31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Education (Mr Fife) begins a period of ministerial leave later today. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) will act as Minister for Education until Mr Fife’s return on 12 March.
– I present the following petition from 23 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 objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 29 citizens of Australia:
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:
Whereas before Europeans settled in Australia, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia had lived on their traditional lands from time immemorial and had in Aboriginal law and customs a clear title to those lands; and
Whereas Europeans and other non-Aboriginal people have occupied and used most of the traditional lands of the Aboriginal peoples against their will and without negotiation, compensation or treaty, and
Whereas it has been the practice of nations established in territories previously occupied by indigenous inhabitants to reach a negotiated settlement with those inhabitants; and
Whereas that occupation has seriously damaged the traditional way of life of Aboriginal Australians and has caused poverty and hardship to be the fate of the great majority of their surviving descendants; and
Whereas the surviving descendants of the Aboriginal peoples have expressed a wish to have their rights to land acknowledged, to preserve their link with their Aboriginal ancestors and to maintain their distinctive identity with its own cultural heritage; and
Whereas the people of Australia in 1967 voted overwhelmingly that the Commonwealth Parliament should have responsibility for laws relating to Aboriginal Australians; and
Whereas it is accepted internationally by the United Nations organisation, that each country should work to establish the rights of indigenous peoples to selfdetermination, non-discrimination and the enjoyment of their own culture; and
Whereas the Woodward Commission in 1974 established principles by which Aboriginal rights to land should be acknowledged and realised; and
Whereas the Senate of the Commonwealth Parliament in February 1975 resolved that Aboriginal Australians should be compensated for the loss of their traditional lands and for the damage to their way of life; and
Whereas the National Aboriginal Conference unanimously resolved in April 1979 in Canberra to ask the Commonwealth Government to negotiate a Treaty with Aboriginal Australians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government should invite the Aboriginal people or Australia to negotiate a Treaty with the Commonwealth of Australia, and any Treaty should contain provisions relating to the following matters: (i) The protection of Aboriginal identity, languages, law and culture, (ii) The recognition and restoration of rights to land by applying, throughout Australia, the recommendations of the Woodward Commission, (iii ) The conditions governing mining and exploitation of other natural resources on Aboriginal land, (iv) Compensation to Aboriginal Australians for the loss of traditional lands and for damage to those lands and to their traditional way of life, (v) The right of Aboriginal Australians to control their own affairs and to establish their own associations for this purpose.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from nine citizens of Australia:
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:
Whereas before Europeans settled in Australia, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia had lived on their traditional lands from time immemorial and had in Aboriginal laws and customs a clear title to those lands; and
Whereas Europeans and other non-Aboriginal people have occupied and used most of the traditional lands of the Aboriginal peoples against their will and without negotiation, compensation or treaty; and
Whereas it has been the practice of nations established in territories previously occupied by indigenous inhabitants to reach a negotiated settlement with those inhabitants; and
Whereas that occupation has seriously damaged the traditional way of life of Aboriginal Australians and has caused proverty and hardship to be the fate of the great majority of their surviving descendants; and
Whereas the surviving descendants of the Aboriginal peoples have expressed a wish to have their rights to land acknowledged to preserve their link with their Aboriginal ancestors and to maintain their distinctive identity with its own cultural heritage; and
Whereas the people of Australia in 1967 voted overwhelmingly that the Commonwealth Parliament should have responsibility for laws relating to Aboriginal Australians; and
Whereas it is accepted internationally by the United Nations organisation, that each country should work to establish the rights of indigenous peoples to selfdetermination, non-discrimination and the enjoyment of their own culture; and
Whereas the Woodward Commission in 1974 established principles by which Aboriginal rights to land should be acknowledged and realised; and
Whereas the Senate of the Commonwealth Parliament in February 1975 resolved that Aboriginal Australians should be compensated for the loss of their traditional lands and for the damage to their way of life; and
Whereas the National Aboriginal Conference unanimously resolved in April 1979 in Canberra to ask the Commonwealth Government to negotiate a Treaty with Aboriginal Australians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government should invite the Aboriginal people of Australia to negotiate a Treaty with the Commonwealth of Australia, and any Treaty should contain provisions relating to the following matters: (i) The protection of Aboriginal identity, languages, law and culture, (ii) The recognition and restoration of rights to land by applying, throughout Australia, the recommendations of the Woodward Commission, (iii) The conditions governing mining and exploitation of other natural resources on Aboriginal land, (iv) Compensation to Aboriginal Australians for the loss of traditional lands and for damage to those lands and to their traditional way of life, (v) The right of Aboriginal Australians to control their own affairs and to establish their own associations for this purpose.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
The Deputy Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore 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 Senator Chipp, Senator Martin and Senator Scott.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Yesterday, in answer to a question about impending cuts in Bass Strait oil production, he said:
The Age report about a backlog in maintenance due over the next three months is totally erroneous.
He further stated:
Bass Strait output is currently running at near full capacity and is limited only by shipping availability.
Has he seen the further report in today’s Age which quotes spokesmen from the Esso, Caltex and Shell companies as saying that production cuts of up to 1 10,000 barrels a day- that is 25 per cent of production- caused mainly by a series of statutory inspections of production equipment, will occur over the next three months? Will the Minister stake his position in the Ministry on the accuracy of his answer yesterday, or does he wish to amend it while he still has time?
– My statement yesterday was based on advice given to me, advice checked within the industry. In the light of the Age newspaper headlines of yesterday and the inference of those headlines, I will not vary from what I said. But I will clarify the matter so that we can be absolutely precise. This information once again comes from both departmental and industry sources. I said that the report about a backlog in maintenance in Bass Strait facilities due in the next three months was totally erroneous and that no requests had been made to defer statutory maintenance. That last remark referred, of course, to the coming period of three months. It is true, as the Age article implies, that permission was granted to defer some maintenance due last year. However, that maintenance was deferred to February-March, having been timed to coincide with the scheduled closure of British Petroleum ‘s Westernport refinery and the drydocking of the coastal vessel Arthur Phillip. I also said that, concurrent with the low level of output from Bass Strait in February, the producers were able to complete routine maintenance scheduled for March. I did not intend to convey that all maintenance scheduled for March had been completed but rather that maintenance work is running ahead of schedule. Esso has advised me that maintenance work scheduled for March is about 33 per cent ahead of schedule.
I also said yesterday that Bass Strait output is currently running at near full capacity and is limited only by shipping availability. The producers estimate that production for the current months will average 348,000 barrels a day. This of course is below the total capacity. It is below that for two reasons: Firstly, refinery demand in March is far below normal because a crude processing unit at Geelong, which was severely damaged by fire in December, is still being repaired, and BP’s Westernport refinery requires no transfer of Bass Strait crude until 22 March. Secondly, coastal shipping capacity is inadequate to move to interstate refineries the crude oil that is normally delivered by pipeline. As I said yesterday, output is currently limited by shipping availability and not, as the Age suggested, by a backlog of deferred maintenance. Esso has confirmed to me today that its latest estimate of Bass Strait output for the second quarter of 1980 is 420,000 barrels a day. That is virtually the ceiling output. This improved outlook reflects the reopening of the BP refinery and the arrival in April of a fifth crude oil tanker to work on the Australian coast. At the level estimated, output will exceed the average production rate for the whole of last year, which was 410,000 barrels a day.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Now that Senator Carrick has amended the answer he gave yesterday, can he tell the Senate whether the answer he has given today should be accorded the same degree of reliability as his answer yesterday?
– I have not amended my answer at all; I have simply added to it on the basis that since yesterday I have been able to check both with my Department and with Esso. Yesterday’s information was given to me after being checked with the industry. So the information came from reliable sources in both cases.
-Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware of the outrage and disgust felt by many hundreds of thousands of Australians when they read of the brutal wholesale slaughter of dolphins by fishermen in Japan? Is he aware of the admiration which many Australians feel for the exploits of Dexter Cate in freeing at least 250 of these sensitive, intelligent creatures from a trap? Will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to convey officially and formally to the Government of Japan an expression of the feeling of the Australian people on this subject? Does the Minister now also appreciate the need for urgent legislative action in the form of a marine mammals protection Act, along American lines, to be introduced so as to ensure that no such outrage could take place in Australian waters?
-I think Senator Puplick ‘s question is one that a great many Australians would regard as significant. I believe that there is an absolute need to preserve and to safeguard our marine life. I will bring the question to the attention of the Prime Minister and seek his study of it.
-I refer the Minister representing the Prime Minister to a question I asked him on 1 9 February about the cancellation of the exchange scholarships to the Soviet Union of four Australian research students. I asked on that occasion whether this would demonstrate to the Soviet Union this country’s opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan. I remind the Minister that in his reply he indicated that the decision to cancel these scholarships would be ‘vital in a psychological approach’ and that the aim of the Government was to give the Russian people the message about our concern as to what had happened in Afghanistan. Is the Minister aware that the United States Government is going ahead with all its student exchange programs with the Soviet Union and has stopped only what it describes as high visibility exchanges? Does he still think that the cancellation of four Australian scholars’ entitlements in these circumstances will have, in his own words, a psychological impact on the Russian people? Will the Government reconsider this silly and hypocritical decision?
– Selective use of answers, of course, can always achieve some remarkable results. What I did say, as Senator Button will recall if he refreshes his mind, is that taken in the context of the package I would use the effective boycott of the Olympic Games as an example. Indeed, I was pulled up because I was using that example. The fact is that I pointed out, as I now do, that the important thing is to get the message to the Russian people of the protest of the world about the aggression in Afghanistan. All the factors that may be taken into account are useful factors in that regard, and the Government has decided that this is one of those factors.
– I ask a supplementary question. Did the Minister just say and did he say in answer to my question on 19 February that he put the answer in the context of the Olympic boycott? Did he say that?
– It is my recollection that during a discussion on this matter in my judgment I used the example of the Olympic Games boycott and was in fact asked by the Opposition to stick to the scholarships. If I am wrong in that, I apologise. In any case, I now say that the example of an effective message through the Olympic boycott, which indeed Mr Hayden says would be very vital psychologically, is a classic example of what messages it is necessary to get through, and this is one example of quite a number that are aimed in that regard.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services aware of rumours being circulated in the Cannon Hill area of Brisbane that there are maps drawn up by the Department of Administrative Services for the resumption of homes in connection with the Brisbane Airport work? Are these rumours true?
– I am advised that there is no truth in the rumour mentioned by Senator Martin. However, preliminary studies are being made by the Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Transport of the feasibility and practicability of setting up a radio navigation aid in the Cannon Hill area for use in connection with the Brisbane Airport. In any event, the acquisition of private homes or sites situated within a residential subdivision is not being contemplated at this stage in connection with this Commonwealth activity.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to the circumstances at the Kensington Park Community College where 10 young Adelaide women are doing a typing and receptionist course provided by that College. If they should attend that course in the times allocated for training they would be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefit. It is impossible to adjust the times if the course is to be done in a proper fashion. I ask the Minister to examine the circumstances of the case which, to me, seem to be quite different from other cases because in this case the girls cannot get employment. They have told the Department that if they can secure employment in any capacity they will give up their training. It is a case also where the women have not previously been able to get into that course. I ask the Minister whether she would be good enough to examine the circumstances, because the local member and I have been asked to make representations about the case.
-I certainly will undertake to look at the matter raised by Senator Bishop. I believe it would be understood by him that there are requirements for unemployment benefit which require a person to be able to accept employment if it is offered. I understand from the honourable senator’s remarks that these girls at the College are fulfilling that requirement on request of employment opportunities. I think it is also understood that, as a general practice, there is a rule that where some part time study is undertaken less than eight hours a week is the normally accepted time that would not disqualify someone from receiving unemployment benefit. However, it is possible to look at individual circumstances. I certainly give an assurance that I will see that the Department looks at the course and the availability for employment of the girls concerned. I will give an early answer to Senator Bishop.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment by saying that no doubt the Minister’s attention has been drawn to the question asked by my colleague, the honourable member for Denison, in the other place yesterday relating to the possible and sensible transfer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Division of Fisheries and Oceanography from its present headquarters at Cronulla, New South Wales, to Hobart. No doubt the Minister is also aware of the report of the CSIRO Ocean Sciences Review Committee which supports the establishment of at least the oceanography group of CSIRO at Hobart in conjunction with the Antarctic Division. I ask: As oceanography is a very difficult subject to study without a suitable ship, is the Minister able to say when CSIRO will be funded so that it can have its own ship of a proven design which, even if ordered now, will take some two years to build? Is he aware that southern Tasmania would be a most suitable base for such a ship and its crew?
– I am aware of the question which was referred to by the honourable senator and which was asked in the other place by Mr Hodgman.
– It was raised four months ago in Hobart by me. He is four months out of date but the Minister gave him my information.
-The Leader of the Opposition seems very anxious to jump on to this bandwagon. I had not heard of his intervention four months ago. Perhaps he can send me particulars of that matter so that I will be better informed about it. The matter of an oceanographic ship for CSIRO, is the subject of a submission from CSIRO to the Government. That submission is currently under consideration. I am not able to indicate at this stage when a decision will be made. The virtues of Hobart are frequently drawn to the attention of the Senate by Senator Townley and other honourable senators from Tasmania. I have no doubt that the advantages of Hobart for oceanographic research will be carefully considered by both CSIRO and the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs. It is complementary to the question asked yesterday by my colleague Senator Melzer. Is the Minister aware that the national conference to mark the mid-point of the United Nations Decade for Women is being held in Canberra this week? Is he aware also that the conference will be made up of approximately 100 delegates chosen by a ballot conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office- 40 delegates chosen at large and representing various minority organisations and seven delegates selected by the Minister for Home Affairs? Can the Minister inform the Parliament why the seven delegates were hand-picked by the Minister for Home Affairs? Is it a coincidence that most of those chosen are persons holding very conservative political views? Are those seven delegates to act as a listening post for the Minister? Why were they appointed without consultation with the National Women’s Advisory Council or without discussion with at least the various conferences which were held over the past few months? Perhaps the explanation is that both the Minister and the Government are afraid of women unless they can be expected to conform.
– It may be appropriate for me to reply to this question and, at the same time, present a reply to Senator Melzer’s question of yesterday, which was very much along the same lines. I have received from the Minister the following reply to her question: Approximately 60 delegates-at-large have been invited to attend the national conference to mark the mid-point of the United Nations Decade for Women. The purpose of appointing such delegates was to ensure that the broadest possible range of views is represented at the conference, and that women with particular expertise and experience attend. The Government has no intention of keeping these names secret. In fact, if the honourable senator calls on the Minister’s office, he will be happy to provide her with a list. As is usual conference procedure, the names of all delegates attending the conference will be available to participants on registration.
I shall refer the other matter raised by Senator Keeffe to the Minister for Home Affairs for his answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. The Federal Firefighters Union in Darwin claims that the Darwin International Airport has been reduced from category 8 to category 7. It is understood that this will mean a reduction in fire fighting equipment of some 30 per cent and a drop in staff of two or three personnel, and that a rapid intervention vehicle which is not in commission at present is not to be replaced. Can the Minister advise me whether this statement is correct and whether Darwin is the only international airport classified in such a category? If this is so, what is the reason for the action and why have fire fighting facilities been so reduced at such an important airport, which caters for large numbers of commercial interstate and intrastate aircraft, international aircraft, Australian Defence Force aircraft, freighters, charter aircraft and other light aeroplanes, et cetera?
-My advice is that the Darwin International Airport’s rescue and fire fighting services are to be reduced from category 8 to category 7 in the near future. Guidance material and recommendations are issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation with respect to these matters and the determination of the category at Australian international airports is strictly in accordance with the criteria which are laid down. Category 7 is appropriate for the size and number of aircraft now using the Darwin Airport. A new rapid intervention vehicle will be provided for Darwin when deliveries are made as a result of a contract shortly to be let. This contract is the result of the calling worldwide of tenders for the supply of the most modern rapid intervention vehicles available. Darwin will be the only international airport in Australia in category 7; but Cairns, which has regular international services, is in category 6 and Norfolk Island is in category 4. The categorisation of Darwin is not affected by the current nonavailability of a rapid intervention vehicle.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer familiar with the practice adopted in recent United States Budgets of including in the Budget documents precise forecasts of likely movements in the main economic indicators for a period of three years ahead? Is he aware, for example, that in the Budget brought down a few weeks ago by President Carter for the 1981 fiscal year there were, notwithstanding the political embarrassment they might have been expected to cause the Government, forecasts of substantial increases in unemployment and a substantial decline in the growth rate in the United States in the immediate future? When will the Australian Government demonstrate a similar frankness and maturity in the development and presentation of Australian Budgets? When, in particular, can we expect the present obsessive secrecy and sensitivity which surrounds Treasury economic forecasts to be relaxed so that we too can have some realistic basis on which to evaluate the worth of Government economic measures?
-It is true that all Federal governments in Australia, both Labor and Liberal, have undertaken annual budgeting and have adopted the practices that Senator Evans now finds defective. Suggestions have been made of longer term forecasting. There is no doubt that there is a lot of merit in the suggestion. I am quite sure that in the past the Treasury and the Government have had a look at the proposition. It is attractive so to do. I have not seen President Carter’s three-year forecasts, but I can understand his difficulties in a world in which the domination of oil pricing by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has dried up international trade and has affected exchange rates. I will ask the Treasury whether it has had any recent thoughts on this matter. If it has, I will get in touch with Senator Evans and communicate the information to him.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport I refer to the move by Trans-Australia Airlines to seek a 40 per cent discount throughout the year for its super APEX faresthat is, advance purchase excursion fares. In reaching a decision on the application, will the
Government take into account the obvious social and economic advantages of allowing the domestic carriers to pursue independent fare and schedule policies? Will the Government encourage further moves towards independent policies by both TAA and Ansett Airlines of Australia?
-The Minister for Transport has received a proposal from the Australian National Airlines Commission for the fares which were mentioned in the honourable senator’s question. The considerations which he raised are, of course, very important. The Government would certainly be interested in seeing lower air fares for all Australians. It appreciates that in a country the size of Australia lower air fares are a significant factor in encouraging, among other things, national unity. I will draw the points which have been made in the question to the Minister’s attention. I have no doubt that he will have such considerations in mind. He has advised me that he has only just received the proposal which received some publicity in the Press this morning. He welcomes the initiative which has been proposed and has asked his Department to give the application urgent consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that the Australian Government played a significant part in the constitutional settlement and subsequent election in Zimbabwe, which has now clearly been won by the party of Mr Robert Mugabe, will the Australian Government undertake immediate discussions with the new government to ensure that Australia conducts the most generous possible aid program to assist with post-war reconstruction? Will the Government undertake to encourage other Commonwealth nations to assist in special aid programs to Zimbabwe?
– I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs state the current position regarding the establishment of the off-shore boundaries between Australia and Timor?
– I do not have the immediate information. It is a matter that requires a precise answer. I will seek the information and let Senator Young have it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, relates to a commodity known in America as a pacifier and in Australia as a baby’s dummy. By way of preface I indicate that a particular brand of baby’s dummy has been dumped in Australia after being banned in the United States of America. That brand of dummy was blamed for the deaths of six American babies, who allegedly choked. After those dummies were renamed ‘teething rings’, about 120,000 of them were shipped to Australia last year. The American organisation concerned, the Reliance Corporation of Rhode Island, shipped the 120,000 dangerous babies’ dummies to Australia after the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission had banned their sale. The United States Congress has since enacted a law preventing the export of products banned as unsafe in the United States. I ask the Minister: Do we have any Commonwealth legislation or regulations preventing the import or export, perhaps to neighbouring countries, of products banned here in Australia? Further, was the Australian Government notified of the American ban on that product and sent background details of research undertaken into it, as was reported in an article in the Australian to have been stated by a United States official? Finally, I ask the Minister to make available to the Senate details of safety checks made on all imported and exported children’s and infants’ products, whether they are clothes, toys, furniture or whatever.
-Senator O ‘Byrne’s question raised a number of matters of fact and also a legal question of whether we have regulations preventing the export or, I presume, the import of articles, the export of which from America has been banned. I am not familiar with the details of the case to which he referred. I will refer the question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and ask him to let me have an early answer.
-Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate say what was the response from the various State governments following the approach made to them last year on the subject of voluntary membership of student unions at universities and colleges of advanced education in the States?
– It is now some months since I had personal involvement in this matter. I have not had the opportunity to discuss it with my colleague the Minister for Education. It is an important subject. I will get in touch with the Minister and seek the information.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in view of a statement made by the Prime Minister in his address on Monday this week to businessmen when opening the campaign by the National Aboriginal Employment Development Committee. I refer particularly to the Prime Minister’s passionate appeal when he concluded his address by saying:
The challenge is now up to all of us- governments, employers, trade unions and the whole community- to see that avenues are opened up for Aboriginal people to find opportunities for employment in their own country, equal to those available to others.
I ask the Minister How many Aboriginals are employed at Nareen? How many Aboriginals are employed on the properties or in the businesses of other Ministers of the present Government when the Prime Minister is appealing to people to provide assistance for the employment of Aboriginals?
– I am somewhat surprised at Senator Cavanagh ‘s attempt to cheapen what is a serious matter and the way in which he has treated it in his question. The issue of Aboriginal employment or unemployment is a very serious one. The Department of Employment and Youth Affairs currently estimates that 36 to 37 per cent of Aboriginal people who seek employment are unemployed. That is a very severe figure. I am aware that a number of Ministers have Aboriginal people on their personal staffs. I have no knowledge of whether Ministers employ any Aboriginal people in a private capacity.
Let me say that the Government regards this situation not as a matter for cheap point scoring but as a matter which requires a little national attention and interest. Let me direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Government operates a network of programs which aim to tackle this severe problem. I remind the Senate of the community development employment projects which we have recently agreed to expand. They currently employ about 700 Aboriginals in remote communities. We expect the projects to employ about another 1,200 Aboriginals when the scheme is expanded. I refer to the special works projects financed by the Government. They employ about 350 Aboriginals.
I refer to the fact that about 2,500 Aboriginal people are receiving training under the National Employment and Training System at the moment- a very considerable expansion on previous figures. That is another earnest of the Government’s regard for this matter. I refer to the fact that about 3,000 people are employed under State grants and payments made by the Commonwealth to Aboriginal organisations and State departments. I refer to the fact that under Aboriginal study grants about 7,000 Aboriginals are receiving post-secondary school training. All these matters are an indication of how seriously the Government regards this problem. I suggest to the Senate and to the Australian public that the question I have been asked is a cheap attempt to score a point on a serious matter.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs tell me how many Aboriginals are employed on the property at Nareen?
– I have answered the question very fully. The supplementary question is not a matter within my ministerial responsibility.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the Commonwealth Ombudsman Act and an undertaking by the Government that a Commonwealth deputy ombudsman with sole responsibility for the Australian Capital Territory would be appointed. In view of the large number of Australian Capital Territory matters being put to the Ombudsman because there is no State ombudsman in the Territory, does the Government still intend to make this appointment? When will a deputy ombudsman be appointed to deal specifically with Australian Capital Territory matters?
– My understanding is that, at the Government’s request, the Administrative Review Council has undertaken a comprehensive review of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction, including whether it is appropriate at this stage to appoint a deputy ombudsman for the Australian Capital Territory. The Administrative Review Council’s report has been received by the Government and is now being considered. An appropriate statement will be made as soon as possible. I fully understand Senator Knight’s keen interest in this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. He will be aware of the recently announced Government decision to approve a deposits insurance scheme for permanent building societies. Will the
Government give consideration to the inclusion of credit unions in the same scheme? If not, why not?
-I will refer Senator Primmer ‘s question to the Treasurer and seek a response.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to serious accidents involving large trucks carrying heavy loads of large items such as concrete slabs and heavy drums. There is a reference to this matter in an editorial in today’s issue of the Australian. As loss of life is involved as well as serious injury and damage, can the Minister indicate any steps which the Department of Transport can take to control the apparent carelessness of operators whose loads are not secure and whose speed is irresponsible? Will the Government convene a meeting of State authorities to give this dangerous matter urgent attention?
-As Senator Davidson will know, this is not a matter that is within the direct legislative competence of the Federal Government. The State governments have the responsibility for legislating in the area of road traffic. That is a matter which I do not think will change. The Senate will also know that there are regular meetings of Transport Ministers in which the national government participates. The meetings are used as a vehicle for obtaining uniform treatment of traffic matters around Australia. There is a national road traffic code. It is a guidance document only for State and Territory administrations. It is endorsed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council. It already has provisions which prescribe that no person shall drive a vehicle carrying a load unless the load is so arranged, contained, fastened or covered that neither the load nor any part of it will fall or otherwise escape from the vehicle.
The States have different provisions relating to this question, but I understand that one of the advisory committees serving ATAC is developing a code of loading practice which will come before the Council in due course. It is hoped that this code will put together the best practices in attaching and restraining loads as a guide to the transport industry and government bodies. I think ATAC has been a very successful experiment in obtaining uniform and comprehensive traffic rules. I have no doubt that the matter which Senator Davidson has raised and which is an important matter will receive the same careful attention as has been given to similar problems by the Council.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs. It concerns the nature of the Australian delegation to the United Nations international conference in Copenhagen in July of this year to mark the mid-point of the Decade of Women. By way of preface, I remind honourable senators that the international conference in Mexico City in 1975 to mark the beginning of that decade was appropriately led by three Australian women. Is it a fact that the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Ellicott, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, will lead the delegation to this year’s conference? If so, will the Government urgently reconsider such an absurd situation so that a group of outstanding Australian women can lead that delegation?
-I note the question of the honourable senator. I will refer it to the Minister for his reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the failure of the Walter rapid intervention fire appliance at both the fatal air crash of a commuter aeroplane at Mascot and a recent simulated accident, is the Government satisfied with the performance of these vehicles? Has a thorough independent evaluation of these vehicles taken place? Are couplings and other equipment interchangeable between Department of Transport vehicles at airports and those of the State and local government fire fighting appliances? Finally, will the Government in future give priority to Australian manufactured products rather than permit the Deparment of Transport to write specifications effectively excluding Australian manufacturers?
– The honourable senator has raised in his question a series of detailed matters to which I do not have an immediate reply. The Senate will recall that work on uniform couplings has been done by the Commonwealth Fire Board and that a report which was put down in the Senate last year, I think, indicated that that matter had had attention and that the recommendations were then passed on to the various authorities that operate in this field. I am not sure what action has been taken. I will seek information on the three points raised by the honourable senator in his question and let him have a reply.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister will be aware of the concern expressed to the Treasurer, Mr Howard, on 5 February by the Cattle Council of Australia in respect of the adverse taxation consequences which follow the enforced sale of diseased cattle herds in the carrying out of the disease eradication program. As the present interpretation of section 36AAA of the Income Tax Assessment Act may well make producers reluctant to sell diseased cattle, with the resultant adverse effect on the tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication campaign, I ask the Minister whether the Government will accede to the request of the Cattle Council and extend to disease enforced sales the same provisions as are now applicable to drought enforced sales.
-That is a policy matter. I will refer it to the Treasurer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister is, of course, aware of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Consitutional and Legal Affairs on the provisions of legislation empowering Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who live on reserves in Queensland to manage and control their own affairs. A report was tabled on 23 November 1978. As the Minister is aware, that report contains a number of recommendations relating to the powers of the Australian Parliament in respect of Aboriginal matters. As it is now some 15 months since that report was tabled and in view of the Government’s undertakings in respect of the making of statements on recommendations within six months of the presentation of reports, could the Minister indicate whether we can expect some early response to this report?
– I am, of course, aware of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which was tabled in November 1978. I was a member of that Committee when it began the reference. I well remember the report and its content. I regret that I have not yet reported to the Senate on that report, and therefore I have breached the direction which the Government has given with respect to response. I have answered a number of questions in the Senate about this matter and I think honourable senators generally have been aware of the course which I have been pursuing in the State of Queensland, with which the report was concerned. At the moment I have a Cabinet submission in the course of preparation which I hope to put to the Government very shortly and which will contain a formal response to this Senate. I do think that the Senate has been largely aware of the action taken by the Government following the receipt of that report. I will ensure that the honourable senator gets formal documentation of that in the reasonably near future.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is aware that South Australia receives a lower share of Commonwealth Government funds for legal aid and has fewer legal aid offices than any comparable State or Territory in Australia? Is he aware, for example, that in 1978-79 the South Australian Legal Services Commission received $1.26 per capita compared with $1.97 per capita for the Western Australian Legal Aid Commission and $6.50 per capita for the Australian Capital Territory Legal Aid Commission? What steps is the Attorney-General or his Department taking to redress this unfair situation? Does the AttorneyGeneral or his Department intend to provide the funds sought by the South Australian Legal Services Commission in order to allow it to open legal aid offices at Whyalla and Christies Beach? Has the Attorney-General approached or had discussions with the South Australian AttorneyGeneral on this question?
-The Commonwealth funds for legal aid given in the Federal area are not based upon a per capita sum throughout Australia. The funds that are made available, either through State legal aid commissions such as that which exists in South Australia or through the existing Australian Legal Aid Office, vary considerably from State to State. There are historical reasons for that and they arise from the fact that when the former Federal Labor Government first entered the area of legal aid and established the Australian Legal Aid Office there were differing legal aid schemes existing in the States. Some States had already established quite significant legal aid schemes, such as a public solicitor or a public defender, whereas other States had not done so. So the Australian Legal Aid Office, when introduced, was dealing with a situation which differed from State to State, and that situation has continued.
When the State legal aid commissions have been set up- they are not all set up as yet, but South Australia certainly has one- the agreements with the States have provided for them to maintain the existing efforts of the former Australian Legal Aid Office in the States in what is known as the Federal area of responsibility. The obligations which have been undertaken by agreement with the States are based upon the historical level of assistance which has been given to the particular State.
It has been brought to my notice that there does seem to be some considerable discrepancy between the money that is provided and the commitments that can be undertaken in South Australia compared with Western Australia. I do not accept the fact that there should be the same effort because the position does differ in every State. But certainly the discrepancy is quite marked and I have been concerned about it and have looked at it. At the moment I am endeavouring to rectify some of the problems which have arisen in South Australia. That is not to say that I am seeking to give South Australia the same as Western Australia. That is not the basis on which legal aid funds have been provided, for reasons I have given. But I am looking at the matter and I have recently been in touch with the South Australian Legal Aid Commission. I have suggested where I can make some improvement. I do not know whether the Commission has received my letter yet. Perhaps it would be courteous if I did not say what has been done until I know that the Commission has received my letter. The establishment of regional offices in that State is a matter which will have to be considered in the Budget context. When I visited South Australia recently I had discussions with the South Australian Legal Aid Commission, with the Law Society of South Australia Incorporated and with the South Australian Attorney-General.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Health to a resolution adopted last year by the Australian Automobile Association conference concerning the need for a colour-coded labelling system for drugs which could react adversely when taken with alcohol. Does the Minister regard such a labelling system as necessary under the present pharmacy distribution system? Will the Minister have such a system investigated by her colleague’s Department to determine the feasibility and practicality of such a proposal?
-I will need to refer that matter to the Minister for Health. My understanding is that matters related to those raised by Senator Messner have been dealt with at various State Ministers meetings and in other ways. However, I will get up to date information on the matter for the honourable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications been drawn to an article in the National Times of 29 December 1979 in which it is reported that a staff member of the Minister for Science and the Environment, Mr David Thomson, also works as a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Mr Thomson’s home town of Cairns? Is the person concerned, a Mr Robert O’sullivan, still working for Mr Thomson and the ABC? Is the Minister satisfied that it is ethical for a person to work for a Federal Minister and as a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– I have no information on the matter which has been raised by the honourable senator. I must say that I have no precise information about journalistic ethics either, but I will seek guidance on both points and let the honourable senator have a reply.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the suggestions made by a director of the Electrona Carbide company that its current round of financial shortages is, according to the Mercury newspaper, due to a virtual boycott of Australian carbide products by the communist bloc countries, can the Minister advise whether the Government has any evidence, or has received any suggestion, of any reverse boycott situation against Australia or any Australian industry?
-It is only in recent minutes that my attention has been drawn to a newspaper cutting regarding the Electrona Carbide company. I note the significant statement of the director. He is quoted as saying that he would not say whether a boycott was in retaliation after Australia’s trade sanction against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. I think that point should be made. I have no knowledge of any such retaliation. Certainly none has come to my notice. But I will ask my colleague in another place. If any information is available I will convey it to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to either the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment. It is virtually a corollary of that asked by Senator Puplick but relates to fishing policy. In view of the fact that we have already issued a fishing franchise to Japanese interests in respect of our 200-mile zone, does such agreement specify the catching of fish and not mammals? Will we have Australian observers on each of the trawlers involved? Are there any punitive clauses in the agreement to make it null and void in the case of any repetition of the dolphin carnage to which Senator Puplick referred?
-I note the fairly wide ranging nature of Senator Mulvihill ‘s question which will require considerable detail to provide an answer. I do not have that detail with me at the moment, but I shall seek it and advise the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. As a preamble to my question, I say that the recently announced structural changes in the Army are most welcome. For the first time we will have ready reaction forces trained in amphibious warfare and in parachute attack, thus overcoming glaring weaknesses in our Defence Force capabilities. Is it not a fact that one of the great difficulties in organising ready reaction forces in the past was the Government direction that men under 1 9 years of age should not be sent overseas? Are there not many men under 19 years of age in existing battalions? Would not the Government requirement mean extensive reorganisation and retraining before a battalion could actually be used overseas? Has this age requirement been removed, so that men who volunteer for the Army can be sent wherever they are needed, as is already the case with the Navy and the Air Force?
-The direction that soldiers under 19 years of age should not be sent to operational areas was made in 1942 and confirmed by the government of the day in 1 95 1 , and remains the policy. This certainly does create some difficulties along the lines that Senator Hamer has mentioned. I am advised by the Minister for Defence that, along with a number of other matters concerning Army organisation, this question is under review in the Department of Defence.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware that widows who are under the age of 45 years automatically lose their entitlement to the widow’s pension when the youngest of their children leaves school? Are such women then expected to find employment? In these days of high unemployment, when they are unable to find employment, especially in small country towns, are they advised to apply for unemployment benefit, often to be told that they are not eligible for benefit because they have just been taken off the widow’s pension? Are such women then advised to apply for an invalid pension? Pending determination of that application, are they placed on special benefit payments? Is the Minister aware that in these days of high unemployment- I emphasise, especially, in small country towns- this policy is causing untold worry and concern to a large number of women and their families? In view of the anxieties that the policy is causing, will the Minister be prepared to review the matter because it is a hangover from the policy in the days of full employment?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEThere are provisions in the Social Services Act which relate to widows’ pensions- Class A widows’ pensions, or Class B and C widows’ pensions- and some of the matters referred to by Senator McClelland do take effect under the Act. I am not aware of any widows being required to seek invalid pension, because there are precise requirements for an invalid pension. I can understand that there are those who would be seeking unemployment benefit if they were not eligible for any other benefit. I will check the matter which the honourable senator raised regarding the difficulty with regard to receipt of unemployment benefit for those who are no longer eligible for the widow’s pension.
– Check with your Lismore office.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI thank Senator McClelland. I will check the matter that he has raised. With regard to his request that the matter be reviewed, I think that it is a matter that could have consideration as a matter of policy, but the provisions in respect of the widow’s pension under the Social Services Act have remained unchanged for quite a number of years. They perhaps do reflect different times because they do reflect the total dependency of women in the past on a male breadwinner in the family. Whilst we now have such other benefits as the supporting parent’s benefit and others which reflect social changes that have occurred, the widow’s pension has not been changed in any substantial way for a number of years. However, I will take note of what Senator McClelland has said. As he has mentioned one particular office in New South Wales, I will see whether there are any special difficulties there.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether he is aware of a report on this morning’s AM radio program that critics, whom I take to be uninformed and mischievous, of the Aboriginal Development Commission Bill claim:
What on the surface looks like self-management for blacks, is in fact an exercise in ministerial control and paternalism.
Can the Minister assure the Senate that the Bill, soon to be debated in this place, is consistent with the Government’s stated policy of Aboriginal self-management and will ensure that Aboriginals are able to make their own decisions and determine their own priorities?
– I can assure the Senate that the Aboriginal Development Commission Bill is consistent with the Government’s policy of self-management. The fact is that the proposal which is at present before the Parliament, but which is not necessarily in final form, will involve shifting the functions of some existing commissions, such as the Land Fund Commission and the Loans Commission, into a single body which will have- as is presently proposed- seven Aboriginal members out of 10 members. It is a little ironic that the report was on AM this morning. I did hear it. It struck me at the time that perhaps it was strange that I had not been asked to make some comment. I could have told the Australian Broadcasting Commission that I am meeting with the National Aboriginal Conference today to discuss its suggestions with respect to the Development Commission.
Because we want Aboriginals to be involved in this matter and because we want to meet their requirements, we have had a very lengthy process of consultation with Aboriginal communities. Indeed, many of the members of the group who were quoted on AM this morning and who, I think, came from the Redfern Aboriginal Legal Service were present at at least one meeting held in Sydney to discuss the Bill. Within the last few days I have been looking at their suggestions and at others which have been made with respect to the Bill. I would expect to come back to this chamber within a month or so to advise the Senate on the result of the extensive negotiations and discussions we have had with Aboriginal groups, and mainly with the National Aboriginal Conference, and to advise the Senate of what amendments are proposed to the Bill in light of those Aboriginal suggestions.
I do not regret the fact that that report took place this morning. It was consistent with views which were put to my officers when they were discussing the Bill in Sydney. I think it is a pity that the report did not also indicate that there has been this extensive process of consultation and that, even if the Bill remained exactly as it was, there would be a substantial move towards Aboriginal control as against the situation which applies now.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Under the Government’s new flexible pricing policy arrangements for imported oil which have been the subject of some questions and answers in this chamber in the last couple of weeks -
– Questions rather than answers.
-That is true, there have been many questions but few answers. The Minister has stated that the Government will make adjustments when it feels they are appropriate. I ask the Minister: What are the factors the Government will take into consideration when determining an appropriate time for passing on increases in the price of oil?
– The policy is not new. In fact, it was announced in June last year. There is nothing new about it at all. The matter of the timing will be one of judgment by the Government at the time. There is nothing new about the policy at all. It is basically the policy announced in June last year.
- Mr President -
– I call Senator Bonner.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– I am sorry; I call Senator Wriedt.
-I am fully aware of the statement made by the Prime Minister last June. That is not the question I am asking. Are we to assume from the Minister’s answer that the increases in the price of oil to be passed on to Australian consumers will be a matter of sheer political convenience on the part of the Government, simply because the Government’s policy which was announced, and to which not only the Minister but also the Prime Minister and other Ministers said they would adhere, is now no longer tenable in the eyes of the Australian electorate?
-I have frequently stated in this place that what Senator Wriedt and the Australian Labor Party assume is for them. The answer is no, they are not to assume that.
Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I think that you had called Senator Bonner to ask a question.
– Before Senator Wriedt sought to ask a supplementary question, I had called Senator Bonner.
– I am perfectly happy to allow that. We do that every day of our lives, in favour of the Australian Labor Party.
– I thank you, Mr President, and I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for allowing me to ask this question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Have the Department of Transport and the two major domestic airlines completed their consideration of the domestic air transport policy review regarding the air fare formula?
– My understanding is that the answer to that question is that it is not completed. I know that the whole question of the two-airline agreement and so on is a matter of discussion between the Minister for Transport and the airlines, and as far as I know the questions of fares and so on are still under active consideration.
-Senator Douglas McClelland asked me a question on 4 March on the state of negotiations on the proposed nuclear safeguards agreements with Japan and with Euratom- the European Atomic Energy Community. To date, there have been three rounds of negotiations with Japan on an Australia-Japan nuclear safeguards agreement and two rounds of negotiations with the European Commission on an Australia-Euratom nuclear safeguards agreement. Dates for the next rounds of negotiations with Japan and with Euratom have not been finalised. As these negotiations are continuing, and are confidential to the parties, it would be inappropriate for the Government to go into detail on them. Under the Government’s nuclear safeguards policy, announced by the Prime Minister in May 1977, the conclusion of nuclear safeguards agreements with customer countries is required before Australian uranium can be exported to those countries under new contracts.
-Yesterday Senator Gietzelt drew attention to a date in a Press statement in which, I think, I announced an extension to the petroleum products freight subsidy scheme. I have to say that the date shown as 1976 should have been 1978. It was in fact, in the draft statement that I authorised and that I have before me. The year of 1976 was inadvertently typed by a typist. Fortunately, it is not of any consequence to the substance of the matter.
– I have received a letter from Senator Button proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The Government’s decision to proceed with the building of Casey Military Academy.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The subject matter of this debate is:
The Government’s decision to proceed with the building of the Casey Military Academy.
The decision to proceed with the building of this establishment was announced on 7 December 1979. It was announced in rather a sneaky manner, because it was announced at the same time as the announcement of a Cabinet reshuffle, it was announced at the same time as a report on the Premiers Conference and, significantly enough, it was announced the day after Senator Carrick was removed from the portfolio of education. It is a little difficult to grapple with the concept of this institution, which has, over the years, been described first of all as Casey university, then as Casey university military academy, then as Casey military academy and then as the military academy.
If there is one common thread which seems to run through the concept of Casey University, which changes frequently, it is that Service personnel should have what is called a university education in a military environment. The most bizarre aspect of that is the proposal of the planning committee that Casey University, or whatever it may be called, be presided over jointly by a commandant and a vice-chancellor. Whether or not that proposal is still current in the concept of the planning committee is not quite clear.
The decision to proceed with this matter has been made because it is a pet project of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and has, indeed, been a pet project of his for some 10 years. Let me refer briefly to the transcript of the AM radio program of 21 February this year which reported that matter in this way:
Since he was Defence Minister in the Gorton Ministry, the Prime Minister has nurtured a soft spot for the establishment of a Military Academy in Canberra, which would unite all the academic aspects of the Services under one umbrella. However, at the time it was reported that his submission to Cabinet was rejected because it was sloppy and ill-prepared. Undeterred the Prime Minister has pressed on.
So 10 years later, in this bizarre circumstance on 7 December last year, a decision to proceed with the establishment of this institution was announced. I used the word unkindly perhaps and said that the decision was announced sneakily. It was announced sneakily because it was an embarrassing decision for most members of the present Government who are capable of recognising the hypocrisy of talking about economic constraint on the one hand and proceeding with this project on the other. I bear in mind that since the project was announced on 7 December the official estimated cost compared with the unofficial cost has risen from $65m to $79m.
The project was announced in this way because it is embarrassing to anyone in the present Government that the building of this institution should proceed when this Government has such a shocking record in relation to defence matters. Of course it is embarrassing to supine Ministers in this Government who accepted the decision for fear- in the words of the Office of National Assessments, as reported yesterday- that the Prime Minister might ‘over-react’ if they did not accept the decision. The fact that it was announced the day after Senator Carrick ‘s removal from the education portfolio is also significant. Senator Carrick knew that this proposal did not wash in terms of Government spending priorities and he opposed it in the Cabinet. Senator
Carrick may well say today that he thinks the project is a very good idea because, if one thing can be said about the Leader of the Government in this House, he is a very loyal Minister. That is one of the things I like about him. He will go down with the ship. I congratulate him on fis continued loyalty to the Prime Minister over this most extraordinary development.
I said that it was a pet project of the Prime Minister that this extravagant institution should be built. The Melbourne Herald of 15 December last year gives some idea of where this pet project came from. Let me quote from an article by Peter Costigan of that date.
– You would not think the Labor Government had endorsed it, would you?
-The honourable senator should not get excited about that. We did not proceed with it in a time of economic constraint. The words of Peter Costigan about this decision are as follows:
The spectre of violent American students driving young American military brass off university campuses and razing their headquarters seems to be haunting Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and his Defence Minister Jim Killen.
It is that memory from the late 60s which is the dominant justification for one of the most extraordinary decisions the current Australian Government has taken.
He went on to state:
Mr Fraser was Minister for Defence from November 1 969 to March 8, 1971, when his resignation from the post triggered the downfall of the then Prime Minister, John Gorton.
That is something to remember. He went on to state:
In 1 970, Mr Fraser submitted a proposal to Cabinet for a new defence ‘university’ to be built in Canberra to train officers for all the services. It was swiftly rejected by the Gorton Government with Mr Fraser gaining virtually no support for the concept outside some groups in the military establishment.
He said further:
It is hard to find any other supporters-
That is, other than Mr Killen- for the project either, outside the obviously self-interested groups in Canberra itself who hope to benefit from the plan.
Mr Costigan stated on 1 5 December that he had been unable to find amongst the Ministers any willing supporters for the Prime Minister’s proposal, other than Mr Killen. Mr Costigan went on to deal with what he called the quite devastating report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and its recommendations about this matter as a matter of priority. In those sorts of circumstances one wonders what this is all about and whether, in the light of what I shall say in a moment, this will be not just another monument to be erected in Canberra to the memory of Malcolm Fraser and for the benefit of foreign tourists. There is really very little other justification to be found for the proposal.
Let us look at some of the objections which can be specifically pointed to. Earlier I referred to the change in the official estimates of costs. Most outside experts think that it will cost much more than the estimated costs. If the costs escalate at the rate at which they have escalated since the announcement of the project on 7 December, almost the whole of the Fraser Government’s petrol tax will be absorbed in the payment for the building of this institution. I want to identify three particular arguments which we have against this proposal. First of all, it is wrong in terms of educational priorities. That is not an Australian Labor Party view; it is the view of the Australian University Vice-Chancellors Committee, it is the view of the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations and it is the view of the Federation of College Academics. One might say they are all bodies with vested interests against the expenditure on the proposed military academy. It is also against the view of such authorities as Mr Peter Jones, Minister for Education in Sir Charles Court’s Government. In a letter published in the National Times of 12 January 1980 Mr Jones stated:
The article by Deborah Snow referring to the proposed National Defence Academy . . . , provides some revealing information on what must surely be one of the more incredible education decisions taken by the Federal Government.
In acknowledging the almost unanimous opposition to the establishment of such an institution, it would seem that there are two main areas of objection: the first philosophic, and the second financial.
Mr Jones went on to deal with the issue of financial priorities. He then stated:
Any institution of higher learning should be far more broadly based, and benefit from the input of students who would come from all sections of society, not just from the armed services.
He finished his letter by suggesting:
The redirecting of some of the substantial funds which would be required for the proposed institution towards much needed research in fields such as marine studies and mineral sciences, would be of greater benefit to all Australians, and would allow students from the defence forces to attend the already established universities where their presence would be more beneficial from all points of view.
What Mr Jones really was saying was exactly the same as the Prime Minister rather lightly hinted at in his famous address to the nation on 13 February this year when he came back from his latest extravaganza overseas. The Prime Minister in his address stated:
Furthermore, nations must do what they can to strengthen the fabric of their own societies- socially and economically.
That was one of the Prime Minister’s responses to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. It is a very important response in terms of the sort of things which the Minister for Education, who is a Liberal Minister, in the Charles Court Government of Western Australia said by way of criticism of the proposal. It is said by Government spokesmen that the proposal has nothing to do with education and that it is a defence matter. What they mean is that it will come under the defence vote, not the education vote. That view was put very clearly by the Prime Minister in a letter to Mr Ross Homes, the General Secretary of the Federation of College Academics on 27 November 1 979. In that letter he proffered the view that sufficient money was available for education. He said:
I would agree that within the present education funding allocations, the establishment of a new university in the normal sense would be hard to justify. The Academy, however, is a defence project and as such it is being established in accordance with particular defence priorities.
The letter continues by referring to the need for education in a military environment. I seek leave to have that letter incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Prime Minister Canberra 27 November 1979
Dear Mr Homes,
Thank you for your letter of 10 October 1979 concerning the establishment of Casey University- Australian Defence Force Academy.
With regard to your comment on the capital and equipment grants to universities and colleges of advanced education, the level of funding to be provided in 1980 will be sufficient to permit the continuation of existing building programs and a few new commencements.
I would agree that within the present education funding allocations, the establishment of a new university in the normal sense would be hard to justify. The Academy, however, is a defence project and as such is being established in accordance with particular defence priorities. The Academy will both improve and rationalise current educational and military training arrangements which are now carried out at a number of dispersed service and educational facilities.
The importance attributed to a military environment in officer education stems from the beneficial effect of such an environment on the development of cadets. The environment of the Academy, where cadets would reside, would develop in them the qualities of character, dedication, leadership and loyalty which are essential in their career, and provide them with basic military knowledge and skills. These effects cannot be achieved to the same extent in a nonmilitary institution.
Yours sincerely, WAL FIFE for (Malcolm Fraser)
Mr R. Homes, General Secretary, Federation of College Academics, P.O. Box 351, North Melbourne, Vic. 305 1
-The Minister for Education (Mr Fife) gave similar replies to all concerned State Ministers for Education on 5 February of this year. We say that the building of this Academy is wrong in terms of educational priorities. Let us look at the proposal in terms of defence priorities. I ask honourable senators to consider the shocking record of the Fraser Government on defence matters. It is $ 1,500m behind the projected expenditure of the 1 976 defence White Paper. At one stage, 1 8 months ago, the Australian Army was without ammunition. The Prime Minister had to go overseas and meet the crew of an Australian submarine in Hawaii to learn of the gross dissatisfaction in the Navy with pay and promotional opportunities. He learned that we cannot crew all our submarines satisfactorily because of lack of morale and appropriate conditions. Only today we find a report in the Press headed: ‘Secret memo exposes our 5 -day Air Force’. It states:
The RAAF is so under-manned that its commander regards it as operating on the basis of a five-day, oneshiftaday week- and air crews have not become fully proficient in their operational roles because of cutbacks in flying time . . . The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, said in his major defence statement in Parliament two weeks ago that the Government had decided to increase air force manpower, but he gave no details.
But the McNamara memo -
That is Air Marshal McNamara- makes it clear that, because the RAAF’s training establishment has been run down, an expanded intake must mean cutbacks in operational activities.
The memo states that the Air Force is in a shocking state in terms of operational capacity. That is the situation in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the forces with which we might have responded to the Afghanistan crisis. Instead of the empty rhetoric of the Prime Minister we might have sent a gunboat to Western Australia before the Western Australian election.
– Is that your proposal?
-No. The honourable senator should listen to me for a minute. If we had been able to do so we might have sent a gunboat to Western Australia before the Western Australian election to indicate the strength of our response. Instead of that we had words, words, words. As the honourable senator knows, only yesterday, the Prime Minister was again talking about making military arrangements with the United States. We should remember Foreign Minister Peacock’s visit to Pakistan. He told the authorities in Pakistan that we would supply them with arms. I ask: What arms? Did he mean arms without ammunition? That is the shocking record of this Government on this matter.
The Prime Minister said that the defence chiefs support the establishment of this academy. I draw the attention of the Senate and of anybody on the other side of the chamber who wants to read it, and who can in fact read, to the journal of the Australian Naval Institute for August 1978. An article in that journal is headed: A.D.F.A.- a Recipe for Disaster’. I do not have time to read it here, but anybody can have it if he wants to read it. Officer after officer gave evidence to the Public Works Committee about the undesirability of this proposal. I refer honourable senators to the names of some of those officers who gave evidence. Some of them were old and retired and had a different view of the Services and some of them were young, but they included both retired and serving officers. Among them were Major-General Vincent, Brigadier Greville, Brigadier Taylor, Air Vice Marshal Candy, who implored the Committee to recommend deferment of the Casey proposal, and Air Vice Marshal McNamara, who said that it had gone off on a different track from what was originally expected. All of those names are available to honourable senators. That is what we say is wrong with it in terms of defence priorities. The Government of Great Britain has specifically rejected a similar proposal for the Services in that country. In the United States of America, our other major ally, the Services have university training but in a totally separate environment- one service separate from another.
There is one other very important reason for our opposition to this proposal, that is, that the proposal was unanimously rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, consisting of both Liberal and Labor politicians. The recommendations of that Committee unanimously rejecting the establishment of Casey university, or military academy or whatever honourable senators want to call it are available for all members of this Parliament to read. Last week when Senator Carrick was asked a question about this matter he tried to fudge the issue, as usual, and tried to waffle his way out of it by saying that the Public Works Committee had gone beyond its charter. He knows that is untrue. He should look at the Public Works Committee Act. The Committee did not go beyond its charter in making the recommendations it did about this as a matter of priority. On 21 February of this year Mr Mel Bungey, a Liberal member and the Chairman of that Committee, said on AM:
I’m Chairman of the Public Works Committee, we’ve examined it very closely -
That is, the Casey university project- we believe that the concept is wrong and I certainly won ‘t be supporting anything which I think is wrong.
Bully for Mr Bungey! Let us see what happens. The other point about the Public Works Committee’s report is that from time to time we get lectures here about the control of the Executive by Parliament, about Executive responsibility to Parliament. Here we have a unanimous recommendation of a committee of this Parliament over which the Prime Minister has ridden roughshod, ignoring supine Ministers and ignoring supine Government senators like Senator Lewis. The Prime Minister rode roughshod over all of them to satisfy a ten-year-old childish whim.
– Nothing but rhetoric.
– I suppose we will hear from Senator Lewis in due course. It is a fact that the Prime Minister has ridden roughshod over this parliamentary committee. It is a committee which is supported in principle by Government senators. It is a committee which consisted in part of Liberal senators all of whom from time to time give pompous little lectures here about how the Parliament should control the decision of the Executive. Here is a classic example of how it has been ignored as a result of the Prime Minister’s whim.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) announced on Friday, 7 December 1979 that the Government had reaffirmed its intention to establish a defence force academy for the university education of Service officers and said that this would be done in a military environment. What Senator Button has introduced for debate today is in essence that decision by the Government as announced by the Minister for Defence. (Quorum formed). It is important to note that what the Government is affirming by its decision is the need for university education for a significant proportion of its officers and that such education should be obtained not just in universities but in a military academy where the people involved can acquire the technical and liberal training of a university type education as well as the training that is necessary for the development of the powers that are required of officers of the Services, that is discipline, loyalty, leadership, moral fibre and so on. Such things are part and parcel of the training of officers of the Services, whatever service they may be in.
Senator Button seemed to be saying that this is nothing other than a pet project of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and that is why the Government is pursuing this decision. But the position is otherwise. This has been a subject of great discussion for many years in the Services and by leaders of the Services. It arises out of the period from the 1960s when university training for a proportion of cadet officers was first introduced. I will be dealing with some of the problems which that has presented for the Services in a moment. The decision was taken in the 1 960s and has been maintained ever since. I believe that everybody now agrees, and there is no issue, that a certain proportion of officer cadets in the Services should be given a university level education. This is not simply a pet project of the Prime Minister; it goes back for a considerable length of time. The project has been developed within the Services at the highest level. It has had the corporate support of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the development of the idea has also been the subject of a great deal of thought by the development council which was set up by the previous Labor Government.
It is interesting to note that the actual decision to establish an Australian Defence Force Academy was made by the Labor Government. It was announced by the Minister for Defence in that government, Mr Barnard. When the present Government came into power the matter was considered again and the present Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, in a statement in the House of Representatives on 20 October 1976, announced the present Government’s commitment to the proposal and the intention to proceed with it. The present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, who responded to Mr Killen ‘s statement on 20 October, said this:
The Opposition welcomes the statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) as an affirmation of initiative taken by a previous Labor government.
He went on to be a little critical of Mr Killen because Mr Killen was not giving due credit to the previous Labor government, of which Mr Hayden was a member, for this initiative. Mr Hayden went on to say that one of the reasons that he supported the establishment of the Australian Defence Force Academy was that: . . the cross-fertilisation would be a particularly helpful experience for all concerned. I conclude by welcoming the statement of the Minister because once again it does affirm faith in another initiative taken by the previous Labor Government in the field of defence.
So it is rather surprising that today we should have Senator Button, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this place, bringing forward this matter not just for discussion but for very severe criticism. Presumably he is opposing a proposal which his own leader welcomed on 20 October 1976 as an initiative.
– They have different views on all sorts of things.
– They are very strange, but there is certainly a very striking difference between the views expressed by Senator Button today and those expressed by Mr Hayden in 1976. 1 only mention this because of the case that Senator Button has made- that this is a pet project of the Prime Minister. It is true that the Prime Minister has been a strong supporter of the idea for many years. But it has been supported not only by the Prime Minister, the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of the Defence Force Staff, and other people, including academic members of the development council set up by the Labor Government; it was supported by the previous Labor Government and by the present Leader of the Opposition as recently as 1976. So this has been a project of long standing by successive governments and leaders of those governments.
The situation that has developed as a result of the need to provide university education for officer cadets has led to difficulties in the present situation which the Australian Defence Force Academy is designed to overcome. As far as Royal Australian Navy cadets are concerned, those taking a university degree have to spend a year at Jervis Bay and do the remainder of their university course at the University of New South Wales. These arrangements are obviously unsatisfactory, and the Navy would prefer all of its officer cadets to undertake complete university courses within the environment of a military academy. In relation to the Royal Australian Air Force, by arrangement with Melbourne University there is a science degree, majoring in physics, at the RAAF Academy. But this avenue of entry is limited largely to general duties officers, such as pilots and navigators, and much less than half the pilots enter the RAAF in this way. Officers of other branches of the Air Force have to attend civilian institutions such as the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology or the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education in order to obtain their academic qualifications.
The Army is the only one of the three Services which has a proper defence academy providing full university training. This is provided at Duntroon through its association with the Faculty of Military Studies at the University of New South Wales. This only provides training for 400 personnel and has proved to be very expensive. Its costs are running at $4 1 ,000 per year per cadet because of the large teaching staff required to provide courses in the arts, science and the three engineering disciplines for the small student population. That is the present situation with which the Services are faced in relation to the demand, the obvious need and the policy of providing university training for cadet officers.
The question is how can this matter be improved for the future? As I said, by arrangement we have at Duntroon the ideal, a university education in a military environment where military discipline can be inculcated into the students. But we do not have that situation so far as the Air Force and Navy are concerned. I have already quoted the very high cost of providing such education and training for a relatively small number of students. The cost of providing the same type of academy for training Air Force and Navy personnel separately, as is provided for the Army at Duntroon, would be beyond reason. It is because of that type of problem that the notion of the single Defence Force academy has taken shape.
This is the solution that has been reached in other countries. It is certainly not a unique solution which relates only to Australia. Canada established a tri-service academy at university level 20 years before the unification of the Canadian forces. India has a national defence academy at university level and I believe that the Indian Services are particularly happy with the system which they have developed. The same type of tra;ning is provided in both Japan and Germany. This solution has been adopted in other countries and it is particularly suitable to the situation in Australia where we have approximately 1,200 officer cadets who require university training in a military environment. It seems to be the most obvious and economical solution that this training should be provided in the one institution. That is the major basis for the proposal to establish the academy.
There is also the argument that with the establishment of the single Defence Force concept we need to have the officers of the separate Services within that Defence Force brought together at an early stage of their education as officers to work, study and get some part of their military training. That is not to say that single Service training will not continue. Of course it will continue. It is not intended that this training should be confined to the Defence Force Academy. Obviously many officer cadets will not go to the Defence Force Academy but to the single Service training institutions which will continue to operate. The officers who attend the Defence Force Academy will get the benefit of both worlds. They will get their university training, military training and experience of living, working and training together in an academy atmosphere. At the conclusion of their academic training they will be trained by their own Service- the Army, Navy or Air Force. We will achieve the best of both worlds by establishing this institution.
Senator Button has raised certain objections to the establishment of the institution, one being the cost. He made a most extravagant statement that the way the cost was escalating it will absorb all the money from the petro] tax. Of course that is a most absurd statement.
– I agree.
– It is an utter exaggeration, with which he now agrees. The difference between $65m and about $2!6 billion is involved. I pass that by. Senator Button said that this proposal shows a wrong educational priority and that academics have been very critical of the establishment of the Academy. I concede that they have been but in our view their priorities are wrong because we are not talking about the establishment of another university as such; we are talking about the establishment of a training centre at tertiary level for members of the officer corp who require university training but who have to have it in a military environment so that the two can go hand in hand. It is quite wrong simply to judge this question by referring to educational priorities. Senator Button also expressed his view that the proposal is contrary to defence priorities. The Government’s view- I think it is clearly the view of the Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Defence Force Staff- is that there could be nothing more vital to defence priority than the training of personnel for the leadership of our defence forces. In this modern day and age high level qualifications and technical abilities are required for the highly sophisticated weaponry of the defence services, whichever they may beNavy, Air Force or Army.
Admittedly there was criticism in many cases from retired army officers, and some serving officers, who gave evidence before the Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. But the important thing is that the concept of the Defence Force Academy is not only supported but also promoted by the Chiefs of Staff as a corporate body. It is supported very strongly by the present Chief of Defence Force Staff, the Chief of the General Staff and the chiefs of the Air Force staff and the naval staff. Senator Button referred to Air Marshal McNamara ‘s evidence before the Public Works Committee. He is presently the Chief of Air Staff. I quote from page 1397 of the transcript. He said:
It is clear that the Air Force has a very prominent need for tertiary training and university training in general. I have no argument with the principle of ADFA. It is primarily a matter then of what is developed and devised within that proposal to meet the Service requirement. That is a continuing thing and it is undoubtedly subject to further development.
Air Marshal McNamara was supporting strongly in principle the concept of the Defence Force academy but was also saying that there are certain details that have to be considered to fit in with the requirements of the Air Force. That is a very different view from the one which I think Senator Button conveyed in his speech. It is a fact that there is a good deal of development of the project still to be done. At this stage the Government has committed itself to the principle of establishing a Defence Force academy at a university level and in a military environment. The Minister has still to conduct discussions in relation to the details of it- whether it will be a separate university or associated with another university. These educational aspects will be the subject of further consideration and decision by the Government. There is an important need for a tri-service academy to provide high level tertiary education for leading members of our officer corps in their cadet training period together with the ordinary military-type training which is obtainable only in the atmosphere of a defence academy.
-I rise in this debate astonished to find that the Government is saying that because the Opposition was in favour of this academy in 1 974 the Government now, in 1980, is in favour of it. I wish that the Government would be as favourably disposed to many more things done by that dreadful Whitlam Government in 1974! I was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works which investigated this proposition. That Committee’s investigations took more than 12 months of our time. We heard evidence from 50 witnesses in eight public and two private hearings. The Committee held 20 private meetings. Evidence was taken from serving Service officers from all three Services, retired officers, departmental heads, the Returned Services League, academics who were working with the Services and academics who were working outside that area in a wide range of academic fields and vice-chancellors. We were briefed by the Chief of the General Staff. After hearing from these people the Committee unanimously rejected the proposition because we felt that it was an unreal, impracticable concept.
It was seen at the time that what was needed was officers who had a balanced and liberal education in a military environment. We could not see that that was possible. We could not see a liberal, balanced education coming from an institution that was to have no diversity of students, was to have students of the same age, students with the same goals, students with the same conservative thoughts, students doing the same courses and students of the same sex. When questioned about the postgraduate role for the university we were told that there might be some civilians allowed in, but that was to be in the future. We questioned why civilian postgraduate students would want to go into that very sterile environment. In these circumstances we questioned how the ADFA degrees would be viewed in the academic world. Our investigations and questioning of witnesses showed that it was likely that they would not be viewed very highly.
When we asked whether female officers were to be included in the students to be taken into that university we were greeted with some sniggers, but it was obviously not a very serious proposition. As only one third of the officers in the forces were expected to go through the university anyway, we wanted to know what was to happen to the other two-thirds of the officers. We were told that this remote environment was necessary because officers needed a military environment. The sort of comment we got is indicated by the evidence of one witness, who was asked:
You do offer some comment on university life. You go on to say that it is surprising that there is not a strong move on every campus to develop the desirable qualities of character, leadership, loyalty, responsibility and inculcate habits of discipline and good conduct in the students who until recently have generally been encouraged to behave rather differently.
The witness replied:
I believe that it is within the academic philosophy that the academic staff desire to stir up in young men or young women a questioning of everything that has been developed over the years. This they see as part of the university process, and I do not necessarily think that that is a terribly bad thing. People who are doing philosophy and such subjects should at least be challenged in this way, but it is not exactly the sort of process which is meant to develop the qualities which have been enunciated in the Defence submission on character, leadership, loyalty, responsibility, and inculcated habits of discipline.
The witness was asked:
Is that the problem, that you do not want military cadets encouraged to doubt or to question an order when it is given, or even advice when it is given?
The witness replied in pan:
Obedience is required. I believe that most of the fellows who have graduated from our colleges and gone to the universities have not been terribly affected, but then most of them have been doing engineering, or something of that nature, where the peer pressures probably are not as great, and there is no time anyway.
In other words, they do not want officers trained at tertiary level in the ways of liberal thought of a university, they want officers who turn out with bits of paper saying that they have got a degree but are not prepared to question anything that is put to them. By way of further evidence we were told that the Americans, who send most of their officers to large military academies for each of the Services, found on graduation that they had to send their graduates back to civilian universities to learn more of the day-to-day problems of real people. It was pointed out that it was considered essential for officers to know more than the killing aspect of war; they had to know how to manage civilian populations and know the sort of pressures that are on them.
We were told that it was necessary to improve the interrelationship of the total officer cadet body to prevent breakdown of communication in the field, to develop greater perception of total defence requirements, to promote interrelationship between strategic considerations, and to promote quality of leadership. But remember that only one-third of the officers in the Services were going to be put in a position where those sorts of qualities could be promoted and extended. They could not tell us what they would do about the remaining two-thirds, nor would they say that there was any problem, of course, with the serving officers we have at the moment.
They appear to have coped admirably without having to be put into that environment. One would hope that the spirit of co-operation and co-ordination is held together in the defence forces by having more than a school tie in common. But that was the doubt that the Department of Defence raised. It was admitted that if they did go ahead with this proposition motivation might suffer. Airmen, after all, we were told, join because they want to fly. Sailors join because they want to sail on the sea, et cetera. The further removed these men are from those areas that attracted them, the harder it is to keep them in the Services and the harder it is to motivate them. This was borne out by evidence we received about other countries and the problems they have had with motivation of the Services. After such joint courses it was found that a deal of time had to be spent re-educating officers in the traditions of their Service. This was considered essential, but that essential feeling of tradition of their Service, motivation for their Service, would be lost in the Casey university concept.
We are talking in this instance of a university with two heads; one is a commandant and one is a vice-chancellor. Nobody would tell us who would prevail if there were a disagreement. It did not appear to provide a proper environment for anything, for either arm of the university, and in a compromise situation we were unable to ascertain who would suffer most when the compromise was brought down. In this instance we must remember that we are talking of at least $75m. Every indication is that the cost will go higher. Indications were given that much of the cost that will finally be attributable to Casey university will be hived off under other parts of the Defence vote; $75m will be spent on a university which we do not need, when there is spare space in all the other tertiary institutions in Australia; $75 m will be spent on this when we have record youth unemployment and only $50m has been made available for youth training. The Committee could not find that we could economically justify spending such a large amount of money on one more tertiary institution while we have schools without libraries, gymnasiums and classrooms, teachers without jobs, children without music, maths, biology, or physical education teachers. I could add a great many more examples to that list.
The Navy installation at Jervis Bay was so bad physically that anything would be an improvement, but the Navy was happy with the arrangement that it had with the University of New South Wales. The Air Force did not want it because it felt it would attract more and better officers if it stayed close to flying. The Army, by sheer numbers, would dominate anyway, and it already has a two-stream arrangement; one group of officers is university trained and another group of officers is not university trained. It is interesting to see who gets the promotions out of those two streams of officers. Nobody was wildly enthusiastic about the whole proposition but the Department of Defence. We were told that one of the problems was an agreement with the University of New South Wales, that it had to encompass the Department of Military Studies at Duntroon. We received no evidence at all that students or staff at the University pf New South Wales were inconvenienced in any way by the current situation. We received no evidence at all that another agreement could not be negotiated with the University of New South Wales.
The Committee’s report is well within the charter of the Public Works Committee. The
Public Works Committee charter states that the Committee shall have regard to the stated purpose of the work and its suitability for that purpose, the necessity for or the advisibility of carrying out the work, the most effective use that can be made in carrying out the work of the monies to be expended on that work. We found that the stated purpose of the work was not justified and that it was not suitable for the stated purpose that the Department of Defence said it had. The necessity was not there because in every tertiary institution in Australia there is space in which officers of the three Services can be well trained, can come out with a liberal education, with open minds, and with degrees that are worth something in the university world. The Government believes that in carrying out this work, this is the most effective use that can be made of the money which is to be expended. Well, for a government that is so keen on cutting back expenditure in every area in Australia, and for a government that has no regard to the fact that we have extraordinary record unemployment, especially amongst young people, to say that the most effective way to use whatever money it has is to build yet another university which is not required, in areas where there is no apparent need, is just appalling. The inquiry by the Public Works Committee and the report it brought down, as I have said, was well within its charter. We have yet to be told by this Government why the report has been rejected.
– It is an unusual role for me to be defending the Department of Defence. But I am delighted to be able to perform that role on this occasion. The matter of public importance proposed by the Opposition and the way in which its members have argued so far shows the most extraordinary confusion of thought. Senator Button, for instance, appeared to think that our armed forces, including apparently the Royal Australian Navy, should have been intervening in Afganistan. Quite apart from that, the words of the matter of public importance reveal the confusion of thought of honourable senators opposite. It reads:
The Government’s decision to proceed with the building of Casey Military Academy.
That wording is wrong on two accounts. Firstly, the Academy is not called the ‘Casey Military Academy’. Its proper name is Casey UniversityAustralian Defence Force Academy. Apart from that, the confusion of thought is revealed by the fact that the Royal Military College at Duntroon will be replaced by a tri-service academy. This will not be a military academy. It will be an armed forces academy. The distinction is fundamental and goes right to the root, I think, of the confusion of thought of members of the Opposition. This concept has been approved five times by governments including, on one occasion, by the Australian Labor Party Government- what Senator Melzer rather interestingly and accurately described as the dreadful Whitlam Government. It is interesting that it has been approved by all the Ministers for Defence, including the Labor Party Minister for Defence, who have had the opportunity to study the problem. When they had studied the problem they came to the conclusion that the Academy was the correct solution. The establishment of the academy has been endorsed by the Chief of Defence Force Staff and by the three service heads. It was reaffirmed by them after they studied the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
In view of the confusion that is occurring, I think it might be helpful if I said something about the way in which officers are trained at present. Senator Melzer asked: What about the 70 per cent who do not go to the Defence Force Academy? In all the Services there are four main sources of officers. At present about 30 per cent of the officer corps is produced by the three separate service colleges, Duntroon, Point Cook and Jervis Bay. Where are the remaining 70 per cent? Who are they? They fall into three categories. Firstly, there are the direct entry officers, mostly university graduates. They would mainly be doctors and dentists. There are some other specialists. That is one category. They obviously do not require academic training at the Defence Force Academy. The second category is the short service commission officers who come in for a period of seven or nine years. They have limited careers carrying out special jobs in their own Services. They require neither common training nor academic training. They require specialist training for a limited role in their own Services.
– Could lower-deck personnel come up through that category?
– I am just coming to that matter, Senator Mulvihill. The final category is that of officers who are promoted from the ranks. They tend to be rather older, and, again, they are performing specialist roles in their own Services. They do not require academic training. I am not talking about that 70 per cent. We are talking about the 30 per cent who at present go through the three separate colleges and from whom all, or very nearly all, of the senior officers in the three Services will come. What is the system of training these officers? The Navy has a Naval
College at Jervis Bay. The officers do a degree course. They do one year at Jervis Bay and then they go to the University of New South Wales. This is generally regarded- a point I will come to in a moment- as an unsatisfactory division. The Navy would much prefer the officers to be trained together all the time.
In the case of the Royal Australian Air Force, the general duties officers, the air crew, the pilots and the observers go to Point Cook. Then they are trained at Melbourne University. That is only one part of the Air Force. The engineers, the technical people, are trained at a separate establishment in Melbourne; they go to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The supply officers go to the Darling Downs College of Advanced Education in Queensland. It is a very unsatisfactory system to have officers separated at the beginning and trained in three separate, distant establishments. The Army, at Duntroon, has the only service college capable of supporting its own tertiary education on campus. A branch of the University of New South Wales is on campus at Duntroon. But, for the very small numbers involved, it is wildly expensive. At the moment, there are 200 staff members for 60 graduates a year; I repeat that there are 200 staff members for 60 graduates. That is absurdly uneconomic on the scale operating at Duntroon at the moment. The cost at the moment is $41,000 per cadet per year. This is absurdly extravagant because the establishments conducting tertiary education are too small to be economic.
As far as I can follow the debate so far, I think it is common ground that officers in the Services need tertiary education. I emphasise again that I am talking about the 30 per cent who are career officers from whom the senior ranking officers will emerge. They do need tertiary education. The Services submit- I have heard no dispute of it- that they need some officers trained in the sciences, some in engineering and some in the arts. If we put all these officers together- I would like to make it quite clear that I am not talking about unification of the Services which the Canadians have done- they would still remain in their separate Services. I am talking about whether it would be economic and beneficial to give all these officers their tertiary training together. Of course, they would have to return to their own separate service and their specialist service training, where they would link up with the people doing short service training who only have that specialist training. This academic training is additional.
The question is- as I think we all agree it is necessary to provide it- what is the best way to provide this training? Well, I suppose we could continue as we are at the moment though there is no doubt at all that very substantial rebuilding would have to be done. Senator Melzer mentioned the necessary rebuilding of Jervis Bay. We would have to do something about the Air Force. We cannot continue having three groups of officers training separately. This is most damaging to unity of purpose. We must bring them together. If we were to do this, if we continued roughly as we are with three separate service colleges but did the necessary rebuilding, updating and centralising where necessary, the cost in December 1979 prices would be about $28m. This can be compared with the cost of the Defence Force academy, in the prices of the same period, of about $60m. But we must remember one point. If we are to have three separate Services, which by the nature of their size are bound to be uneconomic, we are talking about costs additional to the cost of having a single Defence Force academy of $5m to $6m a year for running the same facilities in three separate places. I think this would be a very unsatisfactory result.
I think the Government is right in deciding to go ahead with the Academy. Nevertheless, it is no light matter not to accept the report of a committee with such prestige as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works which made a prolonged study of the problem. Admittedly, the Committee is only an advisory body and the Government is entitled to take advice from where it sees fit. It may have other information that the Public Works Committee may not have fully comprehended. Nevertheless, we should look closely at why the Public Works Committee recommended what it did. I would like to make it quite clear, in case Senator Melzer misunderstands me, that I have no dispute that what the Public Works Committee recommended was clearly within its charter under the Public Works Committee Act. It was perfectly entitled to report on the desirability of the academy. I do not think that its members would claim to have any special expertise in the areas of defence in particular or of education secondarily. Some of its members do, but as a Committee it does not.
To some extent I think the members of the Committee were over-persuaded by romantics, that is by people who came before them and who had been to separate service colleges. One can see this in situations where old schools have tried to combine. All the graduates of those schools always say: ‘Do not combine them. Leave them separate’. They take the approach: ‘Look at me,
I am a very good officer. I went to a separate service college. Therefore, separate colleges should continue’. One should not attach too much weight to this romantic view put forward by retired people. Certainly in some ways it should be taken into account, but the Public Works Committee seems to have been over-persuaded by this type of evidence.
I wish to refer now to the Committee’s key conclusions and recommendations. The first recommendation that should be considered states:
We do not want service motivation; what we want in this country is defence force motivation. Any conceivable operations will be conducted not by a single service but by two or three services. The concept we must have in this country is not that there will be a navy fighting one battle, an army fighting another and an air force fighting a third. The defence forces must co-operate and common training for senior officers would go a very long way toward achieving that. The second recommendation to which I wish to refer states:
From my service experience, I totally disagree with that. I understand that each of the service chiefs also totally disagrees with it. Of course, they should have more expertise. The next recommendation reads:
Of course, such arrangements can lead to unsatisfactory compromises but there is no reason why they should. We are talking about having a defence force academy carrying out academic training under service discipline, but individual service training would still be done in each of the service colleges and under individual service arrangements. I do not think that in any sense that is an unsatisfactory compromise. A further conclusion reads:
In talking about tertiary education, one has to look for economies of scale. The Services would probably like to have separate education systems if they were economic, but there is no way in which the Navy, the Air Force or the Army separately can run tertiary establishments with any degree of economy. Based on those arguments, all of which I think are fallacious, the Committee concluded that it was not expedient to proceed with the construction of the proposed work. I think that the Committee is clearly wrong. I do not doubt its sincerity; I just think that it reached the wrong conclusions. I think that the establishment of a single defence force academy to give tertiary training to all of the officers is the only economic and sensible solution to the problem of armed service officer training.
The name ‘Casey University’ is not important although it seems to be a bugbear to some people. Personally, I would like to see the name Casey University’ dropped, and the institution called the ‘Australian Defence Force Academy’. Apparently the name ‘Casey University’ was not suggested by the Services nor was any name suggested by the Services. The name ‘Casey University’ was arranged by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales and the Secretary to the Department of Defence. The name is not a service requirement, and I am sure that no servicemen would be worried if the name Casey University’ were dropped. It seems to be a sticking point to some people. Let us call it ‘Defence Force Academy’. Its degrees will establish their own place. The Annapolis Naval Academy is not called a university but its engineering degrees are among the most highly regarded engineering degrees in the United States. If Australia has an academy giving degrees, as clearly it should, then they will find their own places in the market place. It does not have to be called a university to achieve that. Insofar as it is a sticking point, let us drop that name.
One further creative thing that the defence force academy can do and that cannot be achieved in any other way is run postgraduate courses for both service officers and civilians to look at particular Australian defence problems. This is not satisfactorily carried out in this country at the moment. A defence force academy could and should perform that role. For the benefit of Senator Melzer, I must tell her that provision has been made in the plans of the defence force academy for women officers to attend. I repeat that I think that this answer is the right one. It has been a very difficult decision for the Government. I understand the position of those members of the Public Works Committee who recommended a different answer but it is the responsibility of the Government to weigh all factors, including the views of the Public Works Committee, and make decisions. In this case, I am sure the Government has made the correct one.
– This afternoon the Senate is discussing the Government’s decision to proceed with the building of Casey military academy. This matter was submitted by the Opposition for discussion as a matter of public importance. I echo the surprise of Senator Melzer earlier at the remarkable argument of the Government about why the defence academy, or Casey university, should proceed. The argument was that the Australian Labor Party had once supported the idea, and therefore the idea must be good. It is a pity that the Government could not take this approach on most of Labor’s initiatives. The difference between the views of the Labor Party and the Government is that the Labor Party did not say that it would proceed in the face of rejection of the idea by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
It is well time that this matter was debated in Federal Parliament. In its usual devious way, the Government made its announcement that it would go ahead with Casey university after Parliament rose last year. On the same day the ministerial re-shuffle by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was announced. As well as that, there was a Premiers Conference to detract from the news value of the decision about Casey university. If the Government’s intention was to announce the decision at this stage just to suppress public debate, the ploy did not work. Perhaps it worked for a short time but criticism of the proposal has come from as far away as the Western Australian Liberal Government and from as near to home as Mr Fraser ‘s back bench. Newspaper editorials, eminent university professors and senior defence Service officers have publicly voiced their opposition to the proposals.
Far be it for me to pay any type of tribute to the Prime Minister, but in some respects this debate is almost a tribute to the dogged perseverence of the Prime Minister. Once Mr Fraser clutches a theme, nothing- not facts, logic, lucid arguments nor unanimous opposition- can change his mind. Despite what has been said by some Government senators this afternoon, Casey university is Mr Fraser ‘s pet project. He conceived the idea and he is determined to give birth to his multi-million dollar white elephant. Mr Fraser first proposed the idea in 1970 when he was Minister for Defence. The then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and his Deputy, Jack McEwen, as well as Foreign Affairs Minister McMahon rejected Mr Fraser ‘s proposal on the grounds of its being shoddily costed, that no attempt had been made to demonstrate why the existing system should change, and that support from Service heads was dubious. Now, Mr Fraser has those opponents safely out of the way. He is determined to go ahead in his usual style, and he will brook no opposition. The word around Parliament House is that he even went to the extent of overriding the objections of the former Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, who had some healthy reservations about the project. Senator Carrick had his ministry changed just at the time of the announcement of the decision in regard to Casey university.
In relation to the recommendations of the Public Works Committee, I have rarely seen such overt contempt for the parliamentary system as I have seen on this occasion. We have seen the rejecting out of hand of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee in relation to this academy. As Senator Melzer pointed out earlier, the Public Works Committee examined the proposals in great detail. It heard a wide range of views and opinions and came to the unanimous conclusion that this military academy should not go ahead. The Defence Minister, Mr Killen, equally culpable in this sorry affair, rejected the Committee’s findings as ill-founded. A more cavalier approach to the Federal Parliament’s committee system is difficult to imagine. On the other hand, it seems that some Government back bench members will have the courage to oppose the Prime Minister. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee, Liberal M.P. Mr Bungey, has announced that he will cross the floor and vote against the Government on the Bill concerning Casey university. He claims that he has support from other back benchers.
Basically the arguments against Casey university fall into three categories- financial, educational and philosophical. I will deal with the financial matters first. The Government has estimated that the cost of Casey university will be about $65m. This is likely to be a very conservative estimate. We must remember that the High Court building was initially to cost $ 1 8m, but the cost has now risen to $42m which is three times the estimated original cost. It is not unusual that other estimates of the cost of Casey university have been as high as $150m, which is about three times the cost that this Government has estimated. Even at the most conservative figure of $65m, the cost per student would be about $40,000 compared to the average of Australian universities of about $9,000 per student. This raises the fundamental question of our priorities. This Government has no money for job creation programs and forces much of our population to live at subsistence level on meagre social security benefits.
Education is one area that has particularly felt the pinch of this Government. Building expenditure for higher education has dropped alarmingly since 1975. In 1979 only $27m was allocated for capital outlays for all Australian universities. Against this $2 7m we have the $65m which is the estimate for Casey university, an estimate which, I pointed out, is likely to be exceeded many times before the building is completed.
Also at question are our priorities within defence spending. Surely there are far higher priorities for spending within the Department of Defence than a massive splurge on an academy in Canberra. Defence facilities have been run down. There is an urgent need for new capital equipment. New facilities are required by the Services. As Senator Button, my colleague and Deputy Leader, remarked in the opening of this discussion, not too long ago we had a defence force which did not have ammunition. Against this background the Government intends to spend probably over $100m on an institution which has been almost universally condemned as unnecessary and perhaps even educationally unwise.
This leads me to the second major argument which is educational. The argument, basically, is that a tri-service academy is simply not the best way to train our forces. The present system for training our future officers is through the Duntroon Military College in Canberra, the Royal Australian Air Force Academy at Point Cook and the Naval College at Jervis Bay. This system does not mean that university education is not available to cadets. The Defence Minister, Mr Killen, in his statement announcing the go ahead for Casey university, said:
Some critics of the Defence Force Academy ignore the splendid results which have been produced by the partnership of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and the University of New South Wales.
One would consider that statement to be somewhat contradictory. If the existing arrangements are producing splendid results, why spend so much of the Australian taxpayers’ funds to change the system? This argument is supported by many senior Service officers who believe that proposals for the new tri-service academy have not taken into account the different training needs of the Services.
Philosophical arguments have been advanced against the building of the academy. Many believe that this type of cloistered military establishment is not in the best interests of our future officers. The academy will serve to isolate officers of the armed forces from the rest of the population. They will be insulated from a range of mentally stimulating ideas. I see Casey university leading to the creation of a military elite. The current proposal envisages only one-third of officers being trained at Casey university. The previous speaker, Senator Hamer, mentioned how some of the officers of the Defence Force are specialist officers and would not be required to train at Casey university. Yet if only one-third of the officers are to be trained at Casey, I wonder how many officers who will be in the mainstream of the Defence Force of Australia will be excluded. The one-third who receive training at Casey university will probably be considered for promotion first. This matter will lead to resentment by those who do not qualify for entry to Casey university.
Finally, my Deputy Leader mentioned the opposition from academic circles. Indeed, if the academy is built and called a university, the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations intends to impose a boycott on the institution. Similarly, even if the name ‘university’ is not used, FAUSA will oppose the academy’s construction. We still have not been told by the Government why it overrode a decision of the Public Works Committee. Senator Hamer came the closest to any person who has spoken in this Parliament since it resumed in saying why the decision had been overriden. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack), who is at the table, did not outline to us clearly why the decision had been overridden. We have not had a definitive statement from the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence on why the unanimous decision of the Public Works Committee was overridden. All that we had from the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, was a statement that the Committee ‘s findings were ill-founded. If the findings were illfounded, let the Minister for Defence tell us why they were ill-founded. Let him give us a proper statement that can be debated in this Parliament. Let the Prime Minister do the same thing.
I was astounded when Parliament resumed after the recess to find that the decision had been made and yet no statement was to be put before this chamber. We were told that a statement would be put before the House of Representatives and that a motion would be debated, but a motion was not to be put before this chamber. This is one of the reasons why the Opposition has raised this matter here today. We want to be able to debate it. We want later on for the Government to come down with its statement so that it too can be debated. This decision was a bad decision. There is still time for Mr Fraser and Mr
Killen to admit that they were wrong and make a decision to defer the project.
– I agree that this matter is one of public importance but it is interesting to note at this point that Senator Button, who put the matter to the President of the Senate and therefore brought this matter to the notice of the Senate, is not here. Nor is most of the Opposition.
– That is a great observation to make.
– If Senator Gietzelt believes that it is a matter of public importance, can he explain why his colleagues are not here? Can he explain why Senator Button made his characteristically glib contribution to this debate and then left? (Quorum formed). As Senator Colston of the Australian Labor Party called for a quorum, I think it is worth noting that on his doing so, not one additional Labor Party senator came into the Senate. The Labor Party has referred this matter to the Senate as a matter of public importance, yet Labor Party senators are not prepared to come in here to debate this subject. Even Senator Button, who put this matter to the President and to the Senate, is not here.
– Get down to talking about the issue.
– I can understand why Senator Gietzelt is so obviously disturbed by this matter. If I were Senator Gietzelt I would be disturbed too. A range of opinions about this matter has been expressed. A range of views on the Australian Defence Force Academy was canvassed by the Joint Committee on Public Works. Senator Colston referred to the importance of the Government, when making a decision relating to a Public Works Committee report, expressing the reasons for its making that decision. I agree with him that it is important that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and/or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) should make a comprehensive statement on that matter in the near future. This afternoon the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) covered very well a range of issues involved. But it is important that the responsible Minister and perhaps the Prime Minister should put these matters to the Parliament because it does involve a parliamentary committee.
I am Chairman of a joint parliamentary committee, the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. We have had some of our recommendations rejected by the Government- not many, but some. When they have been rejected the rejection has been explained and all members of all the parties represented on that Committee, whilst perhaps not agreeing entirely, have had to accept those Government decisions when policy decisions have been made, but the reasons for rejection have been explained. I believe that in all such cases the Government has an obligation to explain its decisions thoroughly to the Parliament.
Despite the fact that Senator Button still is not here- not one additional Labor Party senator is here yet- I refer to at least one statement made by Senator Button. He seemed to see this whole matter as resulting from what he referred to as an obsession on the part of the Prime Minister. He did not refer to the fact that this proposal was accepted by a government in 1 974- it was a Labor government.
– It didn’t go ahead.
-No, it did not go ahead. That was because the Australian people tossed the Labor Party out of office. But let me draw Senator Colston’s, attention to something so that he will be fully informed, because obviously he is not or he prefers to suggest that he is not. On 1 7 April 1975- the year after the proposal was accepted- the Minister for Defence at that time, Lance Barnard, announced the appointment of a development council for the Australian Defence Force Academy. The Labor Government did not wait for a report from this Parliament; a development council was appointed. He then went through the reasons- very good reasons- for changing the existing arrangements for officer education and for establishing a defence force academy. According to the report on the proposed Defence Force academy presented by the Standing Committee on Public Works among the reasons Mr Barnard, the Labor Minister for Defence, gave were: - One Academy will develop associations between young officers of each Service at the outset of their careers, and will facilitate inter-Service co-operation and understanding in later years. - There was a need for a greater proposition of Service officers to have tertiary education, a trend which was reflected throughout the community at large. There was a need to expand arrangements for officer education in a way which will encourage future officers to see themselves as members of a single Australian Defence Force.
According to the report, Mr Barnard went on to point out the following: - One Academy, established as a tertiary institution in its own right will lead to economies in use of resources, and provide a sound basis from which officer education for the future could be planned.
I make the point that those decisions were made by a Labor government in 1974 and those points were made by a Labor Minister for Defence in 1975. 1 acknowledge, as the Public Works Committee has done in what really is a very thorough report, that there are arguments for and against the establishment of the proposed academy. But I suggest as Mr Barnard suggested in 1975 that the existing arrangements do not meet our projected requirements for the Australian Defence Force and that the existing arrangements are not economical and, in fact, are very costly.
In this debate the Opposition has made a good deal of cost, yet at the moment the arrangements for officer education in Australia are, in fact, extremely costly. Many institutions are involved. There is a very clear lack of the cohesion and coherence in the training process which is, again as Mr Barnard pointed out, so important to the Defence Force. In my view, the present arrangements can best be described as scrappy, as well as being costly. I do not think any honourable senator denies that there is a need for tertiary level qualifications to be held by our officer corps. At the moment, the officers are trained at a wide range of institutions which in many cases are separated from their colleges at Jervis Bay, Point Cook and Duntroon- for example, at the University of New South Wales, the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
If we are looking at costs, 1 think it is worth looking at what additional costs might be involved if we were to upgrade the existing colleges. It has been estimated that to handle the number of officers who would be involved in the academy- that is, the number acknowledged as being required for the development of our officer corps in the future- capital expenditure of $2 8 m on construction alone would be required. This would involve recurrent expenditure of $5m to $6m a year. That figure does not include a range of additional costs that would go with recruiting the officer corps that we need. In passing, I make the comment, without going any further than placing it on the record, that here in Canberra the Australian National University now has an annual budget in the vicinity of $80m and in the not too distant future it will be nearing $100m. Those are the sorts of funds already involved in our university system.
I think it is worth making the point that the proposed academy is not a step towards integration of the defence forces in a formal sense but rather to establishing closer relationships, ties and understanding, particularly at a personal level amongst our officers. I think it is most important that, as the Minister pointed out in his statement of 7 December, the individual Service traditions will be maintained. It is the Government’s intention that the traditions of each Service should be maintained within the framework of the Defence Force with the single Defence Force academy and that training in each of the forces will be done separately, particularly after training at the academy.
Senator Button in his address said that he felt to establish the proposed academy was wrong in terms of educational priority. If I may say so, it seems to me that in this debate the Opposition has given heavy emphasis to education without giving proper emphasis to defence policy issues that are involved in this matter. It is notable that the leading speaker for the Labor Party in this debate is the shadow Minister for Education and his remarks were closely tied to the discussion of educational priorities. From the point of view of the shadow Minister that is appropriate but the Defence Force Academy has to be considered also- I believe primarily- as a matter of defence policy. The high priority that has to be given to strengthening our Defence Force and the officer corps also has to be considered. Senator Colston referred at some length to the opposition of the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations to the Defence Force Academy. A document I received recently from the Federation stated:
The Federation of Australian University Staff Associations is opposed to the establishment of Casey university.
That is what the Federation chooses to call it. The document continued:
It has resolved that, if the proposed tri-service academy is called a university, it will advise academics in Australia and overseas not to apply for appointments there.
I find that to be the most fatuous of reasons. If university staff associations are to boycott an institution because of its name we must begin to ask what those associations are all about. The document continued:
FAUSA believes this is a responsible decision, as it would be impossible, within the structure of the university -
That is the Defence Force Academy-
As proposed in the draft legislation, for traditional principles of academic freedom to be upheld.
Again, I suggest that that is the most fatuous of arguments. Has the Federation made that point about the Faculty of Military Studies at Duntroon? I have never heard that point made. Yet the Faculty was set up by the University of New South Wales. It has not been boycotted by the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations. But now, because the Defence Force Academy might be called a university the Federation suggests that it will boycott the institution. The document continued:
Our opposition to the notion of a tri-service academy is based on FAUSA’s belief that current arrangements are satisfactory (‘splendid results’ have been achieved under the present arrangements according to a Statement by the Minister for Defence on 7 December 1979) . . .
Senator Colston quoted the same statement by the Minister for Defence but he, like the Federation, did not refer to the next sentence which stated that the present arrangements have serious deficiencies. The results of the current arrangements have been good. We have a fine officer corps. But we can do much better. The results have serious deficiencies. The best that can be said is that the Federation and Senator Colston have quoted selectively. It is disappointing that the Opposition, having proposed the discussion on this matter of public importance, has shown so little interest in it. The honourable senator who proposed the discussion, Senator Button, has not even bothered to be in the chamber. That is how important he thinks this issue is. Therefore, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- In referring to the establishment of defence force academies in other countries I said that Germany has a defence force academy. I am advised that that statement is not correct. Germany certainly has two armed forces universities which members of all the Services attend but apparently in neither case do they operate in the same way as a defence force academy. Therefore, I wish to correct the statement I made.
-by leave- It is unfortunate that Senator Knight made the comment that the Opposition was not prepared to debate this matter. The understanding was that three speakers from each side would contribute to the debate. The presence of honourable senators in the chamber has been referred to from time to time, especially when the proceedings are being broadcast. It is a matter of grave discourtesy on the part of the Government to do so. We will retaliate on every occasion by making certain that the Government upholds its responsibility of maintaining a quorum in this place. Nevertheless, if the Government wants debate on matters of public importance in future to continue for the full time that is allowed, then by all means we will debate matters for the full time. But if the arrangement is to be that three speakers from each side will speak, let it be clearly known that that is the position. A number of honourable senators in this place feel strongly about the Australian Defence Force academy. They would have wished to enter the debate but did not do so because of the agreement that was reached.
– by leave- I made the point in my comments that the Opposition had proposed the discussion on this matter of public importance. Senator Button had written a letter to you, Mr President, and had led for the Opposition in the debate. I made the point that it was surprising that he was not in the chamber throughout the debate and that so few members of the Labor Party were present when the Senate was discussing a matter proposed by the Opposition.
-by leaveSenator Georges said a moment ago- the statement was not challenged- that it was the Government’s responsibility to maintain a quorum in this place. Whilst it may be the responsibility of the Government to make sure that the proceedings in this place are not counted out, unless it is done by design, we must remember that Opposition senators get paid exactly the same amount as Government senators. In my book they have just as much responsibility to be in this place as we have.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1 974 the Senate approves the following proposals:
1 ) erection of a bus shelter in Kings Avenue;
) erection of three lighting masts on the ramps leading to Kings Avenue Bridge.
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:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise borrowings of $3m by the Commonwealth to fund credit facilities for soldier settlers under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. The States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act 1952 provides for financial assistance to the States in connection with the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. Under terms determined by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), the Commonwealth has provided in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania capital moneys for the acquisition and development of properties and for the making of advances to settlers for working capital and the acquisition of stock, plant and equipment. In New South Wales and Victoria such moneys have been provided by the State governments and Commonwealth involvement has been limited to sharing losses on a 50:50 basis. Queensland withdrew from the Scheme in 1954.
War service credit facilities in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have been provided by the Commonwealth through borrowings authorised by Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Acts brought down from time to time. The most recent Loan Act was in 1977 when $3m was authorised for this purpose. Tasmania no longer has any settlers in receipt of credit facilities and requirements in South Australia and Western Australia are declining and are expected to phase out over four or five years. Outstanding authority under the 1977 Act will be insufficient to meet settlers’ credit needs in 1980-81. The proposed amount of $3m is estimated as sufficient to cover the remainder of the program. Estimated expenditure in the year ahead and the level of actual expenditure in the previous year will be provided in the annual Budget in the ordinary way. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill has two main purposes. Firstly, it proposes to give effect to the recommendations which were made by the House of Representatives standing committee which looked at the Defence Service Homes Scheme and which were accepted by the Government in November 1978 and require amending legislation. These are the introduction of freedom of choice for beneficiaries in the selection of a house insurer and revision of the long title of the principal Act. Secondly, it provides for the removal from the Defence Service Homes Act of a number of restrictive lending conditions. Since the inception of the Scheme in 1919, it has been compulsory for defence service homes to be insured and for the insurance to be effected under the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme. It is proposed to change the legislative provisions so that persons who obtain loans under the Scheme may, if they wish, insure their properties with another insurer. This proposal follows the Government’s decision that the Insurance Scheme be updated to conform with current insurance practice.
Honourable senators will recall that in 1978 the Defence Service Homes Act was amended to authorise the Defence Service Homes Corporation to provide insurance cover under terms set out in a statement of conditions, thereby enabling changes to the terms and conditions to be made by administrative rather than legislative process. The statement and any variations to it are subject to the approval of the Minister and must be tabled in Parliament. However, the commencement of this provision was deferred so that the further changes now proposed in clause 9 of this Bill could be incorporated in the new arrangements. The proposal in clause 9 enabling beneficiaries under the Act to decide whether to insure their homes with the Corporation or with another insurer is, of course, subject to the Corporation retaining the normal rights of a mortgagee. It will be necessary for the home to be insured adequately with an insurer authorised under the Insurance Act 1973 and for the insurer to enter into an agreement of a kind that would protect the Corporation’s interests notwithstanding any breach of policy conditions by the mortgagor.
As the Act stands, an applicant for an advance cannot insure his home with the Corporation until it has acquired an interest in that home. To ensure that an eligible person is not disadvantaged during the waiting period for an advance, clause 9 authorises the Corporation, if the applicant so chooses, to insure his home during this period. Insurance cover taken out with the Corporation in these circumstances will be terminated on reasonable notice if it becomes evident that the loan will not be granted. I emphasise that the opportunity to insure with the Corporation will be limited to eligible persons to whom it is proposed to make an advance or to whom an advance has been made.
The provisions relating to the change in the long title of the Act are contained in clause 3. The existing long title is to be repealed and replaced by a new title which more accurately reflects the provisions and purposes of the Act. The proposed amendments to the Act to remove certain restrictive lending conditions are set out in clauses 5 and 6, Clause 5 amends section 2 1 to remove the statutory limitation on the loan to valuation ratio. Clause 6 repeals section 24, which imposes certain limitations on the discretion to make a loan. The Government is satisfied that these restrictions are not now necessary and believes, as in the case of insurance, that applicants should have the maximum freedom of choice in the selection of a home. The interests of the Corporation will be adequately protected by the amendment of section 25 proposed in clause 7 and by other provisions of the Act.
The amendment to section 40a proposed in clause 10 is in keeping with the Audit Amendment Act 1 979 and provides for interest in the investment of moneys of the Defence Service Homes Insurance Trust Account to be credited directly to that account. Under the current arrangements interest is paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and this requires a specific parliamentary appropriation for an equivalent amount to be paid to the Insurance Trust Account. The remaining provisions of the Bill cover minor machinery amendments of a technical and administrative nature. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– I move:
I do this because the legislation which this Parliament assented to last year sought to bring into effect a new organisation, the Australian Federal Police. That was the result of the combining of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force and the Commonwealth Police. That arrangement led to a number of things happening, beginning with negotiations between the Commonwealth Police Association and several Ministers of the Government during 1978 and 1979. During those negotiations a number of assurances were given to the members of the Commonwealth Police Force indicating that their rights and conditions, privileges and status would be protected and that in no way would they be disadvantaged as a result of the changes which the Government was contemplating at that time.
It will be recalled that when the Parliament debated these matters those assurances were given afresh. When these regulations were promulgated it was expected that they would cover the various points at issue which had been raised with the Government and with the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) in the preceding discussions. However, an examination of the regulations shows that a number of those assurances have not been carried into effect. As a consequence, there is a great deal of dissention and dismay in the ranks of the former Commonwealth Police Force. There is a great deal of concern, confusion and dissatisfaction. It must be drawn to the attention of the Senate that in the last year or two as a result of actions taken by this Government, there has been a degree of unrest in the Commonwealth Public Service arena hitherto not seen in Australian industrial history. We have had stoppages by public servants right across the board, and a great deal of dissatisfaction has been expressed in other ways. Last Friday there was a meeting by 300 Customs officers in Sydney relating to matters which they felt were not receiving the attention of the Government.
I have received representations from the various police associations as a result of the passing of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 which indicate that there is a great deal of unrest even within our own police force. Their representatives have expressed complete dissatisfaction with the regulations suggested by this Government. They are saying that if necessary they will formulate a course of industrial and political action in order to protect the rights, prospects and status of members. That is not just the view of the executive of an organisation; it is the view of its members. This view has been expressed in various States of the Commonwealth. Representations have been made to members of the Parliament and to me in my capacity as shadow Minister for Administrative Services. That dissatisfaction is very widespread and when one looks at the regulations one is entitled to say it is justified. I say that because the undertakings given during the protracted negotiations have been set aside by the promulgation of these regulations.
Under section 23 of the Act, regulation 4 determines the ranks of constable, sergeant and senior sergeant for the actual police component of the new force and the ranks of protective service constable, protective service sergeant and protective service senior sergeant for the protective service component. Last week the association found it necessary to see the Minister and point out what some of these regulations and some of these administrative acts were doing to the morale of the force. For example, the badges which were to be worn by the officers were to have different insignias. One was to have an insignia which described a police officer as being a police officer; the other badge would describe the officer as being a member of the protective service component of the Australian Federal Police. Fortunately, in that particular case, the Minister saw fit to withdraw his decision and not draw public attention to this discrimination and differentiation. A person wearing an insignia which indicated that he was a member of the protective service component of the Australian Federal Police obviously would not receive the same amount of respect, or maybe fear, depending on the emphasis one wants to place upon this, that a member of the Australian Federal Police would normally expect from members of the general public. As I say, the Minister was convinced that that was a regressive step and that it should not be taken.
The other regulations cover areas which I believe the Parliament has not been able to appreciate properly, and the purpose of my motion is to bring these matters to the attention of the Senate with a view to their being disallowed. Regulation 4 (a) (iv) makes provision for a rank of a station sergeant. This is a rank which was applicable previously only in the Australian Capital Territory for the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. When the position was created there was an establishment of 23 positions. The criteria was that these positions would be filled by 23 first class sergeants in the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. But there is no provision for the rank of station sergeant in regulation 4 (b). Whilst it may be argued that this relates to the protective service component of the Australian Federal Police, it nevertheless discriminates against those people who, prior to the formation of the Australian Federal Police, were all members of the Commonwealth Police. Those members who were encouraged and prevailed upon and who went over to protective services with a guarantee by the Minister and the Department that their career prospects and terms and conditions of service would not be affected have been inhibited by the omission of the rank of station sergeant which hitherto was evident in their status and in their classification.
Naturally, when members saw fit to cooperate with the Government in the merger of the Australian Capital Territory Police and the Commonwealth Police into the new organisation they did so in the belief and on the understanding that in no way would their positions be changed, that in no way would their careers be affected and that in no way would membership of the new organisation endanger them.
Regulation 6 (2) outlines the physical criteria for members who are deemed competent and qualified to hold the rank of a protective service constable. Here there are two different standards for two different components, a feature which I am sure the Parliament did not appreciate when this legislation was passed last year. The Opposition believes that part of regulation 6 should be removed from the regulations as it has a very serious effect on the morale of members of the Force. It also discriminates against members of the former Commonwealth Police Force in that there are now differentiations establishing changes in definitions. These relate to age and height requirements. If this provision is not deleted it could, in the long term, have detrimental effects on the image of the Force at large insofar as personnel recruited at the lowest standard would be capable only of fulfilling a guard type function. Physically they would be able to meet only that requirement. I submit that there should be sufficient latitude in the regulation to allow the Commissioner, if necessary, to change the entrance requirements of the Australian Police Force. The two separate components .of the Australian Federal Police will have two separate sets of entrance standards in respect of age, height and intelligence. In relation to regulation 13, it is hard to understand why it is necessary to have two forms of oath, if everybody is to be regarded as equal within the framework of the new Australian Federal Police Force. That affects members of the Police Force who have been told and who have been led to believe that there will be no difference in the basic constituent parts of the Australian Federal Police- the general duties and the protective services components. Two separate oaths are to be taken. One questions the validity and the morality of that sort of approach. Again it seems that the Government has reneged on its initial statements that nobody would be disadvantaged and that career prospects of members would be enhanced. That was the promise made at the time. I remember Senator Missen -
– How do you make that out? I cannot see how you make out the argument that there are two separate oaths.
– Yes, there are two separate oaths.
– How do you make that out?
– I suggest that Senator Missen have a look at the regulations. Some concern has been expressed about regulation 20. The Promotion Appeals Board obviously will have a very important role to play in the transition period, the early period of operation of the new organisation. The regulation allows for seven members from each association to be elected as representatives on the Board. There is no objection to that except that no provision is made for alternative members to be appointed to the Board. We appreciate the fact that members of the Federal Police are situated in many parts of Australia and are not concentrated here in Canberra. More Federal Police are in the various capital cities and other places of importance in Australia such as Lucas Heights. I think it makes sense that consideration should be given to the right of the Commissioner to appoint alternative members. If there is to be a promotion appeals board meeting and seven people appointed from various parts of Australia for a variety of reasons are not available to attend, then the associations, in consultation with the Commissioner, should have the right to nominate alternative delegates.
In the minds of the members of the associations this represents a very important and integral part of the rearrangements that have been brought about as a result of the merging of the two organisations. They feel that their representatives cannot adequately fulfil their functions without alternative delegates being available. We have to think only of annual leave, sick leave and distance to appreciate that without some alternative arrangement the Board would not be satisfactory from the point of view of the associations and the members of the Australian Federal Police.
Finally, I turn to the problems associated with regulations 35 to 38 which pertain to the associations. It has been put to me by the associations that these regulations could have been presented by the Government in a way that would have had the effect of encouraging not only the physical merger of the two police functions but also of bringing the two police organisations together.
The fact that the regulations do not encourage that development has created a situation of suspicion in the minds of the organisations. This has flowed down to the membership of the organisations. Members want to see steps taken that will have the new organisation recognised and accepted under the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There is no reason why the regulations could not simply have designated as an association an organisation formed and registered pursuant to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1 904. This would have given constitutional coverage to members of the Australian Federal Police.
Whilst it is true that some progress has been made in this area, and both police organisations are getting together with a view to merging their respective organisations, they believe that there is a necessity to include in the police regulations a section that would encourage the formation of those two bodies into a single organisation representing the total membership of the merged Australian Federal Police. It is in the light of the representations that have been made to me and to other honourable senators and for the reasons that I have suggested that we feel that the regulations ought to be disallowed. As far as is possible we should have an arrangement by which the rights of the members will be protected, the status of the members recognised and the morale of the force enhanced. This Parliament should understand the problems that are facing members of the Australian Federal Police as a result of the legislation passed by this Parliament.
– I wish to say a few words. I was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. When this matter came before the Committee we considered it closely. As a committee we were most concerned about the power of the Commissioner to stand a policeman down without pay when he is accused of an offence. At that time we received guarantees from the Commissioner and from the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) that this provision in fact would not be operative and that if the charges were dismissed the policeman would receive his pay and that this provision would come into operation only on a rare occasion involving some length of time. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee decided that it would not oppose the clause that it considered. I am influenced by the decision of the Australian Labor Party Caucus on a similar motion moved in the other place by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). As a result of that decision I feel duty bound to oppose the disallowance of these regulations.
– I rise to speak briefly on this matter. The Government opposes the disallowance of these regulations. Nevertheless I have taken considerable note of Senator Gietzelt ‘s contribution on this occasion and do not doubt for one moment the sincerity of his views on the matters that concern him. However, I must point out again that this matter in relation to the Australian Federal Police was subjected to a full debate in the Parliament in June 1979. It has since been agreed to by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. I shall consider some of the points that Senator Gietzelt has made and pass comment on them.
We should be aware that in dealing with any matter that is relevant to police and our society we are dealing with an extremely serious situation. A matter which is relevant to the laws :, rider which we live is absolutely crucial. It is crucial that police organisations have confidence in their own structure and in their own capacities and should likewise have confidence that the community itself stands behind them, because that is the way a community survives in our society. The Act was drawn up as the result of consideration of recommendations and observations made by Sir Robert Mark to the Australian Police and to the Australian Government. From those recommendations has evolved the Australian Federal Police. At this stage the Australian Federal Police consists of two components; the general duties officers and the protective service officers, with clearly different areas of involvement. I think that a little too much sensitivity has developed referable to the different areas of involvement.
Senator Gietzelt referred to regulation 4 which relates to the titles of constable, sergeant, senior sergeant and, in the case of general duties officers, station sergeant. Those ranks have the prefix ‘protective service’ which, of course, takes quite a deal longer to say, but it is the sort of distinction that occurs when we think of the society and the way in which we live. It is the sort of distinction that applies to many fields indeed. I recall ‘paymaster’ or ‘engineer’ as a prefix to ‘sublieutenant’ in the Navy, and these are also distinctions. I recall that during the war aircrew trainees wore a little white patch on their forage caps. Those are matters of distinction about which I think we might be tending to become too sensitive. I suppose that in actual fact ‘protective service sergeant’ would be commonly known as sergeant’ anyway. The station sergeant, of course as I understand it, does not exist in the protective service component.
Senator Gietzelt referred to regulation 6 which again relates to a measure of differentiation. It relates to the competency, the various qualifications of people involved in the two different branches of the service, the two different components of the service. There are slightly different requirements, educationally and physically. Of course, there are slightly different requirements from the point of view of age on entry. I do not believe that this is an area of serious concern. It is perfectly normal that various jobs in many areas across the range of our community efforts require and indeed attain different standards. In our own educational field, different matriculation standards are applicable to a whole range of facilties. Perhaps we are being more sensitive than realistic about the problems which Senator Gietzelt has raised this afternoon.
Regulation 1 3 has been referred to. It relates to the oaths and affirmations. Here we are looking at what has become a tradition. There is a requirement that general service officers are required to take the common oath together with the Public Service oath. The common law oath, as I understand it, is related to keeping the peace of the land. In the case of police in the Australian Capital Territory, that oath refers to their responsibility for peace of the land, referable to the Australian Capital Territory itself; another case refers to a State. The protective services officer has very specific and very important duties to perform in guarding embassies, diplomatic people, parliament houses and buildings of that nature, buildings where high security and high risk exist. I believe that the oaths are related to real circumstance and tradition and that they are not in reality a reflection on any component or anybody in the service to which we refer. Regulation 20 relates to the composition of the Promotion Appeals Board, about which Senator Gietzelt showed a measure of concern. Action is in train to ensure that, despite leave or any other form of absence, there is always a representation of each association on the Appeals Board.
The final matters referred to by Senator Gietzelt are referable to regulations 35 to 38 which relate to police associations. The suggestion was made that it was improper for the Government to enter into any form of control or directive in this matter. It is common practice in many Western countries for some sort of directive and control to be used in regard to police associations. I suppose it is because the police force itself is of such importance and such basic significance to the societies we live in that it is absolutely outside the bounds of security for the population to countenance a situation in which one may be confronted by a very significant number of associations with disputes, demarcation issues, and that type of thing. I believe it is something that the community does not see as being part of the police force under whose security it chooses to live. Consequently, the matter of proliferation of associations is not one which really fits into our particular society and into our particular way of life. In fact, the two associations concerned in the Australian Federal Police have agreed in principle to merge. I think that Senator Gietzelt made reference to this fact. Deliberations on how that merger is finally to be achieved are now being conducted in detail and with a measure of real concern.
I close my remarks by reminding the Senate that there is between these components in the Australian Federal Police a capacity to move from one area of service or from one area of concentration to another. That capacity to movethat mobility- is determined purely and simply by questions relative to those matters honourable senators were talking about earlier. Those questions are relative to age, educational standards and, of course, in almost every case, physical standards. It is my understanding that there is mobility from one component, from the security or guard division to the general duties division, and that members in the guard division have preference over new entrants into the force if they seek to move into the general duties division.
I think I have covered most of the matters that Senator Gietzelt raised. He mentioned ministerial assurances in an earlier debate. I understand that those assurances were that the jobs, terms and conditions of the Commonwealth Police would not be at risk. These assurances were contained in a document issued to all members on 24 January 1979. 1 conclude my remarks opposing the disallowance by saying that the Australian Federal Police seems to be the development of a composite force. No doubt it will develop as time goes by. I hope and believe that most of the worries raised by Senator Gietzeltwith a measure of real sincerity I am sure- will prove to be caused by sensitivity and not, in fact, to be matters of real and solid concern. So I reiterate that the Government opposes the disallowance.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 4 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Walsh had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after “That”, insert: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted as the Senate is of the opinion that the Atomic Energy Act is an inappropriate legislative basis for nuclear energy research and development and for commercial activities and should be repealed and replaced by legislation to establish-
an independent regulator)’ authority responsible for nuclear-related environmental protection, health, safety, security, safeguards, and other nonproliferation activities;
a government corporation to conduct the present commerical activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, such as the production and marketing of radioisotopes; and
a Nuclear Science Authority to perform, as appropriate, the other functions currently undertaken by the Commission’.
– The purpose of the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill is to amend and also to repeal certain sections of the Atomic Energy Act. It was also shown that this was necessary in 1978. The original Act was introduced in 1953 at a time when there was a Cold War, if one wishes to describe it that way, in the early years after the tragedies of the 1939-45 period. Of course, uranium was then and is now very much a strategic material. During that period Australia was mainly supplying uranium for defence purposes to the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Legislation was introduced with some very severe measures from a defence point of view, if I may put it that way. Since then the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has moved into the area of the commercial aspects of uranium for peaceful purposes, as has happened in so many other countries. Hence it was necessary to have differing legislation from that which existed previously to cover the commercial aspects with regard to the mining, milling, processing and exporting of uranium. In 1978, as I said, certain amendments were made to the original Act of 1953. When those amendments were first introduced by this Government there was criticism by the Opposition that the Government was using this Act to cover the commercial aspects of uranium. In the current debate we find exactly the same thing taking place.
It is interesting to note the Memorandum of Understanding which was agreed to by the then Federal Government, the Whitlam Government, and the two parties, or the consortium, involved in the Ranger mine. This memorandum was drawn up in October 1975. Many areas were covered within this Memorandum of Understanding. In Clause 2 of this memorandum which is headed: ‘Scope of Ranger Project’, sub-clause (c) states:
The Ranger Project shall be conducted as a commercial venture and in accordance with good commercial, mining and industrial practice.
Sub-clause (e) states:
In particular, Australia-
Shall grant any necessary and appropriate authorities under the Atomic Energy Act.
I repeat that it stated that Australia shall grant any necessary and appropriate authorities under the Atomic Energy Act. It went on to state that this authority would be granted for a period of 2 1 years. It can be seen from this that the previous Australian Labor Party Government established the basis for the commercial operations to take place under the original Atomic Energy Act. So when this Government moved in to go further with the development of the Ranger uranium project, it followed on from the pattern that had been established by the previous Labor Government. When one hears the criticism of the members of the Opposition that the Government is using this Act, one wonders how hollow some of that criticism is when they were prepared to accept the basis of this Memorandum of Understanding. 1 also hasten to add that I would hope that as time goes on, we will see changes to this Act or perhaps even a redrafting of the Act. I shall deal with that matter later in my remarks.
I return to the immediate matter and to the basis of what this Bill is about. I referred earlier to amendments of some of the sections. In 1978, when previous amendments were made, some very great concern was expressed by some of the States in Australia about the encroachment of the powers of the Federal Government. One of the amendments moved at that stage had the effect of enabling commercial mining for prescribed substances as stated in that legislation. That could be done and authorised by the Commonwealth Government in the various States. This caused a great deal of concern to be expressed by many of the States. The then Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, when he first introduced this legislation made this situation clear. He stated:
The provision amends section 4 1 of the Act so that, other than with the consent of a State, the power conferred by that section to authorised mining in a State can only be exercised for defence purposes.
In other words, this proposed amendment limits very much the powers of the Commonwealth whereby a Minister can move in to a State with authority to mine or handle a prescribed substance, only if he can show very clearly that this can be done for defence purposes. I was very pleased to see that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), the Opposition spokesman on resources and energy generally, supported this amendment to section 4 1 in the original Act. The honourable member said:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to sort out difficulties created when the Atomic Energy Act was amended in 1978. At that time the Government introduced changes to give the Commonwealth very wide scope to control the mining of uranium and other prescribed substances, as well as operations connected with uranium mining, without regard to the wishes of the States. This amendment led to confusion concerning the Commonwealth’s ability to authorise the mining of uranium.
The honourable member continued:
Under the legislation it may have been possible for the Commonwealth to authorise to undertake uranium mining in a State even if this was contrary to State policy, and even though the exploitation of mineral resources is principally a State matter. The Government is seeking now to clarify the difficulties created by this change. At last it has recognised that there may be a Commonwealth/State conflict over such a matter. In amending this Bill the Government makes it clear that Commonwealth authority to mine uranium will be subject to the consent of the State concerned unless authority is given for the purposes only of the defence of the Commonwealth.
This is what I said previously. I was very pleased to see that the honourable member for Blaxland accepted the need for this to be done and also that he made such a responsible statement. Having said that, I was very surprised to read Senator Tate’s speech, wherein he was critical of this amendment. Without going into detail about what Senator Tate said, he made it very clear that he was concerned that the Commonwealth basically would be handing over to the State this area of mining. He stated:
It can be frustrated, it can be fettered, it can be trammelled by the petty parochial policies which may emerge in any State due perhaps to that State’s lack of vision, its lack of comprehension of a national project -
This is with regard to States- and, even more dangerously and perhaps more predictably, simply because of a contrary political attitude to the national government, whichever government it may be. I see no reason why the Commonwealth Government’s participation in the development of such an important and critical resource, ought to be dependent upon a State government’s consent . . .
– That is another senator speaking?
- Senator Tate said those things. One can see a conflict of opinion between that statement of Senator Tate and the statement
I quoted previously of the shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Keating. One wonders from the comments of Senator Tate whether he is adopting what was previously a policy of the Whitlam Government- that of a centralist approach, whereby it wanted to keep all power with the Federal Government, in Canberra, rather than let power go to the States. Further on in his speech, Senator Tate made reference to the Federal Government not gaining any experience in mining and operations generally in regard to uranium.
– Do you think he has just spilled the beans?
– It shows the conflict of opinion running within the Labor Party on the uranium issue. We know that there are many members of the Labor Party who, quite frankly, would like to get up and support the mining of uranium. This does not take place. Nevertheless, one is aware of this not only in the Federal sphere but also in the States. My own State of South Australia has witnessed the tragedy of what can happen in politics. Men such as Hugh Hudson and Des Corcoran were very much for the mining of uranium, and that is one of the reasons why they were politically destroyed in South Australia. They were political opponents of mine, but they were two good men. This is one of the problems within the Labor Party, and it does create some confusion. I accept Senator Tate’s logic, because of the basic philosophy of what he expounded, but I find it very hard to accept what he went on to say about the Federal Government not gaining any experience if it hands these things over to the States.
Here, I contradict what Senator Tate says because we know very well of the involvement of the Federal Government in the Ranger project. We know very well that from this project the Federal Government will get all the experience it will need. Certainly up to this stage it has had a lot of experience in its development with regard to environmental aspects and so many other things. The Federal Government also has gained experience in the exporting of uranium. Under section 51 of the Constitution, the Federal Government has complete and supreme power in this area. We know also that the Federal Government- with the guidelines set down by Mr Fraser, the most rigid of any country proposing to export uranium- will be keeping a very close eye on the control and marketing of uranium. So, when it comes to the actual operations, marketing and exporting of uranium, the Government has gained experience.
Having said those things, I still cannot understand why we find this conflict of view of Senator Tate- with regard particularly to the experience of the Federal Government and with regard to handing back what is really a State right. With regard to the amending of section 41 of the original Act under clause 3 of this Bill, the Commonwealth will still have power when power is required to move in under the defence legislation. I fully support what has been proposed with regard to clause 3 of this Bill.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the Senate rose for dinner I was speaking on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill which repeals some sections of the Atomic Energy Act. I had dealt with clause 3 of the Bill which amends section 41 of the Act. This amendment has been made, as I said before, because of the great deal of concern amongst some of the States about the powers the Commonwealth had under the Act. Hence the Act is being amended to place a limitation upon the powers of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth will be able to operate in regard to the mining of proscribed substances and uranium only if it uses the Defence Act. This would be done only if Australia were in a critical situation.
This Bill makes other amendments to the legislation. I refer to clause 4 which totally repeals section 54 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 and also to clause 5 which repeals section 58. It has been interesting to hear senators on both sides of the chamber during the course of the debate refer to the legislation as draconian. One accepts the comments that are made in relation to the current situation, but one must appreciate that the original legislation came into being during the Cold War which occurred just after the 1939-45 World War which tragically cost so much in so many ways throughout the world. Both of the sections which are to be repealed are very powerful and give the Commonwealth extreme power. For example, no action could be taken against the Commonwealth for an unlawful arrest under section 54 of the Act. The Commonwealth also had power, when it suspected that somebody was to commit an offence, to straight away say, if it saw fit, that the party was guilty of an offence. Therefore I am in complete accord with the repeal of these sections.
I now turn to clause 6 of the Bill which repeals section 60 of the Act. Previously projects relating to the mining of uranium or any such type of material came within the provisions of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act which virtually gave the Commonwealth supreme power. The amendment will place great limitations upon the relevant Minister and he will in future have to declare the projects that he considers of vital importance. These projects will have to be published in the Government Gazette. I also take notice of the amendment that was foreshadowed yesterday by Senator Hamer. He wants to go further. Rather than just having such a direction gazetted, he wants the Parliament to have the final say on whether or not the direction will become law. Upon consideration I can say that I will give my full support to Senator Hamer’s amendment at the Committee stage of the Bill.
I want to deal briefly- I may be accused of digressing- with what Senator Melzer has said. She spoke on this legislation last night and spent quite some time on the workers problems- if I could put it this way- at the Nabarlek mine. She stated that the cause of a great deal of the problems was the extreme powers contained in the Atomic Energy Act. I may stand corrected but, as I understand the position, Senator Melzer is not entirely correct in what she says. I will not enter a debate on what she said were the problems of the workers as I know very little of the specific cases she mentioned. All I want to say is that she was wrong, as far as I am aware, in saying that the problem at Nabarlek was created by the Atomic Energy Act. As I understand it, the whole operations of the Nabarlek mine come within the Northern Territory mining code. There is a great difference between that code and the Atomic Energy Act. Whilst, as I said before, I do not want to debate with Senator Melzer the rights and wrongs of the examples she gave, I want to say that she was wrong to lay the blame on the Atomic Energy Act. The Nabarlek mine does not come under the Australian Energy Act; rather it comes under the Northern Territory mining code. I hope that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) later on will correct me it I am wrong but as I understand the situation what I have just said is correct.
The Australian Labor Party has also moved an amendment containing three paragraphs to the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill. I will not discuss the amendment other than to say that it is very premature. We in this chamber are aware that the previous Minister for National Development, Mr Kevin Newman, established, firstly, what is known as NERDDC- the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council. Later he established a review committee within NERDDC to go into the whole area of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission research establishments. No doubt there was a reason. This independent committee was to take public evidence and to come forward with proposals for the Government and the particular Minister. The suggestions that had been made not just by this important committee but by a wide variety of people who had taken the advantage of giving evidence to it were looked at.
The committee’s report is a big volume of many chapters. No doubt the Minister and the Government are studying this report very closely. No doubt the Minister at some time will be coming out with some positive proposals as a result of this report of the review committee of NERDDC. I can only say to the Opposition that its amendment- without going into the pros and cons- is very premature. Hence, I will certainly not be supporting the amendment moved by Senator Walsh for the Australian Labor Party when he spoke on this legislation yesterday.
I bring one other thing to the attention of the Senate and the Minister. As I read the three paragraphs of the amendment moved by the Labor Party I notice the exclusion of any commercial operation for the mining, milling or sale of uranium. The amendment refers to the establishment of a government corporation to conduct the present commercial activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, such as the production and marketing of radioisotopes. I just wonder whether the Opposition thought that if it were to use back door methods and if we were to accept its proposed amendments indirectly we would be saying that we are opposed to the mining of uranium. I want to make it perfectly clear that I and my colleagues are in favour of the mining of uranium. I will not go into a debate on that; I simply say that being in favour of the mining of uranium in this country to meet our responsibilities to an energy hungry world, I give my full support to the Bill presented by the Government and I look forward to further amendments being made to the Act or perhaps a redrafting of the Act being undertaken as a result of the report which has been brought down by a special committee established by NERDDC.
-This Atomic Energy Amendment Bill represents yet another exercise in tinkering with a fundamentally inappropriate piece of legislation. The Opposition has no particular objection to any of the individual provisions of this short Bill when they are looked at in isolation; neither to clause 3, which deals with the essentially administrative matter of approvals for Commonwealth uranium exploitation ventures, nor to clauses 4, 5 and 6, which seek to limit the operation of some of the more extravagant penal provisions of the Atomic Energy Act to projects of that kind. What we do object to is the fact that the Atomic Energy Actthat 1953 child of the Cold War, that legislation designed to regulate the exploitation of uranium for defence purposes- is being used to govern the exploitation of uranium for essentially commercial purposes. The attitude of the Opposition to the use, or we would say the misuse, of that Act for that purpose is embodied in the amendment moved by Senator Walsh to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. I put that amendment in the record once again because I think that the Opposition’s position ought to be appreciated. It reads:
Leave out all words after ‘That ‘, insert: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted as the Senate is of the opinion that the Atomic Energy Act is an inappropriate legislative basis for nuclear energy research and development and for commercial activities and should be replaced by legislation to establish-
an independent regulatory authority responsible for nuclear-related environmental protection, health, safety, security, safeguards, and other nonproliferation activities;
a government corporation to conduct the present commercial activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, such as the production and marketing of radioisotopes; and
a Nuclear Science Authority to perform, as appropriate, the other functions currently undertaken by the Commission’.
A glance at the text of this Bill, and in particular at the main part of it which deals with the civil liberty issue, I suggest brings out the wisdom of the Opposition ‘s approach, which is embodied in our amendment. It also brings out, as so often is the case, the hypocrisy of the Government’s approach. The substance of this Bill consists of the repeal or the amendment of three provisions in the existing Atomic Energy Act which have been regarded, quite properly, as particularly offensive to civil liberties. But the real significance of this Bill- it is rather like the dog that did not bark in the Sherlock Holmes story- lies in respect of those provisions of the Act which are not dealt with, are not tackled, are not repealed, are not amended by this Bill. We are duly grateful for the small mercies we have been rendered by the Government in this Bill, but there are some rather larger mercies which are yet to be granted and for which, despite all the Government’s protestations of its good intentions ultimately in this area, we are still awaiting.
It is true that this Bill will repeal and will repeal outright section 54 of the Atomic Energy Act. That is a matter for acclamation insofar as section 54 is a quite ugly provision which makes governments, police and other law enforcement officers quite immune from prosecution to the extent that they misuse or abuse their powers in policing the operation of that Act. We are glad to see that that provision will go. We are glad to see also that this Bill before us tonight will repeal section 58 of the Atomic Energy Act, which makes it an offence to commit various acts preparatory to the commission of substantive offences under the Atomic Energy Act.
It is also true that this Bill before us tonight will amend section 60 of the old Act so as to make non-automatic the application to uranium exploitation projects of the old Approved Defence Projects Protection Act, which Senator Missen quite properly described as an intimidatory piece of legislation. It is now to be provided- we respect and applaud the Government’s initiative in this respect- that that approved defence projects legislation is not automatically to be applicable but is to be applicable only after an explicit governmental decision has been made to make it applicable to a particular project. That certainly will be an improvement on what the situation has been, but of course it will still not be completely satisfactory. I for one am delighted to note that Senator Hamer will at the Committee stage move an amendment at least to ensure that any such decision by the Government to make a particular project subject to the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act will itself be subject to disallowance by this Parliament. That is an initiative of Senator Hamer which I and the Opposition wholeheartedly support. Indeed, I was very glad to notice that even Senator Young, with respect, indicated his proposed support of that foreshadowed amendment. But that is where the good things one could say about this legislation run out.
The Atomic Energy Act, when amended, will still apply to commercial exploitations of uranium- Ranger and other such projects- in its entirety. An awful lot which is thoroughly dreadful will be left in that Act. In fact, what will be left in the Act makes the changes which will be made to sections 54, 58 and 60 of the Act which I have just mentioned pale completely into insignificance. Senator Missen said in his contribution to this debate that we should not delay the funeral of those provisions. To employ his mortuary metaphor, might I say that, given what will still be alive in the Act, the demise of those provisions should hardly be an occasion for a rousing wake. When one looks at the provisions which will still remain, which will still be extant, in the Atomic Energy Act, which are still applicable today and which will remain so until they are made inapplicable by specific legislation, one sees that they are a thoroughly excessively farreaching, a dreadfully far-reaching and an inappropriately far-reaching collection.
I indicate briefly to the Senate what some of those provisions are. Section 43 of the Atomic Energy Act prohibits the obstruction or hindering of anyone in the exercise of any power under the Act and provides a penalty of $1,000 or six months ‘ gaol or both to anyone convicted of such an offence. Then there is section 49 of the Act, which makes it an offence to commit sabotage. One might say: ‘Properly so. Sabotage is a pretty important and pretty offensive kind of action, after all’. But when one looks at. the Act one finds that ‘sabotage’ is defined to include, among other things, ‘an act which is likely to . . . impair the efficiency of any real or personal property’ which ‘belongs to the Commission’ or is used or intended to be used in connection with a contract’. For a commission of sabotage, as so widely and loosely defined, a penalty of seven years’ gaol is provided. It ought to be quite apparent to the Senate that a simple union ban on the supply of spare parts for mining equipment might well have the effect described as amounting to the commission of sabotage under that clause. The overreach is quite obvious.
Then there is section 48, which is a particularly offensive provision insofar as it provides for a general prohibition of any communication of restricted information, so-called, whatever the intent of the person so communicating that information. Again, seven years’ gaol is involved in any such communication. That provision becomes particularly nauseous in its potential application to the kinds of projects we are talking about when we note that ‘restricted information’ is defined in section 4 of the Atomic Energy Act to include any information that one could conceivably think of in relation to a mining or exploitation operation, including information relating to even such matters as the environmental or safety impact of production methods employed on site.
Finally, there is a group of interrelated sections in the Act which I feel also deserve particular mention. They still remain and are still applicable. To use that much over-used expression of recent months in the Parliament, they are draconian provisions. I refer to sections 44 to 47 of the Act. These provisions prohibit the communication of restricted information- that expression is defined as I defined it a moment agowith intent to prejudice the defence of the
Commonwealth. This involves & penalty not of seven years’ gaol, but of-20 years’ gaol. One might think that to the exent that the defence of the Commonwealth is being prejudiced by some such action, this kind of.penalty might not be excessive or inappropriate. But a couple of points ought to be noted about the operation of these sections. One is that the notion of prejudicing the defence of a nation is not quite as narrow as it sounds.
There are British cases under the Official Secrets Act in the United Kingdom which are of persuasive authority in Australia. They suggest that a court will treat an action as being prejudicial to defence if the Government simply says that the action in question has this effect without the court’s requiring itself objectively to be so satisfied. The particular case which seems to stand for that provision which has not been overturned in its potential application to Australia is that of Chandler and the Director of Public Prosecutions, the House of Lords authority of 1963. If the Government is minded to say that a project such as Ranger, Narbalek or whatever has long term defence implications for Australia such that interferences or boycotts in any way associated with its operation can be construed as prejudicing the defence of the Commonwealth, there is excellent reason to suppose that our courts would regard this section of the Act with its 20 year gaol penalty as being applicable.
The second point to note about the operation of these penal sanctions is that they are accompanied by another extraordinary section which is again untouched by the Bill before us tonight. It is applicable to such prosecutions under the sections to which I have referred and it provides, in a startling reversal of some of the basic assumptions about criminal justice that we are supposed to rely on, that it is not necessary to show that the accused charged of these sorts of offences was guilty of any act tending to show an intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth if- I quote from the section- ‘from the cirumstances of the case, his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that he acted with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth’. A much lesser burden of proof as to intention is imposed upon the prosecution. If that is not bad enough, section 47 of the Atomic Energy Act reverses the presumption of innocence so that the accused is deemed to have communicated the information with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth unless and until he-the accused person, not the prosecution- can prove the contrary. These provisions might conceivably have been justifiedone would have needed to paddle hard to have done so- in the circumstances of defence operation in the early 1950s. They seem to the Opposition to be totally and completely unjustified in their application to uranium exploitation for commercial purposes in the context of the 1980s.
It is not only these provisions of the Atomic Energy Act which are potentially applicable to activity of a demonstrative kind in this area. We have to bear in mind the huge swag of other legislation presently on the statute books which also has potential application in this area. I will mention the Acts by name without describing their detailed application. One is the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Act which was passed in 1 978. Another is the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act which operates in that geographical area. Both Acts go a long way towards prohibiting the communication of information in relation to uranium projects. There is also a mass of general legislation such as the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act which is still capable of application by section 60 of the Atomic Energy Act. The Crimes Act 1914 has gaol penalties for boycotting activities. Industrial legislation such as section 45 D of the Trade Practices Act, the Commonwealth Employees Act 1977 and the various recent amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act also has application.
When we read all those provisions together with the provisions that I have mentioned which are still specifically on foot and applicable in the Atomic Energy Act itself, we find a package of legislation which is directed indiscriminately at an extraordinary variety of actions which might range from violent destruction of installations- I can see that that is obviously legitimate for legislation to guard against- to what on the other hand in my view and the Opposition ‘s view is not legitimate to legislate against, and that is the entirely peaceful dissemination of information about the environmental and safety implications of commercial projects. This legislation, when read literally as being applicable to uranium mining situations, is directed at any physical interference with the movement of uranium and the movement of men, machinery or materials in relation to uranium mining or processing. It applies to the picketing or occupation of installations. It applies to trade union bans and limitations affecting uranium installations in any way. It applies to the suppression of information of all kinds relating to uranium operations. It is enormously, unjustifiably wide, sweeping and draco nian in its application and implications.
– That dog you were talking about before might not have barked much but he sure bit a lot.
– The legislation that remains on the books would make any dog jealous. The set of teeth it provides for any government minded to apply this legislation is absolutely savage and frightening. This was acknowledgedthis point cannot be made too often- by Mr Justice Fox, the Government’s own uranium commissioner. He has been quoted on innumerable occasions in this place. The Fox report stated that the Atomic Energy Act 1953 was quite inappropriate in its application to commercial uranium exploitation. At page 248 of that report it is stated:
We strongly recommend against the use of that Act for the grant of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium.
At page 250 it is said:
The security provisions of Part IV of the Atomic Energy Act, some of which seem extreme in the current context, were doubtless enacted with defence considerations in mind. While they remain, public access to information is seriously curtailed.
- Senator Evans, may I interrupt you? I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in my Gallery of the Honourable Agatha Barbara, the Minister for Labour, Culture and Welfare in the Government of the Republic of Malta. To her we tender a very warm welcome to our chamber. We trust that her stay in Australia will be pleasant and profitable. We bid her welcome.
-To what I have been describing as the unjustified scope and sweep of these provisions, as a number of speakers on the Government side have described them, the Government’s answer is to say in a legal technique which is known as confession and avoidance: ‘Well, we acknowledge that many of these provisions, perhaps all of them, are inappropriate to the commercial exploitation of uranium. We are looking at the situation, reviewing the legislation and perhaps one day we will bring down legislation to correct it accordingly’. So much was said, as other speakers have pointed out, in the debate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill in 1978. That commitment, made under pressure no doubt, was made fully 14 months ago, given that the Bill went through in November 1978. The question that I and the Opposition ask the Senate is: How long will it be necessary to wait for this review to take place?
Senator Young said that the approach of the Opposition to this matter is premature, but how long do we have to wait to get an answer?
If the Government is really serious about removing the worst of the penal provisions which I have outlined and which exist in the Atomic Energy Act, a competent parliamentary draftsman could draw up the necessary changes to legislation between morning tea and lunch on a single day. It is a very simple exercise. The provisions which are offensive are clearly labelled, clearly indentified and clearly stand out in the existing Atomic Energy Act. It has been possible for the draftsman, with a sweep of his pen, to repeal a couple of those sections and produce a simple amendment to a third. It was equally possible for the draftsman, if he was serious and if he was given serious policy instructions by the Government, to have achieved exactly the same results with respect to all the other offensive provisions with equal ease and equal dispatch. It is not as if the Government’s legislative program is especially burdensome at the moment. We have been sitting for three weeks in this new session and we have not had one substantial Bill before us. It is impossible to believe that the pressures on the parliamentary draftsman and the pressures on the Department have been responsible for this delay. One can only regard it as yet another half-hearted piece of nonsense, as yet another demonstration of this Government’s extraordinary capacity for confusing form on the one hand and substance on the other, for confusing cosmetics with reality and for being absolutely unable or unwilling to distinguish between statements of intention on the one hand and execution on the other. In other words, it is a classic demonstration once again of this Government’s capacity for hypocrisy- for saying one thing and doing another- which is the overwhelming distinguishing characteristic of this Administration. It is for those reasons that the Opposition takes the stance it does and opposes this Bill.
– My entry into this debate is very late. Having studied the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill during the recess it was my intention to speak on some clauses of this Bill in the Committee stage. One of the clauses that I desire to speak on was referred to by Senator Hamer, who indicated that he intended to move an amendment to that clause in the Committee stage. As Senator Hamer announced the terms of his proposed amendment in the second reading debate, I decided that I should speak in that debate, mostly to congratulate him on the attitude he has taken and to remind him of some previous instances when I have pointed out the same thing, but also in the hope that he will get the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) to see the sense or logic of the proposed amendment and accept it. My words may appear to be rather irrelevant to the Bill but it is for the purpose of bringing us back to the Bill that I have decided to speak in this debate.
Senator Young was worried about the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to this matter. The Opposition believes, as its amendment states, that, whatever the defects of the Bill, there should be an independent regulatory authority responsible for nuclear-related environmental protection, health, safety, security, safeguards and other non-proliferation activities and that this authority should have supreme power. I join Senator Evans in saying that, although the Bill does not get rid of all the infringements of civil rights that Senator Evans mentioned, the Opposition appreciates the three, possibly four, amendments to the Act. The Act, with all its deprivations of civil rights and liberties, applies not just to uranium but to all prescribed substances. I believe that is the wording of the Act.
This legislation will not apply to uranium mining or mining for prescribed substances in the States unless the substances are mined for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth. I do not know what is the meaning of the words purposes each of which is related only to the defence of the Commonwealth’. I do not know whether the legislation will be applicable to a mine which operates as a commercial operation if some of its products are used for the defence of the Commonwealth. But a big section of mining which will take place in the States will be left out. The amendment to section 54 of the principal Act will permit an action by an individual against the Commonwealth for unlawful arrest. Proposed section 58 will prohibit prosecution for an act preparatory to the commission of an offence.
I want especially to mention clause 6 of the Bill, which seeks to repeal section 60 of the principal Act and to substitute something else. Section 60 of the principal Act applies the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act to all mining of uranium substances and its treatment. That Act, of which I have spoken before, takes all civil rights and liberties from the individual and gives supreme power and the right of arrest without charge to the Commonwealth. It takes away every right that an individual has. It was brought in by Dr Evatt for the building of the Woomera rocket range. Dr Evatt thought it was essential for approved defence projects at a time when the
Commonwealth may have been in dire danger. That Act justified the stripping of liberties from individuals to get in operation Commonwealth projects for defence purposes. There may be some logic in that.
The Act applied to every uranium deposit previously. We are now restricting it only to those under Commonwealth jurisdiction, and Commonwealth jurisdiction will be applicable only to those for the defence of the Commonwealth. But it will not of necessity apply to all of the projects. We could have Commonwealth control under which the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act would not apply until such time as the Minister directed that it should apply. Therefore we would say that it should be applicable to a project only on rare occasions. That would be a decision for the Minister. I suppose that one could justify the deprivation of all liberties if it were necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth. But what Senator Hamer has asked, and what I have asked repeatedly, is whether the Minister should be the one to make the decision on this matter. Should he have the entire power? Under the amendment his power will not apply to all projects; it will apply only to those that the Minister decides it ought to apply to. Without giving any justification to the Parliament the Minister could extend his powers to apply this freedom restricting legislation to a particular project. It may be for the purpose of stopping or preventing a strike.
– Breaking a strike is more like it.
-Or breaking a strike at a project which is not in dire need for the defence of the Commonwealth. The project may be for the purpose of stockpiling uranium for future defence needs. But the Minister is the one who makes the decision. As I said, some of my remarks may not appear relevant, but I have argued for a long time that the power of making vital decisions must be kept within the Parliament. I believe it was the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which brought down a report recommending that the powers that we seek here should not be taken away from the Parliament, and that Bills should be referred to a joint committee of both houses for the purpose of reporting to the Parliament whether there had been an infringement of those basic needs which we think should be preserved.
I spoke on this matter when it came up for discussion in this House. Although I did not favour a joint committee being appointed, I was not opposed to a Senate select committee considering the matter, not because I thought it was essential but because I thought that many members of the Parliament were not doing their job in pointing this out to the Parliament. Recognising their inability or failure to carry out their duties, they wanted some committee to do the work for them.
During the recess I received a communication from Senator Hamer. I might say that when this matter was discussed in this place previously he was prevented from speaking by Government members who moved that the Senate continue with other business. Senator Evans, I believe, moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as to allow Senator Evans and Senator Hamer to be heard on the question. This motion was defeated by the Government, and we did not have the advantage of the honourable senator’s views on this question. But he saw fit to issue a statement which he sent to me and, I suppose, to all members of the Parliament. It purported to include the Press statement that he had made. In my copy the Press statement was not there.
– That was an oversight.
– I am not critical of that, but I was very interested in Senator Hamer ‘s view. My office contacted his office and asked whether I could have the statement. I received that statement and read it, and I had every intention of replying to him along the lines of what I have said, indicating that there appeared to have been some neglect of his duty in the past, as well as the duty of other members of the House, and while I did not think that a committee was necessary I would go along with it. However, I failed to reply. I thought: ‘What is the use?’ But now it appears that he does realise that what he suggested the committee could achieve can be done. He has studied the Act, he has looked at the legislation and he has seen the need for improvement. Now, courageously, he has brought the matter before the Parliament.
But there is another obstacle which the honourable senator has to overcome. I have pointed before to the lack of ability of a Minister to accept an amendment on this chamber, irrespective of whether he considers the amendment is justified. It will be remembered that when I spoke on this matter before I raised many cases. Senator Hamer and Senator Missen and others would agree with that. They would also agree that those cases, if they studied them, related to a right being taken away from the Parliament. But I do not think that they studied them and on those occasions I did not get a supporter. On those occasions I pressed the Minister concerned. He could not answer my criticism about taking power from the Parliament and giving it to a Minister. Later, after further consideration, there were amending Bills introduced and agreed to. I refer to the National Health Act and to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. I think I can say that I achieved amendments to those Acts. What I said at the time ultimately resulted in another amendment after a long delay. I will give an illustration. Because this matter was pointed out and the Minister concerned agreed that there was a need to alter an Act we have on the statute book today the immemorial words, in relation to maternity allowances, that if a female employee becomes pregnant -
– Only female employees?
-Yes, it does not apply to all employees, only female employees. But that is there. Speaking to the Minister at a later stage I said to him: ‘You know this is wrong’. When he agreed with me I asked him what he was going to do, and he said: ‘I hope that the draftsman will pick it up next time around ‘. This illustrates the inability of Ministers.
I submit that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) has to justify to the Senate why he should not accept Senator Hamer’s amendment on this occasion. There must be a justification for the decision that there is something wrong with the amendment, or he must show courage and ability and say that draftsmen do not control legislation under his control; that if an alteration is justified the Bill will be altered and returned to the House of Representatives. In respect of the Bill before us, I have always maintained that the Government is depriving everyone of every liberty on some projects only. Why should the Minister be the one to decide what projects these should be? I make an earnest appeal to the Minister to consider this matter and not let us divide on the question. He knows that some members on his side of the House would support the proposed amendment. It is not an issue for division. It is an issue for logic. This is something we should accept. I feel that the only thing that would prevent its acceptance is the power of the draftsman over the Minister. I think this power should be broken. We should come back to Ministerial responsibility and Parliamentary decision.
– in reply-The Senate has been engaged in a second reading debate on a series of amendments to the Atomic Energy Act 1953. To understand those amendments one must first realise that that Act was passed in 1953 essentially for purposes related to defence. One would therefore find within it a series of sanctions and penalties designed for security and defence purposes. But when one views them in terms of commercial usage they appear too severe and far too extensive. A series of speakers, particularly on the Labor side tonight and yesterday, have made the point that this Act should not be used for commercial purposes. All sorts of phrases were used. For instance, it was said that it is quite inappropriate legislative framework for commercial purposes.
I want to say that the only government that ever did seek to use it for commercial purposes was the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975 and that, of course, was the basic cause of the strange anomaly or series of anomalies that we have got into today. The fact is that the Whitlam Labor Government decided that it was a sound basis for commercial purposes and it used it to enshrine the Ranger uranium agreement. That triggered off a whole series of difficulties which ought to be rectified. I must say that those who felt that it should not be used for commercial purposes had ample opportunity in 1975 to do otherwise. Those who felt that at that time the penalties for commercial purposes were far too grave nevertheless apparently decided to live with them. In subsequent years, the Government having inherited the Ranger agreement made under this legislation, a package of legislation was brought down covering the whole sphere of uranium in the context of the Fox Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.
The legislation aimed to protect the environment and to implement virtually the whole of the recommendations in the two volumes of the Fox Inquiry report. This Government went ahead with such legislation. At that time I was privileged to have the conduct of that legislation in this chamber. It is true that during that period we acknowledged that this legislation was defective to enshrine anything commercial. That was quite clear. We acknowledged that the legislation was very unsuitable in regard to its powers concerning any commercial arrangement, particularly one dealing with relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. The Government undertook to have a series of discussions with the States and to look at the various characteristics of the legislation. The Government undertook to see whether it could do something to mitigate the strength of the penalties involved. The Government also said that in due course it would conduct a full overview. The Government has not done that as yet. I will come back to that matter in a moment.
This legislation picks up a series of matters that the States have commented on and that we have commented on. In particular it seeks to take away the over-severe penalties that are not at all necessary in the commercial sense. I make no apology at all for this Government’s making arrangements to work with the States. Labor speakers who take the centralist or unitary approach to these problems criticise strongly the fact that we want to work with the States in some kind of partnership. I make no apology for that at all. We have taken some steps but not the full steps.
I want to deal very briefly with a few matters. Senator Tate mentioned incidentally that he found the legislative framework quite, inappropriate to commercial matters. He then went on largely to discuss that in some depth. I think he discussed non-proliferation. No government has done more than the Australian Government in a legislative sense or in the world .scene. Through the good offices of Mr Justice Fox we have brought about a realisation of the need for action among nations and within each nation to stop nuclear proliferation. Australia is second to none in that regard. I think Senator. Mason spoke about the Lucas Heights HIFAR reactor. He used some extravagance of expression in suggesting that there were dangers inherent in that reactor. I think it does a great disservice to the scientific facts and to the general public to do so. There are very stringent sanctions regarding the operation of that reactor: There is a safety review committee, an independent body, which looks at the whole of this matter and which makes recommendations. The Australian. Atomic Energy Commission published the whole of its safety measures. The New South Wales Health Commission, a State government body, has had absolute authority to ensure that general health requirements are observed.- The Lucas Heights establishment is subject to all the environmental restrictions that any other body is subject to. It would be wrong to suggest that there are health hazards in that regard.
Senator Tate raised the question of what President Carter said regarding the disposal of waste matters. I pointed out that Senator Tate had drawn, in my belief, a wrong inference from President Carter’s statement. In my view
President Carter stressed that the technology for safe disposal was available. The United States study is directed towards identifying suitable locations for geological disposal. It is not a question of how, but where. We must find the best site within conventional technology.
Two amendments have been discussed in the Senate. One is from the Australian Labor Party. That is totally unacceptable to the Government because it would simply destroy the Bill. Therefore we will reject it. The other amendment is from Senator Hamer. It proposes to replace the technique of publication of declarations in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette by the use of a regulatory power. Normal good sense of the Government and not courage on my part make us happy to accept the amendment providing for the substitution of regulations. Senator Hamer will move the amendment at the appropriate time.
There is still work to be done regarding the total review of the Atomic Energy Act. As honourable senators know, a series of reports are before the Government regarding the reform of the Australian Atomic Energy Com mission and its functions. They are also the subject of study by the Australian Science and Technology Council, as they were by the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council. When this has been done a further journey down the road will have been completed. It is true that Mr Justice Fox commented that the legislation was not appropriate, but by then the Ranger agreement was tied up with it. Mr Justice Fox saw that a remedy lay in the setting up of a uranium advisory council. He made that recommendation and the Government has followed it.
In commending the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1980, with Senator Hamer’s amendment, to the Senate I remind honourable senators that in the 1978 package of legislation this Government virtually enshrined the whole of the Fox recommendations. I also stress that we are the pacesetters in the world regarding the safety of nuclear materials and the pacesetters in seeking nuclear non-proliferation. I commend the Bill, with Senator Hamer’s amendment, to the Senate.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Walsh’s amend ment), be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move the following amendment to clause 6:
At end of proposed new section 60, add the following new sub-section:
Sections 48 (other than paragraphs ( 1 ) (a) and (b) and sub-section (2)), 49 and 50 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 apply in relation to declarations under subsection ( 1 ) as if, in those sections, references to regulations were references to declarations. ‘.
The purpose of this amendment is to bring under parliamentary control a discretion given to the Minister by clause 6. Under section 60 of the principal Act, all works of the Atomic Energy Commission were subject to the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act. In perhaps overworked words used in this debate, these are rather draconian provisions in that particular Act. They provide that any person who without reasonable cause or excuse boycotts or publishes a declaration of boycott or by speech or writing advocates a boycott or by violence or threat of violence or other unlawful means prevents, hinders or obstructs the carrying out of an approved defence project shall be guilty of an offence.
The penalty for that offence, if it is a summary indictment, is $1,000 or six months imprisonment. On indictment it is $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment. These are substantial penalties. I think it is appropriate that if a Minister, as now proposed by the amendment to the Act, is allowed to declare a particular project, subject to this Act, then that action should be subject to parliamentary disallowance. The purpose of my amendment is to achieve that. The wording of the amendment may confuse some honourable senators. It might have been thought quite simple merely to delete the words ‘by notice published in the Gazette’ and to substitute the words ‘ by regulation ‘. In fact, it is the GovernorGeneral who makes regulations, not the Minister. In order to cope with these problems I have used a particular form of words in my circulated amendment. This means that if the Minister publishes in the Gazette that a particular work of the Atomic Energy Commission is subject to the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act, that declaration is to be treated as a regulation and is subject to disallowance by either House of this Parliament in the ordinary way. This form of words has been used previously. It works and achieves the object which I think we all have in mind. I understand from the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, that the Government will support this amendment. I am sure the Opposition will also support it.
Before I leave the subject I will deal with the point raised by Senator Cavanagh in the second reading debate. He thought that the mechanism that had been proposed to bring these sorts of problems to the attention of the Senate was unnecessary. Honourable senators will remember that we had proposed that there should be a joint committee on the scrutiny of Bills that would draw these types of problems to the attention of the Parliament. The system has worked. It has drawn the problems to the attention of the Parliament. But nearly every fail safe device failed until the very last one was used. In rejecting the proposal that there should be a scrutiny of Bills committee, the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) said that there were many processes which would stop an occurrence such as this. He said that it would begin when legislation had been prepared by Parliamentary Counsel in conjunction with the department concerned. It would be continued when the draft legislation was considered by the Legislation Committee of Cabinet for introduction into Parliament. It would be pursued through the existing procedures in each House. He also said that back bench committees of each party would have a look at the draft legislation and would raise these sorts of questions. I cannot speak for the Opposition committee but I know that the relevant committee of the Government has no such role. My point is that this relatively minor point, however fundamental it might be, has slipped through nearly every one of these nets. I really think that the Government and this chamber should reconsider whether the scrutiny of Bills committee is not really necessary to draw these sorts of problems to the attention of this chamber.
But I think that I have drawn to the attention of this chamber the problem in this case; that is that there must be a parliamentary right of disallowance of a ministerial discretion to declare a particular project of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission subject to the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act. I understand that is agreed to on all sides of the chamber. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
– I indicated in the second reading debate that the Opposition would not oppose the amendment then foreshadowed, informally, by Senator Hamer.
– How about being a bit wholehearted and saying you support it?
– All right, give me time. The amendment is not in the precise form that we expected. I had not sighted it until now. However, I am advised that the effect of the amendment is to provide for the disallowance of gazettal or of ministerial prerogative in the same way as Parliament has the right to disallow a regulation. On that basis the Opposition will be supporting the amendment.
– I wish to say a few words on this matter because I spoke in the second reading debate. Whilst not being fully conversant with what the amendment means- one would need the Acts Interpretation Act to know whether the right section is being dealt with- I fully endorse the proposal. It raises the matter of the application of section 60 to those jobs where the Parliament decides it should have application. This is not a matter for a Minister to decide. It is for the Parliament to decide. If the Minister makes a declaration and takes the initial step- Senator Hamer has given me the Acts Interpretation Act- I take it that the declaration has to lie on the table for 15 days. If it is not brought on for debate, the Minister’s declaration is disallowed. Therefore, the amendment has my wholehearted support. It meets all the requirements I have been advocating for a long time.
Senator Hamer has raised a pertinent point that whilst this matter has gone through the various machinery of both parties, the necessary alteration to the Act seems to have slipped through the net and it has never been discovered. I think that is right. I am not more active about the matters I raise because they do not involve a decision of my party. Our party makes a decision, as I think all parties do, before all its members have read the Bills. We accept a statement or a decision which is made, more or less, on the contents of the second reading speech. The second reading speech states that the Bill proposes so and so. Therefore, the parties make a decision on the matter and we are either for it or against it. Not everyone finds defects in Acts. When defects are found in Acts all the members of the party usually do not agree that they are the particular defects that should be brought to the Parliament’s notice. Possibly the matter of ministerial discretion and not parliamentary decision is more important to me than to many other members in the party. That may not be a correct analysis. But not many people are raising these defects. If an individual can look at a matter, as Senator Hamer has considered this matter, we get a report in that way, and we get the job done which Senator Hamer thinks a select committee should do. However, too few people consider the Bills involved before they are brought on for debate in this chamber. Whilst I raise a few matters, before I speak I consider only a minute number of Bills which go before the chamber. It is hoped that if more people considered the Bills, different interests will be put forward. In this way we will get a coverage on all the Bills under consideration. As we do not do this, I am prepared to go along with the idea of a Senate committee looking over that matter.
I commend the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick)- although perhaps I made a mistake- for his action in that he has demonstrated that he has the courage to overcome a mistake made in drafting or made because the draftsman has left out something. I only hope that he can convey that courage and that determination to the lesser Ministers sitting on the Government side of the chamber. In this way we will not have a repetition of what has happened in the past. I hope that he or his Ministers will take note of the merit of the case when it is brought before them. It is immaterial whether the matter is brought before a Minister by a member of the Opposition or by a member of the Government.
As I said before, many matters such as this have been brought before us, have been ignored and, subsequently, amendments have been submitted. Possibly this is a greater victory to me than any victory since I have been advocating the right of Parliament to decide these questions wherever possible. A multitude of Acts have ministerial discretion and should not have that discretion. I hope that we will not see a continuation of this practice. I have been opposed to the establishment of some committees. What I have said about the responsibility of members of Parliament to read the Acts and decide this question has been acknowledged. However, it is frequently said: ‘How we can do that? We are too busy and we have so many committees to attend’. I know that is true. The solution suggested by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs was the formation of another committee. I do not think that that would improve the situation at all. We may be over-concentrating on committee activities and neglecting our responsiblity and duty to the Parliament to examine these matters.
– I rise to support this amendment. I think it is one which is supported by both sides of this chamber, as it ought to be, because the Bill as drafted enables the Minister responsible to bring into operation in relation to a project or venture with which the Commonwealth is associated through the Australian Energy Commission what I believe is one of the most obnoxious pieces of legislation on the Australian statute book. As presently drafted, the Bill enables the Minister to say in relation to a uranium mining project that if any boycott of that project should occur the provisions of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act come into operation. That means that if there were a withdrawal of labour for any purpose- even a legitimate industrial purpose which amounts therefore to a boycott of a particular project- the draconian penalties which are’ a feature of that Act come into operation. I will comment on those penalties in a moment. Even to advocate such a boycott, withdrawal of labour or delay in the carrying out of the project according to the timetable determined by the Government is an offence, so that to circulate pamphlets advocating a boycott or to engage in peaceful protests, such as street marches advocating such a boycott, becomes an offence.
In this instance we are talking about the exploitation of a critical energy resource for peaceful purposes and for commercial profit. It would seem that we have a situation where the most draconian provisions which are at variance and contradictory to ordinary civil liberties can be invoked and, according to the Bill as drafted, could be invoked by the Executive or by the Minister alone without reference to the Parliament. That would only add at the very beginning of the process a discretion in the hands, of the Executive- the Minister- additional to another very disturbing discretion contained in the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act. It is the case that once such an offence is thought to have occurred the Minister can initiate proceedings for a prosecution either summarily or upon indictment. If he decides that the prosecution is to be a summary one. the maximum fine, as I recall it, is $1,000, and there is provision for a penalty of six months imprisonment. If he decides that the offence should be prosecuted upon indictment, the maximum fine is $10,000 with 12 months imprisonment as a possible penalty. I may be a little wrong on the actual figures in relation to the amount of fines, but not in relation to the terms of imprisonment. That means that there is a discretion within the Executive as to the harshness of the penalties which a person will face for the one offence. It seems to me that that places in the Minister a discretion which is at variance with what ought to be the case in our democratic society. The whole Bill as presently drafted makes the carrying out of normal peaceful protests and the withdrawal of labour from a project such as the Ranger uranium project subject to the permission of the Government. In other words, they are not civil rights to be enjoyed as we think all such peaceful protests or withdrawals of labour ought to be regarded as rights by the Australian population, not being a population involved in slave labour. Under this Bill they will not be rights but mere privileges existing at the whim of the Government and able to be stripped from Australian citizens if the Minister should so desire.
– May I ask you whether you consider in that Act that, not only by boycotts but also by speeches or writing, anyone who encourages hindrance or obstruction is guilty of an offence. It goes even wider.
– It goes even wider. As is the case for everyone on this side of the chamber- I include the Australian Democrats- any advocating peacefully of a timetable, a delay or a moratorium which would have the effect of not bringing a project or venture into operation according to the Government’s timetable could be an offence under that Act and punishable in either the relatively light or heavy way at the discretion of the Minister for the time being.
– As Senator Missen agrees, this puts an enormous power in the hands of the Executive. By accepting the amendment put forward by Senator Hamer, this Parliament will have an opportunity to assess whether a declaration that the Act ought to apply to a particular project at a particular time should be supported by the elected representatives. I believe that in that we have a very wise protection for the civil liberties of Australian citizens in relation to this critical energy resource. For that reason, I support the amendment.
– I rise briefly to indicate the support of the Australian Democrats for the amendment. Any improvement to the Atomic Energy Act will be a useful thing and I believe that we are now starting to amend it. I reiterate what I said in the second reading debate on this matter: The Australian Democrats believe, as does the Australian Labor Party, that this Bill should be completely redrafted so that it is philosophically different and offers to the Australian people exactly the same privileges and rights- which, after all, are those which should be basic to them- in relation to the nuclear power industry as it does in relation to any other area of law. I am speaking in the Committee stage to stress that point particularly because I feel that the Government does not appear to understand how basic this point of law is with regard to the Bill. The Act as it stands does limit Australian freedoms in a quite unconscionable and inexcusable way.
– I see some problems, and I rise to mention them so that perhaps Senator Hamer can explain the situation to me. The Committee is dealing with the application of section 48, other than sub-sections ( 1 ) (a) and ( 1 ) (b) and sub-section (2), and sections 49 and 50 of the Acts Interpretation Act. From memory, section 48 (1) (a) refers to the date of gazettal.
– It refers to the date of notification in the Gazette.
-That is right.
– That is already in the Act.
– It is in section 60 of the Atomic Energy Act, but it does not mention the period of operation. Until when will the declarations apply? We then come to the deletion of paragraph (b). Perhaps Senator Hamer can remind me of what section 48 ( 1 ) ( b ) refers to.
– It refers to regulations taking effect from the date of notification.
- Senator Hamer apparently is of the belief that because the word regulation’ is used we have deleted the provision. Sections 49 and 50 do not apply. AH these non-applications of the Acts Interpretation Act -
– They do apply. Sections 49 and 50 do apply.
-Ah! The other paragraph -
– The only provisions we are cutting out are sub-section (l)(a) and subsection (l)(b).
– I see. Perhaps Senator Hamer can give some explanation. I am particularly concerned about when the Act will apply. I notice under the Acts Interpretation Act that legislation will apply from the date of gazettal. Under recent amendments that have been adopted legislation will apply 15 days after any protest has been lodged in the Parliament. I am wondering when the Minster’s declaration will apply in the provision as proposed to be amended by Senator Hamer.
– I think I should reply to Senator Cavanagh. I think that I was rather rash in giving Senator Cavanagh a copy of the Acts Interpretation Act but I should answer the points that he has raised. I say at the outset that the amendment was prepared by staff and is a copy of an amendment to another Act which had been successful in achieving its purpose. It brings sections 48, 49 and 50 of the Acts Interpretation Act into force on this declaration as if it were a regulation. In other words, it brings in the ordinary disallowance provisions. Senator Cavanagh has queried the two provisions that are omitted. The first, section 48(1) (a), states that regulations should be notified in the Government Gazette. Clause 6 of the Bill before us requires notification in the Gazette also. If that provision were retained double notification would be required. Secondly, section 48 (1) (b) is to be omitted. In referring to regulations it states:
As clause 6 of the Bill before us provides, without my amendment, the date of notification would be, as I understand the Acts Interpretation Act. the date of notification in the Gazette. In that case we would have the confusion of two different dates of notification. I think that those two omissions are effective in achieving our objective. I am trying to have the declaration in the Gazette made subject to the same sort of disallowance provisions as if it were a regulation. I do not think that I can pursue this argument much further as it is rather technical and legal. I am sure the provision is effective. It has been used before, has not been challenged and apparently works.
– I accept the honourable senator’s assurance.
– I would like to make some comments in regard to the second point. The very wording of the provision is that the Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare certain things and then they shall apply. I think it is fairly clear that the provision will apply from the time of publication. I think the matter is already covered. Paragraphs (a) and (b) will not be necessary.
-Senator Hamer will regret to know that I carry my own copy of the Acts Interpretation Act. I am wondering why section 48 (2) is omitted. It seems to me to embody a very beneficial safeguard, namely, that in the notification published in the Gazette there can be no regulation, or in this case declaration, affecting rights before the date of notification. It seems to me that that sort of safeguard ought to remain in relation to a declaration made by the Minister under the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill.
-Perhaps I could respond to that point. Section 48(2) specifically applies to regulations. We are not dealing with a regulation; we are dealing with a declaration which has been deemed to be treated the same as a regulation. I do not think that we can leave in section 48 (2) and make sense of the amendment.
– I do not want to confuse the issue. I think that the retention of section 48 (2) would be essential if we changed the word ‘regulation’ to declaration’. Nevertheless, let us not fight over that. I am concerned with Senator Missen ‘s interpretation although I respect his capability to interpret. We have to take into account the day of gazettal and the following period of 14 days. If the Parliament is prorogued or goes into recess the Senate may not disallow the provision for up to four months. On Senator Missen ‘s interpretation the provision could be in operation for some months and then disallowed.
– That is so with all regulations.
-Yes. I am suggesting that when Senator Hamer next drafts an amendment he looks at the recent proposal and the more liberal attitude that has been accepted by the Government in legislation concerning the Northern Land Council. I do not make an issue of the matter now. Having got this far I do not want to confuse the matter further.
– I regret that the answer given by Senator Hamer does not satisfy me. The whole purpose of his amendment is to enable one to read that part of the Acts Interpretation Act which refers to regulations as if it refers to declarations made under clause 6 of the amending Bill. I ask: Can the Minister, under the Bill as we are about to amend it, include in the declaration which he notifies in the Gazette an expression that it may take effect from a date prior to the notification in the Gazette”! If so, I do not understand why section 48 (2) is excluded. It seems to me that it is a beneficial provision. We are dealing with the rights of a person who can be affected unexpectedly by the operation of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act suddenly coming into being in relation to a person or some project. In that case I would have thought it very helpful -
– You would have to change the word ‘regulation’.
– No; in fact, senator Hamer ‘s amendment does precisely that. It says that references to regulations are to be seen to include a reference to declarations. I do not understand why section 48(2) is excluded. Is there any answer?
– I am loth to answer on behalf of the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) because I am not sure that I am fully briefed. Proposed new section 60, as it stands, provides that the Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare that the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act applies. I have no knowledge that the Minister can make the declaration retrospective. It would have to apply from the date of declaration. If there is no question of making it retrospective the provision is not necessary, and that is the reason it is omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 November, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition supports the Pipeline Construction (Young to Wagga Wagga) Bill 1979 to extend the natural gas pipeline from Young through Cootamundra to Wagga Wagga. Since a 12-inch pipe has finally been decided upon, it opens up the possibility that this extension of the pipeline could ultimately be connected to the Victorian grid and thereby could at least partly establish an eastern or south-eastern Australian natural gas grid. This was, of course, one of the policies which was vigorously expounded by the late Rex Connor during his period as Minister for Minerals and Energy and which, I might say, was vehemently and vitriolically opposed by the present Government which was then in opposition. The present Government portrayed Connor’s proposal for a national gas grid as some sort of socialistic monolith, some sort of socialistic juggernaut which would threaten the survival of our free democratic society. That was patent, palpable nonsense at the time it was first expounded by the Liberal Party of Australia and the Country Party of Australia and has now tacitly been repudiated by those parties as they are partially implementing the policy that Connor espoused.
Although the inland centres of Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga will be connected, it is important to note that a number of other provincial cities in the same region of New South Wales will not be connected to the New South Wales natural gas grid, at least at this stage. Such important centres as Bathurst, Lithgow, Cowra, Wellington and Parkes, all but one of which 1 note are in the Federal electorate of Calare, will not be included in this proposal. The Government is extremely concerned for political reasons if not for the right reasons, that the towns I have mentionedBathurst, Lithgow, Cowra, Wellington and Parkes- among many others must continue to be supplied, at least for the present, with much more expensive liquefied petroleum gas. The Government is repudiating the rationale for its own proclaimed energy policy by fudging the price of natural gas. It has already done it once. It is contemplating doing it again. Even if it again fudges the price of liquefied petroleum gas, thereby repudiating its market price philosophy which it claims to be the central theme of its whole energy policy, the important centres I have mentioned will still be paying substantially higher prices for liquefied petroleum gas than they would pay for natural gas were they also connected to the grid.
– They are aware of it.
– They are very much aware of it, particularly as so many of these provincial cities happen to be in federal electorates in New South Wales upon which the National Country Party and the Liberal Party have very tenuous holds. We of the Labor Party do not accept that the subsidisation of liquefied petroleum gas for politically opportunistic reasons is an adequate answer to the long term domestic energy needs ofthe cities. We believe that the natural gas pipeline should be further extended. I refer to what the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said in the House of Representatives when this Bill was being debated in that House last year. He stated: in respect of Wagga Wagga, Orange, Bathurst and Lithgow, on behalf of the Federal Opposition, in 1977 I promised that a Labor government would build pipelines to Orange, Bathurst and Lithgow. I reiterate that promise; we would build the lines. The present Government has been in office for four years but it has failed to build the lines. If the lines had been built, the gas to these towns would have been priced in the terms of the contract which AGL entered into with the Moomba producers in respect of essentially the Sydney market. In other words, cheap gas would now be available to Orange, Lithgow and Bathurst. It is not. Instead, the people in these towns have very dear LPG thanks to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for National Development who believe in high energy prices.
That statement by the honourable member is now more appropriate than it was at the time it was originally made. Even with the subsidy which the Government has introduced for opportunistic reasons, the subsidised prices of liquefied petroleum gas are higher than the market price was at the time the honourable member made that statement.
It is interesting to note the contortions through which Government Ministers have been putting themselves in the last few months over their proclaimed adherence to market pricing for energy. The basic dilemma which the Government faces in the pricing of liquefied petroleum gas for both domestic consumption and automotive use is that it has decided that LPG prices will be locked into world parity for crude oil. This will operate directly with LPG and indirectly with crude oil since the two move almost in a onetoone ratio. At the present time they have locked themselves into a crude oil price of about $30 per barrel as against a price of just over $3 per barrel in equivalent terms for those towns which are fortunate enough to be connected to natural gas, plus some allowance for distribution costs. Therefore, there is a very wide discrepancy between the cost for domestic users who are connected to natural gas pipelines and those who are dependent upon liquefied petroleum gas. It is a huge discrepancy of between $3 a barrel and $30 a barrel. It has been partially adjusted by the recently announced subsidy but it will not be removed to a great extent either by that subsidy or by any other arrangement which the Government may at present be contemplating. Senator Carrick announced the $80 a tonne subsidy, which incidentally is not yet operative, on 24 January. It is worth noting the intellectual contortions revealed in his statement. He said:
LPG is a valuable national resource which has the potential to make a significant contribution to Australia’s liquid fuel requirements and our national development. It is a premium fuel, of particular value as a motor transport fuel and has an input to the petrochemical industry.
In the final paragraph of the same statement he said:
It is essential therefore, that we avoid inappropriate patterns of usage . . .
He said that in a Press statement in which he was announcing the subsidisation of an inappropriate pattern of usage, to wit the wasteful use of a premium liquid fuel for domestic heating. Domestic energy requirements can be met by lower grade sources such as natural gas or electricity. Senator Carrick actually had the audacity to announce in a statement that the Government would encourage, subsidise and provide incentives for the wasteful consumption of liquefied natural gas. He said:
It is essential, therefore, that we avoid inappropriate patterns of usage which if maintained in the mid-1980 ‘s, would pre-empt a substantial part of annual output for less efficient uses, for which LPG is basically less appropriate than other fuels of much greater availability.
I have no doubt that when Senator Carrick replies to the second reading debate on this Bill he will attempt, in his customary fashion, to misrepresent what I have said. He will claim that the Labor Party is advocating dearer fuel prices for these and other inland towns. If he says that- if he runs true to form he will- it will be a complete misrepresentation of the Labor Party’s position. What we are advocating and what the honourable member for Blaxland undertook to do in 1 977, an undertaking he repeated at the end of last year, is that the natural gas pipelines should be extended to these towns instead of subsidising liquefied petroleum gas for what Senator Carrick himself has admitted is an inappropriate pattern of usage.
I refer to the use of liquefied petroleum gas as an automotive fuel. Last year Senator Carrick ‘s predecessor, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and possibly Senator Carrick himself- I do not recall for certain- were urging motorists, particularly fleet owners, to convert motor vehicles from petrol to liquefied natural gas on the grounds- this was a justifiable policy- that Australia is a substantial net exporter of liquefied petroleum gas whereas it is a substantial importer of crude oil. Liquefied petroleum gas has other technical advantages as an automotive fuel over petrol powered vehicles. At that time the price differential between motor spirit- petrol- and liquefied petroleum gas was in the vicinity of 1 7c a litre. There was a very substantial incentive in terms of price for motorists, particularly fleet owners, to convert to liquefied petroleum gas. Already, because the Government has fudged its import parity pricing for crude oil that differential has been substantially reduced. It currently stands at about 14.6c a litre. That is a reduction of 2.4 cents a litre in the price differential between the two products and, therefore, a reduction in the market incentive which is available for users of LPG as an automotive fuel to convert their vehicles.
That price differential will continue to shrink. It will do so because under existing Government policy LPG is locked into world parity prices for crude oil. Because the Government has fudged and partially repudiated its own so-called import parity pricing for crude oil, the price of petrol, however, is not currently locked into the changes in world parity prices. At present oil imported into Australia averages around $30 a barrel for oil of an equivalent quality to domestic crude. But for the domestically produced crude which goes into Australian refineries the Government applies a price of $24.63 a barrel.
Already there is this substantial differential in crude oil prices which is reflected in the differential between petrol and natural gas prices. For the time being petrol is largely locked into a price of just under $25 a barrel plus some minor adjustment that might be made because of rising costs of the imported component. Natural gas is fully locked into world parity prices for crude oil. Australian petrol is related to world, crude oil prices only to a factor of about 25 or 30 per cent. Liquefied petroleum gas prices are entirely locked into world parity for petroleum products. As world prices for petrol products continue to rise, as they almost certainly will on 1 July and beyond, that gap between true world parity and the Government’s fudged version of world parity for the purpose of pricing domestic oil will continue to grow. In an inverse manner the differential between the price of liquefied petroleum gas and petrol for automotive use will continue to shrink.
Senator Carrick still has the audacity to claim that the Government’s policy for the pricing of domestically produced crude oil to Australian refineries is import parity. He has the audacity to say that at a time when import parity is in the vicinity of $30 a barrel and Australian domestic crude is priced to local refiners at below $25 a barrel. He refuses to stand up for what was supposed to have been Government policy, that is, a biannual adjustment of the domestic price for crude oil in accordance with movements in world parity. He says that the Government’s policy is flexible. I agree with that. It is flexible to this extent: There will be no adjustment of domestic crude oil prices before the next Federal election. The Government has, for opportunistic reasons, dropped its commitment to world parity pricing for crude oil, which it claimed was the prerequisite for any rational or successful energy policy, because it is scared to put up the price of petrol again either now or on 1 July. There will be no increases this side of the Federal election in the price of Australian produced crude oil. What will happen after the election, if the Government should happen to be returned, is of course another matter. We will then see a return to full import parity pricing, to true import parity pricing, which applied until the beginning of this year and a further massive increase in the tax rip-off, but for politically opportunistic reasons we will not see it this side of the election.
The really alarming aspect of the Government’s energy policy, as administered and expounded by Senator Carrick, is not that it has been fudged almost beyond recognition. It is not the opportunism or prevarication which we have seen Senator Carrick display during Question Time over the past three weeks. The really alarming feature of it is Senator Carrick ‘s failure to grasp the fundamentals of the policy he administers. I cite an instance of that. This is almost unbelievable. The first time that he said it I thought it was a slip of the tongue, but he repeated it yesterday in Question Time when he said:
It is perfectly clear therefore that the pricing at export parity would give a higher price to petroleum products than would import parity.
The first time that Senator Carrick said that we could have excused it as a mistake, but he has now repeated it and he must be locked into it. This is a convincing demonstration of the fact that he does not even know what import and export parity mean. For the benefit of Senator Carrick and anyone else in the Liberal Party who might be equally unenlightened- I find it hard to believe that that should be so but perhaps it is possible- I will explain what import and export parity mean.
– You will preach to us again.
– Obviously you do not understand.
– Obviously Senator Carrick does not understand. I do not know whether Senator Baume does. Import parity is by definition world parity plus freight. Export parity is world parity minus freight. Given those facts of definition that are accepted by everyone else in the community except perhaps Senator Carrick, who might have some highly original, indeed some completely unique, interpretation or definition of what those terms mean, it is clearly impossible that export parity could be higher than import parity because export parity has the freight component doubled and deducted from import parity. It is almost unbelievable that a Minister who was chosen as a replacement for another Minister who was clearly incompetent and who one would expect to have a better grasp of the subject could be so abysmally ignorant of a fundamental principle of the policy he is administering. I repeat Senator Carrick ‘s words:
It is perfectly clear therefore that the pricing at export parity would give a higher price to petroleum products than would import parity.
That is not the only example of ignorance he is demonstrating. He has repeated several times in the Senate during the last few weeks that Australia has the third cheapest petrol in the world. That statement also is incorrect. If he,had qualified it more carefully and said that Australia has the third cheapest petrol of the countries which are net importers of crude oil he would, I think, have been correct. Australia would be third behind the United States of America and Canada. There are many countries in the world- at least seven in the Middle East- which are net exporters of crude oil, massive exporters in many cases, and which have petrol prices substantially lower than Australia. Perhaps Senator Carrick is reflecting some essentially AngloSaxon view of the world which he imbibed in childhood and in which the only countries in the world he counts are Anglo-Saxon countries. If he believes that the only countries in the world that should be counted are Anglo-Saxon ones, I think his statement that we have the third cheapest petrol is true. If however we do what most more enlightened people do these days and count all countries, not just those with which we have some genetic and cultural affinity, his statement is wildly inaccurate.
Yesterday in Question Time, Senator Carrick vehemently denied the accuracy of a report in yesterday’s Age. When questioned further on that matter today, following another report in this morning’s Age, he substantially amended his earlier answer. But, as usual, he did not admit it. I do not have the written text of what he said today, but even from memory it is quite clear that his statement today changed in at least two important respects what he had said on the previous day. Yesterday he said:
The fact of the matter is that Bass Strait production in February was significantly reduced as a result of the shortage of available coastal shipping to carry the indigenous oil to interstate refineries.
Today he admitted that while that may have been a factor there were other factors involved and that, because of necessary production maintenance or the inspection of production equipment, production at the well head had been reduced substantially in February, irrespective of what the position may have been regarding coastal shipping. Further he said yesterday:
However, the producers were able to maintain output at about 70 per cent of capacity and concurrently to complete by 27 February routine maintenance scheduled for March.
In his statement today Senator Carrick admitted that routine maintenance scheduled for March had in fact not been completed and that a substantial portion, if not the great majority of it, would be completed in March. So in those two instances at least, even without the benefit of the text of the statement he made, we are able to point to two instances where he was clearly wrong the day before, but as usual he would not admit it. But the final crunch, I suppose, was when he admitted in Question Time today that the average production during March would be in the vicinity of 320,000 barrels, which is just over 80 per cent of normal Bass Strait production.
When Senator Carrick was asked today whether he would stake his position in the ministry on the accuracy of the answer he gave to Senator Lewis yesterday, Senator Carrick did not exactly tackle the question head on, which is, I must say, not at all unusual for Senator Carrick. I now put to him this question: Will he stake his position in the ministry on the accuracy of this statement: lt is perfectly clear therefore that the pricing at export parity would give a higher price to petroleum products than would import parity.
I invite Senator Carrick to stake his position in the ministry, his credibility, on the accuracy of that statement which he repeated again today, having initially made the assertion last week, an assertion which stands truth, common sense, the English language as it is understood by everyone else but him, on its head. In fact, the more one hears and sees of Senator Carrick in the Senate, the better the Minister for Productivity, Mr Kevin Newman, looks. At the end of last year it would have been incredible to suggest that anyone could have made Mr Kevin Newman look good. Mr Newman, for all his deficiencies, at least told the truth now and again, even though, after conspiring with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and Mr Sinclair, he then contradicted it in Parliament.
– I take a point of order. By what Senator Walsh said about Mr Newman he was implying certain things about Senator Carrick which were not in accordance with the Standing Orders. To be specific, Senator Walsh said that at least Mr Newman told the truth.
– Now and again.
– ‘Now and again’. I find that highly offensive.
– That is also a reflection on the integrity of a minister. Senator Walsh, you must not say that.
-I will withdraw that. Mr Newman told the truth when he went into Parliament- I think this was on about 27 October last year or a little earlier- and said that the declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the coast of Rockhampton was being held up because of problems with the delineation of permits for oil drilling. He told the truth when he said that. But when he came back afterwards, after conspiring with Mr Fraser, Mr Lynch and Mr Sinclair, and contradicted it -
– Order ! You do not say conspiring’. In all honesty, this is a matter of using language which is imputing wrong attitudes, and so on. You can phrase your speech in better terms than to cast reflections on honourable senators or members of the other place.
– Would the honourable senator withdraw the statement that Mr Newman had conspired with the Prime Minister?
– I am quite happy to withdraw the statement that Mr Newman told the truth too, if the honourable senator likes. I am quite easy about it.
– You do not qualify your withdrawal, Senator Walsh. You must realise that.
-Very well. I will withdraw, if it makes Senator Baume happy, if it is offensive to his sensitivities.
– You are still qualifying your withdrawal. I warn you not to do that. You withdraw completely, and that is the way that this place will work.
– 1 withdraw, Mr President. I do remember Mr Sinclair, who is now happily or unhappily no longer in the ministry, standing in the little alcove outside the Senate literally standing over Senator Carrick on that fateful day, almost physically twisting his arm to force him to come into the Senate and read a statement which Senator Carrick knew to be false.
– I take a point of order on two points. Senator Walsh said two things which are quite unacceptable in terms of the Standing Orders. He referred to Senator Carrick being stood over and saying things that he knew to be false.
-I withdraw. I will take that matter no further.
– May I take a point of order. Mr President, there must be a limit to the number of times that an honourable senator in this place uses the device of stating things which are outside the Standing Orders and then hiding behind withdrawal to escape the penalty of this chamber. I believe there must be a limit to that. It has certainly been carried to a very alarming degree by Senator Walsh. I do draw your attention to it.
– I wish to make a comment with respect to this matter. Initially Senator Walsh may or may not have said something which caused some offence to Senator Baume. But he undertook to withdraw that remark and in fact did withdraw it. But because of some nitpicking interpretation, again by Senator Baume, the matter is prolonged. I repeat, Mr President, that you should certainly rule the objection out of order because it is just a matter of political sensitivity to the truth.
– I am quite happy to withdraw unconditionally, Mr President. I have just been informed, however, with respect to Senator Carrick ‘s answer today in which he claimed that the restriction in Bass Strait oil production was due to maintenance and not inspection, that Mr Nigel Wilson of the Melbourne Age has telephoned to say that the oil companies have told Senator Carrick ‘s Department that the restriction in production is because of inspection and not maintenance. So again I invite Senator Carrick, when he replies, to amend his answer for the second time in the hope that he can get it right on the second attempt- or rather the third time and the second amendment.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– It may surprise the Senate and the listening public to learn that the Senate is discussing the Pipeline Construction (Young to Wagga Wagga) Bill and that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the construction of a pipeline from Young to Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga. This pipeline will join the main Cooper Basin to Sydney pipeline at Young. I will be moving an amendment to the early clause of the Bill because there was a slight defect in the original Bill. The orginal agreement was that the metering of the pipeline should be at the municipal boundary. (Quorum formed). The Commonwealth Government has decided in principle that it would like ultimately to extend the pipeline from
Wagga Wagga to Albury and there join the Victorian pipeline. Thus the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait could be connected. It is for that reason that the dimension of the pipeline dealt with in this Bill is to be 12 inches rather than a smaller size. The Bill itself is completely unobjectionable.
During the course of the debate Senator Walsh, who spoke for the Australian Labor Party, wandered far away from the Bill. But since he raised a series of matters, including the pricing of natural gas, liquefied petroleum, gas and oil, I’ make these comments. I make them only because these points were raised. Firstly, there is no suggestion by this Government that the price of natural gas should be raised- to import parity. On the other hand, the speeches both by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and by the spokesman on energy, Mr Keating, are clear indications of their intention. For example, on 13 March 1 979 when addressing the Australian Gas Association on gas pricing, Mr Hayden said:
The movement towards opportunity cost pricing would help stimulate exploration.
In other words that is an indication that the Labor Party’s intention would be to put up the price of gas. Mr Keating, in his Green Paper on energy in May 1979, stated:
Raising the price of indigenous oil to world parity while maintaining government enforced prices for natural gas will only work to reinforce the present distortions in production, consumption and investment in the energy market. Although the pricing of energy resources at well below opportunity cost will yield short-term benefits, it will also give rise to long-term costs.
The ideal yardstick for the termination of gas prices is found in oil prices. Domestic gas prices should bear a realistic relativity to domestic oil prices. While the price of gas remains comparatively low in relation to oil, gas will be consumed in a profligate way and exploration will be depressed.
Mr Keating went on to say:
An increase in gas prices would provide an immediate incentive for increased gas exploration.
Higher prices may also result in increased efficiency in the use of gas, further improving the situation on the demand side.
Mr Hayden and Mr Keating are talking about raising the price of natural gas to opportunity cost, which is of course the world market price. We are not doing that at all. I direct the attention of honourable senators to Mr Hayden ‘s completely clear statement on liquefied petroleum gas. He said:
If we want to ensure maximum domestic consumption of LPG, then we must ensure that producers obtain a domestic price reasonably related to the export price . . .
It is quite clear that that is what the Labor Party’s intention is regarding the price of oil. There can be no doubt about it. Mr Keating, the
Opposition spokesman, was asked a question by the Press recently regarding the quantum of the resources tax to be put on oil by the Labor Party. He was asked:
Would the resources tax raise more or less than the oil production levy?
I think it would probably raise more.
Clearly the Labor Party wants to increase the price of natural gas, it wants LPG to be at the export price and it wants to put a resources tax on oil which would yield more than the present oil levy. Clearly that would put the price above the present price. The interviewer continued:
That sounds to me as if a resources tax is just a different version of ‘a branch of the tax office at every petrol pump’.
Mr Keating said:
Well it is to some extent.
I had no intention of raising the question of the pricing of oil or its component gases in this debate, but I think it is fair to say that those who query this Government’s pricing policies ought to know that the alternative policies by the Labor Party, on its own say so, would put the price of those commodities above that which this Government is contemplating. This Government has provided a subsidy on LPG to soften the effect to domestic gas users in the country of a Prices Justification Tribunal pricing. Under the Labor Party’s pricing policy that would not occur. I now return to the Bill. I understand that is not opposed. The Bill is for a good purpose and I commend it to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
– Honourable senators have before them a circulated series of amendments the effect of which, as I have indicated, enables the understanding between the Pipeline Authority and the Cootamundra municipality to be implemented; that is, that the meter station will be on the boundaries of the municipality. I believe that this amendment is totally unobjectionable. Honourable senators might be willing to take the amendments in globo.
– I did not realise that the amendments had been circulated. Senator Wriedt is quickly looking through them for me. (Quorum formed).
-We are addressing ourselves to the question of whether the Bill will be taken as a whole. The Minister for National Development and Energy has suggested that the amendments which have been circulated might also be taken together as a whole.
– The Opposition has no objection to that, Mr Temporary Chairman.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole? There being no objection it is so ordered.
Amendments (by Senator Carrick)- by leave- proposed:
- Senator Walsh is virtually making a second reading speech. He should confine his remarks to the Bill before the Committee.
– The Bill has been taken as a whole. There is no point of order.
- Senator Carrick ‘s comprehension of what a resources tax is appears to be about equal to his comprehension of what import and export parity are. The plain fact is that a resources tax would not affect the price of fuel at all. What it would affect is the distribution of whatever price is arbitrarily set for Australian crude oil by the Australian Government. It would affect the distribution of that arbitrary price between the Government and the producers. It would also, and this is what the resources tax the Labor Party is proposing would do, increase the Government’s share of whatever arbitrary price was put at the expense of producers -
– Order ! Senator Walsh, the Bill is about a pipeline, and the amendments to which the Committee is addressing itself refer specifically to pipeline details. If I may say so with respect, I think you are carrying the debate a little wide of the specifics as far as this Bill and its amendments are concerned. I would be grateful if you would return to the specific matters which the Committee has before it. You know very well that there are other opportunities if you wish to expand certain matters, but at the Committee stage of the Bill I suggest you deal with the details of the Bill.
– I am quite happy to leave it until the third reading stage, Mr Chairman.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I wish to take this opportunity to correct the further misrepresentations or manifestations of ignorance which we have heard from -
– Order, please! You will restrict your remarks to the matter before the Chair, and that is the pipeline construction, its size and so on, and go no further.
-Mr President, the Minister himself raised these matters in his reply at the second reading stage. Are you ruling that I may not raise at the third reading stage the same matters that the Minister raised at the second reading stage?
– I shall hear you, Senator Walsh.
-Thank you, Mr President. Senator Carrick again misrepresented a number of technical terms and technical realities pertaining to the question of energy. This Bill is vitally concerned with the question of energy supplies. Firstly, he suggested that the opportunity cost for natural gas was the same as the opportunity cost for liquefied petroleum gas. That is quite wrong because liquefied petroleum gas is a premium finished automotive fuel. He said that a resources tax would push up petrol prices. That remark constitutes further misrepresentation. Petrol prices in Australia -
- Senator Walsh, you are referring to the second reading speech of the Minister and to replies he made to extraneous discussion which took place tonight more than to matters immediately relative to the Bill. Keep that in mind.
– I shall not take very long. I think it is important to put on the record that the price for petrol in Australia is set by two components- whatever arbitrary price the Government decides for Australian produced crude oil, at whatever arbitrary price the Government decides that that oil will be supplied to refineries and whatever the import cost of the import component is. It would not be affected by a resources tax. What a resources tax would affect is the distribution of that revenue for domestically produced crude oil between the Government and the companies that produce it. The resources tax that we are proposing would alter the distribution in favour of the public at the expense of the companies. What it would also affect is the point at which production of oil from declining or small fields becomes uneconomic. Any quantum levy on production, such as this Government is applying at the moment to crude oil- a massive quantum levy on production- grossly distorts the point at which recovery from declining and small fields is economic.
The Government is imposing an average tax in the vicinity of $ 1 8 a barrel. This tax varies with different fields, but that is the average tax which is being imposed. Let us assume that for a particular field the tax imposed is SIO a barrel. That means that the producers have to subtract that $10 from whatever market price is prevailing before they will recover that oil. In other words, the tax has to be paid first and the price has to be the tax plus whatever the production cost is. If the price is $25 a barrel, the tax is $10 and the production cost is $ 16, that oil will not be extracted, it will be left in the ground. This would obviously be wasteful. If, on the other hand, there were a resources tax that particular oil with a price set at $25 would be recovered by the producer as long as the actual costs of recovery were less than $25. That is another fairly fundamental or basic lesson in economic comprehension or the meaning of economic jargon which Senator Carrick has clearly yet to learn. In closing, I again invite him to state his ministerial position on the accuracy or otherwise of his statement which was reasserted yesterday in the Senate that if we priced domestic crude oil at export instead of import parity, it would inevitably lead to dearer petroleum.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-In view of the liveliness of the previous debate and the sensitivity of some people in this place, I am sorry that on this Bill I will not be able to cause any fireworks because the Opposition supports this belated legislation to amend the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill of 1 980. I would have thought that any problems with this legislation would have come from the other side of the House because the Bill does increase the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories ‘ role so that they may produce non-biological products and enter the commercial pharmaceutical field in a greater way than they have in the past. The Bill enlarges the commission, increases the number and broadens scope of people who will be on the commission, and will enable, we believe, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to take their proper place in the pharmaceutical manufacturing area in this country.
Therefore, with the Government introducing legislation to strengthen and to widen the ability of a statutory authority to carry out its job, I thought that some difficulties may have arisen from the members and supporters of the Government, in view of their interest in such statutory authorities- qangos and other things that are causing interest in this House particularly. I will be interested to see, therefore, whether the reason for the number of Government speakers listed is that they have some qualms about this, because the Opposition has no doubts that this sort of thing should be done for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I think it gives us an unusual opportunity in this chamber to pay some respect to the work of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in its 65-odd years of existence in this country. Although it became a statutory authority only in 1961, it has, in fact, in its various forms, performed a very important role in the health of both humans and animals in this country and in fact, of people in many parts of the world. During the time of its existence it has produced high quality vaccines, insulin, blood fraction products, veterinary and laboratory supplies and it has acted as a reference source and a research centre for therapeutic and biological research which has been of great importance to all citizens in this country. As far back as 1916 it was producing antisera, antitoxins and vaccines. It continued during the 1920s and the 1930s to produce allergens for people who suffered allergies in this country. It produced the first influenza vaccines; it did pioneering work in the production of insulin; it did world class and world pioneering work in the manufacture of human blood products; it produced diptheria antitoxin; and it produced antivenoms and antivenenes for snakes and other animals. It has done important work also in the production of similar sorts of vaccines for animals to improve their health and, therefore, food production in this country. In 1938 formalised tetanus toxoid was produced providing active immunisation against tetanus. It is worthwhile, therefore, remembering, as is stated in the annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission, that this had the effect of protecting Australian soldiers in World War II from tetanus to the extent that no Australian servicemen contracted tetanus during that conflict. When one remembers that during the Vietnam war more people were in hospital in Vietnam suffering from tetanus than have ever been reported to have been suffering from tetanus since the time the disease became reportable in this country, one realises what a considerable achievement that was. A similar situation applies to the production of penicillin and the eventual availability of penicillin to the civilian population of this country. Australia was the first country able to do so. The production of poliomyelitis vaccine wiped out that disease.
– Can you explain why there are no Labor senators in the chamber?
– Labor Party senators happen to agree with the legislation. I am waiting to hear what the honourable senator has to say about the extension of power to this statutory authority. I hope he will explain to us why he is not complaining. Mr President, I am attempting to be non-provocative but some of your colleagues on the other side of the chamber have difficulties whenever I speak. They have just been to a meeting of the Adolf Hitler Memorial Society or wherever they have been. Since the 1950s the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have, in fact, played an important role in the production of viral products and in the control of production in this country. This is an important organisation. It has been important to all of us and to our children. It is a pity that honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber think that it is such a joke that we, in this chamber, should agree that this organisation should be improved and protected because it is for the good of us all. Of course the honourable senators who interjected have no idea of the seriousness of the work of this orgainistion.
This organisation has also been important to other countries, particularly in the production of insulin and vaccines and in providing a means whereby technicians and specialists from Asia, the Pacific, Africa and European countries could be trained and could learn research. The organisation has also helped to establish laboratories in Asian countries in co-operation with the World Health Organisation. It played no small part in the wiping out of the disease of smallpox throughout the world. Its importance in the field of production control and bacteriological and envirological control is becoming of increasing importance in a world where distance and difficulty of travel are no longer barriers to the spread of some of mankind’s worst scourges. Therefore we should all be grateful that it has done the work that it has and that it has been allowed to do the work it has done in spite of criticism from various elements in the pharmaceutical industry.
These elements have as their philosophy the idea that anything that is profitable should be in the private sector and anything that is nonprofitable should be in the public sector. Our national security in fact depends on our having a viable and effective pharmaceutical industry. It should be a viable and effective organisation which can produce the antivenenes, the vaccines and the other products which are so necessary for the protection of our public health. It is for this reason that we should congratulate consecutive governments over the years for maintaining this publicly owned and publicly supervised institution. In the face of opposition and propaganda it is not always easy to maintain such an organisation. But we must because the pharmaceutical industry, in fact, is controlled almost completely by foreign and multinational companies, which have attempted in the past and which will continue to attempt in the future- despite the provisions of this legislation- to hamstring and inhibit the efforts of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
The drug companies have played an important part in the development of pharmaceuticals and research generally into therapeutics. But their philosophy being what it is, they need the sort of competition and the sorts of controls that CSL and the Government in this country have put on them. We must also remember that they take part in activities of price manipulation to maintain profits. The classic example, for those who are interested, was the manipulation of the price of valium throughout the world, but many other substances have been involved. Many of them were convicted during the war in Vietnam in the 1960s for paying bribes to ensure that their products were used on the wounded and sick. So we must- balance the good that they have undoubtedly done with the bad that comes from an Untrammelled, free market. We must remember the unwise promotion in Africa of substances like lomotil, and the unwise promotion of artificial feeding as against breast feeding which contributed to the deaths of many people in the search of these companies for profits. As I said there needs to be this balance between the need for profit and the public good. Public corporations with a social conscience such as CSL are just one means of protecting the public.
- Senator McLaren has just come back into the chamber.
-Therefore, I will urge all honourable senators on both sides of the chamber, but particularly Senator Lewis, who as usual is very noisy at this time of night, to look with a jaundiced eye when the private drug industry descends on us to lobby against giving CSL the right to produce various products or to market one drug or another. This will inevitably happen. All of us, in our responsibility to the health of this community, must protect CSL against this lobbying. The ban against CSL producing non-biological products has been a burden on the organisation for a long time. There have often been pleas for extensions of the charter of CSL to enable it to compete more easily in what is a difficult and a cut-throat market.
We were all pleased, I believe, when the inquiry established under Sir Gustav Nossal and Mr John Reid, recommended the changes which will be made in this Bill. It is interesting also to remember that they recommended that the Government retain the Fawnmac group of companies which, incidentally, was originally formed in Tasmania. Fawnmac was a successful group of companies and those companies were purchased by the Labor Government. I am afraid that that recommendation has gone by the board because of ideological prejudice and pressure from various drug companies to ensure that the Government in fact puts Fawnmac on the market. I hope that CSL will be successful in its tender to take over this important group of companies.
In the past the division between the so-called non-biological products and the biological products has been a difficult one and has caused some confusion. I hope that the new provisions of this legislation will cut out the difficulty that has occurred in the past and that the division of CSL’s activities between functions performed in the past in what is called the national interest and those performed for commercial purposes will enable it to compete and not be concerned about balancing one side against the other. We need a strong pharmaceutical industry; we need a pharmaceutical industry which is not dictated to by the whims or machinations of any organisation or any government other than our own. As a small market in potentially a very isolated country we need to have a greater say in what we shall produce and what we shall not, and in what needs to be produced and what does not need to be produced in this country. It does not take much of a war or disturbance to create shortages of drugs in various parts of the world. Many of us will remember the shortage of certain antimalarials which arose because of the particular type of malaria which became rife in Vietnam.
I, and other members of the Opposition, would hope that the freeing of CSL from some of its previous constraints and the increase in the size and the variety of the composition of the management of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission will improve our ability to control our destiny in this regard. For reasons of security and for the common good of this country we need to be in firm control of the pharmaceutical industry. I am glad and somewhat surprised that the Government has accepted that. I hope that those on the Government side who are always so keen to get rid of public utilities and successful organisations which come under the gamut of statutory authorities or publicly-owned or controlled organisations, such as Trans-Australia Airlines, keep their hands away from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I hope that they will allow that organisations to go from strength to strength and to continue the good work it has done for the people of Australia, for the people of this region and for the people of the world. I have no reason to delay the passage of this legislation, nor does the Opposition. The Australian Labor Party supports the legislation.
– I welcome the introduction of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill. In the few minutes remaining to me during the course of this evening I wish to say something about the background to the inquiry which was established under the chairmanship of Mr Reid and Sir Gustav Nossal and which not only investigated the operation of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission and its capital works program but also made a series of detailed recommendations about the course of development of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission in the future. The Government decided in July of 1 977 that an independent inquiry should be appointed into the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories with emphasis upon its operations and its capital works program. The inquiry was carried out jointly by Mr J. B. Reid, the Chairman of James Hardie Asbestos Ltd, and Sir Gustav Nossal, the Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and Professor of Medical Biology at the University of Melbourne. The report of the inquiry was presented to the House of Representatives in May of 1 978 and it then took the Government a considerable period- in fact until 1 1 October 1979-to have the Bill actually introduced.
One could say that this amending legislation has four principal purposes. The first is to permit CSL to engage in the production of nonbiological products, which it will be able to do once it has obtained the consent of the Minister responsible and once the Minister has indicated his consent by notification in the regulations; such regulations of course being subject to the disallowance of the Parliament if it so desires. The second is to arrange it so that the Commonwealth in the future will meet the cost of those activities undertaken by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories which are referred to as national interest activities. I shall speak about those in some detail later. The third thing that the Bill does is increase the number of commissioners- in this case from the existing four to eight. Finally, there are a number of machinery matters which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle), in her second reading speech, described as being designed ‘to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Authority’.
As I said, the Reid-Nossal report which was presented to the Government in April of 1978 and thereafter tabled in the House of Representatives made a lengthy series of recommendations. In all, I think there are some 36 principal recommendations, some of which are in several parts. Of those recommendations, it appears that the Government has accepted virtually all of them with the notable exception of recommendation 22. That recommendation reads:
The Government retains ownership of the Fawnmac companies: state unambiguously that this is its policy and confirm the present pattern of operations which is understood and accepted by the pharmaceutical industry and their suppliers and customers.
That is a recommendation of the Reid-Nossal report which is not picked up in the amending legislation which the Senate has before it. As honourable senators would be aware, the decision of the Government is that the Fawnmac companies, which were purchased by the Whitlam Administration, should be put to tender and sold. I understand that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is one of the parties interested in acquiring the Fawnmac companies and integrating their activities and projects into its own. Without necessarily endorsing the remarks that Senator Grimes made in terms of wishing CSL well in its bid for Fawnmac, I hope that, in the interests of a rational policy on pharmaceutical products in Australia, CSL would not be disadvantaged in its attempt to acquire Fawnmac and that it would be treated in exactly the same way as any other tenderer might be treated.
– CSL should not have to bid for it at all; it should be handed over to CSL.
– I can appreciate Senator McLaren’s desire to hand over large sums of money without any degree of control. That policy was fairly decisively rejected in the last two Federal elections. I wish to deal firstly with the fairly minor matters which appear as essentially machinery matters and which are provided for in this amending legislation. As I have said, the first of these is to increase the size of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission. I hope that increasing the size of the Commission will bring to the management of CSL a greater degree of experience and a greater degree of financial and business expertise which will allow CSL to operate in a more commercially profitable fashion. One of the thrusts of this legislation is to allow CSL to operate in a more profitable fashion, to return more profit to the Government and in short to pay its way a little more in the future.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under the sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– As the last speaker in the adjournment debate last night I put up a case to try to get an earlier hearing concerning accusations against Senator Lajovic that had appeared in a publication. Among the statements I made I referred to the publication and said:
It also accuses his father of blaming the two brothers, one of whom is now publishing a fascist newspaper in Australia while the other one is a member of the Senate.
When I was leaving the chamber Senator Lajovic approached me in the aisle and said that he was much concerned that I had stated that his brother was the editor of a fascist newspaper. I said that I had been quoting from a publication and that I did not know what his brother did. I had read the report hurriedly during the debate and was speaking from memory. The publication stated:
Also mentioned in Walker’s report was Vladimir Menart, the brothers Lajovic and Fabian Lovkovic.
– The name is pronounced differently.
– It is spelt L-o-v-k-o-v-i-c.
– With respect, that is a misspelling.
– I am reading from the publication. There are two different spellings. I took it that the publication was referring to the two people as brothers. Further on the article stated that Fabian Lovkovic was the editor of two newspapers which it named and which it described as the mouthpieces for the Ustasha in Australia. The publication then stated:
The Brothers Lajovic are mentioned in the Yugoslav book Sixth Column Terrorists.
Senator Lajovic also spoke to another member and asked whether he could get me to bring forward the true story. I accept today that the brother of Senator Lajovic is not the editor of the newspapers mentioned. I withdraw the statement. If the statement caused any embarrassment or injury to the individual I accordingly apologise.
-On 27 February 1 979I raised a matter in the Senate. As reported on page 309 of the Senate Hansard I said:
I refer to a matter that is of considerable concern to many people in Tasmania and, in particular, to trade unionists. It involves money intended for the use of a Commonwealth statutory body- the Trade Union Training Authority or TUTA, as it is known. I believe that money from the Tasmanian Government has been paid to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council for use by a Commonwealth body and has not been properly accounted for. I want to ask questions in relation to this matter and to ask that, if necessary, the Auditor-General or the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) investigate this matter because of its serious nature.
– What was the wording you used? You referred to payment by whom, to whom?
– It was money paid to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council by the Tasmanian Government for use by a Commonwealth body- the Trade Union Training Authority. I ask: Has this money been misappropriated? Has it been used for a purpose other than that for which it was granted, namely, trade union education and, in particular, a State government supplement to Commonwealth Government funds for the Trade Union Training Authority? If there are no skeletons in the closet, why is the Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council not replying to specific questions being asked of him by the premier of Tasmania and by unions affiliated with the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council?
On 28 February Senator Harradine replied. Amongst other things he said:
The childish whisperings by the friends of Senator O ‘Byrne suggesting that I used education funds for my Senate campaign are laughable.
I interpose and say that I did not make that suggestion. Senator Harradine continued:
Indeed, I cannot find a single correct statement in Senator O ‘Byrne ‘s speech. To suggest that funds provided since 1973 by the State Government specifically for trade union education for all unions and associations in Tasmania should somehow be part of TTLC funds shows his ignorance of the basis upon which the funds were provided originally. It is also a reflection on respected trade union leaders, both present and former officials of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council-
I would like to close off that little part of the Senate debate by reading from the Mercury of Saturday, 1 March 1980. Under the heading TTLC returns training funds to State ‘ it reads:
The Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council has returned $44,000 in trade union training. funds to the State Government.
The money is the balance of unspent grants totalling $55,000 to the trade union movement for trade union training- an issue which has for a long time caused allegations in union circles of secret funds.
Criticism of the TTLC started when . . . unionists pointed out that the grant money had not been appearing on the council ‘s financial statements.
Since then there has been a good deal of outrage expressed, and a report on the money was made by the Auditor-General.
Because the money had not been spent on the purpose for which it was intended, the State Government asked for it to be returned.
Yesterday the Minister for Education, Mr Holgate, announced that the TTLC had returned the $44,327.
He said the cheque for the amount had been delivered to his office yesterday from the TTLC secretary, Mr Bob Watling.
The Minister said the Southern regional superintendent of further education, Mr Frank McMahon, had made recommendations to him on the Government’s proposal to use the money.
He has suggested that two trade union training films should be made by the Tasmanian Film Corporation.
One of the recommended films is a major educational project dealing with the role of the trade unions in our community, and the other deals with Tasmania’s unique industrial.boards system, “ said. Mr Holgate.
Mr Holgate said he had written to Mr Watling to advise him of the recommendations.
I feel that I have been justified in raising the matter. The money has been returned to the State Government. The allegations that I was a humbug and other things are incorrect. This matter, as far as I am concerned, has been ruled off.
– The matter, far from being ruled off, will occupy the time of the Senate for a considerable period from here on. It is my intention, after tonight ‘s effort by Senator O ‘Byrne, coming on top of last night’s meanderings and slanderous attack by Senator O ‘Byrne on another member of this Senate, to propose a notice of motion, in the absence of a proposition from the Government, that the privileges of this Parliament will be impugned if any senator accuses any person named by that senator of a criminal offence. Let me refer to Senator O ‘Byrne’s remarks on 28 February 1979. On page 388 of Senate Hansard he said:
Senator Harradine signed for both of these cheques. It is on record that he signed personally for both of these cheques.
This was after Senator Harradine had organised to cash in on the Trades Hall building.
That is an accusation of criminal offence. The Trades Hall building was sold for an amount I think in excess of $450,000.
– That is a different issue altogether.
– I have just quoted what Senator O’Byrne said. If he wants me to respond immediately to what he just said, I shall do that and then come back to the matter I was discussing. As far as the Trade Union Training Authority money is concerned, on 27 February 1979 Senator O’Byrne said that an amount of money was provided to TUTA by the Commonwealth Government -
-No, by the State Government.
– I am sorry, Senator O’Byrne is right; it was said to have been provided by the State Government to TUTA. I denied that allegation on 28 February. The situation is that on no occasion has any money been provided by the State Government to the Trade Union Training Authority. As to Senator O ‘Byrne’s reading from the Mercury and suggesting that the money was not spent for the purposes for which it was granted, that claim is totally false.
– Sue the Mercury.
-Consideration has been given to that, but it is impossible to do so because no name was mentioned in the report. The reporter was very careful not to say that anybody had been involved in refusing to spend money for the purpose for which it was granted. In fact, the State Auditor-General, in a report to the Parliament last year, made it perfectly clear that the expenditure was incurred for the purposes for which the grants were made. That statement was made by the State AuditorGeneral after a thorough, most meticulous examination of all of the accounts. From memory, the amount expended in that way was to the tune of $80,000-odd. The account was in such good standing- to the tune of some $44,000- because the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and its officers had been scrupulously shepherding the funds of the State Government and the reimbursements of the Commonwealth Government.
– You said the Commonwealth Government had nothing to do with it.
– 1 am referring to the reimbursements of the Commonwealth Government as far as Trade Union Training funds were concerned. The TTLC did that pending the result of the national inquiry into trade union training. It did that for fear of the Federal Government funding ceasing. In the event, the funding for the Trade Union Training Authority from the Federal Government did not cease; it continued. As has been detailed to this Senate, the representatives of the trade union movement who constituted the education committee were about to be appointed by the Minister when the false accusations were raised by Senator O’Byrne in this chamber and then carried on in the Parliament of Tasmania by the late lamented Mr John Green of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia.
– I didn’t know he was dead.
– He is dead as far as politics are concerned, although he still has a great deal of say. He and the socialist Left now have the major say in the Australian Labor Party machine in Tasmania. But the people of Tasmania have expressed their opinion of that individual, who used the cover of Parliament to make false allegations against citizens and wellrespected trade union officials of Tasmania who for a long period had worked their guts out establishing a trade union training scheme, the equal of which had not been seen previously in the whole of Australia. That has been documented quite meticulously.
That brings us to the situation in which the moneys were properly husbanded. Over a period the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council has held discussions with the Tasmanian Minister for Education, Mr Holgate, and on a written undertaking by Mr Holgate that the moneys would not be used in opposition to the Trade Union Training Authority the money was returned. I advise the Senate that Senator O ‘Byrne’s friends, including those in the Miscellaneous Workers Union, of which Senator O’Byrne is a member, and others, were attempting to put the screws on the Tasmanian Government so that they could get their hands on that money and set up an alternative trade union training program. Indeed, they sought from the City Council permission to use the building next door to the Trades Hall for that purpose. I think it was very wise of the Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council, Mr Watling, to get a written undertaking from the Tasmanian Minister for Education that the money, if returned, would not be used for the purpose of establishing an alternative - (Quorum formed). In summary, the position is this: The accusations made by Senator O’Byrne, which were taken up so readily in the State Parliament by the now defeated John Green- he was defeated by the people of Tasmania- have been found to be without any foundation whatsoever. The efforts of the trade union officials who have been so maligned in this chamber and by Mr Green in the House of Assembly in Tasmania have been vindicated. The State AttorneyGeneral gave a clean bill of health to the accounts. He stated quite specifically, contrary to what Senator O’Byrne said tonight, that the moneys were expended for the purposes for which the grants were made. That is contained in the Auditor-General’s report. The residue of the money, amounting to $44,000, has now been returned by the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council Secretary to the State Government. This was done only after a written undertaking had been received from the State Minister for Education that the moneys would not be used for the alternative purposes for which Senator O ‘Byrne ‘s friends sought to obtain them. I advise the Senate that I understand that the moneys will be used for the purposes of making two films. Those films will be made after the proper consultations with the appropriate representatives of the trade union movement.
I come to my final point. It is the most vital point to come out of this debate. Senator O ‘Byrne made a malicious attack last night on an honourable senator of this chamber. It is not uncommon for him to do that. He has done it to me. I have heard him attack other people in this chamber without any foundation whatsoever.
– He did it to me when I took a point of order. He called me a fascist.
– That is correct. According to those who have been asked to pull him into gear, it appears that they cannot do so. I believe that it is incumbent upon the rest of the Senate to ensure that he is not permitted to continue to abuse the privileges of the Senate by slandering people.
– You have been caught out.
– He is still at it. He accused me of cashing in on the funds of the Trades Hall building. In other words he accused me of pocketing $450,000.
– You had to give up the loot.
– He continues to do so.
– That is a very serious implication against a senator.
– I should have said that he had to give up the funds.
– The imputation was that he pocketed moneys.
– No, it was not. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the Minister’s letter asking for the funds to be returned.
- Senator O’Byrne knows as well as I do what is wrong in this place. I took it that his words were an imputation on Senator Harradine. If there was an imputation it should be withdrawn.
– It was not an imputation. He had to give up the funds.
– You said he had to give up the loot.
– The imputation is the same. The honourable senator should withdraw.
– If it was interpreted that way, I regret it.
– The honourable senator will withdraw.
– I withdraw.
– I suggest to the Government and to the Opposition that they consider agreeing to a motion at an appropriate stage to provide that it be an offence against the Standing Orders for any honourable senator to accuse any named person of a criminal offence.
– It is already.
- Senator Rae says that it is already. I would be obliged to hear the explanation. Senator O’Byrne on 28 February 1979 made such an accusation by stating: ‘This was after Senator Harradine had organised to cash in on the Trades Hall building’.
– That is right.
– He continues to say it. Not only is he impugning me but also he is reflecting on the solicitor who attended to that transaction. He is a former senator, Senator Mervyn George Everett who is now a judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania. If that is the depth to which the honourable senator sinks then the rest of the Senate should not allow this chamber to be debased in that fashion.
– I wish to raise a different matter which I do not think will be regarded in any way as politically controversial. Last weekend was a tragic weekend in Tasmania. Eight deaths occurred by drowning. I believe that the time has come for us to consider a few practical things that could be done other than making regulations. I am concerned at the response to the sort of thing that happened at the weekend and which is happening increasingly around the coast of Australia. As a result of the tremendous growth in boating activities, there has been a large increase in the number of deaths by drowning. People are saying that we must make more regulations. We must insist on people wearing lifejackets at all times, or something like that. I believe that problems are not cured by regulations.
I wish to raise two aspects of this problem. One of them concerns weather forecasting. Most people are aware that with the increasing use of small runabout motor powered vessels which are not particularly seaworthy the state of the seas becomes tremendously important. Therefore, weather forecasts and warnings become important as do radio and the opportunity to receive the warnings that are given. At the moment the available information is not being used and the warnings are totally inadequate. The weather bureau does not use the available information. It uses its scientific interpretation of the traditional information sources to anticipate what it thinks may happen. It then gives a scientific interpretation. When people are sitting in a gale reporting by radio that a gale is blowing, the weather bureau is saying that according to its charts the wind is blowing at 20 knots and that is what it will give out as a warning.
This sort of thing is happening repeatedly. It was brought home to me personally last weekend, firstly because it was a tragic weekend in Tasmania and secondly because I sat in a gale for 12 or 15 hours listening to the weather bureau broadcasting strong wind warnings while the wind was blowing at nearly 50 knots. I am aware that adequate information was available from large and small vessels in Bass Strait through various radio communication systems to radio in Melbourne and Hobart and through those cities to the weather bureau. It would have been able to say at least that whilst it believed that a strong wind warning was in order, reports from vessels in the area indicated that a gale was blowing. This is the second time in a short period that I have experienced it. Whilst I have had numerous complaints from other people, I speak only of my personal knowledge.
On 8 December 1979 I listened for 24 hours to the weather bureau giving repeated strong wind warnings- there is a great deal of difference to safety at sea between a strong wind warning and a gale warning- while I witnessed a drama which very fortunately did not result in any deaths. The drama was a result of a gale which lasted for about 24 hours. There was no reference in those reports to that gale although information on it was available to the coastal surveillance authorities and to the Marine Operations Centre in Canberra. Long after that information was available to all. authorities there was a continuation of the giving of a false report.
I believe that we need to have a situation in which the way in which weather warnings are given in relation to marine operations is changed to include two factors: One is the interpretation of the scientific information and the other is the result of somebody poking his head outside the window and looking at what is going on. I speak with some feeling because I have experienced it enough times. Perhaps I can divert for a moment. It is a standing joke on the boat on which I sail for us to listen to the weather forecasts and then for someone to say: ‘Now we know what is not going to happen; I wonder what will happen’. If we were to introduce a system whereby reports from vessels in the area to the coastal radio service were to be taken into account and at least transmitted as reports which have been received -not as fact- it may save a lot of lives at sea. That is one matter which I wished to raise and which I have raised in all seriousness.
The second aspect of it is that if we are to save lives at sea we need to ensure that communication is available. The only practical communication at sea is by radio. I believe that the Government is acting in a way which is increasing the likelihood of expensive searches having to be undertaken at Government expense and increasing the likelihood of loss of life at sea for the sake of peanuts, for the sake of silly little amounts of money. The Australian Fishing Industry Council took up the question of radio licence fees in a letter dated 13 January 1980 to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon). There has been an attempt to limit the overutilisation of certain radio channels and to diversify in order to improve the efficiency of radio operation in Australia. The practical result of that, without going into too much detail, is that the average boat which goes to sea now needs to have not only single side band radio but also citizen band radio. The Government has not only increased the fee from $12.50 to $50 a year but also requires separate licences for each type of radio. It is a direct result of what has been attempted to improve the efficiency of the use of radio that people have had to spend the extra money to buy new sets. A good single side band radio costs over $2,000. A citizen band radio is cheaper but when the Government requires people to pay a $50 licensing fee for radios which are used for communication at sea in the interest of safety, it seems to me that we are moving backwards instead of forwards, that we are penny-pinching and that we are increasing the likelihood of expensive and fruitless searches to the detriment of the saving of life and the efficiency of operation of those who use the seas.
While talking about this matter, I would like to raise as a third matter the question of the futility of certain searches which were undertaken during December and January. I would like to tell honourable senators about some of the lessons which we may be able to learn as a result of those searches. A yacht called the Charleston left Hobart and was on its way to Sydney to participate in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. It last reported in when it was about 30 miles east of Flinders Island on its way to Sydney and it has not been heard of since. I have not found a person who knows the waters, be he fisherman, master mariner or ocean-going yachtsman, who would agree with what happened as to the way in which the search for that yacht was conducted. It was conducted primarily off the New South Wales coast although the weather pattern would have blown any survivors or any wreckage in a south-easterly direction from somewhere off Flinders Island. An expensive search was conducted in an area where the prospect of finding anything was nil.
The rather sad part about it all is that a yacht lost its life raft in that area at the time and saw that life raft float away- it was washed overboard during that gale and it almost certainly went through Banks Strait and out into the area where the Charleston was last heard of- but the search did not locate that life raft. So there was a situation in which almost certainly there was a life raft in the area in which the yacht was last heard of. A search was conducted in the wrong area until very late in the search when representations eventually had it changed to being conducted in the right area. That was an expensive failure- expensive in loss of life and expensive in the cost of the search. During the Hobart to Auckland yacht race a yacht called the Mardi Gras went missing. A search was conducted for that yacht but it was never located. The yacht eventually sailed into Auckland. In other words the search was fruitless. The yacht fortunately was safe. Another yacht in that race, the Smackwater Jack, did not turn up and it has never been heard of since.
I have not the slightest faith in the system we have of conducting searches at sea while it is being conducted in the manner in which it is. I suggest that we need to look seriously at the sorts of questions which I have raised tonight in relation to gale warnings and the operation of the weather bureau. We need to look seriously at the question of the charges that we impose as a disincentive to the fitting of radios which can assist communication and thereby give warning. We need to give some consideration to how we conduct searches and what sorts of searches will be conducted. I make a simple suggestion: I suggest that life rafts should be fitted with a particular space age material- a very fine metal material which is used in space suits and which is also used in what are called survival blankets. It could be fitted very simply into the top of the life raft’s canopy. It is a radar reflector which would enable the life raft to be picked up with great ease by the surveillance aircraft which we have. Instead of that we have the needle in the haystack situation where a whole lot of money is wasted in trying to achieve the impossible of finding a life raft in a huge sea. The material I have suggested could be picked up electronically by radar reflection. It is an inexpensive means of achieving the likelihood of being able to find survivors of tragedies at sea.
I simply take the opportunity of saying in this chamber that these are experiences which we have gained as a result of the past summer season in Australia and which have been highlighted by the disaster in the Fastnet race off the English coast and the reports that have been made in relation to that. I think we have been lax in the past in approaching the question along the line that ‘regulations will overcome’ rather than facilitating how we will ensure that people can know what is likely to happen and that if something does happen they are likely to be found simply and quickly. I would urge that the Minister pass on these comments to the proper authorities.
– I will respond very briefly to Senator Rae. He has raised matters which are I think in the province of three separate Ministers, the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr David
Thompson), the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). It appears to me that the three matters which he raises are interrelated and I will see that they are drawn to the attention together of each of those Ministers in the hope that some co-ordinated consideration can be given to them.
With respect to the earlier matters raised on the adjournment, I might observe very quickly that, firstly, I note the apology which was made by Senator Cavanagh. I think it was made in the appropriate spirit in view of the fact that there was an inaccuracy in what he put before the chamber last night. It appears that what he said in the adjournment debate last night was not reported in the media. This of course is a great advantage because there is no damage to be undone there. I acknowledge that to my understanding he has withdrawn what was said last night to the satisfaction of Senator Lajovic.
I will touch on the matters which were debated between the honourable senators from Tasmania. We were given some indication that a question relating to the privilege of the Senate would be raised at a later time. It does appear to me that a matter of order was raised in part. There is some protection given to honourable senators by the Standing Orders in this Senate against imputations which may be made against them. Reference was made in the debate to Standing Order 418. If I might be permitted the observation, it seems to me that with respect to people who are not protected by the Standing Orders we are essentially thrown back on the good sense and sense of honour of individual senators. I think all of us are conscious of the fact that as we have been given privilege to enable us to carry out our responsibilities as senators, we carry a very heavy responsibility to use the right to effectively defame citizens of Australia with the greatest care and only when it appears to us absolutely necessary in the exercise of our duty as senators. Without wishing to sound as though I am preaching to the Senate, I do wish to underline my concern that we should all approach that in a very serious and sober manner. The fact is that the citizen does not have any defence against what is said in this place and therefore we carry that heavy burden of responsibility.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 20 February 1 980:
– The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 26 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Department has an extensive National Information Program which aims at ensuring that persons eligible for a Social Security service or benefit, know of their rights, entitlements and obligations.
Federal Assistance to Pre-schools (Question No. 2458)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 27 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth assistance towards the costs of preschools is in the form of block grants to the States and the Northern Territory. The block grant allocation for NSW is $7. 13m for 1979-80.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 27 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 March 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800305_senate_31_s84/>.