial increase in family allowances, and then with their indexation.
1 ) That a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into and report upon-
changes that should be made to Parts XVI and XVII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act so as to determine the best means of ensuring the public disclosure of the sources and amounts of donations to political parties and candidates, and to prevent abuses of existing limitations on electoral expenses; and
That provisions relating to membership, powers and proceedings of the Committee be contained in a subsequent Resolution.
This is an issue on which I have spoken before, as have a number of my colleagues. I have raised the issue at Estimates committee hearings as well as in the Parliament but I have not got anywhere with it. I admit that electoral reform is not a crusading issue and that there is only limited public interest in it. A good example of that at the moment is that the New South Wales Government has a parliamentary committee investigating public funding. It is not looking at whether there should be public funding but at what is the best system for New South Wales. In other words, there will be public funding in New South Wales. Yet if one looks at the editorial columns and letters to the editors in the newspapers, one realises that it certainly has not become a public issue. I raise the matter because I believe it is crucial to our democratic political institutions.
I wish to deal with some items in the Commonwealth Electoral Act that I think need reforming. The two major political parties and the minor parties have expressed dissatisfaction with the current Electoral Act. There has never been a complete overhaul of the Act, although Senator Withers and Senator Chaney, when they were the Ministers concerned, promised a full review. Both Ministers expressed dissatisfaction with the current laws. But what has been done? Have there been any ministerial statements or departmental papers from the present Minister for Administrative Services, Mr John McLeay? All we have heard is a deafening silence. I believe that electoral reform should be bipartisan. I believe that the Liberal Party has some interest in it but it tends to be luke warm on the matter. The National Country Party seems to be opposed to change.
If ever proof were needed as to why Australia’s electoral procedures are outdated, we need only look at the time it takes to determine the results of Federal elections. One has only to go back to 1961, look at the House of Representatives election and realise that it was three or four weeks before this country knew who would be Prime Minister and which political party would form the Government. Let us compare that situation with that of Great Britain where there are over 400 or 500 seats, I think. The result is nearly always known within a period of 48 hours. We have only to look at the United States where there are literally hundreds of thousands of polling booths spread over the country, spread over four distinct time zones, and yet we know who is the President of the United States sometimes within 24 hours after the poll, and at the most 48 hours afterwards.
Compared with that, let us look at the Senate election in New South Wales in 1975. The ballot took place on 1 3 December and we received the result on 6 February, nearly two months later. There were two recounts in that Senate election in New South Wales which showed grave inconsistencies in the way that the ballot had been counted. On the first count the winning candidate, which just happened to be me, won by 854 votes. After the second recount, the winning margin was 2016 votes. I know that some people might say that in a ballot of some nearly 3 million voters, with 74 candidates, that is not a great deal of discrepancy to find. If we look at the final total formal vote we find that at least 12,000 additional informal votes were found during the second recount, but thousands of votes also changed hands because votes credited to the Labor Party should have been credited to the
Liberal Party, and vice versa. There was a massive exchange of votes in that recount which had been credited to wrong candidates on the first and second count. Of course new quotas had to be struck, which could quite easily have brought about a different result. Even at the end of the recounting I was convinced that if there had been another count more informal votes would have been found, and more votes credited to the wrong candidates. New quotas would again have to be struck, and there would have been a different result. Naturally as the successful candidate I did not push for that. But there were 74 candidates and in that situation, which is something I am going to come to later in my speech, there had to be complete confusion.
I believe that if we had a Senate committee we could inquire into a computerised tallying of votes. We could examine voting machines and we could do it in a bipartisan way and not under any pressure. Our present system of exhaustive preferential voting discriminates heavily against the aged, the infirm, migrants and Aborigines. In those electorates where there are high concentrations of socially disadvantaged electors, one finds by far the highest informal voting figures. In the 1 977 election for the House of Representatives, the electorate of Sydney had a 4.27 per cent informal vote. In Bradfield, which encompasses perhaps the highest income area in the Sydney metropolitan area, only 1.3 per cent of the votes cast were informal. In the 1 977 Senate elections, 4.9 per cent of the votes cast in Bradfield were informal; but in Sydney, in a disadvantaged area, 12.5 per cent of the votes cast for the Senate were informal. This was despite the fact that the member for Sydney put multilingual advertisements for the Senate in all the newspapers that went through his electorate. He took the ALP how-to-vote card of the Senate, which again was printed in a multi-lingual fashion, and put it into every letterbox in the electorate. I am sure that no similar measures were taken in the electorate of Bradfield
Even though there was a conscious effort in Sydney- and I believe that the informal vote came down from about 15 per cent in the previous election- it was still a very bad 12.5 per cent. In every election there is the same pattern. In electorates with a large population, poor working class areas and large ethnic communities, there is a large number of informal votes. The main reason for this informal vote is that we still have a compulsory preferential voting system. The only possible justification for that system is that it perhaps reflects in greater detail the wishes of the voters of that electorate. But I think there are two arguments to that particular point. Firstly, if we had an optional preferential system, it would still allow people to express their preference if they so desired. Secondly, in a compulsory preferential system, it effectively disfranchises about 9 to 10 per cent of the electorate in New South Wales in Senate elections and results in up to one to two per cent being a donkey vote, which means of course that candidates can be elected to the Senate purely because people are forced to vote for 50 to 70 candidates, or whatever it may be. The results are similar in other States and I believe the percentages would be the same.
The last Legislative Council ballot in New South Wales was the first democratic election that the Legislative Council in New South Wales has ever had. It was conducted under an optional preferential system. That means, to cast a formal vote a person could vote for No. 1 to No. 9 only and that vote would be formal. That did not stop people, if they wanted to, from voting for every single person on the ballot paper. The result of that election was that only 4 per cent of votes were informal. I still believe that in a State-wide ballot in a State the size of New South Wales, 4 per cent is too high. I know within the Labor Party in New South Wales there are people who are hoping that by the time the next Legislative Council election is held it will be conducted on a list system. I would hope that that would be the case.
I believe that in voting for the Senate elections we have to look at ‘joke ‘ candidates. I have no objection to genuine candidates standing for the Senate, regardless of how many votes they get. If they are standing for a recognised party or a recognised organisation which can be proved to have support throughout New South Wales, I do not care how many votes they get. I consider them to be genuine candidates. But in recent years we have had people who have confessed to standing for the Senate because they wanted to use it as a tax lurk. In my opinion they are not genuine candidates. I believe that in order to be a genuine candidate for the Senate in a State like New South Wales, one of the things at least that should be required is that a candidate should be nominated by at least one person in every Federal electorate council throughout the State. I believe that some of the candidates that we have had in the past would have great difficulty in getting somebody to nominate them in all the 44 or 45 electorates in New South Wales. I believe that we have to increase the deposit. The system as it exists at the moment allows malpractice. If somebody is prepared to put up an amount of, say, $10,000 in New South Wales, and it would be even less in the other States, he could so confuse the ballot paper- as we have already seen in New South Wales- that we could have a situation where one person in ten was voting informal in a Senate election. We should be looking to allowing the candidates to have their party affiliation indicated on the ballot paper. There should be clear instuctions on formal voting in the different languages of the major ethnic groups prominently displayed in each polling booth, preferably having both English and foreign language instructions printed on the ballot paper. I realise that there may be some difficulty in that, but I do not believe there is any advantage to any party under the present system.
I suppose it could be said that a few years ago even the major parties had difficulties in manning the polling booths right throughout the State. But since the events of the Federal election in 1975 I have found that, whether it is at a State level or a Federal level, the two major parties in our State have had no difficulty at all in manning the polling booths. Therefore, I do not think there is any advantage to anybody if the party affiliation is indicated on the ballot paper. Again, a number of Labor candidates in New South Wales are hoping that at the next State election, both for the lower House and for the Legislative Council, we will be able to get this reform through.
I think we should also examine the rights of Australian permanent residents who at the moment are being deprived of the right to vote. Even though we have temporary residents who are British subjects, as long as they have been here for three months they are allowed to vote. Many people who migrate maintain their former citizenship for one reason or another. They should not be disfranchised when others are allowed to vote. The situation exists at the moment where we have Maltese, people from Gibralta or British migrants who can vote without Australian citizenship, whereas we have Greeks, Yugoslavs, Italians, Lebanese and others who are deprived of this right. I believe that is discriminatory and should be abolished. I think all these areas where people are discriminated against, either by the letter of the electoral laws or by the unnecessarily complicated electoral procedures, should be examined so that the best way of eliminating these biases can be determined.
I remind the Senate what Senator Chaney said, regarding the Government’s policy, when he was Minister for Administrative Services. He answered allegations concerning attempts by the Government of Western Australia in the State election before last there effectively to deprive Aboriginals of the right to vote. In the State election held in Western Australia last weekend, the same sort of thing occurred. I quote from Hansard of 6 June 1979, page 2731. Senator Chaney said:
I emphasise that it is part of the general view of the Government that not only Aboriginals but also other disadvantaged people in the community- disadvantaged in the sense that they are less able than others to take advantage of the electoral laws which exist to safeguard their rights to vote- should be assisted in regard to this matter, lt is part of our general thrust to assist all of those disadvantaged groups. 1 underline the Government ‘s view by saying a few words as to why we regard this matter as important. It would be generally true to say that the disadvantaged voter, that is the person who does have these difficulties, is also disadvantaged in other respects. In other words, the difficulty in exercising the vote is not likely to be the only difficulty that that person faces, whether it is a migrant who is not able to speak or read English, or whether it is an Aboriginal who is not able to speak or perhaps to read or write English. These people, being in greater need of assistance, have a particular interest in who forms the government of the country. For that reason, it is important that they have some say in who should govern the country, or indeed their State.
I agree and I hope that all honourable senators agree with that statement. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed and wish that Senator Chaney was still the Minister. We have to close some loopholes in the Commonwealth Electoral Act that allow for possible cheating. In some large rural areas we have too many polling booths where only a small number of electors vote. The Riverina is a perfect example of this. It has polling booths where fewer than 100 people vote and where neither of the major parties is able to man those polling booths. In Gwydir a similar situation exists. In the last Federal election we had Aboriginals who were going to vote in small polling booths, but who were actively encouraged not to vote. Of course if this had occurred in a large town such as Moree, they could have seen somebody who was a member of a major party. But in the small, outlying polling booths they were bluffed out of the right to vote. I believe that we need a later closure of electoral rolls. At the moment we have an early closure. Therefore the situation exists where people can look at the death notices to find out who has died between the closing of the rolls and the election date. I am not saying that people actively do that, but certainly a situation exists whereby people can look at the death notices and find out that perhaps that person would have liked to vote for a certain party.
People also have access to real estate agents’ rental rolls. I believe that this is something else which can be manipulated. If we had a system where we used modern computers we could stop these abuses. Also we should look carefully at voting on private property and voting on private property where there are telephones. In New South Wales, where I have had some experience as a former assistant secretary of the Australian Labor Party, whenever there was a by-election we were able to send people out to work on booths where there had never been party workers before. If we had enough people we put them inside the booth as well as outside the booth. What happened in nearly every instance is that not only did the total vote drop but also the Labor Party vote increased. At the last State election in New South Wales, in a country electorate on the north coast- an electorate Senator Douglas McClelland and I know very well- we were able to put people inside certain booths for the first time. Whilst it could be argued that the Labor vote did not increase, because there was a natural swing to the Labor Party anyway, it was interesting that, in every instance, the total number of people voting in those small voting booths dropped when we had our scrutineers inside.
I believe that sections 145, 146 and 147 of the Act which deal with expenditure are a joke. They are unenforceable and should be scrapped. As we have just seen in Tasmania, the question is: Who complies with the provisions? How many people here have been genuinely elected under those sections of the Act? Two committees of the Parliament have looked at pecuniary interests and there must be publication by candidates and parties of the source of their contributions for campaigns. The public must know where members of parliament and parties are getting donations from and what amounts are involved. Why have we kept these aspects quiet? What have Australian political parties tried to hide in the past regarding donations to them?
In the United States of America, members of the public can gain access to this information in detail at any time during and after an election campaign. I went to the Electoral Commission in Washington. It is possible to get a list for 10 cents a copy. The Electoral Commission was packed with ordinary citizens and members of the Press who wanted to find out who was donating sums of $10 and upwards to the campaigns of the various presidential candidates. I know that people will say that only the presidential elections are subsidised at the moment, but I do not believe it will be long before the congressional races and the Senate races in America will be subsidised also. I think that all these matters should be looked at in detail as a matter of urgency by a committee.
People ‘s faith in our democratic system at the moment is quite shaky. I think that anybody would agree that there is a mood of cynicism particularly amongst young people today towards the political parties and to the political system. I do not think that we should wait for a major scandal before we take some action. We have had a number of scandals. Perhaps they have only been minor scandals. On this side of the chamber we had the Iraqi loans affair. On the other side of the chamber Mr Garland, Mr Lynch and Mr Eric Robinson are three Ministers who have been in trouble, all in one way or another associated with electoral matters and the funding of election campaigns. As I have said, other countries have waited until major scandals have occurred before reviewing the laws. I do not believe that we can afford to wait that long especially as we have had these allegations of impropriety. We do not want a crisis in Australia equivalent to a Watergate. We must act as soon as possible.
I wish to say a few words about public funding. In 1932 the Sydney Morning Herald carried the following interchange between W. A. Holman, the then Premier of New South Wales, and Justice Halse Rogers. The interchange took place during the royal commission into the ‘tin hare’ inquiry. I will quote from the Australian Quarterly which reprinted the article. It stated:
Mr Holman, addressing the Royal Commission, said that party funds were one of the inevitable by-products of the party system, especially with elections becoming more and more intensive and expensive.
That was in 1932 in New South Wales. The article continues:
Parties invited subscriptions to their funds, and funds were frequently given in anticipation, no doubt, of favours to come. His Honour asked, amid laughter, whether funds were not almost universally given for this reason, and not merely frequently. Mr Holman: Well, your Honour, I am endeavouring to be moderate.
I ask: What has changed in 47 years? Surely if funds are provided in secret, at a later stage a party can be compromised when a policy matter affects a donor, especially if that donor has been a large donor.
Election campaigns and the inter-election activities of parties have become increasingly expensive and more and more fundamental to the viability of parliamentary democracy. I quote from a pamphlet entitled ‘You Can’t Afford to be Neutral’ which is printed by the Australian Quarterly and was written in the 1 950s by a Federal trustee of the Liberal Party. He said:
We have a central Federal body and an organisation in each State governed by elected executive and office-bearers. Like a business organisation, we have officers and staff in every Slate and in Canberra. Modern politics demand intensive campaigning- not just at election time, but all the year round. We need money to sustain these continuous operations- To exploit all the expensive media of propaganda.
To maintain round the year organisational operation in the field.
That article was written over 20 years ago by a Liberal Party member. We are now dealing with subjects like the media and market research. It has become essential for the major political parties to be active in these respects. The information required is much more complex.
I believe a partial solution to these problems which are becoming more pressing is the introduction of some form of public funding for political parties. I am pleased to say that I believe that some form of public funding for political parties will exist in the next New South Wales State election which will be the first time this happens in Australia. Honourable senators may remember that I dealt in detail with public funding for political parties in a speech last year. I compared a number of systems currently in use in other countries and I looked at the Houghton Committee report in Great Britain. I spoke at that time- and I will not go over the details now- of the Labour Party’s attitude and the Conservative Party’s attitude towards the Houghton Committee report. It was very interesting because there were majority and minority reports from both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party on the matter of public funding in Britain. I dealt in detail with the situation in West Germany and the situation in the United States.
I was interested to read a speech the other day by Senator Kennedy who is now running for selection for the presidency of the United States. In 1 962, before anybody had ever thought of the idea- especially in the United States- he was saying that some form of public funding was inevitable with the way that costs were rising in the United States. I dealt with the systems in use in most of the democracies of the Western world and especially with the systems in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Japan, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. Perhaps they are amongst the most democratic countries in the world today. I suppose that the important thing I am trying to re-emphasise by talking about them now is that public funding is not some radical idea. It is not some hare-brained scheme that somebody has just thought of. Nearly every other parliamentary democracy has some form of public funding for political parties. If they do not have it for campaigns, they have it for educational purposes, for policy research, for the stamping and addressing of envelopes or for electoral research. In that speech last year I discussed systems in countries such as Britain and France where funds are allocated proportionately from general revenue. I also discussed the Canadian system, which uses an optional tax check-off system. Every taxpayer has the option of paying $ 1 per annum out of his tax either to an election fund or into general revenue. There are very many variations of public funding.
We need a parliamentary committee to investigate and report on the system that would best suit Australia. I believe it is inevitable that we will have such a system in the future. I think we have to face the fact that public funds are already being used by members of the House of Representatives and senators for campaign purposes. Any New South Wales Liberal Party senator has to look only at what happened during the Grayndler by-election. Of course Liberal Party senators used their stamp allowance, the franking machines, their envelopes and their stationery to take part in that by-election campaign for the House of Representatives. Of course that has been done by honourable senators on this side of the chamber in other byelections on other occasions. I put it to honourable senators that that is a form of public funding that is now being engaged in under the lap.
Too many countries have waited until scandals have rocked the very foundations of their political structures before reviewing their electoral laws. Of course, Watergate is the prime example. As I said, I do not think we can afford to wait. Too many minor incidents have occurred already that have plagued not only our State leaders but also some of our Federal leaders. Claims of impropriety have been made about political funding.
The last part of my motion deals with fixed election dates subsequent to governments maintaining the confidence of the House. This would, of course, necessitate constitutional changes to modify the power of the Senate to block Supply. But it could be worth reviewing the situation to see whether it could be worth while to make the constitutional changes in order to facilitate this change. It is too much of a temptation to a government to call an election earlier than is necessary for electoral purposes. This has been done at a Federal level and at a State level, and it has been done by both parties. Of course, it is a disastrous state of affairs when the Opposition can choose the election date. One only has to recall the bitterness of 1975, a bitterness which has not subsided and which I hope is not subsiding.
I conclude by saying that the matters I have raised are urgent. They are crucial to democracy. We should be doing something now about the inadequacies of the electoral laws that I have spoken about. These electoral laws and procedures are fundamental to democracy and they must be kept in good repair. I commend the motion to the Senate.
-Is Senator Sibraa ‘s motion seconded?
– I second the motion. Bipartisanship has been mentioned a great deal this week. I am delighted to join in that exercise not only by seconding Senator Sibraa ‘s motion but also by commending him on a fine speech supporting that resolution. I understand that some Liberal Party senators will also speak in support of the general concept. Having said that, I introduce a sour note into the debate by saying that this is General Business evening. It is an evening for non-Government Business. The items listed under General Business are raised for discussion. But the fact remains that the Government still calls the shots. It will not matter whether a majority of honourable senators support Senator Sibraa ‘s motion this evening. I believe that an overwhelming majority would support it; but the fact is that the private members on the Government side- and I am not scoring a political point now- will look to the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick), who is sitting in the Senate, and ask: ‘Is it all right with you?’ If it is not all right this debate will be adjourned and no matter how much Senator Sibraa, I or anybody on the Government side wants this matter brought forward as a matter of urgency it will not be done. The Government ‘s heavy hand will be on private members on private members’ night in the Senate. I think that is unfortunate. When I look at the Notice Paper I see that a motion I moved on 10 October 1979 on matters very similar to those mentioned in Senator Sibraa ‘s motion tonight -
– My notice was given in August.
– That is not the point I am making but indeed it was. I at least had the chance of making my speech on 10 October 1979, but that motion is now item 209 on the Notice Paper. At the rate we are going, of course, it will never be called on. I strongly support what Senator Sibraa has said tonight. The rules regarding elections are archaic and they are a total anachronism in many ways. I totally support the idea that ballot papers should include the party designation of all candidates. In this enlightened year one would wonder why already the political party to which a candidate belongs is not on the ballot paper. Is there any logical reason why it is not? Why should people who are elderly, who have difficulty in seeing, who may be illiterate, who cannot speak English or read English clearly get a page with names on it and no designations? What are we trying to hide? Why are we doing this? Every honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber knows why. In fact, I would be prepared to bet that my friend, Senator Withers, in his attractive, cynical way, whispered to his colleague, Senator Watson: ‘Because it favours the Liberal Party ‘-and it does.
– I did not. I said that they might as well put their age, sex, height, name and address down too.
-The honourable senator’s interjection detracts from the high opinion I had of his intellectual capacity.
– At least you got him to say something. He has not said anything for a long time.
– He is now in Hansard at last. He has been dragged unwittingly before Hansard. Of course this proposal favours the major political parties and, more particularly, the Liberal Party, which can afford to spend an incredible amount of money in printing the howtovote cards. It can afford the incredible amounts of money to print the text of the howtovote cards in all the newspapers. I was told today that a half page or a quarter page in the Sydney Morning Herald costs, I think, something like $4,000. I know that that sort of money means nothing to a Liberal Party, which has ample funds; but to parties that do not have ample funds it is quite a deterrent.
I think that when people are voting they are entitled to know to which political party each candidate belongs. I believe the only reason such information is not displayed is to allow the archaic system of how-to- vote cards to be persisted with. We go further and say that we think that each party ought to be allowed to put its voting guide inside the polling booths and that the Electoral Act ought to be amended to make it an offence to distribute electoral matter on polling day. We have another contradiction. The Act contains the ridiculous ban on electronic advertising from midnight on the Wednesday before an election on the Saturday. Presumably the reason for the ban was that the minor or less financial parties would be protected from the wealthy parties flooding the electronic media in the last couple of days of the election campaign.
– Don’t we have control only over the electronic media? We can’t pass a law with regard to the print media, can we?
– No, indeed we cannot. I am afraid that Senator Baume missed my point. Perhaps I put it badly. Presumably the ban was imposed for the reason I have stated. To extend the logic of my argument, let me say that it is still open to a wealthy political party to flood the electorate with voting matter on the day before the election. In fact, the Australian Democrats suffered heavily in this regard in the recent South Australian election. The Liberal Party flooded the print media with advertisements on the Friday evening before and the Saturday morning of the election which virtually told voters that a vote for the Australian Democrats may not be counted. We had no way of combating that sort of misleading advertising. In any event, we believe that voting guides in polling booths would assist a great number of people, as Senator Sibraa said, to cast a valid vote. We think that the aim of democracy should be to maximise the formal vote. The suggestion would also, I think, raise an interest in political parties.
I know that I am not the only one who admonishes university audiences and other audiences we happen to address for not joining political parties. I believe that if more people joined political parties it would lead to more political interest and awareness in this country. I have not at the moment the percentage of voters who belong to political parties in Australia.
– It is about 4 per cent.
– I thought it was about that. Thank you, Senator Missen. That figure is appallingly low in a country which claims itself to be politically aware. Quite often I hear that the reason people do not belong to political parties is that they are expected to hand out how-to-vote cards, to be booth fooder as some people say, or to run chook raffles to raise money. I believe that we would make membership of political parties more attractive if we abolished how-to-vote cards. We also advocate the consideration by this proposed committee of the Tasmanian Robson amendment. It worked magnificently in the recent Tasmanian elections. We believe it is inordinately fair that the order of the names and the list of parties be rotated. It is a reasonably complicated system, but we believe it is in the interests of democratic voting.
I have spoken before about the abuse of limitations on electoral expenses. Senator Sibraa mentioned the matter. I will not comment except to say that we support changes. We also support the public disclosure of donations to political parties. The Australian Democrats are novel in that at any time any member of the Press can gain access to our books of account. Any donation that we receive is open to the Press.
– Is that regardless of the amount? Does the person who wants to make a $5 donation have to have his name disclosed?
– We had a limitation of up to $500 which was subsequently changed a few months ago to $2,000. 1 thank Senator Puplick for that comment. Donations of over $2,000 must be capable of disclosure to the Press. I do not say this with any great bravado or self-praise. I have been offered donations to the Australian Democrats of significant amounts, essentially from big companies, multinationals. I have been delighted that the sums have been in the several thousand dollar mark. As soon as I say: ‘Of course you know it has to be capable of public exposure’, they say: ‘We are terribly sorry; we would like to help you, but the deal is off’. In those cases I looked at my own position. How could I, as a member of this Parliament having taken $50,000 or $100,000 in secret under the table from a donor representing industry, get up in this Parliament with a clear conscience and look at legislation without asking myself how it affects the secret donor to my party? I believe that such things must, even subconsciously, corrupt the judgment of Australian politicians. If they know that a massive supporter is secretly pumping in hundreds of thousands of dollars it must, even subconsciously, diminish their objectivity of the judgment they put on any matter. I need not go through the sums. Both major parties can multiply the annual membership fee by the number of members and find that money given to political parties in this country is well over $ 1 m a year. I am being very conservative in saying that. Nobody knows where the money comes from. Quite often the politicians do not know. But the figures are there to work out how much the Liberal Party spends on its staff, office accommodation, phone calls, stationery, research offices and whatever. On my figures membership fees would be about $300,000 a year short of the expenditure on those items. We can then add the amount that the Liberal Party spent in the 1 977 election campaign alone, which I estimate at $1.4m. Over $1.5m came from somewhere into a political party. No one can find out where it came from. I believe this is a corrupting influence.
We know from reading United States Senate reports how the oil industry has in fact plunged millions of dollars into political parties in different countries. There is the classic case of Exxon, which owns Esso and many other companies, spending, I think, $80m on political parties in Italy. By some freak accident in a computer the Communist Party was among the list of recipients and got something like $100,000. If it is done overseas, I ask: Is it not done here? Can a political party be objective if such donations are made? We believe very strongly that any law on disclosure would need strong enforcement and penalties. The proposed committee could study overseas examples. I refer, for instance, to the recent United States Koreagate scandal.
We believe also in an appropriate method of allotting proportionate subsidies by the Australian Government to political parties and candidates. One of the arguments put up is why taxpayers should subsidise political parties which are against their political persuasions. Taxpayers already are subsiding political parties. Many of the donations that are given to political parties are written off as tax deductible expenses. Because Consolidated Revenue is being diminished to the extent of that deductible amount the ordinary taxpayer has to pay more and therefore is indirectly paying for elections in that way.
– He probably pays for free ABC time as well.
-I thank Senator Puplick for his helpful interjection. The cost of election campaigning has soared since television assumed its present importance. We recommend adopting the United Kingdom method of providing free time on television for recognised parties. This is a condition of granting commercial television licences in the United Kingdom. The question that arises is what threshold a party would need to gain this proportion of time. I am interested to know that the threshold of support varies in different countries from 20 per cent down to 0.5 per cent. I believe a reasonable figure could be obtained by a committee of the type proposed. I thoroughly support the call by Senator Sibraa for fixed election dates. I know that this involves more than a simple amendment to the Act but I believe it is outrageous that any leader of any political party who happens to be in power can call an election by the weak acquiescence of the Queen’s representative when it suits the interests of that political party. Mr Deputy President, is that not an outrageous proposition? The attitude adopted is: Let us not give a damn about the voters. Let us not give a damn about the stability of government. If now is a good time to go to the polls, even though it might be 18 months early, if it is good for my party to go now, I will go and see the Governor-General and he will meekly say: ‘Yes, go’. I believe that the voters of Australia have had enough of that sort of action.
It was my feeling when I was campaigning during the South Australian election campaign that that was the main reason for the resounding defeat of Mr Corcoran in South Australia last September. I believe the calling of elections ought to be regularised by a change in the Constitution. That sort of practice is not adopted in local government elections. It is certainly not done in the United States but it seems to be one of those quaint things we have allowed to happen in this country. Public funding for political parties exists in the United States, West Germany, Norway, Sweeden, Denmark, Finland, Canada and Italy. I wonder why it is so strongly resisted in this country.
We ought to have another look at the matter of the deposit that is required by a candidate to stand for office. It has always offended me that a prospective candidate needed a significant sum of money to put up his name. If he does not get a certain number of votes he loses his deposit. We as a small party certainly feel very strongly about this. In nominating a candidate to stand for a Senate seat, the cost is $3,000 straight off if he does not get a certain number of votes. I am indebted to Senator Mason who has suggested publicly that instead of requiring a deposit it would be a fairer test to require on the nomination form a certain percentage of the voters.
– In every electorate.
– In every electorate. I could not take a stab at what percentage would be fair but if there is on the nomination form a certain percentage of voters who nominate the candidate it would do these things: It would do away with the necessity of putting up hard cash with the risk of losing it. It would also involve people in the electorate in politics. It would have the effect of showing that that candidate at least has a modicum base of support for his. candidature.
– Surely it detracts from the principle that anybody is entitled to seek the support of his fellows, even if it is a minority of one person.
– It does not detract from that principle at all. In fact, it encourages it because instead of a candidate having to have a wealthy sponsor or just having to have money to put himself up he would have to get the support of his fellow voters before he could even nominate. I do not think it runs counter to that principle at all. Senator. I think it very closely follows that principle. The Australian Democrats strongly support the motion moved by Senator Sibraa. As the seconder to the motion. I make a plea to the Government that it ensures that the same thing does not happen to this motion as has happened to many other worthwhile motions that are moved under General Business and be buried even lower on the Notice Paper than is my Notice of Motion No. 209 at the moment.
– I desire to speak to the motion that has been moved by Senator Sibraa and to express some views which, I might say, are generally in support of the proposal that a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into the number of matters in relation to the Commonwealth Electoral Act that he has enumerated. I am not sure that he has covered all the matters. In fact, it may be that such a committee might find that some of the items he has mentioned are rather too difficult to cover completely. But I do not think that is the most important matter. The thing is that there are areas that deserve examination. I have heard what has been said by Senator Sibraa and what was said by Senator Chipp who expressed the support of his party for the proposition. So far as I am aware, my own party, the Liberal Party, has never made an actual declaration on this subject. Committees have looked at it but, as I understand it, there has been no fixed or definite decision by the Government or the Liberal Party in respect of the matters that are raised.
I believe that there are many difficulties involved with the various reforms that have been referred to. It seems to me that in the past when these matters have been raised very often there has been a problem because the government of the day has had certain amendments or changes which it felt were desirable. The Opposition of the day had approached them with a good deal of suspicion, often with some justification, and the matters very often have been defeated on party lines.
When the Labor Government was in office in 1974 and when Senator Withers, whose distinguished presence we have here tonight, was the Minister largely in charge of this area on behalf of the then Opposition I recall that a number of Bills dealing with electoral reform such as this were considered. There was the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill. That contained about 34 separate amendments to the Act. An electoral Bill followed that one. These Bills came back to the Senate at various times because of the desire of the Government to establish a double dissolution situation, lt wished to use the Bills in a double dissolution. In fact, the Bills were used in the subsequent double dissolution. As I recall that period, the attitude which we in the Opposition took on these matters in the first place was a somewhat blanket opposition to the various proposals which Mr Daly put forward on behalf of the then Government, largely I think because it was thought that they were matters which were somewhat picked over for the purpose of providing particular advantages to the Government then in power. Therefore they met a certain fate in the Senate because the vote on them fell on party lines.
I recall that the second time the electoral reforms came before the Senate we were dealing with them separately. We recommended and voted for a number of them and defeated a number of others. However, the then Government was not prepared to accept a Bill from which a number of fairly major proposals had been deleted and it was determined to press on to the double dissolution situation. I recall that on the eve of the 1975 election, I think it was, we were met with separate Bills which divided up the various proposals. Of course by that time the relationship between the parties was such that it was impossible to expect that there would be a rational discussion on the separate items. But at the time of the introduction of the Electoral Bill 1974-1 think this is relevant to the type of inquiry that is proposed tonight- at page 399 of the Hansard of 25 February 1975 I am reported as having had this to say:
This Bill is one part of the whole problem. The Government seizes a small part of the electoral problem- there are problems- and tries to legislate in its interests as it sees fit. When we discussed the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill I said- my Party generally said- that what we needed was a committee of both Houses that would sit not in a political atmosphere but in a non-political atmosphere and consider all the problems of electoral reform and decide what was fair and just. I thought on that occasion, and I have hoped since, that we might have seen some change in the Government’s attitude. On that occasion the Government brought forward a mass of proposals and forced them through the other House but of course ultimately they were defeated. On this occasion the Government has dealt with two more matters which, in essence, it finds of some value to it.
I think the problem was that those attempts at electoral reform failed. I have felt for many years, and I stand by what I said then, that this requires a committee of the Parliament- perhaps it is difficult to have a joint committeecomprising members of the different parties, who can look in a somewhat dispassionate way at the various proposals.
– I am sorry to interrupt, but what is the difference between a joint committee and a committee of all members of parliament?
-I think that there are problems with a joint committee on which the members of the two Houses sit together. There are problems because of the different sitting times of the two Houses and their different interests. The proposal is for a committee of only Senate members. I think that that would be useful in itself. It does seem to me that it is never too late to have discussions and to put members of the different parties together on a committee such as that proposed in Senator Sibraa ‘s motion. One realises that some of the proposals for electoral reform are of greater benefit to one party than to another. The disclosure of political funding by organisations may be of more value to the Australian Labor Party than to other parties. People in my party in those days in 1974 complained and would still complain that disclosure presents great dangers for people who want to contribute. I know from my campaigning over many years that there are small businessmen, particularly in Labor-held seats, who are fearful of the disclosure of their political involvement.
– Or National Country Partyheld seats.
– And small farmers.
– I am not saying that that is so with only one type of electorate; I am just saying that it is particularly so in those areas. I think that it is less so in Liberal-held seats. One could argue that at some length. But the fact is that there is a great fear that businesses, for example, might be prejudiced because of intimidation against them by union members because they are known to contribute to a particular political party. That is a difficulty. I am not saying that we should not have disclosure; I am saying that perhaps it creates a problem more particularly for the Government parties than for the Australian Labor Party.
That might be so of other electoral reforms also. I take as an example the matter which I think upset Senator Chipp somewhat considerably tonight, that is, the fact that how-to-vote cards are allowed and the names of the parties do not appear on the ballot cards. There is no doubt that if the ballot card were displayed on the wall of the polling booth so that everyone could see it and people were refused the right to hand out how-to-vote cards that would be of great advantage to the smaller parties, those which do not have the electoral support and those which do not have the necessary number of workers who are prepared to hand out howtovote cards, in a rather tedious way, throughout the day of the election. No doubt the bigger parties would stand to benefit more greatly from the present law and some of the smaller parties would be greatly benefited by the handing out of how-to-vote cards no longer being necessary or, indeed, by it no longer being possible for people to stand outside polling booths, showing the flag and indicating their support for their particular party in that way. What I am saying is that, in the consideration of electoral reform, one must appreciate that certain reforms will be of greater benefit to one side than to the other. So I think that if we were to put together representatives of the different parties and they were to reach some kind of compromise a great deal more in electoral reform would be achieved than is being achieved at the present time.
– I think you would find that an overwhelming number of lay members of your party would support me- for different reasons.
– For very different reasons.
-Yes, I think that is right. I would agree with Senator Chipp. The fact that people have to go out and hand out cards and do other things which are necessary in elections at the present time is not a popular aspect of political party membership. But it may be that it is better for political parties to have and to need to have considerable numbers of members so that when they come to make policies there are more people to do so. In political parties there is a great danger that they might become so elitist that only a few people make the decisions. I am not suggesting that I am determining this issue; in fact, I might not agree with the argument which I am putting. I am just saying that different parties hold different points of view and have different vested interests in respect of these sorts of issues.
I shall say one or two things about the matters which Senator Sibraa raised. He covered quite a wide field and I think that some reference might be made to the issues he raised. He expressed the view that it was desirable that the method of counting and voting should be such as to permit election results to be known more quickly. He referred to voting machines. No doubt it is desirable that modern methods should be used in the electoral undertaking. At the same time, I do not think that he needs to persuade me or, actually, Senator Peter Baume of the necessity of having an earlier poll result. We both remember our elections in 1 974 when it took six weeks for me to be elected and six weeks and one day for Senator
Peter Baume to be elected. The trauma we individually went through does not matter. It is undesirable that there should be that sort of delay in knowing what is the actual situation in various electorates. There are a number of matters with regard to the voting methods which are deserving of further consideration.
The second point which Senator Sibraa particularly raised concerns public disclosure. I mentioned that that is an area in which there is a great deal of difference of view. There are people who believe, I think quite soundly, that political parties ought to have a fair amount of widespread support from individuals, that it is not desirable that the source of private contributions to political parties should fall off, and that one of the benefits of a democratic system in a number of the democratic countries is that there are many private individuals who are prepared to put their money into the support of political parties, whether those people be members of companies, members of unions or members of other organisations. Consequently, there is no doubt that the exposure that these people receive by publicising the sources of the donations will lead to some falling off because of the embarrassment to these people, to which I referred before, and the difficulties that may be caused to those sources of donations.
I believe many issues need to be considered with regard to the sources of donations. Also, a great number of issues with regard to political funding need to be considered. I have for a long time believed that it is necessary for the Australian community to develop a system of political funding of political parties, and I have said so on many occasions. One has to realise that there are more areas and possibilities than perhaps Senator Sibraa ‘s motion appears to raise. Not only is there the question of political disclosure, which he has mentioned, not only is there the question of the limitation on spending by candidates, which is a question which I do not think really is covered completely in his motion, but also there is a question of the contributions, possibly the limitation of the size of the contributions, that people may make. As I have said, there is also a question of the political funding of parties, which operates in many countries and in which we and New Zealand are among the rather striking exceptions.
There are also questions of tax deductibility for gifts to political parties. There are questions concerning the free television and radio time which is provided and the possibility that that should be increased because that is one of the basic costs of the funding of political parties at the present time. There is also the possibility of limiting political advertising. There are many different ways in which we could come to a conclusion on the funding of political parties. Without going into the details, one knows that there are different systems of political funding in different years. The Houghton report in Great Britain has analysed these issues and has outlined proposals for Great Britain which have not yet been carried out. In Great Britain there is a very small amount of public funding, mainly involving the distribution of a pamphlet to electors. In West Germany a more substantial system of funding arises from the parties law of 1966. This takes the form of paying off the parties’ campaign expenditure over four years, with the bulk being paid in election years. In Sweden there is also an elaborate system of public funding. Canada has another system. The United States has public funding, particularly of presidential elections. In recent times this has appeared to reduce the cost of presidential elections. But the United States is having its problems. It has not yet achieved a system of funding for the House of Representatives and Senate candidates. My reading of recent times indicates that there are a number of difficulties because of the actions which are taken by private individuals to make their contributions through political action committees and other ways, to get around limitations on funding.
– Especially in the primaries.
– Especially in the primaries. A person’s reading will indicate that there is no certain or fixed method. People raise the problem that to base a party’s political funding upon the number of votes it obtained in the last election- and perhaps a proviso that a party would have to get 5 per cent of the votes before it received funding- would inhibit new parties from coming into the field. On the other hand, it would be possible to have a retrospective system of funding. If a party achieved a considerable number of votes in an election it could receive retrospective funding. There are different methods. This matter should not be considered in a party political atmosphere. A study of other systems around the world should be made to see which is the most suitable system for Australia.
A comment on this matter was made in an article in the Age of 23 February last year. Among the people who contributed to that was Mr Leo Hawkins, who was previously General Secretary of the Liberal Party in Victoria. He said that under the impact of television costs and the frequency of elections in Australia our parties have suffered two highly significant adverse consequences. They have become totally dependent on outside sources for central campaign costs and their organisations have lost most of their non-election staff. The amount of funding must also take into account the natural intelligent work which political parties ought to be doing between elections, the upkeep of their staffs and the extent to which those staffs should be funded. I believe that we ought to find a system of funding. Each year the cost of television becomes a greater burden on political parties. They cannot avoid this cost; they must compete in this way. Therefore, they depend more and more on large donations. They are less and less dependent upon the ordinary contribution of the rank and file member of the party. I see that as an unhealthy development in the political scene.
One does not necessarily notice the influence on an individual member. I cannot say that I am ever influenced or have been influenced by any knowledge of contributions. We have rules in our party which mean that members do not know the source of contributions. They do not want to know them. In the 34 or 35 years of my involvement with politics organisationally and in my latter years in Parliament, I have not had much of an idea of the sources of contributions, nor have I sought to find them. Nonetheless, it must have some influence organisationally. It must be noticed if certain policies lead to a falling away of contributions. When television, radio and newspaper costs become so predominant, clearly those costs will be overcome to some degree only by placing political funding on some sort of regular basis so that people may contribute.
I agree with what Senator Chipp has said. The argument that is very easily thrown against proposals for public funding is that the taxpayers would be subsidising political parties. It is so easy to say that there are many more urgent needs and ask why we should pay for political parties. But, as Senator Chipp also said, people already pay. When a company contributes to a political party that cost is passed on. Not only is it a tax deductible item for the company but it is also included in the cost which the consumer pays. Therefore, the consumer- the community in the broad sense- is already paying.
If proposals for public political funding were put sensibly to the people- they have not yet been put sensibly to the people- they would realise that they would be paying a cheap price in providing some contribution to the various political parties and thereby increasing independence of those parties from outside sources, whether those sources be companies or unions. I give an example of this. In 1 972 the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, attended a meeting of the Commonwealth Council Amalgamated Organisation of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, the forerunner of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union. He said that whilst a future Labor Government might not be able to repeal the penal clauses of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, he could promise the unions that ‘there would be no prosecutions’ under the Act. The meeting then voted $25,000 to the Labor Party’s campaign funds. I am sure that we could give other examples. I am sure that some of my colleagues from the Opposition could give examples suggesting that we had been influenced by actions. I believe that there is a need to reduce the dependency on contributions, and political funding on a reasonable basis would do that.
I do not propose to say much more about the individual items. Whilst I think a select committee should be appointed to look into this matter I do not agree with Senator Chipp when he says the matter is urgent. Perhaps it has been urgent for 1 5 years, but I warn against the introduction of public funding in an election year. I feel that this motion could well be carried, but I suggest that there ought to be an examination of public funding in 1981, when we have passed the next election and when parties will be less likely to look for immediate political advantage. If such a committee called evidence this year I am sure it would find a political edge to that evidence. I feel that there would be no possibility of its leading to a result. Proposals for public funding could not, of course, influence the forthcoming election, but they would cause great damage because they had been put in an election atmosphere.
Whilst I support this motion, I point out that paragraph (2) states: . . provision relating to membership, powers and proceedings of the Committee be contained in a subsequent resolution.
I hope that the resolution establishes a proper and stringent investigation to take place at the beginning of the next Parliament in 1981. It should come to a reasonably quick solution. Apart from that, I express my general support and welcome this motion.
-I support this motion and commend Senator Sibraa and Senator Chipp for moving, seconding and speaking in support of it. I would agree with the points that have been made by both senators and would agree with everything that has been said in favour of the measure by Senator Missen, except when he said that this is not an urgent matter. Perhaps it could be said that I am one of the few people who can now say that I have no axe to grind because I will not be coming up for re-election. I would like to issue a very strong word of warning to every member of this Federal Parliament. They will have to face a crisis at the next election if the example of the litigation that ensued after a petition was presented in Tasmania is applied to the Federal Parliament. Every senator would be here illegally if the challenge were made to him by a petitioner.
- Senator Lewis, Senator Sibraa and I were appointed by the State Parliament; we were not elected.
– I withdraw and apologise to those who were selected by their party and appointed by the Parliament to fill a vacancy. But every senator who has been through an election has transgressed the provisions of the Electoral Act in regard to the amount of money being spent on his behalf by political parties and in numerous indirect ways because of the way in which a modern election is conducted. It is ridiculous that in this day and age we have in our Electoral Act provisions for the spending of $1,000 by a senator and $500 by a member of the House of Representatives. The cost of television advertising on some stations at peak hours is $50 for two seconds. That means that anyone who is exposed to television will have his complete allowance taken up, although it will not necessarily be spent by him out of his own pocket. He will not have a receipt. But following the precedent set in Tasmania he will be vulnerable to an examination by the court if the situation is presented by a petitioner.
– But we will know only when the court rules, won ‘t we?
– This is the point. The Senate now has an opportunity to improve the situation. In my view it is an urgent situation and we should not wait, as was done in Tasmania, for the challenge to be made. Such a challenge would result in chaos and the Government, regardless of its political colour, could be brought down. In Tasmania the challenge resulted in the business of the State being disrupted for months. The candidates were under great pressure. They were up for enormous costs of litigation. Each individual who was challenged found himself facing legal costs of $ 10,000 to $ 1 5,000 just to have themselves represented in court. I put it to the Senate that every member of the Federal Parliament is in the same position now that this matter has been opened up. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Chipp) has indicated that he is going to lead a challenge unless the terms of the Act are very closely observed. This is a warning to the Senate. Before the senator is obliged to carry out his indicated action we should take the necessary steps to form a committee of inquiry if we wish. But whatever senators do, we should not have to go into another election and go through this traumatic, confusing situation that has just occurred in Tasmania.
My friends on both sides were involved in litigation. One of the petitioners was in the position where he had to make arrangements about mortgaging his home. He had nowhere near sufficient funds to finance the litigation. On the other hand, some of the new members of the Parliament were in a very precarious position because of their inability to meet the legal costs. They still have not been able to meet those legal costs. As a result of the litigation the law was changed to provide only for a local by-election, which was recently held in the division of Denison.
– It could have been for the whole State.
– It could have been for the whole State. It could have brought down the Government. The little by-election in Denison cost the taxpayers $56,000.
– Only because they passed a special Act of Parliament just to have that by-election.
– If the honourable senator wants to make political capital out of that fact, she is quite entitled to do so. I am trying to point out as objectively as I can that any senator may be the one who is petitioned if money is spent on his behalf by his party. I am warning senators, without any axe to grind on my behalf, that someone who has been motivated by the precedent that has been set in Tasmania will do that very thing for mischievous purposes. Honourable senators are not protected and are as liable to the exercising of the law that we have framed and that we permit to be perpetuated as anyone else in the community. If honourable senators break the law they have to meet its consequences.
– It is different from the State.
– It is different, but it is not that different because it has never been challenged. I am talking about the money spent on our behalf. There is a precedent of a fine of $200.
Honourable senators may say: ‘Two hundred dollars is nothing; that is chicken feed’. That is only the tip of the iceberg. The verbosity, the phraseology and the semantics of this Act are such that the legal people will be able to give to this situation the greatest amount of scrutiny ever seen. This happened on a smaller scale in Tasmania. I am trying to stress the fact that I disagree with Senator Missen only on the matter of urgency. I want to try to counter that attitude. He does not think the matter is as urgent as I do. I am sure that the mover, Senator Sibraa, and the seconder, Senator Chipp, realise that something should be done before the next election otherwise honourable senators will suffer the consequences.
– In some ways the Federal Act is more stringent than the State Act.
-I agree with that, but people are under the impression that the situation has been going on for so long that it does not matter. But this is where we have been lulled into a false sense of security. I have been able, being an old dog for a hard road, to submit returns only with my signature on them. I have hoped that the sleeping dog would lie and that the return would be accepted, which it has been, by the Chief Electoral Officer. But many people are not as well versed in the tricks of the trade as I. They have fulfilled the provisions of the Act and have had to sign a declaration which they had no authority to sign because they did not know how much was spent on their behalf. They had no way of finding out, particularly within the time limit provided in the Act. They do not have a chance to accumulate all the accounts because of the time factor.
If I do nothing else than just strike this note of warning then perhaps in my retirement when I see all honourable senators in the dock I will say: All right, I told you so’. That would be of very little satisfaction because I think that it brings the Parliament into disrepute if we are making laws on the one hand and breaking them on the other. This is a matter that can be avoided with a little foresight. It is that very delicate area which affects particular personal matters when we are involved in an election. I do not suppose that there are any votes in it. We can get only more criticism from the Press if we pursue this matter of electoral reform-
– Would you agree that the people of Tasmania felt very strongly on that point?
– Very strongly indeed. As a matter of fact it brought the Parliament into considerable disrepute. The people felt that those who were responsible for making the laws were breaking them. If one subscribes to the basic principles of democracy, that is a situation that should not be perpetuated. I have heard this matter discussed in my own party rooms and in the electorate. I try to strike this note of urgency because of the way in which I was involved in a matter in Tasmania. I was not involved personally but I saw how it affected people on both sides to the issue- the petitioners and those people involved in the elections- as I was privy to their confidence. I knew of their distress and sense of helplessness because they went into it without the knowledge that they could be involved in this situation.
Except for some honourable senators who have given a little consideration to it, no one here realises the implications of the failure to have this Act amended. It is much more urgent than honourable senators think that a committeewhether it be a select committee of the Senate, a joint committee, a standing committee or a subcommitteebe appointed so that the Senate can get on with the important matter of having a close look at the situation and updating the Electoral Act to serve Australia during the 1980s and into the twenty-first century. Honourable senators are morally bound to do that because the charge justifiably can be made against us all that, on the one hand, we are making laws to affect the general public and, on the other hand, by default we are breaking them. Therefore, I support this motion very strongly. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
I assure the Senate that in dealing with this matter I will speak for only a fraction of the time that I took in speaking on the previous matter. The motion asks only that the matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. I propose this motion because 1 believe that committee work in the Senate is important and that in the future it will become increasingly important. A tremendous amount of time, work and effort is put into preparing committee reports, not only by members of the Senate but also by the staff who serve those committees.
From my experience in the period that I have been a member of the Senate there have been unnecessary delays in bringing forward and completing committee reports because of the existing Standing Orders. There are times when there are very few people in this Senate deliberating on whatever orders of the day or business might be before it. These are times during which committees could be sitting or proof reading and finalising reports. I do not feel that committees should sit and take evidence from people while the Senate is sitting but I believe that members of committees could be completing reports and proof reading them. The timing of the presentation of some committee reports is tremendously important. I have been a member of a number of committees, one being the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, whose reports can become outdated very quickly. The Committee presented an extremely important report on the Middle East. It was quite a voluminous report but committee members were faced with the situation of trying to arrange times to meet to finalise the report and to approve the final draft. Of course, events in the Middle East were changing every day.
I served on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which recently investigated human rights in the Soviet Union. That report was a massive document and the proof reading of it took weeks. Because it was a joint committee, it met while the Senate was sitting. Honourable senators on that Committee did not deliberate during those times and could not vote. Because the House of Representatives has different Standing Orders, members of that House were able to get onto the situation and try to clear up this report. As I said, the proof reading took a number of weeks. In the time that I have been in the Senate I have found that some of the most rewarding and satisfying work has come about from serving on committees.
I think it is common sense that committees should be able to meet while the Senate is sitting, but there could be many reasons- historic reasons or problems in the staffing of committeeswhy this could not happen. I know that some of the members of the Australian Labor Party will not go along with the proposal I am putting forward tonight. It is for that reason that I ask only that the Standing Orders Committee investigate the proposal that I have put forward tonight. I believe that that is why the Government will support this recommendation and send a resolution to the Standing Orders Committee.
– I oppose the motion put forward by
Senator Sibraa. That is consistent with the attitude I have taken all along, even in regard to the matter of referral to the Standing Orders Committee. The Standing Orders Committee has a duty to report on the Standing Orders which govern the conduct in this chamber. If honourable senators then carry a motion which seeks to refer a matter to the Standing Orders Committee, the Senate is giving it the imprimatur to change the Standing Orders for the purpose of permitting something to take place. I hope that the Senate never reaches a position where, because committee work is the most rewarding for Senator Sibraa, it forgets the duty of honourable senators to the chamber and to the Parliament. Parliamentarians are elected for the purpose of performing functions in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. Any law that honourable senators make, and which we are elected to enact, must be made in this chamber. As one can see tonight, the Senate does not succeed very often in maintaining a reasonable number of people in the chamber because even when a vote is taken on this matter honourable senators will have to come into the chamber. At present there are only half a dozen honourable senators present; in fact, the Senate is not properly constituted. Possibly the proposal is to take away four of the half dozen honourable senators presently in the chamber in order that they might sit on a committee while the Senate is meeting. Senator Sibraa justifies this by the fact that he illegally sat on a committee, in contravention of Standing Order 301, at a time when he should not have done so.
– I was observing the committee.
– I do not think it matters whether the honourable senator voted; he sat on the committee when the Standing Orders prohibited him from doing so. The honourable senator now seeks to have a situation where the Senate justifies an action which was in contravention of the Standing Orders by making some provision that will allow him to carry on that practice as he has in the past. During the time I have been a member of the Senate it has not been proper to sit on a committee- in fact committees have not been able to sit- while parliament has been meeting because the first duty of a member is to the Parliament.
However, on occasions that view has been relaxed and Standing Orders have been suspended to permit a committee to meet. The first occasion on which I objected to that practice being followed was when it was required that a committee meet for the purpose of hearing the evidence of a witness who had to go overseas. The Senate was given an assurance that it would not happen again, or at least that it would happen only infrequently. Recently there has been a spate of requests for the suspension of Standing Orders to permit committees to meet, sometimes for very flimsy reasons. On one occasion the reason was to get something considered by the Joint Committee on Public Works which was to help a candidate in an election in Brisbane. Although the decision of the Committee did not assist that candidate, the Government upset the decision set out in the Committee’s report and eventually assisted, or intended to assist, that candidate.
I do not think we should allow meetings of committees to encroach on the sittings of the Senate. We have had a wave of committees since the Murphy era, when he was going to solve all the problems and set up the Senate as a high investigative authority similar to the standing committees in the United States of America, but we have reached the position today where we have to consider the value of committees. Each committee meets on a particular reference, and I think on all occasions on which committees meet they find something wrong with the system, or suggest some remedial action that should be taken to adjust the matter in respect of which the committee is meeting.
Let us take the instance where a committee brings down a recommendation. One committee a few days ago brought down 107 recommendations for the Government to adopt. Another committee submitted 56 recommendations. No one has ever estimated what it would cost to implement the committees’ recommendations. The result is that the Government brings down a report, sometimes six or more months later, saying that it cannot accept certain recommendations, but that it will accept other recommendations which cost virtually nothing, and mean nothing. The vital recommendations of the committee are not acted upon. Although it may be of benefit to the members sitting on the committee, and frequently their names appear in the Press as chairman of some important committee, their decisions and their hard and often strenuous work are never recognised and put into operation by the Government. As a result, the committees contribute very little to the laws of the country. It is the Parliament which contributes to the laws. I consider that under the present system, by permitting honourable senators to sit on a committee if they so desire, we are giving them an opportunity to default on their responsibility to their electors to attend this Parliament for the purpose of enacting laws. I am a member of a committee at the present time, but we have never met on an occasion when Parliament is sitting. It would be necessary to do so only in exceptional circumstances, and when those exceptional circumstances arise, the Senate will always suspend the Standing Orders to permit the committee to meet. It would be wrong to give members of this Parliament an entitlement to be absent from the chamber. Members are elected to attend in the chamber, and I think it is wrong in law and wrong in democratic government for them not to be present during the sittings of the Senate.
– For some time I have had a fairly strong view that this is the kind of thing that the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders ought to look at. I have had a personal view that committees should be allowed to meet during sittings of the Senate. I recognise the points of view which Senator Cavanagh has just put to the Senate in relation to our role within this Senate chamber. That is an historic role. It is also a role of realism. But I should like to put forward the view that the program and pattern of the Senate, as with all legislative chambers, has changed quite considerably in recent years. That has been brought about by a changed demand upon legislators and, in our case, upon senators. It has been brought about by a growth in technology within legislative chambers, including a use of information services, the fact that we can follow debates from any part of this building, the fact that we now carry little instruments in our pockets which means that we can be tracked down at any place within the building if we are required, and technological systems whereby we can carry out our duties in relation to representation. That means that our interest in what goes on within the actual Senate chamber, while it may be just as great as ever it was, is such that we find a greater degree of satisfaction within the realms of the committees within which we work and to which we are appointed. All of us, or most of us, are members of a Senate standing committee of one kind or another, and all committees have substantial programs of references which have been handed to them by this Senate. They are required by this Senate to carry out those programs and to report back in due course.
The nature of society today is such that certain references, and indeed almost all references which are handed to us, deal with some facet of our public life, and events have a habit of moving along very quickly. If a committee can meet only in the weeks that Parliament is in recess or on Mondays or Fridays, it frequently follows that events will overtake the reference which it is examining, or it may well happen that the Government is not aware of what the Senate committees are doing and may set up interdepartmental committees of inquiry of its own or some other public inquiry of its own which tends to overtake the work that a Senate committee is doing, simply because the Senate committee does not have enough days in which to do it. Senators are frequently busy people and they are often on more than one committee. Therefore it is often difficult to get a Senate committee together as often as one would wish when dealing with a particular reference. I speak with some considerable degree of experience on this matter, having had the privilege to be a chairman of a Senate standing committee for some considerable time.
Then there is the factor that all of us who are on Senate standing committees are interested in our committees, and we are interested in the work we are doing. We are interested in our references. They provide us with the opportunity to be actively involved not only with our committee and with the reference but also with the public related to the reference. Because we are a Senate committee inquiring into a reference we carry with us the authority of the Senate, and we are involved in the Senate’s work in that committee. Sitting here, if I may say so with respect, we are not very much involved. We make our contribution from time to time, and nearly always only on matters with which we are involved or concerned. So membership of a Senate committee and involvement with a Senate committee provides those of us who are private members of the Senate with an opportunity to do some real work in the parliamentary, political, public sphere of this country. I want to say that we are seriously handicapped because we can meet only during recess weeks or on odd days when the Senate is not meeting.
I put forward the view that it is just as much a senator’s work to serve on a committee, conducting a reference, an inquiry or a public hearing, as it is to sit in this place when a debate is going on in which we are not particularly involved or which does not concern our particular area. I feel very strongly that there is a good case to be made out for Senate committees to meet while the Senate is sitting. I think it would be more efficient, it would occupy our time more effectively, and it would provide us with the opportunity to complete our references in half the time it now takes us to bring forward a report to the Senate and to get on with the work which our committee is required to do. Having said that, I think it also ought to be said that, if such a step is taken, Senate committees meeting while the Senate is sitting ought to be strictly controlled, by resolution of the Senate, under the control of the Whips or the table or presiding officers, or whatever authority is directed to do it. There should be a strictly limited number of committees meeting at the one time. My own view is that only one committee should be meeting at any one time. I submit further that a committee meeting while the Senate is sitting should be nowhere other than within this building and for a strictly limited time of day so that the work of the Senate is not hindered by the absence of a particular number of senators. This would leave the senators concerned free to have some involvement in whatever debates were going on during the day, matters in which they may be interested or involved. I think that strong consideration should be given also to a group of senators being free of the call of the bells but, by the same token, they should be required to attend their committee and not use the time for other purposes. As I said I think the matter of the committees sitting while the Senate is meeting should be strictly controlled and be under the strict vigilance of an authority appointed by the Senate to perform that task. It is a privilege for honourable senators to have the opportunity to sit on a committee at the same time as the Senate is sitting. Therefore, they should be required to apply themselves to their committee and to the reference which has been entrusted to them by the Senate. I give strong personal support to this principle and hope that the matter is referred to the Standing Orders Committee. I make a plea to the Committee that it give the matter favourable consideration.
-My remarks will be brief but I wish to indicate why I support Senator Sibraa ‘s motion. I think that we have to look at it carefully. He moved:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee: The revision of Standing Orders to provide that Committees may sit during the sittings of the Senate.
I support the principle of sending this reference to the Standing Orders Committee so that it can have a look at the reference and deliberate on it. However, in principle, I disagree with the proposition and I agree with the remarks made by Senator Cavanagh. But that is not really the point here. The point is that we are sending this reference to the Committee so that it can deliberate on it and bring back recommendations to us so that honourable senators in this chamber, having received the recommendations of the
Standing Orders Committee, will be able to debate the matter and determine whether we want this change. We would be in a position to determine it after a thorough investigation by another committee which could give us the points for and against the proposal.
I mention a matter that was mentioned by Senator Davidson and on which I disagree a little. I forget Senator Davidson’s exact words but he mentioned that senators would be able to sit on a committee when matters that are not in their field of interest are being discussed and debated in the Senate. That might be fine for some honourable senators on the committee, but we must remember that we may have six or seven senators on a committee and it would be quite likely that four or five would not be interested in the debate taking place in this chamber and would not want to participate, but the other two or three may want to participate. If that situation arises, the committee could not sit and exclude the senators who want to be in the chamber.
It seems to me that if the matter is referred to the Standing Orders Committee, the Committee will not only have to look at this problem in isolation, but also will have to look at the total role of the Senate nowadays compared with what it was perhaps 10 years ago before we had a committee system. It may be that, now that the role of the Senate has changed, we will have to adapt and make some different arrangements. But these are matters that the Standing Orders Committee will be able to look at in detail and bring its recommendations to us. In principle I disagree with the proposition as it is stated at the moment. But I support the motion that the matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee so that that Committee can look at the matter and bring its recommendations to us. We can discuss the matter in more detail and then make up our minds what should happen.
– At this stage of the debate I simply indicate that the Government supports the motion to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee. However, I make it clear that we do so without commitment as to the substance of the motion. As has been indicated this evening, there is a diversity of views on the subject. Therefore, we will be supporting the referral of the substance of the motion- without commitment- to the Standing Orders Committee, which will consider it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask that my vote in opposition be recorded.
The question whether public servants should have to resign from their jobs before they can nominate for candidacy in an election for the Senate or the House of Representatives has, of course, come up several times in the course of the years. We are raising it again now because it seems to us more urgent because of the CERR Act- that is, the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act. I will speak in more detail about this a little later.
I will review briefly recent history of this matter in the Parliament. On 29 May 1978, Senator Colston raised it in the first reading of Appropriation Bill (No. 3). He said:
The matter I shall debate is one of the basic tenets of Australian democracy, namely, the freedom of the individual to offer himself for public service in the Australian Parliament.
Further he said:
Deliberately to deprive a defeated candidate of his livelihood is a slur on Australian democratic processes.
During that debate Senator Sir Reginald Wright raised, what I consider, with respect to him, a spurious argument in reply, saying that public servants are the servants of the public. He continued:
And if they want to stand for parliamentary honours they do what other people do: That is, take the risk of election. Everybody in private employment and in private occupation takes the risk of resuming ordinary life if he is defeated.
However it is quite usual for persons in private employment to be given leave of absence or to use paid leave credits. Generally speaking, they face no manditory obligation or requirement to resign their positions.
Despite Senator Colston’s efforts then and later with his Constitution Alteration (Holders of Offices of Profit) Bill, public servants are still affected by the Public Service Board’s interpretation of section 44 of the Constitution contained in general order 3/D/4. My consultation with the various Public Service organisations around Australia has revealed clear concern on the part of those organisations and their members. Their views are aptly encapsulated by the General Secretary of the Australian Capital Territory Teachers Federation who said:
My own organisation is strongly of the opinion that public servants should not be obliged to resign to contest an election, holding that such a procedure is an unacceptable limitation on the public servant’s civil rights. Public servants have political views representative of the whole spectrum of the community at large and these views are not held to inhibit their ability to serve objectively the public and the government of the day.
Several of the public service organisations that I consulted raised the case of Mr Bill Woods in Queensland. Honourable senators may remember that Senator Colston mentioned that Mr Woods was refused re-employment after contesting the seat of Leichhardt in 1977. This refusal was at the direction of the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, This unfortunate case highlights the need for changes to be made in this area.
There are serious implications for public servants in having to resign on nomination. Resignation can affect superannuation benefits, credit union loan interest rates and even jeopardise the housing of a public servant who is forced to resign before contesting an election. As I said earlier, the position has been worsened by proclamation of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act. Public servants, including teachers, must now feel much less certain that they could get the jobs back from which they resigned to become a candidate. Hence the risk of political pressure on a public servant to stand down from candidacy is now very much present. A subtle form of coercion, in which nothing need be written down and very little said, could persuade public servants, in present conditions of high unemployment, not to stand for a particular party on the threat of not getting back the job from which they had been compelled to resign. The Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act defines its objects in section 7 ( 1 ). It states:
In determining what action the Public Service Board shall take either to redeploy or to dismiss, section 1 1 (4) (c) allows the Board to consider the interests of the employee concerned’. In this general matter I have had a number of people ask me what I am on about. They want to know whether I want to make sure that a lot of public servants are elected to the Australian Parliament. Some of the people who have asked me that say they do not agree with that. This is a classic example of Dr Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking in that it is fallacious. Almost any group could be excluded by such a view. Croatians could be excluded, as could Jews or women or people over 60 years of age. The real point surely is this: Is it good enough that the rights of almost half a million Australians, involving the security of family members, who I suppose make at least a half a million more Australians, should be limited unjustly? Why should they be different from other Australians?
– How would you get over the Constitution?
– I am coming to that a little later, if the honourable senator will wait patiently. After all, the right to stand as a candidate is a most important and cherished right and it ought to be protected as far as possible for law abiding citizens of honest intent. This matter affects especially independent and minority party candidates. We know that the real election of most senators and many members of the House of Representatives does not take place after they have nominated but in preselection. It matters little to them if they are public servants and they have to resign. They get No. 1 or No. 2 position on the Senate ticket, or nomination for a safe seat in the other place and then it is generally just a matter of coasting home. I do not make that point critically but to point out that this matter of making public servants resign on nomination thus emerges as just another part of the conspiracy to keep out Independents or any new political force and to perpetuate the dominance of the older parties by unfair means. The use of single member electorates rather than multimember constituencies has that same effect.
The regulation- to make my first point- is plainly unjust. However, can we claim that it is without justification and, indeed, runs counter to that part of the Constitution from which it pretends to spring? I say ‘pretends ‘ because I believe this is the crux of the matter. I sense honourable senators thinking that the interpretation of the Constitution is not the job of the Senate but that it is the job of the High Court of Australia. Can we honestly leave it at that? I suggest we cannot. For instance, how can we consider the need or justification for a possible amendment of the Constitution without considering its meaning or the bearing it might have on actions in the community that affect a large number of people?
Again, has this provision ever been tested or argued in the High Court? I have tried to check this out and I can find no evidence of that although there was a High Court case in 1 907 relating to the definition of the word ‘election’ which perhaps has some bearing. Let us look at the actual words of the Public Service rule and the Constitution and consider them carefully together. General Order 3/D/4 states:
An officer or employee who wishes to nominate for election to a House of Parliament, whether the Federal or a State parliament, must resign from the Service before nomination.
I stress the word ‘nomination’. The General Order continues:
Leave of absence will not be granted to any officer or employee to enable him to campaign for election.
However, section 44 of the Constitution provides:
Any person who-
Holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth . . shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
Surely certain incongruities become obvious. One is actually within the areas of disqualification in that section. Most of the disqualifications listed in the Constitution are, in a strong sense, passive. By this I mean that the person concerned in that disqualification cannot, of his own will or intent, alter his position. Certainly a person under sentence or liable for sentence for a crime cannot do that. The person owing allegiance to a foreign power cannot readily or quickly alter that situation and may not be able to alter it at all in a real sense. By ‘ a real sense ‘ I mean in the sense of personal loyalty, which is, of course, what that section of the Constitution is really about. The bankrupt cannot dependably alter his position. However, the person who holds an office of profit under the Crown can. He or she is the only person affected by this disqualification who could, in fact, do so. He or she could remove his or her incapacity simply by providing a provisional but still written, witnessed and irrevocable form of resignation which would apply if he or she were elected.
The actual words in the Constitution to which these qualifications refer render a person ‘incapable of being chosen or of sitting’. Nomination is not mentioned. Surely ‘chosen’ can mean only one thing. It can mean only the act of choice by the people through their vote on election day. It follows that if a person is not chosen, his or her act of resignation need not apply. In fact, it is not needed. However, if he or she is chosen, in terms of that notice of resignation, it applies from that moment of choice- the actual hour, the moment at which the votes were cast, giving a majority beyond doubt- whether it be known at that hour or not.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– I move:
I shall speak briefly on this matter. Senator Mason has made a very interesting case and has raised matters which are no doubt of concern to many people. In fact, another matter of substance in regard to the constitutional provision concerning public servants seeking election to Parliament, is at the moment before the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In brief, what I am proposingSenator Mason is aware of this- is that the matter which he raises should likewise be subsumed in the reference which is presently before my Committee so that this matter will be investigated at the same time. If my amendment were carried the matter set out by Senator Mason’s motion would be referred to this Committee. The position is that the reference which we are in the process of investigating at the moment, on which a considerable amount of evidence has already been obtained and on which evidence is to be called, is relevant to the whole question of qualification and disqualification of members and to sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution.
This matter, of course, is not quite the same. This is the interpretation which the Public Service Board puts on these sections in the Constitution. For example, we may recommend a change in the Constitution. Alternatively, if we do not, we certainly have before us already by way of submissions which are made to the Committee, the matter of the way in which it is interpreted by the Public Service Board. We also have other matters before us, including the position of people who are reappointed. We are considering whether there should be an option on the part of the Public Service Board to reappoint or whether these people should be automatically reappointed. Other matters also arise from the interpretation of section 44 (iv) of the Constitution which, as I have said already, are to be looked at by the Committee. It seems to me that the desirable course to be pursued is to join the motion and the amendment so that the Committee, as it can very simply do. may add this matter to the investigation that is already under way. I think that is the most expeditious course that can be taken on the matter.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I will speak briefly to the amendment, which I support. I have made a number of comments in this Parliament on a matter similar to this. I have been interested in it for a long time. I do not intend to cover the same ground as I have covered on other occasions because, after all, Senator Mason chose the best parts of what I said and quoted them earlier. But I believe that this is an important question. I can foresee that it probably will be some time before we effect a real change. The present procedure is an impediment to public servants at the moment. The real change which seems to me to be needed should be made to the Constitution. Nevertheless while I am a member of parliament I intend to keep supporting such motions. If I do so eventually I can see the change being made.
I would like to mention a word of caution in regard to something that Senator Mason raised. It relates to part of the amendment. Undoubtedly if this matter goes to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs the Committee will look at what Senator Mason has said. Senator Mason ‘s motion refers to a conditional resignation, contingent upon a person being chosen as a senator or member of the House of Representatives, being regarded as sufficient to allow a person not to have to worry about section 44 of the Constitution. I doubt that a public servant could put in a conditional resignation and be allowed to say that he does not hold an office of profit under the Crown. If he puts in a conditional resignation he still holds an office of profit under the Crown until he is chosen as a senator or member, but at the point of being chosen a person would not know whether he was still a public servant or whether his resignation had been accepted.
I think that it would be a very brave public servant who stood for election, who had definite prospects of being elected and who did not resign his position even if there were no statutory provision for him to resign but instead put in a conditional resignation. I think that if this occurred there would be a challenge to that person’s election and the matter eventually would be decided by the courts. If a person places himself in that position he may find eventually that his conditional resignation was satisfactory. On the other hand he will place himself at great expense and also run the risk of having his conditional resignation not accepted. I mention these things at the moment for the benefit of any public servant who is thinking of acting in this way. I say to a public servant contemplating contesting an election to take care and that probably the best course of action, until this matter has been decided, is actually to submit a resignation. I know that if a public servant submits a resignation he runs into all of the problems of being readmitted to the Public Service which I have mentioned before. One of these problems was mentioned here tonight when reference was made to Bill Wood who was a candidate in Queensland for a Federal seat some time ago.
I mention these matters because I think they are important. I am sure that when the Committee gets this reference, as I am sure it will, it will delve into the matter at much greater depth than we are able to do in this chamber.
– I support the amendment. I think this is a matter for inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I think all senators agree that if a public servant wants to run for Parliament he should not jeopardise his position and that if he is unsuccessful he should not be put on the dole scrapheap. I would like to know the meaning of the phrase that an applicant shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting’ as a senator or member. If a candidate cannot be chosen he cannot put himself up for choice. A candidate is chosen at an election. We have had argument in this House on the question of what is an election. There is a High Court judgment that an election does not comprise just election day but comprises the issuing of the writs, the nominations, the election day, the counting of the votes and the swearing in.
– Have a look at Kane v. McClelland in 1 96 1 .
– I have never read of a case as notorious as that one, with such important personalities. Such matters were argued in this House on the occasion of the death of a senator from Western Australia. His vacancy had to be filled at the next election. It. was thought that the next election would be classed as the one that was then pending. It was alleged that he died after the closing of nominations on nomination day and there was some doubt as to whether he was kept on ice for the purpose of announcing his death on that day. The next election was to be held possibly in three years’ time, lt was argued that an election did not just comprise voting day but comprised a series of activities including the issuing of the writs, the nominations and so on. I think that may be the justification for the Public Service Board ‘s decision that a public servant must resign from the date of nomination as that is part of the period of the election. Whether it is or not is a matter for the legal eagles to sort out. Everyone agrees that opportunities should be given for public servants to stand for Parliament without jeopardising their position in the Public Service. If he is foolish enough to select the wrong party he will have no hope of winning the election.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
-Under Standing Order 109 1 withdraw General Business, Notice of Motion No. 8, standing in my name.
– I move:
On 9 October 1979 this report was brought down and I thought that we would not have an opportunity to debate it. We subsequently debated it in great detail in November when legislation came before the Parliament which allowed me to refer to the report. I wanted to point out specifically that the Queensland Government was starving the Brisbane City Council of funds. That matter was mentioned in the report. I outlined that in great detail in November last year. Therefore there is really no further need to debate this report now.
Question Without Notice- Rural Exports to USSR- Egg Industry in the Australian Capital Territory
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– My assignment is very brief. I only ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) who represents in this chamber the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) to endeavour to expedite a response to Question on Notice No. 2367. To assist him in that chore I ask that the question be incorporated in Hansard.
The question read as follows- 2367 Senator Mulvihill: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs-
– I rise tonight mainly at the invitation of Senator Townley who, when he was in the Chair during an earlier debate today, invited me to speak on the adjournment tonight. I am very pleased that he did so because in the meantime I have been able to come by some very valuable information. In confirmity with the policy of my party that we do not confer imperial titles, and as I do not use them, I will have to substitute ‘Mr’ for the title where it appears in some of the publications from which I want to quote. I refer to a question asked yesterday in the House of Representatives by my colleague, the honourable member for Chifley, Mr Armitage. He directed his question to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon). He asked:
Did the Government refuse to issue visas for Russian buyers to attend this month ‘s Dubbo ram sales?
That is one question. He also asked:
Did the pastoral company, Dalgety, act as agent for the Russians at those sales?
That is the second question. He also asked:
Did Dalgety buy 42 rams at prices of up to $5,200 on behalf of the Russians?
That is the third question. He also asked: ls the chairman of Dalgety, Mr William Vines, also chairman of the Menzies Memorial Trust?
The Minister in his answer- I will not quote what happened immediately preceding these words- said:
The answer to the honourable member’s question is yes, yes, yes and yes.
So we find that the Minister agrees that what was said in each one of those questions is true and correct. In the Library today I came across a rural newspaper known as the Land. It is dated 21 February 1980. It contains a series of three photographs. In each one of them appears our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). They are photographs taken at a bull sale at Nareen in western Victoria some weeks ago. The one I am mainly concerned about is the middle picture which shows Mr Fraser with a notebook and a bull. I might say that it is not the picture that appeared on the front page of the Australian. In that picture Mr Fraser ‘s farm manager was being butted by a bull. Mr Fraser did not stop to help him; he clambered to the top rail of the fence as quickly as he could get there. However, mentioning that is not the purpose of my exercise tonight.
The caption to that third photograph in the Land reads: ‘Mr Fraser is shown (at left) with Dalgety Australia’s Victorian stud stock manager, Mr John Sinclair . . . checking sale details with agents and buyers . . . ‘. We now find from the answer given yesterday by the Minister for Primary Industry to Mr Armitage and from that article that appears in the issue of the Land, that Dalgety acts for Mr Fraser in the matter of livestock sales and that it also acts for the Soviet Union in livestock purchases. I am quite sure that this revelation must be a great embarrassment to those Government back benchers who have been so vocal in the last two weeks. Not only are those revelations very embarrassing to people like Senator Puplick, who is seeking to interject, but they are also highly embarrasing to another person.
An Australian Associated Press wire of today which I got from the Library a short time ago reads:
In Sydney today the chairman of Dalgety, Mr William Vines, said the company had been embarrassed to discover it was buying sheep for Russia.
He said that when the company bought the sheep at Dubbo sales it was acting on instructions from an agent in Sydney and Melbourne and did not know the ultimate destination.
The purchase was made after the Government refused visas to a Russian buying team to attend Australian sheep sales.
Mr Vines said the company only found out yesterday that the sheep were probably bound for the Soviet Union.
He said none of the sheep, mostly prime stud stock, had left Australia.
It was now up to the Government to decide whether to issue export permits.
Mr Vines conceded it was the company’s responsibility to find out who it was operating for, but said such instructions were often received at very short notice and without shipping details.
However, it was not up to any organisation or company to determine Australia ‘s international trading policy.
That is clearly the responsibility of the Government and whatever the Government decides, the company will carry out, in both the spirit and the letter’, he said.
Unless export permits were received within three months the sale would be declared void and the sheep returned to the seller.
But of course we do not know who the seller was. We do not know whether those sheep came from the electorate of Wannon, we do not know where they came from. However, we now find that Dalgety is in a very embarrassing situation. It acts as selling agent for the Prime Minister. We now know from what Mr Vines has said that Dalgety acts as buying agent for the Soviet Union. It is up to the Government, led by Mr Fraser, to issue the export permit for sheep bought by the agent who acts both for the Soviet Union and for Mr Fraser. Whatever the Prime Minister does he will cause serious embarrassment. If he does not issue the export permit he will cause serious embarrassment to a well known stock firm, Dalgety Australia. If he issues the export licence he will cause further embarrassment to his Government back benchers who are just about at boiling point because of the attitudes he has taken in relation to certain matters. Not only the people who are interested in agriculture but also the sellers of the rams will be waiting with interest to see what will be the fate of the rams. Are they to be returned in three months to the sellers who may be able to make a claim on the Government for the loss of the selling price? The taxpayers would have to foot such a bill. If Mr Fraser issues the permit we will see a very embarrassing situation. The Olympic people particularly will have a strong claim if he refuses them export permits in the way of visas to go to Moscow for the Olympic Games.
– I rise to refer to a matter about which I have expressed concern before in this Senate and in respect of which I have previously canvassed the issues. I refer to the egg industry in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Dear, oh dear.
– I note that Senator McLaren is not the only one showing his widely recognised interest in this matter; Senator Grimes is also, and I am very grateful to him for that. Tonight I want to refer particularly to the hen quota for the Capital Territory. Without going into the rights and wrongs of the many issues involved with and related to this question, I want to refer to one particular recent decision which has important implications for the Territory. It is my understanding that in recent times the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia, particularly some of the egg marketing boards or authorities, agreed that the Territory should have an increase in its hen quota to 200,000. That proposal went to the Australian Agricultural Council recently. As I understand it, the Agricultural Council rejected the decision that had in fact been agreed upon- again this is as I understand it- among the egg marketing boards or authorities, particularly those in New South Wales and Victoria. Those boards or authorities and the Territory are the parties most directly involved in the dispute and the problems to which I have referred on other occasions in the Senate.
I make the point that on the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia the Capital Territory does not have full representation; it has observer status only. Despite that, however, it had been generally agreed that the Territory should have a substantial increase in its hen quota to meet the needs of the Territory. But when it went to the Agricultural Council, which consists of Ministers for Agriculture, the proposal that the Territory have a substantial increase in its quota to 200,000 birds was rejected. It is my understanding that New South Wales and Victoria took the lead in arguing against any increase in the quota for the Australian Capital Territory, and the proposal was subsequently rejected.
The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) can attend the Australian Agricultural Council meetings but has, in effect, an observertype status rather than the full status accorded the State Ministers. Once again, it becomes more difficult to have the Territory’s view listened to with any sense of understanding and appreciation of the problems the Australian Capital Territory faces, even with such a skilful advocate as our present Minister for the Capital Territory. So we now have a situation in which New South Wales and Victoria at ministerial level, at the Australian Agricultural Council meetings, have rejected any efforts to increase the quota, despite agreement amongst the egg marketing authorities that there should be an increase.
That raises a number of problems for the industry in the Capital Territory. I do not want to canvass those problems again tonight. Previously there have been occasions on which to do that and there will be other such occasions in the future. I simply again draw this matter to the attention of the Senate. I emphasise that the Australian Capital Territory does not have full representation on the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities or on the Australian Agricultural Council and that, despite agreement by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities, any proposal to increase the quota has been rejected. Yet agreement on 200,000 birds for the Territory had been reached. Indeed, that was to be reviewed, presumably upwards, next June. All of that has been rejected by the Australian Agricultural Council.
At this point, I can say only that obviously that is a matter of concern to the Territory. It is a matter of great disappointment that an industry here should be so adversely affected by these developments. But I know that the Minister for the Capital Territory is examining the situation to assess how an increase in the hen quota for the Australian Capital Territory might be achieved and how a reasonable resolution of this difficult problem might be achieved in the interests of orderly egg marketing in Australia and achieved in a way which meets the problems which the Australian Capital Territory has run into in its dealings, particularly with the Australian Agricultural Council. At this point in the Senate, I simply raise these matters to place them on the public record. It may well be that some of the issues involved will need to be discussed in greater detail subsequent to this.
– I will not keep the Senate long. When Senator Knight spoke about eggs in the Australian Capital Territory it raised a spark of interest in me. My concern is about the quality of eggs in the Australian Capital Territory. I am an egg producer. I have six laying hens: Three White Leghorns-Rhode Island Red crosses and two Australorp-White Leghorn crosses. I have one six-year-old red hen of which I am deeply fond. She makes a lot of noise but hardly every produces anything. As it happens, I call her Shirley. When living at home I eat the eggs that are produced in my backyard. They are fine quality eggs with nice orange-red yolks because of the green feed we give them.
It is of considerable disappointment to me, when I come to the Australian Capital Territory and eat eggs, as I do when I come to Parliament, to find that the quality of the eggs here, both from an aesthetic point of view- from the colour of the yolks- and in the taste, are just not up to the quality of the eggs I produce at home. That grieves me badly. I hope that in future when Senator Knight is making the valiant efforts which he always makes in this place to increase the egg quotas for the Australian Capital Territory he will do something about the quality of the eggs produced in the Australian Capital Territory. I hope that he does so not only for the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory but also for those of us who fortunately, or unfortunately, at times have to eat the eggs that we are served in this place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Customs Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1 980 No. 2 1 .
Defence Amendment Act- Interim DeterminationsStatutory Rules 1980 Nos 23, 24.
Navigation Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 Nos 27,28.
Public Service Act- Regulation-Statutory Rules 1980 No. 26.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Regulations 1 980-No. 1 -( Motor Traffic Ordinance ).
Superannuation Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 25.
Trade Commissioners Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 22.
Senate adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 25 October 1979:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since May 1978 when the Report of the Review of PostArrival Programs and Services for Migrants was accepted by the Government as at 25 October 1979, 225 applications have been received for funding under the Grant-in-Aid Scheme. (2), (3) and (4) The following table shows which organisations have been approved for funding since 1 July 1978, when the new scheme took effect. Although some organisations have been approved to receive grants, payments normally do not begin until the selection of the welfare worker to be employed under the grant is finalised. The level of each grant is tentatively set at the time of approval but is subject to possible variations depending upon the qualifications and experience of staff. Present rates are:
Level1-$ 13,500 per annum
Level 2-$ 14,750 per annum
Level 3-$ 17,250 per annum
Level 4-$ 1 9,000 per annum
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 6 November 1979: ls it proposed that the Solicitor-General take action against Federal election candidates who fail to lodge electoral returns after the next Federal by-election or General Election, equivalent to the action taken by the Tasmanian Crown Advocate in charging State election candidates who failed to lodge returns within the prescribed period under the Tasmanian Electoral Act.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As the Solicitor-General’s functions, unlike those of the Tasmanian Crown Advocate, do not include the institution of criminal proceedings, the strict answer is no. Attention is drawn to the Law Officers’ Act 1964,section 12.
However, it is also pointed out that any question whether proceedings should be instituted would have to be considered in the light of all the evidence then available. The question is therefore at this stage hypothetical and no decision in relation to such a question could be made until all the facts were ascertained in the particular case.
Passenger Loading in Qantas 747 Aircraft (Question No. 2311)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 November 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Investment in Hospital by Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd (Question No. 2026)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 October 1979:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 10 October 1979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 1 November 1979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 1 November 1 979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 November 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
A multi-purpose child care centre is a community centre where a range of services for children is provided. Within the limit of funds available under the Children’s Services Program there is no specific restriction on the provision of capital funds for multi-purpose child care centres. However, the aim of the Program is to ensure that Commonwealth assistance goes first to those services most needed in the community and to identified high priority groups of children. To this end, the Office of Child Care within my Department, in consultation with State and Territory Governments, examines needs, identifies gaps in existing services and recommends forms in which assistance should be provided.
As Commonwealth funding for pre schools is made available by way of block grants to the States, no assistance would bc provided under the Children’s Services Program in respect of either the capital cost of the building or subsequent operating costs of a pre-school component located in a multipurpose centre. This and the question of need and availability of funds are the only restrictions placed on the funding of multi-purpose centres.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 February 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800228_senate_31_s84/>.