31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
The Acting 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 Button. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned resectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned oppose the proposed boycott of the 1 980 Olympic Games in Moscow, and we therefore pray that the Government take no action to prevent Australian athletes from competing.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Chipp. Petition received.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
-Mr President, will you and Mr Speaker present to the Parliament a comprehensive statement of the changes that are proposed in the location of various elements of the Parliamentary Library at present accommodated in Parliament House? Will you and Mr Speaker explain how priorities in space allocation are determined and whether the Library Committee in particular and members of parliament in general have been consulted on any proposed changes? Will you, with Mr Speaker, undertake that the Parliament will be advised of the details of any proposed major changes before such changes are made and not after?
– The matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition is under discussion between Mr Speaker and me, having in mind the overall requirement of efficiency of service to parliamentarians. I shall look at the various parts of the honourable senator’s question and see whether his requests can be met.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. On 4 November the Minister announced: . . a review of industry representation on the Northern Prawn Fishery Advisory Committee (NORPAC) is to be carried out with a view to meeting industry concern about the effectiveness of Government industry consultation in relation to future management decisions affecting the fishery.
Has this review been carried out? If so, what new appointments have been made? If not, when will those appointments be made, particularly in light of the very complex management decisions that will have to be taken in the northern prawn management area this year?
– I have some information on the matters raised by the honourable senator. In accordance with the direction of the Australian Fisheries Council in November last year, a review of the Northern Prawn Fishery Advisory Committee is under way. This involves consultation with the industry as well as between Commonwealth and State fisheries authorities. Announcements of any new appointments will be made after the matter has been considered by the Australian Fisheries Council.
-I refer the Minister representing the Prime Minister to the fact that on 18 March I asked him whether any assessment of the risk of Perth becoming a prime nuclear target in the event of Cockburn Sound being used as a United States base was made before the Prime Minister made the offer which he did make. I remind the Minister that on that occasion he said he did not know but that he would find out. When I asked him about the matter again the next day he said that he would obtain the information the day after, that is, 20 March. As we are now officially told by the Minister for Defence that the Americans are considering the offer made by the Prime Minister I again ask whether an answer is available.
– I was under an understanding that an answer had been given to Senator Button yesterday. That understanding must be incorrect. I had sighted what I thought was an answer from the Prime Minister. I will look it up and see whether I can get the answer to the honourable senator within the next few hours.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs and refer to the Australian Government’s firm attitude towards a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Has Russia ever used boycotts in the field of sports and/or games when other countries have taken action which Russia considered unfavourable? If so, did Russia’s sportsmen and/or athletes have any say in the decision? Were they allowed to compete in opposition to the Russian Government’s decision?
– I do not have full details to reply to the honourable senator’s question, but certainly I am aware of at least two occasions in the last decade on which Russia did not see fit to participate in major international sporting events. In 1974 in the World Cup soccer competition Russia had home-and-away engagements with Chile. It met the Chilean side in Russia but refused to play the away game in Chile. In 1 978 the 42nd World Shooting Championships were held in Seoul in Korea. Russia chose not to be represented on that occasion. Those are the two occasions in the 1970s of which I am aware.
In regard to advice as to the reasons, I am not fully aware of them. I believe that the reasons would, in some measure, be related to politics because Russia has said on a number of occasions that it regards the Olympic situation as a circumstance in which there is an opportunity for political promotion.
I suppose that is one of the sad things about the controversy about athletes from various countries, whether they be from Australia or elsewhere, participating in the coming Moscow Olympics. The sad thing is that in some real sense athletes are virtually becoming pawns in the promotion of a political program. They are allowing themselves so to be. I imagine that they will probably reflect very considerably and in some depth on this matter.
As to the question of the extent to which Russian participants are asked their views on matters of participation in this sport or another, that is a question on which I could only conjecture and I do not propose to do that.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the Government accede to the request of the National Aboriginal Conference, and will it use the powers vested in it by the 1967 referendum, to legislate immediately for the full protection of Aboriginal sacred sites and to ensure that no exploration or mining takes place within any area recognised as a sacred site?
– This matter has been raised in the Senate before by way of question and by way of debate, so there is a fair amount of information before the chamber which I will not attempt to repeat in answer to the honourable senator’s question. I think if he goes back to the report of the Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory he will find a suggestion by that Committee that the sacred sites legislation in the Northern Territory ought to follow the pattern of the Western Australian legislation. I say that as a matter of recollection. In fact, there is a Heritage Act in Western Australia which provides the means for protecting sacred sites. The Western Australian Government, in its election statement of last February and in statements since by the Premier, has indicated that sacred sites will be protected. The difficulties in the Noonkanbah case- there are very real difficulties- relate to the question of what is to be defined as a sacred site.
As I have indicated in the Senate previously, the distinction which is being drawn is a distinction between specific locations which are identified, and the broad-acre areas which relate to those locations because of the mythology of the area. The State Government has said that the identified specific locations will be protected. Last Sunday I discussed the matter with the State Premier, Jimmy Bieundurry of the National Aboriginal Conference and the State Chairman of that organisation, the Reverend Cedric Jacobs. We examined the museum map and the Premier reiterated that the specified locations were all to be respected and that the drilling site which is the subject of the present dispute is approximately a kilometre away from the nearest identified location. I suggested to the Premier, that a larger map, which would indicate in more detail for the Aboriginal people precisely what was being preserved, ought to be prepared. I understood him to agree to that. In the report that was in part published in the newspaper the museum proposed the protection of an area of, I understand, some 22,000 hectares, which covers the areas which are related by mythology to the particular locations which were identified. The whole dispute has been as to whether that sort of broad-acre area is to be given protection.
In all those circumstances, I do not believe it is an appropriate case where the Commonwealth ought to step in and pass its own legislation which in turn would have to make in some way the same distinctions as are now trying to be drawn. There is a situation in Western Australia at the moment which is not totally satisfactory because of a lack of clarity. I am pursuing with the Western Australian Government some better set of rules which would be more easily understood by all concerned.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question arising out of the Minister’s answer. Can he advise me whether, after the discussions last Sunday, he is satisfied that the concessions granted by Sir Charles Court to the approach by members of the NAC are acceptable to members of the NAC with whom he has discussed the matter or, alternatively, is the Minister satisfied with the concessions offered by Sir Charles Court even if they are not acceptable to members of the NAC who were present?
– I think the meeting last Sunday was not one at which concessions were offered. It was a meeting at which points of view were exchanged and, in fact, an invitation was issued to Sir Charles Court by Mr Jimmy Bieundurry to go to Noonkanbah. As has been publicly announced by Mr Bieundurry and Sir Charles Court, that invitation was accepted. I do not think that really the question falls to be answered. Sir Charles Court did not make concessions. He explained the position, which I have endeavoured to outline in the Senate this afternoon. Whether that is acceptable to the NAC is a matter for the NAC to say. Mr Bieundurry was very strongly of the view that it was desirable that he should hear from the Premier’s mouth what the State’s attitude was and that the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah should hear from the Premier’s mouth what the State’s position was. I am delighted that the Premier has agreed to go to Noonkanbah. I think that his views will be a very useful part of the discussions which I hope will lead to a better set of rules for the future.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment. Having in mind the general development in the Kakadu National Park region of the Northern Territory including air strips, sealing of the Arnhem Highway, numerous reports acclaiming the Park as a prominent tourist destination and the fact that tourists are visiting in ever increasing numbers by air, coach, car and caravan, I ask: What plans does the Federal Government have to cope with tourist reception and accommodation facilities, et cetera, in this much promoted National Park? Bearing in mind also that the Park is recognised by the Australian Heritage Commission and that, as stated by the Prime Minister, it will be listed with the World Heritage Commission, both of which will promote tourist movement to the area, is it correct that the town of Jabiru cannot be used as a servicing facility because it is closed to all but those involved in the mining of uranium?
-Kakadu National Park was proclaimed, I think, in April of last year, so we are at the very early stages of the development of the provision of tourist reception and accommodation facilities in the Park. The honourable senator would be more familiar with the area than I am. It is in his electorate and I am sure he has visited it often. He will know that it is not a developed area. That is part of the reason that it is such a valuable area for a park. It contains very important natural features which have not been destroyed by a lot of human use or contact.
So far, a deal of publicity material including brochures and posters has been produced. There has been a deal of signposting in the area to ensure that people know where they are and where to go. Aboriginal and other staff have been appointed to interpret Park features and to help visitors. The first group of young Aboriginal men graduated, as the honourable senator will know, last Friday after a year’s training course. They will be the first Aboriginal rangers of the Park. Steps have been taken to preserve some of the Aboriginal art sites. Several key sites are being developed with toilet, picnic and camping facilities. There are also plans for the erection of a Park headquarters building with tourist and camping facilities associated with it.
The further program involves road improvements and so on. Many things are being done which will open up the Park to public use and enjoyment and, at the same time, safeguard the features of the Park, both man made and natural. Tourist accommodation and public facilities generally, the main things with which the honourable senator was concerned, were completely lacking when the Park was proclaimed. The Government intends to provide the required facilities progressively. A management plan is about to be released for public comment. This will assist in the development of planning and ensure that there is public participation.
The honourable senator asked about the use of Jabiru with its restricted status. That is a point which I will have to check with the Minister concerned. I will do that and let the honourable senator have the information.
– The Minister for National Development and Energy will be aware of the submission of the Australian Gas Association to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources at a public hearing on 21 March in the course of which the Association stated:
In the case of LP gas, Government action and influence have already had dramatic effect, having been the direct cause of a 276 per cent rise in wholesale price since November 1978.
He will also recall his answer to my question last week in which he said that the Prices Justification Tribunal was not given any advice as to how it should approach the pricing of LPG. In the light of both those statements which indicate that both the industry and the Prices Justification Tribunal appear to be under a misapprehension as to Government policy, will the Minister use his special powers to convene a new hearing by the Prices Justification Tribunal in order to enable the Gas Association to make submissions and the PJT to make a decision in the clear understanding that the Government has no policy which it wishes to make known to that Tribunal?
-I had understood-I think the Australian Gas Association indicated to me that it was contemplating this-that the AGA might seek a special inquiry by the Prices Justification Tribunal. I am not up to date on that. Within the next few days I hope to announce to Parliament and to the people details of additional policies of the Government relating to LPG. I think that when I do so the announcement will be eminently satisfactory to all people who objectively want the matter happily resolved.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. It concerns whether the amount of funding for solar energy research in Australia is adequate relative to present funding for nuclear energy research. It is true that the Australian Government, through National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council grants, currently is providing less than half a million dollars for solar energy research in universities and industry but, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, is providing about $20m for nuclear research? Will the Minister place in some perspective the longer term prospects of solar energy applications in Australia? Finally, will the Government give every consideration to increasing substantially research funding for solar energy in the light of claims that Australian solar energy research funding represents only one-fifth of the amount of research funding in the United States of America when a comparison of funding is made on a per capita basis?
– An amount of$5.6m has been committed to solar energy research under the NERDDC program, which represents 73 projects covering areas such as solar electric systems, solar collector technology, biomass conversion to liquid fuels and solar heating and cooling of buildings. The funding of the Australian atomic energy research establishment cannot be compared directly with the amount allocated to solar research under the NERDDC program. The funds allocated under the NERDDC program are for direct expenditure on projects undertaken under that program and do not include a component for overheads such as buildings and organisations. Such overheads are extensively funded by the Government through direct funding.
The Government, on the advice of NERDDC and on advice received from my Department, has under constant review the level of funding of solar energy research. The fact is that in Australia Australian scientists are making quite considerable initiatives and frontier advances in solar energy research. We are keeping that in mind. It is fair to say though that within the present knowledge of the technology of solar energy, if used to its full capacity it could not be more than about a 10 per cent supplement or pan of total energy requirements. If we are to do better than that we will need a great breakthrough in research, particularly in photo-voltaic cells. We are contemplating the possibility of setting up in the Northern Territory, possibly at a town like Katherine, a solar energy pilot scheme so that we can learn more from it. We are keeping this in the forefront of our research.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment. By way of preface I refer to the national drought and the competition for vegetation by stock, kangaroos and other wildlife. I ask the Minister three specific questions. First, can he give us an assurance that there is close liaison with the relevant State authorities by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service to ensure that, bad though the situation is, advantage will not be taken by some States- I am thinking of Queensland in particular- to decimate the rarer species of kangaroos in the general culling out process? Secondly, what are we doing about the real danger which exists as far as the despoilation of vegetation by certain animals is concerned? What are we doing to eliminate the massive goat herds, goats being hooved animals? Finally, what role does the Minister see the Army playing in transporting water to drought affected areas?
– I understand from the Minister for Science and the Environment that there is close liaison between the Commonwealth and the States on the matter raised by Senator Mulvihill- namely, the preservation of kangaroos and similar species- and that close liaison will continue to be maintained between the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and similar State and Territory services with a view to ensuring that the rarer kangaroo species are not placed at further risk. The rarer species about which Senator Mulvihill is concerned are fully protected and are not subject to commercial harvesting. The factor mentioned does not arise.
The control of feral animals such as goats is the responsibility of State and Territory authorities. If circumstances require I expect that the Army would give sympathetic consideration to any request for assistance with transportation of water although it is not a role in which I have ever heard the Army being involved in the past.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I think that the Minister missed the main thrust of my question. The Minister for Science and the Environment chairs quarterly meetings of State and Commonwealth conservation Ministers. Surely the question of goat elimination should be on the agenda so that co-ordinated action can be taken by all States.
– I will refer what really amounts to a suggestion to the Minister for Science and the Environment for his consideration.
-Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of the public debate that arose over the projected Bill concerning Aboriginal land rights in South Australia? As the Pitjantjatjara traditional land extends into Western Australia and the Northern Territory as well as South Australia, can the Minister say whether he has been consulted by his State counterpart or whether his Department has been in consultation with the State department on this matter? Is the Western Australian Government considering any legislation with respect to land rights? If so, does it involve similar provisions to those contained in the proposed South Australian legislation?
– Yes, I am aware of the matter. The State Government’s attitude to the Pitjantjatjara land rights has been a matter of considerable public debate in South Australia over the last few months. It is a matter on which I had very early discussions with the State Government. In fact I had discussions within a week or two of the Government’s taking office. My contact with the South Australian Government has not been as close as I would have wished but that in part has been caused by the difficulties of my own program.
Within the last fortnight I have had telephone discussions with the Honourable Harold Allison, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs in South Australia. He told me of further discussions that had been held between the South Australian Government and the Pitjantjatjara Land Council which is, of course, a body that receives Commonwealth financial support. He told me that the discussions were proceeding in a very good manner, but he did not want to go into too much detail because there had been complaint from the
Pitjantjatjara Land Council about the Government not honouring the confidentiality of the discussions. He indicated that he would be prepared to see close consultation between us in the future.
Consultation with my Department to date has been very limited. I have offered to the South Australian Government the services of officers who are experienced in this field. I have had some indication that that offer may be accepted; it has not yet been formalised. I understand that Western Australia is not considering legislation along the lines of the legislation being considered in South Australia, but it intends to preserve the reserve system under the existing Western Australian legislation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction or to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I refer to defence service housing loans and ask: Has attention been drawn to the complaints by servicemen, ex-servicemen and service associations that at present the availability of funds for those qualified for a loan is worse than the availability of funds for loans to ordinary public servants? Is it a fact that as a result of the sale of land from the reservoir of land which is available for defence service homes some millions of dollars has become available for Consolidated Revenue which might have been used to cut down the waiting time for loans? Will the Minister consider that situation and see whether the request of the Returned Services League in respect of those funds might be acceded to and cut out the waiting time of 14 months which is quite different from the waiting time of ordinary public servants?
I believe the matters raised by Senator Bishop are within the responsibility of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. A number of matters have been raised and I will need to refer them to the Minister. I will see what information I am able to provide. I will also present to the Minister the suggestions that have been made by Senator Bishop.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It concerns the burden placed on rural-based businesses by subscriber trunk dialling telephone charges. I refer to yesterday’s postal increase and the explanation by
Australia Post that the increase is necessary to meet the continuing growth in wage costs. Is it a fact that in 1975 local telephone call charges and ordinary mail charges were comparable at about 10c? Has the Minister noted that since 1975 postal charges for ordinary mail have more than doubled, while local call charges have remained the same- but each year the profits of Telecom Australia have increased massively? Does the Minister agree that the explanation for this strange state of affairs lies with the increasing revenue which Telecom receives from STD calls? Does the Minister also agree that Telecom’s STD charging policy acts as an effective deterrent to the establishment of decentralised businesses in Australia?
– That was a very lengthy question and I do not think that I will be able to deal with all of the points raised by the honourable senator, but I will deal with some of them and examine the question in more detail when I see it in Hansard to see whether it requires further reply. The honourable senator quoted certain figures. I think that he might have chosen slightly better figures from the Government’s point of view. He refused to acknowledge the significant contribution of Senator Bishop in this field. Senator Bishop increased the price of postage from, I think, 10c to 18c in one jump. One might adopt this figure from 1975 as a base rather than the 10c that the honourable senator chose, which obviously applies to an earlier period in Senator Bishop’s career. The change in the price of postage is rather less extreme than those figures indicate. During the life of this Government there was an increase from 18c to 20c, which applied until yesterday, when the charge increased to 22c.
With respect to the subscriber trunk dialling system, Telecom Australia has taken a number of actions to try to improve the position of remote area subscribers. Both the Government and Telecom are very conscious of the problems of non-metropolitan users of the telephone system. I think that recently there was a very welcome announcement of a concession for people who dial their local centres. Such calls will be at a local call rate in a substantial part of Australia. That has been much demanded for many years by people living in remote areas. I think Telecom is to be congratulated for responding to a demand that all of us who represent rural areas are familiar with.
I refer to other changes that have been made. In November 1 978 day rates for calls of between 50 and 85 kilometres were cut by 20 per cent and those of between 80 and 165 kilometres were cut by 10 per cent. That covers 40 per cent of all trunk calls. From the same date- November 1978- night rates for calls exceeding 485 kilometres were reduced by between 20 and 25 per cent. Of even greater value have been the reduced rates for calls between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. when charges 60 per cent lower than the day rate apply. That is a very valuable social factor. I know that honourable senators who represent rural areas would like me to continue with this catalogue of the virtues of Telecom, but I will let the honourable senator have the further details which I have from Telecom. If further matters are worrying him about its treatment of remote area subscribers I would be happy to hear further from him.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs give me an early reply to the allegations contained in my speech last evening on the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill 1980? I particularly ask what is meant by the verdict of ‘official reprimand’ made under section 55 of the Public Service Act 1922 against the two Customs officials who, at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport on 6 July 1979, stole jewellery to the approximate wholesale value of $200 from the luggage of Mr Wacyk. Are such officers still inspecting passengers ‘luggage?
What action has been taken against Mr J. G. McShane, a Customs inspector, who signed and issued receipts for goods retained and now claims such goods were never retained? What action has been taken against the two Customs officials who, when entrusted to deliver jewellery worth many thousands of dollars to the owner in Adelaide, left it in an unlocked and at times unattended room in a Sydney hotel? What compensation will the Government pay Mr Wacyk for the gems valued wholesale at $7,000 which were either lost or stolen by Customs officials? What compensation will the Government pay to Mr Wacyk for the loss of a profitable wholesale jewellery business which he was forced to close because of the unavailability of selling samples which were either lost or stolen by Customs officials?
– I was not present in the Senate last night when Senator Cavanagh was speaking on the subject to which he refers today. The matters raised by him will, of course, be referred to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. In the light of his question I will ask the
Minister whether he will provide an early answer to Senator Cavanagh. Senator Cavanagh has raised quite a number of different questions. I do not know whether they arise out of” pan of what he said last night. I think the best way to handle questions of such detail is to put them on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Is there any evidence yet that some of the people who demonstrated against the Prime Minister at Fitzroy were paid to create a disturbance? Has it been proved that the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union is one of the funding bodies for these hired demonstrators?
-I will take note of that question and direct it to the appropriate authorities.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and refers to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and its availability to those who are appealing against decisions of the Director-General of Social Services. I remind the Attorney-General that he and the Minister for Social Security announced that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal would be available to such people from today. When will such appeals first be heard? Who, if anyone, with expertise in the social services area has been appointed to the Tribunal as yet? Will the Minister consider the appointment of welfare advocates to assist appellants who are not eligible for legal aid but who may well need assistance in interpreting the very complicated Act under which the DirectorGeneral operates?
– I cannot say at this stage when appeals will first be heard by the Tribunal. That would depend upon a number of factors, including when anyone would first have the right to take a case to the Tribunal. I do not know the facts in that regard. As I said in my answer to a question from Senator Grimes last week, there are a number of part time members of the Tribunal, most of whom I think would be qualified to sit in this jurisdiction; but the Government is considering the appointment of some additional part time members. The situation regarding those appointments is fairly well advanced but they have not yet been made. I would not expect any hearings of appeals for the next few weeks, but I have not had a discussion with the President of the Tribunal on that matter. In light of Senator Grimes’s question, I will follow the matter up and endeavour to get some more details from the Tribunal in regard to the matter. As I indicated also in my- previous answer that legal aid would be available, the other question that Senator Grimes now raises- whether welfare officers could be provided for those who are not entitled to legal aid- is not a matter which has been considered. I do not quite understand why welfare officers would be provided to those who are not entitled to legal aid, but that legal aid will be provided for those people in other circumstances. However, if Senator Grimes would care to indicate some further details as to what he had in mind, I will give the matter attention.
– I ask a supplementary question. I will clarify a little if the Minister needs that. I asked whether the Minister would consider the appointment of welfare advocates for those who appeal but who are not eligible for legal aid. One can imagine people in the situation of appearing before an administrative appeals tribunal on a matter concerning the Social Services Act, which I think everyone acknowledges is a complex Act with a considerable number of discretionary powers available to the DirectorGeneral, and that ordinary people may well need some assistance in making an appeal before such a formidable body. I ask the Minister earnestly to give some consideration to assisting those who do make appeals in this area.
-I will give the matter consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. When will regulations be gazetted pursuant to Parliament, late last year, passing the Australian National University Amendment Act?
-I do not have that information with me. I will find out and let Senator Rocher know.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Last week, the Minister for Defence named the chemicals grammoxone, tordone, hyva and reglone as the chemicals manufactured in Australia and bought by the Department of Defence for use in Vietnam. Will the Minister give the Senate the names of the firms from which the chemicals were bought, the amounts of chemicals bought and the use in Australia for which these materials are produced?
-I will refer that question to the Minister for Defence.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It relates to an article in today’s Australian Financial Review which refers to a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. The newspaper calls it the Davidson report on children and television. Has the Minister observed that, in this newspaper article, the Federal Director of the Advertising Federation of Australia has noted that the Minister has not responded to the Committee ‘s report, and in particular to the Committee’s recommendation in relation to the advertising of low nutrition foods? As the current inquiry of the National Health and Medical Research Council into television advertising of food products for children appears to have run into some problems, and as the time for the ministerial response to the Senate Committee ‘s report is, according to the Prime Minister’s guidelines, long overdue, will he arrange for a response to the Senate Committee’s report in the near future?
– I am sorry, I. had not heard about the report in this morning’s Australian Financial Review. But I can assure the Senate that I have heard of both Senator Davidson and the report to which he referred. It has been the subject of a great deal of public discussion and discussion in this chamber. The value of the report has been acknowledged by many people, including the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I was not aware that there had not been a response as yet from the Government. I will raise the matter with Mr Staley and ask him to expedite a reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development and Energy. The Minister will recall that on 4 March, in answer to a question on Rundle shale oil, he said:
It is the knowledge and understanding of import parity pricing that had allowed the venturers -
That is, Esso-Exxon- to enter the market and take enormous risks involving billions of dollars.
Did the Minister, at a briefing given him by Exxon officials in New York about a fortnight ago on the Rundle project, give an undertaking to Exxon on behalf of the Australian Government that it would underwrite any losses incurred by the companies involved in developing
Rundle? Has the Prime Minister also assured the companies of an assured market?
– The answer to both questions is no.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Transport to an article in the Age newspaper of last weekend in which quite substantial increases in air fares to overseas countries were announced. The article stated:
The increases are not due primarily to the escalating cost of fuel- rather Qantas’ financial plight has caused the Australian Government to reassess fares.
Can the Minister advise the Senate of the reason for the large loss by Qantas during the last financial year, even though apparently it has had high passenger loadings in its aircraft? Can the Minister say whether the Qantas building in Sydney is the main cause of the need for this increase in air fares.
– It is my understanding that a number of factors are involved in fare price increases; in part, the pressure of rising fuel costs, which are discounted by the honourable senator in his question, and in part, I think, the effect on Qantas’ trading account of exchange losses. I am not in a position to answer in detail the question which has been raised by the honourable senator, so I shall seek a detailed reply from Mr Hunt for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the case of Declan Apuatimi, who has received only a few weeks’ sickness benefits in eight months of illness. Details of the case are outlined in the Weekend Australian, a copy of which I have brought to the attention of the Minister. What caused the breakdown in the provision of benefits to this man? Will the Minister undertake to have an immediate investigation made? What provision will be made for on-going benefits for the family of this Aboriginal craftsman, as it appears he will no longer be able to continue wood carving?
Senator Robertson did raise this matter with my office. I find it a little difficult to comment publicly on a personal case, but I have had inquiries made and I will advise Senator Robertson of the outcome of those inquiries. I understand that some messages have been sent from my Department to ensure that all information is received.
As soon as there is a response I will see that Senator Robertson is advised.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I do so following earlier questions I asked of the previous Minister for Transport. I ask this Minister: What is the position regarding the establishment of a set of rules and conditions on travel insurance that will give better protection to the unfortunate people who, through no fault of their own, have had to cancel their overseas bookings, many of whom have been penalised by hundreds of dollars?
– I remember seeing something about this matter, which may in fact have been the questions previously asked by Senator Young. I have heard the honourable senator express concern for people who make forward bookings and who, through no fault of their own, then are unable to meet those bookings, and thereby lose substantial sums. I am not able to recall with sufficient clarity what I have seen to give him a definite answer. I will seek the information he requests and let him have it as soon as possible.
-Can the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs inform the Parliament what amount of the finance for Aboriginal affairs, as allocated in the 1979-80 Budget, remains unspent as at 3 1 March 1 980? How much of the allocation does the Minister anticipate will remain unspent as at 30 June 1 980? Can the Minister also inform the Parliament whether he has had any indication from the Queensland Government of the amount of Commonwealth funds allocated to that State for Aboriginal affairs, under all headings, which will remain unspent at 30 June 1980?
– I suggest that the honourable senator put that question on the Notice Paper. It has the sort of detail which could be obtained only after careful inquiry.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, relates to a question I put to the Minister last November concerning a proposed social services agreement between Australia and Italy. Have there been any further discussions about the proposed social services agreement since that time? Can she indicate what progress, if any, has been made?
I recall the question asked last year. At that time I think I mentioned that a visit by a delegation of Italian officials was expected in December of last year. A meeting did take place and the discussions held at the request of the Italian Government concerned the feasibility of the two countries entering into a reciprocal agreement on social security. Some of the difficulties that face Australia in this matter I think were outlined by me last year.
The talks were exploratory in character and approaches that might be considered were discussed. I am not able to report any advance on that matter at this stage. Exchanges on a number of aspects are envisaged not only with representatives of the Italian Government but also with representatives from a number of other places where similar requests have been made.
As 1 said earlier, the real difficulty in Australia entering into reciprocal agreements is that we may endanger some of the portability and entitlement arrangements under the Social Services Act for migrants who are living in Australia or who leave Australia. This presents real problems when we start to look at contributory schemes in other countries and many of the arrangements that have been settled in European Economic Community countries. However, if I have anything further to report I will see that Senator Knight is advised.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General and concerns the agent orange affair. Did the Attorney receive on or about 10 March via the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs a written request for the Commonwealth to waive or not to plead its statute of limitations rights in respect of claims by ex-servicemen and their families arising out of exposure to defoliants during the servicemen’s period of service in Vietnam? Was this request refused? If so, was this refusal consistent with the Government’s promise to ensure a full measure of compensation to all those servicemen whose health may prove to have been affected by such defoliants?
– I am aware of a request that has been made in regard to waiving the statute of limitations. I have the matter under consideration at the moment. I have not made any actual decision with regard to it.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Attorney aware of the urgency of this matter given the imminence of the expiry of the period under the statute of limitations for many such potential claimants? Will he take urgent action and advise the Senate when a decision will be made on this matter?
– I certainly will be giving the matter urgent consideration. I am not aware specifically of dates governing the matter, but I am quite aware of the fact that an early decision needs to be made.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs or, alternatively, to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I draw the Minister’s attention to a National Times article published on 23 March 1980 regarding the Australia-East Timor family reunion scheme negotiated with the Indonesian Government in 1978. Will the Minister comment on this report and, in particular, on the claim that Indonesia appears to have slammed the door on further departures from East Timor of people included in the Australia-East Timor reunion scheme? Is it correct that to date only about half of the 600 refugees approved by the Indonesian Government to join family members in Australia under the scheme have in fact been granted permission by the Indonesian authorities to do so?
– It is 295.
-Yes, it is 295. Is the Minister concerned at the slow progress of the scheme and by the lengthy delays which have been experienced since the agreement was negotiated? What action will the Government take in its endeavours to see that the Indonesian Government honours the agreement of 1978 and so secure the early reunion of Timorese families?
-On the face of it, this is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, but I have some information. I am aware of the recent article appearing in the National Times concerning the Timorese family reunion program. As this report pointed out, almost 300 Timorese have arrived in Australia under the program since the beginning of last year. Contrary to suggestions in the report, the Indonesian Government has not slammed the door on further departures of people included in the family reunion program. The program is continuing, although slowly. Four Timorese on the agreed list have . arrived in Australia in the last six weeks. Eight others are currently in Jakarta awaiting issue of Indonesian exit permits. I am concerned at the slow progress of the scheme, and the Government’s concern has been expressed in another place. The program has not moved as quickly as the Government would have liked but we recognise that those coming here must first complete Indonesia’s migration procedures. Officers from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta are in regular contact with the Indonesian authorities about the reunion program and continue to make clear to them our strong interest that reunions be completed as quickly as possible.
Contrary to Mr Rodgers’ suggestion that the Indonesian Government is not disposed to permit Timorese husbands to be reunited with their families in Australia, I can say that 41 husbands have come to Australia under the family reunion program. Other Timorese, who are not on the agreed list but who have applied to come to Australia, are also considered under our normal immigration policy. About 100 Timorese in this category came to Australia from Indonesia last year. I will bring this matter, which has a note of urgency about it, to the attention of my colleague in another place.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. On Wednesday, 19 March, the Minister said that the Government would consider health when formulating levels of excise on alcohol and tobacco in future Budgets. Does she not consider this to be an insincere statement since the extra excise would benefit the Treasury and not the people? If the Minister and the Government are sincere in their concern for people’s health, will they consider also imposing a levy on industries which expose their workers and the whole community to dangerous materials and chemicals which have been proven to cause cancer and other illnesses?
-I recall that on 19 March I presented to the Senate the Government’s response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare entitled ‘Drug Problems in Australia- an Intoxicated Society?’. There were a number of responses from the Government to the many recommendations in that report. I question the attitude that there was insincerity in the response of the Government to those recommendations. Indeed, I thought there were many expressions of concern in the Senate about matters that were raised in the report and that there was some satisfaction with many of the responses from the Government. I will draw the question’s suggestion of a levy to the attention of the appropriate Ministers. I will also take notice of any other matters that were referred to in Senator Elstob ‘s question to see whether any other response is warranted.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction inform the Senate what arrangements exist between the Federal Government and the Queensland Government relating to the availability of housing finance for low income earners? In particular, can the Minister provide details of the societies in the State which are participants in the scheme outlined in the 1978 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement? Further, are the funds for the scheme made available through the State Housing Commission or directly to the societies?
-The Government certainly is committed in a very real sense to home ownership, and is concerned about housing finance for low income earners. The question the honourable senator has asked is one that needs a considerable amount of detail to answer it properly. I shall refer it to the Minister concerned and provide an answer.
– I draw the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a statement by the former Vice-Chancellor of Monash University, Sir Louis Matheson, that the visit by the Prime Minister to Monash University last week was very provocative. He stated:
He’s unpopular with young people because of high unemployment and cuts in education grants. The fact that he came with a couple of hundred police almost invited the row.
Was this visit also part of the Government’s election year strategy of provoking confrontation with the young, the unemployed and others who are not favoured by this Government because they are disillusioned, disaffected and disgusted by the Government’s failure to honour the promises made to them?
– I reject the suggestion that any of the visits by the Prime Minister have been for the purposes that Senator O ‘Byrne outlined. I have not seen the statement of the former Vice-Chancellor. If it is correctly reported, it is strange that the Prime Minister of any country and of whatever party ought not to have absolute freedom to go to any university, irrespective of what criticism anyone might levy upon him, rightly or wrongly. I therefore find it strange that such a proposition should be repeated in this place. The Prime Minister went to a university and opened an old persons’ home in Fitzroy. I could not think of a more respectable and proper pair of functions for a Prime Minister to carry out. lt ought to be possible inside a democracy for anyone, including the Prime Minister, to walk and to talk with freedom and without molestation.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Is it a fact that the Mayday call of the Farid Fares was sent out at 12.15 a.m. last Friday and that the relay of that call through Adelaide to the Coastal Surveillance Centre and then to the Royal Australian Air Force meant that there was a delay of more than two hours before an aircraft was able to respond to the call? In asking that question, I acknowledge the subsequent excellent job done by the RAAF and the saving of life which took place. What was the cause of that two-hour delay if there was such a delay? Will the inquiry being undertaken by the Department of Transport include an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the alleged failure of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd ship, the Iron Somersby, to respond either to the radio distress calls, the frequent calls made by the RAAF and others to that ship or the attempts by the RAAF for four hours to attract the attention of any person on the ship? If the investigation reveals that those allegations have some foundation, will proceedings be instituted in relation to the certification or otherwise of the officers concerned in the conduct of the Iron Somersby!
-I saw a report of the incident which has been referred to by the honourable senator in his question. I agree with him that it raises serious questions which need investigation. I am not able to tell him what was the cause of the delay or whether the delay which was mentioned in the article occurred, but I will seek that information for him. I will seek also an answer to his questions whether the inquiry will include the failure of the ship to heed calls and whether proceedings ought to be brought in any form if there has been some misconduct on the part of those on the ship. On the face of it, it is certainly extremely odd that repeated attempts failed to attract the attention of the ship or to get any action to help those who were in distress.
-On 31 March, I undertook to provide Senator Sibraa with further information regarding Australia and the Indian Ocean zone of peace issue at the United Nations. I am able to confirm that Australia voted in favour of resolution 34/80 at the 1979 session of the United Nations General Assembly concerning the declaration of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace. I am also able to confirm that the resolution did draw attention to the dangers of competitive escalation between the great powers in the Indian Ocean. While the resolution did not specifically call upon the great powers to refrain from any further escalation and expansion of their military presence, it did call upon the Soviet Union and the United States to ‘refrain from any activity prejudicial to the implementation of resolution 2032 (XXVI)’, which was the original 1971 resolution on the Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace. The Australian Government has not informed the ad hoc committee of its decision to invite the United States of America to use Australian military facilities in Western Australia. The ad hoc committee does not require such notification. Indeed, the committee has yet to reach agreement on the precise meaning and extent of the proposed zone of peace.
-On 27 March Senator Watson asked me what action the Government had taken to provide medical and non-military help to the injured and homeless in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of atrocities in Afghanistan. Following the Soviet thrust into Afghanistan we responded with a gift of 10,000 tonnes of wheat for refugee relief. This commitment has provided a basis for the prompt release of existing grain stocks in Pakistan for distribution to refugees from Afghanistan through the relief programs aided by the World Food Program. In addition, we gave a cash contribution of $ 1 m to the appeal launched by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Reports indicate that, although there has been a heavy strain on Pakistan’s administrative resources, adequate supplies of tents, food, blankets, clothes and medicines are reaching the refugees.
Other organisations which are supported by Australia are playing an active role in refugee assistance, including the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the International Red Cross. Australian nongovernmental organisations are also involved. The Government has met the freight costs for the despatch to Pakistan of four tonnes of used clothing collected by the Society For Those Who Have Less. It is not our practice to provide assistance to armed insurgents anywhere in the world. We will, however, continue to give humanitarian aid to Afghan rebels who seek refuge in Pakistan.
– I undertook to seek further information in reply to a question put to me by Senator Melzer on 26 March about Press reports that France had set off a nuclear test device at Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific with a blast twice the size of that which razed Hiroshima. Those reports were based on information issued by the New Zealand Seismological Services, which has confirmed that the explosion was of the order of 50 kilotons- that is, well above the yield of the Hiroshima blast which was some 14.6 kilotons- and took place at 0530 Australian eastern standard time on 24 March. The previous such announcement by the New Zealand Seismological Services related to a small explosion of 2 kilotons on 23 February Greenwich mean time.
The honourable senator asked whether Australia had prior notice from France of the test. The French Government does not inform the Australian Government of its intention to carry out any underground nuclear test. From time to time France issues statements endorsing the safety of such tests. In October last year, for example, the French representative in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly noted that tests were carried out at a depth which would safely tolerate blasts five or six times their actual level; that they were completely contained; and that no evidence of radioactivity had been detected as a result, even close to Mururoa Atoll.
The honourable senator also asked whether the Government was monitoring possible fallout in Australia. The Commonwealth Department of Health maintains, through the Australian Radiation Laboratory, a continuing surveillance program over radioactive fall-out reaching Australia from any testing of nuclear devices in the atmosphere. This program currently consists of two separate operations. One is directed at the shorter lived radionuclides- fresh fission products- which would reach Australia shortly after atmospheric tests, especially those conducted in the southern hemisphere. For this purpose the laboratory maintains a network of six sensitive air filter stations located at Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, which continuously monitor ground level air for fresh fission products. Should any fresh fission material be found a comprehensive program can be activated consisting of a large network of stations which provide continuous sampling of fall-out deposit at 25 locations around Australia and a further network which takes daily milk samples from the nine major dairying areas in Australia and assesses them for iodine- 13 1 .
The other longer term program consists of continuous sampling of rainwater at eight locations and milk at six locations with quarterly analysis, to estimate the total radiation exposure to Australians arising from the deposition of long-lived isotopes- strontium-90 and caesium- 137- and their transfer through the environment into the Australia diet. Although these programs have been modified from time to time in their details to suit changing circumstances, they have provided a continuous record of radioactive fallout over Australia since their inception in 1 9 5 7.
-I seek leave to make a short statement in respect of the matter of misrepresentation which I raised at the conclusion of Question Time yesterday.
- Mr President, you will recall that at the conclusion of Question Time yesterday I claimed to have been misrepresented by Senator Carrick. In reply you pointed out that misrepresentation must apply to a senator individually. I accepted your ruling. After you made that statement Senator Carrick said:
In no way at all did I say today that the Australian Labor Party was a party of violence.
As recorded at page 1,190 of yesterday’s Senate Hansard Senator Carrick said:
It is quite clear that the Labor Party senators are in sympathy with the rioters.
As recorded at page 1 , 1 9 1 he then said:
For some extraordinary reason, the Australian Labor Party is seeking to justify the violence that occurred at Fitzroy.
Mr President, Senator Carrick invited you to peruse the Hansard. I do not know whether he was expecting you to make a statement. I maintain that Senator Carrick misrepresented me and the Labor Party by making those statements. Despite the fact that he claimed he did not say certain things they are recorded on both pages to which I have referred.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesMinister for National Development and
Energy)- by leave- I said that I did not say that the Australian Labor Party was advocating violence. A perusal of the words will show exactly that.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Walsh, dated this day, 1 April 1980, proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The Commonwealth Government’s failure to discharge its constitutional duty to protect Aborigines from persecution and intimidation by the Western Australian Government and Police Commissioner.
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-
– For more than three years events in the far north of Western Australia have had frightening implications for all who are concerned about honesty in government, the political neutrality of the police force or respect for the spiritual beliefs of Australia’s surviving Aborigines. On 19 February 1977 at least 96 Kimberley Aborigines were deprived of their right to vote in the State election. A Court of Disputed Returns ultimately found that the cause of that deprivation was a conspiracy involving many senior members of the Liberal Party in Western Australia, including the Attorney-General. The actions of all these people were vigorously defended by the Premier, Charles Court. Indeed when the court’s verdict was finally given he dismissed it as ‘one man ‘s opinion’.
One Liberal Party scrutineer, John Chaney, brother of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), sought and received immunity from prosecution before giving his evidence. The Western Australian police force failed to lay any charges. Moreover it showed a complete disinterest in investigating any of the post-election allegations. So much for 1977. The police force’s record was in marked contrast to its albeit selective zeal following the 1 980 election. This inconsistency, for reasons which will be unfolded, is a reflection not on the force per se but on its Commissioner, Owen Leitch, a man who stands convicted out of his own mouth as unfit for public office. Leitch is the alter ego of the Premier, Charles Court. Court does not have to issue political directives to Leitch, though probably he would. Leitch spontaneously does Court’s bidding. This demented duo has acted in harmony over two elections in Kimberley and in the recent heavy handed takeover at Noonkanbah station.
For some time the Noonkanbah station has been an area of interest to the American petroleum exploration company Amax. When I visited Noonkanbah last June members of the Aboriginal community there said that they would have preferred that no drilling take place on the station but that they had faced the reality that some drilling probably would occur. However, they stressed that some four square kilometres which is of deep spiritual significance must not be drilled or defiled. At that time Amax intended to sink its first hole on one of those sites subsequently known as Pea Hill. Amax ultimately deferred those plans until the next dry season. I do not believe there was any technical necessity for the first hole to have been drilled under Pea Hill.
I am not an apologist for foreign companies but it is inconceivable that Amax would be so insensitive as to provoke the maximum confrontation in the absence of a compelling reason. The compelling reason was Sir Charles Court’s twisting Amax’s arm to provoke the maximum confrontation thereby to crush all Aboriginal rights in this test case. The Fraser Government, constitutionally charged with responsibility to protect Aborigines, made sympathetic noises but did nothing. We heard some more of those sympathetic noises in Question Time today. As with Aurukun and Mornington Island, Malcolm Fraser- a playground bully grown older- wilted before the pressure of Charles Court.
– Order! Just be careful.
– I am sorry, Mr President. The Prime Minister wilted before the pressure of Charles Court as he had previously wilted before Bjelke-Petersen. Aurukun and Mornington Island destroyed the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Unless Senator Chaney can starch the Prime Minister’s backbone, Noonkanbah will destroy the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In the last month, with the return of the dry season, Amax has returned to Noonkanbah. In the meantime, pursuant to the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1972, the Western Australian Museum had investigated the spiritual significance of the Noonkanbah sites. Its report was tendered to the Government but it has not been made public. Early last month it became known that Amax still intended to drill near, or under, Pea Hill. Predictably, Aboriginal opposition intensified.
Three Western Australian Ministers went to Noonkanbah on 14 March, ostensibly to discuss the matter and to negotiate with the Aborigines. Later it was revealed that the negotiations and consultations were a sham. The State Government had decided to present the Noonkanbah people with an ultimatum which it did the following Tuesday. Charles Court, in this instance as in many others, adopted a policy of telling the truth only when other options had been exhausted. One member of the ministerial delegation was Mr Bill Grayden, Minister for Cultural Affairs. Mr Grayden is a great exponent of the white Australian cultural heritage. After a day’s heavy drinking at Perth’s Sheraton Hotel in 1978, he pranced around the bar, stripped to the waist, offering to demonstrate his pugilistic skills.
– Wasn’t he a good middleweight boxer?
– He was quite good, I believe.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I draw attention to Standing Order 418 and its provisions in relation to reference to members of this Parliament or other parliaments, including State parliaments. I did not want this debate to be interrupted with points of order- I think that Senator Walsh would agreebut if we are not careful we will get to the stage where -
Opposition senators interjecting-
– If I may finish without the persistent interjections, I draw attention to Standing Order 418. Senator Walsh referred to demented duos. He went on to say other things. I do not want to do more than simply say that it seems to be reaching a stage where there is more in the nature of abuse than legitimate comment about a real question. Mr President, I would request that you pay very careful attention to what Senator Walsh goes on to say from this stage.
– Order! I am very aware of Standing Order 418, which states that no honourable senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House or against a member of any other Parliament.
– All these matters that I have been talking about have been reported in the Press. Shortly afterwards Mr Grayden demonstrated those skills on several policemen in the hotel car park. Only after being actually charged did he resign from the Ministry. He was ultimately convicted of assault and fined. He was not charged with aggravated assault, which is the normal charge for assaulting a policeman on duty. Such a charge and conviction would have disqualified him from the Parliament. Mr Grayden was readmitted to the Ministry after the last Western Australian election. Ironically in the very week that Mr Grayden came back, a young man in Geraldton who had escaped from custody following an admitted police assault on him and who subsequently threatened a group of police with a metre-long piece of timber was gaoled for three years. Such is the way under the present Premier and Police Commissioner in which justice is administered in Western Australia. Liberal politicians, who assault police without provocation are restored to the Ministry whilst young men who threaten police following a police assault are gaoled for three years. Corporate criminals such as Noel Crichton-Browne continue to walk the streets of Perth unmolested while Fraud Squad detectives are dispatched to Kimberley to throw innocent Aborigines into paddy-wagons and to interrogate them in police stations about how they voted- and in the presence of the President of the Wyndham Branch of the Liberal Party, one Alma Lowe, who distinguished herself in the Kimberley Court of Disputed Returns by telling Mr Justice Smith how ‘this arrogant native buck swaggered into the polling booth at Turkey Creek ‘.
On Tuesday, 18 March, following the fraudulent consultations, the Government plan swung into action. Amax representatives directly accompanied by 1 1 police and with dozens of other people waiting nearby, arrived at Noonkanbah and delivered the ultimatum. The Aborigines could choose between Amax drilling at Pea Hill or at another less spiritually significant site. They were given five minutes to choose- and in the sight of police. Anyone who does not understand the significance of that in Kimberley is unaware of the fact that within the lifetime of many Aborigines still in Kimberley a police group massacred a complete tribal sub-group at Forrest River- men, women and children. Adolf Hitler had no monopoly of genocide. The initial official, that is Government, version of this event was that the Aborigines had been consulted by Amax and had agreed to drilling at the less sacred site. The truth about the ultimatum later filtered out. The Aborigines responded with an injunction, under the Heritage Act of Western Australia, to stop drilling. Since the injunction was likely to be successful the Western Australian Government, through its Minister for Culture, Mr Grayden again, instructed the museum trustees to declassify the area. To provide camouflage for this action Mr Grayden attacked the Aboriginal Heritage Act, describing it in the West Australian of 28 March as ‘shocking legislation’. Significantly, neither Grayden nor any other Liberals opposed the Heritage Act when it was introduced in 1972 by a Labor Government. Grayden had previously attempted to blackmail all Kimberley Aborigines opposing the Government at Noonkanbah by saying:
Further handing over of pastoral leases will now be in doubt in my opinion.
That comment was published in the West Australian of 15 March. Through all this political legal chicanery, this sordid saga of blackmail and intimidation, the Fraser Government and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs have made sympathetic noises and done nothing. Aurukun and Mornington Island revisited! I know from direct experience that the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is not one of the Liberal Party’s racists, but to the Aborigines, the former Minister might just as well be in office. We have different Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs but one common factor of overwhelming importance in Aurukun, Mornington Island, Noonkanbah and Kimberley is the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser. The plain fact is that Mr Fraser, who likes to live out his fantasies of military glory before tomato throwing agents provocateur lacks the stomach for a real fight with Sir Charles Court or Johannes Bjelke-Petersen. He lacks the courage to answer in Parliament for his own words. He passes off questions about his own words on to his ministerial lackeys who sit alongside and behind him. The Federal Government unquestionably has the power to deal with Sir Charles Court and Mr Bjelke-Petersen on these matters. It can take over any of these areas as an Aboriginal reserve. The Commonwealth not only has the power but also has the obligation to protect Aborigines from such intransigent governments. Aborigines and a majority of other Australians want action at home from the Prime Minister, not sanctimonious rhetoric abroad about racial equality and human rights. What is needed is an ultimatum to the Court Government to behave reasonably, or Noonkanbah will be taken over by the Commonwealth Government as an Aboriginal reserve.
The second important matter covered by this motion is the action initiated by and statements made by the Western Australian Police Commissioner, Owen Leitch, following the Western Australian election in February. I am not making an attack on the police force of Western Australia and if anybody reports it I hope they note that explicitly. It is an attack on the Police Commissioner. To understand the Commissioner’s actions it is necessary to have some insight into his thought processes, his right-wing paranoia and his anti-Labor bias. The best demonstration of his irrational thought processes can be found in his assertion last year that, ‘if marihuana was legalised the pushers would make a fortune’. Just let us contemplate that- ‘if marihuana was legalised the pushers would make a fortune’. Should anyone with a mind that disordered occupy an important public position?
His right-wing paranoia was convincingly displayed in the editorial that he wrote for the Police News immediately following his appointment as Commissioner. I will read just a few quotes from that editorial which is dated August 1975:
Western Australia is a vast mineral treasure chest, particularly to those countries less fortunately endowed. One has only to listen to the media and to cast his eyes in a northerly direction to see the geographical advances made toward Australia. The left-wing Fretilin-controlled East Timor is the latest stepping stone with particular emphasis to Western Australia.
I believe this country on its own would have great difficulty in defeating or ‘knocking the skin off a rice pudding’ of any would-be aggressor, including the penguins from Antarctica.
– That could be seen as a criticism of the Minister for Defence.
– It could also indeed. Commissioner Leitch ‘s anti-Labor bias is apparent in the series of events following elections in Kimberley in 1977 and 1980. In 1977, despite specific charges of misconduct by liberal scrutineers, and against one policeman, Leitch ordered no investigations. Private citizens and the Labor candidate, unaided by police, ferreted out the evidence which ultimately caused the election to be overturned in a court of disputed returns, disclosed a Liberal Party conspiracy to deprive illiterates of the right to vote and forced one Liberal scrutineer to seek immunity from proscution before giving his evidence. The conspirators, as I said before, included the Attorney-General of Western Australia who, the judge found, had exceeded his legal authority in directing the Chief Electoral Officer. No charges were laid by the police before or after the Court of Disputed Returns.
On polling day in 1980. at 5 p.m., two men took a 44-gallon drum of port wine to Turkey Creek Aboriginal Reserve. One of the men has admitted publicly that his intention was to get the Turkey Creek Aborigines too drunk to vote. The wine was obtained from the Kununurra hotel, the licensee of which is a prominent Liberal who was on a bond for assaulting Aborigines. According to the hotel’s acting manager the wine was given to Mr Widdell in payment for work done some time ago at the hotel. If that is correct, the taxation Act also has prima facie been breached. No charges have been laid against any of those concerned. At the Pinnacles mobile polling booth, the so-called independent candidate, Josephine Boyle, whose scrutineers were flown around in the Liberal Party aircraft, addressed a group of people while the booth was open. This is a clear violation of section 183 (6) and (7) of the Western Australian Electoral Act. Mrs Boyle has not been charged. By contrast, it was alleged by persons unknown that several white people in Kimberley had induced Aborigines to apply for a postal vote. Commissioner Leitch immediately dispatched two fraud squad detectives to Kimberley. One of them, Detective Ayton, had been involved in a previous inquiry and failed prosecution against a prominent member of the ALP in Esperance. It was admitted by Detective Ayton under cross examination that the prosecution was politically inspired. Interestingly, one of the detectives was present at Noonkanbah on 1 8 March. How a fraud squad detective was involved in that exercise has not been explained. Apparently, these detectives have interrogated every Aborigine in the Kimberley who applied for a postal vote. No whites have been interrogated, which makes a prima facie case for the application of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Aborigines against whom no allegations of wrongdoing had even been made were bundled into paddy wagons and taken to police stations for interrogation. Some at least were asked how they voted, and at least one was questioned in the presence of Alma Low. How outraged would Australians be if General Wall, on instructions from Robert Mugabe, had bundled all the whites in Salisbury into a paddy wagon and asked in the presence of Joshua Nkomo whether they voted for Bishop Muzorewa. How outraged would we be if black Rhodesians had been similarly treated? How outraged would be our globe trotting, global grandstanding Prime Minister if that had happened in Rhodesia? That, of course, can only be a hypothetical question. But how outraged is he about the same procedures in
Kimberley, Western Australia, being ordered by Owen Leitch and sanctioned by Charles Court? That is not a hypothetical question, and I invite the Prime Minister to reply to it.
Ultimately, six white people have been arrested and some 90 charges laid. Commissioner Leitch was gleefully forecasting the charges before they were laid. To arrest, instead of summons, people charged with offences of this nature is extraordinary, if not unprecedented. Commissioner Leitch, in the West Australian of 25 March, defended this procedure on the grounds that Bill Latter, former President of the Western Australian Trades and Labour Council, had once stated that summonses issued under section 54B of the Western Australian Police Act would be ignored by the union movement. That fact, according to Leitch, made arrest instead of summons mandatory for Stephens, Hawke and others. All that may seem logical to a man who believes that marihuana pushers will make a fortune if marihuana is legalised. But what Leitch is really saying is that anyone connected with the Labor Party will be arrested on charges for which anyone else would be summonsed. In other words, Commissioner Leitch has declared that Australian Labor Party members and supporters will be victimised by him.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Senator Walsh is laying most grave charges on a most serious matter. As I look over his shoulder I see that he has additional material there. I move:
– I second the motion. I think that Senator Chipp is quite right. The substance of what Senator Walsh is saying is most important and I think it would be to the benefit of the Senate if we were to hear the whole of his argument.
– What period do you seek?
– Five minutes.
– ff it is necessary for Senator Chaney to have a similar extension of time in order to answer the case put by Senator Walsh, I assume that it will be granted.
– Yes, of course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In the same issue of the West Australian- that is, 25 March- Commissioner
Leitch is quoted as saying that the investigation -and charges ‘could develop into another election being held ‘. He did not explain how he arrived at that conclusion. Virtually all of the matters relate to postal voting. In total 137 postal votes were cast, and the winning margin was 800 votes. Either Commissioner Leitch ‘s arithmetic is as weak as his other logic, or he is suggesting that the winning candidate will, in some unknown way, be disqualified from Parliament by his investigation. Commissioner Leitch has stated to senior staff of the West Australian newspaper that forcing another election is his objective. The Commissioner’s forecast of another election seems to be purely wishful thinking. If it were not, however, the propriety of a police commissioner forecasting the outcome of court proceedings which have not been initiated would be grossly improper- so improper as to justify his removal anywhere else but in the banana republics of Queensland and Western Australia.
Whether Commissioner Leitch ‘s hostility to Aborigines is due to innate racism or to his belief that Aborigines vote Labor- that is, whether he is motivated by racial or political bias, or bothcannot be determined. Likewise, it cannot be determined whether his hostility to Ernie Bridge is derived from Bridge’s Aboriginal ancestry or from his association with the Labor Party. The effect, however, is the same.
Of course, whether the Premier has any direct hand in this- I do not believe that he has; it does not matter whether the Commissioner is directed by the Premier or whether he takes these actions spontaneously- he is responsible. The final effect of all of this victimisation of Aborigines in Kimberley- without doubt it is intended- is to stop them from voting altogether. That is the ultimate objective. If the events in Western Australia over the last month had taken place in Queensland, the national media would, quite properly, have been outraged. Its relative disinterest in Western Australia has been, I trust, only a result of geographic isolation.
Until such pressure is brought to bear on the national media, clearly the Fraser Government will take no action. The Prime Minister will continue to talk tough abroad and to go to water at home. What is needed in Western Australia, pursuant to the Commonwealth Government’s constitutional powers and responsibilities, is action over Noonkanbah and a judicial inquiry or royal commission into the behaviour of Police Commissioner Leitch, following the precedent established by the last Federal Labor Government, when Senator Cavanagh, as Minister, in conjunction with the Western Australian Government, established a royal commission into Skull Creek. The Western Australian Government agreed to the setting up of that royal commission because it knew that the Commonwealth would proceed independently and unilaterally, whether or not it agreed. That royal commission, of course, ultimately was very successful. Anything less than that will be an abrogation by the Fraser Government of its constitutional responsibility to Aborigines.
– The speech which has just been given by the honourable senator I think illustrates in a sense the deep problems which exist in relation to Aboriginalwhite relations in Western Australia. It certainly reflects the depth of feeling which infects many people who are involved in this field in the Kimberleys and elsewhere. To some extent, the speech reflects something which 1 said in Sydney to a Press Club meeting some months ago. I said that the difficulty in pursuing a course in Aboriginal affairs is that a reasonable course appears to be regarded as manically to the right by many people in society and manically to the left by others. Indeed, there are the sorts of deep divisions which make judgments in these matters extremely difficult.
From a personal point of view, the reflections on me and on my brother for his part in the 1 977 election reflect the difficulty of being involved at all in this field without attracting odium. I regret that the views which were expressed with respect to my brother were expressed in this debate. I do not intend to answer them now, but maybe I will do so at some more appropriate time later. A number of matters have been brought before the Senate, which are serious matters and which I agree are matters of public importance and therefore appropriate to be debated.
I find it puzzling that the Labor Party is so strong in its words now, when it seems to me that it was so relatively weak in its actions when it was in government. I say that not out of a desire to score points but because I think that its attitude in government reflected the realities of Australia, whereas its attitude in Opposition reflects its lack of need to be concerned with those realities. I am reminded, when I hear Senator Walsh making demands that the Commonwealth should take over Noonkanbah, should create reserves for Aboriginal people and so on, of the words of Mr Johnson when he introduced the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill in the House of Representatives in 1975. He said:
That the Australian Parliament may only legislate in this direction of the Northern Territory is a matter of regret, but we have made it clear to the various State governments that we support similar recognition of Aboriginal land title in the States.
He acknowledged the limitations upon Commonwealth power which is now so blithely brushed aside by Senator Walsh in this debate. Whilst some senators may say that the finding of the Joint Committee on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill is final in this matter I would suggest to all honourable senators that there is certainly room for doubt about the precise extent of Commonwealth power and -
– You don ‘t suggest it is final?
-No, I do not suggest that it is final. I also would suggest that it ignores the realities of the Australian federation.
Two key matters have been raised relating to Noonkanbah and Kimberley election. I wish to address myself to both of those matters. I also draw attention to the fact that Senator Walsh, as a theme in his speech, referred to the failure to stand up to State governments. Several times he referred to Aurukun and Mornington Island as an example of what was wrong with present Commonwealth policy. Nothing could more aptly demonstrate the room for differences of opinion in this area. Of course, the Australian Labor Party insists that Aurukun and Mornington Island was a surrender which gained nothing for the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island and was an arrangement which should not have been made; the Commonwealth should have stepped in and resumed control of the reserves of Aurukun and Mornington Island. That course was arguably open to the Commonwealth.
The fact is that the Commonwealth entered into an agreement with the State which secured leasehold control of those reserve areas to the Aboriginal community, established Aboriginal councils which have the authority to manage those areas and established a system which is working today to the advantage of those Aboriginal people. It is not the extreme step which was sought by the Labor Party in April 1 978. It is not the extreme step which has been sought by it since but it, in fact, presents a working system for those people which has not involved a constitutional confrontation between the Commonwealth and the State.
Noonkanbah represents a serious and real problem for both the Aboriginal people involved and the State Government. It goes without saying that the Government of Western Australia and, I believe, the people of Western Australia, expect mining development to take place in that State. At the same time, some protection will be given against mining on Aboriginal reserves. Protection will be given to Aboriginal sites throughout Western Australia under the Aboriginal Heritage Act. The sites at NoonkanbahNoonkanbah is a property which is occupied by an Aboriginal community- have been examined by a series of anthropologists in company with the Aboriginal people. The earlier examination disclosed individual sites and the most recent examination I know of is the one which has given rise to the present contention. That recent examination not only disclosed that there were specified sites which were identified but also that there were myths or stories which related to those sites in the usual way that Aboriginal land is described in Aboriginal terms.
The quite serious question which arises is whether all land- for which Aboriginal mythology is extant through the living Aboriginals who are connected with that land- is, because of its religious significance, to be protected from mining, drilling or exploration. I do not know of anybody who seriously suggest that that ought to be the case. Rather it is asserted that those sites which are of particular significance ought to be protected. So one has the problem of drawing a demarcation line. At Noonkanbah the question which arises is whether the line is to be drawn around specified sites which are identified on the map as sites or whether protection is to be given to a broader and more general area. I used the expression at Question Time this morning “broad acres’. That is a matter on which I think differences of opinion are possible. I would have thought that the desirable thing was for the maximum protection to be given to those sites which are of special significance.
I believe that there is a deficiency in the law in Western Australia at the moment in that there is some uncertainty about just what will be protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act. I think the removal of that uncertainty is a matter which ought to be given priority by the State Government. That is what I have been seeking to do with it. I do not believe that the situation in this case is so clear- that matters which are of great significance to Aboriginals are being overridden -as would warrant that final ultimate step of Commonwealth intervention. Yet, that is the action which is being urged by the Opposition. I simply do not see the argument about the distinction which exists at Noonkanbah as giving rise to the demand by the Opposition for total Commonwealth intervention in the matter.
I have tested my own thinking on this matter not only with my Department but also with various anthropologists and with various Aboriginals. Whilst no one has been able to give me a final statement on Noonkanbah because they have not had the experience or the contact to do so, my own view about the distinction which is to be drawn between sites of particular significance and the generality of land which has religious significance is a distinction which all of them acknowledge. When I was talking to an Aboriginal from the Kimberley region during the last week he made the point that he would have no objection to drilling where women and children could go in his area. He would expect drilling to be prevented in those areas which were too sacred for women and children to visit. So, even within Aboriginal communities, we will get that sort of difference of opinion. I believe that the terms in which the matter has been presented to the Senate today by the Labor Party are terms which do not acknowledge the very real difficulties which exist in the Noonkanbah situation.
The matter has been raised by Senator Walsh of blackmail. In the Noonkanbah situation threats are being made that further pastoral properties will not be made available to Aboriginal communities. It is quite true that statements have been made over the last few weeks which have indicated that if pastoral properties which are held by Aboriginals are to be regarded as insulated from all mining activity, the State Government will be most reluctant to see further pastoral properties go into Aboriginal hands. Whilst that may be unfortunate, I believe that it is an understandable point of view and one which- had I been asked to predict a stance by any Western Australian government- I would have predicted.
The long term interests of Aboriginal people in Western Australia are, I believe, to be served by additional pastoral leases becoming available to them. For example, I believe there are still people in Kimberley, in the Gascoyne, in the Murchison and certainly in the Eastern Goldfields who, if they are to have any chance at all of preserving their society and their social structure, will have to have access to pastoral lease land. If they are to get that access I believe it will have to be on the basis that their sites of special significance are protected but that the pastoral leases otherwise will be treated in exactly the same way as other pastoral leases held by other members of the community. Therefore they will be required to meet the pastoral lease covenants and to submit to the mining requirements of the community in the same way as the generality of pastoral leases.
There has been a succession of sorry stories about the Kimberley election, going back to the original election campaign in 1977, which gave rise to the case being before the Court of Disputed Returns, and then the more recent events. I do not believe that anybody can get satisfaction from the disputation which has occurred about the Aboriginal voting in that area. I would like to make it quite clear that the Commonwealth has always stood for the rights of Aboriginals and other citizens to exercise their right to vote. It has put its money where its mouth is. It has financed electoral education campaigns. The first one was in Kimberley in 1977. When that campaign was adjudged a success it was decided to mount further pilot campaigns in Western Australia and South Australia.
– Wouldn’t it be better to have Federal control of all elections in Queensland and Western Australia?
– It is no good the honourable senator on my right interjecting that it would be good to have total Federal control over this or any other area because as long as he lives and , I believe, for as long as I live, Australia will remain a federation with State governments exercising important powers.
The fact is that in December, in my first month as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I contacted Sir Charles Court and suggested to him that we should have a further electoral education campaign in Kimberley which the Commonwealth was prepared to finance but which it wished to establish with the State Education Department and the State Electoral Office, as it did in the first campaign. Sir Charles Court’s response to that was immediate. He said he would be very happy if that were to occur. In fact, an education program was conducted in the northern part of Western Australia last year. That was done so that Aboriginal people would be able to vote without the assistance of, and the risk of interference by, any party political supporters, be they Labor or Liberal. Frankly, I find something hypocritical about most of the statements which are made in relation to this matter, when most honourable senators would know that people who are working in campaigns very often are prepared to cut corners and to use postal voting techniques and other things to partisan advantage if they can.
The view of the Commonwealth Government is that abuses of this sort are best prevented by electors being able to act independently and on their own resources. We will be continuing to educate the electorate where that is necessary and we will be continuing to assist not only Aboriginals but also ethnic minorities who have difficulties with language and so on to exercise their right to vote. That is a principle to which we make no exceptions.
The fact is that now serious allegations are being made about improper procedures in the recent Kimberley elections. The allegations cover a range of people. The actions of one Mr Widdell have already been raised in the Senate. As I have advised the Senate, those actions were the subject of police investigation. The most recent information I have is that even subsequent to the announcement by the Police Commissioner that he thought that no charges could be laid, further inquiries were undertaken by the police into that matter. I am advised that the report from the police is going today into the hands of the Crown Law Department and that the Attorney-General of Western Australia is expecting a report from the Crown Law Department on that matter. As I have said in the Senate before, I have not said very much about Mr Widdell in the expectation that charges would be laid against him. I had no wish to make comment on matters which come before the court. As the State Attorney has observed, his conduct, if not illegal, is conduct which ought to be illegal. It is certainly conduct which any one of us would be ashamed of.
There are also allegations that there had been breaches of section 95 of the Electoral Act in Western Australia, which relates to the procuring of postal votes. I do not intend to make any comment on those charges which have been made either. I think some 90 charges have been laid against five different defendants. The fact is that until the court has heard those charges we are not in a position to say whether or not there have been abuses of the postal voting procedures in Western Australia. That is a matter which I think will be of considerable interest to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber.
– Do I understand your position on the allegations to be that all Aboriginal, but no white, postal voters were interviewed by the police?
– I understand that complaints were made to the Police Department of improper practices relating to postal or absentee votes obtained for Aboriginal people. My understanding is that Aboriginals were interviewed not as potential defendants but as witnesses. Although there have been allegations that they were questioned as to how they voted, I am advised- I can do no more than get advice on the matter- that all that the Aboriginal people were asked was whether they had voted by postal vote or at the ballot box. So the allegation that people were questioned on how they voted is denied. These are matters which I know are to be defended. I know that solicitors have been instructed by at least some of the defendants. There are a large number of charges and I am sure that the Opposition does not wish to canvass the matters which are before the court at the moment.
I simply say to the Senate that in 1977 there was one set of allegations which gave rise to a Court of Disputed Returns hearing and which resulted in a by-election. One can only regret that there were situations which arose which gave rise to any need for a hearing by the Court of Disputed Returns or for a by-election. Further allegations are now being made about the conduct of people in the election campaign. It is a matter on which I do not believe it is possible to take any final stance until the facts as they will be disclosed in the court are known. I can assure the Senate, at risk of being accused of making more of the pious noises of which I think Senator Walsh accused me, that we will be watching the outcome of these inquiries with great interest. I will be discussing with the Attorney-General, by arrangement with him, the question of whether any charges can be brought against Mr Widdell.
These are very serious and difficult matters in which we should be seeking to find some working solutions which will enable us to get on with the job of improving the lot of Aboriginal people in Western Australia, as elsewhere. The very deep divisions which exist in the Kimberley area between different sections of the community, to my mind, clearly inhibit the social advancement of Aboriginal people. I will continue- and I believe the Government, with me or with somebody else as Minister, will continue- to approach these matters on the basis that we have to try to work with State governments to get over the difficulties which give rise to Courts of Disputed Returns, to actions in courts and to a situation where Aboriginal people are still living in relatively miserable circumstances.
What is being done by the Commonwealth Government? Is it just a matter of pious noises? Obviously, that is a reasonable question to be posed to the Senate on this subject. I would like to touch on some of the things which the Government is actually doing. With respect to the protection of the legal rights of Aboriginals, in Western Australia we maintain the Aboriginal Legal Service, which has a budget of something like three quarters of a million dollars. The Legal Service employs about 10 solicitors, scattered around Western Australia, to ensure that Aboriginal people have access to legal aid. That is very important in ensuring that Aboriginals in Western Australia, when they are of the view that they are not being treated properly or in accordance with their legal rights, are able to fight back. The situation at Noonkanbah represents the classic example of that. The Legal Service has been able to obtain injunctions and to negotiate on their behalf and to do various things. In fact, this year we will fund, to the extent of $794,000, a total of 10 solicitors and 32 other staff in Western Australia to protect the legal rights of Aboriginals. I believe that that service is extremely effective and it has my support now, as it has had it in the past. (Extension of time granted).
I have already referred to the electoral education campaign which was fully funded by this Government but conducted in co-operation with the State Government. I can only regret that, notwithstanding that electoral education campaign, it appears that a large number of Aboriginals did require assistance with voting, and that appears to have given rise to charges. We are also active with the State Government in something called the Aboriginal Police Relations Committee, which is a committee on which various Government departments and organisations are represented. There are representatives from the Department of Community Welfare, the Police Department, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Director-General of Education or his representative. All these groups or organisations meet in the Aboriginal /Police Relations Committee and deal with matters which are likely to improve the relationship between Aboriginals and the police. The correspondence which I have had recently from the Deputy Premier of Western Australia arising out of the visit to country areas by that Committee in September 1979 shows the very great value which can be derived by that sort of co-operative action. The recommendations of that Committee, which were referred to me for comment and which I warmly supported, are recommendations which, if implemented, will do something to improve the sometimes difficult situation between police and Aboriginals in Western Australia.
I willingly concede that the matters which have been brought before the Senate are matters of public importance. I assure the Senate, and the people of Australia, that these matters do receive the close attention of the Commonwealth
Government. I have made personal visits to the Noonkanbah community, and maintained regular contact with its legal advisers and regular contact with the State Government, the most recent contact being, as I indicated this morning, a meeting with the Premier of Western Australia, with Mr Jimmy Bieundurry and the Reverend Cederic Jacobs, both members of the National Aboriginal Conference and both concerned about these problems. There is a choice. It represents, in words, if not in past actions, a difference between the Government and the Opposition. The Government has without apology pursued a course of endeavouring to find cooperative solutions to the real problems which face Aboriginals. lt is the consistent cry of the Opposition that we should use the powers given in the 1 967 referendum to override the States and thereby advance Aboriginal welfare. I would see that as a last resort, bearing in mind that in so many key fields it is the States that deliver the services that are so essential to Aborigines, be they education, health, welfare, housing, police or the court system. To suggest that in some way Aboriginals can be plucked out of Australia’s general political and administrative system and made subject solely to some system of Commonwealth law is, in my view, to fly in the face of reality, a reality which the Labor Party when in government had to face and which tempered its rhetoric.
I close in this debate by saying that I accept that there are very real problems for Aboriginal people in both these areas. We are tackling them with the State Government to the best of our ability. I would expect over the next year, as we achieved at Aurukun and Mornington Island, good results to flow from the current endeavours of the Commonwealth.
– I support Senator Walsh in his very effective representation on behalf of the Aborigines in Western Australia and those who have sought to apply principles of equal opportunity to the Aboriginal communities in that State. In so doing, I point to the areas of discrimination and harassment which have been synonymous with the development of mining in both Queensland and Western Australia. I do not suggest for one moment that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, defends all that has happened in either of those two States since he has assumed responsibility for the portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs. Equally, I do not think that he would say that there is on this side of the chamber any lack of sincerity and genuine concern for what has taken place and is continuing to take place. Consistently in the history of white civilisation policies of discrimination have been pursued by governments. I challenge Senator Chaney ‘s comment that, in fact, the people of Western Australia are supporting the Western Australian Government. I suggest that he look at the attitude that was taken overwhelmingly by the people of Australia when they gave constitutional authority to the national government.
Senator Chaney raised the issue of Aurukun and Mornington Island. That issue was debated in this place some two years ago. Surely he must concede that it was the very concern and the overwhelming sentiment of the Parliament itself that forced the Queensland Government into a position of co-operation? Some schools of thought are that all development is good and that anyone who differs with that viewpoint is against the best interests of Australia. I refer to the following statement:
We do not want to see anything stand in the way of new projects.
That statement was made by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources, Mr Anthony, in the House of Representatives on 10 May 1979. The current tragedy in Western Australia, particularly at Noonkanbah cannot be understood without reference to that statement. It is that statement and that view that Premier Court, and all the establishment which goes with him, including the police force in Western Australia, elevate to the main principle. The actions of Sir Charles Court and his Government are directly attributable to their being in the philosophical position of believing that whoever wants to exploit the resources in that State is entitled to so do. In particular, the Western Australian Government believes that Amax Exploration (Aust) Inc. has special rights because it is a large multinational mining company.
I want to show in this chamber how the Western Australian Government is, in the performance of those objectives, blackmailing the people of Noonkanbah station and all the Aborigines in Western Australia. In the very process of public administration in that State it is also assisting to create elements of fear and blackmail even among those who work for the Minister and his own Department. Honourable senators, of course, may baulk at the word ‘blackmail’ or the word ‘intimidation’ but they are the only words that can properly and effectively describe the Western Australian Government’s tactics towards the indigenous people in that State. We believe that this Government, in pursuance of its philosophical position, is pussy footing in respect of the issue which is germane to the whole problem in Western Australia.
As reported in the Canberra Times of 17 March last Premier Court said that if the local community did not allow mining it would mean that no government could ever give a pastoral lease in the name of Aboriginals again. The ankle stated:
Nor could it give Aboriginal reserves.
Premier Court is engaged in a campaign of deliberate distortion against the local community. He says that Amax wants only two hectares out of 400,000. That is a distortion, an untruth and a lie. That is not the situation. Yet Sir Charles Court is reported to have made that statement. Amax is, in fact, exploring on behalf of several other companies. Its three prospecting areas cover over 1 1,000 square miles. I do not want to canvass the very effective arguments that Senator Walsh made in respect of voting rights in that State. I will concern myself principally with what is happening in respect of mining in Western Australia.
Why is Premier Court up in arms? The Australian Financial Review put its finger on it delicately when it referred to the favourable exploration environment in Australia. Premier Court has obviously promised a trouble-free ride for Amax and is having trouble fulfilling that promise. There is not doubt that this Government, through the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs can be persuaded to take a tougher line in pursuit of its constitutional responsibilities of looking after the basic rights of Aborigines.
Amax, of course, has had long experience in this type of dispute. It has had more experience than the Parliament or the Government has had. It has not gained this experience in Australia where it has had a relatively quiet time up to now- I hope that this will soon change- but let us look at the situation in its home country of America. Right now Amax is battling the American Indians in Montana who are sitting on 1 .95 billion tonnes of its coal. Amax is also trying to get at 300 million tonnes of copper at Mount Tolman in the State of Washington. Unfortunately for our busy little diggers, it is on the Colville Confederated Tribes ‘ reservation. Amax is currently trying to overcome opposition from the Indian owners of the land and get out from under the environmental regulations and legislation in that State.
The mining companies are changing the whole face of the earth. In their unlimited, unplanned drive to exploit for their own interests they are challenging the environmental legislation that countries have seen fit to provide. Amax is also in the forefront of the pollution fight but it is on the polluters’ side. It is heavily involved in action against a clean air standard for lead promulgated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Amax is also a major lead producer although this, of course, has nothing to do with its opposition to clean air. Amax also owns mines in South West Africa and Rhodesia. It is a true multinational company with 2 1 per cent of sales and 30 per cent of earnings coming from outside the United States.
What is this company doing in Western Australia? Perhaps we could begin in November 1979 when a restructuring of the activities of Amax occurred. It was at this time that Amax lured into its management a new managing director, Mr Robert Holberton. For those who do not know him, only a month before the same Mr Holberton had been Senior Trade Commissioner and Deputy Consul General for the Australian Government in New York. One way of getting on good terms with public servants is by buying them off. I make no further comment about that. When Amax is not buying public servants, it is busy digging holes as is its wont from time to time.
Let me read from a list of Amax’s interests in Australia, which is by no means exhaustive. It has a 25 per cent share in the Mount Newman iron ore project. It has a half share, with Mitsui, in the vast bauxite deposits in the Mitchell Plateau. It has a half share, again with Mitsui, in a huge new aluminium smelter in the Hunter Valley. It has a joint stake in a Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd coal project at Boggabri in New South Wales. It has an interest in the huge Milmerran steaming coal deposit and in the Golden Grove copper prospect in Western Australia. It has an interest in the Mount Keith nickel deposit in Western Australia, in the Agrew nickel deposit and in the Beaconsfield gold mine in Tasmania.
Amax, through its associate, Australian Consolidated Metals, has further interests in the Fitzroy oil joint venture in the Canning Basin, in the Murchison gold prospects, in the Murchison uranium prospect, in a Kimberley diamond venture and in a company called Noonkanbah Diamonds. Where are all the profits from those ventures going? As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said this year to a group of international businessmen:
If you make profits, subject to paying our normal taxesthey are yours to determine what you do with them.
On my estimates, since 1 972-73 over $6 billion have been ripped out of Australia in the form of repatriated profits, whilst only $3 billion have come in, representing a gap of $3 billion.
What is the current situation at Noonkanbah? The facts are that, after meeting with opposition from the Aboriginal community leaders because of their concern about likely damage to their sacred sites, Premier Court sent police to protect Amax miners as they dug their holes. Let us look at the situation with respect to the Australian company, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia because it also is involved in this area. It is looking for diamonds there. The line that Court is taking that the Noonkanbah Aboriginal people are being unreasonable about the whole issue is wrong. Last year the Noonkanbah people came to an amicable agreement with our Australian company, CRA, concerning exploration. on their land. Apparently CRA was quite considerate in the whole project. It respected the sacred areas and employed Aboriginal people from the station. It did not try to deceive or to trick the people, as Amax has done. That agreement made with CRA last year worked. But Amax is proving to be quite unreasonable. Representatives of Amax arrived to survey a site for an oil drill less than three miles from the Aboriginal camp. They proposed to build a road and to establish a permanent site. The community expressed its opposition to those plans, but Amax had no intention of announcing its intentions or consulting the community.
Amax stands to do what it wants to do with the unqualified backing of the Court Government and with the unqualified backing of the police force in Western Australia. In the debates on Aboriginal affairs we have held recently honourable senators on the other side of the House have agreed that the Aborigines are inexperienced, that they have not had the experience of dealing with mining companies and business enterprises. They have a much more simple culture. They are fair game, they are pawns, to people who want merely to exploit their land. Therefore, the Aborigines need the assistance of field officers. They need the assistance of white communities who understand their problems. But what happens when that advice is forthcoming? We see the police force of the Western Australian Government, under the command of Commissioner Leitch, move in in such a way as to intimidate not only the whites who are there to give advice but also the blacks. Yet this Government says that it prefers to rely upon patient negotiation, that it prefers not to take up the cudgels and to accept its responsibilities in terms of the Constitution, that it prefers to protect the rights of the Aborigines from afar. The Government says that it prefers to do that while the people who are at the site seek to blackmail, to intimidate and to take steps generally to maintain the disadvantages which have existed in our civilisation over the past two centuries.
When we raise these very matters, what do the conservatives do? They say that the Australian Labor Party is anti-development, that the Labor Party is against mining, that the Labor Party wants to create problems in this area. The Commonwealth Government’s legislation relating to environmental impact statements provides the means by which all of the factors- the economic factors, the environmental factors and the welfare factors concerning the people who have a say in the site, whether it be a pastoral lease, a sacred site or just a plain piece of land- might be considered. Is the Government genuinely saying that the Aborigines recognise all the legal niceties concerning land ownership? We know how much land means in the culture of the Aboriginal people. Surely in these circumstances the Opposition is in good company, with the Aboriginal people of Western Australia, in suggesting that the matter we are discussing is a matter of public importance. If in raising this matter of public importance we are able to bring some influence to bear upon the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in the same way as we did in respect of the Mornington Island community in Queensland, we will have achieved some purpose.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I thank honourable senators on both sides of the House for permitting me to intercede in this debate at this stage in return for my undertaking to be brief in my remarks. I believe that Senator Walsh has done the Senate a service in bringing this very serious matter before the Senate and laying the gravest charges against the activities of the Western Australian Government and the Western Australian police. In saying ‘police’ I do not encompass all police in Western Australia. I agree with the honourable senator concerning the actions of the Chief Commissioner of Police. I think the honourable senator did the Senate a service this afternoon in painting a picture of the Chief Commissioner; I concur with him. My experience with Western Australian police generally has been that they are a magnificent body of people. I have been happy to participate in at least two uranium marches in Western Australia, where the police have virtually made it a happy, well organised affair. But I concur with Senator Walsh ‘s comments on the Chief Commissioner.
However, the Australian Democrats will not vote for this issue if the matter does come to a vote. Notwithstanding the agreement we have that the matters raised by Senator Walsh must be investigated and the Aboriginals protected from persecution and intimidation by the Western Australian Government and the Police Commissioner, I do not agree that the Commonwealth Government ought to be censured or criticised at this stage for its failure to discharge its constitutional duty. I say that for two reasons: First, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) said, the matter is pending consideration by the courts, and secondly, the calibre of the Minister must be considered. I am very pleased to put on record my unbounded admiration for Senator Chaney as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I think it would be grossly unfair at this premature stage to censure him. My unbounded admiration for the fairness to Aborigines shown by Senator Chaney does not extend to my appraisal of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am fearful that, notwithstanding the good intentions, compassion and good sense that Senator Chaney brings to his portfolio, he might be overridden in Cabinet.
I was very impressed with Senator Walsh’s analogy- I think it was quite stark- when he asked whether we could conceive of a situation in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia where police, black police perchance, were in the presence of Nkomo or someone else, interviewing white Rhodesians on how they voted at an election. I think that analogy- it is a fair analogy- is enough to indicate the problems that exist in Western Australia. Therefore, through you, Mr Deputy President, I say to Senator Walsh and the Australian Labor Party that if justice is not gained in this place, or if it appears not to have been gained, for the Aborigines and others who are supporting Aborigines in this matter, I urge the Minister to move in the Senate for the appointment of a royal commission. If the Minister does that I am of a mind to believe that it has been shown in recent speeches that there are enough liberals in the Senate who are so outraged at the extent of the problem that they would support the motion for a royal commission. Maybe such a move would not succeed even if it got a majority vote in the Senate. I ask Senator Walsh and other members of the Labor Party to canvass the issue and to see whether if at worst a fall back position could be adopted and a Senate select committee formed to investigate the intimidation and persecution of Aborigines in Western Australia.
– I support the comments made by Senator Chaney, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and endorse the opinion which Senator Chipp has expressed. He referred to the extremely fortunate stage that has been reached in the development of Aboriginal affairs in Australia. I think that we have an outstanding Minister doing an outstanding job. One of the points made in relation to the matters that have been raised is the very real limitation on Commonwealth power and the doubts which exist and have existed for some years. Notwithstanding those doubts, I think it would be fair to say that the present Government has done more in relation to Aboriginal affairs and the development of the interests of the Aboriginal people than any previous government; in fact, one might almost say of all previous Federal governments put together.
– That is a bit unfair.
– I do not want to engage in a detailed debate on this aspect. A process has been taking place. It is a relatively recent development. For many years very little if anything was done.
– This is an evolutionary thing; we concede that. As mining develops problems are posed.
– Had the honourable senator let me finish what I was saying a moment ago he would have found that that was the very point I wanted to make. I hope that what is happening will not be the end of the process. I hope the process will continue and more will be done by the next government than has been done by this Government. I was not making the remarks with the intent of having a dispute about who has done the most but rather to make the point that very little had been done and that more was being done. I do not think it is helpful to pick out some areas of problem without at the same time looking at the total perspective of what is happening and changing in Australia in relation to Aboriginal affairs.
I felt it was unfair of Senator Walsh to make the comments which he did about Mr Grayden. He said that Mr Grayden was referred to in the West Australian newspaper of 28 March as describing the Aboriginal Heritage Act as shocking legislation. Senator Walsh did not refer to what that newspaper quoted Mr Grayden as saying. Let me do so. The newspaper reports:
At present we have an Act which waters down the criteria for the preservation of genuine sites and objects,’ Mr
Grayden said. ‘It is doing a disservice to any attempts to preserve Aboriginal culture. ‘
Further on the article states:
The legislation contained in-built potential for confrontation.
The museum had to act in a certain way after Aborigines or part- Aborigines pointed things out. The minister might then be requested in the public interest to overrule the museum.
It is a most unsatisfactory situation, ‘ Mr Grayden said.
It puts the minister in a position of being an ogre in the issue when he may well have the true interests of the Aborigines at heart’.
That is what the newspaper referred to by Senator Walsh quoted Mr Grayden as saying. I think it is extremely unfair to paint the picture that Mr Grayden was attacking the concept of the Aboriginal heritage legislation in Western Australia.
Another matter that has not been referred to so far and which is relevant in considering the attack which has been made on Police Commissioner Leitch in Western Australia and associating him with the Western Australian Government and the Premier in particular- the demented duo’ was the description used by Senator Walsh- is that the Police Commissioner in Western Australia has statutory independence. His office is created by statute. He is an independent commissioner. He has sole responsibility. The Government is responsible for his initial appointment. Once the appointment has been made the Commissioner has independence from government. I think that point needs to be remembered in relation to these proceedings and comments.
– Surely you would concede that he could have deep-seated racial prejudice?
– I suppose any person could have. My time is running out; let me get on with some of my other points. I was pointing out, in relation to the allegation by Senator Walsh of the demented duo- the Premier of Western Australia and the Police Commissioner- that the Police Commissioner has statutory independence and is not subject to the direction of the Premier or of any other Minister.
The further point that has been raised, skirted around and of necessity not dealt with in detail is the question of legal proceedings. I believe that we may be able to judge better some of the complaints which have been made when the legal proceedings have been concluded. I do not wish the situation to be left in the way in which is has been left at the moment. Reference has been made to some charges without detail being given of the nature of the offence. I think it would be helpful if we could have some detail. One of the alleged offences was committed under section 95 of the Western Australian Electoral Act which provides in sub-section ( 1 ) that a person shall not persuade or induce or associate with any other person in persuading or inducing an elector to make an application for a postal vote. I imagine that there is not a member of this chamber who would not support the concept of that sort of legislation. If there have been breaches- we do not know that breaches have occurred- I imagine that no one would suggest -
– You would be arresting a thousand people every time there is a State or Federal election.
– Perhaps the honourable senator has greater experience than I do. I would have thought that most people would support that type of legislation.
Let me make one further point which I do not think has been made and which is relevant to some of the allegations. The Police Department in Western Australia has issued a firm denial that any of the Aborigines involved have been questioned as to how they cast their votes. Senator Chaney referred to the fact that the matter was not one of how they cast their vote. I do not want to go any further into the matter other than simply to indicate that if white people were being charged I would not be quite sure how Senator Walsh and others could claim that action was being taken by the Western Australian Police Force and Government to discriminate against Aboriginal people in that area.
– The white people who got the Aborigines drunk were not charged.
– I simply say to Senator Chipp that if any step is taken against a person in relation to a charge that he deliberately took action to get Aboriginal people drunk to prevent them from voting I would wholeheartedly support the bringing of that charge.
– They admitted it publicly.
– I would like to try to continue my speech in the limited time I have available. I wish to make a few other points which I think are relevant. I understand that the question of an appeal to the High Court concerning Noonkanbah is still being considered. Legal processess have been involved. The matter has been the subject of an application to the Supreme Court for a temporary injunction. The position is that the people involved with Noonkanbah have access to the courts. They are supported by the assistance of the Aboriginal Legal Service to which Senator Chaney has referred. The assistance is provided, and properly so, by the Commonwealth Government. I think it is important to bear in mind that on the face of the reports of what has happened in relation to Noonkanbah the people have received, and properly so, consideration which goes beyond that which would have been given to a white pastoral leaseholder in Western Australia in relation to that person’s relationship to mining legislation and the activities of mining companies.
Senator Gietzelt referred to the activities of the mining company, Amax. I find it rather hard to understand on what basis Senator Gietzelt trotted out a long list of the interests of the mining company Amax as though it were committing a crime by having a large number of interests. I am not sure whether size alone is enough to show moral culpability in dealing with Aboriginal people, or whether it shows that it does not matter if they are deprivedSenator Gietzelt- It is not particularly interested in their welfare.
– Check the location of its interests. That is the important thing.
– I do not think there is a problem at Beaconsfield in Tasmania. The size of Amax is not relevant; it is the attitude that it adopts. It is my understanding that there have been attempts at discussions and conciliation. I understand however, that police were called by Amax, after the injunction had been lifted, to assist Amax in going on to the site. One can question only as to the number of police involved and the extent to which that was either desirable or necessary. Senator Chaney referred to the education program in relation to Aboriginal people and voting. I hope that there will also be an education program in relation to Aboriginal people and their relationships with mining companies and other people when conducting business.
I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us at some future stage of further steps that are being taken to ensure an awareness of the particular concern. I think many of the mining companies operating in Australia are aware and concerned and behave extremely responsibly. Limited time is allowed for this debate. The matter has been discussed. I do not suggest it is a matter of irrelevance. I do not suggest it is a matter which is not one in which we can take’ a legitimate interest, although it does primarily involve the West Australian Government. I conclude by reiterating that whilst the sort of attitudes exemplified by the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, govern the Commonwealth
Government’s approach to the question, we will be moving forward rather than backward. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian national observer group to the 1980 Rhodesian elections. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.
It gives me particular pleasure to present the report of the Australian national observer group to the Rhodesian elections, which as honourable senators will know recently spent four weeks in Rhodesia observing the conduct of the general elections held on 27-29 February 1980 and which will bring that country to legal independence on 18 April.
The Observer group, which was commissioned by the Government in response to British invitation to send a national observer group to the Rhodesian independence elections, was made up of members of both Houses and from both sides of each House and also of senior officials chosen for their experience in African and international affairs as well as for their particular expertise in constitutional and electoral matters. The decision to send a national observer group to Rhodesia underlined the Government’s long-standing interest in finding an acceptable and lasting settlement to the Rhodesian issue which had eluded all previous efforts to bring that country to legal independence.
In keeping with the agreement reached by Commonwealth Heads of Government at Lusaka in August 1979 which provided, inter alia, for elections to be held under British Government authority and with Commonwealth observers, the group’s task was to observe the 1980 Rhodesian elections and determine whether in its considered opinion those elections were conducted in a manner which was both free and fair to all participating parties.
Honourable senators will know that since the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in November 1965 successive British governments have sought to find an acceptable basis for settlement in Rhodesia which would attract support within Rhodesia and which also would be acceptable to the international community. The search for a solution to this problem caused very considerable difficulties for the British Government and the international community over many years.
There have been a number of unsuccessful attempts in recent years to bring about a peaceful and internationally acceptable settlement in Rhodesia. These efforts were paralleled by deepening civil war within Rhodesia which led to the breakdown of administration in many parts of the country and tragically to considerable loss of life on both sides. Honourable senators will be familiar with the history of British as well as international attempts and efforts to bring about a settlement in Rhodesia and I will not rehearse these matters now. I would, however, like to recall that the elections recently held in Rhodesia had their origin in proposals put forward by the British in 1979 as a result of the failure of the Government of Bishop Muzorewa to secure international recognition in the wake of the elections held in Rhodesia in April 1979.
Britain obtained wide support within the Commonwealth for its new proposals when Commonwealth Heads of Government met in Lusaka in August 1979. The Heads of Government agreed on 6 August to a nine point plan aimed at achieving a settlement. The outcome of this very successful Commonwealth meeting in Lusaka, in which Australia played a leading role, was that the British invited representatives of the then so-called Government of ZimbabweRhodesia and the Patriotic Front, which had not participated in the April 1 979 elections, to a constitutional conference at Lancaster House in London. The conference, chaired by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, ended on 2 1 December with the signing of an historic allparties agreement which set out the agreed terms of the Independence Constitution for Rhodesia, the transitional arrangements which would be applied and a ceasefire agreement.
As honourable senators will know Mr Mugabe’s party- the Zimbabwe African National Union/Patriotic Front- won a resounding and outright victory in the recent elections, winning 57 of the 80 black seats being contested. It is a truly remarkable achievement that a bitter and bloody civil war has been brought to an end and independence achieved through the ballot box. The Government has congratulated the Prime Minister elect, Mr Mugabe, and publicly expressed its gratitude to the internal parties in Rhodesia for the part they have played in bringing about a peaceful solution to the problem of Rhodesia. We have also placed on record our acknowledgment of the important role played by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Lusaka in setting in motion the process which enabled the settlement to be made.
The Government has also paid tribute to the British Government for bringing independence to Rhodesia in what were acknowledged to be the most complex, difficult and challenging circumstances. I would like to reaffirm the Government’s appreciation of this remarkable and, happily, successful achievement. As I have previously mentioned, the group spent four weeks in Rhodesia observing, along with other national, Commonwealth and multinational observer groups, the conduct of the elections held under British supervision. The group faced the very considerable and difficult task of examining the conduct of elections in a country which was moving in a very short time from a state of bitter civil war to independence against a background of intense international interest. Moreover the elections were of central importance for the future of southern Africa as a whole.
On the basis of its extensive travel and investigations throughout Rhodesia and first hand discussions and meetings with a very broad cross section of voters, officials- both British and Rhodesian- as well as the principal political leaders in Rhodesia, and while acknowledging the very difficult and unusual circumstances prevailing in the country, the group concluded that the vast majority of voters cast their vote for the party of their choice in elections which, taking into account all the circumstances, were free and fair to all participants. This broad conclusion was shared by other major national as well as international groups officially observing the elections. I believe it is fair to say moreover that the Australian group, along with other observers, played an important part in creating an international presence in Rhodesia during the election period which contributed in no small way to the positive climate and spirit of goodwill in which these vitally important elections were held.
The group is to be commended for the thoroughly comprehensive and objective nature of its extensive report, and for the promptness and timeliness with which that report was produced. It is important to note that the report is unanimous. It stands to the considerable credit of all members of the group and I wish to place on record the Government’s recognition of the group ‘s work.
I would also like to note that in its report the group paid tribute to the Australian servicemen who formed part of the Commonwealth monitoring force in Rhodesia. I think honourable senators on both sides of the Senate would agree that the Australian contingent is to be commended for carrying out a most demanding job in particularly difficult circumstances with great distinction. Their role in Rhodesia during the pre-election period was centrally important in preserving a climate of confidence and mutual trust in which democratic elections could be held. I present the following paper:
Report of the Australian National Observer Group to the 1980 Rhodesian Elections- Ministerial Statement, 1 April 1980.
– by leave- I move:
It is good to see that the report is in the Parliament but it is unfortunate that its tabling has taken such a long time. I make the point that the report was finalised in Rhodesia before we members of the national observer group to the elections there left and was in the hands of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) immediately upon our return on 10 March. It could have been tabled in this place on the first sitting day after our return, which was 1 8 March, when interest in this subject was still high. We now have the report being tabled on 1 April. The group and the secretariat supporting it worked long hours to finalise the report before leaving Rhodesia. It is unfortunate that the Minister has taken so long to bring it before us.
The elections, which are the subject of this report, were unique. It is the first time, I believe, that democratic elections have been used to bring a civil war to an end. For that reason they are of particular interest to politicians and to students of politics. I was honoured to be a member of the Australian national observer group and I take this opportunity to thank Parliament and my party, the Australian Labor Party, for the opportunity to be a member of that group. It is not my intention to give a precis of the report because I trust that honourable senators will study it for themselves, but I would like to highlight some aspects of it and perhaps add one or two comments of my own. The task given to the group as quoted in the report, in brief, was:
To determine whether in its considered opinion the elections in Rhodesia were conducted in a manner which was free and fair to all participating parties.
As has been noted by the Minister and by those who wrote the report, the group was well balanced. We had four practising politicians and four senior public servants. Of those four senior public servants, two had a particular interest in electoral procedures. They were Mr Pearson, the Chief Electoral Officer, and Dr Snider, his Director of Research. The two public servants who had a special knowledge of the region involved were Mr Griffiths from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Mr Evans from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The group had the additional advantage of having two of its members highly qualified in political science. Dr Neil Blewett from the other place, as honourable senators know, was a professor of political science before going to that place. Dr Snider gained his doctorate of philosophy in this field. The special interest and expertise that each member of the group brought to the study contributed to the quality of the report. I believe that it is a report of which the Parliament need not be ashamed.
Whilst each member of the group made his contribution, special mention should be made of the work of the chairman, Mr Neil Brown, the honourable member for Diamond Valley, who provided leadership for the group. Of course it would be ungracious not to acknowledge the support given to the group by many people, particularly the liaison group in Rhodesia, but more particularly by Mr Oliver of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Miss Moore of the Department of the Prime Minister. The officers of the liaison group which has been established in Rhodesia also provided support. In the frontispiece of the report is a quote from a Mr Mackenzie, which states:
Freedom in elections is not an absolute, but a gradation: At what point on the scale are we to say that ‘freedom’ has been attained?
The group in its approach to the project used a model suggested by Dr Blewett, that is, that we establish the criteria for a free and fair election and then examine the election in Rhodesia against that model. In doing this we hoped to determine at what point on the scale referred to by Mackenzie the elections sat. The report states:
It is the Croup’s considered judgement that in all the circumstances the 1980 Rhodesian elections achieved a sufficiently high level on this scale to be described as free and fair.
Of course this begs the question: What circumstances? I will not go into great detail but I would suggest that those who have a particular interest in the historical background of the Rhodesian elections read ‘A Short Thousand Years’, a book by Mr P. L. Moorcraft. It is an excellent exposition and I suggest it is one which should be studied by all who really wish to appreciate the Rhodesian situation. I will not go into the historical background dealt with by Moorcraft but rather look at the circumstances as we saw them. The first one obviously is that the country had been at war for eight years. Civil wars are always bitter and the one in Rhodesia was certainly no exception. To the end of 1979 it had cost 19,000 lives, black and white. By the end of 1 979 it had consumed 40 per cent of the country’s budget. But not only that. It had left behind at least two legacies- a sense of insecurity and deep and bitter partisan divisions and suspicions. I think we have to keep that in mind when we look at the activities of the various parties and the incidents that happened during the elections.
It is almost impossible for us to make value judgments of these incidents unless we have some background knowledge. It is certainly difficult not to become emotionally involved and of course this further affects our ability to make judgments We noted that the Ceasefire Monitoring Force also found a similar situation. It found problems in really making value judgments on the incidents. The second factor I would mention is the short time between the ceasefire and polling day. There was only 8K weeks between the end of the war and the date set for the elections. This situation was exacerbated by the fact that the ceasefire was not complete. Understandably- I say this fully understanding the implications- there were incidents. Details of them are in the report. They were one of the factors that made campaigning extremely difficult for all parties.
The third factor I would like to mention is that there were external pressures on Rhodesia. Pressures were exerted on individuals, particularly the leaders of the various parties and on the parties themselves. Pressure was exerted on the country as a whole. Pressure was exerted from South Africa, the Front Line States, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and others. The pressures of various types all created situations in which decision making was difficult.
The Rhodesian elections introduced a new term to political science, the word ‘intimidation’. If the elections did not introduce the term, they certainly gave it new meaning. The intimidation was of various types and I would like to go through some of them. One was threatening voters by telling them that if they did not vote in a particular way they or that members of their family who lived in the country would be killed. Denying access of candidates to some areas thus not allowing them to campaign was another means of intimidation, as was making people attend night long meetings where they would be, to use a phrase, conditioned to vote for a particular party. On the other side, people were stopped from attending meetings, there were physical attacks on persons, schools were closed, dip tanks destroyed and so on. In other words there was a continuation of the campaign which had been part of the civil war. As well as this there was what we might regard as aggressive campaigning. Some groups complained to us that there was intimidation when people came around and waved flags or wore tee-shirts and shouted slogans- things which we would regard as fairly normal.
The groups apparently involved in the intimidation were the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army forces of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, forces of the Patriotic Front, the auxiliary forces and the people who were previously soldiers of Bishop Muzorewa ‘s army- the regular soldiers and the white settlers. All those people have been accused of varying sorts of intimidation and they have been reported in the document. I will comment very briefly later on the effectiveness of the intimidation as we saw it.
Another factor which was particularly important was what Dr Blewett referred to as ‘the lack of political community’. I would like to read a passage from paragraph 73 of the report which states:
Among the peoples of Rhodesia there was no consensus on the fundamentals of political life; no broad acceptance of those vague rules of the game which are necessary in a democratic society to moderate the struggle for power. In other words, a political community sharing a set of agreed procedural rules did not exist in Rhodesia.
In the company in which we are at the moment I do not think that I have to develop this concept. I am sure we all understand what it means. Another factor that must be taken into account was the attitude of the white settlers. From the comments which they made to us before the elections, people feared Mugabe. They called him a marxist and they were convinced that he was going to take their land and introduce communism to Rhodesia. They feared, I suppose, that he would exact the penalty for some of their former behaviour. This was partly a result of conditioning by the media. Another factor was that not all exiles had returned. It is unfortunate that it was not possible to have all Zimbabweans hack in their own country for the elections but, as r note from the report, the numbers who stayed out were not significant enough to affect the results.
Why, then, in the face of all these factors, did the Australian National Observer Group find the elections free and fair under the circumstances? What factors led to this decision? Firstly, it was the size of the turnout. Despite the fact that the vote was voluntary, approximately 93.6 per cent of the eligible voters cast a vote. The second factor which must be taken into account is the overwhelming victory of what we might call the Patriotic Front parties, ZANU (PF) and the PF. Of the 80 black seats which were available, this coalition took out 77, leaving only three for Bishop Muzorewa ‘s Party. I think it is fair to speak of the Patriotic Front parties, because they had been together before. Mugabe himself spoke of them being natural allies and political partners. As many honourable senators know, there had been some dissension over the years. Part of this was ideological, and part must be said to be the personality of the people involved.
The third factor, and one which I think is most important, it the fact that people believed that the vote was secret, despite the claims that had been made. We spoke to many people prior to the election and after the election, and they said that they believed that their vote was secret. I do not want to go into all of the factors relating to intimidation, where a satellite would look down to see how they voted, or that there was a black box which could tell how they voted, and so on. The people did believe that the vote which they cast was a secret vote. I think we can find some support for that in the fact that in Salisbury, where there was possibly minimal or no intimidation, there was a certain vote for the ZANU-PF and the PF, and out in the rural areas the difference was not of the order of 10 per cent for that vote. In other words, in the rural areas in which the intimidation was supposed to have been at its highest, they voted pretty much as in the non-intimidation area.
The attitude of the people on polling day also suggests that the people believed that the vote was secret. There was good humour on polling day. People went to the poll happy. There was no serious incident at the polling stations. On those couple of occasions which were reported in which people were accused of influencing the vote, there was immediate action to have that polling station closed and a new group of people brought in. This was watched for. Also I ought to say that the Governor did not find it necessary to invoke his considerable powers to discipline any of the candidates or any of the parties. Perhaps the last comment might be that, although all the parties said that there was intimidation, they all turned out and they all conducted campaigns. This must be some indication for us to believe that they thought that the elections would be free and fair. The report itself notes that there was compelling evidence of freeness and fairness in the turn-out on a voluntary basis, virtually without parallel.
The next question which arises is whether the Government will be successful. Although this goes beyond the report, if I may make these few additional comments, I believe that it will be successful. But there are problems. Firstly, the desire of Mugabe’s followers for the things for which they fought, for free education, for free health care, for land to farm, for real decision making by Africans and so on will all be pressures on Mugabe which may affect the Government. It is difficult for people to be patient when they have been waiting for eight years. We must consider also that many of the young people under arms have never known anything else. They would have come to arms at age 14 or 15 and would have been fighting for eight years. This will make it difficult. Some of those people will have to leave the army and adapt to civilian life.
Another factor which will be compelling is that the public service is controlled by whites. This could well be a problem. This is just one area in which the whites must be held culpable. Had Africanisation begun years ago, I believe we would not have seen the situation develop to the point that it did in 1 979. Black Africans of quality have been denied opportunity and many of them have been forced to leave their country and go overseas. But I believe the Government will work. I believe that Mugabe has sufficient strength and ability to make it work. He is a most impressive man, and I believe that he has learned from the experience of other African states. He will profit from that experience. I believe that the size of the majority, 77 out of 80, will discourage the whites from attempting any sort of coup. I am not personally suggesting that they would attempt to do this, but it was suggested to us as a distinct possibility in the days before the election.
Another factor will be that Mugabe has made very moderate statements over the last few months. They started on polling day, on declaration day, and they have continued. I suggest these comments are different from the election promises which are made by some people and broken afterwards. These are clear statements by a person who has gained power, who is not wooing the voter, of the fact that he has seen certain problems and he has certain solutions. He appreciates the difficulties, and he shows that he has some solutions to them.
Some people in this place and others might remind us of the statements which were made by Mugabe during the war. In reply I would say that they were made while the country was at war and, to refer to what was said earlier, this must have an effect on them and the way that we look at them. I remind those critics that some of the statements made by Smith and the Rhodesian Front are not dissimilar. In fact, when one reads what Smith said about Mugabe, one wonders how Mugabe can be so tolerant. One marvels at his moderation and his apparent readiness to forget the past. I think that the establishment of what we might call a national front-type government with Mugabe’s people, with Nkomo ‘s people, and with white people as well, will help the move towards stable government. There has been a clear indication by Mugabe that he wants whites to remain. In other words, he has learned from the experiences of the other States. He has given a clear indication that he does not intend to take over the white farms and that there is sufficient land standing idle for those people who need to be settled to be accommodated.
I was reassured by discussions which I had with some of the younger white people, who were born in Rhodesia. Many of those young people are prepared to accept a ‘black boss’ in the public service. They want to make Zimbabwe their home, and they are prepared to work with the Africans in developing it. The attitude of some of the young Africans in the public service is also most encouraging. They are looking only for promotion on merit, something which has been denied them in the past. They are not asking for discrimination in favour of the Africans. I find this very encouraging and, given the history, perhaps surprising but nevertheless commendable.
I think Parliament is entitled to ask whether the trip was worthwhile. I feel we can give this reassurance to Parliament. We did what we were sent to do. The fact that we did this is important to the Australian Parliament, to enable it to decide on its attitude to the new Government. It is important for Zimbabwe because other countries also have to make their decisions, and no doubt will be looking to those countries which sent an observer group and which have made reports to give them a lead. It was important to the United Kingdom that the Commonwealth and the rest of the world could see that it had enabled free and fair elections to be conducted.
On the day of the declaration, I walked back to the hotel, and through to the porter’s desk. I saw many Africans standing around, and I said to them: ‘Are you happy with the result?’ I did not really have to ask them, because of the broad smiles. But one young man said: ‘We have to thank you. If you hadn’t come, the result would have been different’. By ‘you’, of course, he meant all the national observers groups, and I have no doubt that this is what the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) had in mind in her statement when she made the comment about an international presence in Rhodesia. If that is so, if we contributed to that, it was definitely worth while for us to go to assist a country to get the government it wanted, and to enable the people to cast the vote of their choice. While we were discussing this in Rhodesia, I remembered with shame the interference in Aboriginal voting which was the subject of debate in this place earlier today.
The report rightly congratulates Britain in running the election and providing organisation for the observer groups and their visits. The report also commends the Australian Monitoring Force. Australia has every reason to be proud of the officers and men involved in the Australian monitoring Force. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country with many resources, not the least of which are its people, those presently in Zimbabwe and those still overseas. I trust that the new Government will be given the opportunity to provide the stability necessary for the development of and the attainment of a better quality of life for all Zimbabweans, both black and white. I conclude by using one of the few Shona words I learnt in Rhodesia: I say Mungwanani to the new Rhodesia. Zimbabwe may you prosper.
– I wish to congratulate, firstly, the delegation on its report and, secondly, Senator Robertson on what I think was an excellent speech on this report. What has happened in Zimbabwe recently is a hopeful development in a troubled world. In recent international affairs I think that pessimists have been made of all of us, but what has happened there makes me optimistic, not only for Zimbabwe but also for southern Africa generally. I think that the report justifies the stand taken by Senator Bishop and me. At the meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence some time ago, we moved and seconded a motion that a delegation not go to the 1 979 elections unless that delegation also went to the front line States, or at least some of the front line States, and spoke to representatives of the Patriotic Front. In fact, an Australian parliamentary delegation did do this in 1979. We objected to the fact that a parliamentary delegation was being sent to look at the 1979 elections and was not able to talk to what has since been proved to be the most significant political force in Zimbabwe, and that is the Patriotic Front.
The 1 979 elections were a sham. I am not saying that they were not conducted freely; I believe that they were. I am not saying that the campaign was not fair, that the votes were not counted correctly or that there could have been a different result. I am sure that there would not have been a different result. But the elections were taking place under a rigged constitution- a constitution which provided for 28 seats to be reserved for the whites in a 100-seat house. I know that some people will be saying that that situation is no different from that in a number of other African countries where seats are reserved for whites, Asians, or other ethnic groups. But the important point about this constitution was that 78 votes were required to change the constitution. That meant that the blacks needed six white votes- even if all the blacks voted in a bloc, which was unlikely- to change the constitution. With 28 seats belonging to members of Mr Smith’s Rhodesian Front Party, the blacks would not have been able to change the constitution.
The constitution also contained veto powers, which meant that for 10 years the white minority had a veto over any form of constitutional change. It meant that the whites had control of the judiciary, the armed forces, the security forces and the police. It is no wonder that this was not acceptable to the Patriotic Front which, as I said earlier, proved to be the major political force in Zimbabwe. Of course, in that 1979 election, the blacks voted for Muzorewa. They did so because they were stopped from voting for the Patriotic Front. That situation would be like having in Australia an election in which the Liberal-National Country Party or the Australian Labor Party were not eligible to put forward candidates. The conduct of the election might be perfect, people might say that that election was free or that it was fair, but it certainly would not be a representative election in Australia if either one of the major political parties in the country were not allowed to stand or, because of the Constitution, did not seek to stand.
I think the report proves that the decisions which were made in Lusaka were correct, that the stand taken by Britain and Australia at
Lusaka was correct, that in fact the decisions taken by Lord Carrington and the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in the contributions they made at Lusaka, turned out to be correct. Of course, the Opposition completely supported the Prime Minister’s stand on this issue when the matter was being debated.
I wish to make a few remarks about the 1 980 elections. I think it is important to realise that the voting was roughly along tribal lines. The Shona, comprising 70 per cent of the population, are Robert Mugabe’s tribe; he finished up with 67 per cent of the vote. The Matabele, Nkomo ‘s tribe, make up 30 per cent of the population; he finished up with approximately 27 per cent of the vote. But regardless of this, I believe that Mugabe won because he was the only politician in Zimbabwe who was not compromised. Bishop Muzorewa was seen as an Uncle Tom who had gone along with Ian Smith. In the period since the election the biggest mistake that Muzorewa had made, as far as the whites were concerned, had been to make no changes to the situation that was existing in the country.
Nkomo was accused at one stage of cooperating with the Soviet Union and with the East Germans. Towards the end of the campaign it became quite apparent that he had done a deal with Ian Smith, and Smith was asking white employers of black labour to get their workers to vote for Nkomo. The rumour about the deal was that Nkomo was then to become president of Zimbabwe. As I said before, Mugabe was the only politician who had not compromised and who finished up getting majority support. I believe that the people voted for Mugabe in that election because they thought he was going to end the war and because in the period Muzorewa has been in office, he had not stopped the war; in fact, the war effort had increased.
I think that Senator Robertson made a very good point when he said that one of the most important points to come out of the report is that in these 1980 elections, 2.7 million people- that is, 93.6 per cent of the population- voted in elections in which voting was not compulsory. I think that that was a remarkable result, especially when one realises that it took place in a country that had been at war only eight or nine weeks previously.
Much has been said about comrade Robert Mugabe. He has been portrayed by the Press as a Marxist, a villain and a thug who intended to impose communism on Zimbabwe. It is interesting to note that many of the comments made about Mugabe were similar to those made about Jomo
Kenyatta before he became the leader of Kenya. I think time will prove that Mugabe is an African socialist whose socialism will be a Zimbabwean socialism, it will not be of a model of something that has been imported from Eastern Europe or elsewhere.
I remember when sometime ago Senator Bishop and I, at a meeting of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, listened to a briefing from Mr Andrew Young who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations. He said that the Americans could live with Mugabe, that they were not opposed to him. He told us of an incident that occurred when they had recently been negotiating with Mugabe in Mozambique. Mr Young said that there were more people with Ph.Ds from American universities on Mugabe’s side of the table than there were on his own side of the table.
– That is not necessarily a recommendation, Senator.
-Well, maybe not. One of the charges that have been brought against Mugabe is that he is a friend and a close confidant of Somora Machel from Mozambique, and that he was a dedicated Marxist who was going to end white rule in South Africa. It is quite remarkable to see the changes that are occurring in Mozambique today. Something that we have to think about now is that Australia in fact stopped an aid program to Mozambiqueadmittedly, it was a small aid program- and now Mozambique is negotiating not only with West Germany and the United States but also with South Africa.
– Did we stop our aid program?
– If we did not stop the program, we certainly did not renew it. However, we did have a limited aid program operating in Mozambique. As I said, that country is now negotiating with South Africa for ways and means of bringing about an improvement in the economy of Mozambique.
I think it is important that we look at the actions of Mugabe since he won the election, because not only has he still got General Wall in charge of the Army and, according to Senator Robertson and the people who were over there, a quite remarkable program of bringing together the different forces that only recently were fighting each other, but in fact he has also appointed two white Ministers to key portfolios, including perhaps what is going to be proved to be the key portfolio of agriculture. I would not think that these were the actions of a dedicated Marxist, as Mugabe is being portrayed. He has already said that his Government is pledged to a mixed economy, and has already turned to the West for aid. I think the clear majority that Mugabe received in the election was the best possible result. I believe that if there had not been a clear winner there would have been a disastrous situation in the country. It is quite remarkable to think now that it is really through the actions of Ian Smith, who gave too little too late, that the person who was always his biggest opponent was elected.
I now say a few words about the future because I do not think that the future is rosy. In fact I think it could be bleak. I think there is a daunting task ahead of Mugabe and the Patriotic Front. He has to live up to his promises. The expectations that he brought about in the black people in Zimbabwe were extremely high. He has to handle an economy where the whites earn 10 times more than the blacks in the wage sector. It has to be realised that the blacks in the wage sector earn seven or eight times as much as blacks in the rural sector. Mugabe has to bring about the achievement of land reform. This is probably the most important promise he made during the election campaign and what will obviously turn out to be his hardest task.
At the moment, 6,200 white farmers own 14.8 million hectares of land. There are 669,000 black farmers who own 17.2 million hectares of land. This means that one per cent of the farmers, the whites, own 46 per cent of the land and 99 per cent of the farmers, the blacks, own 54 per cent of the land. In nearly all cases that land owned by black farmers is in bad areas where there is poor rainfall. In 1975 white farmers received credits of $Zimbabwean 2m, that is, $ 1 8,000 per farmer. In 1975 the 669,000 black farmers received credits of $Zimbabwean 2 per family. Mugabe needs the white farmers. He needs them because they have the expertise at the moment. But he must bring about land reform, he must set up the co-operatives and he must bring about a change in the situation that exists at the moment. He will have problems in the industrial sector where, in 1977, the amount of foreign control was staggering. Eighty per cent of the manufacturing concerns were owned by companies from the United Kingdom, all of which had links with South Africa.
I think we have to look at the political future of Zimbabwe. I think we have to ask ourselves the question: Will Zimbabwe become a one party Patriotic Front state? I believe that we should not dismiss this chance. I believe it is quite likely, given the size of the vote for the combined Patriotic Front parties, that this situation might occur in the future. I do not expect a European-style parliamentary democracy to exist in Zimbabwe in the future. I would be quite happy to see an African parliamentary democracy such as that which exists in Kenya, or even in Tanzania, today. I do not think we can expect to come into these countries, impose a European-style parliamentary democracy on them and think that is the best system that will operate for that country. Zimbabwe will desperately need aid from the West. This will be crucial and, of course, the role of South Africa will be crucial because South Africa has the ability economically to destabilise Zimbabwe. I would hope that South Africa does not embark on that path. Australia has a role to play even though we are not a large aid donor in Africa. The aid schemes we already have in Africa- in Tanzania and in Kenya- are successful. I believe that, especially in the rural areas, this is the sort of Australian aid program that the new Government in Zimbabwe will be looking for.
In this whole situation the role of the Commonwealth has been unique. I do not think any other body in the world could have done what has been done by the Commonwealth. I hope that Uganda is next. In Uganda the Tanzanian troops are pulling out, where the peacekeeping role- I emphasise the words ‘the peacekeeping role ‘-of the Tanzanian troops at the moment is bankrupting that country. It is costing Tanzania $0.5m a day to keep its troops in Uganda. If Tanzania were to pull its troops out there would be complete economic, political and military chaos. Obviously, that vacuum has to be filled. I believe it will be filled only by a Commonwealth peacekeeping force, a force that could perhaps include Kenyan troops, Nigerian troops and maybe again, Australian troops.
I believe it is a great pity that the Senate is not having a larger debate on southern Africa. It is a crucial area in the world today. Last year I was a member of a parliamentary delegation that went to Africa. That delegation’s tour took place nearly 12 months ago. The delegation was in Uganda at the time when the change of presidency occurred. It spoke to three heads of state including perhaps the most crucial man in southern Africa today, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. The delegation spoke to the Patriotic Front. It spoke to the African National Council. It spoke to Nkomo ‘s brother in DaresSalaam. It was able to speak to Kenyans, to Nigerians and to people throughout Africa about the situation in southern Africa today. Yet we still have not had a debate on that report. The report is still number three hundred and something on the business paper. Obviously a debate will not take place on that delegation’s report, at least not within the foreseeable future. I wish again to congratulate the delegation on its report. I hope that the Government will speedily bring a discussion on this matter back on to the business paper. There should be a discussion of the report of the parliamentary delegation that went to Africa in 1979.
– I wish to speak for only a few moments. I concur with the speeches made by Senator Robertson and Senator Sibraa. I wish to join them in giving congratulations to Mr Neil Brown, who led the observer team, and to the team for the work they did on behalf of Australia and for this report. Of course, we have not had time to read the report, but some of us were fortunate enough to hear a report at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence from Mr Brown, Senator Robertson, Dr Blewett, and Mr Katter. I think the result of the election is the best result which could possibly have been achieved. I noted with interest the comments made by Senator Sibraa that Mr Mugabe was condemned as a Marxist and as an extremist. I always took the view that these sorts of tags do not always fit. What sort of a Marxist was he? Was he a Russian Marxist, a Chinese Marxist or was he, in fact, an African Nationalist? I always believe that a sense of responsibility finds a man. The slogans which came forth from Mr Mugabe in those days were not necessarily the policies he would adopt upon success. I think all the signs indicate that he is adopting a most moderate stance. An example is his appointment of General Walls, his former greatest enemy, as the commander of the forces. His appointment of two white people to the ministry, particularly to key portfolios- one of agriculture- was to reassure the white farmers, whose presence is essential to the future economic development of Zimbabwe. These are all indications that his policies are moderate.
Senator Sibraa referred to President Machel of Mozambique who was held up to be the strongest Marxist in Africa. Quite apart from that, I remember that when Dr Vorster was the Prime Minister of South Africa he announced with great pride that South Africa was giving more aid to Mozambique than all the eastern European countries combined. The tins of canned food being used by the Frelimo forces were marked ‘made in South Africa’. The South Africans were, in fact, running the railways and the ports.
– It was crucial to the development of Mozambique.
– This was crucial to the economy of Mozambique. President Machel has now been the go-between between Mr Mugabe and the South Africans, or so the reports would indicate. Senator Sibraa also said that Mr Mugabe, in his recent announcements, is now looking to the West to provide him with the economic aid to restore his shattered economy. I think it is always very dangerous to take hard line stances on these issues in these countries. This is true with Mr Mugabe.
I wish to make only two further comments. I think that at this moment, when there is jubilation at the success so far in Zimbabwe, we should look- as Senator Sibraa reminded us- to the future. The future is perhaps not as bright as one would hope. Senator Sibraa very correctly referred to the expectations that have been raised in the community. It is a sort of cargo cult mentality, that once a country gets its independence all its problems are solved. I think that the greatest challenge, and maybe the greatest threat to the stability of Mr Mugabe’s Government, is how he can satisfy the expectations of his supporters in the months and years ahead. He will require a tremendous amount of aid and assistance from outside. I believe that already the United Kingdom has announced a very significant aid program. It is the responsibility of the countries of the West to provide the economic assistance which will enable Mr Mugabe continually to raise the standard of living of his followers.
I have always argued that the Russians and the Chinese can supply only the guns in Africa; it is the West who eventually can supply the economic and technological assistance to enable the African nations to achieve growing economic strength. This has been proved in Mozambique and will be proved again in Zimbabwe.
Senator Robertson referred to the role of the British Government. I believe it was only the diplomatic skills of the British that made possible the achievement in Zimbabwe. No other country could have achieved what it did. At this moment we should be very grateful to Lord Carrington and the British Government for what they achieved at Lancaster House and to Lord Soames for the very difficult role he had to play and for the delicate balance he had to maintain prior to the elections.
– Why weren’t they able to do that earlier than they did?
-We are looking into the past now. We can all be wise after the event, and maybe it is true that it could have been done earlier. Let us be grateful that it has been done now.
– There was a bloke named Smith.
– Yes. As Senator Sibraa said, the tragedy is that there is always too little too late. However, something has been achieved and now we have to try to assist the Government of Zimbabwe to build upon it.
Finally, I pay tribute to the Australian troops who served in Zimbabwe. The report from the Australian observers indicates that they did a magnificent job, as we would expect them to do. The Senate should pay tribute to the officers and men of the small Australian contingent who upheld the honour of the Australian military forces. The role which they had to play they played with great tolerance and skill. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the service of the year ending 30 June 1980, the particulars of certain proposed additional expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1980 and a statement of savings expected in annual appropriations made by Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2) 1979-80. 1 seek leave to move a motion relating to Estimates committees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the first report of the National Consultative Council on Social Welfare and seek leave to make a statement.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria- Minister for Social Security) (5.40)- Honourable senators will recall that the National Consultative Council on Social Welfare was established in late 1976 honouring the Government’s commitment to provide effective mechanisms for co-operation and interchange of ideas with interested groups in the social welfare field. The Council first met in December 1976, and will hold its eighth meeting in Canberra in April.
This report covers the activities of the Council and its expert committees for the period to June 1979- a period which brought to light many important issues such as emergency relief, family policy, the needs of homeless persons and the delivery of welfare services to remote areas. These are covered in the report. Honourable senators will note that the Council has grown in membership since its inception. There are now 24 members. The original membership was expanded in September 1978 to include the chairmen of the State and Territory Consultative Committees on Social Welfare. These Committees had been established in 1977 to advise the Director-General of my Department on aspects related to provision of departmental services. This expanded membership has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the Council; it is now possible for the Council to consult with, and receive advice from, a number of important sources at the State level.
The recommendations made to me by the Council have been most valuable. I have been able to consider the Council’s independent advice on a number of matters, such as gaps and deficiencies in programs, assessment and review of priorities, and arrangements for the delivery of departmental services, and use this advice in developing the Commonwealth’s social security programs. I commend the report to Honourable senators.
-by leave- I move:
I welcome the tabling of the first report of the National Consultative Council on Social Welfare, and I welcome the fact that the Council has been expanded to contain such a broad range of individuals who have expertise in the area of social security. As the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) knows, initially 1 was quite critical of what seemed to be a lack of consultation and co-operation between members of the Consultative Committee, in that originally they seemed unable to consult in any meaningful way with people outside the Committee. But, from reading the report it seems that that difficulty has been overcome to a certain extent.
This report is a thin volume. It presents the recommendation of the Council to the Minister. In many ways it is an interesting document in that the recommendations of the Council are so predictable and similar to the recommendations of so many other committees, many people in this chamber and people in parliaments in general as to our problems in the areas that are mentioned and the solutions to those problems.
To me, there is one very real disappointment in the report, particularly in the section on income security. I will come to that in a moment. It is a disappointment to me that the Council, in giving its recommendations, does not seem to give sufficient reasons and reference to the evidence on which it came to its conclusions. Therefore, it is very difficult at times for those of us who should be discussing these very real problems in social security to realise how the Council came to the conclusions it did. But the report gives a list of some of the shortcomings in the areas the Minister mentioned. It suggests some solutions and approaches to the solving of the problems.
Of the major topics that were examined by the Council, the first is the important one of income security and the family. No one in this place will argue with the general conclusions which the Council comes to in paragraph 4 on page 7 of its report. It states:
The evidence shows lhat taxpayers with children have fared far worse in terms of growth in disposable income over the past three years than those without children. To make no decision to rectify this anomaly is. in itself, an important decision.
Time after time in debates in this place on the Budget, on the Social Services Amendment Bills which come up each year and in many matters of public importance that I and others have brought up, we have pointed out the deteriorating position of families with children in this country under the social security system, particularly the family allowance scheme and the taxation system.
The council looked at proposals for solutions to the very real problem of the deteriorating relative position of families with children. I find the answers and the reasons that the council comes up with a little disappointing. Quite predictably, the council suggests first of all that there should be indexation of benefits affecting children in the community. It states: . . we recommend the indexation of the family allowance, guardian’s allowance, allowance to children of pensioners, double orphan’s pension and the handicapped child ‘s allowance. We repeat that a decision not to do so will result in a continuing deterioration of the relative position of families with children.
We all know that the family allowance has not been increased since it was introduced in 1 976. We know that the guardian’s allowance and the allowance to children of pensioners has not increased since 1975. These allowances have deteriorated in value considerably since then because of the inflation rate. The indexation of these allowances would result in families with children maintaining their relative position in the economy. But to index these allowances alone will result in the poorest of families maintaining their relatively bad position in the community. In general, families with children have done badly but a large number of families in the community are in a very bad relative economic and social position. They are increasing in number because of the increasing unemployment rate in the community. We will have to do something about them.
The penultimate paragraph on page 8 of the council’s report is important. It states:
The Committee concentrated its attentions on the need for increased assistance for families with children. We found the evidence for this to be overwhelming, and have recommended accordingly. However, on the latest computation of the poverty line we have available, all who rely on pensions and benefits for their total income are either hovering on the poverty line or are well below it.
Pensioners with children, including single parent pensioners with children, those on unemployment benefit with children, the low income earners, particularly single parent families and people earning $ 1 40, $ 1 60 and $ 1 80 a week with three, four, five or six children are all on or below the poverty line in the community. The Council has not come up with any solution to that sort of problem. To me the Council seems to be saying that the solution to the problem is too hard. The Council says that we should index family allowances. On page 8 of the report it talked about the possibility of taxing family allowances to redirect some of the money to low income families but rightly, in my opinion, it came to the conclusion that taxing is unfair and difficult. It does not seem to suggest anywhere that it has examined the possibility of introducing a family income supplement on top of the family allowance to direct funds to very poor families in the community. All it says is that we should index the benefits that people already receive and pay for them with an increase in taxation for those earning over $16,608 a year. I am sure that will cause a great deal of joy to some of the supporters of the Government.
The Council points to the problem of the deteriorating position of the family. It points out that there is a group of people in the community who are poor because they have children. The more children they have the poorer they get. It says that we are not doing anything about those children but comes to the conclusion that it is too hard to do anything. It does not tell us what alternatives it looked at. Did it look at a proposal for using the efficient family allowance scheme to direct the family income supplement to poor people as is done in Canada? If it did so, who did it talk to when it came to the conclusion inferred in the report that such a solution was administratively difficult? Did it talk only to the public servants in the Department of Social Security or the Treasury? In the experience of many people those departments seem to find every innovation involving the redistribution of income in this country too hard. We do not have the answers to those questions. We should have them. We have the very real problem of poor families with children who are left out of our social security system and neglected by our taxation system. Their position is getting worse and their numbers are increasing all the time.
– It didn’t have many funds to do too much intensive research- $34,000 for the year.
-I realise that but I know some of the members of the Council. Senator Chipp knows some of them. They are experienced people. They had the ability to talk to other people. I am expressing my disappointment that they have pinpointed a very real problem in our community. They have looked at means of handling it but they have come to the disappointing conclusion that the problem is too hard. The time has come when we cannot say that problems like this are too hard and that if we try to solve them we will have a hell of a divided society. Some people think that we already have too much of a divided society.
On the problem of emergency relief the Council again came up with the same conclusions that everyone who has looked at the problem has come up with. It concluded that the voluntary welfare agencies are having an increasing burden put on their shoulders. Emergency relief was valued at $ 1 1 m per year and it could be as high as $ 14.5m. It said that the voluntary agencies were unable to meet all the demands particularly in crises such as the La Trobe Valley strike. I am pleased that the Council recommended and thought worth while the report of the joint study on emergency relief entitled ‘Emergency Relief: a study of agencies and clients’ which was presented to this chamber. We all found that report interesting. It set out clearly the difficulties in the area of emergency relief. I am pleased to see that the Council recognised the worth of that report. It appears that the DirectorGeneral of Social Services does not. At a recent seminar I attended, he spent a considerable time pouring the bucket over the report and questioning its worth. At least the Consultative Council recognises the value of that report. It came to the conclusion that everybody else has come to in this area, that is, that income security is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government but that any comprehensive scheme must include as an integral part a provision for emergency relief.
The Council also comes up with some other interesting recommendations which I think the Minister should look at seriously. On page 10 the report states: . . Special benefits be no longer tied to other benefits, to enable discretionary, emergency assistance to bc guaranteed in any circumstances where Department of Social Security officers consider emergency grants are required whether prior to benefit payment, at times when benefit payments are inadequate or at times when the benefit-pension system does not cover the client’s situation.
That is an important recommendation. At the moment, the special benefit is harshly means tested. It is tied with regulations and guidelines which make it difficult for the recipient and for the officer who has to handle it. People receiving special benefits cannot get the supplementary allowance because, as indicated by the Minister for Social Security in answer to a question asked by Senator Colston, the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has given a firm legal opinion that the maximum rate of special benefit must be limited to the relevant rate of the sickness benefit payable without any supplementary allowance being payable. It is important that the special benefit or an equivalent benefit be available from the Department of Social Security to cover urgent situations, those situations which will not fit into the endless categories of the Department and which cause so much difficulty to the officers of the Department of Social Security and to the people seeking help.
On looking at the Council’s report on the Homeless Persons Assistance Act, one could imagine that the Council members had been reading the debate held in this Parliament in the last few years. The report contains nothing new. We have a hopeless inability in respect of homeless people, for which one cannot blame the Minister or any individual. But this is a Commonwealth responsibility. As the Consultative Council stated, we have a chaotic state of affairs, for which the Federal’ Government must accept responsibility. We have a hopeless inability to use the funds which have been made available and budgeted for since 1973 for people in desperate plight, people who are homeless. Those people are increasing in number. They are of all ages. As we know, at these .times of high unemployment, in Victoria and Queensland they are, in particular, teenagers. We have allocated $5m a year in a three-year program recommended by a working party in 1973. We have succeeded in expending some $6.8m in the first five years since that working party presented its report. All the money that has been allocated this year, $4.5m, is tied up in two Queensland projects.
As the Council stated, we have a chaotic state of affairs. Federal, State and local governments and organisations working in this area have to get together to get a proper homeless persons program off the ground. We cannot persist in the sort of paralysis that we have been in since the homeless persons program was introduced. I know that for all sorts of reasons this is a difficult program to get off the ground. There is the basic reason that in the charitable sense, these sorts of people are not popular in the community. But they are important people in the community. If we are living in a civilised society we should be doing something about the problem. If each year in Budgets we are allocating money to assist these people, we should be helping them in an efficient way.
One can only recommend the general thrust of the Council’s recommendations, calling for a cohesive, on-going, non-static family policy, with consultation, with an emphasis on the development of the family rather than a particular emphasis on individual children and with a sensitive and responsible attitude to policy formulation by government and non-government organisations. That is the sort of recommendation that one can expect from a thoughtful group like this and one which I hope the Government will consider. It is a recommendation which I hope will come out of any future conferences that the Government holds.
In the section of the report on ‘Information and Consultation’ I am interested particularly in the report entitled ‘The development of human services information systems in Australia ‘, which I understand has been published by the Department of Social Security. Proper information systems are important in this community. One of the great difficulties we have in our social security system is that those who receive pensions and benefits know very little about the process by which they are eligible and how to receive those pensions and benefits. Many people do not know that they are eligible for benefits. As the Council noted, the upper socio-economic group is very much aware of programs but never needs them; the lower socio-economic group which needs the programs does not know about them. If that report is available, I would be grateful if the Minister would direct me to it. I have been trying to find that information through her Department and through the Australian Government Publishing Service. It is interesting to see the report referred to here, but I have been unable to find it.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr President-(Quorum formed). Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the first report of the National Consultative Council on Social Welfare. I mentioned that although it was a slim report it was an important one in that it draws together, not entirely satisfactorily in my view, some of the difficulties which are faced now and which will be faced in the future in social security matters. It certainly draws only some of these matters together. The report talks about the problems of income support and particularly the problems of families with children, the difficulties with emergency relief, the difficulties that the homeless persons program has had since it started, suggestions as to the future development of family policy and the need for proper information and consultation services in the community. The next matter that is dealt with is employment and social change.
I would like to go back to the start of the report and make some suggestion as to why the report has come down at this time. The letter accompanying the report which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) is dated September 1979. We know not only that the Minister received the report in September 1979 but also that the various sub-sections of the report were given to the Minister at intervals from 1977 when the Consultative Council was set up. A group of people were brought together with considerable political fanfare to demonstrate this Government’s desire to consult with professionals and with people knowledgeable in the field of social security so that the Minister and her Government could be seen to be consulting with and receiving advice from people who knew what was going on in the social security area. We know that these various sub-sections of the report were produced at intervals and culminated with the final report when they were all brought together in September 1979. Yet the report was not presented to the Parliament until 1 April 1980.
– You are not suggesting something significant about this, are you?
– I think there is something very significant, Senator Chipp. There may be all sorts of reasons. Senator Chipp probably will be able to give more colourful reasons that I have given. One reason may lie in the recommendations and comments of the report in the area of employment and social change.
Unemployment is a very real and growing problem in this country and covers the whole spectrum of age and experience in the community. The Council was asked to look at a scheme which was then called the Voluntary Youth Community Service Scheme and which is now called the Voluntary Youth Projects Scheme. The Council was asked to do so in the light of social policy and to advise the Government on what should happen with it. The Council found considerable difficulty in this area, as it points out at page 13 of its report. It stated that VYCSS as the scheme was then known involved social issues but was being handled by a department with manpower interests. The Council thought that this was inappropriate and that the scheme together with other schemes involving youth unemployment were not being developed in a coherent way. The Council stated:
The Employment and Social Change Committee was quite critical of the VYCSS scheme as it was then known and critical of the manner in which it was set up. The Committee found lacking the document it was given under which it would examine and discuss the scheme. It found that the document was an inadequate basis for discussion; that the conceptual basis was unclear, and the implementation segments appeared to reflect a value basis; that the framework of the proposed scheme singled out only one sector of the community, and so failed to appreciate the universality of unemployment; that the consultation process was inadequate and unacceptable as it did not cover a true cross-section of the community and did not, for reasons of timing, facilitate comprehensive consideration; and that the scheme would inevitably have implications for a variety of social issues involving the work ethic, future of work, community involvement and so on. The Committee decided and advised the task force that the consultation process for the VYCSS scheme appeared inadequate and suggested that the current schemes to assist unemployed youth, such as the National Employment and Training Scheme, the Community Youth Support Scheme, the Education Program for Unemployed Youth and the Special Youth Employment Training Program, should be assessed and evaluated before any new schemes were introduced.
We know what has happened. The VYCSS scheme has gone ahead albeit with considerable difficulties. A very critical report was made of the scheme, but the Government persisted in going ahead and started this scheme in Tasmania two weeks ago under severe criticism not only from the Opposition but also from the councils of social service and the Social Welfare Union. The report was very critical of a government scheme. The scheme was not considered in the whole framework of social policy because we have no whole framework of social policy. The scheme involved the voluntary employment of youth in an unsatisfactory way with no real employment future for those people.
The final section of the report in fact deals with social security and welfare services in remote areas. The recommendations made in that area produce, I suggest, nothing new. They are the sorts of things that people involved in the area have been saying for many years. The report requests the expedition of decentralisation within the Department of Social Security, the introduction of additional allowances, such as zone allowances, for people like pensioners living in outer areas where the cost of living is very much higher, and so on. I suggest that the report is interesting but produces nothing new. It is disconcerting to me that the Minister and the Government have had the report in its fullest form since September 1979. In fact it has had the sub-sections of the report for longer than that. Yet the report is presented to the Parliament together with a tabling statement by the Minister of less than one printed page.
I suggest that the tabling statement is most uninformative. In fact the Minister tells us in the statement that the Council was established in late 1976, honouring a government commitment, that the Council met in December 1976, that it will hold its eighth meeting in Canberra this April, that the report covers the activities of the Council, that the Council has grown in membership and that the recommendations were valuable and interesting to the Minister. I suggest that as a response from the Minister and the Government, to a report put together by people who are knowledgeable and experienced in the area of social welfare and who have made very serious recommendations and comments on the state of social security in this country, the statement is most unsatisfactory. It is an insult to this Parliament and to the people who sat on this Council and produced this report.
They were limited, as Senator Chipp indicated by interjection earlier, by the funds they had and the sort of questions that they were given to answer. But they treated seriously the questions that they were given. The report that they have come up with suggests very serious deficiencies in our social security program. In most cases it suggests the directions in which we should go. That this report should be tabled with a statement which is less than one page long- merely a descriptive statement of how nice and interesting the Minister finds the Council’s report- I think gets us nowhere. We have to decide where our priorities are in regard to social security in this country. We have to decide where the problems and needs are, define those needs and take direct action to counter the needs of people who are disadvantaged in this country. The needs are not going to become less.
From statements of Ministers it seems that the Government will accept in future a much higher level of unemployment. As the Government often reminds us, it seems that we will have a much larger group of people dependent on Government payments with a much smaller tax base on which to fund those payments. These are the sorts of problems that this Council has pointed to. Yet the response from the Government is completely uninformative. It gives us no idea in what direction the Government will go in the future. Quite frankly, as I said before, the Government’s response insults not only the Parliament but also the people who produced the report.
– We are discussing the tabling of the first report of the National Consultative Council on Social Welfare. So that people reading the record of this debate could get a more intelligent appreciation of what we are talking about I would very much like to have those sections of the report which deal with recommendations incorporated in Hansard. I will not ask for that to be done but I asked the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) before the suspension of the sitting for dinner about incorporating the terms of reference of the Council, which are listed on page vii, and the names of the members of the Committee and their affiliations, which are set out on page 19. 1 seek leave to incorporate those two pages of the report in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
TERMS OF REFERENCE
Within the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government, to advise the Minister for Social Security on current issues in social welfare (as relevant to the Minister’s portfolio), including the following:
. assessment and review of social welfare priorities:
identification of gaps and deficiencies in social welfare programs;
modification of ongoing programs in the light of consumer needs and social and economic conditions;
assessment of the contribution of voluntary social welfare organisations and their relationship to the Commonwealth Government’s welfare responsibilities;
examination of the data requirements for the purposes of evaluation, research and setting of priorities;
establishment of channels of consultation and communication with the Minister and the Department of Social Security, both to and from the community in general, and beneficiaries of the Department’s services in particular;
any matters which the Minister might refer to the Council.’
-I thank the Senate. I feel as though I should accuse Senator Grimes of stealing my notes for this debate because he has said almost everything that I was going to say. There is very little, if anything, that he has said with which I disagree. The terms of reference show the enormous area that the Consultative Council is bound by its charter to cover. I asked for the list of the personnel of the Council to be incorporated to show- I think Senator Grimes would agree- that it would be very difficult to get a better or more widely representative group of people in the area of social welfare to advise the Minister on these matters.
I am appalled, as is Senator Grimes, with several aspects of this report. I am disappointed, as he is, that there has been very little attempt by the Council to put real solutions forward. I concede that it has identified the problems with greater clarity but has not given very much in the way of constructive conclusions as to how these problems might be tackled. When one considers the ability and experience of members of the Council one is further dismayed at the virtual shallowness of some of its recommendations. Maybe it is because of the budget under which it operated. In 1966-67 it was given the massive sum of $8,250! In 1977-78 it was given $30,400. This year it was given $34,000. All that covered was two two-day meetings of the Council, 12 committee meetings and attendances at conferences and seminars. That amount was to cover the virtually honorary work of about 25 highly distinguished people. One can perhaps excuse them for not having the teeth or the administrative backup to allow them to go into these problems with the detail which we would like, and which no doubt they would like.
I cannot understand another matter. I am disappointed that the Minister is not in the chamber tonight. No doubt she has pressing problems in Cabinet. In the mysterious way in which printers prepare the frontispiece of reports, this document has on it ‘1979’. The covering letter to the Minister is dated September 1979. And we are now into April 1 980. This report was obviously printed in 1979; it was received in September 1979 and has been laid on the table of the Senate in April 1980. As Senator Grimes said, it has been accompanied by a one page statement from the Minister in which she does not comment on the contents of the report at all but simply refers to the number of personnel, which has been increased, and trivial matters such as that.
I must disappoint Senator Grimes. I cannot give any colourful or other reasons why the delay has been so long. At the risk of praising two Ministers in one day, I have an unbounded admiration for Senator Guilfoyle not only as a person but also as a Minister. Having been a Minister for Social Security in the Liberal Government I know the difficult task that she must be experiencing in Cabinet. To be fair to her, if the Minister had been a person of less fibre than Senator Guilfoyle the cutbacks and the neglect in the social security area would have been greater than they have been. Perhaps one of the reasons for the six months delay is that she has been fighting a losing battle with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Howard) or the Treasury. Maybe she believed that this document was so damning in its criticism of the areas of neglect of people in Australia that she went to Cabinet time and time again and asked for some kind of crumb to cast before the Senate and the Australian people so she could say: ‘There is the report of an expert committee. At least we have done that in response. ‘ Not in any area where matters have been criticised has the Minister, with the authority of Cabinet, been able to say: ‘Yes, we recognise that problem. These are the measures we will take to try to rectify it.’
What are we talking about? The report of the National Consultative Council on Social Welfare sounds to be a boring document. But it directly affects the way in which approximately three million adult Australians live today and their happiness. Tonight, as I speak at 8.20 on a cold Melbourne night, there are approximately 7,000 adult males who are homeless.
-In Sydney it would probably be a bit worse.
-I think the figure for Sydney is about 9,000. So in two cities tonight there are 16,000 homeless males of whom, according to a conservative estimate, 3,000 are sleeping outside. They are not sleeping in the doss houses or in the places run by those magnificent religious and other orders-the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church and whatever- but sleeping out in parks, in trains -
– They are sleeping under viaducts and in those sorts of places?
– Exactly. I will come to not only them but also to the estimated 15,000 young people who are also homeless at various times during the year. We are talking about a report that is directing itself to human beings in our community, in our so-called affluent society. The report is put out not by a radical left wing group of academics, but people who are working in the social welfare field and know of the agony of homeless people. I am very disappointed that this document, this report, this description of a disgraceful situation has not aroused a lot more interest in this Senate. I am disappointed that no member of the Liberal Party or the National Country Party is listed to speak on the report, notwithstanding the chapter relating to abject poverty in remote areas of this country.
Australian Democrats strongly endorse those recommendations which the Committee does put up. We are devastated that the Minister has made no response or given indication of a reaction to the recommendations in the report. We stress the urgency of implementing the recommendations. I want to deal with some of them. The report deals essentially with the suffering of children. As we have said many times in this place, the one thing a human being is not responsible for in his life is the fact that he was born. That is about the only thing that happens to him or her which he does not deserve, does not ask for or does not cause in some way. Nobody asks to be born: it is the result of the action of two people. The report is very savage in its description of what is happening to children. On page 7, concerning the indexation of pensions affecting children, it says:
In line with the objective of fairness to families with children, we recommend the indexation of the family allowance, guardian’s allowance, allowance to children of pensioners, double orphan ‘s pension and the handicapped child ‘s allowance. We repeat that a decision not to do so will result in the continuing deterioration of the relative position of families with children.
That is as opposed to those without children. I think we ought to note that a pensioner, a single parent, a widow or an unemployed person with dependants, gets an additional benefit supplementing his or her basic pension. Some of the pensions are now indexed six-monthly, although the Government even cut that out a year or two ago; but the extra benefit which is for children or dependants has not been increased for several years despite massive inflation and cost of living rises in that time. I believe I am correct in saying that’ it has not been lifted for five years. What kind of logic, humanity or rationale can the Government put forward to excuse its concession of the principle that a pensioner with children, a single person particularly, needs some supplementary assistance to sustain the children? Where is the rationale in saying ‘All right, you have children but we will not index your supplementary benefit for five years’? It simply means that people with children are suffering to a greater extent than they were five years ago.
On page 8 the report refers to indexation of the family allowance. That has not been increased since it was introduced in 1976. The failure to index family benefits and allowances has caused pensioners and unemployed persons with several children to fall further and further below the poverty line. Regarding the sole parent rebate on page 8 of the report recommendation (c) states:
In view of the sharply deteriorating position of sole parents mentioned above, the Committee recommends that the sole parent rebate be increased from $417 to $597, i.e. the same as the dependent spouse rebate, at least in the case of sole parents having dependant children aged 0-6.
Even if the Government says it is a budgetary measure and increases the sole parent rebate in the August Budget, the benefit would not flow to these people until September, October or November. That means that an inequity or an injustice discovered by this Committee early in 1979, or even earlier, will continue for 18 months to two years before the Government makes any attempt at all to rectify it. Honourable senators must remember that we are not talking about something abstract; we are talking about the actual suffering of human beings in this country, which we like to call the lucky country.
I have spoken on the question of emergency relief many times before. It is covered on page 8 of the report. The report says:
The Council is conscious of the increasing financial burden being carried by voluntary agencies who provide emergency relief, either through cash grants or loans, or through services. Quite often, the recipients of emergency relief are also clients of the Department of Social Security.
Then the report gives some figures on the number of people who rely on voluntary agencies. It states:
In consultation with the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), the Department undertook a joint study of emergency relief, and this was published in March 1979. The report Emergency Relief: a study of agencies and clients, showed that, in April 1 978 when the figures were gathered, there were: 400,000-450,000 applications to voluntary agencies for emergency relief; each year, between 130,000-145,000 clients (including 78,000-87,000 families); emergency relief was valued at $1 lm per year, though this could be as high as $ 14.5m; separated people, lone parent families, social security beneficiaries and poor single adults are vulnerable; voluntary agencies were unable to meet all the demands for emergency relief and, with few exceptions, the average value of assistance given was less than that being sought.
A figure of $1 lm is required for emergency relief. What is emergency relief? Again we are talking about human beings. We are talking about a woman who is robbed of her income or whose husband leaves her suddenly and she is left with literally nothing to eat in the house. Inevitably such a woman has four or five kids and there is not a cent in her purse or a dollar in the bank, and there is a special weekend or Easter coming up. One simply asks the naked question: ‘What does that woman do to feed her children and herself for three or four days’ I say this without offence to any senator: There would not be one person in this chamber tonight who could comprehend the agony of that woman knowing that for three days she and four children face virtual starvation, at best malnutrition. She goes to a voluntary agency for some food or money to help her until the Department of Social Security can take her up again.
It is conservatively estimated by a group of people whom the Government appointed that to allow these voluntary agencies, these wonderful people such as the Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau and all those other saints who work in this area trying to alleviate human suffering, it needs only $1 lm a year, at most $14.5m a year. But what does the Government do? The Government has provided $500,000 in total. That is one of the grossest acts of inhumane regard for a human problem that I have experienced in many years. This is not an unimportant document, and I would have liked the Minister to have been here tonight or to be here at some stage early in the future to explain to us why there has been a six months wait? Why there has been no reaction? We endorse especially requests Nos 2 and 3 on page 10 for a three-year funding program for non-government organisations and for a shortterm pilot study.
I have referred to homeless persons. The Homeless Persons Assistance Act 1974 was a tribute to the Whitlam Government and, as shadow Minister for Social Security at that stage, I said so. The provisions of the Act were extended last year, but now they are hopelessly inadequate. Do honourable senators know what that Act provides to the voluntary agencies a meal for each homeless person? Can members of the Senate give me an indication of what is a reasonable amount to spend on a meal for a homeless person? I am sure a figure is in the minds of those people who are listening to me or who will read the report of this debate. I will tell honourable senators what the Government gives. It gives each homeless person 25c a meal. I defy anybody in this Senate to buy a hot pie, even without sauce, for 25c today. It being one of my favourite culinary delights, I would appreciate it if any one senator could tell me that, because the price of hot pies now is outrageous.
– They buy them second hand for those people, Senator. They really do.
– Perhaps that is what is in the Government’s mind. The allowance for accommodation for each homeless person is 75c a night. Is that figure in touch with reality? Can one house a human being for a night for 75c. Well, the Government expects the voluntary agencies to do that. On page 1 1 , the report says:
It is suggested that a realistic assessment be made in line with a 1 979 price structure and that, in future, these subsidies be adjusted in accordance with the CPI.
Is there anything wrong with that recommendation? Is there any reason why, if we really want the Salvation Army to look after the derelicts, a realistic figure should not be put on what a meal will cost or what a night’s accommodation will cost, and then that figure be indexed according to the consumer price index movement? I would have thought that there is no answer that anyone could produce as to why in the name of humanity or justice that should not be done.
On the question of information, I note with great concern the points made in the report at page 13. The people most in need of the services of the Department of Social Security are the least well informed of what is available. The Council endorses the need for an effective national human services information system. The chapter on employment and social changes on page 14 states that the Council endorses the recommendations for a permanent national forum on social aspects of employment. Even that recommendation, which would have cost the Government nothing, but which the Committee rates very highly, could well have been implemented in the six months since this report hit the Minister’s desk. If I might say so in passing, it is pure Australian Democrats policy that a:
What is needed in this area of social welfare reform is an on-going conference behind closed doors, not the grandstanding kind of conference which was held in Melbourne in November 1 978 by Mr Hamer, when all sorts of grandiose people- politicians, trade unionists, professorsgrandstanded to the Press. It was a one-day or a two-day wonder. This sort of proposal could have been implemented by the Government without costing virtually anything. But in the one-page statement of the Minister there is not even one word about that.
Page 1 5 of the report mentions the improvement of access to welfare services in remote areas, to which I have referred. Again I am surprised that no member or no senator, particularly no National Country Party senator, has seen fit to respond to what the Committee says in relation to that area. In conclusion, to dwell again on the homeless persons provisions, I point out that the 25c meal subsidy was calculated in 1 972. I think the mind must boggle at a Government that assesses or looks at a situation and says: Right. In 1 972 we fixed 25c a person for a meal ‘ and in 1 980 still says that it will continue to provide 25c a person for a meal. It is so ludicrous that, even as I stand here speaking in the Senate, I find it difficult to comprehend the logic or lack of logic of any government that can try to justify that decision.
The numbers are uncertain but, as I said before, one estimate suggests that there are 7,000 people homeless at any one time in Melbourne, 9,000 in Sydney, with actually 1,000 sleeping out in parks or under bridges on any given night. Another estimate from the Victorian Consultative Committee on Social Development, the Youth accommodation sub-committee, suggests that 15,000 young people are homeless in Melbourne in a year, not necessarily 15,000 at the one time. Under the present Homeless Persons Assistance Act, voluntary organisations are encouraged to upgrade accommodation, provide nourishing meals, discontinue the practice of feeding the people on secondhand pies and suchlike, including the unsold stock donated be department store cafeterias which they would have to resort to. But how in the name of God can they do that at 25c a head? And now with so little funding and costs rising they must either raise their charges above what a single unemployed person on $51.45 a week, unindexed, can afford, or they must go into debt. According to the Melbourne Catholic newspaper, the Advocate, on 13 September 1979, Ozanam House, which provides free shelter: at the end of June we owed nearly $70,000 because of the number of men needing shelter and rehabilitation, and also because of inflation and a short fall in promised government funds which have not become available.
Another problem is that more and more young people are joining the older homeless people in the same dwellings. Social workers fear that they will be headed for a life of homelessness and helplessness. The main reason, of course, is unemployment. Again the Committee recommends and points out the seriousness of this social problem and the ways in which it may be studied and understood, but there has been no response from the Government.
The Government cannot justify this through its economic policies. I will not say that through its economic policies the Government has caused all the unemployment. That would be unfair and silly. What I am saying is that, because of its wilful economic policies, it has maintained a high rate of unemployment, particularly among the young. If it has done that, where is the morality in saying that the unemployment benefit for under 18-year-olds is to remain at $36 a week non-indexed? In other words, it does not matter what figure inflation rises to, if they got $36 in 1 978 they will get $36 per week in 1 980.
I put this question to the Senate. Can anyone comprehend what problems face a 1 7 V4 -year-old boy or girl coming from the country to the city, living on $36 a week, paying rent, buying clothes and food and paying fares and whatever? In fact, due to bureaucratic complications, shame, fear, lack of information, and so on, many unemployed fail to get the benefit. While I do not normally knock public servants I just wonder what sorts of minds have those creatures who set themselves up as petty Hitlers in bureaucratic positions and get their turn-on from refusing the unemployment benefit, because of some technicality to 17-year-old unemployed people? I wonder how anybody who is well paid, well fed and has a secure job can get any kind of satisfaction out of that sort of action. As all honourable senators who have had these young people in their offices know, that sort of thing happens more times than we appreciate. One emergency shelter reported that 80 per cent of young unemployed people who went to it for help were not receiving benefits, and the consequences of this destitution can be crime, drug addiction and alcoholism, as the royal commissions have pointed out.
I conclude as I began: This is a document of great significance. It is a document that does not deal with technical problems; it deals with only one thing, namely, that two and a half million adults in this country out of a total population of thirteen and a half million are suffering tonight, are suffering this week, and they will suffer this Easter, as the report points out with crystal clarity. Although the Government has had the report for six months or longer, the only response we get is three-quarters of a page of comments from a Minister.
Debate (on motion by Senator Scott) adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present a report entitled National Trachoma and Eye Health Program of the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists.
-by leave- I move:
I do not wish to delay the Senate for long in commenting on this report, but I urge all honourable senators to look at and to read seriously this report which is very graphic and excellently produced by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists on its National Trachoma and Eye Health Program. I, like other honourable senators, have not had long to look at the report. But, having read the sections of the report which particularly interest me, after an initial skimming of the report and after looking at the graphic illustrations and the quality and the clarity of the report in general, I urge all honourable senators to look at it, to read it and to take good note of it, not only for what it tells us about the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program but in fact what it tells us about our national disgrace- our treatment of Aborigines. The report goes far beyond the excellent program to detect, to survey and to treat eye problems in Aborigines, in particular, but also in other inhabitants of the outback areas of this country.
The National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, as I think most people know, is a program to survey the very serious eye problems which face, particularly, the Aborigines in this country. It has been conducted since 1975 by volunteer ophthalmologists with the assistance of paid health workers throughout this country and under the excellent guidance of Professor Fred Hollows who has worked very hard to get this program to the standard at which it is. The saddest thing about the report is that it gives us such a tragic and graphic description of the conditions under which Aborigines live in this country. The teams of people who were involved in the program- they were involved in a program in which they faced considerable difficulties- screened over 100,000 people for trachoma and eye diseases in this country.
They treated over 27,000 people and they performed surgery on some 1,500 people in this country in the course of the program. They worked in the most isolated areas of the country. They worked in some areas of considerable hostility. We all remember that in one instance they worked under great political difficulties in one State in this country. They found that trachomasandy blight, that debilitating and blinding illness which has been part of our history, certainly since the white settlement; it may have been here before the white settlement of this country- is still, sadly, extremely common in the outback Aboriginal communities of this country. In fact they found that 69 per cent of Aborigines over 60 years who were screened showed signs of having trachoma. They found, tragically, that 32 per cent of Aboriginal children of nine years and under had this potentially blinding disease and that the prevalence of the disease in fact increased as the age of the Aborigines in each population increased.
The tragedy of trachoma- I am sure that Senator Keeffe will have something to say about this- is that it is a disease that is associated with the social, physical and environmental conditions of Aborigines in our community. Trachoma was very common among the early white settlers and the white population of this country in the last century. In fact, the incidence of trachoma has decreased dramatically. It is almost unknown in the white community today because of the social conditions- the nutrition and the hygiene- in which the white people live. It is very common amongst Aborigines. If one needs graphic descriptions of why this is so, one needs only to look at the photographs in this reportfor example, those at page 125 and again at page 127- which graphically describe, in a way that no words can, the different conditions under which the white and the black populations of this country live.
If one wants to look really at what the basic problem of the Aborigine in this country is, one needs only to look at the recommendations of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in this report. At page 183 a summary of those recommendations is given. The recommendations are aimed at reducing the incidence of trachoma in this country, but in fact if one looks at those recommendations one sees that they would result in an improvement in the general health, the general social welfare and the general condition of Aborigines in this country. The recommendations of the report are not a series of scientific answers to a disease problem in this country. They are not a series of recommendations involving the use of high technology medical treatment and the use of great numbers of skilled personnel in this country. The report says that to get rid of trachoma among rural Australians, including Aborigines, we need: 1: Housing sufficient to provide sufficient bed space, breathing space, cleanable surfaces, and domiciliary shelter from sunlight for all persons living in the dwelling and to be appropriately screened to exclude those insects capable of transmitting disease. 2: Water within houses for the full range of its uses as a health amenity: for drinking, cooking, bathing, showering and washing clothes and bedding.
In a country like Australia, I might add, the report recommends: 3: A full range of food including fruit and vegetables.
In a modern industrial society the report recommends: 4: Facilities for appropriate storage of food- refrigeration and cupboard space. 5: Efficient water-based sewerage systems and garbage disposal for each dwelling.
Only now do we come to a recommendation which involves skilled personnel at all. Recommendation No. 6 states:
Continuation of the NTEHP . . .
The summary of recommendations continues: 7: That the NTEHP carry out two visits per year for each of three weeks at 24 locations listed in Chapt 13, p 174, and that this be done with the assistance of a full-time ophthalmologist with a supporting ophthalmic team.
This is to detect cases which have already occurred, to treat cases which have already occurred and to take appropriate action to prevent blindness. The report recommends: 8: That the NTEHP maintain and develop Aboriginal liaison which is directly responsible to it. 9: Regular scheduled visits of suitable medical (or paramedical) persons to monitor, treat, direct and advise on the prevention and treatment of skin disease, nasal discharge, otitis media -
Which is ear disease- and respiratory disease. 10: For each Aboriginal group of more than 20 persons the provision of a health worker, part or full-time. 11: Continuing support for the existing 13 communitybased Aboriginal Medical Services . . . and expansion of this system to other localities as soon as local interest and willingness to participate in such services has been shown by those Aboriginal communities.
That is again stressing the importance of having the Aborigines involved in their own health services, having the Aborigines involved in solving their own problems and having the Aboriginals trained to help in this way. The final recommendation, No. 12, states:
The establishment of an Aboriginal Central Support Service within a representative body constituted according to the guidelines noted earlier and for the functions listed herein.
Dr Harley, who is the President of the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists, states:
It is the responsibility of society, governments, the Aborigines and those with the expertise to eradicate this disease, to work together until this very real threat to the sight of the black population is dealt with. The Royal College hopes this is a program which will be assigned a major priority for action and funding by those concerned.
One can only echo those words when one repeats the statistics that, in fact, 32 per cent of Aboriginal children nine years and under have the disease and that the percentage increases until it reaches more than 60 per cent- those over 60 years- who have the disease. This is more than a report about trachoma. This is a report which condemns this country and all of us for our treatment of the Aborigines and for our allowing these people to live with a lack of decent housing, a lack of decent food, a lack of decent sewerage and a lack of decent living conditions. It condemns our failure to involve the Aborigines in their own health services, in their medical services and in their ordinary social services. It condemns this country for what has happened and for what is, in fact, only one aspect of the tragedy of what is happening to Aborigines in this country.
The fact that this part of the tragedy involves blindness, disfigurement and severe discomfort is bad enough. If we can add to trachoma the dreadful occurrence of middle ear disease, internal parasites, respiratory disease, nasal disease, the skin diseases and the nutritional diseases that the Aboriginal community in this country suffers from and add to the physical and measurable things- the social disadvantages Aborigines suffer, the disadvantages they suffer under our system of justice, the difficulties they suffer in obtaining things such as unemployment benefit, sickness benefit and age pensions that other members of this community take for granted- I think we can see the enormity of the problem. It just happens that the Royal College has produced a document which is dramatic, colorful, clear and which demonstrates to all of us the very real problems we face and the actions we must take to overcome all the problems. I urge every senator to read this report. I urge every senator, after he has read this report, to examine his conscience.
– I too compliment the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists on this report. I have had very little time to examine it and certainly have not had an opportunity to read the document in detail. Nevertheless, I compliment the Royal College on the efforts it has put into the report and the thoroughness with which it has documented its findings with respect to this disease. It is probably important to remind the Senate that this disease, trachoma or sandy blight, as Senator Grimes referred to it, is a disease that is endemic to Australia and has been so from probably before the arrival of the first European settlers.
– We call it gravy eye.
– Granulated eyelids might be a more common term to some people. It is a condition of the conjunctiva due to unhygienic conditions. Infection occurs, it attacks the eyelid, forms granulations and, as the eyelids close over the eye itself, it irritates the cornea. Eventually it creates ulceration which results in an opaque epithelial layer- the outer surface- rendering the patient blind. This has been evident in Australia since well before the white settlers arrived. I for one have had professional experience of this disease because I have travelled throughout the northern part of South Australia with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and have examined patients. In fact, I can recall the first time I visited Coober Pedy. I think it was the first time anybody ever visited there to examine patients’ eyes. I was appalled at the unhygienic condition of the Aborigines I examined. From memory, I saw about 50 patients, 30 of whom were suffering from muco-purilent conjunctivitis, obviously candidates for trachoma. I instructed the sister who was there at the time to treat the patients and I had to go back a month or so later to reexamine them. So I have some knowledge of these matters.
I think that Senator Grimes was being rather dramatic when he said something about the indictment of the Government or of us- I do not know whether he used the word ‘Government’because of the conditions under which Aborigines live. I suppose that is fair comment, but there are many Aborigines in Australia at the moment who elect to live in the conditions under which they are living. I can recall a visit to Ernabella when I inspected the hospital. An old Aboriginal lady had been admitted to hospital because she had rolled over in her camp environment and had burnt herself in a fire. She went into the hospital and remained there for only one day and one night because she was unhappy in the sterile atmosphere of the hospital. She felt far from comfortable and relaxed in the camp environment to which she had been accustomed for the whole period of her life. This is not a simple matter of accusing anybody and making anybody responsible for the conditions under which Aborigines live.
– Come on!
– I am stating merely that most tribal Aborigines prefer to live in the camp environment. I defy anybody, even the Deputy President who is in the chair, to refute that statement, because I know it is true. I am pointing merely to the magnitude of the problem. Essentially trachoma is a disease which involves the hygiene of the conditions under which people live. The report shows that the vast percentage of people who are suffering from trachoma are Aborigines. On page 175 of the report, it is stated:
Australia wide,” nearly hair of the Aboriginal population screened had trachoma. In the Northern Territory and Western Australia in particular the figure was much higher, averaging about 80 per cent.
I venture to suggest that the reason why that is so is that the people living in the northern part of Western Australia and the Northern Territory elect to live in their natural environment. That is why the problems of hygiene are present.
– What about all the whites who were treated by this team? There were tens of thousands of them.
– I am trying to be realistic and sensible, and constructive in what I say. From the report it is quite clear to me, even though I have had only a short time to look at it, that the abiding problem is the education of Aborigines and other people, although there is a smaller percentage of white people living in unhygienic conditions. They have to be educated to the fact that this is the reason the disease is prevalent in Australia. The sooner we can overcome that problem, the sooner we can eradicate trachoma in Australia. I remember talking with the Reverend Father Frank Flynn. I met him when I visited Darwin a number of years ago.
-He is still going.
– Yes. That was when I was a visiting consultant for a city optometry firm. On that occasion I visited the Territory to examine people’s eyes, and I was privileged to meet him. He pioneered the treatment of trachoma. He used sulphanilamide and other drugs that were shown to be effective against this disease. In my view, the basic answer to the problem is to conduct an education program among Aboriginal people in particular, preferably using trained Aboriginal nurses, and social workers and other people who are able to give them advice preferably in their own language, and to alert them to the basic problems of lack of hygiene which tend to exacerbate the disease and spread it among the people concerned. The recommendations are fairly wide. If one examines them one will see that what I have said is true. On page 1 80, recommendation 1. states:
Housing sufficient to provide sufficient bed space, breathing space, cleanable surfaces and domiciliary shelter from sunlight for all persons living in the dwelling and to be appropriately screened to exclude those insects capable of transmitting disease.
That is a classic example of how this matter can be oversimplified. I do not know how many Aborigines in Australia are living in those sorts of conditions. I am sure that in the Northern Territory and in the northern part of Australia there would be a considerable proportion, if not a majority, living in conditions that they believe are their traditional environment. So, it is difficult to apply that recommendation to people who are living under trees or in wurlies in the environment in which they have lived for generations. Recommendation 2. states:
Water within houses for the full range of its uses as a health amenity for drinking, cooking, bathing and showering, and for washing clothes and bedding.
Every recommendation points to the need for a vigorous educational program that ought to be contemplated by the Government. Senator Keeffe will recall when we examined the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs last year, he and I demonstrated a concern about this matter. I raised the question of hygiene and the need for a proper, thoroughly researched and effective education program for the Aboriginal people in particular, and for the white people, who are in the minority in this report.
-They are not much in the minority.
– The honourable senator has not read the report, because the report clearly indicates that they are in a minority. I believe that it is important to have regard to the need for an education program in hygiene amongst the Aboriginal people. I would be one of the first to advocate that far more money be spent in that area. I look forward to reading the report in greater detail and I hope that the Senate will have an opportunity to have a full debate on this matter, which in my view is extremely important to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
– Before discussing the report of the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, I want to take issue with a couple of things that Senator Jessop mentioned. I want to say quite clearly that whilst it is true that there are some problems in the environment in which people live, Aborigines are no more subject to the onslaught of trachoma, or sandy blight, than are the people of European descent. I do not know whether Senator Jessop has ever had sandy blight. He has probably lived in a very comfortable environment.
– I have examined a lot of people who have had it.
– The honourable senator can examine a lot of people, but I ask whether he has suffered from it. A lot of us who lived as kids in dry areas got sandy blight, but we lived in an atmosphere or environment where our parents were able to get access to available remedies.
– You would have had acute conjunctivitis, not sandy blight.
– All right, acute conjunctivitis. The honourable senator said a few moments ago that this type of complaint ultimately leads to trachoma. He cannot have it both ways.
– You need a bit of education.
– Maybe a good dose of conjunctivitis or sandy blight would do the honourable senator some good because then he would know what it is all about. There are thousands of white children who suffer from similar things and there are thousands of adult whites in this country who are suffering from the disadvantages of having attracted the sort of disease which leads to trachoma. The honourable senator should not shilly-shally about and say that he is holier than they are because his skin happens to be white.
– I didn’t say that.
– The honourable senator is saying that it does not happen in some areas because white people are cleaner, or for some other reason. That is just not good enough. The disease is no respecter of race, creed or anything else. It is a tragic situation for anyone afflicted by it. The honourable senator has only glanced at the recommendations. I do not know if he operated in any of the areas where the trachoma teams were working. They did a magnificent job. I happened to come across the teams operating in the central regions of Australia on three or four different occasions. Nothing was left to chance. They were determined to see every patient possible. The only place they were held up was in Queensland, particularly in the northern areas, when the Premier of that State chased them out of the State because he said they were indulging in political exercises. Many people did not go back for the second interview when they were able to do so. They still have not been treated. That is not the fault of the teams which did the job. It is the fault of political bias. Incidentally, in the northwestern part of New South Wales, a certain Federal member of the National Country Party was about to publish a letter to stop the team moving into his electorate but he changed his mind when he saw the hullaballoo that broke out in Queensland.
I shall briefly refer to a number of matters. There are a number of credits in the preface of the report. I want these credits to be recorded in Hansard because the people who did the job deserve the credit that is due. Prior to 1 967 this sort of health organisation could never have taken place. After 1967, with the authority that was given to the Australian Government as a result of the carriage of the referendum held in that year, there was an opportunity. A national program had to be established. This cannot be done on a piecemeal ad hoc basis at the State level. Every health program, regardless of which section of the community to which it is directed, has to be carried out on a national basis.
The first paragraph of the preface to the report states:
It now seems a long time since the Council or the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists resolved on 12 April 1 975 ‘that Professor Hollows be asked to advise on the feasibility of the College organising a campaign to eliminate trachoma in Australia’.
That was a very big job. The first paragraph of the preface to the report deserves to be recorded in the history books of this country. The preface continues:
To conduct the NTEHP and compile this report has required an enormous effort by a great number of people. Foremost amongst these is a man of great humanity and unlimited enthusiasm- Frederick C. Hollows, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, University of New South Wales. He has been remarkable for his untiring dedication to the task and his qualities have been an inspiration to all who have been associated with him in the Program.
Those involved in the program are too numerous to name individually.
I have wandered around Australia and seen the Program operating. I know that the people involved are too numerous to mention individually. The preface continues:
They include the 80 or more ophthalmologists who went voluntarily to the outback to participate in the campaign; the orthopists, nurses, optical dispensers, microbiologists and others who supported them; and then those who drove trucks, performed clerical duties or helped in other ways. On many occasions the field teams worked without time off for weeks on end and, in doing so, provided a coverage of rural Australia unmatched by any previous health exercise. The thanks of the College go to them all.
The thanks of all the patients go to the team. The thanks of every Australian should go to it.
The preface continues:
To the Commonwealth, State and Territory health officers who helped the Program in many different ways during the last three years, we also express our gratitude. Without their co-operation, the program could not have been fulfilled.
Of the Program’s staff special reference must be made to the efforts of Dr David Moran, Misses Rosie Denholm, Susan Bennett, Reg and Rose Murray, Trevor Buzzacot, Sister Marjorie Baldwin, Penny Cook and Gabi O’sullivan and Messrs Gordon Briscoe, Jack Waterford and Dr David Jones of the N.S.W. Health Commission. Though tempted to name more, the only Fellows of the College besides Professor Hollows to be publicly thanked are Dr W. E. Gillies, the Chairman of the College’s NTEHP Committee, and Dr Hugh Taylor, who did so much of the field work.
There are others such as Alanna Doolan and numerous other Aboriginal people who helped in some way towards the success of this program.
It is a very proud moment for me tonight to hold this report in my hand and make a short comment on the results of the total program. I am sorry that Senator Jessop has left the chamber. I am sure that he will be back as soon as he can. The National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, or NTEHP as it is referred to, is based on the Aboriginal words ‘uwankuru palya ngalkulpai’. The broad interpretation of those words is ‘better vision for all ‘. The controllers of the Program decided to use the Aboriginal flag but they modified the sun on the flag by substituting an eye. That in itself is a symbol of the depth of the Program.
I refer to a couple of other parts of the report. 1 will not argue with Senator Jessop and his expertise as an optometrist. He said that the disease had been here for many years. Whether trachoma was present in this country before the coming of white people is still a matter of doubt. The report states:
Trachoma has been endemic in Australia from at least the last pan of the 18th Century, originally affecting both whites and blacks.
Yet Senator Jessop tried to tell us that it is largely Aborigines who suffer from trachoma because of their poor hygiene. If he goes into the remote communities he will find many white people suffering exactly the same sort of” problems. The report continued:
Whether it was present in Aboriginal communities before the European settlement in 1788 is still a matter for debate, although there is some evidence to suggest that it might have been, perhaps introduced by earlier visitors to the north of Australia such as the Chinese, Japanese, Macassans and Indonesians.
The first description of Aborigines by European, William Dampier, in 1688, suggests that Aborigines in the Kimberleys region, on the north coast of Western Australia, may have had eye problems.
This is one of the worst areas at present. As Senator Bonner can tell honourable senators, other areas are the western parts of Queensland from north-west places such as Dajarra. Unfortunately, of course, we have a fair incidence of the disease in the coastal area. Dampier ‘s note read, as the report continues:
They have great heads, round foreheads and great brows . . . Their eyelids are always half-closed to keep the flies out of their eyes ‘.
Among the early settlers, however trachoma called ‘Sandy Blight’ was endemic and frequently led to serious visual loss. There is little doubt that the early explorers and the pastoralists and miners who followed them, had the disease. The pressures placed on Aborigines communities by settlement especially when large groups of them formed into settlement communitites, probably caused the disease to flourish.
The disease flourishes particularly in the fringe settlements around many of the western central towns of this country. We know that this is not because of anything that the Aborigines have caused. It is because of the very circumstances in which the white population in this country forces them to live, including inadequate housing with inadequate water supplies, medical treatment and employment to enable them to buy the sort of food they need. White people killed off the bush tucker that provided the protein and everything else that goes to make healthy people. The report further states:
Although trachoma had been occassionally noted among Aboriginal communities beforehand, there was very little understanding of its extent or effects until the early 1940’s when Father Frank Flynn, an ophthalmologist who had had extensive experience with trachoma from his work at the Moorfields Hospital in London, was posted to an Australian Army Hospital at Alice Springs.
Nobody can pay a greater tribute to Father Flynn than the Aborigines whom he treated in those days. Allied, of course, to his work was the work in the 1950s of Professor Ida Mann. I want that aspect to go into the record and I will refer to it shortly. The report continues:
In his first surveys into the extent of the disease, Father Flynn found that up to 90 per cent of the Aboriginal population of the Centre had some signs of the disease, many in severe form, with up to 7 per cent being blind in one or both eyes.
Vision impairment amongst people living in those areas is very much higher than the percentage cited in the report.
I will quote two or three more paragraphs because they are consistent with the argument we are developing in this place on the reception of this report. The report continues:
In the dry and arid centre, cicatricial stages of the disease were frequently severe causing visual loss; as one went further toward the more tropical north, a smaller percentage of servere cicatricial cases were found, with fewer being blinded or suffering substantial visual loss.
Father Flynn identified some of the factors associated with this trend as being the presence of secondary infection, aggravating the course of trachoma, and the climate, which led to irritation of the conjunctiva and cornea; particularly the drying effects of low humidity, heat, wind and dust.
In Western Australia, Professor Ida Mann was beginning her surveys of trachoma in that State, starting in the Kimberleys in 1953 and covering in the next few years the whole State, seeing more than 10,000 people, about half of whom were Aborigines.
Yet we were told by Senator Jessop that Aborigines constituted almost the total number of people who suffered those infections. The report continues:
Her findings were met at first with shock and incredulity. More than 42 per cent of the people she saw in the Kimberleys, including 56 per cent of the Aboriginal population, showed some signs of trachoma, with 11.5 per cent of affected Aborigines blinded by it. In some communities, almost the whole Aboriginal population was affected by the disease.
Those honourable senators who are familiar with the Eastern Goldfields regions will realise that what I said earlier bears out the following statement made in the report:
In the Eastern Goldfields regions, about 58 percent of the Aboriginal population seen had trachoma; almost 70 per cent of the children had follicular disease, while about 4.7 per cent of those affected were blinded by it.
I do not want to quote at length from the report because Senator Grimes, in his contribution to this debate, set out the recommendations made by the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program Committee. We hope that this Government and succeeding governments will not let this report die. It is one of the best reports on Aboriginal health, particularly eye health, that has ever been produced. I again pay tribute to all the people associated with it.
But let us be a little more expansive than that. Why do we not conduct similar sorts of health surveys of people living in remote areas, including white people, as the members of the team involved in the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program did? Why do we not undertake a similar sort of health survey of the ear, nose and throat problems which are widespread in communities in which youngsters get insufficient food? Those problems affect kids aged from two to three years onwards in particular. It is tragic to see them. Why do we not undertake such a service in the Kimberleys and in those parts of the Northern Territory and Queensland in which Hansen’s disease still has not been eliminated? With great respect, I suggest that the figures for the incidence of Hansen’s disease in the last year or two have not exposed the entire incidence of the disease. I suggest that, in fact, there are some cases of the disease, in which the sufferers are still living, on which reports have not been made public.
Dr Archie Kalokerinos and other people in the medical field tell us that diabetes presents another very big problem amongst Aboriginal communities and some sections of the white community. But the disease goes untreated because a proper survey has never been made around the remoter areas of this country. Respiratory disease was referred to by Senator Grimes. As a medico, he would know precisely what sorts of problems can follow on from that, particularly with youngsters and with the very old. Sexually transmitted diseases have a fairly high incidence in both white and black communities, but we are not undertaking a proper survey of it. In fact, the trachoma team probably could have done a lot in relation to STD and diabetes but it was not allowed to do so.
Malnutrition in many Aboriginal communities has been encouraged by this Government through its cutback in expenditure. Today I asked a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) concerning this matter because I fear that at the end of this financial year another $10m, $15m or $20m will not be withdrawn from Treasury because the story will be told on behalf of the Government that the Aborigines do not need the money. Not only do the Aborigines in the depressed communities need the money, but also poor whites in this country who are living below the poverty line need it. But those of us who live in the famous bush capital of Australia, with our three square meals a day, with the comfort of a warm bed at night and a roof over our heads to keep us dry, do not know what happens in the remote parts of Australia, with the exception of those of us who have taken the trouble to carry out these sorts of surveys.
Finally, I commend again, as did Senator Grimes, the report of the Committee as a report which ought to be read by every Australian, not only those people who are involved in the field of politics but also many medical people who probably do not realise that this sort of privation and illness is rampant in many areas of Australia. I extend my thanks to the devoted team of people who carried out the survey and the treatment. I hope that this Government and its successors will carry on the necessary funding to eliminate not only the types of eye afflictions which have been recorded in this report but also all the other diseases I have mentioned, all of which would be curable with the expenditure of a few dollars. I hope that that sort of feeling will be taken to heart by governments and by the people.
Debate (on motion by Senator Scott) adjourned.
– Honourable senators, I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) requesting variations to the membership of Senate Estimates committees. The first is the following letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate: 31 March 1980
Dear Mr President,
I wish to inform you that the following Senators have requested that they be discharged from further attendance on the Estimates Committees indicated:
Estimates Committee A-Senator Knight Estimates Committee B- Senators Messner and Young Estimates Committee C- Senator Kilgariff Estimates Committee D- Senators Maunsell, Archer and Rocher
Estimates Committee E- Senators Townley, Jessop and MacGibbon
Estimates Committee F-Senators Collard, Watson and Withers
In accordance with Standing Order 36AB, I hereby nominate the following Senators for appointment to the Estimates Committees indicated:
Estimates Committee A- Senator Young Estimates Committee B- Senators Lewis and Hamer Estimates Committee C- Senator Sheil Estimates Committee D- Senators Townley, Jessop and MacGibbon
Estimates Committee E-Senators Collard, Rocher and Archer
Estimates Committee F- Senators Neal, Kilgariff and Messner
Leader of the Government in the Senate
The second is the following letter from the Leader of the Opposition: 1 April 1980
Dear Mr President,
I wish to inform you that the following Senators have requested that they be discharged from further attendance on the Estimates Committees indicated:
Estimates Committee A- Senator Sibraa Estimates Committee D- Senators Primmer and Walsh Estimates Committee E- Senators Bishop. Elstob and Mcintosh
Estimates Committee F- Senators Gietzelt and McAuliffe
In accordance with Standing Order 36ab, I hereby nominate the following Senators for appointment to the Estimates Committees indicated:
Estimates Committee A- Senator McLaren Estimates Committee D- Senators Gietzelt and Elstob Estimates Committee E- Senators Walsh, Primmer and McAuliffe
Estimates Committee F- Senators Mcintosh and Sibraa
Yours sincerely, K. S. WRIEDT
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Motion (by Senator Scott)- by leave- agreed to.
Estimates Committee A- Senators Knight and Sibraa Estimates Committee B- Senators Messner and Young Estimates Committee C-Senator Kilgariff Estimates Committee D-Senators Archer, Maunsell, Primmer, Rocher and Walsh
Estimates Committee E- Senators Bishop, Elstob, Jessop, MacGibbon, Mcintosh and Townley
Estimates Committee F- Senators Collard, Gietzelt, McAuliffe, Watson and Withers
Estimates Committee A-Senators McLaren and Young
Estimates Committee B- Senators Hamer and Lewis
Estimates Committee C- Senator Sheil
Estimates Committee D- Senators Elstob, Gietzelt, Jessop, Neal, and Townley
Estimates Committee E- Senators Archer, Collard, McAuliffe, Primmer, Rocher and Walsh
Estimates Committee F-Senators Mcintosh, Messner, Neal, Kilgariff and Sibraa
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The major purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the 1979-80 Budget decision to extend the present scheme of tax rebates for share capital subscribed for petroleum exploration and development off-shore so that it will apply also in respect of capital subscribed for such activities onshore. Also included in the Bill are provisions to provide tax deductions for expenses incurred in contesting an election for the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. Other parts of the Bill will amend the gift provisions and correct deficiencies relating to tax on royalties derived from Australia by residents of other countries.
With a view to providing greater encouragement to the search for petroleum resources throughout Australia, in the 1979-80 Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced the Government’s decision to extend the present off-shore rebate scheme to cover petroleum exploration and development both off-shore and on-shore. By this Bill it is proposed that the rebate will be available to shareholders who- after 21 August 1979- subscribe share capital to a company holding an approved interest in an offshore or on-shore licence or permit to explore for petroleum. As is the case under the existing provisions, the availability of the rebate will depend on the company lodging a declaration with the Commissioner of Taxation that the capital subscribed will be spent on petroleum exploration or development.
The extended scheme is not different in principle from the present more restricted one. There are, however, two matters which should be noted. One of these is that the period within which capital subscribed after 21 August 1979 is required to be spent by a petroleum company to qualify for the rebate has been extended from 2 years to 4 years following the income year in which the moneys were received. The other matter of note is that the extended scheme is to be subject to the additional safeguards against unintended exploitation that were announced by the Acting Treasurer on 2 October 1979 and which are designed to counter ‘rebate stripping’ arrangements. Shortly stated, the safeguards will- to the extent that the existing law does not already do so- ensure that rebates are not allowed for capital subscribed for shares that are sold within 12 months of their acquisition. Capital subscribed to petroleum companies on or before 2 1 August 1 979 will continue to qualify for rebate under the provisions of the present law.
As mentioned earlier, the Bill will also give effect to the Government’s decision to allow income tax deductions for expenditure incurred in contesting an election for membership of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. Deductions are, of course, already available for similar expenditures incurred by candidates for election to the Commonwealth and State parliaments. This amendment is to apply in respect of 1979-80 and subsequent years of income. One of the amendments to the gift provisions will give effect to the Government’s decision to grant deductions for donations of $2 or more to the Child Accident Prevention Foundation. The Treasurer announced this decision on 26 February 1980. The other amendment to the gift provisions will extend the period in which the subject of a gift is required to be valued for the purposes of the taxation incentives for the arts scheme. Honourable senators will recall that under this scheme a taxpayer may be eligible for a deduction of an amount equal to the market value of property donated to a public library, art gallery or museum or to the Australiana Fund. A claim for such a deduction must be supported by valuations from approved valuers. At present the period allowed for these valuations extends over 60 days but this has been found inappropriate in many cases and, to facilitate the operation of the scheme, it is proposed to increase the time allowed for the valuations to 1 80 days.
Turning now to the taxation of royalties derived from Australia by non-residents, it is proposed by the Bill to amend the way in which the term ‘royalty’ is denned for this purpose. A decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria has revealed two technical deficiencies in the present definition. The first of the deficiencies found by the Court is that, while the present definition applies to payments for the right to use patents, trade-marks, know-how, et cetera, it is not wide enough to cover amounts for such rights that, instead of being paid over, are merely credited. The proposed amendments will ensure that royalties credited are treated in the same way as amounts actually paid. The other deficiency indicated by the Court’s decision is that the definition does not, as it was intended it should, encompass all considerations given for what is in substance the grant of an exclusive right to use industrial property. If, instead of agreeing in the normal way to a formal grant of the exclusive right, the parties agreed that the owner would receive a consideration for not granting the rights to anyone else, then the amount of the consideration may not fall within the present definition. To guard against exploitation of this potential avenue of tax avoidance, the Bill proposes that a consideration paid for a forbearance by the owner to grant rights to use property be expressly included in the definition of royalty. Both of the amendments relating to royalties will apply to amounts derived by overseas residents after 20 March 1980. Technical explanations of the various measures contained in the Bill are provided in an explanatory memorandum that is being circulated to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) 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:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill will provide legislative authority for the entry into force of new comprehensive double taxation agreements with the Philippines and Switzerland and of a protocol to amend the double taxation agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. The protocol with the United Kingdom is necessary because of changes in the income tax law of that country concerning, firstly, the taxation of company profits and dividends and, secondly, the taxation of employment income derived abroad or by persons not domiciled in the United Kingdom. Neither the agreements nor the protocol can enter into force until all necessary constitutional processes are completed by Australia and the other country. For Australia, this Bill will, when assented to, complete the processes required of us.
Before I outline the main features of the protocol and the new agreements, I think there are some points about double taxation agreements generally that I might usefully make. Double taxation agreements have as their principal purpose the elimination of international double taxation. This involves the apportionment, by one means or another, of the relevant taxation revenue between the contracting countries. There are various ways of doing this.
For example, by agreement some types of income become taxable only in the country of residence and other types only in the country of source. The country of source may agree to limit its tax on some items of income and, where it is agreed that both countries may tax particular income, the country of residence of the taxpayer agrees to allow relief against its tax in recognition of the payment of tax to the other country.
Against the taxation revenue forgone by a country in wholly or partially giving up its tax on certain items of income there has to be offset the gains to its revenue resulting from revenue given up by the other country on other items of income. If, as is usually the case, there is some net loss of revenue for one or other of the countries, this is, as emphasised by bodies such as the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, to be seen in the light of the favourable impact that these agreements have on trade and investment flows, and on the improvement of more general relationships between countries. And, as is sometimes overlooked, where a country in which income originates agrees to reduce its rate of tax on income, the taxpayer’s country of residence will also be levying tax on the income with credit for the reduced tax of the country of origin. The precise way in which taxing rights are allocated between countries is, of course, a matter of negotiation. The process of negotiation has naturally led to some varying outcomes in the comprehensive agreements now being brought before Parliament. However, each of them accords in essential respects with the position that Australian governments have taken over the years in relation to double taxation agreements. Both of the new comprehensive agreements provide for the country of source to limit its withholding tax on dividends.
Under the Philippines agreement, the limit in the Philippines is to be 15 per cent on dividends paid to Australian companies which are freed from Australian tax on foreign dividends by the rebate of tax allowed here on intercorporate distributions. The practical effect is that the limitation will apply to dividends paid to any Australian company. Australia is to limit its tax on dividends paid to Philippines companies entitled to relief from Philippines tax on intercorporate dividends to 1 5 per cent. In other cases, the limit in each country is to be 25 per cent.
In the absence of an agreement the Philippines would withhold 1 5 per cent for company shareholders and 30 per cent for individuals. We would charge the withholding rate of 30 per cent in all cases. Under the Swiss agreement, the tax limit on dividends is 15 per cent for both countries, a substantial reduction from the rate of 35 per cent chargeable under the Swiss taxation law. Both agreements are also to limit each country’s tax on interest and royalties paid to residents of the other. Under the Philippines agreement the general limits are to be 15 per cent for interest and 25 per cent for royalties. However the Philippines will further limit- to 10 per cent- its tax on interest paid to Australian residents on bonds or similar obligations issued by Philippines companies. And, as an incentive measure, it will limit to 15 per cent its tax on royalties paid to an Australian resident by a Philippines enterprise engaged in preferred areas of activities in the Philippines.
Australia’s withholding tax rate on interest is 10 percent and will not, therefore, be affected by these arrangements. We do not have a withholding rate for royalties paid overseas. These are taxed on the ordinary assessment basis. Without an agreement, Philippines tax would be payable at the general withholding rate of 15 per cent on interest paid to Australian companies and 30 per cent on interest paid to individuals. On royalties it would be payable at the withholding rate of 35 per cent for companies and 30 per cent for individuals. The limit on the tax on royalties under the Philippines agreement will, of course, only affect Australian tax on royalties paid to the Philippines where our tax on the ordinary assessment basis on the profit element in the royalties would have been greater than the agreed limit.
If nothing were done to avoid the situation, the action of the Philippines in providing an incentive reduction in its tax on some royalties would simply result in a reduction of the credit to be allowed by Australia against the Australian tax on the royalties. In other words, Australia would pick up the tax forgone by the Philippines, thus nullifying the incentive. To avoid that result, in taxing Australian recipients of the royalties Australia is, as a so-called tax sparing measure, to give credit for Philippines tax equal to 20 per cent of the royalties instead of the 1 5 per cent actually paid. These special arrangements are appropriate in an agreement with a developing country, such as the Philippines, in a sector of the world in which Australia has vital interests of more than one kind.
The rules under the Swiss agreement are more conventional. The tax of the country of source is to be limited to 10 per cent for both interest and royalties. While this will not affect Australia’s tax on interest flowing to Switzerland it will require Switzerland to reduce its tax on interest from its general rate of 35 per cent. Switzerland does not generally tax royalties paid to non-residents but the limit of 10 per cent would apply if it were to tax such income in the future. Both agreements contain measures for the formal relief of double taxation of income that may be taxed by both countries. The country of residence of the taxpayer is obliged to provide the necessary relief. So far as Australian residents are concerned, income which is taxed in full in the country of source will be exempt from our tax while income that is taxed at reduced rates in the country of source- dividends, interest and royalties- will be taxed here with credit being allowed for the tax of the country of source. Dividends received from abroad by Australian companies will, however, remain tax-free here.
Turning now to the United Kingdom protocol, I observe that it amends the existing agreement in two respects. Since the United Kingdom agreement was signed the United Kingdom has changed its law to allow part of the tax paid by a United Kingdom company on its profits as a credit in the assessment of individual United Kingdom shareholders. While, under a special provision in United Kingdom law, the credit is allowable to most individual Australian resident shareholders in United Kingdom companies, it has proved unsatisfactory to apply earlier arrangements made with the United Kingdom in the context of a quite different tax system in that country. Accordingly, the protocol will give all Australian resident individual shareholders a structured entitlement to the British tax credit. This will apply in respect of dividends paid on or after 6 April 1977.
Like their United Kingdom counterparts, Australian shareholders will be subject to United Kingdom tax on the sum of the dividend and the related credit, but the British tax will be limited to 15 per cent of that sum. Correspondingly, the sum of the dividend and the credit will also be subject to Australian tax, with credit being allowed for the limited United Kingdom tax against the Australian tax so payable. The new arrangements will generally be to the advantage of Australian shareholders concerned but, where this would not be so, the Bill contains nodetriment provisions for dividends paid up to the date of signature of the protocol. I should add that the protocol does not require the United Kingdom to allow tax credits in respect of dividends paid to Australian company shareholders. Because of the rebate on intercorporate distributions these dividends are, of course, effectively free of Australian tax.
The other change made by the United Kingdom protocol concerns post-agreement changes in the United Kingdom income tax law relating to the taxation of some foreign earnings of persons resident in the United Kingdom and earnings derived in the United Kingdom by Australian residents not domiciled in the United Kingdom. Before the changes, the income was taxable in one or other country, but the changes have resulted in it being, in varying degrees, completely tax free. The protocol will correct this quite unintended and unwarranted situation, with effect in Australia from 1 July 1 980. A memorandum containing much more detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill and of the agreements is being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) 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:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The main provisions of this Bill to amend the Australian Shipping Commission Act are designed to bring the Commission’s borrowing powers into line with those of other Commonwealth statutory authorities including the Australian Wheat Board, Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority and Telecom Australia. Similar amendments are proposed to the Australian National Railways Act.
In accordance with the Government’s policies in respect to Government owned business undertakings the Commission has, over recent years, funded its capital expenditure requirements offBudget by means of commercially available financing methods such as the trade credit facilities made available overseas for purchase of ships and associated equipment.
The amendments proposed will assist the Commission in raising funds to finance its approved capital expenditure program by enabling it to issue securities. The amendments provide for the repeal of section 30 of the principal Act and replacement by five separate sections outlining the Commission’s borrowing powers.
The new sections 30 and 30a, restate provisions presently found in sub-sections (1), (2), (3) and (5) of section 30 of the principal Act to take account of the division of ministerial responsibility between the Minister for Finance and Treasurer.
The proposed section 30b will enable the Commission, with the approval of the Treasurer, to deal with securities and for the Treasurer to determine that those securities shall be guaranteed by the Commonwealth.
The new sections 30c, 30D and 30E restate the provisions presently included in sub-sections 4, 8 and 7 of section 30 of the principal Act.
The amendment of section 36 will provide for these securities to be exempted from stamp duties in the same way as those of other Commonwealth, Territory and State authorities.
The revised borrowing provisions will be administered in accordance with the Government’s policy that the Commission operate on an equal footing to a privately owned shipping undertaking in Australia.
One other amendment of an administrative nature is also proposed. The present section 1 9 of the Act requires that the Commission advise the Minister for Transport prior to implementing each and every minor or major variation in freight rates. The proposed amendment will allow the Minister to determine guidelines within which the Commission may fix such rates. It is not considered appropriate for this more general arrangement to apply to coastal general cargo trades and passenger services where specific rates will continue to be approved by the Minister for Transport. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) 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:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
Mr President, the main provisions of this Bill to amend the Australian National Railways Act are designed to bring the borrowing powers of the Australian National Railways Commission into line with those of other Commonwealth statutory authorities. The need to do so is occasioned by funding requirements for construction of a standard gauge railway between Adelaide and Crystal Brook.
The Australian National Railways Commission is to construct a standard gauge railway linking Adelaide to the existing standard gauge rail network between Sydney and Perth. It will provide substantial reductions in running time between Adelaide and Perth, Alice Springs and Sydney.
A new agreement covering the construction of this railway is currently being negotiated with South Australia. It will be necessary for this new agreement with South Australia to be approved by this Parliament. I hope to be able to introduce legislation to this effect later in this session. In the meantime approval of the changes proposed by this Bill now before the Senate will allow the Australian National Railways Commission to begin preparations for the raising of the necessary funds, to allow construction to commence when the new agreement is approved by Parliament.
The Commission will raise funds for the standard gauge project by issuing securities for sale to commercial institutions and the public. For those securities to be competitive with securities of other semi-government institutions, the Bill provides for ANR securities to be guaranteed by the Commonwealth.
The Bill provides for the repeal of section 57b of the Australian National Railways Act and its replacement by four separate sections outlining the borrowing powers of the Commission. Proposed sections 57b and 57ba cover borrowings from the Commonwealth and borrowings other than from the Commonwealth respectively. These provisions take account of the separate responsibilities of the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance.
A new section 57bb provides the Commission with power to issue securities, and gives the Treasurer power to guarantee the repayment of amounts borrowed and the payment of interest.
Other new sections 57bc and 57bd essentially restate provisions presently found in sub-sections (4) and (5) of section 57b of the principal Act.
Section 57h of the principal Act is amended by adding two sub-sections to enable the Treasurer to determine that the issue, sale and transfer of the Commission’s securities will be exempt from stamp duty. The opportunity has also been taken to make a formal amendment by substituting the word ‘Commonwealth’ for ‘Australia’ in several sections of the Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
– I have not had the time or the opportunity to study the report of the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists in detail. It is an important occasion when a group of people carry out a study and survey amongst the Aboriginal people as have the people connected with the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program. I think it is important that we understand more about this subject. I do not think the matter should be approached in an academic sense.
We are talking about the health of the race of people of which I am proudly a member. We can talk in an academic sense about the lack of hygiene and all the various other things that the Aboriginal people suffer from, but we must consider that prior to the coming of the white settlers to this country none of these ailments that the Aboriginal people are suffering from today were known to them. I think that is an important point to understand. The Aboriginal people are living under conditions today which they have lived under for generations; since the coming of the non-Aboriginal people to Australia. I have experienced these conditions myself. 1 have lived as a fringe dweller. I know what it is to live on the banks of creeks under terrible and degrading conditions. It is difficult to talk about hygiene to people who are not living in a house and do not have running water of a bathtub in which to bathe every night. These people do not know of the assistance that is available through the medical process and that type of thing. These things are alien to such people and it is difficult for them to take advantage of what is available and to receive the assistance that possibly would prevent many of the ailments from which the Aboriginal people have suffered over a long period.
It is encouraging to know that a group of people with government or whatever assistance have gone into the outback of Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and places like that and have found that many Aboriginal people suffer from what is commonly called trachoma. The children who suffer from this condition could, at a certain time, become totally blind. It is all very well to say that the problem is caused by a lack of hygiene. How are Aborigines able to take advantage of the hygienic conditions that most Australian people take for granted when they live in nice houses and running water, bathtubs, showers and everything at their disposal? We are talking about a group of people living under pretty exceptional circumstances. They are still tribally orientated in many cases. I take as examples people in the Northern Territory, the Kimberleys of Western Australia, the Gulf country and the Cape York Peninsula of Queensland. They are living under tribal conditions. There has been a lack of help in these areas.
My colleague Senator Don Jessop touched on an idea that I have talked about for a long timelong before I became a member of this Parliament when I was the president of an organisation in Queensland called the One People of Australia League, OPAL- and even long before. I believe that what is needed in the Aboriginal community- and has been for many, many years and will be for a long time yet- is the getting of Aboriginal people into the field. It is all very well to have the assistance of people from the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists, nursing sisters, doctors and people who have expertise to cure sickness or ailments, but we need Aboriginal people working alongside them. We saw an example of this in the trachoma exercise carried out in my State of Queensland but unfortunately because of political pressure the Aboriginal people who were working with people in the trachoma area were dismissed because they were accused of being political.
The Australian people, the Australian Government and the State governments should wake up to the fact that if we are going to help Aboriginal people in these areas we will have to use Aboriginal people who can communicate with their own people, who can sit and talk and explain to them what effects their living conditions will have on them unless they take certain steps. All the things that government can do, all the money that can be poured into Aboriginal health- whether it be in the trachoma scheme or in any other scheme- is to no avail unless we have people who can communicate, sit down and talk to people in their own tongue or lingo and explain to them that the things they are doing and the kinds of life they are living can have a detrimental effect on their health. Unless we have that kind of communication all the money that can be poured into a scheme and all the expertise is to no avail, I have said this time and time again- to no avail. No one seems to want to listen. This applies whether we are talking about Aborigines, people living in suburbia, the underprivileged people who do not have high academic education or whatever the case may be.
Let us take an example. Someone from a university- I do not knock academically qualified people although I suffer from a lack of education- may go to an Aboriginal home or an under privileged home. He is usually dressed up in a suit, collar and tie and has a little black notebook in his hand. He starts asking questions about the kind of conditions under which the residents live. Almost immediately a barrier is built up. The resident thinks: ‘No university student is going to ask me questions or tell me what to do’. If people who have suffered these problems and have overcome them ask the questions it is a different proposition because they are talking to people on the same level as they are on. They are not talking from an academic level or from a university educated level. They are talking to people who they can understand.
I have said this time and time again when dealing with Aboriginal matters. When I was president of the OPAL organisation in Queensland I was able to help many people. When the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland created the position of liaison officer within the Department my application was the first that it received. It rejected me because I did not have an academic education and it thought I would not be able to do the job. But I was doing the job. I was helping Aboriginal people to get better housing. I was helping Aboriginal children to acquire better education. I was doing social welfare work in the field at grass roots level. We place so much emphasis on academic qualifications. I believe that Aboriginal people- whether it be in the city, the country towns or out in the cattle stations or in the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula or the Gulf of Carpenteria- need their own people who can communicate with them on the same level.
I have seen people doing surveys on Aboriginal health, on gastroenteritis and various diseases that are common amongst Aboriginal people. A person comes along and knocks on the door where an Aboriginal family lives. The Aboriginal woman comes out and the interviewer says: ‘We are conducting a survey on Aboriginal health’. ‘Yes.’ says the Aboriginal woman. The academic asks ‘What did you give your child this morning for breakfast?’ The mother stares at the academic with a blank look on her face and the academic asks: ‘Did you give the little child a glass of orange juice this morning?’ The mother replies: ‘Oh yes, I’ve been givin’ him orange juice. Yes, I’ve been givin’ that one.’ The academic asks, ‘Did you give the little child a boiled egg or a fried egg this morning?’ The mother says: ‘Oh yes, I ‘ve been givin’ that one. I ‘ve been givin’ that one’. And so it goes. The person conducting the survey goes away. He says that he cannot understand why these children are suffering from malnutrition. He believes that the little child has had a glass of orange juice and an egg for breakfast and so on.’ The Aboriginal people in their natural habitat are very kindly people. If they are asked questions they will give the answers that they think are wanted. They do not have eggs. They do not have orange juice in their homes and under the circumstances would not have it anyway. But if that is the answer that is desired that is what they will say. If I went into an Aboriginal home it would be a different proposition altogether. I would ask: ‘Hey, sister, what have you been giving the little boy this morning for breakfast?’ The mother would say: ‘Oh, I’ve been givin’ him orange juice’. I would ask, ‘Hey, sister, where you been get him orange juice from? You no more got him orange juice in the kitchen. ‘ The mother would say: ‘No, sorry, I tell you. I been telling you lie, you know’. I am talking about communication. That is what counts. I would ascertain that the child did not have an egg for breakfast and did not have orange juice or a glass of milk. We would then be able to work out that the child is suffering from malnutrition because it is not properly fed in the first place. Aborigines do not have that type of food and they cannot provide it. I believe it is the responsibility of government, whether it be State or Federal, to ensure that the child is protected and that the right kind of people are talking to the mothers, the fathers and all the people responsible so that this can be done. The same thing applies in relation to this trachoma scheme.
– How can we do it?
– We can do it by encouraging and employing Aboriginal people to work alongside those who have the expertise and the knowledge.
– That is one of the recommendations.
– I realise it is one of the recommendations, but it does not mean a continental damn unless the Federal or State governments are prepared to accept it. There have been a number of recommendations by a number of people down through the years, but have those recommendations been taken note of? No, we have to have the academics, the people properly trained in the universities go into the field. That is a great idea. I do not knock the academically trained people.
– They cannot replace the Reg Saunders, can they?
– They cannot replace the Reg Saunders or the Margaret Louries or a whole host of people I can mention who have the communication with their people. They can communicate with them and convince their people that certain steps must be taken to prevent this, that or the other thing from happening. Until we are prepared to accept this fact and put responsibility back into the hands of the Aboriginal people we are blowing our trumpets in the air. I have said that so many times. This may be the greatest report that has ever been brought down. I am not saying that it is or it is not because I have not had the opportunity to study it thoroughly. But that does not matter one iota unless the governments and people of this nation are prepared to realise that the report means nothing unless its recommendations are properly implemented. The recommendations can be implemented properly only if Aboriginal people work alongside those who have the expertise to cure the ailment.
– But some of the governments have refused to accept them, haven’t they?
-Yes. It was the Premier of my own State who denied the experts a chance to work on trachoma among Aboriginal people in Queensland. For goodness sake, one should have heard the excuses and the reasons that were given at the time for denying those people permission to work with the Aboriginals. These excuses were accepted by the Federal Government and the Federal Mininster for Health of the time. The Aboriginal people associated with the program were able to communicate with their own people, and the scheme was working tremendously well; but the Premier of Queensland said that those people were bringing Party politics into it. He said that they were telling Aboriginal people that they should enrol on the electoral roll so that they could cast their votes. My goodness gracious me, everyone of us in this chamber should be dismissed from our jobs because I can guarantee that this year every member of this chamber and the other place will be telling all Australians how and why they should vote for a particular political party. I am sure that I will be telling the people in Queensland that they should vote for the Liberal team.
– Some of us will not go to Normanton.
-No. Some of us, I believe, should go to Normanton because that is probably where we need to go, to tell the people there that the Aboriginal people are important in the scheme of things in Australia. They have a part to play. They are part and parcel of the Australian community; but they will not be part and parcel of the Australian community unless people living in places such as Normanton are prepared to accept Aboriginal people as fellow Australians who have something to contribute to our Australian way of life. There are people in the area of Normanton who suffer from this ailment called trachoma which is causing Aboriginal people to lose their sight. It is to those areas perhaps that people such as Senator Mulvihill and I should go to help convince the people that they should be helping the Aboriginal people. But we can help the Aboriginal people only if they are prepared to accept that they are fellow Australians, human beings and not something to be scoffed at or put down or put up into that shocking reserve that Senator Mulvihill and I had the misfortune to be able to view. But our misfortune was nothing compared to that of the people who live under those conditions. If any place was ripe for Aboriginal people to contract the kind of ailment we are talking about, that reserve at Normanton would be a classic example.
I am saying- 1 will come back to what I said in the beginning- that it is the kinds of conditions that exist at that reserve at Normanton that bring about this type of disease. The Aboriginal people who were not herded and forced to live under those conditions would be living free, out in the open areas and on their tribal lands. They would not be subjected to the flies, mosquitoes, sand flies, the filth and dirt, and trie living conditions that we saw on that reserve at Normanton. My colleague, Senator Mulvihill, will verify everything I am saying. One would not force an animal, let alone human beings, to live under those conditions. But the Aboriginal people are forced to live under those conditions. So how can the Aboriginal people understand that it is the fault of the unhygienic conditions under which they live that brings about this trachoma that will cause blindness to them in a short time? How can they understand that? They never knew of the disease before? They lived free, out in the open areas of their tribal lands. But because the white man forced them to live under appalling conditions they contracted trachoma. When it was sought to take the trachoma program to them they were denied this help. They were told that some of the Aboriginal people assisting the doctors and other people who could bring relief and cure them were involved in so-called party politics. What a lot of nonsense.
I come back to what I said earlier. The only way such programs can be a success, whether they be for trachoma or any other health problem among Aboriginal people living in suburbia, on the fringe of small country towns in Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales or in a tribal or semi-tribal situation in the Northern Territory, the Kimberleys of Western Australia, Cape York or the Gulf country of Queensland, is if the Government is prepared- I am quite confident that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) sitting in front of me would support what I am saying- to involve Aboriginal people. All these reports and the kinds of things that people do and are prepared to do with the best of intentions are for nought, unless we involve Aboriginal people who have the ability to communicate with others and sit down with their own people and talk to them on the same level, not necessarily in their own language but in the lingo that Aboriginals speak amongst themselves.
This also applies if we are talking about the people who are living in shocking conditions in the slums of our cities. It is no good if we bring into those areas people who do not have any means of communication, because they will not be of any help at all. We have to bring in people who have the ability to communicate, who can talk and who can understand, because they themselves have suffered those problems and have overcome them. They are the people who will help our people, whether they are living in slum conditions, for example, in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, or whether they are the Aboriginal people who are living on the fringes of the towns or cities or out in the back blocks of Queensland or wherever it may be. What is important is to have people who can understand and appreciate the problems of Aboriginals and who can communicate with their own people. In my opinion that is the answer to all of our problems.
While I commend this group of people, the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists, for bringing down this report- and I believe it is a good report from what people from this group have told me- it will be a waste of time unless we accept the fact that the implementation of the policies and the curative measures can be achieved only if we have people who can communicate and who can get the message across. We talk about hygiene, we talk about all the health programs that may exist. But they mean nothing to people who do not understand them. They mean something and can be effective only if the people who we are trying to help understand, and they cannot understand unless they are explained to them and rendered to them in the kind of language that they can understand and that they are prepared to accept. They will not accept someone who is alien to them. They will accept only those people in whom they trust and have faith. They are the people whose advice they will accept, and they are the people who will help them.
I believe that governments, whether Federal or State, and the whole Australian community have an obligation to ensure that the indigenous people of this country have the same opportunities for health, education, jobs and housing, as any other Australian. They are entitled to it. They are worthy of it. Unless we all accept that and are prepared to go about it in the way that will be most effective, all speeches on the topic in Federal or State parliaments will be in vain, because we are only giving expression to what we feel but are not prepared to carry out.
I am happy that this report has been brought down. I can only hope- indeed I go further- I can only pray to almighty God that this Parliament and the people who serve in it will accept this report and do something about the recommendations contained in it.
– I rise to discuss briefly the report on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program presented by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists. I believe that the previous speaker, Senator Neville Bonner, brought a breath of fresh air to this debate. I am certainly not belittling the report. I have seen the team in action in the Northern Territory and other parts of the outback. It has done a tremendous job, and it has brought temporary relief, I suppose one would say, to people, in particular to the Aboriginal people. I say that Senator Bonner has brought a breath of fresh air into the Senate because many of the things that he has said really state the guidelines in relation to what must be done in the future. I emphasise the words ‘must be done’, lt is not as if something is not being done now. It would be wrong tonight, when we are discussing this National Trachoma and Eye Health Program if we did not recognise the work that is being undertaken in the field by many dedicated people. There are very many dedicated people, but unfortunately there are not enough.
When speaking of Senator Jessop ‘s contribution to the debate, Senator Keeffe said that that honourable senator had adopted a holier than thou attitude. I am sorry he feels that way because I believe that the experience that Senator Jessop has in this area enabled him to make an intelligent contribution to this most difficult subject. It is a difficult subject. One has only to move through any town, any settlement or any camp in the outback, and there one will find the young, the middle aged and the old suffering from trachoma, as this report indicates. Many of the old people are blind. Not only are Aboriginal people suffering from trachoma but also there are other diseases mentioned tonight, the effects of which are just as miserable. They are diseases of the ear, nose and chest. One can see the number of young children being brought into the Alice Springs hospital suffering from chest complaints, and who, under the direction of very many dedicated doctors and sisters, are treated. Many of the doctors have worked in this field for up to three decades. So, it is certainly not a new problem.
As Senator Keeffe has said, trachoma does affect both blacks and whites. It is not a disease which chooses to affect Aboriginal people only. I can well remember when I was a child in Alice Springs in the early thirties. There was no reticulated water; there was no really fresh water. We drew water from wells which were polluted by various things. Of course there was no sewerage facilities. There were only trenches and night buckets and so on. No vegetables were grown because there was not the ability to lift water from the underground to water gardens in that arid climate. One or two hardy people, like an old Chinaman and an Afghan, had gardens of a sort. But all in all the conditions in which the people lived in those days, lacking in greens and vegetables, living on tinned food, with a lack of vitamins, brought about trachoma. It was prevalent amongst the children there. When I discuss sandy blight, all I can say is that it is because of the conditions in which the children of the town lived in those days that they suffered from sandy blight, which is a very painful disease.
– Yes, it is terrible. These same conditions exist now in the settlements and camps in which Aboriginal children are living. I think one of the points which Senator Bonner made is significant. He was talking about the Aboriginal people before the white men came and about the early days of settlement. He said that the Aboriginals were roaming free. Perhaps this is the reason they were not afflicted so much in those days with the diseases that they have today. These days they remain in permanent camps with poor water, poor sewerage and so on; they live on ground upon which they have lived for years, and this ground is polluted. It is ground which attracts flies; it is dirty ground. As I have suggested before, perhaps the Aboriginal people were not afflicted with diseases because they moved from camp to camp. I believe that the nomadic movement of tribal people in those days would have kept them in a much more healthy condition than they are today.
When one looks at the stature of the Aboriginal people some 40 to 80 years ago, one sees that they had a fine physique, yet they did not live on the white man’s food. They lived on the Aboriginal food; they fossicked, ate roots, game and so on. I suggest that in the food that they ate in those days there were more vitamins than perhaps exists in their diet today. Senator Jessop indicated that he has seen from his experience in South Australia that there is pollution in these permanent camps in which the Aboriginal people live. I do not think that we speak of it to the detriment of the people because they do not know better and they have to be assisted more.
Around the camps there are scraps of food, cans, tins and so much pollution that there is a large build-up of flies in the area. The Aboriginal dog probably is the cause of many problems that exist today. But it is very difficult to tell the old
Aboriginal person, particularly the old traditional person who has some four to eight dogs, that there are too many dogs and that they are harbouring and encouraging disease. These dogs have every type of dog disease, yet the Aboriginal people sleep and live among them. It is a very big problem, and the Aboriginal people themselves recognise the fact that much of this dog population has to be removed. It is a most difficult thing to persuade the old people to agree that these dogs should be removed because they do not believe that they can possibly be of harm to the people.
Many things are being done. As I have indicated before, there are doctors and very dedicated people who are labouring to improve conditions. When we speak to these people, particularly about such things as child mortality and the children who are in hospitals such as the Alice Springs Hospital, we hear that after these children go home they are back in the hospital again in three or four weeks time, close to death with chest infection- you name it; it is back with them. I asked them what is the answer to the problem. One of the answers is that we have to have more dedicated doctors who understand the people and who are able to go out and work with them in the field.
– Rather than improve their conditions.
– I said that one of the things that has to be done is to improve living conditions. I have just been describing to the Senate some of the poor conditions in which they live but I had not gone as far as dealing with housing. Naturally, these inprovements have to be made. I am talking about the situation on the medical side and the doctors who, as I have said before, have worked some 10 to 30 years among the people and who have the ability to bring the children back to health and to restore their bodies to a nice plump condition, if one likes to put it that way. That is achieved after months of nursing by the dedicated sisters. They then see this condition lost again. If one asks them what can be done they say that more work is required to be done in the field. The present restrictions on staff mean that insufficient work is being carried out among the Aboriginal people.
This team has gone through the outback of Australia. I have heard many reports about its activities. It has done extremely well. It has found thousands of people who have needed assistance, and it has given them assistance. What has happened is that the team has come out of these areas. I suggest that no further medical work is being done in many areas. One has to agree with all of the recommendations in the report. They are not new recommendations, but they are recommendations from experts in this particular field, and one hopes that this report will bring about an initiative to make further inroads into the problem of Aboriginal health.
I have indicated my feelings on the matter, but I also feel that much of the millions of dollars that are poured into Aboriginal affairs now does not bring results. The money seems to disappear down the funnel, and one sees a continuing problem. I recognise that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and people such as he are dedicated and do a tremendous job. I recognise that there are thousands of people working with Aboriginal people and that some achievements are being made. We have had the remark tonight of Senator Bonner and one other senator- I have forgotten who it was- about Normanton.
– It was me. It was a memorable visit.
– Yes. I suggest that the honourable senator has seen many settlements like it. I remember many of the isolated settlements of twenty years ago. The people who lived on them had gardens and they were able to fish and hunt game. I suggest that the standard of the settlements these days has considerably regressed compared with that of the settlements of 20 years ago. In those days the people had fresh food- this is mentioned in this report- fish and game. I suggest that the health of the people in those days was better than it is now because of this factor. For some reason or other, the gardening and the fishing that used to occur no longer occurs to that degree, with the result that the people are living in conditions which are polluted and which bring about infections and sicknesses.
– Does that relate to the work ethic that you have at the back of your mind?
-‘ Work ethic’ is one of those ‘in’ phrases. The fact is that the people have to be encouraged, as is happening in some of the settlements. One will find a very good garden at Angurugu on Groote Eylandt. Senator Bonner quite rightly has put forward the thought that, with medical assistance, the Aboriginal people themselves will possibly overcome the problem in the long run. (Quorum formed). I was commenting on many of Senator Bonner’s remarks. I believe that the Aboriginal people can assist themselves and are doing so now. There is a move afoot. One can see it in various places. One can look at the medical training facilities in Alice Springs where the Aboriginal health workers are doing their training. Each year a group comes out, and its members have their various diplomas. They have been taught to go back into the camps and settlements and to work amongst their people, to assist them and to introduce a higher standard of health facilities. Aboriginal girls am taking on nursing courses. These girls are coming out after doing these courses. So, all in all, I do not despair. I see that some moves are taking place.
Once again I come back to the point that whilst it seems apparent that there is in the cities of Australia a surplus of doctors who wish to remain in the cities and put in their life’s work there, in the outback there is definitely a lack of medical people. It seems that people do not wish to go out and work under the conditions that we have discussed tonight. They are not pleasant conditions. Until people such as doctors can be persuaded to go back to the outback to join their fellow medical people in the bush, the progress in improving Aboriginal health will be much slower. I think that this has been a brief debate on Aboriginal health. We have merely touched on the subject. I believe that this report and many other reports at least highlight the subject. Perhaps, in the highlighting of these dreadful afflictions that particularly the young children and babies in the outback suffer, we will gradually see more and more improvement.
Once again I refer to the fact that not only the medical people have to assist in this matter. The Aboriginal people themselves have to realise that as long as they are living in the conditions in which they are living now, with the polluted ground, the cans, the tins, the filth, there can be no improvement in their children’s health. There can be no improvement until they can uplift themselves. This means improved housing. I am very pleased that in the last week or two in the Northern Territory there has been a further grant of some $14m above the housing grant originally allocated for the year. Much of this amount will go into Aboriginal housing. I believe much more has to be done on this matter.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for
Veterans ‘ Affairs (Mr Adermann) on herbicides and other chemicals on Vietnam veterans.
-by leave- I move:
I shall speak very briefly on the subject as I have spoken on it in the past in the Senate and I have no desire to delay the Senate. The Government has announced, rather belatedly, that it is to fund a $2m medical inquiry- basically a statistical inquiry- into the possible effects of agent orange and other herbicides which were used in the Vietnam war. The use of these herbicides has concerned considerably members of the Vietnam Veterans Action Association, partly because of the known effects of these herbicides on the long term health of those who have been exposed to them and partly because of a very real fear of these veterans that their exposure to these herbicides may, in fact, lead to their having congenitally deformed children. The story of the use of herbicides such as agent orange, its most worrying constituent 2,4,5-T, and its contaminant dioxin is a long one. Ever since this substance was first produced in the 1940s for use in agricultural work- and one must add, for use in biological warfare- there have been problems associated with the health of workers producing the substance initially in West Virginia and later in Holland, Germany, Britain and in other States of the United States of America. There have been tragic accidents in West Virginia, Holland, England and, more particularly, recently in 1 976 in Seveso, Lombardy, in Italy. In the last mentioned tragedy there was an explosion and a cloud of dioxin covered a large area. This resulted in the Italian Government, despite the very real difficulties in a country such as Italy, allowing women to have abortions because of the known effect of dioxin in 2,4,5-T on the foetus.
The use of agent orange and the other herbicides, agent blue, agent purple, et cetera, in Vietnam, firstly to defoliate forests to assist in the detection of the enemy and, secondly, to cut down the food supplies to people in outlying villages so that they would come into South Vietnamese Government controlled villages, was always a controversial matter. In 1966 the American Association for the Advancement of Science petitioned the United States President to end the operation using toxic chemicals such as agent orange in Vietnam. It was not until much later, as we know, that the use of these agents was stopped. After 10 years a vast number of military personnel from Australia, from the United States, Vietnam and South Korea plus large numbers of civilians were exposed to heavy doses of these herbicides.
The point to be made about herbicides, of course, is that they are commonly used in agriculture in this country in much lower doses. Studies overseas- there are a vast number of studies- have produced a vast amount of information on the effects caused not only on veterans but also on workers in the factories which produce the substance and in rural workers from exposure to these herbicides. In 1974 the United States National Academy of Sciences reported that after an extensive follow-up study of the effects in Vietnam there was no evidence of long term health effects on humans from the use of herbicides in Vietnam. The report has since been challenged by learned people inside and outside the defence establishments in the United States and, more recently, by the defence establishments in Australia.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Before the division I was pointing out that we are dealing with the problem of a known group of toxic substances which were used quite injustifiably in a war in Vietnam, against the advice of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other concerned scientific authorities in the world. It was used, quite unjustifiably, despite the rather glib remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the last couple of days that its use was perfectly justified under the circumstances and that it seemed to have been perfectly safe. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) has made statements based on a United States National Academy of Science report from 1974. On the basis of that the Minister seems to say that there is no problem with the use of agent orange or similar herbicides. Yet, there are many other reports, including classified Department of Defence reports, on the acute effects of agent orange on Australian servicemen in Vietnam.
At the moment there are Australian servicemen who receive from the Department of Veterans ‘ Affairs entitlements for diseases which were caused by their exposure to herbicides of this type. A large number of ex-servicemen are worried, and so they should be. They are worried because they know- and we have abundant evidence of it- that the use and production of these substances is potentially very dangerous to the human organism. They are worried because of the conflicting reports from both here and overseas and they are worried by the sheer mass of evidence from scientific organisations about the possible effects of agent orange. I have spoken at length on this before. One wonders why the Government, under the Repatriation Act, which allegedly gives the benefit of the doubt to exservicemen, particularly ex-servicemen who we sent to an unjustified war- (Quorum formed). These people are frightened. They are confused by the situation in which they find themselves. One wonders why the Government does not give them the benefit of the doubt under the Repatriation Act and make those who may have been exposed to agent orange and other defoliants in Vietnam eligible for treatment. It should make their children eligible also. It would not take much to amend the Act. However, these people have been put off. They have been given confusing reports. They are frightened and concernedand so they should be.
They are very much concerned at the sort of treatment that they have been getting from the Government. They had an appointment with the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) yesterday. They made the appointment in reply to a request from the Minister to anyone who thought he had any evidence of the use of or the dangers of these substances. At the last minute that appointment was cancelled because the statement which we are debating was to be made. Payment of their airfares was refused even though they were already on the way to Canberra to talk to the Minister. This cavalier treatment and these glib statements have made these men angry and concerned. They have made the Returned Services League and others support them in their cause.
There is nothing wrong with the inquiry that the Government is funding. This sort of inquiry, of course, is necessary. It will be a scientific inquiry to look under controlled conditions at a group of ex-servicemen who were exposed to the defoliants. But as Professor Gustav Nossal and others have said we may well spend $2m and, with the small numbers involved, come to no statistically significant conclusion. These exservicemen and the Opposition are calling for an inquiry that is quite clearly independent of the Government- we would prefer a judicial inquiry- to weigh up the already massive amount of evidence available and the evidence that will come from inquiries such as the one that the Government intends to establish. In the meantime, the Government should give these people the benefit of the doubt. We sent them to a war under what those on this side of the chamber believe were false pretences. They risked their lives for. this country in that war. We took part in operations in that war which distinguished and respectable scientists suggested as far back as 1 966 may have the very effects that these men fear they may be suffering from. The Vietnam Veterans Association says that the inquiry is satisfactory as far as it goes but it is unsatisfactory to deal with the claims of its members. They need an independent inquiry for their own peace of mind. They need to be treated under the Repatriation Act for their own peace of mind. They are frightened because of the confusion and the fobbing off that the Government has subjected them to. For that reason, the Opposition persists in its request for a judicial inquiry, a request that is supported by the Vietnam Veterans Association, the Returned Services League and other concerned people in the field.
– I will speak briefly on the issue of agent orange. I think a few comments need to be made about it. It is another one of those matters to which somebody referred earlier today that is probably too hard. It is a very highly emotive matter. It is considered to affect not only individuals but also their children. The community, without doubt, sees this matter as an emotive issue. Possibly, most of the community see is as a rather simple matter. Unfortunately, it is very far from being simple. 1 sympathise to some extent with the Government in quailing from this matter at this time, especially in an election year. Unfortunately, a result has come from it. The Government has proposed, in effect, what the Australian Democrats see as a stalling tactic. As the stall has to be justified, it will be an expensive, even impressive, stall which has all the appearances of thoroughness. Hence there arises this strange idea of spending $2m over some years on a matter which would probably yield to a much simpler solution.
As it stands, 350 to 400 children of Vietnamese veterans have been claimed to have birth defects. Missing fingers and other limbs, club feet and cleft palates are amongst the worst of these deficiencies. The basic difficulty that the Senate and the Government have to acknowledge arises from the 2,4,5-T debate. TCDD or dioxin, the contaminant, is the teratogenic. That means that it can have the effect in the first weeks of pregnancy of deforming the foetus. However, another field of exploration is that it may be mutogenic, that is, that the genes themselves can be carried on by a father and that this can lead to deformity in children. That is what has to be established about agent orange. I do not really think that the inquiry which is to be held will do a great deal towards that. Probably the samples will be too small. The fact that this matter has attracted the headlines because of the sheer horror of the possibility that a weapon used by us in war might have rebounded on us in such a cruel way has confused the situation. A real assessment is needed- this should be much easier now- of the effects of agent orange on the men themselves. This should be quite simple for the Government to work out. Incidents such as that at Seveso and the experience in Vietnam itself have shown that there have been definite effects on people. I think it has already been shown that some of those effects have also occurred among our servicemen.
For the Government not to accept reasonable circumstantial evidence of bad effects in these cases is a very cruel and unpleasant action for it to take. I do not think that the Government ought to quail from it.
There are two quite different and separate parts to this problem. Certainly, the Australian Democrats believe that if reasonable circumstantial evidence of bad effects has been demonstrated- and there are some pretty extreme cases among Vietnam veterans- the Government should acknowledge them and the benefit of the doubt should be given to those people by way of compensation. It should be possible to establish those cases on a reasonable basis of proof. Those are the cases which we, at this stage, are pleading for. It worries me intensely that the Government intends to spend $2m on this inquiry. Apparently it is spending it to put the matter off for a certain time.
– Is it not to establish anything positive?
– Clearly the Seveso experience and the Vietnam experience have shown that people have been affected by agent orange. We do not need a long inquiry to find this out. The Government is forcing the Australian Democrats into taking the same position as the Labor Party has taken. A judicial inquiry is necessary. The Government will not admit this. It thinks that it will solve the problem by conducting a two year inquiry. I have news for the Government. It will not solve the problem that way. If it is looking for a bad electoral message this year, it is going the right way about getting it. The agent orange issue will not go away. It will stay.
I could say other things about this matter but I want to get it through to the Government that it has two elements. One concerns the children- I admit that this element is in doubt- and the other concerns the men themselves. I will not admit that the second element is in doubt. My final point is that it is a matter of sheer humanity. These people have been our own soldiers. If we cannot say, when there is reasonable circumstantial evidence- (Quorum formed). I want to get this point across because I think it is an important one: I suggest to the Government that if it goes ahead with the line it is taking now it will be indicted by the community, and rightly so. The community will attack the Government and continue to attack it. The Government will feel it at the ballot box; I warn it of that right now. Why not get the evidence obtained from surveys? It is available now. I do not care what the Government’s committees say to it. It should get some decent overseas advice on the matter.
I say to the Government: For God ‘s sake, do not go back to the National Health and Medical Research Council. It does not read anything which is less than 10 years old, at least it gives no evidence of doing so. The Government should get the information available from surveys. It should get on Vietnam the information available on what actually happened to people who were exposed to that dioxin- not their children but the people themselves. The Government should show that information to its repatriation people and say to them: ‘Look for this symptom. Do you see it coming up?’ It is coming up. In some of the bad cases Vietnam veterans are saying today that they are desperate. It is said that these men are going to die. The Government should say: When you find those cases, for God’s sake use a little bit of discretion. Just use your imaginations a tiny bit for once. Give them the benefit of the doubt and do something about it ‘.
– I want to make a short contribution to the debate. I make it on a fairly critical basis because it is obvious that this Government, with the decision it has now announced, is getting out from under- I think that is the accepted Australian slang term. We have seen that happen in other areas. I have spoken in the Senate before, as have some of my colleagues, about the people who have worked at Maralinga, Monte Bello Islands and other places on nuclear experiments in which this country has been involved. No check has been made of plane crews, technicians and labourers who worked on the various projects. Consequently, many of those people have been irradiated. But the Government is reluctant to make any attempt to carry out a proper program of surveillance to see whether health has been affected in the carrying out of those projects. Continually tests have been carried out by the French in the area of the Pacific and this Government has been notable for its lack of protest about the pollution that has been caused.
Now, we extend that to the Vietnam veterans. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) has forecast that some 60,000 people will be covered in the survey, which will be conducted over a period of two years. We will spend the magnificent sum of $2m on the investigation program. But for a long time in Australia, disregarding the problem of the use in the Vietnam conflict of agent orange and other herbicides, protests have been made in this country about the use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D in particular. It is said that, according to the experts, the dioxin content is not very high in the herbicides used in Australia. But the presence of dioxin was many hundreds and in some cases many thousands of times more intense in the herbicides used in the Vietnam conflict.
What will we do for the Vietnam veterans in the meantime, while the survey which was announced is being carried out? In my office I have a register of the names of people who have come to me obviously suffering from grave disabilities. One patient claimed that he had been sent away for psychiatric treatment because he suffered rashes and other ailments which go with the infection which resulted from his having been sprayed. Many of the children of veterans are chronically ill. They suffer from all sons of physical disabilities. Over the next two years, while the experiment is being carried out, who will pay the medical expenses of these people? Who will pay for the work time which some of the veterans lose because they are not able to work full time?
I suppose that one could go back to the beginning and say, as we on this side of the chamber said at the time, that we should not have been involved in the Vietnam conflict in the first place. But the fact is that we were involved. Therefore, this country is responsible to all of the people who have been affected by their service in Vietnam. A few days ago the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) denied in another place that we used agent orange. He then went on to list a number of herbicides which Australians did use. According to my technical adviser in these matters, some of the brands of herbicide which the Minister mentioned do contain very dangerous substances. Because this debate came on fairly quickly, it has not been possible for me to prepare all of the technical information I wanted to use in the debate. But when we return after Easter, either by asking questions or by participating in a further debate on the matter, I will give the technical names of the substances which were used and which have caused and can cause problems.
We have another responsibility too. In the indiscriminate use of agent orange and other herbicides many Vietnamese women and children were affected. In our great generosity to a war torn nation, we have withdrawn all of our aid. The United States of America has not given any aid. I shall quote from a couple of short articles which were published in this afternoon’s
Sydney Sun. An article headed ‘Agent Orange Writs “For Millions” ‘stated:
Writs worth millions of dollars will be taken out against the Federal Government by the Vietnam .Veterans’ Action Association.
The article goes on to mention the decision of the Government to carry out a 2-year study, which I previously mentioned. The article continues:
Angered at the decision, the veterans’ association is to seek leave in the High Court this week to issue writs against the Commonwealth.
Initially, only a few writs will be issued, but association legal adviser Mr Bill McMillan warned today at least 1,200 writs could be filed if need be. “By the end of the year there could be 2,000 claims involved- but at present we have 1,200 claims”, he said. “They will run into million of dollars.”
Mr McMillan said if the High Court application was successful a claim for damages under common law would be laid.
Why should we force the people who have been affected in this way to go through lengthy legal processes to try to obtain just a minimum of justice? We ought now to look at each case individually, assessing the disabilities of the people concerned if those disabilities can be traced to the use of this particular herbicide. The article goes on:
Federal authorities face a massive task to track down and interview Vietnam veterans for the $2 million study into the impact of herbicides used in the war.
The article goes on to point out all the technical problems which will be involved. But in the very same issue of that newspaper the following statement is made:
A Mudgee farmer is convinced that herbicide 2,4,5-T has caused birth deformities among his cattle.
That is supposed to be the Australian version of the herbicide which allegedly does not contain a great deal of dioxin. The article continues:
Mr Alfred Mazengarb, in Sydney for the Royal Easter Show, said today a farmer from Queensland and another from Tamworth agreed the herbicide was a problem.
Many cattlemen in the Mudgee area had blamed the pesticide for birth deformities and abortions in their cattle, he said.
Mudgee Council has banned its use.
A number of responsible local government organisations in Australia have banned the use, mostly of 2,4,5-T, but certainly in some instances the use of 2,4-D has been banned as well. (Quorum formed). I reiterate that I believe that what the Government is doing is too little too late. I indicate publicly that my sympathy stands completely behind the Vietnam veterans who have been trying to get justice for a long time. The same sort of problem has been encountered by the American veterans and some 50,000 writs are in the process of being prepared and filed in the courts of that country.
The involvement in the Vietnam conflict cost 50,000 young Americans their lives. A thousand young Australians died while people on the other side of the House kept on cheering madly in their patriotic fervour. The present Government ran the Vietnam conflict in exactly the same way as it is running the story on Afghanistan at the moment. The present Government made the young of this country pay for its political ambitions. It is true that while we were involved in Vietnam the American market for Australian beef was fairly lucrative. We are doing precisely the same thing in regard to Afghanistan. We will sell all the warlike materials to Russia that the wealthy of this country can gather together. In fact I think the only item that is not getting out of Australia at the moment is the wool from Nareen which the people associated with wool loading will not load. The Government is selling enough material to make sure that the Russians are well equipped to keep on with their invasion of Afghanistan.
I remember reading in Hansard at the time of the Vietnam conflict that some 150 Australian companies were making money out of the Vietnam war while the Government was continuing to increase the number of our troops in that country. Now, because a fairly substantial number of the troops are suffering from the indiscriminate use of very dangerous herbicides, the Government has decided, I think perhaps without any sort of consideration, that that has nothing to do with this Government. A LiberalCountry Party government decided that it would introduce conscription in 1964 under the leadership of the late Robert Menzies. At the time the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was the Minister for Defence. He has now said that there is no proven connection between herbicides and the great illness from which many of our young veterans are suffering. He got wealthy during the Vietnam war. He is still trying to sell his wool at the time of the so-called invasion of Afghanistan. There is a moral responsibility as well as a legal one to ensure that none of these young veterans continue to suffer as a result of the indecision of this Government to come to grips with the whole situation. The sooner the Government does something about the matter the better off we will all be.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to my recent visit to the Association of South East Asian Nations and to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement.
– As honourable senators know, I recently visited the ASEAN countries to discuss with representatives of their governments a wide range of issues affecting Australian ASEAN trade relations. I have now prepared a full and detailed statement on my visit, which I wish to place before the Senate tonight. Whilst it was my intention to read the statement in full, in view of its length and the pressure of business before the Senate at this time, I seek leave to have the full statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
I am making a statement on the outcome of my recent three-week visit to the five member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. The South East Asian region, and in particular ASEAN, is of major importance to Australia economically, politically and strategically. The main purpose of my visit was to familiarise myself with trade and economic developments in the region and to strengthen and deepen our relations with the governments of ASEAN. I met with a wide cross-section of government Ministers, business leaders and key economic planners in the five ASEAN countries and held discussions on a broad range of trade issues, including future prospects. Without exception, all discussions were carried on in a cordial and constructive spirit. It is very clear that the leaders in ASEAN are as anxious to enhance and develop relations with Australian as we are with them.
It is commonplace to note the daunting challenge of development which confronts the ASEAN governments. Unemployment and poverty are no strangers to their region. But one unmistakable impression from such a visit is the economic progress and rising living standards in each of the five ASEAN countries. This reflects a decade of steady, stable and balanced economic growth. In recent years an average real growth rate of 7 per cent per annum has been achieved in the ASEAN countries as a group. This is against a background of a stagnating world economy, rising energy prices, unpredictable movements in major currencies and rising freight costs. It is indeed remarkable that such progress could have been made in the face of continuing energy shortages and escalating energy costs. At the heart of that steady growth has been expert national financial management, and well balanced investment programmes in agriculture and public infrastructure such as power, roads, pons and irrigation. In addition to undertaking massive infrastructure investments, all ASEAN governments are committed to the maintenance of high industrial sector growth rates. This commitment will provide Australian businessmen with opportunities for further trade with and investment in the region.
The most striking and clearly visible aspect of ASEAN economic development has been in manufacturing industry, which is typically located near the major cities and has heavy private sector involvement. Rapid industrialization, from a substantial but relatively small base, has seen manufacturing production more than double in Thailand and Malaysia since the early 1970s, almost double in Singapore, and register increases of nearly 60 per cent in the Philippines and Indonesia. The rates of growth in agricultural production have not been quite as spectacular as manufacturing growth but they are at least as important, given the overwhelming importance of agricultrue in employment and in meeting basic human needs. The Philippines and Thailand registered growth of about 60 per cent in agriculture production over the past decade, while Malaysia and Indonesia registered 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
Singapore, of course, lacks an agricultural base. It has instead concentrated on the provision of services and on its manufacturing sector. In the process it has become a world class centre in shipping, banking, insurance and tourism. Manufacturing production registered an increase of almost 90 per cent between 1972 and 1979. It is worth noting that the sectoral share of manufacturing industry in Singapore is not greatly different from that of Thailand or the Philippines. The largest sectoral component in Singapore is the service sector; in the other ASEAN countries it is agriculture. Mining industry has also shown major growth in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. In Malaysia, where there has been some decline in the production of non-fuel minerals, this has been offset by rapid growth in the production of crude oil. As I mentioned, ASEAN countries have invested heavily in recent years in power generation and highway and transport development. Many large projects are underway, some funded by commercial joint ventures and others in partnership with international aid agencies.
Australia is contributing to these developments through its participation in the funding of the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations agencies. Australia has contributed some $US750m to the Asian Development Bank Group since the Group’s inception and ASEAN benefits also from Australia’s contributions to the World Bank Group and the United Nations Development Program. In addition, more than thirty major Australian bil aterial aid projects are underway in the region, many of them involving infrastructure upgrading such as road and railway construction, and agricultural improvements through crop and livestock development research. In the five years 1974-75 to 1978-79 Australia has supplied ASEAN countries with bilateral aid to the value of $230m.
It was a particular pleasure to meet political leaders and officials, who spoke with warmth of their student days in Australia. I believe the Australian hospitality to Asian students extended under the Colombo Plan and other arrangements has contributed greatly to an understanding of Australia and to the capacity of Asian countries to manage their development. This is a form of co-operation we should continue to support. Indeed, we should also welcome an increasing reverse flow. Promising young Australians could add to their educational attainments and their cultural awareness by spending time in Asian institutes of higher learning. Again on the person-to-person level, it was heartening to see a sizable group of Australian staff working in the Asian Development Bank and to hear of Australian consultants engaged side by side with ASEAN partners and clients in studying and designing roads, dams, power stations, water supply systems and all the other infrastructure of development.
I was struck by the fundamental importance of crop and livestock production, and I feel sure that Australia can make a major contribution in those fields. Australian farm systems and technology can rarely be exported just as they are. Nevertheless, our approach to agricultural development is an asset we can export with advantage both to Australia and to the countries concerned. We have great expertise in water management, in stock and plant breeding, in plant and animal disease control and in marketing and transport. Our institutions and methods of research and development have paid handsomely for the Australian economy and their example could be of value in the ASEAN region.The authorities in Asia and the development agencies are well aware of this and of the enormous task before them to develop better farm systems and, just as importantly, to ensure that their farmers acquire the necessary knowledge of modern cultivation and husbandry. The transition from subsistence farming to the production of surpluses is difficult. When it succeeds it provides great opportunities for employment in the multitude of local services which farmers need- transport, storage, processing, finance, farm supplies, mechanical services and so on. It is here that the very practical down to earth Australian agricultural researchers, farm consultants and agricultural business experts can be of major assistance.
Efforts to foster the involvement of Australian experts in rural development in Asia through the project consultant business, by academic exchanges and our own aid projects is unquestionably a worthwhile objective for co-operation with the ASEAN region and one that we should actively pursue. In this regard I am heartened by Australia’s involvement in funding the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and by Australia’s bilateral programs in stock breeding.
Australia’s economic links with ASEAN are being strengthened by a large and growing element of Australian investment in the region. Approximately 400 Australian firms are now operating in ASEAN countries. The total value of investment, including retained earnings, is over $500m. Australian firms are active in manufacturing, banking, insurance and in consulting, either in their own right or in joint ventures with ASEAN partners. An Australian joint venture operation is now the largest manufacturing export earner in Thailand. These firms contribute to employment opportunities and to the availability of the goods and services required by the ASEAN economies. Importantly, a large number of them are engaged in export to third countries. By developing regional and global exports they can make a significant contribution, and this pattern of development accords very much with the thinking of the ASEAN governments.
Australia’s investment in the ASEAN countries must not be looked at simply in terms of the funds or number of firms involved. It should be viewed in the contribution these firms are making to their new environment and in their commitment to becoming part of the local industrial structure as they reinvest in the future of the host country. This in itself is evidence of the importance which Australian firms attach to ASEAN. It is seen by the ASEAN countries as such. The climate for investment from Australia is hospitable. Government Ministers and business leaders with whom I spoke constantly emphasised the need for the development of joint industrial enterprises.
I took the opportunity to remind government representatives of the ASEAN countries that although Australia is a net importer of capital with a great need of foreign investment for her own development projects, the Australian Government considered outward investment by Autralian firms in the ASEAN region as a matter of priority. An important consequence of investment by Australian firms is that it underlines the possibilities for the servicing and supplying of world markets through the development of complementary industrial structures in the Australian and ASEAN economies. For example, in Penang in Malaysia I was able to see Australian tin concentrates being smelted for export to world markets. It is also worth noting that expenditure on items such as tourism and transportation considerably affects the balance of payments with the ASEAN countries. Indeed to tourism alone, the expenditure of more than 100,000 Australians each year who are making ASEAN countries their principal destinations would be a most significant element in Australia’s invisible debits in the region.
In my discussions with Ministers of individual ASEAN governments I was seeking to enhance the basis for future trade expansion and cooperation. The growth of trade in the ASEAN countries in recent years has been remarkable. Australia has participated in this regional trade growth and two-way trade with the ASEAN countries is now of the order of $ A 1,700m compared with $A325m ten years ago. There is, moreover, scope for further growth to the benefit both of Australia and ASEAN. The expansion of manufactured exports is of course a vital factor in ASEAN ‘s overall development strategy. These exports are a relatively small proportion of their national production but they are important in paying for the imports which are needed for all sectors of economic development. We are fully conscious of this. It is close to our own experience and we are sympathetic to their need for access to markets.
I also sought to develop further understanding in ASEAN countries of Australia’s trade policy objectives. As honourable senators are aware, in recent years there has been criticism in ASEAN of the Australian Government’s industrial and tariff policies. I found, however, during this visit to ASEAN capitals a greater measure of understanding of the problems facing the Australian Government in restructuring industry and recognition that the Australian Government was committed to a course of action leading to a lower and more stable tariff and an outward looking industrial structure. There has in recent years also been some criticism in ASEAN countries of the adverse trade balance which all ASEAN countries except Singapore are running with Australia. I pointed out that these deficits must be seen in context. In the last five years the average annual growth rate of Australian imports from ASEAN has been one and a half times the growth rate of Australian imports from all sources. The balance on investment and invisible expenditure is very much in ASEAN *S favour. Moreover, some of the trade deficit is accounted for by imports of raw materials which are further processed within ASEAN and then exported at an enhanced value added. At the same time, I made it clear that whatever the pace of industrial restructuring in Australia and whatever form the Australian industrial structure would eventually take, Australia was and would remain a small market. While the progressive restructuring of Australian industry would lead to the growth of mutually beneficial trade, Australia could not by itself hope to provide a major outlet for the manufactured products of the ASEAN countries. This was emphasised, particularly in the context of textiles, clothing and footwear matters, which honourable senators will know are sensitive both in Australia and ASEAN.
Central to all my discussions in ASEAN was a clear consciousness on the part of ASEAN Ministers and business leaders to whom I spoke of the crucial role that the supply of energy and other resources would play in future development of the region. There was ready acceptance in ASEAN that Australia was an obvious and relatively economical source of supply of these resources. There was, however, some concern that large purchases of energy resources from Australia, especially of steaming coal, could exacerbate balance of trade problems. I indicated that it was important to approach the problem from a global point of view since it represents purchase of energy supplies from a cheaper rather than a more expensive source. I believe that ASEAN governments understand this point. Thailand, for example, is very conscious of the need to become less dependent on oil for future energy needs. They have been very receptive to Australian efforts to assist in development proposals relating to the use of steaming coal in both power stations and cement plants. An Australian mission has just been to Thailand advising the Thai Government on this matter. Australia will be well placed, not only to supply steaming coal, but to assist in the design and construction of infrastructure, power generation and cement manufacturing facilities.
Trade initiatives taken recently to enlarge trading opportunities in Australia for developing countries have been well received in ASEAN. The elimination of certain British preferential tariffs, the modification of procedures under the Australian system of tariff preferences, and the plan to establish a showroom for developing country products in Australia are seen as evidence of Australia’s commitment to doing what it can to assist. In addition, ASEAN Ministers are hopeful of improved trading opportunities arising from a series of trade promotion activities soon to be undertaken in Australia under the ASEAN economic co-operation program. These trade promotion activities will be paralleled by a series of investment promotion activities designed to bring home to Australian investors the attractiveness of ASEAN countries as a home for Australian capital. ASEAN Ministers have reacted positively to the other trade programs under way to provide and expand market opportunities for ASEAN products in Australia, particularly the second ASEAN Trade Fair to be held in Melbourne in August this year and continuing assistance given to ASEAN exporters by the market advisory facility of the Department of Trade and Resources.
By way of conclusion, the cordiality with which I was received in the region and the recognised need on both sides to work for the growth of a balanced and mature relationship has convinced me that we have a framework for consultation within which trade and economic cooperation can grow. Regular ministerial visits such as the one I have just made, the regular contact between Australia and ASEAN officials, and the working of trade agreements when these are considered to be appropriate provide a positive environment for the growth of trade and investment. Even more important is the role of the business community, and it is welcome that contact at ministerial and official level is, paralleled by contact at the commercial level. While there will certainly remain issues on which our perspectives are not identical, it is my expectation that both Australia and ASEAN will benefit greatly from closer co-operation and consultation and that the stage is already set for a mature economic relationship.
– In view of the lateness of the hour, I shall be very brief in my comments. The statement which the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) made available to me earlier today I believe deserves commendation by the Senate, and I do not make that comment lightly. What is significant about the statement is that it is a genuine statement about the observations of Senator Scott during his trip to South East Asia. It is in marked contrast to the statement we had here in the Parliament only a week or so ago by another Minister of the Government, which allegedly was the Government’s response to the report of the Harries Committee on Australia ‘s Relations with the Third World. That statement was not a statement dealing with the substances of the Harries report but a partisan political statement. This statement is in stark contrast, and it does the Minister great credit, in view of the fact that he has addressed himself to the matters that count amongst the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations.
We on the Opposition side in general support the comments that have been made by Senator Scott. He has pointed out that the ASEAN countries have seen substantial expansion in manufacturing industry, some of which has been financed by Australian investment. Of course, very serious problems still exist in those countries, especially in the agricultural area. It has always been attractive to concentrate on industrial development because of the greater degree of control that can be exercised in that area. If the conclusions of the Brandt Commission, to which I referred in my comments on the Harries report, are correct there will have to appear to be a much greater emphasis on agricultural development in the South East Asian area generally. If there is not, by the turn of the century we could well see disastrous food shortages arising.
We on this side of the chamber have no objection in principle to overseas investment by Australian statutory corporations or, indeed, by public or private companies. In some cases, these investments have been motivated by a desire to establish joint venture projects which have been of mutual benefit to both this country and members of the ASEAN group. There are areas of particular concern, especially in the textile area, where it is said that the investment may in some way subvert the textile industry in this country. However, I think it is fair to say that in the long term some of those investments will be of advantage to us. It would be wrong to assume that the ASEAN nations cannot see that the existing quota and tariff system applying to the Australian textile industry produces quite different responses to investment decisions. We are also somewhat concerned that there is a great sensitivity in Australia on the question of protecting our industries. The commitment which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has given about consultative procedures for tariff and import quota changes has been adhered to. There has been considerable argument about the Prime Minister’s saying certain things in South East Asian countries concerning tariffs and the entry of goods into Australia and on returning to Australia adopting a different attitude on those matters. The inconsistencies are not lost on all of the ASEAN governments.
Finally, in general terms we support the remarks which have been made by Senator Scott. I repeat that it is a good thing for this Parliament that the report is a genuine attempt to assess the experiences which the Minister had in South East Asia. Even though he does not presume, nor does the statement presume, to resolve the difficulties which still remain, nevertheless the document before the Parliament is worth while.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present documents entitled ‘An Analysis of the Report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the Proposed Construction of Defence Force Academy’ and ‘The case for the Australian Defence Force Academy’.
-by leave- I move:
As the Sydney ‘ Morning Herald pointed out in its editorial of this morning, this debate about what some people call Casey University and what the Government now prefers to call the Australian Defence Force Academy, has been going on for a number of years. Briefly, to refresh honourable senators’ memories, I refer to what that editorial stated about the length of the debate. I stated that the Liberal Party has had doubts about the University even since Mr Fraser, as Minister for Defence, submitted it to Cabinet in 1970. The article goes on to state:
The Prime Minister of the day. then Mr Gorton, rejected the proposal as being ‘imperfectly researched ‘ and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the then Mr McMahon, dismissed it as being ‘sloppily costed’. Similar reservations were expressed as recently as last week at the joint party meeting.
I refer to that part of the editorial although I commend the reading of the whole of it, because it makes the point that since 1970, when the present Prime Minister first introduced the proposal, until 1980- a whole decade- allegations have been made that the project has been illconsidered and sloppily costed. 1 regret that I have to say that allegations that the project is illconsidered and sloppily costed are still being made. It is an extraordinary indictment of the present Government’s handling of the matter to record one or two facts. The first fact is that the parliamentary Public Works Committee considered this matter for a considerable period and heard evidence on it. After the Committee had published its report the Government made a sneaky decision to announce a decision to proceed with the building of the Academy. That decision was announced in November last year, the day after Senator Carrick- a prominent opponent of the Academy- was removed from his education portfolio.
Since then it has been Government policy to proceed with the building of the Australian Defence Force Academy. All through the hearings of the Public Works Committee evidence was given by a variety of experts. Before the Public Works Committee the Government at no time argued the case for Casey University, the Australian Defence Force Academy, or whatever we call it. So the report of the Committee was published. The Government subsequently announced a decision to proceed with Casey University. Then after all that, today in the Senate there was tabled a document entitled ‘The Case for the Australian Defence Force Academy’. As the Sydney Morning Herald points out, after 10 years of debate about the Australian Defence Force Academy or Casey University, after 10 years of allegations that it is an ill-conceived project and after the Public Works Committee inquiry and the publication of its findings, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) puts out a document entitled ‘The Case for the Australian Defence Force Academy’. I will refer briefly to that document to show what a sloppy document it is and to show that the allegations of sloppiness continue. I refer, first of all, to a couple of passages in the document. In paragraph 3 on the first page the Minister referred to the desire of the Government to see: . . the concurrent provision of some basic military training and the promotion of those special qualities of leadership and character that the military profession demands from its officers.
I will come back to that point because it is dealt with again in several pages of the ministerial submission. The document continues: . . there would be better prospects at a Defence Academy of having taught those academic courses that are most relevant to the military profession. Furthermore, it is possible that from time to time the social and political atmosphere at the civilian universities might not be sympathetic to the military profession and to officer cadets on the campus.
I mentioned those two passages because throughout this document there is an emphasis on segregation of military personnel during their university training from civilian students and really from the civilian population. By way of contrast I refer the Senate to the contents of a letter I received. I have received many letters from serving officers on this subject, but this particular letter comes from a young naval officer who is a university graduate. I indicate to the responsible Minister that for very obvious reasons I would be quite happy to show him the original of the letter, but other than that I do not wish to identify it. This young naval officer dealt with this question of the segregation of students at university level from the civilian community. He stated:
The point has to be made concerning the academic staff at military universities- that the ‘leaven’ of radical thinking is absent. Those opposed to the military, and to the values which they appear to uphold, naturally do not apply for posts in military institutions. As a consequence, the young officers tend to be shielded from radical streams of thought and too often they become complacent and hidebound in their thinking- or are not pressed into thinking at all. I have been conscious of this in my dealings with my own service contemporaries.
The same holds, of course, for the student body. It is a most valuable experience for an officer- or, indeed, a person in any profession- to have his beliefs questioned and to be forced to make rational justification for his membership of an armed service. Similarly- and this is quite as important- it provides many a radical of one persuasion or the other with considerable food for thought to discover that the services are not necessarily the bastions of reaction and fascism. Can such people be found in a military training establishment to provide the ‘leaven ‘?
He goes on to say:
I agree that the numbers themselves are also important. 1,200 students, as well as the relatively large number of schools which will be within Casey, mean that the actual number of staff per school will be very small. I do not accept the compensation of a very favourable student-staff ratio which tends to be offered by the Planning Committee.
He goes on further to state:
Even when the radical element is not considered, the student bodies are, in the present institutions, and will be at ADFA far less diverse groups than at civilian universities. The norm is an 18 year old male, with only a small proportion of females, and although the argument is proffered that both the geographical and social backgrounds of students tend to be more diverse than those of civilian students, I do not consider this valid. It is a diversity of attitudes which is the more important, and since those at the military training establishments are there for a singular and considerable reason, are subject to the same discipline and tend very much to an age, the result will, of course, be far more homogeneous attitude than those of the civilian universities. I certainly think that the solution lies in having the degree education conducted entirely in the civilian universities while the military establishments should be responsible for the professional training alone.
He goes on in that vein. I quote that letter only because it seems to me to put very lucidly the argument of a young officer who writes a very intelligent letter, an officer who is now in the Navy and who has been through the naval training and university training at Melbourne and Annapolis in the United States of America. On the basis of that experience he writes that very thoughtful letter about the notion of segregation of military personnel, or defence personnel, as they have been called in the context of this debate.
– Do you see the naval officers as shop stewards or something?
– That is a silly question. I am not going to answer that. The point made is one about which there must be serious debate and concern as to whether the segregation advocated by the Chiefs of Staff, and which apparently is relied upon by some people in the Government for support, is in fact in the interests of the Service personnel themselves in a contemporary situation. That is a matter for serious debate, not for idiotic interjections.
The other group which recently expressed views about the proposed Australian Defence Force Academy is the Academic Staff Association of the Royal Military College at Duntroon. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the President of the Academic Staff Association of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works dated 28 March 1 980. Before incorporating that letter I say that it really makes three points. The first is that at the annual general meeting of the Association on 27 March the following resolution was carried that: an autonomous university would not be acceptable to the Australian academic community at present; an autonomous institution which is not a university would experience considerable difficulty in maintaining standards and practices at university level, not least because the government would be seen to have decided explicitly against establishing a university; affiliation with an existing university constitutes a proven and acceptable solution to the problem of providing a university education for officer cadets.
I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
ACADEMIC STAFF ASSOCIATION OF THE ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
(a member association of FAUSA)
Faculty of Military Studies, The University of New South Wales
Royal Military College, Duntroon, A.C.T. 2600 28 March 1980
Mr M. Bungey, MHR Chairman
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Mr Bungey,
At the annual general meeting of this association on 27 March 1980 the following resolution was passed. I am instructed by the meeting to bring it to your notice.
This association believes that in respect of proposals for a tri-service institution:
1 ) an autonomous university would not be acceptable to the Australian academic community at present;
an autonomous institution which is not a university would experience considerable difficulty in maintaining standards and practices at university level, not least because the government would be seen to have decided explicitly against establishing a university;
affiliation with an existing university constitutes a proven and acceptable solution to the problem of providing a university education for officer cadets. ‘
Yours sincerely, W. H.Smith President
-I refer to the Sydney Morning Herald editorial this morning, to the extract from that letter from, as I said, a young naval officer graduate and the letter from the Academic Staff Association of the Royal Military College at Duntroon to indicate opinions from people whom I think might well be said to be very much in touch with the contemporary situation in relation to the training of service officers- the staff at Duntroon. The views of the young serving officer in the Navy, who is a graduate, and the views of the newspaper to which I have just referred are just opinion in the sense that we all have opinions about this matter, but they do illustrate a point which I think is worthy of the attention of the Senate.
I turn very briefly to the quite bizarre fact to which I alluded earlier- that after all the debate that has been going on for such a long time and after a committee of this Parliament has sat and deliberated on the matter without the assistance of any evidence from the Government, we now have this document brought before us called The Case for the Australian Defence Force Academy’. After a decision has been announced to build the academy we now have presented this case for the Australian Defence Force Academy. What a sloppy document it is. I will illustrate that by one or two references from it. For example, on page 4 of the document there is one of the most desperate quotations I have ever read in a document supporting an argument. It is a quotation which comes from a letter to the Minister for Defence from Professor D. W. George, Chairman of the Australian Vice-Chancellors committee, writing on behalf of the executive of that Committee. I do not know whether Jim Killen got this letter mixed up with his letters from his bookmaker or something like that, but he has included it in this document. It really is very illuminating to see what it says. It states:
That is, the executive of the Australian ViceChancellors Committee- concurs in the view that it is of the utmost importance that the best possible tertiary education be provided for persons who will become officers of the defence forces.
I suggest that we might have a bipartisan approach on that. I would have thought that we all agreed that if we were spending a lot of money on the public education of anybody, we would all like to see the best possible education for that person. It is a statement of unlimited profundity, if I might say so, Senator Puplick. It comes from the Vice-Chancellor of one of our tertiary institutions. The letter continues:
The Executive believes this could best be accomplished if arrangements were made so that the Academy could have university status and standing.
The final paragraph reads:
One way of ensuring this would be for the Academy to be associated with an existing university.
I do not know what real comfort the Minister for Defence can get from that particular quotation or from a variety of other quotations which are included in this document. They rehash evidence given to the Committee selectively and say things such as were said in paragraph 19 of the document. That paragraph states:
The knowledge that a Defence Academy was being planned has enhanced the academic development of the Royal Military College. The University Faculty has been seen as providing the academic nucleus of the Academy. It has therefore been possible to broaden curricula and recruit and retain first-rate academic staff . . .
That is the view dated 1 April from the Minister for Defence. On the same day, the Chairman of the Public Works Committee received a letter from the staff of the Royal Military College at Duntroon expressing a totally different view from that expressed by the Minister for Defence in this document.
The other matter in the document to which I would refer is the very simple fact of the costings which are dealt with on page 1 1 and subsequent pages. It is only a fortnight since I asked a question in this place of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, Senator Carrick, about the costing of Casey University, or the military academy. I was told that I was wrong in suggesting that the estimate had increased from $65 m to $79m, that I was wrong in suggesting that the Returned Services League might be correct when it said it might cost at least $ 100m, and that the costing of $65m was in fact accurate. That was a fortnight ago. If we look at the various costings on pages 11 and 12 of this document, we will see that the minimum cost is $6 7m, and there are a number of supplementary costs which are not included in that figure, which take it well above the estimate which was given only a fortnight ago.
I referred earlier in my remarks to the fact that right from 1970 this has been a project which has been accused by various people of being sloppily costed. There is impeccable evidence available in the utterances of the Minister for Defence on this matter in the past two weeks that we have learned nothing from 10 years of sloppy costing in relation to the Australian Defence Force Academy. It is continuing now and, even on April Fools Day, we are getting a different costing from the one which we got about a fortnight ago; and no doubt tomorrow there will be another. This is a matter which has to be of concern to the Parliament, and it has to be of concern to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works. When the Public Works Committee report was brought down and the Minister and the Leader of the Government in the Senate were questioned about it, they at first tried to suggest that the Public Works Committee had gone beyond its function. When it was pointed out that, under the provisions in the Public Works Committee Act, the Committee had not gone beyond its function, that in fact it was its precise function to deal with the costings of projects and their priorities in terms of overall government expenditure, an effort was made to fudge the whole story and to suggest that that had not been said at all.
I do not want to say anything tonight about the whole question of Government priorities in relation to education. Again I commend honourable senators to the Sydney Morning Herald editorial this morning, which makes the point that the costing of this proposed university or academy varies between the minimum estimates of the former Secretary of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange, which is $65m, and the variety of other estimates, and concludes that it: . . will be a grossly expensive project as a simple comparison will demonstrate. Only $27 million was allocated for the capital outlays of all Australian universities -
I interpolate that that is 1 9 of them- covering 144,000 students, in 1979: the military university will have only 1,200 students attending it.
The matter of the costing and the matter of the educational and other priorities are ones which I hope that the Government senators will examine closely, because it would be an awful allegation to have to make against them in a couple of weeks’ time that they had condoned -
– What do you think we have been doing?
-That they had condoned, Senator Missen, a sloppily costed proposal.
– You know I would not do that sort of thing.
-I do not. Looking at the honourable senator now, I would think that he would condone anything that was sloppy. It would be awful if the honourable senators presently dozing on the other side were to give their blessing in a fortnight’s time to a proposal which is still sloppily costed, which is still madly askew in terms of the priorities of the Government and which is still extraordinary in terms of the persistence with which the Minister for Defence, going down with his ship, hangs on to this absurd argument about the segregation of young military officers in their tertiary training alone. There has been a lot of hedging on that question and a lot of confusion about what is normal military training and what is university training. We are talking about the university training of military officers, not their military training alone. In the letter to which I referred earlier a very good point was made about the distinction between those two matters and the fact that the Services really ought to be able to judge in respect of their own personnel when it is most desirable for officers in terms of maturity and so on to undergo university training in a normal environment.
This is a matter which is of the utmost concern, but I do not wish to detain senators any longer. I hope that the Government will come to a sensible consideration of this important project and the criteria which I have mentioned will be part of its deliberations in arriving at a sensible conclusion of the matter. (Quorum formed).
– I will be very brief in my remarks on this matter. I rise merely to express the opposition of the Australian Democrats to the proposed Casey University or the Australian Defence Force Academy. The Democrats believe that a rose smells just as sweet by any name and the converse is true. So, whatever it is called, we think it is a bad thing. Our reason basically goes back to the article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Senator Button has mentioned that point. The article stated:
Only $27 million was allocated for the capital outlays of all Australian universities, covering 144,000 students, in 1979.
Only last night I was on my feet in the Senate complaining about that situation. Now we have a proposal to spend this large sum of money, variously estimated at $65m to $ 100m, on a military university which will have only 1,200 students. I would also like to refer briefly to the paper presented by the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) regarding the case for the Casey University, or the Australian Defence Force Academy. The paper states: . . there would be better prospects of a Defence Academy of having taught those academic courses that are most relevant to the military profession. Furthermore, it is possible that from time to time the social and political atmosphere at the civilian universities might not be sympathetic to the military profession and to officer cadets on the campus.
I do hope that whoever wrote those words never comes to influence any kind of major policy in this country because they make my blood run cold. I would have thought that it would be a very intelligent and useful thing for our Army, for our military officers to live amongst civilians and to absorb the points of view of the community generally. That is what a free society wants. It does not want a segregated elite group which will be forced into all sorts of ignorance and points of view which it might not otherwise have had.
Some years ago I had the great privilege of spending a week or so, while we were making a television show at the then School of Jungle Warfare, at Canungra in Queensland. I was impressed with the breadth of view, intelligence and the general inquiring minds of relatively senior Australian Army officers whom I met there- people of the major and half colonel level.
That is what we want for our army officersbalanced, educated Australians with inquiring minds. The Fraser-Killen plan for a military academy, to me strongly resembles what is being foisted on the populations of the military dictatorships so close to us. There is in Indonesia an elite military academy iust like the one described here, and it has attracted the most unfavourable comment recently. We do not want specialised defence machines made. We want good, honest, reasonably balanced, educated Australians running our defence forces, for reasons which I think are obvious to everybody. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and Tasmania in relation to the provisions of financial assistance for projects related to the environment for 1 979-80 made under the provisions of the Environment (Financial Assistance) Act 1977.
Senate adjourned at 11.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circuit
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 19 February 1980:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs 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:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 27 February 1980:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the hounourable senator’s question:
In September and October 1978 representations were made to me by the Blacktown Branch of the Police Association of NSW by Mr J. Armitage, M.P., Federal Member for
Chifley, and by the Hon. W. Hayden, M.P., Leader of the Opposition. Each was responded to in October 1 978.
I have not received further representations since that time.
Ratification of Convention on International Recognition of Rights in Aircraft (Question No. 2483)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 27 February 1980:
By whom was ‘approval in principle ‘ given for ratification, in 1961, of the Convention on the International Recognition of Rights in Aircraft, as described in the Minister ‘s answer to Question No. 2234 (see Senate Hansard, 23 November 1979, page 3010).
-The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In 196 1 the Government of the day gave approval in principle for Australia’s ratification of the Convention on the International Recognition of Rights in Aircraft.
USSR and Warsaw Pact Countries: Credit Transactions (Question No. 2538)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 18 March 1980:
What, if any, has been the value of credit transactions, including interest rates, arranged within the last five years on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and on behalf of the Governments of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact Countries by the following companies or their subsidiaries: (a) J. P. Morgan and Co. Inc.; (b) Morgan Guarantee Trust Co.; (c) Morgan Grenfell Holdings Ltd; and (d) Morgan Stanley and Co. Inc.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth has not arranged any credit transactions through J. P. Morgan and Co. Inc., Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. or Morgan Grenfell Holdings Inc. or through any of their subsidiaries during the last five years. However, Morgan Stanley and Co. Inc. has acted as lead manager for the following public issues undertaken by the Commonwealth in the New York market.
Morgan Stanley Inc. also assisted in arranging an institutional borrowing for the Commonwealth in the Tokyo capital market in October 1 978. The loan was for an amount or Y40 billion ($A 1 84.2 million) for a period of 20 years and carried an interest rate of 8.6 percent per annum. Lead manager for the borrowing was Mitsubishi Trust and Banking Corporation.
In addition, Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. acts as fiscal agent for the Commonwealth’s public issues undertaken in the New York market.
I have no authoritative source of information concerning any credit transactions that may have been undertaken on behalf of the Governments of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact Countries by J. P. Morgan and Co. Inc.. Morgan Guaranty Trust Co., Morgan Grenfell Holdings Ltd and Morgan Stanley and Co. Inc.
-On 19 February 1980 (Hansard page 6) Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning the ANZUS Pact. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have read the report of comments by the Australian Ambassador to the United States reported in the Australian on 2 February 1980 and referred to by Senator Wriedt in his question. The Ambassador has been quoted only briefly and the context of his remarks is not clear. I do not place the same interpretation on the Ambassador’s remarks as does Senator Wriedt and reiterate the view that the Ambassador is not challenging the value of ANZUS.
It is the clear understanding of the Government and I am sure also the understanding of the Australian Ambassador to the United States, that, as I said in my interview with Randolph Hearst and quoted in reply to a question in another place on 19 March, ‘There isn’t the slightest doubt in Australia’s mind that any commitments under ANZUS we’d meet absolutely. And I have no doubt in my mind that the United States would meet any commitments under ANZUS for its part’.
United States Navy: Australian Port Facilities
-On 18 March 1980 Senator Button asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, (Hansard, page 707) a question without notice concerning use of Australian port facilities by the United States Navy.
The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the Honourable Senator to my answer to a question without notice in the House of Representatives on 18 March 1980 (House of Representatives Hansard, pages 832-3) on this matter.
The Government gave full consideration to this matter prior to my departure overseas in January this year. The offer to the US to make use of Cockburn Sound facilities took into account the full range of Australian security concerns. The Government remains of the view that the prospect of nuclear war will remain remote provided that the efficacy of the US deterrent is sustained. It has been the policy of successive Australian Governments actively to support the US deterrent.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800401_senate_31_s84/>.