31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 200 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
Their support for and endorsement of the National Women’s Advisory Council. We call on the Government to continue to maintain the National Advisory Council and increase Federal Government support for its activities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 157 citizens of Australia:
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index. By this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Adjust all pensions and benefits quarterly to the Consumer Price Index, including the ‘fixed ‘ 70 ‘s rate.
Raise all pensions and benefits to at least 30 per cent of the Average Weekly Earnings.
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
The present static threshold of $75 per week for taxation purposes be increased to $ 1 00 per week.
A substantial reduction in indirect taxation on consumer goods.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 3 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
That currently discrimination in provision of work, in appointment to jobs and in promotion exists in Australia on particular grounds including, inter alia, grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status, pregnancy and/or sex;
That currently discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits is exercised against particular groups of individuals- in particular, against married women.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of individuals under federal awards, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits to all persons without regard to sex and/or marital status.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 100 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proportion of pensionable people within our community is increasing at a significant rate. The number of people over 65 years old will rise from approximately 8.5 per cent of the population as it was in 1970 to over 10 percent by 1990 and about 16 per cent by the year 2020.
That technological change is accelerating the trend towards earlier retirement from the workforce.
That the above factors make incentives for self-provision in retirement years a matter of great urgency if future generations of Australians are to be spared the crippling taxation which would be necessary to fund such provisions from social welfare.
That Australia is in urgent need of locally raised investment capital for national development and that life insurance and superannuation funds are important mobilisers of such capital.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Government will forthwith take the steps necessary to:
Remove contributions paid by the taxpayer to superannuation funds from the rebate system and make them a separate deduction from assessable income.
Allow as such deduction amounts necessary to provide the individual with a reasonable retirement benefit as defined from time to time by the Commissioner of Taxation.
Remove Life Insurance premiums paid from the rebate system and make them a separate deduction from assessable income also.
Allow such a deduction to take the form of a flat rebate of 20 per cent of Life Insurance premiums up to a limit of $2500.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 60 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proportion of pensionable people within our community is increasing at a significant rate. The number of people over 65 years old will rise from approximately 8.5 per cent of the population as it was in 1970 to over 10 per cent by 1 990 and about 1 6 per cent by the year 2020.
That technological change is accelerating the trend towards earlier retirement from the workforce.
That the above factors make incentives for selfprovision in retirement years a matter of great urgency if future generations of Australians are to be spared the crippling taxation which would be necessary to fund such provisions from social welfare.
That Australia is in urgent need of locally raised Investment capital for national development and that life insurance and superannuation funds are important mobilisers of such capital.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Government will forthwith take the steps necessary to:
Remove contributions paid by the taxpayer to superannuation funds from the rebate system and make them a separate deduction from assessable income.
b ) Allow as such deduction amounts necessary to provide the individual with a reasonable retirement benefit as defined from time to time by the Commissioner of Taxation,
Remove Life Insurance premiums paid from the present general rebate system and make them a separate deduction from assessable income also.
Allow deductions for Life Assurance premiums to take the form of a flat rebate of 20 per cent of Life Insurance premiums up to a limit of $2500.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 23 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We express our grave concern at the terms of the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1979.
We note that strong opposition to the form of these Bills was expressed by the majority of our elected Senators. We note that the Bills only escaped amendment because a number of our elected Senators who opposed the Bills could not be in the chamber when the crucial votes were taken.
We note that the Human Rights Commission Bill is totally inadequate for a number of reasons which include the fact that the Bill does not permit the Commission to investigate breaches of human rights which occur under State law, e.g. Queensland or Western Australia. Further there is no power to prosecute violations of human rights.
We note that the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1979 is also gravely deficient in a number of respects including the fact that the Commissioner for Community Relations loses his independence, powers and staff.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Legislature will listen to the voices of the Aboriginal and Ethnic communities, women and other disadvantaged groups, who are opposing these Bills in their present form.
We call upon the Legislature to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But most importantly in the name of Democracy we call upon Senators to vote against the legislation in its present form, so that it can be redrafted to take proper account of community views particularly in regard to ethnic and Aboriginal communities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proportion of pensionable people within our community is increasing at a significant rate. The number of people over 65 years old will rise from approximately 8.5 per cent of the population as it was in 1970 to over 10 per cent by 1 990 and about 1 6 per cent by the year 2020.
That technological change is accelerating the trend towards earlier retirement from the workforce.
That the above factors make incentives for self-provision in retirement years a matter of great urgency if future generations of Australians are to be spared the crippling taxation which would be necessary to fund such provisions from social welfare.
That Australia is in urgent need of locally raised investment capital for national development and that life insurance and superannuation funds are important mobilisers of such capital.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Government will forthwith take the steps necessary to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Puplick. Petition received.
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index. By this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Dame Margaret Guilfoyle and McAuliffe.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
The current review of invalid pensioners by the Department of Social Security is being conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment. While we do not wish to reflect on the staff of the Department, the DirectorGeneral of Social Security, P. J. Lanigan, has stated that the present number of invalid pensioners “seems rather higher than might have been expected from the norma) growth in the people eligible for this benefit.” The clear implication is that the Department should seek to reduce the number of invalid pensioners. Further, the DirectorGeneral ‘s directive that “the state of the labour market must be disregarded” is absurd when disabled people are victimised in the labour market and when there is a permanent high level of unemployment.
Review of invalid pensioners by the Department of Social Security should emphasise people’s needs and entitlements and how to increase services and their access to services.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate is of the opinion that no legislation for Plant Breeders ‘ Rights should be introduced until there has been full public dissemination of information on the potential consequences of such legislation, particularly in relation to domination of the plant breeding industry by large transnational agrichemical companies, and the potential destruction of the world ‘s pools of genetic diversity.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into and report upon all aspects of the civil defence program against nuclear attack, with particular reference to:
location and numbers of underground nuclear attack shelters; and
identification of and planning for areas in peripheral regions of major Australian cities in which inexpensive civil defence activity might greatly assist in the saving of life in the event of nuclear attack; and that provisions relating to membership, powers and proceedings of the Committee be containedin a subsequent resolution.
-I direct a question to the Minister for National Development and Energy. At the Press conference on 8 March the Treasurer, Mr Howard, referred to increases in petrol prices ‘which have yet to be passed on’. Can the Minister say at what stage it is intended that those increases will be passed on? Does the Treasurer’s statement mean that they could be passed on this year or next year?
-I have frequently drawn attention to the June 1 979 statement of the Prime Minister that the timing of the adjustments of the import parity pricing would be flexible. That is a matter of judgment for the Government itself. The Government made a decision when the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries put up its prices. It made an adjustment. But, subsequently and unexpectedly, a further $2 a barrel was added. The Government decided that it would not immediately pass on that increase. It will make a flexible judgment as to when it might do so.
-I ask a supplementary question. In view of the Minister’s answer that the Government will have to make a judgment, is he prepared to deny that that judgment may mean that the increases to which he has already referred could take place next year?
-I refer to the nature of the rhetoric. I have given a clear answer that the decision is flexible. When to make adjustments will be a matter for judgment by the Government. I have very little doubt that there will be other price rises in OPEC in the course of this year. They will be considered at that time.
-Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to an article in the Illawarra Mercury of Saturday, 29 March, under the banner headline Aussie Soldiers Massacred Civilians’? Is this story which alleges the massacre of Vietnamese people by Australian troops near Nui Dat in 1969 based solely and exclusively on one comment by an ex-serviceman? Was the alleged informant, who was not even prepared to give his name, not even present when the alleged offences took place but got his information secondhand? Is the accusation in any way true? Does it say anything for the Illawarra Mercury that it should so cavalierly make unsupported charges against Australian servicemen? Does it reinforce the widely held view that this publication, far from being a reputable newspaper, would be beyond its deserved status if it were used to line a bird cage?
– I take a point of order. Without taking away from the importance of the question that has been asked, I suggest that it gives far too much information. The honourable senator made wide comments in the question he asked. I do not wish to deny the question; nevertheless, over the past few days there has been a tendency on the part of Government senators to present questions which are really statements.
– It is necessary in the presentation of questions to word them as succinctly as possible. Questions should seek information, not give it. That allows direct replies to be given.
– I have not seen the Illawarra Mercury article. I would be grateful if it could be brought to my attention. I did see a script of, I think, a radio interview on this matter. If I am right in equating the subject of the two as identical, I read in that script that the person making the allegations indicated that he was not present and had not seen or heard these things, but that his source of information was a friend. I think the script and the newspaper article might relate to the same incident. If Senator Puplick will give me a copy of the article I will refer it to the appropriate Minister and seek further information.
-Has the AttorneyGeneral considered the recommendations of the Williams Royal Commission of Inquiry into drugs in relation to matters such as telephone interception and the suggestions made by the royal commission on the civil liberties aspects which should apply in legislation such as the telephone interception legislation? Does the AttorneyGeneral agree that the Williams Royal Commission advocated a very similar view to that put by the Opposition in debates relating to the telephone communications interception legislation last year? What action does the AttorneyGeneral propose to take on the recommendations of the royal commission in respect of those matters?
-The Government, when it tabled the report of the royal commission and made a statement in relation to it, indicated that consideration in detail of the very great number of recommendations made by the commission was an on-going matter. I have not yet considered the recommendations made in relation to the matters raised by Senator Button. Legislation in relation to those matters was before the Parliament last year and there was extensive debate in relation to it. The Government’s views were acceptable to the Parliament, even though the Government may have been criticised in some respects by the Opposition. However, I certainly will consider the Williams Royal Commission recommendations in relation to those areas. As I said, I have not yet done so.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer noted the most recent example of shortcomings in the operations of the Australian Bureau of Statistics in notifying a reduction from 2.8 per cent to 1.7 per cent in the estimate of 1978-79 non-farm growth? Is the 1979-80 ABS budget $48m? Does the ABS employ 3,500 people? Are complaints continually emanating from business and farming communities and others that statistics prepared by the ABS are obtained from questionnaires circulated to those groups, which questionnaires, because of their nature, are onerous, difficult to comply with and very costly to complete, as well as being, consequently, inaccurate and out of date when published? Are such complaints justified?
What appropriate steps are being taken by the Government to improve the image and operations of ABS and to co-ordinate its information gathering methods with other branches of the Federal Government as well as with the State governments?
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. To save the time of the Senate, I simply state that my point of order is exactly the same as the point of order I raised previously.
– I did not detect that that question was unduly long. The honourable senator was seeking information point by point. I ask the Leader of the Government to respond to the question.
- Senator Messner sought information on a series of points. I have been told, although I have not observed this, that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has made a further modification in, I think, the 1978-79 financial year growth figure, this time downwards. I understand that it is not unusual for a series of modifications to be made over a very lengthy time and that there can be upwards and downwards movements which, certainly to a lay person, are pretty inexplicable and seem to defy cogent explanation.
I am not aware of the cost of the Bureau. I will check that out. Over periods I have heard complaints of various kinds concerning the quality of information. I cannot say that the complaints are justified. I will bring the question to the attention of the Treasurer and seek his comment on the matter.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence seen reports of the sighting of a Russian submarine in Lady Bay at Warrnambool in Victoria yesterday morning? If such sighting can be confirmed, will the Minister take up with his colleague the Minister for Defence the question of replacing with modern weapons the 130-year-old guns which currently guard the south-west Victorian coastline?
– I have not seen the report to which Senator Primmer refers. I do not know whether the Minister for Defence has seen it. I will refer the question to him so that he can comment on the alleged sighting of a Russian submarine and the guns which are at present in place in the area of Australia referred to by Senator Primmer.
– Is the Minister for National Development and Energy aware that in the recent referendum Sweden voted strongly in favour of continuing to use nuclear power for the next 25 years? Does Sweden generate more electricity per person from nuclear energy than any other country in the world? Can the Minister say what effect the Swedish referendum result is likely to have on nuclear energy policies in general and on Australia’s uranium exports in particular, especially in reducing the immensely dangerous strategic dependence of the Western world on Middle East oil?
-I understand that approximately 58 per cent of voters in the referendum conducted in Sweden on 23 March chose options which would provide for the continued use of nuclear power until renewable sources of electric energy become available. It is a matter of conjecture to attempt to evaluate the effect of the Swedish referendum result on nuclear energy policies in general. It is clear, however, that the majority of Swedish voters are prepared to accept that nuclear energy, which already supplies about 25 per cent of Sweden’s electrical generating power, should play a continuing and expanding role in Sweden’s industrial development for the foreseeable future. Following the referendum it is expected that the Swedish Government will proceed to bring into operation existing reactors and construct reactors in addition to the six reactors which are already operating.
In August 1977, in announcing Australia’s decision to develop its uranium resources further, the Prime Minister referred to our responsibility to supply essential sources of energy to an energy deficient world consistent with international nonproliferation objectives. In December 1978 Australia and Sweden conducted a first round of negotiations on a bilateral nuclear standards agreement which would open the way for the supply to Sweden of Australian uranium. Following the referendum, the Government expects a further round of negotiations to take place soon.
As the Middle East situation becomes far more difficult and sensitive, there is growing evidence that the world, in seeking alternative forms of energy, will not be able to satisfy its needs simply by huge shipments of coal or gas. There is growing evidence that in the decades ahead a bulk of the world will be turning of necessity to nuclear power generation in the face of the lack of any other sources of energy. That must be made perfectly clear. Even if the most prodigious efforts were made by the coal producing countries, they could not supply the world ‘s energy needs. Let me give one quick illustration. Suppose Australia were to raise its annual export of steaming coal from about eight million tonnes a year to 100 million tonnes a year. It would satisfy only some 50 power stations in the world and meet only a fraction of the world’s demand. It is clear that nuclear power will have to play a growing role.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that no alternative games for similar competition to counter the Olympic Games will be sanctioned by the world controlling bodies for Olympic sports? Is the Minister aware that this means that seeking to organise alternative games is nothing more than an exercise in futility? Is the Minister also aware that no runners, swimmers or any other prospective Olympians from Australia or any other country can compete in any alternative games organised in defiance of the world controlling bodies and no registered official can officiate at them? Finally, can the Minister state definitely whether he really believes that there can be alternative games? If so, who will compete at and conduct the competitions?
-I have been asked, I think, five individual questions. I cannot give precise answers to the majority of them but I am sure that my colleague Mr Ellicott can, and I will ask him to do so. I draw the attention of all honourable senators and the people of Australia to the very firm statement yesterday by the West German Minister for Defence on the whole question of the boycott of the official Olympic Games. I believe that statement ought to reflect- and I think it does- the viewpoint of the majority of Australians. There is evidence that there will be an effective boycott of the Olympic Games. If that could be achieved, if Mr Hayden is to be believed, the Labor Party should be happy because it indicated that if the boycott could be achieved it would be a good thing. It is a good thing to work for the effective boycott, not to work against it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It relates to the direct tax deductions currently allowed by the Federal Government under the Income Tax Act. Why should union fees be permissible direct tax deductions and not payments to health benefit schemes? Will the Minister inform the Senate which of these two areas the Government considers to be more important to the community? Does the Minister agree that members of the community, and in particular those requiring continual or specialist treatment, are discriminated against as a result of this policy? If so, will consideration be given by the Government to a return to allowing health insurance premiums as a direct tax deduction?
– It is true that under current taxation laws union subscriptions, along with contributions by businessmen to associations which carry out business-related activities on members’ behalf, are allowable tax deductions, whilst payments to health benefit schemes are not. There is a specific provision allowing deductions to $42 in respect of union subscriptions and contributions to business associations. However, as a matter of principle the tax law allows expenditure incurred in earning assessable income as a tax deduction. The deduction of union subscriptions and contributions to business associations in excess of $42 is a consequence of this principle. This does not necessarily reflect any order of priority on the part of the Government.
It should be borne in mind that the Government already provides a considerable direct financial contribution to the health area. For example, in the last Budget $3.2 billion was provided in that area. This represented some 10 per cent of the total Budget. The treatment of health fund contributions for taxation purposes cannot be seen independently of this very large overall commitment. To make contributions deductible would commit the Government to forgoing revenue of around $500m in a full financial year. This would create considerable difficulties under current economic circumstances.
– I ask the Minister for National Development and Energy whether he is aware that his predecessor, the former Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, in a speech to the Australian Gas Association on 3 September last year said:
It is Government general policy to support world parity pricing for petroleum fuels.
Did the present Minister issue a Press release on 24 January this year referring to liquefied petroleum gas as being a by-product of crude oil? Bearing in mind that these two statements are related to one another, will the Minister not agree that it was fair for the Australian Gas Association and indeed the general community to conclude that Government policy in respect of LPG was world parity pricing?
– I have not seen Mr Newman ‘s statement referred to by Senator McClelland. If in fact I did make a statement on 24 January that liquefied petroleum gas is a byproduct of crude oil, that must be a statement of fact, as are statements in relation to other matters. But neither of those comments need be the basis for providing a clear inference that the Government had a total export parity pricing policy. The only statement that LPG ought to be priced at export parity prices has been made by the Australian Labor Party.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to recent reports and suggestions that funds used for Commissioner for Housing loans in the Australian Capital Territory, which are in effect welfare loans, may be underspent substantially this year, perhaps by as much as $ 12m to $ 14m. I therefore ask the Minister whether he can indicate whether those suggestions are accurate and, if there is any accuracy in the reports, what action is being taken to overcome that shortfall in spending.
– I do have from the Department of the Capital Territory some information that is referable to the honourable senator’s question. The Department has advised that it does not agree with statements that $12m to $ 14m of Commissioner for Housing funds would be lost by the Australian Capital Territory to Consolidated Revenue. Current estimates indicate that funds available to the Commissioner for lending in 1 979-80 will be $24m, made up of $ 14.6m appropriation and $9.4m recirculating funds. As at 21 March, loans totalling $ 15.723m had been approved. If loan applications continue at the present rate for the remaining 14 weeks of the financial year, as they have done over the last five weeks- that is, 26 per week- loan approvals could be expected to total $24.095m by 30 June 1980. Because some loans are requested for houses yet to be constructed and because there are some instances of delay in mortgagors obtaining second mortgage finance, it is estimated that expenditure on loans will total about $ 18m in 1979-80, a saving of $6m cash. These estimates assume the abandonment of the allocation of housing loans in the ratio of 60 per cent for new dwellings and 40 per cent for established dwellings. This matter is the subject of discussions currently between the Minister for the Capital Territory and the Minister for Finance.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Given the final comment that the Minister made, will he take the matter up with the Minister for the Capital Territory to ensure that the discussions to which he referred are given very high priority, particularly as it is now late in the financial year, and that the maximum amount of funds is actually made available?
– Yes. I shall certainly accentuate to the Minister concerned the matters referred to by the honourable senator and see that the time available is used in a most appropriate and efficient manner.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. On 28 February, the Prime Minister said about the Rundle shale oil project:
The viability of the project is underpinned by the Commonwealth’s policy on import parity pricing for crude oil. Without this assurance to the developers of an economic market for their product, it would not be possible to justify the enormous investments that will be involved.
With increasing exploration and development costs, does the Australian Government propose to increase regularly the price of indigenous crude oil to maintain a realistic import parity price and thus maintain an economic market for the output of the Rundle shale oil project?
– The Rundle shale oil copartners have come into the market without any guarantees, without any underwriting, without any conditions given by the Commonwealth Government. They have come in on their beliefand it is a very courageous one- that, when they can bring their enormous output of oil on stream, that oil will be basically competitive with indigenous oil. There are no qualifications to that. They are doing that because they understand that import parity pricing is the policy of this Government and will continue as the policy of this Government. They believe, presumably, that the world trends in the price of oil, whatever their calculation of them is, will make oil derived from shale competitive with indigenous oil. That is the clear situation. The Prime Minister’s statement was eminently accurate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether he is aware that Telecom Australia has recommended a serious reduction in office hours at its Hobart chief telegraph office from July this year, and that Tasmanian telegraphic services be provided by the Melbourne chief telegraph office during the hours that the Hobart office is te be closed. Is the Minister aware that attempts to have telegrams delivered within Tasmania by telephone from the Melbourne office will be unsuccessful in many cases due to lack of local knowledge? I ask whether the proposed closing is contrary to section 6 of the Telecommunications Act which states:
The Commission shall perform its functions in such a manner as will best meet the social industrial and commercial needs of the Australian people for Telecommunication services and shall, so far as it is, in its opinion, reasonably practicable to do so, make its Telecommunications services available throughout Australia for all people reasonably requiring those services.
Finally, will the Minister have the situation re-examined?
– I was not aware of the particular case that has been raised by the honourable senator, although I have had drawn to my attention similar matters which have involved an intrastate adjustment of the same type, in which country centres have been closed down in favour of reliance on the capital city. I understand that such changes are generally related to questions of cost efficiency. Of course the Government has encouraged Telecom Australia to pursue cost efficiency since it has been an independent commission.
I am a little puzzled by the honourable senator’s suggestion that telegrams cannot be delivered over the telephone because of lack of local knowledge. He may care to expand on that point to me later. I will have to refer the matter to Mr Staley, who will, in turn, no doubt, have to refer the query to Telecom Australia which, as I have just indicated, is an independent commission. The sort of concern which is expressed by the honourable senator, and which I think probably relates to the social and employment aspects as much as anything else, has been expressed in other areas. I am sure that Mr Staley will have had similar representations.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. What is the current Government reason for refusing to table the AuditorGeneral’s reports on financial irregularities in Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd?
– As I suggested during a very recent debate in this chamber, the reason is that the matters are still under consideration. They have been referred for special consideration by the Minister. It is a confidential report and, when finally the Minister is able to have all the relevant information and a conclusion is capable of being reached, the conclusion will clearly become common knowledge.
– I ask a supplementary question. In view of that answer, will the Minister guarantee that when these inquiries are completed the reports will be tabled?
– I will refer that question to the Minister involved.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, together with two other members of the United Nationsthe Ukraine and Byelorussia- failed to honour their dues to the International Labour Organisation for 1979? Is it also a fact that the USSR’s unpaid dues total about $US14m and those of Byelorussia total about $US500,000? Finally, is the Soviet’s failure to pay its dues an attempt to force the ILO to stop investigating complaints of the repression of independent trade unions in the USSR?
– I am afraid I have not the detailed information sought by Senator Lajovic on financial contributions. I will have to refer that question to the Minister for Industrial Relations and ask him to provide an early answer.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the current concern expressed by consumers at the price of meat, in particular the discrepancy between domestic retail prices and current cattle values, the discrepancy between meat prices in supermarkets and butcher shops, the impact of speculators on meat prices and the lack of a national system of grading of meat quality? Can the Minister say whether the Government is giving any consideration to these widespread concerns in the community? Does the Government contemplate any steps that would assist both the producer and the consumer?
– Yes, the Government is aware of problems relating to the price of meat and, indeed, the price of many things. The whole of its economic policy is aimed at controlling in some measure these very things within the operation of normal market forces. That is not a terribly easy operation. The price of meat- high at the moment, of course- had been in recent years extremely low, so low to the producer that it had reached disaster level. As to the problems referable to the price of meat, the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation is charged with a great measure of responsibility in this area and is in constant contact, of course, with both producer and consumer elements. Speculators can be a problem in any industry, including, of course, the meat industry.
The honourable senator mentioned in his question the matter of meat grading which, of course, is under constant review and has been under review for a significant period. If a successful method of grading and assessing the quality of meat is finally achieved, then of controlling and maintaining in some way a more stable price situation in the meat industry may well be a realistic prospect.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. As the Government has stated that it is its intention to increase the strength of the Australian Defence Force and the Reserve as part of an overall plan to upgrade and extend defence measures and surveillance, and as local land and sea force volunteers in the north have previously proved their efficiency and suitability as coast watchers and on bush patrols, will the Government conduct a recruiting drive in the Northern Territory, as is carried out in the States? If so, will the recruitment cover all sections of the community, including Aboriginal people, who have proved their ability and responsibility, as indicated by the Croker Island men who participate in the local Darwin region Army unit? Will the Government also consider advertising in the Northern Territory media for Northern Territory recruits in preference to advertising in ‘ the southern media, as this would be a more effective recruiting method because of the distance between the areas and the fact that southern newspapers are not received in many northern areas?
-The present Defence Force recruiting policy is to encourage enlistment into the three Services by media advertising and by the activities of specially trained counsellors. For reasons of cost effectiveness those activities have been concentrated in areas with the greatest population build-up. Recruiting centres are located in State capitals and in certain of the larger country towns. Based on the potential recruiting in the Northern Territory, local recruiting requirements have been thought to have been satisfied by the provision of local contact officers for each Service. Applicants from the Northern Territory undergo limited testing in Darwin and final processing is carried out in Adelaide.
As part of the Government ‘s stated intention to increase the strength of the three Services, recruiting activity in all parts of Australia is to be increased. The Government appreciates the particular qualities of volunteers from the north and is anxious that such volunteers be given the opportunity to contribute to Australia’s defence needs. The recruiting in the Northern Territory will be upgraded by local . contact officers for each Service and for the local Army Reserve unit. Special measures are being undertaken to ensure that Aboriginal people are informed of the career” opportunities in the Defence Force. The level of media advertising is under consideration. The Northern Territory media have been used in the past and will be considered for the future.
– My question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister is prompted by a case of a man with a de facto wife being informed that he could not claim his de facto wife as a dependant for income tax purposes; on the other hand, the de facto wife was informed that she was not eligible for unemployment benefit because she was living in a de facto relationship. Do the Taxation Office and the Department of Social Security use different definitions for ‘spouse’ or ‘dependant’? If so, are some people disadvantaged because of the lack of common policy?
– I am not informed on this matter. I will seek the information and let the honourable senator know.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of the findings of a British Government committee on the safety of medicines that has prompted the British Government to order massive cut-backs and to impose stringent guidelines on the prescription and dispensing of three well-known tranquillisers- Valium, Librium and mogadon? Does the Minister agree with the committee’s findings that mogadon loses its effect after 14 days continuous use and that valium and librium are no longer effective after four months’ use? Considering the side effects of the use of these drugs by men, women and children, would the Minister be in favour of introducing similar guidelines for drugs in Australia?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI will need to refer those matters to the Minister for Health. I will see whether I can get an early answer for Senator Watson.
-The Minister for Social Security will be aware that since November 1975 the rate of unemployment benefit for single persons has been increased on five occasions; the rate for single persons with dependants has been increased on six occasions; and the rate for married couples has been increased on seven occasions. Will the Minister acknowledge that in the same period the rate of child allowance has not been increased at all, that since November 1975 it has remained at $7.50 and that this $7.50 is now worth only $5.06 in 1975 dollars? When will the Government increase child allowance for people in receipt of unemployment benefit?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLESenator McLaren raises a matter of policy. These matters will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget. The figures mentioned by Senator McLaren with regard to the rate of child allowance are correct. There has not been an increase in child allowance for some time and it is a matter that has been constantly under consideration by the Government. In light of the many other claims that are made for increases in and the maintenance of the income security system, up to this point it has not been possible to increase that rate of allowance for children of pensioners and beneficiaries. However, as I said, it is a matter of policy and it is one that is constantly under consideration.
-My question is directed to Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle in her capacities as Minister for Social Security and Minister representing the Minister for Health. Can the Minister inform me of the degree of hearing impairment needed before a patient is classified as handicapped and entitled to social security assistance in the supply of a hearing aid?
Is that degree the usual rate of hearing impairment before a hearing aid is required? What assistance, government or otherwise, is available to persons requiring hearing aids?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEUnder the requirements of the Department of Health there is provision for hearing aids to be supplied if the National Acoustic Laboratories audiologists consider it would assist an individual’s communication problem. This depends not only on the degree of hearing loss but also on the individual’s particular problems and any special needs that arise. The practice is generally in line with those used by professional audiologists who recommend the fitting of hearing aids. The Department of Social Security, through the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, is able to supply hearing aids to people who have been accepted for rehabilitation under the Social Services Act. The expert advice of the National Acoustic Laboratories is sought in respect of both the degree of hearing impairment and the relevant aid that would be required to assist. Pensioners and supporting parents who hold pensioner health benefit cards are entitled to free hearing aids, including repairs and batteries, from the National Acoustic Laboratories. I do not know whether Senator Walters has in mind a particular instance on which she is seeking a determination. If that is so, I would be pleased to have details of that and I will see that it is dealt with either through the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service or through the Department of Health. Broadly, I have stated the ways in which assistance is able to be given to people with hearing impairments.
-The Minister for Social Security will recall that on 5 March she promised to investigate a case concerning 10 young Adelaide women who are doing a typing and receptionist course at the Kensington Park Community College. Because of the hours required for their training, they were disqualified from getting unemployment benefit. Has the Minister examined those cases? What action is proposed in respect of those matters?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI recall Senator Bishop’s question. I referred it to my Department for a determination. To my knowledge, I have not received a response, but I thank Senator Bishop for raising the matter again. I will follow the original inquiry through and advise him as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Department of Primary Industry has carried out a recent review of the sub-normal rainfall areas of Australia. What is the general position relating to drought and near drought? Can the Minister report on the matter or arrange for the Minister he represents to make an early statement?
-The Minister and the Government are well aware of the climatic circumstances that apply to a very large area of Australia’s rural enterprise. That condition is very severe. In my own State of New South Wales, pasture and stock and domestic water are in extremely bad shape. Of course, this relates also to the lowering of stock condition in general and the effect that this has on markets throughout the stock producing areas of the continent. Supply and price in this circumstance, as in many other circumstances are very closely related. The problem will also be significant in the forthcoming lambing and calving seasons, to say nothing of the crop situation in Australia. Such conditions in rural Australia highlight the interdependence of the whole Australian economy and the pressures that these sorts of things put on the economy. I can advise the honourable senator only that the Government is well aware of the circumstances, it is extremely concerned about them and it will remain in very close contact with those organistations which are directly involved.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I put it to him that, if he peruses the Notice Paper, he will see that a log jam has developed in impending requests for the appointment of select committees. He will know that last August I sought the appointment of a select committee on immigration. Later Senator Rae asked for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into passenger fares in Tasmania. This morning Senator Mason gave notice that he will move for the appointment of a select committee on civil defence. I simply ask: Does the Minister intend having early summit talks with Senator Wriedt and Senator Chipp to clarify these matters, or will he just let them wither on the vine? It is nearly 12 months since I put my proposition to the Senate and spoke very eloquently on it.
– The procedures by which honourable senators give notice of motion to achieve goals such as the appointment of select committees are well established and adopted by both sides of the Senate. In other words, the notices take their normal course. The notices to which Senator Mulvihill referred are so doing. However, I will consider his request and see whether any aspects might be acted upon.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Late last year a committee chaired by Mr Bruce Kirkwood brought down a report following its review of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Within its many recommendations are two of particular interest: Firstly, that the Commission assume a prominent role in general energy research and, secondly, that the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council, which has a prime role in advising the Government on energy research funding, should become the AAEC Council. When will the Government be announcing its response to this report?
– The reform of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the actual nature of that reform have been given very considerable thought by the Government. The matter is of very great importance. As Senator Thomas said, a committee of the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council brought down a report and made the primary recommendations which he has indicated. Because this is an important matter, two bodies have been asked to give their views. The Australian Science and Technology Council has been asked to look at the NERDDC report and to give a response, as also, I believe, has the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. When these submissions come to hand the Government will give the matter very full consideration. It is very important that instrumentalities such as the Atomic Energy Commission which has served this community so well in the past and is serving it so well at present, particularly in the isotope area and in research, be given the best possible intellectual consideration so that reforms are enduring and sensible.
-The Minister for National Development and Energy will be aware that at a public hearing on 1 1 November last year his Department promised the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources to make available a neutral statement on the structure, operation and effects of a resource tax on oil exploration in Australia. Despite repeated requests from the Committee, that document still has not been produced, after approximately five months. Will the Minister take responsibility for gross incompetence on the part of his Department, such as results in this display of contempt for a Senate committee, or has he issued a political directive to the Department not to make this analysis available? Will the Minister ensure that the document is made available to the Committee before the rising of the Parliament tonight?
-One thing is absolutely certain: I will not use gratuitous abuse against public servants. Another thing is equally certain: I do not regard my Department as being grossly incompetent. The Australian Labor Party has made an insinuation against those public servants, who cannot respond themselves. I believe that they are good, dedicated and impartial servants, doing their job and doing it under very heavy pressures of great volumes of work. I am aware that a request for the report was made by the Committee. I hope that the report can be provided in the immediate weeks ahead. I reject all insinuations embodied in the question.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I want to make it very clear that day by day over the past two weeks the Committee has received promises that that document will be made available. It still has not materialised; hence my question and my request that the document be made available by late tonight.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and is about the standard of roads being constructed in Australia. At page 83 of the 1 978-79 report of the Department of Transport a detailed standard is set for the construction and maintenance of roads. Is it a fact that the standards envisage the repaving of such roads once every 1 5 years? Is it also a fact that grants made under the States Grants (Roads) Act permit repaving of roads only once every 80 years? Does the Minister see any problem in the difference of time?
– I have some information on the matters raised by the honourable senator. My understanding is that the Minister has not issued maintenance standards for national highways, but that officers are discussing a draft which lays down physical criteria by which the need for repaving may be assessed. There is no intention to indicate a period for this repaving. The question is when it is necessary to carry out the work to maintain that standard. As far as the -last part of the honourable senator’s question is concerned, my advice is that the suggestion of the honourable senator about how often repaving will be permitted is not correct. I am advised that funds for repaving roads come from both the Federal and State governments. The State governments determine the proportion of the total funds available which will be spent on repaving. The fact is that the total funds available for this purpose are more than sufficient to pay for all necessary repaving. The question that arises concerns the priority to be given to repaving roads and to new works. At times there are difficulties if the proportion of moneys devoted to new works leaves insufficient moneys to do what might be regarded as all the necessary repaving work. But this is not a matter on which the Commonwealth has the sole financial responsibility; still less does it have the sole decision-making responsibility.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Prime Minister said on 28 February:
The Rundle shale oil project will provide an opportunity for Esso to reinvest in Australia profits it has derived from the Bass Strait oil fields.
Did the Prime Minister mean all the profits or only part of the profits? Has Esso Australia Ltd given the Government any indication that it will reinvest the profits it earns from Bass Strait? If so, what proportion does it propose to invest?
– A simple exercise of arithmetic, in the knowledge of the massive amount of money, the billions of dollars, necessary for Rundle- I do not put a figure on it, but it is perhaps $10 billion- would show that a half share, in anybody’s language, would absorb more than all the profits of Esso over many years. I simply direct Senator Georges to the mathematics of the proposition. The Rundle shale oil project is the largest single project of any kind ever undertaken in Australia. To put a dimension on it, I point out that investment in the North West Shelf is $3 billion to $4 billion. I cannot put a figure on Rundle. It may well be double or even more than double the investment in the North West Shelf.
Quite clearly a co-partnership in which Esso Australia Ltd has a 50 per cent share will involve multi-billions of dollars of investment, which of course will mean that far more than all the profits that have been made by the company in past years will be invested. I hope that all Australians will applaud that prospect. The project is world renowned as one of the greatest and most courageous projects ever undertaken. The world is interested in Australia’s producing in a frontier way synthetic crudes of a magnitude which, if the projections are right, will yield in barrels of oil approximately our total imports of today. I think it is a first class achievement, and all co-partners should be congratulated.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister for National Development and Energy please put aside all the empty rhetoric and give the Senate an answer to my question? Has Esso Australia Ltd given any undertaking as to the level of investment in Rundle shale oil? Has he or his Department had any negotiations with the company?
-I am sorry that Senator Georges did not hear me say that Esso is a 50 per cent co-partner in a multi-billion dollar project. The company has given clearly to the public an undertaking of a multi-billion dollar investment in the project. I pointed out that the investment would far exceed the summation of profits that Esso has accrued. Therefore the investments will have to be supplemented in that regard.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education concerns the provision for a continuing and reasonable proportion of Australian students being able to undertake postgraduate training and research overseas. Is the Minister aware that academic and training fees overseas have increased dramatically, especially in the United Kingdom and especially for students beginning in and after 1980, to be more than $4,000 per annum more expensive than for similar courses in Australia? Is the Minister aware that Australian universities in particular are concerned that their endowed scholarship funds have been so devalued by these overseas processes that, in comparison with levels six years ago, only onesixth the number of Australian students can now benefit? I ask that, notwithstanding the priority for postgraduate awards in Australia being increased towards 800 awards each year, consideration be given in the national interest to increasing the provision for Australian postgraduate study and training overseas so that there is not a gross deterioration in this kind of experience being gained by Australia?
-I am aware that countries overseas have increased very heavily their fees for foreign students and their own students. Australia has always been a very attractive country for foreign students because education here can be acquired so much more cheaply, and the trend for foreign students to study here has increased. I have not had any concern expressed to me by the universities, but I can well understand their concern. As to the remainder of the question, it would be a policy matter for the Government to consider what it might do in terms of both the number and the financial quantum of the postgraduate awards. I will bring the question to the attention of my colleague, Mr Fife, and seek his study of it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The semi-official history of the Royal Australian Air Force in Vietnam, George Odgers’ Mission Vietnam, Royal Australian Air Force Operations 1964-1972, on page 43 has the following statement: ‘In November-December 1967 it- No. 9 Squadron RAAF- had engaged in operation ‘Forest’, a campaign to deny the rice harvest to the enemy’. In the history no mention is made of the means employed to deny the harvest to the enemy. Will the Minister advise the Senate of the means employed and especially whether destruction of the crop was by the use of herbicides or chemical poisoning? Was that part of the plan? If so, what chemicals or herbicides were used?
– I have not seen the publication to which Senator Melzer referred. I do not know whether the Minister for Defence has seen it, but I will refer the question to him and ask him to look at the matters the honourable senator has raised and to give us an earl” answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I have received many representations from farmers, fishermen and voluntary search and rescue organisations protesting at the high cost of two-way radio licences, particularly when compared with citizen band radio licences. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has indicated that a review of the costs of licences is being undertaken. When will the results of this review be available?
– This is a matter on which there have been numerous representations from the honourable senator and others. As he has indicated in his question, Mr Staley has put the matter under review. I will ask Mr Staley when he expects to have the results of that review and let the honourable senator know.
– I have received a letter from Senator Wriedt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The need for a clear and unequivocal Government statement concerning the ANZUS Treaty.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Australia-New Zealand-United States agreement has been in existence for almost 30 years, having become operative in 1952 following the Korean war. At that time doubts were expressed by the Australian Government about the United States’ commitment to this part of the world. In the intervening 28 years there has been- certainly in this country- continuing support for the concept of this agreement. On behalf of the Australian Labor Party I state that our position is quite clear. Our support for the ANZUS Treaty is spelt out in the platform of the ALP. I note also that similar clauses appear in the platforms of both the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. So in respect of the three parties that I have referred to- I understand the Australian Democrats do not formally call themselves a party- it appears that fairly common ground exists in attitudes towards this Treaty.
The point I wish to emphasise is that I hope this will not develop into a debate about the value of the ANZUS agreement, but will deal rather with the attitudes towards that agreement. It is especially important that the Australian people are clear as to what the agreement is about and the present significance of it. It would not be appropriate, nor would there be time, to go into an historical analysis of it because it is the matters that concern us now which are important. Nevertheless it should be recognised that over the years some doubts have been expressed about where the relative partners to the agreement stand. It should also be recognised that, important as the agreement is, it is not the beginning and end of the policy of either the Opposition or the Government. I notice that, during a speech on the state of the AustralianAmerican relations, Joseph Siracusa, a senior lecturer in American diplomatic history at the University of Queensland, quoted some impressions of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock. Mr Siracusa quoted the Foreign Minister as having said:
ANZUS is not . . . as is sometimes claimed, the beginning and the end of Australia ‘s foreign policy. But it is the single most important component of thu policy. As such it is greatly valued by Australia.
I think that those sentiments would be shared generally by the three major political parties at least. But these doubts have been expressed, and a statement by Professor T. B. Millar of the Australian National University is probably representative of reservations which have been expressed down the years. He said:
I think that is a fairly strong statement by Professor Millar. It is perhaps a stronger statement than other people would be prepared to commit themselves to. Nevertheless it is indicative of some of the doubts that have arisen over the years.
Why are we engaging in this debate today? As honourable senators know, the three speakers in the debate from this side of the chamber- that is, Senator Chipp who will be speaking after me and Senator Button who will be following himhave asked questions recently concerning matters involving ANZUS. I do not intend to transgress the territory on which I presume Senator Chipp will be speaking; that is, the area that ANZUS covers, whether it be the Pacific area or the Indian Ocean. That is a matter for him to develop.
I feel that, on reading the answers we have been given, we have not had the clear statements which we were seeking and to which I think not only we but also the Parliament and certainly the people of Australia are entitled. It is important that the Australian people have confidence in this Treaty. If, as a result of material which I will quote shortly, statements concerning this Treaty are to be made by prominent and reputable people, obviously doubts will be in the minds of many people in the community. Therefore the Government should put people’s minds at rest, if it possibly can. We in this country must make judgments about international relations as they affect our own interests. That is a position which I think would be fairly common ground. In the statement put down by the Prime Minister (Mr
Malcolm Fraser) on 1 June 1976 he was quite clear on that particular point. He said:
This Government, while maintaining to the full its own independent national perspectives and sovereignty, will ensure that the ANZUS alliance with the US and New Zealand does not fall into disrepair and disrepute. The interest of the United States and the interests of Australia are not necessarily identical. In our relations with the United States, as in our relations with other great powers, our first responsibility is independently to assess our own interests. The United States will unquestionably do the same.
I believe that that is a statement about which there ought not to be argument because it would be a view shared by, I think, most members of this Parliament and it would certainly form the basis of the approach of the major parties. We recall in 1969 the Guam doctrine, as it is called. That doctrine, expressed by the then United States President, made it clear that there was a fundamental change in attitude by the United States to its commitment to its allies. This does not mean it was abrogating that commitment, but it was certainly saying that a greater responsibility must be accepted by the allies of the United States, especially of course in the defence of their own sovereignty. That is a doctrine which has been in existence for 1 1 years. I believe what has exacerbated any doubts which may have existed are statements which have been made quite recently. It is to them that I now refer.
On 30 July 1 977, the Melbourne Age reported a statement by the Australian Minister for Defence, Mr Killen. He had been speaking on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program AM. The report reads:
Arguing for a measure of self-reliance, he said- that is, Mr Killen: . . that a ‘low-level threat’ to Australia ‘may possibly not allow us to invoke the ANZUS agreement’. He also spoke of a possible situation in which US defence resources were heavily involved elsewhere and Australia might have to fend for itself
That is a pretty significant statement. Coming from the Minister for Defence, I believe it is especially significant. In this Parliament, on 25 March, only a matter of days ago, in another statement put down by the Minister, he said:
I might add that in the event of hostilities, risks of nuclear attack arise for Australia as an ally of the United States, whether or not it may be hosting particular United States facilities.
That of course is not relating specifically to ANZUS but it does highlight the significance of the matters with which we are dealing because to my knowledge for the first time a Minister of the Crown has stated publicly the fact that Australia’s involvement under an agreement such as ANZUS does involve nuclear risks for this country. That is a very significant factor.
Last year we had a visit from the former United States Naval Chief of Operations, Admiral Zumwalt. He came to Australia to deliver a speech at a meeting of the Australian Naval Institute. He had some very disturbing things to say. I think what those words were should be written into the record. For example, an article in the Canberra Times of 2 February 1979 reads:
The United States would have to abandon its allies in the Pacific in the event of a major confrontation with the Warsaw Pact, a former US Navy Chief of Operations, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, warned yesterday.
The article reads further:
Australians should be very nervous about their country’s naval capability to defend itself, Admiral Zumwalt said.
It is the professional judgment of senior military officials in the US that our navy has only about a 35 per cent probability of winning a conventional naval war against the Soviet Union.
He made some similar remarks and then said:
There was a growing conception in the US electorate, that America was no longer strong enough to guarantee its own freedom, let alone that of its allies, and this was gradually forcing a change on the politicians.
Further on in the article he is reported as saying:
For a long time you have relied on the ANZUS alliance. At the time we signed it we meant every bit of it and we had the power to back it up. We still mean it but we just don’t have that sort of power any more. Wc would be fully engaged trying to look after our own interests.
Senior military and civil service people know all about it, but they are muzzled by the politicians and not allowed to discuss it
He goes on to make several more comments of that nature. In an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM on 2 February, he makes very similar statements. There is not time for me to read them into the record, but it is worth quoting one comment which appeared that day in the Melbourne Herald editorial on what the admiral had said. That editorial made the following observation:
Admiral Zumwalt, former U.S. Chief of Naval Operations and world-respected thinker in military affairs, has told Australians that we can no longer merely rely on the Americans to defend us. In a statement made in Canberra after his arrival to take pan in a naval seminar, he warned that the U.S. no longer had enough military strength to back the ANZUS treaty. The admiral confessed that he was ‘quite worried ‘ for our future.
The editorial goes on:
He is, of course, only telling us what our own senior military officers and specialist observers have been setting out in detail for years. But Admiral Zumwalt has been privy to all the coldest, hardest strategic decisions taken in the highest U.S. politico-military councils for years, and his injunction to far greater Australian self-reliance is serious ground for urgent action.
I think that those comments by Zumwalt do warrant serious consideration by this Parliament, and certainly by the Government. A more recent statement, which I think has been of great concern, was one in an interview in the Australian newspaper by Mr Nick Parkinson, who is currently the Australian Ambassador to Washington. Mr Parkinson, of course, had been the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs prior to that appointment to Washington. In that interview, when the question was asked concerning ANZUS, Mr Parkinson said:
After all, when it comes down to the sixty-four dollar question, the big crunch-if the balloon went up, the question must be whether the Americans would honour ANZUS.
I drew that statement to the attention of the Minister in this chamber representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He subsequently received a reply from the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister said in that reply:
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.
Of course, I do not think that anybody has been challenging the value of ANZUS. We are not concerned about that. What we are concerned about is why one of the most senior diplomats representing this country, and of all places, in Washington, should be prepared to go on public record calling into question the commitment of the United States to that agreement. I hope, and I imagine that everybody else hopes, that Mr Parkinson’s interpretation was an incorrect one. But in view of the fact that it was said, I assume that the Government would explain why it was that a man in Mr Parkinson’s position would make that statement.
The Prime Minister went on that there was not the slightest doubt in Australia’s mind about the commitments under the agreement, either way, by Australia or the United States. He did make a statement recently which did in fact express some doubts in his own mind, or certainly it was not expressed in the very firm way that that answer was given to me. But it does not alter the view that what we are seeking- I believe we are seeking justifiably- is for the Government to be quite clear and to let this Parliament know precisely where we do stand and at least to offer an explanation to the Parliament of the things which are said by people whose views cannot be disregarded. I refer to people like Zumwalt and Parkinson. These are men who have had many years involvement in the very highest places in their relationship between this country and the United States. If they make statements like that, there should be some explanation as to why they make them. Those statements have not been forthcoming, but they could have been forthcoming, had the answers been given in this Parliament when the questions were asked. It is for that reason that this debate has been launched today.
In closing, I hope this debate will not become a slanging match about whether one side or the other side believes in the value of ANZUS. I hope that from the very outset- I established, certainly in relation to those parties which have written platforms- that it is quite clear that all three parties have very similar sentiments concerning the ANZUS agreement. Senator Chipp can speak for the Australian Democrats, but I would assume that he feels much the same as we do. We are concerned that no confidence in the agreement is lost amongst the Australian people. Once that confidence begins to be eroded- this view is very similar to the view expressed by the Prime Minister on 1 June when he used very similar words, saying that the agreement should not be eroded- it is up to the Government to make sure that our understanding of United States policy is clear and that the relationship between this Government and the United States in respect of that Treaty is clearly spelled out.
- Senator Wriedt, as usual, put his case in a moderate and well balanced manner, but I am still not clear why this matter of public importance has been submitted today. I think the quotes Senator Wriedt used are not new. Similar quotes have been used and similar people over many years have raised questions about whether the United States of America or any other country can or would at some future time honour obligations under a treaty. Perhaps it was 10 years ago that I raised this very point. No Australian Government can make a clear and unequivocal government statement concerning the ANZUS Treaty. Australia can make a statement as to Australia ‘s attitudes but we are in no position to commit a government of another country. This applies not only to present governments but also to governments of the future. The ANZUS Treaty makes it quite clear that the United States will proceed through its normal constitutional processes to decide whether a situation has arisen in which the Treaty should operate. It will make a decision, not Australia. We will make a decision on our part. America will make a decision on its part. Therefore, I am not much wiser now as to why this matter was raised at all.
I think Senator Chipp recently asked questions about an interview which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had with some United States journalists. In that interview the Indian Ocean and the matter of how far the ANZUS security zone extended was mentioned. I have not seen the transcript which the Prime Minister offered to Mr Howe or to anybody else who wanted to study it, but it seems to me that the Prime Minister’s statement was clear and unequivocal. In the interview the Prime Minister was asked:
Right. But the ANZUS security zone doesn’t extend to the Indian Ocean, does it?
Oh, but it extends to Australia and I have pointed that out before in this sort of discussion. Australia extends out into the Indian Ocean.
I fail to see why that statement created the furore it did. The Prime Minister in answering a question in the House of Representatives said:
That obviously gives ANZUS a relevance in relation to that, but talks about the Arabian Sea and whatever seem to be part of some journalist’s interpretation and not part of any transcript.
It seems we became all stirred up over some journalist’s distorted view of the Prime Minister’s reply.
I will now direct my remarks to some aspects of the ANZUS Treaty. The first point to note is that the precise geographic area of the ANZUS Treaty is not specifically defined in the Treaty. If our minds go back some years to the time of the confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia, if my memory is correct the then President of the United States made it clear that the ANZUS Treaty applied to that region. That was his interpretation. This is the problem we have: The Treaty area will be defined by the Adminstrations of the time. I think it was President Johnson who said that the ANZUS Treaty would apply if Australia became heavily involved in the Indonesian confrontation issue. It is true that the geographical limits are not defined.
The Treaty does, however, define the specific obligations of the parties in regard to contingent circumstances in certain areas, namely, the metropolitan territories of the partners and the Pacific area. There has never been any suggestion by any of the parties to the Treaty that the Treaty applies differently to different parts of Australia’s metropolitan territory, which includes the Indian Ocean. The question of cutting off the Treaty obligations at the South Australian and Western Australian border has never been raised. I do not think Western Australia would be too happy if the Treaty was interpreted in that way by any government, not that it would be.
Along with the specific commitments relating to the metropolitan territories and the Pacific area, the Treaty also formally allows for consultation and co-operation among the partners in relation to developments anywhere which any of the partners see to have the potential to give rise to threat in the Pacific area. That much is defined. Finally, as a general comment I say that the ANZUS Treaty does not embrace the totality of Australia’s national relationship with the United States. I fail to see how the matter can be clearer than that. The Prime Minister has stated Australia’s point of view in the interview I quoted which appears in the House of Representatives Hansard of 1 9 March. His view is:
There isn’t the slightest doubt in Australia’s mind that any commitments under ANZUS we’d meet absolutely.
That is the Australian commitment. He went on to say that he had no doubt that the United States would meet its commitments also. I think that is a clear statement of Australian policy. It cannot be made much clearer than that.
The next point one must make is that, of course, there is no automatic commitment by the United States or by Australia. Any commitment will be decided by the governments at the time. Senator Wriedt, I think very sensibly, raised some views which question the Treaty. It is correct that we should do this. He quoted Professor T. B. Millar. I have the greatest respect for this man and his views. I would not question Professor Millar’s views. I said some 10 years ago when I raised these questions that we would not take the Treaty as being absolute. The United States will define, as will any other country, its national interests at the time a situation arises. One may have the view which I expressed in a paper I presented at a meeting the other day. A situation may arise in which Australia is in confrontation with X country. It is possible that the United States would regard its national interests as being the defence of that country and not the defence of Australia. This is a matter for the future which no government can define. No government can commit itself to the future. I think that is proper and understandable.
Therefore, I think it is correct that we should- as the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, has- raise the matter of low level involvement which would not necessarily invoke the ANZUS Treaty. I think there is no doubt that low level involvement would not invoke the Treaty. We would surely be expected to be able to handle a low level attack of whatever sort it may be. These are matters which it is proper for us to discuss to clear the air. I agree with Senator Wriedt that these are matters which should be discussed so that the public is aware of the issues. This is why I have discussed these issues at meetings and have raised the very questions which Senator Wriedt raised today. I think it is somewhat different if a country is already heavily committed. Indeed, Mr Parkinson very correctly raised this matter. Admiral Zumwalt raised the sorts of military problems which may occur if the United States is heavily committed in some other part of the world. It is proper that they should be raised and discussed in this place. What worries me is not that type of discussion but that the Government is asked to give a clear and unequivocal statement. I do not believe the position can be clearer than it is now. We can commit ourselves to our understanding of the Treaty and to the Australian commitment under the Treaty, but we cannot commit another country to its understanding or commitment under it. No Australian government can do that. It is a matter for the United States to decide at that time. It will go through its normal constitutional processes, which is the way in which the United States congressional system operates.
Whilst I welcome the opportunity to have a brief discussion on the ANZUS Treaty, I would welcome also the opportunity to have in this chamber a much fuller debate on foreign policy where all of these matters can be covered and explored in greater depth. Certainly I would welcome that.
– You have already given us more information than the Government has.
– I thank the honourable senator. I am honoured.
-You have. That is the whole point. Are you stating Government policy?
– I accept it as Government policy. If the Government disagrees with me, no doubt it will say so. Therefore, whilst I welcome the debate, I do not see the need for the matter to be debated in these terms as a matter of public importance. However, I am pleased that I have given Senator Wriedt some information which he is prepared to accept. If I am denounced by the Government I will accept that.
– The Senate is debating as a matter of public importance the need for the Government to make a clear and unequivocal statement concerning its obligations under the ANZUS Treaty. I compliment both Senator Wriedt and Senator Sim for two splendid speeches. I am sorry that Senator Sim did not read the transcript of the interview the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had with two representatives of the influential Hearst American newspaper chain. If he had, I think he would have seen the reason that Senator Wriedt, Senator Button and I regard this as a matter of some urgency and as a matter of importance. Unlike Senator Sim, I believe that the Prime Minister has not been unequivocal in relation to the areas to which the ANZUS Treaty applies. I will develop that argument in a moment. I repeat what Senator Wriedt said: This debate does not bring the ANZUS Treaty into question. I was delighted that Senator Sim did not bring party politics into this debate, and neither anybody should. Senator Wriedt has already defined the attitudes of the other parties to the Treaty. Item 6 of the defence policy of the Australian Democrats states:
In recognition of the premise that Australia’s capacity to defend itself is best enhanced by an agreement of mutual military support with the United States and New Zealand, we will continue the ANZUS Pact and will use it as far as practicable to widen United States attitudes to global problems.
However, in item 7 the Australian Democrats say:
We will regularly review treaties of defence -
Such as ANZUS- and in particular weigh the risk to our security through any alignment with super-powers bringing about our involvement in a global conflict, against the protection conferred from attack by minor forces.
I wish to read one article of the ANZUS Treaty. It is one of the reasons I am pleased to be involved in this debate. This Treaty is between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America. Sir Robert Menzies once described the ANZUS Treaty as the most precious piece of paper lying in the Australian archives. Article 4 states:
Each Party recognises that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.
That article of the Treaty refers specifically to the Pacific area; it does not specify the area of the Indian Ocean. It is that part of the discussion on which I wish to concentrate. As I said a couple of weeks ago, this is a matter of utmost seriousness and a cause of great anxiety because we cannot get unequivocal, straight answers from the Government- particularly from the Prime Minister- on the question of what our responsibilities are under the ANZUS Treaty. I say to Senator Sim that I can understand that it would be almost impossible to get from the United States what it considers to be its responsibilities, but it is the responsibility of this Parliament to inform the Australian people of the extent of the commitment our Prime Minister has made to the United States on what he regards as being our responsibilities under the ANZUS Treaty.
My anxiety relates to the autocratic power possessed by the Prime Minister and his power to make unilateral decisions. I say that without trying to score a party political point, but, as I said before, it is a fact that the Prime Minister for Australia, per se, has more unilateral power over 13 million Australians than the President of the US has over 220 million Americans. At least Jimmy Carter, or whoever might be in office, is subject to the checks and balances of Congress. But the Prime Minister of Australia, no matter who that might be, because of the rigidity of the party voting system in this Parliament can make those unilateral pronouncements which become policy and which are, in fact, binding on every Australian. If he makes a pronouncement of policy 30,000 feet in the air en route to some meeting, that is automatically followed by a decision by his Cabinet. This is particularly so under a Liberal Government because the Ministers are appointed rather than being elected by the Caucus. For that reason a Liberal Prime Minister has much more unilateral power than does a Labor Prime Minister. He can make a pronouncement without reference to his Foreign Minister, his Cabinet or his Party and certainly without reference to this Parliament.
Honourable senators would have noticed recently that in regard to the Government’s policy on the boycott of the Olympic Games neither Mr Peacock nor Cabinet was consulted because only 13 days before the announcement, after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, Mr Peacock made very strong statements which said virtually that a boycott would be useless. Clearly, the Prime Minister made that decision against the advice of Mr Peacock and against the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and certainly without reference to Cabinet. Therefore, as Senator Wriedt said, it is absolutely vital that this Parliament and the people of this nation know exactly what the Prime Minister’s intentions are, what he has said and the extent of the commitments that he has made to the Americans or to anyone else.
A few weeks ago Mr Fraser said in the presence of several journalists, in a way that was not to be attributed- a favourite technique of the Prime Minister- that in his mind World War III was only three days away. He also made an assessment of the reasons for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which were contrary to the views expressed by the Office of National Assessments and contrary to the views expressed by the Labor Party and the Australian Democrats. I believe it was contrary to the views of Mr Peacock, the
Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. The fact that he expressed the view that it was the beginning of World War III and that the Soviet’s intent was to go into areas of Middle East oil, and the fact that those views of the Prime Minister differed from those of the Labor Party, the Australian Democrats and Mr Peacock did not necessarily make him wrong. The point I make is that he made that view independently. In the event, he was proved to be wrong on the two matters. It is now more than three days from the time he made that secret statement to journalists and, to my knowledge, World War III has not yet broken out; nor has there been an indication that the Soviet’s action, monstrous though it was, is the first step in its moving west into the oilfields of Iran and the Middle East.
My point is that if he is wrong in his judgment- it has been proven that he has been wrong in his judgment- how much further could he be wrong in the way in which he interprets treaties such as ANZUS? That is why it is vital for the Parliament and the people to know what the Prime Minister understands by the ANZUS Treaty. It is too important to be left in the realm of the personal interpretation of one man. The Prime Minister has been using words such as ‘our military co-operation will be absolute’. What does that mean? My understanding of the English language is that it can mean only one thing. If Australia’s military co-operation is to be absolute it must declare war or be involved in war and this will mean a national call-up, conscription and the sending of troops, airmen and sailors overseas. It can mean no other thing.
– That is right-total.
– It is a total commitment. Perhaps there is an argument that we should be totally committed. But if we have been totally committed by our Prime Minister to a situation we ought to know about it. We do not know about it. I will give the history of this matter. On 4 March, I asked Senator Carrick a question concerning Mr Fraser’s alleged statement to the two Hearst newspaper people. I asked:
Did the Prime Minister state or imply to those two gentlemen that he considered any military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea to come within the meaning of the ANZUS Treaty and that our military co-operation would be, to quote the Prime Minister, absolute?
I did not get an answer from Senator Carrick. I do not hold that against him. He said that he would refer the question to the Prime Minister. On 6 March Senator Button asked a question in very similar terms. Again, there was no answer from the Prime Minister.
Determined to get an answer, on 5 March I wrote to Senator Carrick and said that on 18 March when the Parliament resumed 1 would ask him whether the Prime Minister had answered my question without notice to Senator Carrick on 4 March. The Prime Minister had 1 4 days in which to answer. When the Parliament resumed on 18 March, I was informed by Senator Durack who was deputising for Senator Carrick that he still had not received an answer. I sought to suspend Standing Orders. I was supported by the Labor Party. Halfway through Question Time the answer came. It stated:
With regard to the other questions raised by the honourable senator there should be no misunderstanding. During an interview with two American journalists on 20 February I noted, in answer to their question whether Australia would assist if the United States forces in the Indian Ocean were attacked and needed help, that this was a hypothetical question and that circumstances would need to be taken into account. I took the opportunity to reaffirm that Australia would meet any commitments under ANZUS absolutely, and I expected the United States would meet any commitments under ANZUS. When the question of ANZUS ‘ application to the Indian Ocean was raised, I referred to Australia ‘s location adjacent to the Indian Ocean; reference to this geographical fact does not carry the implication suggested in the honourable senator’s question.
In other words, when the Americans asked the Prime Minister whether ANZUS applied to the Indian Ocean he actually said: ‘Oh well, Australia is next to the Indian Ocean’. But he told me that reference to the geographical position of the Indian Ocean does not carry the implication I suggested, namely, that the Prime Minister now included the Indian Ocean in the terms of the ANZUS Treaty.
I understand that answer as being basically negative. The Prime Minister said to me quite clearly that ANZUS did not apply to the Indian Ocean. He mildly rebuked me for reading into his words a meaning which was not there. On the very next day he gave an answer to Mr Howe, a Labor Party member of the House of Representatives. He said:
Oh, but it -
Namely ANZUS- exends to Australia and I have pointed that out before in this sort of discussion. Australia extends out into the Indian Ocean.
The Prime Minister was consistent to that point. That part of the answer is identical to the answer that he gave me. But he then said:
That obviously gives ANZUS a relevance in relation to that -
That is the Indian Ocean. I understand that answer as being basically affirmative and that the Prime Minister includes the Indian Ocean in the ANZUS Treaty. I suggest that at the worst there is a contradiction in those two answers. At best, they are totally unclear. Either way it illustrates the absolute necessity for a clear and unequivocal statement of Australia’s commitments and expectations under the ANZUS Treaty. I do not have time to read out the transcript of the interview of the Prime Minister by the Hearst newspaper people. One becomes even more worried when one reads it. In that interview the Prime Minister was asked:
If the US forces in the Indian Ocean were attacked and needed help, would you order your forces to assist them by military action if necessary?
One would have expected a categorical answer. The interviewers did not get that. The Prime Minister said:
I think you ‘ve got to look at the circumstances that arise.
I ask: What sort of circumstances? If the United States base at Diego Garcia is attacked, has the Prime Minister now totally and absolutely committed us militarily to go to the aid of the United States? I am not canvassing whether we should go to its aid but I believe that, in a situation which could involve every living Australian, a clear, unequivocal statement of our responsibilities under ANZUS as seen by the Prime Minister and as discussed by him with the President of the United States should be made.
– I cannot agree that the Government has not made a clear and unequivocal statement on the ANZUS Treaty. I have listened to the arguments that have been put. They are all pretty well answered in the news communique that came out after the consultations in Washington at the end of February. Early in the debate, doubts were raised about the ANZUS Treaty. It was said that it would be reduced to a mere formality and would be used only for exchanges of rhetoric. I do not see that there need be any doubt about that. Of course, there will be exchanges of rhetoric but the Treaty cannot be reduced to a formality simply because it is an agreement among three countries. It was said that people were losing confidence in the ANZUS Treaty simply because there was doubt whether the Indian Ocean was covered by that Treaty. The articles in the Treaty refer to the geographic metropolitan areas of States and the Pacific Ocean. Parts of States are not mentioned. The Treaty does not divide Australia into different regions and say that some are part of the Treaty and some are not. I would imagine that both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean were of concern to American people. If they were attacked on either side of their country there could be some obligations for Australia under the Treaty.
I certainly do not see the Indian Ocean as being excluded from the ANZUS Treaty. I think that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has taken a very responsible attitude in saying that he would have to wait to see what the circumstances were of any incident that occurred. The fear that Australia would have to fend for itself in the event of war is always there. It is part of our defence policy to be as self-sufficient as we can be. It is our responsibility to be that way. In fact, the United States has made it quite clear that it will not defend states that have not ensured sufficient defence preparedness for themselves. That we are under risk of nuclear attack because we are an ally of the United States is always possible. Why would it not be possible if we want to be a friend of the United States? It should be a good country to be friends with. There were some questions about the ability of the United States to react in certain incidents. Certainly that country’s history has not been one that would fill us with confidence when we consider the Suez Canal crisis or Angola, another place where the cavalry did not arrive.
– Or Taiwan.
– Taiwan is another example. The United States does not have a good record. I think it is normal for people to feel apprehensive about what type of reaction the United States would have. Admiral Zumwalt has been mentioned. He feared that, if the United States had a confrontation or conflagration with the Warsaw Pact nations, Australia would have to be abandoned. I think that would be normal too, although I cannot think of any circumstances in which the United States would be involved in a land war with the Warsaw Pact states. Because of the logistics involved, that would be out of the question for the United States, particularly as the Soviet Union now has achieved military, naval and nuclear superiority over the West. That would be an untenable position for the United States to be in. On the other hand- I have said this before in this place- it is my thesis that we will never see a Soviet army outside the sphere of Soviet influence because if the Soviet Union were to export an army to any place on earth outside its sphere of influence I think that all the Soviets would defect. Probably that would be our best defence against them.
– That’s the most comforting thought I have ever had.
– That is very good. No one denies that we have a poor naval defence capability. But right at this moment we are taking steps to try to rectify that situation. Announcements have been made of what ships we will buy and what steps we are taking to upgrade our manpower and our surveillance capability. Then Admiral Zumwalt made the point that the United States navy would be unable to support us. With the present state of Soviet preparedness, the United States is really hard put. Mr Parkinson asked, in effect, whether when the balloon goes up the United States will honour the ANZUS Treaty. That is always a question. I have mentioned it before. We do not know whether the United States would honour the Treaty. We hope that it would.
– If it suits the Americans they will; if it doesn’t suit them they won ‘t.
– I presume that is so. I do not see anything out of the ordinary in that. We have to fend for ourselves if need be.
– The Prime Minister hasn’t the slightest doubt that they would stand by us. Obviously you differ from that view.
-The Prime Minister is entitled to his view. We are friends of the United States. We have fought beside it in two world wars. We have no reason to think that it would abandon us, but it could.
– They were a bit tardy coming in in 1939. They might do the same thing again.
– It is because of that that Australia is placing so much emphasis on selfreliance and on upgrading its defence forces right now. That is underway. As Senator Sim mentioned, the Australian Government could not give a clear indication of what the United States intentions are likely to be. Senator Chipp asked what was the extent of the Australian commitment.
- Mr Fraser’s commitment, that ‘s what worries me.
– That is why I mentioned that. You wanted to know whether the commitment was absolute or only minor. It was mentioned in the debate that the ANZUS Treaty is certainly not the totality of our defence commitment, but it is the major part of it. I do not see how a country can say how far it will go in a commitment until circumstances arise in which that country has to decide how far it will go. I think it is a responsible position to adopt not to say that the commitment is absolute. Senator Chipp was worried about the power of the Prime Minister. That has little to do with the ANZUS Treaty. I suppose that the Prime Minister can override decisions made by Ministers, but that is the way in which our Government works. Those are the total arguments which have been put up to indicate that the Opposition does not have sufficient information on the ANZUS Treaty. But all the information is contained in the ANZUS communique. When I heard that this matter of public importance was to be raised, I got a copy of the ANZUS communique which was issued after the most recent ANZUS conference held in Washington- the conference attended by Mr Vance, Mr Talboys, our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, and our Minister for Defence, Mr Killen. It goes into the matter in some detail, starting with the Afghanistan situation and dealing with responses, defence preparedness and the economic actions which countries are taking at the moment. It is only a short paper. I am tempted to seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard so that honourable senators can read it if they have not had access to it. Cooperation and the extent to which co-operation is intended are denned. Economic action against the Soviet Union is spelt out. The Olympic Games boycott is spelt out. The composition and level of forces in the Indian Ocean are included.
– The Indian Ocean.
– In the Indian Ocean -
– Order! Please direct your remarks to the Chair.
– I am sorry, Mr President. The situation with respect to the Indian Ocean is spelt out in the communique, as is the level of security and defence forces which are necessary in the Indian Ocean to deter further Soviet expansion there. Mention is made of Australia’s intention to provide greater resources for defence in the area, which were announced by the Prime Minister on 1 9 February. The communique deals in detail with the South East Asian crisis. It goes on to deal with the spread of nuclear weapons and the confidence held by the United States in SALT II, the negotiations on which have had to be suspended because of the crisis in Afghanistan. The communique deals with the invasion of Kampuchea and the responses which should be made to that. It goes on to indicate support for the United Nations General Assembly resolution concerning that.
It mentions the Thai-Kampuchean border problem, refugees, what is happening to refugees within the South East Asian area- refugees rescued at sea and refugees fleeing to other countries. It deals with the Bataan refugees processing centre and the Galang refugee processing centre.
Apparently at that time thousands of refugees were still fleeing from Pakistan. It mentions the accession to independence of Kiribati and how that will affect the defence of the south-west Pacific. It deals with co-operation measures with the Pacific islands. In other words, quite a comprehensive statement was made in five pages. It deals even, to some extent, with the hostages in Iran. It deals also with increased flight surveillance, submarine patrolling and an aircraft carrier task force in the Indian Ocean. It refers also to another sandgroper exercise which is to be carried out there. I think that the situation has been spelt out clearly and unequivocally in that communique. I cannot see any reason for the Opposition ‘s concern that the Government should put out a new statement on the matter. I reject, that contention altogether.
-The Senate is debating ‘The need for a clear and unequivocal Government statement concerning the ANZUS Treaty’. In the brief time at my disposal I will point out why the Senate and the Parliament should be entitled to such a statement. After listening to the last speaker I now realise that the Opposition’s matter of public importance is of more importance than I thought when the debate began. Senator Sheil, in the course of his contribution, apart from referring to the ANZUS communique- which we have all read- as if it were a secret document which he was gladly making available to us all for the first time, made a couple of comments which indicated the importance of this subject matter. The first comment he made was that if the United States of America were attacked in the Atlantic Ocean, maybe the ANZUS Treaty would apply to that too. I would like to come back to that point.
– Why wouldn’t it?
-I will read the honourable senator a section of the ANZUS Treaty which states precisely why the Treaty would not apply to the Atlantic Ocean. I will then discuss the way in which the provisions of this Treaty have been fudged by this Government and particularly by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The second point which Senator Sheil proffered in the course of the debate was, as he put it: If the forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were engaged outside their sphere of influence we would really have nothing to worry about because the Russians would defect en masse. I think what the honourable senator was really saying was that if the Russian army landed in Queensland its members would all duck off to Surfers Paradise and join Senator
Sheil ‘s colleagues and the war would then be over; that, attracted by the fleshpots of Queensland, the Russian army would fall apart. That is a comforting thought, but it is not a view which I have ever been able to share.
The first implication of Senator Sheil ‘s comments is that Afghanistan is clearly in the Russian sphere of influence. It is an interesting comment by Senator Sheil on some of the utterances which have been made by the Government in relation to events in Afghanistan. That, coupled with the comforting thought that we really have nothing to fear from the Soviet army, leaves me in some degree of confusion and in some need of clarification of what the ANZUS Treaty in fact means. The ANZUS Treaty is very clear and explicit in its terminology. It is not clear in terms of what the parties to it might think about what it means, but its geographical terminology is quite clear. I refer Senator Sheil to Article IV, which states:
Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety -
Article V is couched in similar terms and provides that an attack in a Pacific area is deemed to be an attack on the territories of the parties concerned. A treaty, with respect, is just like any agreement or contract. If a person enters into a contract or agreement to buy a motor car- I am using an analogy which I hope will appeal to Senator Sheil- he really wants to know, as far as possible, what he is buying. When a government enters into a treaty which provides for mutual defence arrangements and so on in the Pacific area I guess it is entitled to assume that it knows what it is buying. It is buying an arrangement which relates to the geographical area defined in the treaty.
Let me make it quite clear that I suspect that the attitude of people on both sides of the House about the importance of the ANZUS Treaty is bipartisan. But we object to the way- and Senator Chipp put it so eloquently- the ANZUS Treaty is extended by a process of off the top of the head, ad hoc comments from the Prime Minister about what he thinks the Treaty means.
-At 30,000 feet.
-Yes, at 30,000 feet. This aspect is very important. If the Prime Minister’s view is to be respected and accepted in this country and if the ANZUS Treaty extends to the Indian Ocean and, as he put it in one interview, to the Arabian Sea, the agreement, contract, arrangement, treaty or whatever which this Parliament has been talking about since 1 952 is defective and should be renegotiated. Senator Sheil quoted the ANZUS communique issued following a meeting of the parties to the ANZUS Treaty. In the course of the discussion it was agreed that Australia and America would enter into certain deployments of military forces in the Indian Ocean and so on. To suggest that because that happened at the ANZUS Ministers meeting, the Indian Ocean area is covered by the ANZUS Treaty is a totally different thing altogether.
I point out to Senator Sheil that one thing the communique interestingly does not mention is the fact that the United States Government put to the Australian representatives at those discussions that Australia should be involved with the United States in the provision of rapid deployment of forces to meet contingencies in the Middle East or anywhere else. The Australian Government recoiled in horror, I think, from that suggestion, and quite rightly. In 1980 even the Fraser Government will not enter into the same sort of agreements for the deployment of Australian forces all over the world to meet other people’s commitments as we have done as a colonial country for many years and in many wars in the past.
– It is an example of our absolute commitment.
-As Senator Wriedt points out, the Prime Minister made an absolute commitment and, when confronted with this suggestion by the United States, the absolute commitment disappeared very rapidly. That, of course, was the value of it.
I refer to one other matter which I have raised in this chamber on a number of occasions- the Prime Minister’s offer to the United States Government to use Cockburn Sound as a naval base. As I have said, I have pursued the question of what that arrangement in fact means. It is clear from comments made by the Prime Minister that he considers that the offer regarding Cockburn Sound is part of an agreement arising from the ANZUS Treaty. Yesterday I finally received an answer to the question about the offer which had been made in relation to Cockburn Sound. I had been asking whether consideration had been given to Cockburn Sound becoming a nuclear target in the event of a war prior to the offer being made to the United States Government.The answer I was given yesterday by the Prime Minister reads:
The Government gave full consideration to this matter prior to my departure overseas in January this year. The offer . . . took into account the full range of Australian security concerns.
I find that a quite extraordinary answer in view of the fact that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in a major statement a few days ago seemed to me to be drawing a very different conclusion from the one drawn by the Prime Minister. In the statement of 25 March Mr Killen said:
I might add that in the event of hostilities, risks of nuclear attack arise for Australia as an ally of the United States, whether or not it may be hosting particular United States facilities.
With the greatest respect the answer is very superficial and indicates the total superficiality of the Government’s approach to this question. What Defence experts and strategists say about Cockburn Sound as a potential nuclear target is simply this: If the United States and the Soviet Union get themselves into an advanced situation of hostilities and the Soviet Union wants to show its commitment, as it were, to aggression of one kind or another it is much simpler for the Soviet Union to take out Perth with a nuclear attack than to take out Dallas, or Houston in Texas in the United States. If that happened it would involve us immediately in an all out war with catastrophic results for the whole of the human race. But it would be very easy for a country to take out a little place like Perth to show that it was fair dinkum. That would not, according to the calculations of many strategists, produce necessarily a massive response from the United States under the ANZUS Treaty or anything else.
- Senator Sheil was very frank in admitting that.
– Yes, he was. I am sorry that Senator Sheil has left the chamber; if he had not we could all acknowledge his frankness. I think this is an important consideration which is totally ignored in the Prime Minister’s answer and in the statement by the Minister for Defence.
Concern has been expressed by government spokesmen about the Opposition’s matter of public importance. They have suggested that the subject is not really very important. I remind those Government spokesmen that we got into the Vietnam war because of a total lack of clarity about our obligations in relation to that country. Maybe we got into the Vietnam war because of cooked documents inviting us to participate. Those documents may or may not have been valid and accurate. So these things are important. It is just as important to understand what we are doing when we buy a motor car as it is to understand what we are doing when we involve ourselves in a treaty obligation.
Some honourable senators have quoted a statement by Dr Siracusa about the nature of the ANZUS Treaty. Dr Siracusa is a lecturer in politics at the Queensland University. I refer the Senate to a PM interview with Dr Siracusa on 7 February. He really puts in a nutshell the position which we are putting. He was asked whether the ANZUS Treaty envisaged a commitment in relation to the Indian Ocean. He said.
Oh absolutely not. The ANZUS Treaty was clearly designed to forestall aggressive activities in the Pacific region and clearly did not envisage anything at all in the Indian Ocean . . . what has happened during the past several weeks, and I’m quite taken in by, is that ANZUS has been faced westward without much of a public debate in this country, and it’s a very interesting thing because what’s being offered now under the provisions of the ANZUS Treaty are clearly in violation, spirit and letter of the pact itself.
That is really what we are saying. We cannot embrace the Prime Minister’s ad hoc approach and his 30,000 feet comments, in a treaty as important as this. This is what is now being sought. This question has been raised because of the past history of these matters and their absolute importance to Australia’s relationships with the United States, in terms of our defence arrangements in the Pacific and our security generally.
– Do you know that he is a member of the five-mile high club?
-I doubt that very much. I would like to hear evidence of that. Senator Chipp is making a reference to the Prime Minister’s statements in relation to these matters which are made without proper thought. They are very damaging statements to this country. They are nowhere more damaging than when they are reported by the national editor of the Hearst chain of newspapers in the USA. He said that Mr Fraser made an absolute commitment to the United States, pointed out that Australia’s west coast borders on the Indian Ocean and made it clear that he considers the security zone of the ANZUS pact extended throughout that entire Ocean right up to the Arabian Sea. If that is so, all sorts of other considerations come to mind, particularly the views of countries around the Indian Ocean. Mr Fraser has been made a fool of by the Hearst chain of newspapers which reported those remarks in contradistinction to the terms of the treaty, to which attention was drawn.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I note that the Australian Labor Party, in bringing this matter to the attention of the Senate, has implied some concern about the lack of clear and unequivocal statements about the Australia-New Zealand-United States Treaty. It seems to me that many of the statements Opposition senators have referred to throughout this debate have been rather too unequivocal for their liking. Statements that seem to have given rise to concern on the part of the Labor Party have been very clear and unequivocal. I note that in the course of this debate there has been a notable degree of bipartisan support for ANZUS, for its significance to Australia ‘s security and its significance as part of the relationship between Australia and the United States. The question that we are addressing in this debate is the application of ANZUShow it applies to Australia’s security and how it would be applied in a situation where there may be a perceived challenge to that security.
I think it is worth noting that Australia’s relationship with the United States does not consist simply of the ANZUS Treaty. That Treaty is a very substantial element in that relationship and, unfortunately in my view, it has tended to become symbolic of the total relationship. At times when there are many more significant elements or aspects to that relationship, people tend to focus on ANZUS as if that were the only Treaty relationship between Australia and the United States. Our relationship with the United States in formal terms- by way of agreements, conventions and treaties- is dealt with in more than 130 such documents and arrangements, if I recall correctly. The relationship covers a wide range of issues and policies. Security and defence is one element and ANZUS is one aspect of that part of our relationship with the United States. As I have said, I think it is in many ways unfortunate that so often the debate as to the relationship between Australia and the United States tends to focus on one part of that relationship- ANZUS. I suggest also that that relationship, of which ANZUS is a part, is an organic and changing relationship; not a static relationship. It changes as do circumstances in Australia, the United States and New Zealand, which we too often overlook as a party to the treaty.
With changing circumstances in the domestic situation of the parties to the pact and because of international circumstances- which constantly change because of factors far beyond our ability to control or predict, and even at times our capacity to properly comprehend- that relationship must be adjusted. Therefore so must our attitudes change to the elements which go to make up that relationship, such as ANZUS. I think Senator Button pointed out- it was not clear all the time precisely what he was getting at- that the Treaty was written as a mutual defence pact specifically for the Pacific area. As I recall, Senator Button said that in its terminology it was a very clear document.
-Geographically, I am sorry. I thought the honourable senator was extending it beyond that. If that is the case, I do not agree that it is so crystal clear as some people suggest. Article V of it states: . . an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties-
Article V refers to Article IV, which refers to the Pacific area. I question whether Article V does not very clearly refer to the whole metropolitan territory- of Australia in this case.
– In the Pacific area. Article V refers to the Pacific area.
– I suggest that that is not clear. In the honourable senator’s view this Treaty is very clear. In my view it is not crystal clear in that sense. Also it is essential to note that ANZUS would be invoked only in accordance with the constitutional processes of the parties to it. That raises many questions as to the application of the Treaty. What would occur in a certain situation cannot be answered. Whilst our constitutional processes may experience the sorts of problems Senator Chipp referred to- one may or may not consider those to be problemscertainly the American constitutional process, with respect to invoking a treaty and the United States going in to an armed conflict that might occur, can be a lengthy, difficult and by no means certain process.
The ANZUS Treaty is not the precise and clear document that some people might suggest. We ought to look closely at the communique which was referred to earlier. I have suggested that this relationship is an organic one- one that changes with time and circumstances, and it has changed over the years. If honourable senators look through the communiques issued over the years they will see that change. The ANZUS Treaty was drawn up after the Second World War and was, in many respects, very closely related to the peace treaty with Japan which was made after that War particularly as a guarantee for the security of countries such as Australia and New Zealand. But circumstances have changed. So has the relationship of Australia and New
Zealand with the United States and so has the perception of the application of ANZUS. I emphasise again that in that context I see ANZUS as part of a much broader relationship among Australia, the United States and New Zealand. In my view the communiques give very clear evidence that that relationship is far more extensive than is suggested, however one reads the ANZUS Treaty and however tightly one may interpret references to the Pacific area. It has been mentioned that the latest communique refers to the invasion of Afghanistan and raises the implications for Australia’s security. Afghanistan is not in the Pacific area. The ANZUS partners are not restricting themselves to the Pacific area. They take into account the implications of events far beyond the Pacific area that might affect the Treaty. The communique states:
The Council recognised that individual nations could contribute in different ways to promoting a stable international order and to strengthening the political environment against threats to national independence. It recognised that firm support by the international community for the sovereignty and independence of small countries,
Not just in the Pacific area- especially developing countries, must be accompanied by international co-operation in the economic field -
This is not just a matter of security but relates to the economic field- to which all members of the United Nations should make a fair contribution -
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the latest ANZUS communique. I also draw attention to the fact that it refers very specifically to the Indian Ocean in the following terms:
The Council also discussed the composition and level of forces in the Indian Ocean that would be appropriate to demonstrate allied support for security of the area and determination to deter further Soviet adventurism.
I think that indicates clearly that beyond the ANZUS Treaty area there is clear interest by the ANZUS partners in the Indian Ocean and areas far beyond that Pacific area referred to in the Treaty. I have been trying to indicate, first, that I believe ANZUS must be seen in the context of changed circumstances since it came into force in 1952, and, secondly, that it has also to be seen in the broader context of Australia ‘s relationship with the United States of America and, as I have mentioned earlier, the many agreements and arrangements that go to make up that relationship. Thirdly, I have suggested that perhaps in some respects the ANZUS Treaty is not as precise in its terminology as some people might suggest. The
Treaty refers to an attack on the territory of one country being seen as an attack on the metropolitan territory of another. Reference to Australia with its coastline on the Indian Ocean seems to suggest that the Treaty could well be extended beyond the Pacific area. The application of ANZUS will always be affected by these factors and will therefore always, to use a term that I used earlier, have to be seen as an organic process. It will also of course be affected ‘by definition’ under the terms of the Treaty by the constitutional processes of the three parties to the Pact. As I have suggested earlier in the case of the United States, that in itself could have a significant result with respect to the application of the Treaty. So in these respects the situation is now no different than it has been with respect to the ANZUS Pact and Australia’s broader relationship with the United States of America.
Senator Button referred to the fact that in some hypothetical situation Australia might be the subject of a nuclear attack because of this relationship and, as I understand it, specifically because of ANZUS. The way to avoid such a situation would be, of course, to withdraw from ANZUS. Under the terms of the Treaty that can be done in a 12-month period. I have no doubt that Senator Button was not suggesting -
– I was not.
-He does not suggest that Australia should withdraw from ANZUS. I am trying to point out that if we do not withdraw from ANZUS that hypothetical situation to which the honourable senator referred will remain with us. Let us hope that it remains a hypothetical situation. Unless Senator Button is going to go the full way and suggest that we withdraw from ANZUS and perhaps our broader relationship with the United States, that hypothetical situation will remain with us. I simply recall that on 24 May 1973, in the first major foreign policy statement by Prime Minister Whitlam during the period of the Labor Government, he made it quite clear that the Labor Government would not abrogate the arrangements that Australia has in a number of areas with the United States of America; that is, areas relating to strategic matters and security.
ANZUS, as I mentioned earlier, has become a symbol of the total relationship between the United States and Australia. If there are questions as to that Treaty being invoked in any particular circumstance I think that doubt is itself a deterrent to any action against Australia. If there is confusion, such as I think in some respects has been displayed in the course of the debate today, there is need for a statement with respect to ANZUS. In general terms this question of Australia’s relationship with the United States and the ANZUS Pact is always a matter of public importance. I have no doubt that it will be dealt with and the Government’s position will be made very clear by the Government as it is annually in foreign policy statements. I believe that this is a matter of public importance. There has been an extensive and, I think, a useful and essentially bipartisan debate in the Senate on this subject today. I think that in itself is significant. I now move:
That the business of the day be called on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-by leave-I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the assessments of the Government’s responses to reports presented by the Committee during the Thirty-first Parliament. All members of the Senate have before them the statement which I present to the Senate today. I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
During the present parliament the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has presented eight reports to the Senate. There has been a Government response to five of these reports although in each case the response was later than the six months period undertaken by the Government. A further report, the Evidence (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1972 was presented in the previous Parliament in November 1977 but not responded to until two years later in November 1 979. A short summary of the reports presented by this Committee in the present Parliament including the dates of tabling and government response is as follows:
I will now deal with each report in the order in which they were presented and indicate the major recommendations of the Committee and the extent to which they were accepted or rejected by the Government.
The Committee examined the priority which is given to the Crown over other creditors when it is owed debts by a bankrupt or company in liquidation. Extensive evidence was given to the Committee by professional bodies, individuals experienced in bankruptcies and liquidations and relevant Government departments. The overwhelming weight of the evidence was against the maintenance of Crown priority and the Committee itself could find no general basis on which the concept of Crown priority could be justified. Accordingly the Committee recommended that the Crown should no longer be accorded priority in respect of the payment of any debts due to it in the administration of insolvent estates.
The Government responded to the report 1 5 months later and stated that they were fully in agreement with the main thrust of the Committee’s argument and acknowledged the desirability of placing the Crown as far as possible on an even footing with the private sector. The Government agreed to abolish Crown priorities in both the Commonwealth and State spheres with the exception, however, of tax instalment deductions and withholding tax on dividends and interest remitted overseas. This area, and in particular tax instalment deductions, accounts for the major application of Crown priority and was found by the Committee to cause more hardship and inconvenience than any of the other areas which have been abandoned by the Government. The priority accorded to taxation instalment deductions was discussed in detail by the Committee in its Report and they concluded that there were no valid reasons for regarding this area as being any different from any other debt for which Crown priority could be claimed.
The Government while accepting the Committee’s recommendations in theory has failed to accept the substance of the report in the major area where injustice prevails.
The Bankruptcy Bill 1980, which has now passed both Houses, preserves in clause 51, the Commonwealth Crown priority in respect to tax instalment deductions and withholding tax on dividends and interest remitted overseas, while foregoing other Commonwealth priorities. The Bill relates however only to personal bankruptcy, and not to companies.
So far as is known, there is no indication that the States have acceded to the Commonwealth’s request to forego State Crown priorities in return for the partial abolition of Commonwealth Crown priorities.
In this report the Committee commented on matters raised in eight annual reports which were referred to it. Most bodies mentioned the difficulties caused by staff ceilings or by reduction in funds. As there was not sufficient information to independently assess the problems faced by these bodies the Committee, with one exception, made no recommendations on these matters. The exception related to a recommendation by the Committee that the Government re-examine the Law Reform Commission’s request for five extra staff members.
A summary of the Government’s response was presented 9 months later in March 1 979 and a table of the Committee’s comments and response incorporated in Hansard as follows-
Two points arise from the Government’s response. The recommendation that legislation be introduced to amend the Bankruptcy Act was supported by the Government, and the legislation was introduced on 20 November 1979. The legislation is complex and comprehensive although there are some omissions, in particular the subject of non-business bankruptcies. Although the Government is to be commended for the steps it has taken so far it is very necessary that further review of the legislation be made.
The other point concerns the Government’s decision against granting a staff increase to the Australian Law Reform Commission. Although the Commission had indicated that it had to revise the completion dates of its references the Government’s response stated ‘there does not seem to be any real reason to single out this Commission for special treatment’. The 1979 annual report of the Commission again commented on the staffing restraints, and noted that since the original staff ceiling of 1 9 was fixed, the Commission had received 1 1 references from the Government of which three have been fully discharged and one discharged in part. Because of their nature, all of the references given to the Commission by the Government have an element of urgency and all of them have elements of policy sensitivity. The Commission asserted
that ‘a number of serious delays have already occurred in the completion of a number of the Commission’s references and further delays are to be expected in view of current staff ceilings ‘. Despite the staffing restrictions however, the Attorney-General has referred matters to the Commission requesting reports to very severe deadlines. The Commission also stated in its report that because of the pressure of the Commission’s references and staffing limitations work on the Law Reform Digest had fallen behind and that this delay has been a subject of concern and has come under notice in the Parliament.1
The central recommendation of both reports is that a joint parliamentary committee, to be called the ‘joint committee on scrutiny of Bills’, should be established to maintain a watching brief on all Bills introduced into the Parliament so as to highlight those provisions which have an impact on persons either by interfering with their rights or by subjecting them to undue delegations of power. This conclusion was arrived at
independently in both reports. Four other recommendations were made proposing a mechanism to enable the scrutiny committee to be effective without impeding the Government’s legislative program.
The Government responded to both reports 12 months later and unequivocally rejected the major recommendation. The government in rejecting the recommendation, misrepresented the conclusions of the Committee, misdescribed the consequences which would flow from its implementation, made blatantly incorrect statements and failed to accept or discuss the details or evidence which the committee provided. The Attorney-General stated that ‘the Government is at one with the Senate Committee’ in its concern with civil rights and inappropriate or inadequate scrutiny of legislative power but totally rejected the practical implementation of these aims in a casual and unargued fashion. All the members of the Committee who spoke to the Government response expressed grave concern at the contempt shown by the Government not only to the Committee report but to the Parliament as a whole.
Rules of court, which regulate the practice and procedure of the courts, and which can affect significant rights, have traditionally been made by the judges of the court in the case of superior courts such as the High Court and the State and Territory Supreme Courts. While rules of court can be made by Act of Parliament or by regulation the Committee considered these methods inappropriate. However, the Committee made the following recommendations. First that rules of superior Commonwealth courts should, as a general rule, be made by a rules committee comprising the judges of the particular court and representatives of the legal profession regularly practising in that court. Secondly, that the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances devise procedures to enable it to make recommendations to the Senate which, if agreed to by the Senate, would be conveyed to the appropriate Commonwealth court to enable it to consider the creation, amendment or substitution of the rules of that court. Thirdly that the Government give consideration to establishing an Institute of Judicial Administration along the lines of those already operating in the United Kingdom and the United States to assist the judiciary in the administration of court systems and to provide information and advice to the judges concerning rules of court. Alternatively, that funds be provided to assist the voluntary body of the same name which was established by Mr Justice Blackburn and incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory in 1 978.
The Government responded eight months later and only accepted the second recommendation. In accepting only the most innocuous of the Committee recommendations the Government pointed out that any recommendations made by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee with approval of the Senate could be rejected by the Courts. While accepting the principle of consultation with the legal profession the Government rejected the first recommendation. They considered that the establishment in the ACT of a non-statutory advisory rules committee is a practical precedent which the Government will seek to have followed in other Commonwealth jurisdictions. The third recommendation was rejected out of hand by the Government.
The report considers the appropriate means of discharging the Commonwealth’s obligations to aborigines and Torres Strait islanders in Queensland. The report focussed on the constitutionality and effectiveness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Act 1978 and concluded that it was within the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth Parliament. In assessing the effectiveness of that legislation the Committee reached firm conclusions as to the scope of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth in respect of aborigines, the extent and variety of powers in respect to the acquisition of property and the constitutional requirement to provide ‘just terms’. The Committee also explored the range of possible options which are open to the Commonwealth and noted that the present Act would require substantial amendment if it were to provide an effective basis for self-management.
There has been no Government response to this report although it was tabled over 16 months ago.
The report concerned itself with the whole question of the machinery of law reform in Australia. It embodies 25 separate explicit recommendations directed to three distinct subject areas: First, the implementation of the reports of the Australian Law Reform Commission; secondly the collation and assessment of suggestions for law reform, wherever they may be; and thirdly the very difficult question of the coordination of the work of law reform as between the many different agencies around the country which are responsible for it.
Ten months have elapsed since the report was tabled but there has been no Government reponse.
This is the most substantial and comprehensive report ever produced by the Committee. The
subject matter of freedom of information concerns not only the rights of individuals but the whole structure and machinery of Australian government.
The members of the Committee were unanimous in their major findings and in the 106 recommendations contained in the report. As yet there has been no Government response.
– I want to make some comments on the statement. It is the result of work which my Committee secretariat has done in analysing the very depressing results of the Government’s response in this Parliament to the work of Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In the short note accompanying the document I summarise that response by saying that the Committee is concerned at the delays in announcing the Government’s response to its various proposals. Of even greater concern is the generally negative attitude to the Committee’s proposals and the inadequacy of the arguments advanced in support of the Government’s view. I go on to speak of the sharp decline in the acceptability of proposals which the Committee has put forward and to express some doubts as to the future of the Senate Committee system, if we continue to have such a depressing result as this.
I want to say briefly that of the matters which are set out in this statement there are some eight reports which the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has presented to the Parliament in this period of 2Vi years. Honourable senators will see at the beginning of the statement the dates on which the responses have occurred. In all cases they have been made well after the six-months period within which responses were promised. There has been no response whatsoever from the Government since the report of the Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland Reserves was presented on 28 November 1978. The Committee’s report on Reforming the Law is another significant matter
– The change of Minister.
– A change of Minister might have had some encouraging effect, but it has not produced that particular egg we want to see laid, namely, a considered response to the Committee’s report.
– I thought you got it yesterday.
– Yesterday there was a slight reference to it but that did not actually proceed on to a binh of any great nature. There is also the report made on 10 May 1979 on processing law reform proposals. In that report, the Committee covers many areas of importance, particularly in regard to the reports of the Australian Law Reform Commission and how we will have them dealt with in a better and more expeditious way by the Parliament. Again we await a response to our report. We are almost at the first anniversary of the presentation of that report.
Thirdly, I mention the report on the Freedom of Information Bill 1978 and the Archives Bill 1 978 insofar as the latter relates to freedom of information. That report was presented on 6 November 1 979 and the six months limit on a response has not yet expired. The Bill is of great importance to the Government. One becomes a little discouraged because obviously a response from the Government is some distance off.
I am going through the record briefly. May I say on behalf of the Committee that in the case of a number of responses, which came after the six months limit, most significantly those responses have been profoundly disappointing. I mention the report on the priority of Crown debts. The Committee undertook that inquiry at great length. It took a lot of evidence and came down with a most definite, unanimous recommendation for its abolition. We say that the response which the Government gave was a curious one. It accepted our views in principle, but proceeded not to apply the major part of the recommendation which we had made which related to the area of pay-as-you-earn taxation and withholding tax. In other words, in the areas in which the greatest differences and greatest injustices occur, there was to be no change.
We have seen recently in the Bankruptcy Bill, which has just recently passed through this House, that clause 5 1 preserves those exceptions. It preserves the worst areas which required reform so much. I did not speak in the debate on that Bill because unfortunately the debate collapsed very quickly. I was going to speak on that clause in particular, but other senators and members of the Senate Committee did speak and made their criticism of it. That Bill was a very large Bill dealing with many other matters. The fact that this priority is maintained does not mean that those who seek reform will stop at our report and be content. What I and the Minister said in relation to that area is to be found in Hansard of 13 September 1979 at page 678. I draw the attention of the Senate to those remarks. The Committee reported also on annual reports. I will not go into the details of that report, but I mention the needs of the Australian Law Reform Commission for additional staff which remain completely unsatisfied. Because of the staff shortage, a number of areas of the work of that Commission are not yet completed. They cannot be completed in a hurry because of the fact that the Commission does not have the necessary staff.
Most significantly. I think the response by the Government to the Committee’s reports on the scrutiny of Bills and the delegation of parliamentary authority- those references were dealt with together- is one about which we are profoundly disappointed, The statements of the Government and my comments and the comments of other honourable senators on those statements are to be found at page 2793 of Hansard of 22 November 1 979. In the statement I have tabled today on behalf of the Committee, we read:
The Government responded to both reports 12 months later and unequivocally rejected the major recommendation. Government in rejecting the recommendation misrepresented the conclusions of the committee, misdescribed the consequences which would flow from its implementation, made blatantly incorrect statements and failed to accept or discuss the details or evidence which the Committee provided.
As a Government senator I am conscious that that is strong criticism which has been brought forward by my secretariat and which I endorse. I believe the facts absolutely justify this criticism. The statement made by the Government on these reports was, I think, quite disgraceful. It does not show any respect for the Senate committee system or for the Senate in general. This attempt made by our Committee to ensure that there would be a better investigation by the Parliament of civil rights aspects of Bills has been rejected. We sought to ensure that at an early stage these problems are picked up in the Parliament, not allowed to run into legislation, perhaps be passed through the chambers at the end of a session and not be noticed. The Committee’s report proposed a system to set up a joint committee. Some of my colleagues in this chamber would prefer a Senate committee.
– Hear, hear!
– In answer to Senator Rae, I say that perhaps this is what we may have to do because, obviously, we cannot now force a joint committee upon the Parliament, if the Government and the other House are not showing any interest in our proposal. Perhaps we have to do that, but it is very much a second-best choice so far as the Committee is concerned, and certainly something about which, even in the response of the Government, the impression is given that senators like Senator Rae were against the idea, whereas they were against the method- the proposed joint committee- and that is all. I will not say anything further about that subject except that it cannot be a dead matter. That is not a matter about which we can do much in this Parliament. But many of us are determined to see that something is done in regard to the civil liberties aspects of Bills in another Parliament at least.
I turn to the report on parliamentary scrutiny of rules of court. There were three recommendations in regard to that rather esoteric area, and the Government accepted the most minor of them, but cast doubts whether in fact the courts would take much notice of recommendations from Senate committees. I am afraid that the two main recommendations were rejected. Statements by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), by me and by other honourable senators are to be found at page 2327 and following pages of Hansard of 15 November 1979. I draw the Senate’s attention to those statements.
What is the position that we face? The fact is that we in this Parliament have developed a committee system which we had hoped would be somewhat useful. But its value must be judged to some extent by what happens to its reports. Perhaps I ought to consider resigning as chairman of that Committee on the basis that I am achieving very little. If in fact I were the one who was standing in the road of a positive reaction to the committee reports, I would do so. I do not intend to do so because I do not think that that will help the cause or the achievement of the recommendations in these reports. But I have had to think about that because one wonders whether one is achieving any great results, or whether one is in fact hiding the situation when one sees the record set forward in this statement. I regret to say that neither in the House of Representatives nor in this Senate is sufficient attention paid to these matters. I am afraid we have learnt to expect that the House of Representatives will be a sounding board for the Executive, and that unfortunately it takes very little interest in the reports of Senate committees.
The law reforms that are raised in our Committee reports are and should be of equal concern to the House of Representatives. They are in many cases, such as in the scrutiny of Bills, designed particularly to bring members of the House of Representatives as well as senators into active participation in these areas. That members of the House of Representatives show no interest, that they do not discuss them, and that they do not press for these reforms are I think most unfortunate and a weakening by them of our parliamentary system. But I do not hold this Senate entirely blameless. We all know that when our General Business debates are held on Thursday nights the attendance is very poor. The people who come into this chamber to discuss General Business are generally members of the committees concerned. Other senators and, I regret to say, particularly new senators who, one would expect, would want to take an interest in these areas and who would want to see the Senate committee system strengthened must realise that if they do not take an interest in these areas we cannot expect the Government and members of the public to take a real interest in these matters. I therefore say that I feel that some of the criticism must lie in the Senate in regard to the general lack of interest that it has shown to the actual productions of its committees, both in the reading of them and in speaking to them. It should not be just the members of the committees who discuss their reports in some type of closed circle. If other senators came up with criticism, that surely would be much more welcome than that they should not be here at all and not take part in the discussion.
I do not want to say any more on this matter. I put this statement before the Senate today because it seems to me that we should not sit around simply to say that we produce a lot of reports, and that this one is excellent. We know from the statement that you put down early in March, Mr President, that there are some 12 reports to which there has been no response from the Government for a period in excess of six months. My Committee has shown by this statement that it has consistently suffered this problem, and also that the responses, when they come, have been profoundly disappointing and weakening so far as the parliamentary system and, I believe, the democratic system of this country are concerned. I hope that in this Parliament or in the next there will be further consideration of the matters which have been raised in good faith by committees of this Parliament, and that the Senate itself will give support and protection to its committees by taking a greater interest in the reports which they bring forward.
– by leave- This matter has come before the Senate without notice, as far as I am aware, and certainly without notice to me. Since it raises questions which relate to the operation of the Senate and its relationship with the Government, and questions relating to the Government’s response to Senate committee reports, it is essentially in the nature of private members’ business, in my view. I suggest that if the Senate wishes to debate the statement- I notice that a lot of senators leapt to their feet, presumably to seek leave- the appropriate course would be for an honourable senator to seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement. The matter would become then a matter of business which could be called on on a Thursday evening. We have spent a great deal of time in the Senate on general matters, and there is a deal of Government Business waiting to be considered. I draw the attention of the Senate to that fact.
– We have been waiting 16 months for your reply.
– That is a matter on which I have spoken to the Senate on two occasions, and the facts of that are known. In any event, I want to make a suggestion because of the number of people who obviously wish to seek leave. If all those people speak, we would spend the rest of the afternoon on this subject. I think it might be more appropriately dealt with in the manner in which I have suggested.
Senator TATE (Tasmania)’ (2.38)-by leave- I move:
I thank the Senate for granting leave because I believe that this matter is of grave concern to the Senate and ought to be exposed during a public broadcast day and not on a Thursday night in the quiet of some arrangements where, as Senator Missen pointed out, there may be very few senators in the chamber and no member of the public listening to this grievance which we, as senators, are putting forward today. I wholeheartedly agree with the damning indictment by Senator Missen of the Government in relation to its response to Senate committee reports.
– May I interject with a suggestion? I believe that a number of people would support the idea that this is an appropriate subject for an urgency motion.
– I would prefer to address my remarks to the chamber myself.
– To give it priority for discussion.
– I will leave that to the Whip to work out. What we have here, in a most comprehensive and detailed way, is a devastating criticism of the Executive ‘s contempt for the Parliament, and for this chamber in particular. What we have revealed in the document is a dilatory, procrastinating approach by the Government. It refuses to meet the six-monthly deadline which it proclaimed two years ago that it would try to meet. We have a delay which, in relation to matters of grave concern to ordinary employees and small creditors, like the priority of the Crown ‘s claim to taxation, lasted some nine months. In relation to matters concerning the work of this chamber in ensuring that legislation does not pass through without proper scrutiny- to see whether it is at variance with ordinary civil liberties- we had a delay of a year in the Government ‘s response. I will go into the nature of the delay in a moment. The point I am making is that the Government’s procedures are so inapt for the task of responding to Senate committee reports that we have a delay which is inordinate. It is a delay which, I believe, shows that interdepartmental committees are so constructed that they are sounding the death knell of democracy and are freezing the political will. The compromise and the blandness that comes out of the IDCs eventually completely smother the central and vigorous recommendations and conclusions of the Senate committees.
Evidence of the actual response by the Government has been mounted in this document by the secretariat. I turn to two of them. The first was the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs report on what is known as priority of Crown debts. This is a matter of great social concern. It relates to the situation where, on a person or a firm becoming bankrupt, the meagre assets to be distributed go to the Government first to satisfy its income tax claims, its payasyouearn claims, leaving ordinary employees, perhaps, without any or, at the most, with only a fraction of the moneys that are owed to them by way of wages, annual leave, long service leave entitlements and so on. The same applies to creditors of a person or a firm which has become bankrupt. The Committee recommended, on the basis of cogent and detailed evidence, that that priority of the Commonwealth Government ought to be removed and the Commonwealth taxation should share equally with employees and other creditors.
I will not go into the substance of it; that is for another debate. But the contempt with which the Government held that Committee is shown in its report which, in a patronising way, said that the Government had examined the report and was fully in agreement with the main thrust of the Committee’s recommendations, but then completely gutted those recommendations and refused to act on them in their primary aspects, denuded them of any real significance, and made a few concessions about Telecom bills not having to be paid, and minor matters like that. In other words, the Government gives a cosmetic, superficial nod in favour of the Committee’s recommendations, but when it comes to practical concrete steps to implement them, it completely ignores the main thrust. That was in relation to that very important concern of bankruptcy matters.
In relation to a matter which one would think would be at the heart of any democratic government’s concerns, namely that it should not inadvertently interfere with the liberties of a subject by a piece of legislation which, because its main tenor may lay elsewhere, manages to go through the Parliament without it being fully scrutinised as to the impact it may have or the burden it may place on an individual citizen, we set up, by way of report, a type of machinery which, without delaying the Government’s program in any way, would ensure that Bills are scrutinised by a committee of parliamentarians- not of academics or of outsiders, but of working politicians- to ensure that there is no operative provision which significantly alters or interferes with personal liberties or delegates powers which ought not to . be delegated to a government authority without sufficient scrutiny. There was no attempt, it was suggested, to weigh up the pros and cons of whether that interference should take place. It was to alert the Parliament, and this chamber particularly, to the fact that such a fundamental clash with civil rights might take place that the machinery was devised.
The Government, in its response to that report- a response which was 12 months in coming- said, amongst other things, that the Government was at one with the Committee. That was a complete and utter misleading of the Parliament. It was not at one with the Committee whatsoever. It completely refused to make any move to implement to any extent whatsoever any of the recommendations contained in that report. We had a complete rejection of any practical implementation of the proposals of that Committee. Senator Missen is well placed to remark on these matters, because he was the only senator, during the debate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, who alerted the Parliament to the fact that it might have a serious impact on personal and civil liberties. This has been recognised in recent weeks by the Government’s bringing forward legislation to remove some of the provisions of that Bill as it applies to the mining and exploitation of uranium for peaceful purposes and commercial profit. It was only his own personal diligence that brought that matter to the attention of the Parliament, but, of course, it was completely ignored by the Government at the time.
– Too late in the event anyway.
-Perhaps too late. We suggested that the Committee should take over that role so that it does not depend on the individual initiative of an honourable senator and that suggestion was totally rejected. Of course, I am not saying that in every case the Government needs to accept unqualifiedly and without any modification the recommendations of a Senate committee. But when the delay is so long, when the result is so meagre and when the heed paid to Senate committee recommendations is so minor, one can begin to think- as Senator Missen was indicating- whether the whole enterprise is worth while. That is the real reason why I am speaking.
The Senate committee system was one of the attractions for my coming into the Parliament. As an outsider I had heard of its worthwhile work. It is a remarkable though commendable fact that six honourable senators from both sides of the chamber can sit down together, as they do, and take evidence from a wide range of people in a wide range of geographical locations. We all know how gruelling the time-table can be as one travels around Australia gathering evidence in order to form a considered and comprehensive opinion on a topic. Having worked together, those six honourable senators put to one side any sense of partisan advantage. The fact that any partisanship is removed from the report adds to its strength. It certainly does not take away from the vigour of the final conclusions and recommendations. But the futility of that exercise becomes apparent from a reading of the sort of document which Senator Missen has tabled. He indicated that he felt he should perhaps offer himself as a sacrifice as though he were standing in the way of the Committee’s recommendations being more favourably countenanced by the Government. I would say that that would be a tragedy.
– It is possibly not through any of his fault.
– That is right. I would plead with him to bear with the Committee as long as the rest of us are prepared to bear the burden of frustration which he quite rightly pointed to.
– And not to resign?
– Do not resign, Senator. We need your leadership on the Committee at least until the next Government comes into office, when we hope to have a more receptive ear to the recommendations of committees such as this one. I am beginning to fear- and I join Senator Missen in this-that the Senate standing committees- in their results, perhaps not in their intention- are really a massive confidence trick which diverts honourable senators from real political work. Those of us serving on committees spend days, weeks and months disrupting our schedules and our electoral work and adding to our parliamentary week. As I have said, we take evidence week after week on a particular topic. We spend months writing a report. I believe we are diverted from real political effectiveness if, in fact, that work comes to naught, as it invariably does, judging from the response of the Government to our reports. If this were merely an internal matter, something to do with this chamber, I would not be speaking now. But I believe, with Senator Missen, that we are really talking about something which goes to the heart of our parliamentary democracy. The Constitution, in section 51, makes this matter quite clear when it states:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:-
It then refers to various topics. According to section 61, it is for the Executive to execute and maintain the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth. In other words, the Parliament is meant to be the creative, law making body within our democracy. It is meant to take the initiative. It is meant to create that legal system and those structures within which the citizens and residents, within the jurisdiction of Australia can lead free lives and prosper. The Executive is meant to carry out the will of the people as expressed by the elected representatives in the Parliament. What we are moving to and what the Government’s contempt for Senate committee reports merely exemplifies is a situation in which it is the Executive’s will, its political will, which is dominant and in which the Parliament is expected to carry it out. The Parliament is expected to be subservient to and implement the political will of the Executive. As I have said, I think the treatment of Senate committees is just one instance of this situation.
I join in expressing my deep concern at the denegration of our role as elected representatives. I pledge the Opposition ‘s support for any strengthening of the Senate committee system. Mr President, as you will know, in recent times the Australian Labor Party has expressed its recognition of the Senate as an integral part of our parliamentary democracy. We are committed to this strengthening so far as it falls short- and it needs to fall short in our view- of any power to bring down a government which has the confidence of the House of Representatives. But we believe that the Senate committee system should be one of the glories of Parliament, should be strengthened, should be heeded by a government, and that committee reports should be responded to within a reasonable time. If modifications to the recommendations need to be made they should be reasoned and reasonable and not merely the result of the bland and compromising meanderings of interdepartmental committees and bureaucrats who happen to have the ear of the Government. For that reason I fully support the document that has been put before the Senate by Senator Missen on behalf of the Committee. I believe that unless we take a stand now we will be countenancing a situation in which the Government is pointing an arrow at the heart of our Constitution. Therefore the Government’s response to committee reports needs to be utterly condemned.
– I support what has been said by Senator Missen and, to a large extent, what has been said by Senator Tate. I agree that this is an important matter. I agree that it is urgent that the Senate discuss this matter. I do not believe that this discussion simply ought to go to the bottom of the fairly long list of matters which will eventually be discussed by the Senate. However, I do not think it is appropriate that this matter should take over the discussion of Government Business this afternoon. I would like to see an opportunity made available for this matter to be discussed on the next sitting day. I suggest that we can use the procedure of a matter of public importance or an urgency motion to get the matter debated in a fairly full way in this chamber on the next day of sitting or during the next week of sitting. With that in mind and totally supporting the importance and the urgency of the Senate debating this matter and making its views quite clear -
– You are just being a stooge- a stooge for the Government.
– I sometimes wonder about the motivation of some of the comments that are made. One tries to help by suggesting that there is a way in which this matter can be dealt with fully by this chamber as a matter of urgency without disrupting the proceedings of the chamber. Every day what might be called a General Business time is available for the purposes of discussing a matter of public importance. I suggest that this matter is a matter of public importance and that time ought to be used on the next sitting day to debate it. If the Opposition does not wish to do that I give notice now that I shall be advocating that this matter be raised on the next sitting day as a matter of public importance to be discussed. With that in mind, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave not granted.
– I call Senator Cavanagh. Senator RAE- In that case, I move:
– Order! Senator Rae, you cannot move for the adjournment of the debate after you have spoken. You can seek leave to continue your remarks.
– I did seek leave and it was refused. Therefore, I am still on my feet.
– You cannot move that the debate be adjourned.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I understood that I received the call and I am on my feet.
– No, you didn’t get the call.
– The President says I did. Who are you to dictate to the President of the Senate?
– Leave was refused for Senator Rae to continue his remarks later. Senator Cavanagh rose. I called Senator Cavanagh. He has been called.
– Honourable senators can see how the Government is degrading the Senate when a Government senator seeks to override the ruling of the President and say: ‘I am determining that you did not get the call’. In fact the President gave it to me. Senator Chaney thinks his will should prevail. Surely we have not sunk to such depths.
- Mr President, I wish to raise a point of order. I believe that I still have the call. I sought leave to continue my remarks. That leave was refused; therefore, I am in continuation.
– It appears that I did not quite quickly enough interpret that which transpired. Senator Cavanagh, it is so that Senator Rae sought leave to continue his remarks. That leave was refused. He was still on his feet. He can continue his remarks. I shall call you when Senator Rae has finished.
– I appreciate that. The situation demonstrates the accuracy of the interjection of Senator Evans.
– I was on my feet. I did purport to move a motion a moment ago that the debate be now adjourned. Again, I formally move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
- Senator Rae, I have indicated that, having spoken, you cannot move that this debate be now adjourned. You can keep on speaking to the motion, but you cannot adjourn the debate.
– He has finished. He has nothing to say.
-Rather more accurately than that I have nothing to say, I sometimes wonder whether it is worth trying to say anything to some of those on the other side of the chamber when they have the sort of attitude that has been displayed here, wanting to make a political disputation out of a matter of mutual concern that has been expressed from both sides of this chamber about the future of the Senate committee system. If we are to continue to debate this matter this afternoon I imagine that we will have a frustrated debate instead of a full debate. I still propose to do what I indicated earlier- not withstanding whatever may be done by the other side- which is to bring on this matter as soon as possible. I shall give notice for the next day of sitting that this topic be treated as a matter of public importance. I understand that I will receive sufficient support at least from honourable senators on this side of the chamber to ensure that that matter is brought on. Therefore, I propose to take that course.
– I appreciate the action that Senator Rae intends to take. That will allow the Senate to have two debates on the matter. It will not matter so much that he seeks to bring on the matter on a non-broadcast day when this vital report from the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs will be hidden and no one will know about it. Honourable senators have the opportunity today to indicate the value that they put in the report, as well as their attitude to the Government’s lack of response to the Committee’s findings and the fact that the Committee is condemning the Government for its lack of action.
It is possible that the report accords with my beliefs. I was concerned when Senator Tate said that the Opposition soundly supports and will strengthen the committee system. I have always opposed the establishment of standing committees of the Senate because I think they are only something offered by the Government to its large number of backbenchers, to make unimportant members think they are important by inquiring into matters about which nothing is done when the report is presented. The report is just pigeon-holed. 1 have always supported select committees because they deal with particular matters of vital interest. They take evidence from various quarters; they have powers almost as great as those of a royal commission; and they create so much interest in their activities, through publicity, that their findings are rejected by the Government at its own peril. However, no one ever intended that committees function for the purpose of telling the Government how to operate. The committee system was established to keep occupied men who the Government wanted to think were carrying out an important job.
– You cannot always tell how things will turn out, though, can you?
– You cannot. The important point is that this report is a challenge not only to the Senate but also to the Government. It is a question of whether we are governed as a result of investigation, inquiry and decisions made on expert opinion, or whether the expert opinions of some of the best legal brains in this Parliament are rejected. The idea is to lock these people in a committee room and keep them from activities in which they may achieve something. Honourable senators can study a speech I made in which I traced the course of the workers compensation legislation. The judiciary has made more reforms in the progress of society than parliaments have. The judiciary has come down with different interpretations of workers compensation legislation from one decade to another, because the judiciary moves with the times. Parliament does not. Trained lawyers in the Parliament- quality people from the legal profession- are locked away in a room, while in future court cases the judiciary will possibly decide these matters.
I want particularly to speak on the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland Reserves. It is said that the Committee received no response from the Government on that report. Honourable senators heard the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) say yesterday that what is in the Committee ‘s report may not be the final answer and that it may not be of the correct opinion. As I recall the Committee’s report, it said no more than what the Committee thought the High Court would uphold in a case put before it. To justify his doubts as to whether the Commonwealth has power to acquire land for Aboriginals, the Minister quoted Mr Johnson, when he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, as saying that there were limitations in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill because there were some constitutional doubts about the matter.
I have spoken in the Senate of doubts about whether the Parliament has constitutional power in this regard. At least when I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the Labor Government set in train a process for the purpose of ascertaining the cost of acquiring Aboriginal settlements in Queensland, with the intention of taking over that power and testing that action. Although 1 have expressed doubts about whether we have power- the Minister has expressed doubts- we have in this Parliament trained, high quality lawyers who have no hesitation in saying that they believe that the High Court would uphold that the Commonwealth has such power.
Honourable senators cannot reject the advice that has been given. Here we find Aboriginals being deprived of their land rights. In his report, Mr Justice Woodward said that the Northern Territory land rights legislation should be an example for the States. If the States will not accept it, the Federal Government should accept the decision of the judge selected by it. Senator Chaney tells us what he has done for Aboriginals. He has stopped fights between BjelkePetersen and the Commonwealth Government and between Court and the Commonwealth Government, without any benefit to Aboriginals. There is no Aboriginal community outside the Territory that has a script to say that it has ownership of land. The Commonwealth was prepared to attempt to extend this situation to Queensland and certainly it would have been extended to cover Noonkanbah in Western Australia. There has been no attempt by the Government to carry out the policy it advocated, which may have necessitated a fight with its State counterparts. This is a question of having the brains of a parliament locked up in committee rooms where they could be fighting in Parliament to improve the conditions that exist at present.
The Committee’s allegations in dissecting the situation in regard to its reports are serious, and remedial action should be taken immediately. The debate should be deferred until another day, not when the Senate’s proceedings are not being broadcast and when no one will know about it. Perhaps then another committee can be set up to see what can be done about the matter.
– I inform the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) that my remarks will be brief. They were never intended to be otherwise. The point of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in bringing this report forward in the way that it has come forward today was quite simply and frankly to shame the Government into displaying greater concern for the activities and output of the Committee and other standing committees of the Parliament than it has so far been disposed to do. It does need much debate to show the Parliament that the grounds for such shame are well-established in the document before us.
That document discloses two problems. One is the failure of the Government to respond to committee reports. The second is the character of the response when it eventually comes forward. In relation to the first point, I remind the Senate and in particular its Executive representative today, Senator Chaney, of what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said on 25 May 1978. He gave the following undertaking: . . within six months of the tabling of a committee report, the responsible Minister will make a statement in the Parliament outlining the action the Government proposes to take in relation to the report. If the six month period expires during a parliamentary recess, the ministerial statement will be made at the earliest opportunity at the next parliamentary sittings.
I ask honourable senators to look at the record. It was 15 months before a statement was forthcoming in response to the report on the priority of Crown debts. It was nine months before a response to the report on annual reports was forthcoming. It was 12 months before a response was made to the report on the delegation of parliamentary authority. The report on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders has still not received a response after 16 months. A response to the scrutiny of Bills report has taken 12 months. A response to the report on parliamentary scrutiny of rules of court has taken eight months. The report on reforming the law has still not received a response after 10 months. The report on freedom of information, which provides the only opportunity for the Government to meet its promises in this respect, has not received a response so far after five months. The average time which has elapsed so far between the presentation of a report and the appearance or non-appearance as the case may be of a statement is 1 1 months. That is a default of nearly 100 per cent in the undertaking which the Prime Minister so bravely and honestly gave the Parliament in 1 978. It is a disgraceful record. It speaks for itself when one lays out those points.
Another aspect that emerges from the statement is the character of governmental responses if and when they occur. Too often- this statement makes the point perfectly clear- the Government statement has been poorly reasoned, and contemptuously dismissive, in some instances, of the Committee’s conclusions.
If it is not contemptuously dismissive, it is patronising of the Committee insofar as it in some instances purports to adopt the arguments and principles articulated by the Committee but, on the other hand, turns around and cuts a swathe through them in practice by refusing, as in the report on the priority of Crown debts to which Senator Tate adverted, to accept the thrust and substance of the report. The Senate committee system is supposed to be one of the finest jewels in our parliamentary crown but it has become a very tarnished jewel in recent months. The kind of treatment disclosed by this statement makes nonsense of all our endeavours as conscientious members of standing committees. We have become the Portnoys of the parliamentary system engaged endlessly in activity which is only marginally satisfying, very tiring and thoroughly unconstructive. I think that this is a deplorable state of affairs.
The most vigorous expression of the Committee’s views in the statement was made in respect to the scrutiny of Bills report. 1 join in the terms of that statement by expressing my own disgust at the kind of pathetic chauvinism of those in both houses of the Parliament, particularly those in this chamber, who have made their opposition to this report clear to the Government and had it adopted as a result because of their greater concern for posturing about the prerogatives of their respective chambers, in particular this chamber, than their concern for making a constructive contribution to the protection of human rights in this country. That posturing has been shared by the Government itself. It is endlessly, through its spokesmen, quoting Sir Robert Menzies and others about the glory of the common law and parliamentary protection of civil liberties while, at the same time, in the other breath, it does absolutely nothing to give the parliamentary protection of civil liberties the boost it so obviously needs and would have got through the adoption of these recommendations.
Finally, my own disappointment has been greatest of all not in respect of the scrutiny of Bills report or some of the others that have been equally contemptuously resisted by the Government but in relation to the report to which Senator Cavanagh adverted on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders on Aurukun and Mornington Island. I believe that that report was a measured and constructive contribution to the resolution of what is obviously one of the most important and sensitive policy problems which this Government or any Federal government faces. It states the legal options and alternatives that are open to any Commonwealth Government which is serious about giving Aborigines genuine self-management rights within the States. It is written specifically with application to Aurukun and Mornington Island in Queensland, but obviously the application of the report is potentially quite general to Western Australia and all the other State jurisdictions in this country. It involves a detailed, dispassionate and thorough analysis of the relevant constitutional provisions and articulates, for the first time, the detailed options and alternatives, particularly in legal terms, which are open to the Commonwealth to act in this area.
I can understand the embarrassment that a report of this kind would cause to a Minister such as Senator Chaney who is obviously caught in a squeeze between his own marginally civilised inclinations in this area and the pressure he has so obviously been under from the State governments and the Cro-Magnon Staterighters in his own Government. That embarrassment has been a very obvious reason why there has been an unwillingness on the Minister’s part or on the part of his departmental advisers to produce any response after 16 months which has so far elapsed since the presentation of this report. That kind of ministerial embarrassment which we can well understand is no excuse for treating the Committee and the Parliament with the contemptuous disregard involved in a non-response for. that period. This is an important matter. It deserves to be debated again. Thanks to Senator Rae I hope that it will be debated at an appropriate time but not one that bites into the Opposition’s traditional time for raising matters of public importance. This is not something that involves a partisan controversy between Opposition and Government. It involves a dispute of a very significant kind between us all as parliamentarians and the Executive Government. It is a matter on which we ought to be able, if we are serious and fair dinkum about our role as parliamentarians and if we are not surrogate stooges- I do not withdraw from the terminology I earlier offered- in relation to our position vis a vis the Executive, to demand appropriate parliamentary time to enable these matters to be further aired and canvassed. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an orderof the day for the next day of sitting.
-There seems to be a feeling that the Opposition has taken considerable time today on this matter. It is a matter of great interest. Of course the Government must accept the responsibility of bringing an important report before the Parliament. Having brought it before the Parliament, it should have facilitated a debate.
– I brought it forward as Chairman of the Committee.
– I take it that Senator Missen is not denying that he is part of the Government.
– That was not how I brought forward the report. I did so as Chairman of the Committee.
– I commend the honourable senator for so doing. I wonder whether his Whip also commends him. Certainly the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) is not very happy about it. Nevertheless, I thank Senator Missen for bringing this important report before the Parliament. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has moved a motion to postpone debate on this matter until the next day of sitting. I take it that once that motion is passed the matter will be placed on the Notice Paper and, therefore, what Senator Rae intends to do will be frustrated. In that event, he will have to find another means by which to bring the matter forward for debate.
– It could be withdrawn.
-A11 I wish to say is that the Opposition will facilitate further debate on this report and on the various matters mentioned in the report.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia)-I seek a ruling from you, Mr President. Would the fact that this matter appeared on the Notice Paper prevent its being the subject of an urgency motion or a matter of public importance?
– I have always accepted the President as the authority on the Standing Orders.
– Let us get a ruling on it because it could be useful in the future.
– It is a matter which might be framed in such a way as would permit its being debated in the way in which you suggest.
– I do not want to block Senator Rae’s rights. I think that the matter should be kept alive. If we could attempt to do both -
– My proposed matter of public importance is ‘The consideration of Senate committee reports’. That would open up the matter totally. I do not think that debate on the matter would be precluded by this matter being placed on the Notice Paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill Tor an Act to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1 976.
Bill presented, and read first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
This Bill has two main purposes: Firstly, to facilitate the registration of titles to Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory and, secondly, to provide for the security of agreements entered into between a land council and a miner. Honourable senators will be aware that titles have not been registered because there has been some dispute between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments as to the identification of roads over which the public has a right of way. Under the Act, such roads are required to be excluded from any grant made to an Aboriginal land trust.
The amendments proposed by this Bill seek to give effect to an agreed solution formulated by the Aboriginal land councils, the Northern Territory Government and the Commonwealth which will enable deeds of grant, which had been issued to Aboriginal land trusts in relation to land described in Schedule 1 of the Act, to be registered by the Northern Territory RegistrarGeneral prior to the identification of roads over which the public has a right of way. Although registration of the deeds of grant is not essential for their taking effect, the Aboriginal land councils have applied to have the deeds registered and it is this Government’s wish that registration be effected as soon as possible.
The amendments provide for the execution and issue of new deeds of grant which will be deemed to take effect from the date of issue of the original deeds. The deeds of grant will be expressed to exclude, in general terms, roads over which the public has a right of way and any issue as to which roads fall within that description will be resolved after the deeds have been registered. The Bill provides a procedure whereby the Northern Territory Government and a land council can agree upon which roads are roads over which the public has a right of way.
Where an agreement is reached, the details will be forwarded to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and he will publish a copy of the agreement in the Commonwealth Gazette. Where agreement cannot be reached, provision is made for either the northern Territory Government or the relevant land council to apply to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory for an order declaring that a part of the land contained in the deed of grant is a road over which the public has a right of way. On publication in the Gazette of an agreement, or on the date of an order of the Supreme Court, the land agreed or declared to be a road over which the public has a right of way shall be excluded from the land granted.
In conjunction with these amendments, the Northern Territory Government will introduce its own legislation designed to restrict the use of public roads traversing Aboriginal land. This permit system will be similar to the permit system created under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act but providing right of appeal by an unsuccessful applicant to the Administrator-in-Council.
This Bill also contains provisions which are designed to ensure that once an agreement has been concluded between a land council and a miner in accordance with procedures set out under the Act, both parties will be in a position to honour the agreement and will be bound by it. These provisions will provide the same protection as is already provided under the Act for agreements relating to the transfer or surrender of an estate on Aboriginal land by a land council. More specifically, the Bill provides that an agreement which has been concluded between a land council and a miner cannot be invalidated on the grounds of non-compliance with sections 23 or 48 of the Act. Provision is also made to ensure that where permits authorising entry onto Aboriginal land are required under the terms of an agreement, such permits can only be withdrawn or withheld in accordance with the terms of that agreement.
I want to emphasise that there will be no change to the present situation wherein land councils are required to obtain the consent of traditional owners and to consult with affected communities before concluding an agreement with a mining company. The Government does recognise however that the obligations and responsibilities placed upon a land council are both complex and difficult in their fulfilment and there may, on some occasions, be speculation as to whether the land council has in fact fulfilled its obligations, particularly as they relate to the negotiation of a mining agreement. It is with this in mind that the Government has included a provision which will require the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to withhold his approval under section 27 of the principal Act unless he is satisfied that the land council concerned has complied with any duty imposed on it by sub-section 23 (3).
Finally, provisions contained in the Bill will clarify the position with respect to Crown ownership of minerals on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. The enactment of this Bill will thus facilitate registration of deeds of grant to Aboriginal land, ensure the security of agreements which have been concluded between land councils and miners, provide a check on compliance by a land council in relation to its duties under section 23 of the Act and clarify the position with respect to Crown ownership of minerals on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered the Senate at its rising adjourn until 1 S April 1 980 at 3 p.m., unless otherwise called together by the President or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 74, 1 move:
That General Business Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name in relation to Ministers in the Senate be postponed for six sitting days.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the motion.
– Under Standing Order 74, it cannot be debated.
– If necessary, I shall move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would permit me to speak on this matter, but I would prefer to be granted leave to speak on the matter.
-by leave -I point out to the Senate that this is the second occasion on which we have postponed debate on this item. As the Opposition has an interest in this matter and was prepared to debate the matter a fortnight ago, the previous occasion on which it was before the Senate, as the Opposition was in fact prepared to debate it tonight, we look with some concern at the further postponement of the discussion. I suggest to Senator Rae that if he is not in a position to debate his Notice of Motion he should withdraw it. If he does that the Opposition will bring forward a motion which is worded somewhat differently but which supports his motion in principle. I do not think that it helps the forms of the Senate to have the business changed at such late notice. It could mean that an honourable senator who has a keen interest in the matter has to alter his or her arrangements so that he or she can participate in the debate.
Another consequence of this is that the matters listed after this matter on the Notice Paper come to the top of the Notice Paper and need to be debated. Some senators, having looked at the Notice Paper and seen at the head of it a matter of substantial importance, such as the one standing in the name of Senator Rae, would conclude that the item which they had put forward for debate would not be brought on and that they would then either be absent from the chamber for various reasons or not prepared to speak when the matter was brought on. I suggest to Senator Rae that it is a little too much to expect that this important item of General Business should be postponed a second time. Without going to to point of opposing the motion by division - we accept the further postponement- we suggest to honourable senators that they adhere, for the convenience of others, as strictly as possible to the Notice Paper or to the circulated business paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay. (Quorum formed).
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Treasurer (Mr Howard), on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee borrowings raised by Qantas Airways Ltd to finance the purchase of four Boeing 747 series aircraft and follows the announcement by the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) in January of the Government’s approval for Qantas to purchase five aircraft, one of which will be financed from Qantas’ internal sources.
Honourable senators will recall that in May of last year, the Parliament passed legislation similar to that now before the Senate covering the purchase of Qantas’ eighteenth and nineteenth B747 series aircraft. The second of those aircraft was delivered last December. The decision to acquire these aircraft was taken after a major examination of its fleet requirement to mid- 1 983 was undertaken by Qantas. Factors which were closely examined include future fuel supply and price, the aircraft types that will be available and likely market growth.
Whilst accurate predictions are difficult to make in the light of the recent increased availability of low fares, the study showed that by April 1983 there will be a need for a fleet of 2 1 B747 aircraft, including one B747-SP- special performance- and three B747 Combi aircraft (a configuration with significantly greater cargo carrying capacity). Qantas propose to achieve this fleet objective by purchasing five new B747 series aircraft, consisting of three B747-200s, one B747-SP and one B747 Combi, and selling a number of its older B747-200 aircraft. Proceeds from the sale of the older aircraft will be used towards funding the acquisition of the fifth aircraft. The new aircraft will generally provide additional long haul services to Europe and the United States. Revenue benefits will accrue from an increased ability to carry full payload over long sectors and competitive advantages from possible one-stop operations from the east coast of Australia to Europe.
The B747-SP on the other hand is a smaller aircraft with exceptionally high performance and will be particularly useful for operations into restricted airports such as Wellington where Qantas is currently chartering aircraft from Air New Zealand. The B747-SP’s operating costs will be of the same order as that of the DC8 aircraft now leased from Air New Zealand but will offer significantly increased seat capacity, as the B747-SP has 336 seats compared with the DC8 ‘s 150 seats. It is expected that the special performance aircraft could also be used on relatively low traffic routes to produce cost savings compared with the larger B747-200 currently in use. Delivery of the first of the new aircraft is expected in September 1980. The others will be progressively phased into service with the fifth being in operation by November 1981. Sufficient flexibility exists in the proposed sale of the older aircraft to allow some flexibility in disposal should traffic growth exceed expectations.
Qantas expects that disposal of the older B747 aircraft will, over a five year period, reduce maintenance and fuel costs sufficiently to improve its after tax profitability by approximately $5m. All the new aircraft will be fitted with the new Rolls Royce D4 engines which are some 10 per cent more fuel efficient than the engines on the aircraft to be replaced. These engines are also higher powered thus producing higher take-off weight capabilities with extended payload and range potential. Additional savings will also result from reduced maintenance costs as these costs increase considerably as aircraft accumulate flight hours. The Government’s policy of requiring the supplying aircraft manufacturer to make arrangements with Australian manufacturers to produce certain aircraft components applies to the acquisition of these aircraft. In respect of existing B747 aircraft, Boeing currently has manufacturing offset arrangements with Australian companies and these will be extended to cover these additional aircraft.
In line with past procedure, the provision of a guarantee would be limited to 80 per cent of the total purchase price of the aircraft, spare parts and associated equipment. This represents $US230m or its equivalent in other currencies. The provision of a guarantee would not involve the Government in any cash outlay, but does create a contingent liability for the Commonwealth. The arrangements for the loan are to be subject to the Treasurer’s approval and adequate security will be provided to the Commonwealth while any amounts of principal or interest remain unpaid. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
Honourable senators will be aware that there have been a succession of Government guarantees to Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd to enable it to raise borrowings to finance the purchase of front line jet aircraft in accordance with the Government’s two-airline policy. The Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) is still negotiating with the two airlines on the future form of the airlines agreement. However, in line with the recommendations of the Domestic Air Transport Policy Review, it is the Government’s intention to retain the principle of two major airlines operating over Australia’s trunk network. The Government will therefore continue to support the provision of such guarantees to the Ansett organisation.
This Bill is similar to previous Bills in that its purpose is to enable the Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee borrowings raised by Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd to finance the purchase of its twelfth Boeing 727-200 series aircraft, due for delivery in September 1980. This aircraft is required to replace the capacity of earlier Boeing 727-100 series aircraft retired from service and to provide adequate capacity for the predicted growth in traffic until the introduction of the new generation of wide bodied aircraft in the early 1980’s. Approval to purchase the aircraft was given in December 1 978.
The proposed Government guarantee will be limited to $US 12.2m or its equivalent, which is 80 per cent of the cost of the aircraft, spares and equipment. The remaining 20 per cent is to be financed from the cash resources of the company. The proposal will not involve the Commonwealth in any expenditure. It will, however, create a contingent liability for the Commonwealth to the extent of the outstanding balance of the borrowings.
In accordance with this Bill the Treasurer will be required to ensure that the Commonwealth ‘s interest is adequately protected by the taking of proper security over the aircraft providing that the aircraft, equipment and spares are kept properly insured. A further requirement is that the aircraft subject to the guarantee is not permitted to leave the country without a security being given to the Commonwealth to the satisfaction of the Treasurer. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– I bring up the 16th report from the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Debate resumed from 3 1 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As I had stated when the debate on the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill was interrupted last Monday, the Opposition will be opposing the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to impose an export levy of 11c a kilogram on uranium oxide to fund environmental protection. The rationale for that opposition is, of course, that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to the mining or export of uranium until such time as it can be demonstrated that a solution to the waste disposals problem and the problem of non-proliferation of nuclear material for military purposes has been achieved. It is quite clear that a solution to neither the technical problem of waste disposal nor the political problem of the proliferation of the use of nuclear power for military purposes has been achieved.
When the debate was interrupted, I was commenting or speculating or expressing a personal view about the future energy supplies in the world. I think a pessimist- I am inclined to be pessimistic about this issue- might well conclude that ultimately the whole world will be forced into a substantial reliance on nuclear energy because other alternatives just will not be feasible unless there is an alarming or unacceptable drop in living standards or an enormous decline in the world’s population. However, whatever one’s personal speculation may be about the ultimate options available in the energy field, there is certainly no urgency for a headlong rush into nuclear power either in Australia or anywhere else.
The nuclear lobby consistently misrepresents the position by implying that nuclear power is an alternative for crude oil. Whilst oil is used for electricity generation to some extent, the more accurate and honest comparison between nuclear power and alternative energy is, of course, between nuclear power and coal. Nuclear power is used only to generate electricity, apart from having some very specialised application for military purposes. So nuclear power is a substitute not for oil, which is, on present indications, in very limited global supply; it is a substitute for coal, for which known reserves will last for at least a couple of centuries.
It is, in my view, scandalous that apologists for the nuclear lobby, such as Sir Ernest Titterton, who occupy important academic positions, have the audacity to claim that nuclear power is clean, cheap and safe. It is demonstrable that nuclear power is none of those things. Although clean in the sense of environmental pollution- this is apart from the long term dangers of radioactivity- the thermal efficiency of nuclear power stations is very poor. If nuclear power stations were to be used as a major energy source in the world there is a very real chance that they could measurably increase temperatures on the planet. The environmental consequences of a temperature increase are not known. Nuclear power stations certainly are not cheap and certainly not safe. I think it is quite scandalous that people such as Titterton who have had scientific training have so prostituted themselves to the nuclear cause that they can make statements such as the one I have referred to. We may expect such statements from people in the advanced stages of meglomania, such as Lang Hancock, but we are entitled to expect better from people such as Sir Ernest Titterton.
Finally, as a Western Australian, I want to express my concern about present developments in energy supplies in Western Australia and the announced plans of the present State government. It was announced on 22 March that the State Government was endeavouring to persuade Alcoa of Australia Limited to locate aluminium smelters in Western Australia. It was reported that Western Australia had an excellent chance of obtaining additional smelters before the eastern States because substantial blocks of power, totalling 400 megawatts, would be available in Western Australia before new power stations planned for the eastern States would come on stream. The effect of the consumption of an extra 400 megawatts of power, which should be available in 1982 in the west for an aluminium refinery, would be to shorten by some 25 percent the life of the Collie coalfield as Western Australia’s source of supply for electricity. This would inevitably strengthen the case of the present Premier and people of his persuasion to proceed with their plans to establish a nuclear reactor.
Apart from the general reservations which may be held about that plan, on purely economic grounds there is an important difference between supplying electricity for a smelter from coalwhich is a relatively cheap method of producing electricity- and supplying it from a nuclear reactor. Given the apparent life of coal deposits in Western Australia, if the Premier’s plans were implemented, within the next 15 or 20 years Western Australia would be doing precisely that- supplying electricity to an aluminium smelter from a nuclear power station. It is highly unlikely that on present day values nuclear power can be produced at less than 5c a unit- a unit being a kilowatt hour. It is also highly unlikely that Western Australia will secure an aluminium smelter unless it supplies electricity at less than 2c a unit or considerably less. Unless there is a source of electrical energy cheaper than the nuclear alternative- it may well be that there is; coal imported from the eastern States may well be cheaper, at least the Mount Newman mining company appears to believe that it would be cheaper- if these plans are proceeded with the State will be in the ludicrous position of supplying electricity at less than 2c a unit which costs 5c a unit to produce from a nuclear reactor. ( Quorum formed)
-We are discussing the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill 1980 which provides for a levy to be placed on uranium exports and the payment of a scientific adviser in the Northern Territory. It also deals with the environmental impacts that mining will have in that area. But, as in many cases when a Bill such as this which deals with nuclear power or uranium comes into the chamber, it is used as a vehicle for discussion of the benefits or otherwise- depending on one’s outlook- of the nuclear power industry. Senator Walsh has raised the matter of the decline in the nuclear power industry. He said that no safe technology exists for waste disposal and that nuclear power is not economical. He also said that ultimately the world will be forced into using nuclear energy because no acceptable alternative will be found. I guess I agree with him. But I do not say: It will be’. I say that we are at that stage now.
– I said it may be.
– We differ on the ‘may be ‘. I say that we have reached that stage now. I have said that petroleum derivatives should be used only for transport. They are portable fuels. I think it is ludicrous that things such as the petroleum derivatives, which are finite, should be used for anything other than transport, especially when alternatives are available. United Nations statistics indicate that in 1976 21 per cent of crude oil consumption was used to generate electricity. These figures do not include those relating to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, East Europe and China. If we relate those figures to the latest ones that I have- those for 1977 the world, excluding the USSR- (Quorum formed). Before the quorum was called I was about to indicate that world crude oil consumptionexcluding USSR, East Europe and China- was 48,305,000 barrels of oil per day. Using the 1976 figures, 2 1 per cent of that- the percentage that is used for the generation of electricity- amounts to 10, 144,050 barrels of oil per day. That is a luxury that we cannot afford.
I turn to the decline in the demand for nuclear energy. That is a fact. One must concede that. But one must also concede that the need for electricity has generally declined. The world has just been through a recession of sorts and the need has not been there. A table from the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation indicates that it anticipates that the need for nuclear power generation will rise constantly until the year 2025. 1 will read a couple of the figures and then ask that the table be incorporated in Hansard. In the year 1985 it is estimated that the lowest increase in growth will need 245 gigawatts; in 1995, 550 gigawatts; in the year 2005, 1,100 gigawatts -
An incident having occurred in the gallery-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Robertson)- Order! Order! Remove those people from the gallery.
– I ask that that table be incorporated in Hansard. I have shown it to Senator Chaney, Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle and the Opposition Whip.
The table read as follows-
– So we see from that table- there would appear to be some people in the community who are not prepared to accept my figures- that there is an estimated growth in the nuclear power industry. These figures do not include the centrally planned economic areas such as USSR, Eastern Europe and China. Recently I discussed this matter with representatives of the Department of Energy in Great Britain. They are under no illusion as to the use they have to put nuclear power. One must recall that Britain has its own coal supplies as well as the great North Sea oil basin. I shall now read some figures which show what Great Britain is anticipating. These figures are expressed in million tonnes of coal equivalent. First of all they show that in 1977 oil used in power stations in Great Britain was 18 million tonne coal equivalent. That figure will rise to 19 million in 1990 using a 3 per cent growth rate, and then decline to 1 3 million tonnes in 2000. In the case of nuclear power, its use in 1977 was 1616 million tonnes coal equivalent; it will be 35 million tonnes coal equivalent in 1990, and 95 million tonnes coal equivalent in the year 2000. I seek leave to have that small table incorporated in Hansard also.
The table read as follows-
( Quorum formed).
– As I said, those figures apply to Great Britain which is a country that has a lot of coal and the vast resources of the North Sea oil field right on her shores. But if we look more closely at Japan, which is one of our nearer neighbours and one of our great trading neighbours, we will see that it has very little in the way of natural resources, even though it has a large industrial base. Japan uses approximately 5.4 million barrels of oil a day. Her use of that oil for the generation of electricity is far in excess of the world average. She uses 35 per cent of that- in other words, 1.89 million barrels of oil a day- for electricity generation. What is more important is that 5 1.7 per cent of her electricity is generated by the use of oil. That is a luxury that Japan cannot alford and indeed it is a luxury that she recognises she cannot afford. Japan is committed to nuclear power.
In discussions that I have had with the Japanese ministry concerning the production of nuclear power, it has indicated to me- those people who think that the nuclear power industry is declining must bear this in mind- that whereas 10.8 per cent of her electricity was generated by nuclear power in 1978, it is estimated that that figure will be 15.6 per cent in 1985, 21.1 per cent in 1990 and 26.7 percent in 1995. At the same time the Japanese envisage that their generation of power from oil will decrease from 51.7 percent in 1978, 36 per cent in 1985, 25.8 per cent in 1990 to 19.7 per cent in 1995. This represents a projected increase in nuclear power generation of 46,000 megawatts over the 10-year period from 1985-95, or 4,600 megawatts a year for 10 years. To put those figures into perspective, the 1979 Year Book shows that the total installed power generating capacity of New South Wales as at the end of June 1977 was 6,453 megawatts, in Victoria it was 4,745 megawatts and in Queensland 2,857 megawatts. In other words, Japan seeks by nuclear power to increase her power generation by equal to the total installed power capacity of Victoria or one and one-half times that of Queensland every year for 10 years. That is hardly an indication that the nuclear power industry is declining.
The other argument is related to the economics of nuclear power generation. The cost of establishing nuclear power stations- this is using Japanese figures because they have hydroelectric power, oil, coal and gas generation- is second in capital expenditure only to hydroelectric power. But the cost of generation of electricity at nuclear power stations is the lowest of the forms of power generation available, and the percentage cost of the fuel required to produce nuclear power is also the lowest. (Quorum formed). The cost of production of power in Japan is 13 yen per kilowatt for hydro-electric power; for oil generation, it is 9.6 yen per kilowatt; for coal generation, it is 12 yen per kilowatt; for liquid natural gas generation, 9.9 yen per kilowatt; and nuclear generation, 6.4 yen per kilowatt.
– What is the source of those figures?
-The Ministry of International Trade and Industry- MITI- in Japan.
– January this year, when I had discussions in Japan. In generating power from oil, the cost of the oil makes up 70 per cent of the cost of generation; coal, 60 per cent; LNG, 60 per cent; and nuclear fuel, 20 per cent. One other figure that I was able to glean from the Japanese in discussion is that they expect, even at those costs, that they will amortise the full cost of their nuclear power stations in 15 years. In addition, work is still being done, for it is concerned not only with power generation, on nuclear powered ships. A discussion with the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum indicated that it thinks that nuclear power can be an economic proposition in ships of 150,000 tonnes or upwards, with from 30,000 to 50,000 shaft horsepower engine requirements. The Japanese are also working on high temperature gas reactors for chemical and steel making. As we can see, there is a lot of work being done. Indeed, nuclear power generation will play an increasing role in our future.
High level wastes are always a bone of contention. One can understand the concern there. I have said on many occasions in this chamber and outside that there are two reasons why nothing much is being done with high level waste. The first and the most important reason is that it is a very valuable source of fuel for the future. Secondly, frankly, there is not enough high level waste in the world for a process to get rid of it to be a commercial proposition. But I think Great Britain, the Continent and Japan have reprocessing facilities for that high level waste. The Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation in Japan, or the PNC, has a reprocessing plant at Tokai Muya which I have been privileged to visit. There it is reprocessing the spent fuel and obtaining from it plutonium and unburned uranium. It is developing also a vitrification process to get rid of what is left. What is left is mainly strontium 90 and cesium 137, a high level waste which has a half life of about 29 years.
At the same time that Corporation is developing both an advanced thermal reactor, or the Fugen reactor, and a fast breeder reactor to use that waste. In this way, one might say that it is hedging its bets. Of course everybody knows that the fast breeder reactor, the Joyo this one is called, can burn the plutonium fuel. But in case that is not finished, is not on line in time or not enough work has been done, the corporation has simultaneously been developing the heavy water reactor or the advanced thermal reactor known as the Fugen. Construction work on the first Fugen commenced in December 1970. It attained criticality in March 1978. It currently has an output of 557 megawatts thermal, or it is generating 165 megawatts electricity. Construction of a further demonstration model is beginning this year. Construction on Joyo, the fast breeder reactor, began in 1970 and was completed in 1 974. It attained criticality in April 1977, and achieved full power of 50 megawatts thermal in July 1978. (Quorum formed). As I said, Japan has plans for a further fast breeder reactor, the Monju, construction on which will begin this year. It will have an output of 714 megawatts thermal, or 300 megawatts of electric power, on its completion. A further demonstration model, of the FBR will be built in 1 987.
The figures for the use of this reprocessed fuel- in other words, the high level waste about which people are so concerned- are interesting. Japan anticipates that, in 1985, it will be using 400 tonnes of reprocessed spent fuel a year. In 1990, it will be using 1,000 tonnes a year. In 1995, it will be using 1,600 tonnes of reprocessed fuel. This is the high level waste about which people are so concerned. This is the rate at which it will be used each year in Japan. Japan is already building a pilot plant for the vitrification of what is left over. In other words, it will be in glass form so that the high level waste cannot leach out, and it either can be buried or put in the sea.
Our nearest neighbours, the people of Japan, will really have the whole nuclear power cycle tied up probably before any other nation. As I have said, it will be very necessary for their industrial survival, and we as a nation are in a good position to be able to supply them with their raw fuel. It is of vital necessity for them, as indeed it is for Great Britain and the Continent, that they have supplies of uranium, and we are in a position to supply that uranium. I think we have to accept the fact that uranium is now and will be increasingly a very necessary part of the world ‘s energy needs.
We are concerned with a Bill that deals with a levy on the mines in the Northern Territory. I think we all agree that the mines should do as little damage as possible to the environment. This legislation provides a levy to see that this is done. People find it hard to understand, but most of the areas in which mines are built, particularly uranium mines, are vast. The mine is but a very small pan of such an area. The supervising Scientist in the region will make sure that the beautiful Alligator Rivers area in the Northern Territory is harmed very little. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– This Bill is the Customs Tariff ( Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to introduce from the date of royal assent an export duty on uranium concentrate produced from uranium ore obtained from the Alligator Rivers region in the Northern Territory. The rate of export duty to be imposed will be 1 lc per kilogram of anhydrous tri-uranium octoxide, U3O8 contained in the uranium concentrate. The duty is to be imposed in recognition of the special cost of environmental monitoring and research activities related to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers region. The Government estimates that this duty will yield about $lm per annum. This will be about one-fifth of Government expenditure on environmental regulatory services such as the work of the Supervising Scientist, the coordinating committee and the Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute, as well as various activities carried out by the Northern Territory Government which the Federal Government has undertaken to reimburse.
The Australian Democrats support this Bill. We think that equity demands that, if uranium concentrate is to be exported, the mining companies, and not the taxpayer, should contribute to the cost of protecting the environment. I am surprised and disappointed that the Labor Party is opposing the Bill. I can understand its reasons for opposing uranium mining on philosophical grounds. The Australian Democrats share those reasons. I will be saying something about that in a moment. But this Bill does not deal with uranium mining. The purpose of this Bill is to extract from the mining companies a duty so that the costs of preserving and protecting the environment can be partly met. My savage criticism of this Bill- and the Australian Democrats’ criticism of it- is not that it levies a duty, but that the duty is pathetically too low. Eleven cents a kilogram, the Government admits, will provide only one-fifth of the expenditure on the environmental regulatory services. Why should the taxpayer and Consolidated Revenue be asked to fork out four-fifths of the cost of protecting or preserving an environment which a mining company destroys by taking out uranium and selling it at massive profits? If the Labor Party is so disposed, although I agree with it that it would be an exercise in futility, I would like to move an amendment in the Committee stage of this Bill, and I would like the support of the Labor Party, to increase that 1 lc a kilogram to a realistic figure.
I know that Senate itself cannot amend a money Bill, but it is quite within our competence, as I am advised, for us to send this Bill back to the House of Representatives with a request that sub-clause 6(1) of the Bill be amended to increase to a realistic figure the duty of 11c per kilogram on anhydrous tri-uranium octoxide contained in the concentrate. In fact there is no rationale in the second reading speech of why we are not asking the uranium mining companies to fork out the whole bill. Massive damage is done to the environment through uranium mining, as any of us who visit a site would well know. Where is the rationale? Where is the logic in a company making massive profits out of selling uranium, destroying the environment, and the taxpayer having virtually to subsidise that company which is earning those sorts of profits? I would like the Minister, in responding to the second reading debate, to explain the Government ‘s rationale for it.
However, we do support the Bill because, if it is not passed, the mining companies would virtually be paying nothing. If the Bill were defeated, the mining companies would get off the hook to the extent of $ lm a year. In other words, the defeat of this Bill would mean a straight gift to uranium mining companies of Sim a year. I do not think that Senator Primmer, who will follow me in this debate, would relish the thought of voting for something that is going to make the uranium mining companies $ lm a year richer. I would ask him to reconsider the situation. Having said that, I want to make it perfectly clear that the Australian Democrats are in no way retreating from our opposition to the mining and export of uranium.
I am very proud, if I could indulge myself for a moment, to claim that I was the first member of the Federal Parliament to raise a motion in the Federal Parliament that uranium should not be mined and milled in Australia until proper international safeguards were set up or the safe disposal of waste was guaranteed. I remind the Senate that I moved that motion when I was an Independent member of the House of Representatives in the early part of 1977. 1 am delighted that, since those early days, the opposition from caring, thinking people to uranium mining has steadily grown in this country, on several grounds. In fact I am interested as to why a Gallup poll on the popularity of uranium mining has not been taken for a considerable time. There has been a steady opposition to uranium mining among the Australian people in the last three years. I am rather curious as to the reason why those pollsters, who seem to take public opinion on any issue at the drop of a hat, have neglected this issue lately. I hope that there is nothing sinister in their reluctance to take a poll on this matter.
Reasons for opposing the use of mining and export of uranium have been stated before, but I would like in this debate to recapitulate them briefly. I believe that nuclear power is the ultimate insanity, for several reasons. It will provide energy relief for an energy-short world for only a short time. I will not put specific figures on it because it depends on whether we go to the ultimate insanity of fast breeder reactors, which Senator Collard seemed to be advocating. That would be the ultimate in madness. But to put figures on it, with variables, maybe 20 per cent of the world ‘s energy needs would be supplied for about 30 years. One would say, in an energyshort world, with the troubles with Middle East oil and the running out of fossil fuels, that that is a fair proposition. One could make that a reasonably respectable argument.
One must look at the other side of the coin, that is that it will leave a legacy of wastes which do cause cancer and which may cause genetic damage in unborn children for 100,000 years, or, in some cases, up to 500,000 years. That is why I use the language ‘the ultimate insanity’. For a short respite, because of our negligence in finding alternative sources of fuels other than the fossil fuels over the years, we suddenly find ourselves in an energy-short world and we say:
There it is, the quick, easy answer, and to hell with the cost’. If I could make this remark in passing: I just wonder where my favourite people, the Right to Life Association, are during this debate on the question of nuclear energy. Why are they not campaigning about the genetic- damage that the Fox report and other reports have said could be done to unborn children by the wastage of the tailings into the atmosphere? They seem so concerned, and quite properly so, about the right to life, abortion and other matters, but they seem to be thunderously quiet on the question of genetic damage caused to unborn children by the waste from uranium mining and nuclear reactors.
– There is no evidence of that.
– I am interjected upon by an honourable senator saying that there is no evidence. If Senator Collard would like to look at the Fox report, which his Government holds up as a basis on which to proceed with uranium mining in Australia, he will see that it makes one categorical statement: that wastes from uranium mining do cause cancer. There is no question about it. There is no equivocation in the report of three very distinguished people. The report says that it may cause genetic damage in unborn children.
– I suggest you read some of the evidence.
-Senator Collard interjected and asked me what evidence. I quoted the Fox report, and I am being fair. I said that it was not an unequivocal statement that the Fox report made, but it said that it may cause genetic damage in unborn children. If Senator Collard and other members on the Government side want to say ‘All right, we will run that risk. We will go ahead and mine and mill uranium, knowing we are running the risk of causing genetic damage to unborn children’ that is a moral judgment that they make. Let them make that moral judgment. What I say is that it is a hideous judgment to make, to run any risk at all of allowing genetic damage to unborn children, because that is a right that our generation does not have. We do not have the right to take any risk at all with innocents who are not yet born and not yet contemplated.
If there is one out of a thousand chances that the mining and milling of uranium can cause damage to unborn children, I would say that sheer morality would demand that we not do it, and look for alternatives. One could go on and say that the way in which we have not looked for alternative sources of energy almost amounts to criminal negligence. A Liberal senator asked an excellent question the other day of the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick), as to the proportion of research that is being spent on nuclear research compared to solar energy. He queried whether it is something like one to 100. That is the present situation.
Further, nuclear energy is put up as being the salvation of those underdeveloped countries that are short of energy. I will not develop that argument because I think it falls to the ground when I simply make that statement. In the developing countries which have installed or intend to instal nuclear reactors, these reactors are or will be in the big cities. They will provide a marginal amount of energy for big cities. The peasants of those countries where increased energy assistance is desperately needed will get virtually no extra energy at all.
We are concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We believe that the international safeguards- and I would put those words in quotation marks- are not worth the paper they are written on. Can any honourable senator on the Government side tell me that simply because countries such as the Philippines, South Korea or Iran sign a bit of paper they will be good boys and will not misuse our uranium? I should be grateful for any assurance that we may believe that. I mentioned those three countries because we have contemplated selling and, in fact, have tried to sell our uranium to those three countries- the Philippines, South Korea, and even Iran before the madness swept that country. At the time those countries were presumed by the Government to be safe to sell our uranium to. I asked a question in the Senate about the morality of selling uranium to the Philippines. President Marcos- by naming the President I run the risk of offending Standing Orders- is the most corrupt leader in Asia. He is a man without compassion and a man who, with his wife, has amassed millions of dollars by corrupt means. We are contemplating selling our uranium to the Philippines, which is building a reactor on a geophysical fault, two miles from the lava flow of an active volcano and with, it is alleged, faulty concrete supplied by relatives of Madam Marcos.
I asked Senator Carrick, as the Minister representing the then Minister for National Development, whether we had a moral responsibility to the innocent peasants and people who will have to live in the vicinity of that reactor. The answer I received from the then Minister, Mr Newman, was that the question of safety was a matter for the Government of that country. Apparently the philosphy of this Government is that if we can get a quick buck for our uranium it does not matter which countries we sell it to. Apparently it does not matter what they do with it; it does not matter where they build their reactor; and the thousands of innocent people who could be genetically damaged or who could contract cancer as a result do not matter a damn. The only criterion seems to be to get a quick buck at any cost.
– How do you feel about coal mining? It is far more hazardous with respect to carcinogenic material.
- Senator Jessop ‘s remark is an absurd analogy. It is like the analogy that the Republicans or Jimmy Carter’s followers immediately drew when Senator Kennedy announced his candidature for the Presidency. They simply said that there were more deaths at Chappaquiddick than have ever been caused by a nuclear reactor. One could go on with those absurd analogies.
In conclusion I say that we are against exporting our uranium because of the risks, slight though they might be, of a catastrophic nuclear accident. We have had examples of accidents. We are also against nuclear energy because of the possibility of nuclear terrorism. The Canberra Times of ‘24 December 1979 stated:
After an intensive three-month inquiry at the Tennessee nuclear plant, federal investigators have been unable to account for a missing amount of highly enriched uranium large enough to make at least one nuclear device. They have recommended revoking the plant’s operating licence.
The Australian on 22, 24 and 26 December 1979 produced a series of articles on nuclear terrorism. Those articles included the point that 35 nuclear threats have been made against United States cities since 1970. I admit that most of those threats would have been crank calls, but four of those calls triggered off high level responses by authorities. The calls included threats to destroy cities such as Los Angeles and Boston. The authorities took the calls seriously because they knew that thousands of kilograms of nuclear material were unaccounted for. Some of this material could have fallen into the hands of criminals, the Mafia or political groups. There are many other examples of terrorist activities in this area which give rise to great concern.
One shipment of highly enriched uranium disappeared between New York’s Kennedy Airport and Frankfurt, West Germany. Five days later it turned up in London. One hundred and seventythree kilograms of bomb-grade material went missing from a nuclear facility at Apollo, Pennsylvania. To me that is another worrying matter. We are in a different league from coal mining. If a truckload of coal gets lost between New York and Pennsylvania, so be it; but if a couple of kilograms of highly radioactive material, plutonium, is lost a whole city can be held to ransom. Therefore, the Australian Democrats are unequivocal in their opposition to uranium milling and mining and to nuclear activity until at least those sorts of problems can be solved. We hold the view that they could never be solved. This Bill simply levies a duty on uranium mining companies to contribute to the environmental protection of the area they will destroy. Our only objection is that the levy is not high enough. ( Quorum formed).
-The Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill is designed to introduce an export levy on concentrate produced from uranium mined in the Alligator Rivers Region in the Northern Territory. As has already been stated by my colleague, Senator Walsh, the Opposition opposes the Bill. In fact, the Australian Labor Party’s approach to the whole argument surrounding uranium mining and the use of uranium is expressed in our Party’s constitution and platform as carried at the biennial Conference held in Adelaide last July. In part, that document states:
Accordingly, a Labor Government will- a declare a moratorium on uranium mining and treatment in Australia; b repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor Government to the mining, processing or export of Australia ‘s uranium; and c not permit the mining, processing or export of uranium pursuant to agreements entered into contrary to ALP policy.
At a later stage I hope to have that policy document, as well as some other material, incorporated in Hansard. The Bill will impose a duty of 11c per kilogram on concentrate exported by mining companies from the Alligator Rivers Region. At last year’s hearings of the Senate Estimates committees, the Department of Science and the Environment produced documents which showed that in the current year the Australian taxpayers are contributing some $4,713,000 towards the protection of the environment in the Alligator Rivers Region. In the previous year, the Australian taxpayers afforded for the same purpose the sum of $1,715,000. That means that over two financial years the total contribution by the Australian taxpayers towards environmental protection of this area that is proposed to be mined by private companies was $6.4m. I believe that that is not an untidy sum in the way of a contribution- in fact, a subsidy- to the private companies involved in uranium mining in the area.
This expenditure by the Government is an attempt to ensure that the mining companies involved in this venture do not leave the Alligator Rivers Region in a state similar to that in which their uranium mining forebears left the Rum Jungle area. Anyone who has looked at the effect on the environment in that area must be aware that, whatever money is expended by government of whatever political pursuasion in an endeavour to head off environmental damage, a massive task has to be performed. The estimated return to the taxpayers from this levy is the sum total of $945,000 over three years. That will be the return to the taxpayers, or to the Australian Government. Given no further expenditure for the protection of the environment in that area, it will take the Australian taxpayers around 20 years to get back their investment thus far spent for this purpose.
On that estimate, one presumes also that the nature of the mining undertaking will not expand in any way and that no major disasters will occur. I believe that to spend $6.4m to recoup $945,000 over three years- it will take 20 years to recoup the total amount- is a fairly dicey capital venture as far as the Australian taxpayer is concerned and one to which no person who wanted to involve himself in a business would give a second thought. I say that particularly in light of the fact that at present there is a glut in the supply of uranium on the world market. It is reported in the media that such is the glut around the world that a number of countries which produce uranium are attempting to get together to form some sort of cartel in order to hold back supplies of uranium on the world market and so hold the price at what they deem to be a profitable level for mining.
The Government seems intent on going ahead with and is hell bent on allowing the export and subsequent further use of uranium, despite the dangers that I believe, and we of the Labor Party believe, it presents to people everywhere. They are dangers which we all realise today were present 20 or 30 years ago but about which the public were not informed. One can only assess the situation as the sins of the fathers being passed on to the children of today. A recent Four Corners program showed the health damage caused to United States service personnel who in the early days of testing nuclear weapons were pushed into the radioactive mushroom cloud immediately after the bombs went off. The death rate among these personnel was highlighted in that program. The amount of cancer contracted by farmers and other small-townfolk, who on several occasions due to a change of wind were innundated with radioactive fall-out from the same blasts, was rather frightening. Despite what Senator Collard may have said earlier, it is a pity that he did not see that television report. I am sure it would have enlightened his mind to the dangers, potential and real, from radioactive fall-out.
Thousands of people around the world are dead or dying as a result of both nuclear weapons used in wartime and nuclear bombs that have been exploded for all sorts of purposes since. One day the world will wake up to the reality of the genetic damage that these tests and blasts will do to future generations. I suggest that the release of radioactive gas from the Three Mile Island plant over populated areas last year is only a repeat of earlier mistakes that, as I said, take 20 or 30 years to surface. It is interesting to read of the reassuring noises that are made by people in authority when something goes wrong at one of these reactors. They try to tell the panic stricken public downwind that their health is not in jeopardy and that there is no need to worry. That is exactly what they told the farmers and village folk adjacent to tests carried out in Nevada 20 or 30 years ago. Following the release of radioactive gas from the reactor at Three Mile Island, on 28 February the Melbourne Sun carried a report which stated:
Radioactive gas can be leaked into the atmosphere to allow repair work at the damaged Three Mile Island nuclear plant, State authorities said today.
The report went on to state:
Although the safety of local people could not be guaranteed, Lieutenant-Governor William Scranton said: ‘We fear the dangers of not venting at all are greater than controlled venting’.
That was a catch-22 system situation as far as the Lieutenant-Governor of that State was concerned. The report went on further to say:
The cooling system still contains a million gallons of water contaminated by radioactivity.
The report went on to quote the LieutenantGovernor, William Scranton, as having said:
The safety of the people cannot be 100 per cent guaranteed, but the State cannot continue to drag its feet.
So the gas was vented. Under the heading ‘Harrisburg baby deaths rise’, this morning’s edition of the Melbourne Age states:
Infant deaths increased sharply near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant after America ‘s nuclear accident there a year ago, Pennsylvania’s health agency acknowledged yesterday.
In the six months after the accident there were 3 1 infant deaths, about twice the State average.
A University of Pittsburgh Professor, Dr Gordon MacLeod who was Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, when the accident occurred said: ‘It is highly unlikely that radiation directly caused the increase. But we ought to go looking for the causes. ‘
I suspect that in 12 months time, given the past history of these sorts of accidents, there will be an acknowledgement by the health authorities in that area that the leakage of the gas from Three Mile Island was the cause of the increase in deaths of those young children.
Further evidence of the tragedies that takes so long to surface has arisen in the last couple of years in our own country. This year the Australian Government and this Parliament have appropriated $225,000 for work on the Maralinga test site, such work to include identifying the seven former test sites, erecting warning signs and high mesh fences. This is to take place years after the devices were exploded. Goodness knows how many people have accidentally or otherwise visited those sites and possibly been contaminated. Years afterwards, and with the possibility of unknown damage having been caused to human beings, all of a sudden the Government has decided to do something. In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of May 1 979, an article which is almost an advertisement appears under the heading ‘Old Nuclear Sites’. It refers to nuclear sites in the United States. The article states:
The Department of Energy has turned to the public for help in identifying all possible sites in the U.S. where radioactive material may have been stored or processed in the early years of the atomic age. DOE has been searching government files for more than five years in an attempt to compile a complete listing of such sites. Because many records were misplaced or destroyed -
I suggest that they were destroyed intentionally:
Over the years, the Department has asked that any member of the public who knows where such work was once done contact DOE. The sites would have been used for nuclear work from the 1940s through the 1960s, but might be used for non-nuclear purposes today. Information on sites formerly used for processing uranium and thorium ore should be sent to Dr William E. Mott, Depanment of Energy, Mail Station, E-20 1 , Washington, D.C. 20545.
That is something to which the Australian Government one day may well have to give some consideration. As was mentioned by Senator Chipp, the Australian Government recently has tried to sell uranium to the Philippines, to President Marcos, one of the greatest despots of Asia. I concur with every word that Senator Chipp had to say about President Marcos and the Lady Marcos- Mrs five per cent, ten per cent or twenty per cent, whatever sort of rip-off she may be getting. The construction of the proposed nuclear plant to be built in Bataan province has been halted. I suggest that, when a despot like Marcos is prepared to halt such a project, there must be something drastically wrong with it. Perhaps Mrs
Marcos was not getting her 10 per cent; I do not know. In a country like the Philippines that could be one reason why a halt would be called to the building of such a plant.
As Senator Chipp said, the plant was to be built in Bataan province adjacent to or on a geological fault. Having visited the Philippines in recent times, I am astounded that a country such as that is prepared to spend some $2 billion, when students at trade schools in that. country studying, for example, motor mechanics are still using 1950 motor manuals and text books. It seems to me that the Government of the Philippines has its priorities upside down. I am inclined to suggest that perhaps the only reason for the building of a nuclear reactor to produce electricity in Bataan province is to tie the electricity so produced into the free trade zone which flourishes there but which means so little to the peasants of the Philippines. I again refer to the matter of old nuclear sites and mine tailings. In the same edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of May 1979 from Washington, under the heading ‘Unresolved: The Front End Nuclear Waste Disposal’ is an extensive article which brings up the question of mine tailings. The article in part states:
Long unrecognised as a problem, the hazardous wastes generated in the production of uranium at last are receiving the attention they need. The Uranium Mill Tailings Control Act of 1978, enacted during the final frenzied session of the 95th Congress, authorizes various government units to see that uranium tailings are cleaned up at some 22 inactive mill sites and to establish improved procedures for management of tailings at operational mills.
Over three or four pages the article points out the massive and potential danger to thousands of citizens, men, women and children, of the United States when tailings have been used in concrete mixes to lay down foundations for all sorts of buildings. After all these years the authorities have realised that those tailings are still radioactive. God alone knows what damage will be done to future generations of Americans.
I was rather intrigued by Senator Collard ‘s dissertation on the disposal of nuclear wastes by the Japanese. All the reading that I have done in relation to the vitrification of nuclear waste and its proposed disposal in salt beds leads me to believe that science has a long way to go before this will be achieved. I was intrigued that Senator Collard should also suggest that the Japanese are toying with the idea, as are mad scientists all around the world, of burying nuclear waste after vitrification, if not in salt beds, in the sea. The mind boggles if mad scientists are prepared to dispose of this volatile material in the seas of the world. I am not a religious person; I am atheistic in my outlook. But I seem to recall learning at a very early age of the word ‘Armageddon’. Quite frankly, to dispose of this material in the oceans of the world could bring about the Armageddon for mankind in my view.
It is rather interesting to study the research that has been done in relation to the disposal of wastes. A great amount of stress has been placed and money has been spent, on drilling thousands of bore holes, particularly in the United States, to find salt beds, to try to work out how long they have been there, whether they move and whether water gets in. It is notable that most- I think all- of the States and counties in the United States of America which have received from the authorities requests to drill wells for this purpose have agreed so to do. It is also notable that not one of those States or countries has been prepared to allow the same authorities even to talk about disposing of the waste by putting it down the bore holes they have drilled in those States and counties. I read from an article which appeared in Volume 200 of Science of 9 June 1978 which, as was the case with the rest of the material from which I have quoted, I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library. Under the heading ‘Nuclear Wastes: The Science of Geologic Disposal Seen as Weak’, the article states:
For more than 20 -years deep geologic disposal has been regarded as the leading technical option for getting rid of the most dangerous and troublesome forms of nuclear wastes, with salt formations generally viewed as the most promising of the geologic media considered. Moreover, an assertion often made by government officials, scientists, and engineers associated with the waste management program has been that the feasibility of the geologic disposal concept is not in doubt. For instance, in late 1976 a top official of the Energy Research and Development Administration declared that fulfilment of ERDA’s plans to establish six deep geologicrepositories, with the first (in salt) to be available by 1985, would required only ‘straightforward technology and engineering development. ‘
It comes as a surprise, therefore, to discover now that there seems to be an emerging concensus among earth scientists familar with waste disposal problems that the old sense of certitude was misplaced. Although these scientists continue to find the concept of geologic disposal attractive intuitively, some are stating explicitly that the scientific feasibility of the concept remains to be established. What a number of others are saying, while less direct, seems to add up to pretty much the same thing.
We can then turn from the disposal of nuclear wastes to the decommissioning of nuclear plants. Already there are some plants in the United States, for example, that have done their time and must now be decommissioned. I am not so sure that governments or authorities which have been running those plants over the years, in their feasibility studies of the cost of the electricity that would be produced or the capital costs involved in the establishment of the plants, ever considered anything about the decommissioning of the plants at the end of their lives. The question I ask myself, as I am sure every taxpayer in America and in other countries in which this problem will be one of increased proportions in the years to come must ask himself: Who will pay for that? Will private enterprise be allowed to walk away from those nuclear plants, leaving nuclear time bombs for the taxpayers to cope with, leave nuclear time bombs for eons into the future which our children’s children will have to watch over and guard in their own interests and in the interests of mankind?
I have listened to debates and read Press articles about the battles that have been going on concerning the mining of sacred sites on Aboriginal land in Western Australia and the mythology of the Aborigines, which includes the belief that to drill in certain areas will lead to all sorts of dire consequences for the Aborigines. I suggest that it may well be that in 5,000 years into the future some sort of mythology based around these decommissioned nuclear plants will have been developed by people who have been sitting and watching over those plants for years and years. The mentality of our Aborigines today, which we sometimes question because of their beliefs, may be something that future generations of white people will ponder over.
(4.50)- in reply- The Senate has been debating the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill. As has been stated, this is a Bill to impose an export levy on uranium concentrate produced in or obtained from the Alligator Rivers Region in the Northern Territory. The Bill has been introduced because special costs are involved in environmental monitoring. It is expected that the revenue gained over the next three years will be $945,000. 1 have listened with interest to a number of the speakers who have contributed to this debate. I have noted many points that they have made and the expression of their concern about the situation now and in the future.
One matter to which I wish to respond concerns a matter raised by Senator Chipp. He asked for the Government’s reasons with regard to the levy which is proposed and the rationale for the 1 lc levy which is proposed under this Bill. I want to respond to that matter because it was a specific request and I know that Senator Chipp has a particular interest in that aspect of the Bill. I advise the honourable senator that the levy is designed to meet approximately the cost of special environmental protection measures adopted in the Alligator Rivers Region. The special measures include the Office of the Supervising Scientist, the Co-ordinating Committee for the Alligator Rivers Region and the Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute. These arrangements, set out in the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act, are over and above the normal protection arrangements that exist in the Northern Territory and in all the States through the mines department and through normal State government environmental protection measures.
The cost of those measures are charges made on the taxpayers of Australia but the levy which is proposed under this Bill is for special measures of monitoring outside those environmental protection measures. The cost of restoring the land following the conclusion of mining is a charge on the mining companies. I think this covers one of the points made by Senator Chipp. The mining companies are required to lodge a rehabilitation security trust fund of many millions of dollars to cover the final cost of rehabilitation. This Bill concerns the cost of the special supervision of mining, not the restoration of the land.
Some mention was made of the Supervising Scientist and perhaps this other aspect of the rehabilitation of the land is quite clearly expressed at page 21 of the Supervising Scientist’s first annual report 1978-79. Under the heading ‘Rehabilitation’ he expresses requirements with regard to that matter. He states:
Both the Ranger and Nabarlek Environmental Requirements make provision Tor rehabilitation; e.g. tailings are to be returned to the mine pit (Ranger clause 29, Nabarlek clause 26); areas where the ground has been disturbed must be rehabilitated and revegetated (Ranger clause 30. Nabarlek clause 27); structures remaining at the end of mining are to be dismantled and removed entirely or buried and the surface revegetated (Ranger clause 31, Nabarlek clause 28).
In addition the Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act provides that the Minister for Mines and Energy may require any mine, waste rock or any land disturbed by mining to be rehabilitated or covered with vegetation.
In the case of Ranger a specific clause relating to rehabilitation is included in the section 44 Agreement. The Commonwealth has undertaken (clause 8) to ensure that all rehabilitation work in the Ranger project area is carried out by the Joint Venturers in accordance with the section 41 Authority; and that, if for any reason the Joint Venturers fail to carry out the work, the Commonwealth will do it.
The Supervising Scientist continues, at page 22 of the report:
The Agreement between the Commonwealth and the Joint Venturers of 9 January, 1979 includes an undertaking by the Joint Venturers to carry out rehabilitation in accordance with the Environmental Requirements
. Rehabilitation is to be carried out progressively. The Agreement also requires the Joint Venturers to provide security, initially in the form of a bank guarantee but later in the form of a cash deposit, of an amount sufficient to pay for the costs of rehabilitation.
I mention this matter in detail because of the point made by Senator Chipp regarding the responsibility of the mining companies.
I draw attention to the prime purpose of the Bill, which is to deal with the special costs involved in environmental monitoring. It is unusual to introduce a Bill to impose a specific levy to cover special protection of this kind which is outside of the usual environmental measures. I think honourable senators gave their own impressions of the Bill and their own concerns with regard to uranium mining. I have no response to make to them specifically in view of the special nature of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Senator PRIMMER (Victoria)-With your indulgence, Mr President, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard documents from which I quoted in part during my speech earlier.
The documents read as follows-
UNRESOLVED: THE FRONT END OF NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL
Long unrecognized as a problem, the hazardous wastes generated in the production of uranium at last are receiving the attention they need. The Uranium Mill Tailings Control Act of 1978, enacted during the final frenzied sessions of the 95th Congress, authorizes various government units to see that uranium tailings are cleaned up at some 22 inactive mill sites and to establish improved procedures for management of tailings at operational mills. The manner in which the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission carry om this mandate will have an important impact on their credibility as conscientious and impartial arbiters of our energy future.
The agencies now responsible for regulation of mill tailings are starting at a considerable handicap. During the first decades of the nuclear era the authorities which should have undertaken management of tailings failed to do so. The potential dangers associated with tailings remained unanalyzed: standards for handling of tailings were left unformulated and disposal technologies undeveloped: hazardous situations were allowed to accumulate. As a result, there is today an unresolved issue of nuclear waste management at the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle as well as at the back end. And the agencies which are to clean up the existing mess and prevent it from recurring are in the unenviable position of having to take decisive action in the absence of adequate information and public trust. Hard as the agencies may try, their situation is likely to become even more awkward before it improves.
The radioactivity emitted by uranium mill tailings, unlike the very concentrated radioactivity in spent reactor fuel, is highly diffuse. Nonetheless, the total quantity of radioactivity in tailings is extremely large. About 85 percent of the radioactivity present in the original uranium ore remains in the tailings, as the major intermediate contributors to radioactive emissions- thorium-230 and radium- are not removed in milling operations. The most important decay product emitted by the tailings is a noble gas, radon, which continues to decay into so-called radon daughters. Gamma radiation emitted in the decay process can cause cancers such as leukemia, and the radon daughters if inhaled cause lung cancer. Any close exposure to tailings is dangerous, and it is especially dangerous if the radioactive gases emitted from the tailings are trapped in a closed structure.
The Atomic Energy Commission during the 1950s and 1960s first denied that tailings posed any serious dangers to public health, then tried to block research and public inquiry into mill practices in the face of increasingly disturbing evidence, and finally attempted to disclaim any institutional responsibility for the existence of a problem. The AEC’s record, as Peter Metzger has shown, ‘at every point reflected a refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem and a substantial effort to prevent others from doing so’. The single most scandalous result of AEC policies was the extensive use of mill tailings in construction work at Grand Junction, Colorado, between 1952 and 1966.
A law enacted in 1972 (P.L. 92-3 14) provided for the removal of tailings from locations in Grand Junction where they were found to constitute a menace to public health, but the law has not been altogether effective. The legislation made clean-up activities contingent on voluntary participation by local property owners, basically because the government was anxious to avoid liability for damages that might arise out of the program. Largely because of this reliance on voluntary consent, the program still is only about half-finished, six years after it began. Of some 700 locations identified as needing remedial action, just 315 had been cleaned up as of May 3 1 , 1 978. Another 600 locations, moreover, could not be evaluated satisfactorily ‘because the owners or occupants refuse to allow measurements or they could not be contacted.
Tailings also have been used for constructions in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, and the resulting dangers to public health differ only in degree from what is found at Grand Junction. While the Salt Lake City and Cannonsburg sites are to receive priority attention under the 1978 Mill Tailings Control Act, this Bill also relies on the consent of property owners, so regulators are likely to encounter the same impediments which have retarded progress in Colorado.
Over 25 million tons of uranium tailings have accumulated at inactive uranium mills, and ‘at none of these sites, ‘ according to a recent Department of Energy study, ‘can the tailings be considered adequately stabilized for long-term storage. Contamination usually extends beyond the property boundaries due to wind or water erosion.’5 In Durango, Colorado, to take just one example, dust from a nearby tailings pile is said to have blanketed homes, and on Utah ‘s Green River a flash flood on one occasion washed 14,000 tons of tailings downstream.
In addition to the tailings at inactive mills, 1 1 3 million tons have piled up at operating mills, and they will continue to pile up at a rate of approximately 10 to 15 million tons per year. While management of the tailings at these mills may in some ways be easier than at the inactive sites, since new technologies can be incorporated into standard operating procedures, selection of the best technologies available will be no mean feat. ‘Only recently,’ the President’s Interagency Review Group on Nuclear Waste Management reported in October, ‘have innovative methods been initiated. Time is needed to evaluate these methods as well as to explore additional methods of disposal and stabilization. ‘
Tailings, it is generally foreseen, could be disposed of by means of variants of two basic methods. Either the tailings can be left on the surface-in natural depressions or artificial pits, lined or unlined- where they would be covered with clay or compacted earth. Or they could be buried below ground, perhaps in the mines from which the ore originally came.
There are a lot of rough edges to both methods, however. Burial of tailings below ground could not be done in all cases because the volume of tailings is larger than the volume of the original ore (since milling decreases its density): in many cases burial of tailings might be prohibitively expensive. At least 20 feet of earth are required, on the other hand, to bring emissions from tailings left on the surface down to an acceptable range, and in any event surface disposal sites may be virtually impossible to secure for the very long term.
Overarching all the specific technical and economic issues regarding disposal of tailings is the philosophical question of how long and how well they should be secured. Because of the very long half-lives of the most troublesome elements decaying in the tailings, the amount of radioactivity present in tailings becomes comparable after a few thousand years to the long-lived radioactivity present in high-level nuclear wastes. Even though the radiation emitted by the tailings at any given time is small, over a period of 100,000 years the cumulative radiation from the tailings ‘becomes the dominant contribution to radiation exposure from the nuclear fuel cycle.
The radioactive elements in mill tailings, the President’s nuclear waste study group concluded in October, may constitute by virtue of their presence at the surface of the earth ‘a greater potential problem than those in deeply buried HLW (high level) and TRU (transuranic) wastes’. Should then the mill tailings be disposed of as securely as is foreseen for high level wastes contained in spent reactor fuel?
NUCLEAR WASTES: THE SCIENCE OF GEOLOGIC DISPOSAL SEEN AS WEAK
For more than 20 years deep geologic disposal has been regarded as the leading technical option for getting rid of the most dangerous and troublesome forms of nuclear wastes, with salt formations generally viewed as the most promising of the geologic media considered. Moreover, an assertion often made by government officials, scientists, and engineers associated with the waste management program has been that the feasibility of the geologic disposal concept is not in doubt. For instance, in late 1976 a top official of the Energy Research and Development Administration declared that fulfilment of ERDA’s plans to establish six deep geologic repositories, with the first (in salt) to be available by 1985, would require only ‘straightforward technology and engineeing development ‘.
It comes as a surprise, therefore, to discover now that there seems to be an emerging consensus among earth scientists familiar with waste disposal problems that the old sense of certitude was misplaced. Although these scientists continue to find the concept of geologic disposal attractive intuitively, some are stating explicitly that the scientific feasibility of the concept remains to be established. What a number of others are saying, while less direct, seems to add up to pretty much the same thing.
AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY PLATFORM
That the provision of Australian uranium to the world nuclear fuel cycle creates problems relevant to Australian sovereignty, the environment, the economic welfare of our people, and the rights and well-being of the Aboriginal people.
Believing that, having regard to the present unresolved economic, social, biological, genetic, environmental and technical problems associated with the mining of uranium and the development of nuclear power, and in particular:
to the proven contribution of the nuclear power industry to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war; and
the absence of procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes to ensure that any danger posed by such wastes to human life and the environment is eliminated.
It is imperative that no commitment of Australian uranium deposits to the world ‘s nuclear fuel cycle should be made until:
a reasonable time has elapsed for full public debate on, and consideration of, the issues;
the ALP is satisfied that the abovementioned problems have been solved; and
the Australian Government endorses Recommendation 6 of the First Fox Report, which states: a decision to mine and sell uranium should not be made unless the Commonwealth Government ensures that the Commonwealth can at any time . . . immediately terminate those activities, permanently, indefinitely or for a specific period ‘.
Accordingly, a Labor Government will:
declare a moratorium on uranium mining and treatment in Australia;
repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor Government to the mining, processing or export of Australia’s uranium; and
not permit the mining, processing or export of uranium pursuant to agreements entered into contrary to ALP policy.
Prohibits the establishment in Australia of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 (Rate of Duty).
– I seek the indulgence of the Committee for a moment to refer to an incident which happened earlier today. While Senator Collard was speaking during the second reading debate some young teenagers in the Gallery let their enthusiasm get away with them and in a fairly dignified form started chanting a few slogans. I understand that the Australian Federal Police escorted them from the Gallery, admonished them and let them off with a warning. I think that the very dignified and reasonable way in which members of the Australian Federal Police handled the situation is a tribute to their moderation.
– Owen Leitch wouldn’t have handled it in that way.
-The Australian Federal Police has a different commissioner. I commend the police for their action.
I thank the Clerks of the House, who have prepared the amendment which I propose to move. They responded very quickly to my request. I place on record my thanks to them. I move:
This amendment is consistent with what I said during the second reading debate. I pointed out that this Bill imposes a duty on companies mining uranium in the Alligator Rivers Region to provide funds for environmental protection purposes. The Government, in its wisdom, has decided on a levy of 1 lc a kilogram of anhydrous triuranium octoxide contained in the uranium concentrate. The figure is arbitrary, as it must be, but I would not rest easy if I felt that there was any chance that the uranium companies were destroying the environment and that the taxpayers of Australia were being asked to subsidise the cost of restoring it to its original shape, if that were humanly possible.
I am not satisfied with the situation. I thank the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) very sincerely for her explanation, but I am not satisfied with it. As I understand it, the total cost of environmental protection or whatever in the region is $4.7m a year, of which we are asking the mining companies to contribute $315,000 a year. I misled the Senate in my speech during the second reading debate when I said that the Bill would bring in Sim a year from the mining companies. I misread the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle has just repeated that part of the second reading speech which states that an estimated $945,000 will be raised by this Bill over three years. About $300,000 will be raised each year. It seems to me that in these days one can get virtually nothing for $300,000 a year. With the extra services which have to be provided because of the uranium mining which is taking place in the Alligator Rivers Region, $300,000 is rather a low figure to expect to recoup from the mining companies involved.
I concede that the levy I have proposed of 22c a kilogram is also arbitrary but at least I believe it is a more realistic figure. I thank Senator Guilfoyle for her explanation. I hope that the
Committee will see fit to support my amendment.
(5.1) -The Government is not able to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Chipp. As I mentioned in response to the comments made by Senator Chipp during the second reading debate, this levy is designed to meet approximately the cost of special monitoring arrangements. The amount was decided by the Government in conjunction with all the other matters that were decided upon at the time the agreements were reached. In my reply to the second reading debate I read reports from the Supervising Scientist concerning the arrangements that are made with regard to rehabilitation of any area which is mined and the requirements that are placed upon the mining companies. For the reasons I outlined earlier, the Government is not able to accept Senator Chipp ‘s amendment.
– I take this opportunity to ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) a question concerning a reply she gave to Senator Chipp during the second reading debate. She spoke at some length about the environmental requirements that have been put on the mining companies. The Minister told us that one of the injunctions was that the waste and the overburden would have to be returned to the pit. Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment visited the Kakadu area and inspected the Nabarlek mine. We found ore there covered in concrete waiting to be sold. We found a great big hole- an empty pit. What is the pit to be filled with? Is it envisaged that the pit will remain empty until such time as the ore we saw has been dealt with? Will the overburden and waste then go into the pit? What is the company involved proposing to do?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria- Minister for Social Security) (5.3)- The agreements for Ranger and Nabarlek make provision for rehabilitation. As stated in the Supervising Scientist’s report, tailings are to be returned to the mine pit. That matter is covered under special clauses in the agreements. The area where the ground has been disturbed must be rehabilitated and revegetated; structures remaining at the end of the mining are to be dismantled and removed entirely or buried and the surface revegetated. Those specific arrangements are made in the agreements.
Request for amendment negatived.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 March, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I will be very brief in speaking for the Opposition on the Customs Amendment Bill 1980. It is associated with a measure which has just been passed. The debate on these measures in the House of Representatives was cognate. The Opposition is opposed to this Bill for the same reasons that it was opposed to the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill 1980 but will not call for a division on the motion for the second reading.
– in reply- The substance of the Customs Amendment Bill is related to matters dealt with under the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill. I do not think there is any need to repeat the debate. I hope that the Senate will support this Bill as it supported the Bill dealt with earlier.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 20 March, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I take advantage of the opportunity provided by the first reading stage of the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1 980 to raise several matters in the area of social welfare that have concerned me lately. Such matters seem to be becoming more prevalent amongst the complaints that we receive from constituents. In a sense they highlight the length to which the Government is going to cut back in the social welfare area. I want to draw the attention of the Government to these matters which all have a similar theme. The Opposition feels grave concern for those people in the community who can not stand up for themselves. More public feeling should be shown for those amongst us who are not as well off. They are a growing band today.
The first case I want to raise relates to a pensioner lady who lives in a country town. She received a pension of $125 a fortnight out of which she paid rent of $66 a fortnight. More as a neighbourly duty than anything else, she agreed to play the organ at funeral services in one of the churches in that country town for one of the local undertakers. For that she received $5 a week. Another undertaker approached her and asked whether, on occasions when he needed somebody to play the organ in the church, she would be able to. She agreed and he agreed to pay her $8 a week when she did this. So on odd occasions she may play the organ in one of the churches in the town. It is not a town with an extraordinary death rate. For that she might receive $5 or $8.
In reply to correspondence from the Department of Social Security she told it that she received $5 or $8 from these undertakers when she played the organ. On the strength of that her pension has been reduced from $125 a fortnight to $1 15 a fortnight. She was not managing very well on $125- having to pay $66 a fortnight rent- but now she is left with less than $50 a fortnight with which to feed herself, generally look after herself and clothe herself. This is all because she was honest enough to admit to the Department that on occasions she received these amounts of money from these people. What worries me is that a department that at the moment is hell bent on investigating all sorts of pensions and all sorts of pensioners, could not take the time to find out that she was not paid this money very often. Instead it took it for granted that the money was some sort of regular payment and reduced her pension. Now she is left in great distress wondering how she will manage to live on the reduced amount.
Another matter that seems to be arising more often as people’s incomes grow less, as people find themselves with less money and having to pay higher prices in so many areas of society today, is the question of telephone rental. We all know that pensioners who live on their own are entitled to apply for a concession for the cost of having a telephone service. But so often elderly people who need the telephone connected because of their health live with other people. They need it as some sort of comfort so that they know that they will be able to reach help if their health fails, or if they find themselves in a real predicament and need a doctor.
Often elderly people live with other people who also cannot afford a telephone. This was highlighted for me again recently when an elderly widow of 74 years came to me in a predicament. She had been told by her doctor that she should have the telephone on because she may be in need of expert assistance very quickly. Because she lives with her son, she was unable to receive the telephone concession. But her son is not in a position to pay for a telephone. He has many responsibilities of his own and cannot afford it. She now has the telephone connected and pays for it out of her pension, which leaves her with an extraordinarily small amount to try to live on.
It seems to me that the Government could afford to take a closer look to investigate more carefully some of these areas. It takes it for granted that because an elderly person lives with another person that one or the other of them can afford the telephone. The Government takes it for granted that because elderly people are living with other people they will feed them, look after them and that those elderly people, in a sense, will be reliant on the charity of the other people in the household. It seems to me unfair to put that sort of burden on elderly people who live in those conditions and to put that sort of a burden on people with whom elderly people live. Who applies for what pension and what can be done once a person gets a pension is becoming an increasingly difficult area to wend our way through. In some instances I think members of parliament are at a loss to know what sort of advice they should give people or where they should tell them to go.
Recently I had a case put to me of a Lebanese man who, in the course of fighting in his country, applied to come here as a refugee. He went to Cyprus to get the passports and the permission for his wife, himself and his two children to emigrate to Australia. While he was away his wife was killed. When he returned with the necessary permission from our offices in Cyprus he found that his wife was dead and he was left with two small children. He decided to come on to Australia anyway. He came out here and the plan was that he would live with his sister.
When he got here he found that his sister had a child with Down’s syndrome and that the child required a lot of attention. He realised that living with his sister was not really working out, so he set up house on his own. But he had to earn his living and the two boys were left without a great deal of attention being paid to them, to the point where his two children were taken from him and put into care. This distressed him because he felt that as they had lost their mother they needed their family badly. So he decided that he would give up his job to stay at home and look after his children. But because he had only been in Australia for a very short time he was not eligible for the supporting parents benefit; he could receive only the special benefit. So he is now at home with two boys, trying to manage on special benefit, knowing that if he can find other work, under those sorts of conditions he cannot earn anything more than $6 a week. This man is in a desperate situation. He is going blind, which makes just one more problem for him. If he can be put on to the supporting parents benefit he can look for a job under these terrible circumstances where he can earn another $32 a week. But he is put in the position where if he receives a special benefit he does not have sufficient to keep his two children and himself in anything like decent circumstances. The Government will not put him on to the supporting parents benefit even though he came out here as a refugee. We will not put him into that area, so he stays on special benefit, going blind and wondering what on earth will happen to him.
Very often in the last couple of years this Government has said, with loud trumpeting, that it would accept people with refugee status, but it has forgotten about those refugees once they have arrived. Many are the stories of refugees who, like this man, find it very hard to manage without any other assistance. Many are the stories from charitable organisations which say that it is all very well for governments to bring in refugees, but those organisations are then left to supply those refugees with the essentials of life, such as blankets, beds and clothing. But the Government makes no provisions for those sorts of things. It seems to me that the Government is taking a most unrealistic view of the terrible circumstances that some of these people find themselves in. Quite often we have cases where people on pensions are told by the Department quite out of the blue that they have to pay back what to them are enormous sums of money. This distresses those people and puts them into great panic in some instances because they just do not know how they will pay the money. If the Government says ‘We want this large sum of money paid back’ the pensioners get the terrible feeling that if they do not pay it back the authorities will probably put them in gaol.
I refer to a recent case of a lady who had turned 60 years of age. She applied for the pension in November 1978 and the payments to her began on 7 December 1978. She was told that the Department had investigated her husband ‘s earnings and found that she was eligible for a fortnightly pension of S3 7.90. The Department reviewed her pension in January of the following year, which means that she had not been receiving it for very long. By contacting her husband ‘s employer the Department discovered that he had had a salary increase in the meantime and it reduced her pension to $34 a fortnight. The Department did not tell her that so when she received the cheque and found that she had been paid the lower amount she wrote and asked why her pension had been reduced. The Department told her it had been reduced because it had investigated the matter and found that her husband ‘s salary had been increased. Time went on and she was sent her pension cheque without any further contact from the Department. In August 1979 she wrote and asked the Department how much she could earn while she was receiving a pension, and it told her that she could receive nothing, that she was on the absolute maximum she could receive while her husband was earning an income.
In December 1979 her husband began to be paid under a new award. When she found that out she wrote to the Department and told them that this had happened. Two weeks later, on 20 December 1979, her pension stopped. Three months later, in March of this year, she received a letter from the Department telling her that because of overpayment she immediately had to pay back $724, which completely floored her. That is a lot of money which she does not have. She does not know how she is going to cope with the situation. That woman had assumed that the Department was keeping a check on the situation, so she remained confident that whatever she was receiving was in line with what she should receive. It was only when her husband went on to a new award that she thought perhaps she should tell the Department.
It seems to me that there should be a better system. People are not geniuses; they are only ordinary people. They do not understand the Acts under which departments operate. Departments have vast resources they can use to keep themselves informed. If they do not have those resources they should be looking to a simpler system so that people who earn very little most of their lives are not suddenly confronted with extraordinary bills from departments and being asked to pay back extraordinary sums of money which they will have great difficulty in paying back and which distresses them greatly. I do not think that the onus should always be on the individual to understand the complexities of the schemes which we operate. I think the Department should do more to assist so that those sorts of situations are not brought about. When we talk about difficult situations we must realise that an increasingly large number of people these days find themselves invalided out of the work force. Because of injury it is recommended by their employer- it is often recommended by departments- that they should accept workers compensation or compensation of some sort and leave their employment. It is felt by the firms that they work for that this is a good idea because it reduces their wages bill. I think it is looked on with some regard by the Government because in a sense it moves people out of the work force; it might provide more jobs and it might reduce the number of unemployed.
But then there are people like the man who was referred to me the other day. He is only 55 years of age but he is out of the work force on workers compensation because of a back injury. He has a wife and two children. He was invalided out of employment with a sum of $33,000. He received $30,000 from workers compensation and $3,000 from long service leave and other small payments. He owned his own home and with the money he received he bought another house for rental, because that seemed to him to be a sensible thing to do- to provide himself with some on-going income. From that investment he receives only $50 a week. He has a wife who is seriously ill and he has two children. They are trying to live on $50 a week plus a family allowance of $35 a month. They are unable to manage, which would not be a surprise to anybody.
He applied for the invalid pension and he was refused it on the grounds that he had too much of an asset. He appealed against this decision and the appeal was thrown out. He has twice applied for special benefit because he cannot live on that amount of money; and he has twice been refused special benefit. He has applied for sickness benefit and that has been refused. The last time that he was refused this- in October of last yearthe appeal board pointed out to him that his wife was very seriously ill and suggested that she test her ability to receive an invalid pension. She applied for an invalid pension. To date she has not received a result from the medical officer. Such people are in desperate straits. We cannot take them out and shoot them. We reduce them to living off charity. They do what they think is the best thing to do in the circumstances. Because it does not work out, we sit back, fold our hands and say: ‘Well, dear, dear! You have an asset that is too great. We really cannot do anything to help you’. But there they are, and they have to be helped. It seems to me that the Department, which must have a million of these sorts of applications sitting around in files, could do more about it.
When people find themselves in these circumstances, why can the Department not do something about advising them? Perhaps the man should not have invested his $30,000 in another house. The return on $30,000 is too low. Perhaps he should have done something else about it. But why leave poor wretched people to get themselves into the position of being unable to eat and then say: ‘Too bad. You should not have done it that way. You should have done something else’. Why, even now, rather than leave people to suffer, can the Department not go in and give some advice so that these people can in some way resurrect their affairs and so eliminate some of the suffering that is going on at the moment.
Many people in this community receive pensions or superannuation payments of some sort. They are getting some very bad advice out in the community, not from the Department. I recently received a copy of a leaflet that was put out by the ARPA Friendly Society. I am sorry but I do not know what ARPA stands for. The leaflet says in part:
We are pleased to report that many members of the Association have taken advantage of the financial benefits that can be gained from membership of the ARPA Friendly Society. If you have a ‘surplus’ sum of money that you do not have to depend on for your everyday needs, but your investment of this amount is not only prejudicing your entitlement to one of the social security pensions, but also resulting in hurtful taxation imposition, then you should make further inquiries immediately with us.
The leaflet gives an address in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. It continues:
These bonuses are not regarded as income by the Taxation Department. Similarly they are excluded from the income test applied by the Social Security Department for Aged, Invalid and Widows pensions, and the Department of Veterans ‘ Affairs for the Services pension.
It goes on to tell them the amounts that can be invested. We all know- and these people very soon find out after they have invested their money and start receiving bonuses- that of course those bonuses are taken into account as income by the various departments.
In December last year I wrote to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) pointing out that this was going on and asking whether the Government intended to take any action to prevent that happening. I had an acknowledgment from the Minister on 24 December. I wrote again on 25 March asking for a reply. To date I have had no reply. Those advertisements are very widespread in the community and people are finding themselves extraordinarily disadvantaged but the Government is taking absolutely no action to do anything about them. The position is vastly different when the Department itself finds that it has made mistakes.
I quote from a letter that I received yesterday from a consituent in Victoria. I will not mention his name, but I should like to read parts of his letter because it illustrates what does happen when the Department makes mistakes. The letter reads:
This is a report on the social services matter I spoke to you about previously. On the death of my late wife I received the six (6) extra payments as is paid to a surviving partner, plus other payments of which I could not understand. All pension moneys are paid into my account at the State Savings Bank of Victoria
On an occasion when making withdrawal I perceived that the sum of $532 had been withdrawn from my account without my knowledge, I was informed by the assistant Branch Manager that these moneys had been drawn from my account by social services. I was given no account of total due to me or any amount that was withdrawn. On checking my bankbook and a little arithmetic I came to the conclusion that social services had withdrawn somewhere between $300 or $400 more than they had over paid. I contacted the local social services branch they admitted that they had overdrawn my account by $355.20 more than they were entitled to. I was eventually reimbursed for this amount in my bank account. As president of senior citizens branch I am most concerned that other pensioners not as mentally alert as myself may have money withdrawn from their accounts without their knowledge and may not notice unless social services department or their bank notifies them and gives them a complete statement of what has paid, what was withdrawn and balances due. My bank has told me these over-withdrawals are quite common and may take some time to recover moneys owing to pensioners.
It appears that the Department of Social Security feels that it is entitled, without any acknowledgment, without telling the person whose account it is tampering with, to go in and withdraw whatever money it feels inclined to out of a person ‘s bank account, and can overdraw that amount out of a person’s bank account. It appears that unless either the bank manager takes special note, and there is no reason why he should, or the person is alert enough to have checked up on the bank statement and the bank account- and as my informant says elderly people are not always aware or alert about these matters- he or she can actually lose money to the Department of Social Security without anybody knowing and without anybody taking any son of redress. How long can the money stay out of their bank accounts without the Department doing anything? How long can it stay out of the account without the Department paying interest on that money which, in my opinion, it has taken out of somebody else’s bank account illegally?
We have a lot of trumpeting in this Parliament and in this country about democracy. But we have evidently reached the stage where departments feel that they can draw money out of people’s accounts without so much as an acknowledgment or advice to the person whose account they are tampering with. But they could go even further. My informant goes on to say:
Another matter which has come to my notice is that Social Services Department have access to pensioners’ private papers. The case at point was a pensioner’s strongbox containing he and his wife’s Wills, deeds of home and other private papers was broken into by the S.S. Department being destroyed for further use. If they were looking for anything they did not find anything. The persons concerned would have opened the box if asked. They were not compensated for the loss by the bank or the S.S. Department. Their papers are now in another Bank.
– What bank was it? Was it the Commonwealth?
-It was the State Savings Bank of Victoria.
– In Victoria?
– Yes. The Department went into the bank without first asking the person who owned the strongbox for permission or asking whether the person would open the box. The Department’s officers forced open the box, rifled through a person’s private papers and then left the box in that condition. The Department took no steps to have the box mended or to replace it with another box. It did not inform the person who owned the box why it wanted to look through it. The Department has not yet informed the person concerned what it was looking for. It asked nobody’s permission, but presumably the Minister allows people to do this sort of thing.
– What did the bank manager say to that?
– Perhaps the bank managers are so used to these things going on that they too are not shocked by such actions. But certainly nobody took any action to prevent this happening. Nobody told the Department’s officers that they could not do it. The person who owned the box was not informed or even asked whether he would give permission. Is it any wonder that at the moment people in this community are feeling very uncomfortable about just where they do stand?
It is bad enough that one should have inspectors forcing their way into people’s homes, inspecting people’s bedrooms and inspecting people’s beds in order to see whether they had spent the night alone, to see whether they were entitled to supporting parent’s or single parent’s benefit. But now we have elderly people, who never know whether their pension is to be varied, who never know what sorts of answers the Department of Social Security wants from them in reply to the material that they have received asking about their pensions, who never know from one week to another whether their pension will be reduced, finding that their bank accounts can be trifled with by the Department, and finding that inspectors of the Department have gone to the extreme of breaking open their strong boxes and rifling through their private papers. This was the action taken by officers of the Department of Social Security. It seems to me that all this adds up to a remark that was made by Senator MacGibbon when we were debating the Afghanistan issue in this Parliament two or three weeks ago. Senator MacGibbon, in the course of his remarks, said:
This country has spent too much money on social welfare.
No senator on the other side has ever denied that that was not how this Government feels about social welfare. I think the increasing number of extraordinary cases that we are having brought before us shows that it is the truth. This Government truly believes that this country has spent too much money on social welfare and it is using these extraordinary ways to cut back on the amount of money it is spending in this area.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– The point I was making in the speech on Afghanistan, which so upset the apologists of the Soviet Union over there, is that this country has devoted a great deal of its Budget to social welfare and very little towards national security.
– I raise a point of order. I object to the words ‘the apologists of the Soviet Union over there ‘. I think that this matter came up in this House last week and caused some trouble. I ask that the remark be withdrawn and an apology be made.
– It is an offensive remark.
– I withdraw, Mr President. I did not realise they were so sensitive on this issue.
– The honourable senator should not qualify, but he should withdraw.
– I withdraw.
-Mr President- ( Quorum formed). Like other speakers today, I wish to talk about defence, but with something of a difference. There is a matter on my mind, and it is civil defence, especially civil defence against nuclear attack. I am deeply concerned, and indeed the Australian Democrats are deeply concerned, that Australia does not seem to have any plans at all to protect its citizens in this event, which I must say is an event which nobody would want to see happen but which I believe we should legislate for. This complete shambles, which our civil defence policy amounts to, exists in conditions described by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in a recent major policy statement. He said:
In the event of hostilities, risks of nuclear attack arise for Australia, as an ally of the United States, whether or not it may be hosting particular United States facilities.
This is a rather novel statement- and I believe a highly significant one from the Defence Minister- and something of which I believe all Australians should take full note. The Minister went on:
Recognising this, successive Australian governments have taken the view that our primary concern should be to support the effectiveness of the United States deterrent to war itself.
I cannot really agree with that statement. This statement is presented in the light of a heightened challenge to us which the Government believes is presented by the Afghanistan situation. The Australian Democrats have realised for some time that the world of the future must present heightened challenges for Australia and, probably, a less secure international situation than has been obtained in the past, and that we should do all we can to prepare for this. As I have said, the last thing that the Australian Democrats want to do is to promote war which has been aptly described as the final obscenity. That, of course, applies now even more than before in circumstances where nuclear weapons could be used. But this does not mean that we should be hiding our heads in the sand and ignoring the possibilities which might occur in this country.
It is a fact that constantly roaming the oceans of the world are the nuclear submarine fleets of the two zonal competitors- the United States and Russia. These submarines now have an appalling potential for destruction. It is indeed a fact that a single Russian submarine mounts enough independently targetable nuclear warheads to attack every major Australian city. I have raised this matter several times in the Senate recently. In the first case I was prompted to do so because the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the Afghanistan situation earlier this year had a lot to say about defence, war and the possibility of hostilities in future and the dangers to this country. But the statement did not contain a single word about civil defence and how the Government proposes to protect the people of this country in the event of nuclear attack. At that stage I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) a question on the matter. His reply was that in the awesome event of nuclear war little could be done; Australia is best to rely on deterrent measures and hope that nuclear war never comes. I think I am construing what he said quite fairly. However, I sympathise with him in that regard.
I hope that nuclear war never comes. We can hope that we will have a continued world of peace. But where the Australian Democrats differ fundamentally from government policy is that the Government seems to feel that no provision should be made against the contingency of attack. In other words, as matters stand now, the Government has completely washed its hands of any responsibility for the Australian population in the event of a nuclear attack. The Australian Democrats and I cannot believe that to be justified- quite the reverse. I described that last week as criminal irresponsibility, and I describe it again in those terms now. It is a fact that a nuclear attack would not necessarily be the end of the world, with universal destruction. Heaven knows, it would be bad enough. A lot of things are bad in this world, but surely it is up to us to be resilient and try to get the best we can out of an evil situation.
Recently, the Bulletin magazine, in the issue of 26 February, published one of a series of articles in reasonable depth on just what would happen if there were an attack on our cities. I understand that those articles were informed substantially by the book The Third World War by General Hackett. The first point made in that Bulletin article is:
Nuclear war is generally assumed to mean complete annihilation for mankind. This is not so. Even some people fairly close to a nuclear blast have a chance of surviving.
I suggest that this is the sort of view which we have to take, even in a bad situation, if we are going to be a resilient society. That article goes on to discuss fairly extensively the modern weaponry that is used by these submarines. It states:
Bursts at optimum height for the destruction of cities, then, have the oddly conventional property of causing deaths and destruction almost exclusively as a result of blast and fire. The radioactive debris is carried more or less safely into the upper atmosphere and the pulse of initial nuclear radiation of neutrons and gamma rays is of such short range . . as to add very little to the deaths already caused by the physical effects of the burst.
The article goes on:
The hazard to life from short-term fallout is largely from long-range gamma radiation emitted by fallout settling on the ground and other flat surfaces such as roofs. Fallout actually settling on the skin and not washed off is additionally harmful to the skin, through the very weakly penetrating phenomenon of beta radiation, but this is generally a trifling matter in comparison to gamma radiation.
I remind honourable senators that gamma radiation is the major damaging characteristic from nuclear weapons. I refer to a point from that article which states:
Civil defence of urban areas does not seem to have much of a future -
This is referring to an international view, I think-
Civil defence of rural areas, on the other hand, makes a great deal of sense . . .
That is the point I want to take up at this stage. Australian cities, which are widely dispersed and very large in area for their population size compared with European cities, would in the event of attack have very large fringe areas in which the effects of the initial blast and firestorm would be minimal. Fallout would become the major problem. There would be a need for urgent decontamination, actual body decontamination, clothing replacement, the provision of efficient shuttle transport systems capable of moving large numbers of people, blood transfusion facilities and, finally, accommodation at a safe distance and availability there of decontaminated food and water. None of these measures would require vast expense or a great deal more than efficient and dedicated organisation. Countries overseas provide portable shower blocks as body contamination really simply involves thorough washing with soap and water and some kind of rudimentary clothing replacement.
Most of our cities have suburban railway systems leading out considerable distances from the suburbs. At most times a useful number of electric trains are in service. In some cases these trains are powered by electricity sources outside the city. The Blue Mountains-Lithgow service in New South Wales is a typical example. I think if we made a study in other States we would see similar potentialities. The Australian Democrats propose investigation of the idea of an adequate professional civil defence secretariat in each city, staffed 24 hours a day and seven days a week, holding continuous information on public transport movements and powers being provided to it for immediate commandeering of such services so that they could be used at very short notice as a rapid shuttle service for evacuation. This is not an entirely new idea. It is what is being done in some overseas countries. It is being achieved there without a great deal of difficulty or expense.
We believe that if Australians were encouraged to understand fully that such measures would involve possible insurance of their own lives and the lives of their families they would probably be glad enough to give blood voluntarily to emergency plasma banks which could be located in such evacuation areas outside cities. I know that I would be only too glad to do so in such a case. I think most Australians would be glad to do so if they understood the absolute necessity to life of blood transfusions in the case of moderate and light radiation sickness cases. Large stocks of blood plasma are essential. Granted that blood transfusion capability, large numbers of people who would otherwise quite certainly die would be able to recover from the effects of being exposed to radiation. This is established scientific fact. It has been proved.
I would like briefly now to give a little background material. Certainly, little enough material pertaining to Australia exists. However, one rather interesting study was made recently by Colonel D. K. Baker. Colonel Baker submitted a monograph last year when he was a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University under the Defence Fellowship Scheme. It was published quite recently- in 1980- by Phoenix Defence Publications under the title ‘Problems of mobilisation in defence of Australia’. In this monograph Colonel Baker made the following point:
In effect the chain of responsibility for civil defence parallels the organisation for coping with national disasters, which, in the first instance, is the sole responsibility of the States and Territories;
We know that the Natural Disasters Organisation is already an efficient organisation in many States. It served us well during the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy in Darwin. Colonel Baker continued:
Commonwealth assistance, via the NDO, is only provided when the situation is demonstrably beyond the capacity of the State concerned.
This is where I think the case for more effective Commonwealth action comes in. Colonel Baker went on to say:
A civil defence capacity, or the lack of it, contributes directly to the credibility of a nation’s defence posture. Without it, the task of an enemy in bringing a nation to its knees is made much easier. The civil defence capability, however, is in direct competition with the resource demands of military defence, so advance planning and co-ordination are essential to achieve the optimum balance between them.
Quite categorically he then stated:
To plan for the possible wartime requirements of civil defence, which would meet the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility a national framework is needed.
Later he stated:
The capabilities required over and above those now maintained by the States would depend on policies and directives that can only come from the Commonwealth Government. They should be based on an assessment of, first, the type of threat and, second, the extent and the type of preparation that should be attainable within the available warning time. If an effective framework were to be initiated now when there is no perceived threat, it could provide the standardisation necessary for the implementation of this maximum level of civil defence response.
I commend those words of wisdom to honourable senators. Finally, in that monograph Colonel Baker stated:
It could be difficult to arouse sufficient interest in civil defence among State and local governments and within the community at large because it seems unlikely to be required in the short term. Judging by the apathy shown by the public to defence matters in general, this may be so; but there has not so far been any attempt to promote an interest in civil defence. It would appear logical that, as part of the current defence philosophy calling for self-reliance, civil defence should be publicised.
Now I shall deal briefly with an international assessment of this matter. This was carried out by Colonel William O. Staudenmaier of the United States Army and is reported in the October 1 978 edition of Military Review. It points out:
The Soviet Union has a massive civil defense program which has government and public support from the highest echelons of government down to the population at large. The Soviets have concentrated on population protection, protection of the economy, postnuclear strike rescue and recovery operations and training of the population.
In this article Colonel Staudenmaier points out in some detail the extent to which the Russian Government is carrying out this function. In passing he also mentions what is being done in Switzerland. I think this is an interesting example because Switzerland is a country in which the right to make legislation is not restricted only to members of parliament, but a country in which the initiative comes from citizens and in which, indeed, citizens take care that they look after themselves. They do so perhaps better than a government would. The Swiss are implementing a $2.4 billion program to insure their six million people against the hazards of nuclear warfare. The pitiful few hundred thousand dollars now being spent in this country contrasts with the spending of $2.4 billion by a smaller country with less than half of our population. In fact, the Swiss effort, interestingly enough, is over $800m greater than the total United States Federal funding for civil defence for the period from 1962 to 1977.
I looked for material dealing with the Natural Disasters Organisation, which is, of course, the rudimentary Commonwealth body concerned with these areas. I found an article, the only material I could find at short notice, written by Major General Alan Stretton. This article appeared in the Pacific Defence Reporter dated April 1976. Any suggestion that it might be critical is not directed at General Stretton but at the overall situation in this country. In fact, in the article, there is no specific reference whatsoever to civil defence against nuclear attack. Only one vague reference is made to the situation even of civil defence in wartime. General Stretton, speaking of the basic structure, states:
The structure relates to the Civil Defence function, although the units are employed exclusively in the natural disasters role in peace, with Civil Defence as the designated wartime role. The SES Organisations provide the core Civil Defence structure for expansion in the event of war emergencies.
To my surprise that was all that he said about the matter. That is the beginning and end of the statement on that area. Wherever I have looked, wherever I have tried to find anything on this subject I have found the same thing- civil defence is regarded as a bad term. People do not want to hear about it, governments do not want to hear about it, and, therefore, the attitude taken is that we should do nothing. That attitude make me angry. I will not deny that it makes me angry. I do not believe that people are irresponsible about their safety and about the safety of their families. I think this is a public relations problem; that the Government has succeeded -as some other governments have done- in hiding this matter away, in making sure that it does not get publicity, and that it is not debated and discussed as it should be. It is a matter that concerns the lives of millions of people but we are doing nothing. The public has been left in ignorance.
What is the actual situation? In some major New South Wales cities a good deal has happened in the past. State Emergency Services in New South Wales has done its best to try to lay down some idea of where there might be suitable places for underground shelters and it has tried to work out some way in which people can be moved from one place to another. But they have been effectively crippled by an almost complete lack of staff and money. Without these things it is not possible to carry out any proper organisation of such a massive task.
Something happened today in New South Wales that has made this whole debate much more urgent. In the State Parliament amendments to the State Emergency Services and Civil
Defence Act were passed, which puts effectively the SES in New South Wales under the control of the New South Wales police. I know that these amendments certainly passed the lower House in New South Wales this morning. 1 predict that this legislation will bring an end to any real attempt in Sydney to grapple with the problem of civil defence from nuclear attack. I do not say that in any spirit of criticism of the New South Wales police, who I am sure would do their best, as in everything else, in such a contingency. It is simply that this large problem is not in the nature of things something that a busy, localised police force can or should deal with. One can be critical of the New South Wales Government, although that might be unfair. Perhaps the New South Wales Government quite rightly sees that the problem we are talking about is a Commonwealth matter and it sees no reason why it should have to try to deal with that problem when it is properly the place of the Commonwealth to do something about it.
In relation to Melbourne, I refer briefly to an article which I was delighted to see used in the Melbourne Herald on 29 March. I commend that newspaper for raising this matter which is of such importance to our citizens. I commend the Daily Mirror, which I think is the only newspaper in Sydney to have raised this matter so far. However, I predict that it will become a matter of increasing public interest in the future. The article in the Melbourne Herald, entitled ‘Where Can We Hide?’ is one which I think can incite only the utmost disquiet in its readers. It was a serious attempt by Allan Pinches to talk with the State Emergency Services and to find out just what was going on, what would happen to Melbourne in the event of a nuclear attack and how people could be protected. To put it briefly, he did not get very much change. He said:
The Defence Department estimates that fallout shelter space for about 700,000 people would be available in Melbourne in case of nuclear attack.
Officers of the department’s Natural Disasters Organisation have surveyed about 2S0 metropolitan buildings.
One assumes that these are buildings with basements or cellars that people could be put into in the event of a nuclear war. The interesting point in the article is the following one:
But the department and State Emergency Service refuse to name any buildings.
So we have a situation in Melbourne where apparently there are buildings where people could go but about which nobody knows anything. The real point is that the people who would want to go to them in the event of a nuclear attack would be the last to know about them. They do not have any idea what the buildings are or what they should do. There is no evidence that the buildings are suitable in any way or that they would be provided with food and water supplies which would be necessary for people to survive the period of fall-out, which could be two or three weeks. Further on, the article states:
So it was back to SES director, Col. F. B. Wood, who had earlier maintained the matter was ‘clearly in the Commonwealth Government area’.
I sympathise greatly with Colonel Wood because he was asked a number of awkward questions to which he was not really able to make replies. However, he did say:
We anticipate looking at the underground rail loop to provide additional spaces.
He was then asked whether he could nominate any of the buildings offering shelter, to which he answered:
No I can ‘t for fairly obvious reasons.
When he was asked how effective underground railway stations would be as shelters, he said:
I ‘m not prepared to enter into that.
Finally, he said that it would not be possible for him to continue the interview on the basis suggested, because he did not really have the answers. So, that is the situation in Melbourne. I have not yet had time to research the situations in Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane but I have no doubt that we would find a similar situation there.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
– Following consultation with the Opposition, the Australian Democrats and Senator Harradine, I seek leave to propose a motion to discharge certain General Business Orders of the Day from the Notice Paper.
Motion ( by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That the following Orders of the Day, General Business, be discharged from the Notice Paper.
No. Topic: 3 Industries Assistance Commission- Interim Report on Brandy and Whisky- Paper 4 Meat Board- Annual Report 1976-77- Paper 5 Law of the Sea- Third United Nations Conference (Sixth Session)- Paper 9 Families and Social Services- Committee of
Inquiry- Paper 12 Foreign Policy- Ministerial Statement
– I lay on the table explanatory notes of departments and authorities relating to the Estimates of proposed additional expenditure for 1979-80. A list of departments and authorities from which notes have been received has been circulated to honourable senators.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it insists on its amendments disagreed to by the Senate.
– In the light of the interest in this matter, I thought I might move that we immediately consider the message. But, on reflection, since the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) is ready to speak on his General Business item, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I take this opportunity in the General Business debate to bring to the attention of the Senate a matter of continuing interest to the Parliament. It involves the federalism policy of the Fraser Government. The Parliament will remember that this policy of federalism has been in operation since November or December of 1975. We have had over four years in which to make some assessment of it. There have been many debates on the implications of federalism during the last four years. In particular, it is the section of the policy relating to the transfer of powers from the Commonwealth to the States to which I address myself tonight. I placed this notice of motion on the Notice Paper late last year. It is only now that I have the opportunity to debate it. On 23 November 1978, I addressed a question on notice to every Minister of this Government asking simply what powers within each Minister’s jurisdiction had been transferred to the States since December 1975. My reason for seeking this information was based on the policy document of the Liberal Party of September 1978. An undertaking was given in the section of that document dealing with federalism policy. It stated:
Accordingly, the Liberal and National Country Parties wholly support the concept of Federalism in which there are three areas of government- Federal, State and local- and in which the powers and functions are distributed to achieve continuous response and to provide an effective barrier against centralist authoritarian control.
Needless to say, that document was prepared at a time when it was believed by some people, that too much power was concentrated in Canberra and that it would be a good political move to give undertakings and make promises that under a Liberal Government powers would be transferred to the States.
Three years from that time, in November 1978, I addressed the question to which I have referred to every Minister of the Government. I waited patiently for many months. I received three or four replies after a very extended time, none of which gave me an answer. Eventually an answer was provided by Senator Carrick, who was then the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. The date was not recorded on the answer but suffice to say it was the answer to Question No. 1074. 1 was seeking information about the transfer of powers which had been an undertaking given in the 1 975 policy document of the Liberal Party. The answer stated:
Strictly speaking, the answer to the question is nil’ . . .
I think it is important that we stop at that point and consider that statement. It is an admission by the then Minister responsible in this area that after three years of operation of the policy there had been absolutely no transfer of any powers by the Commonwealth to the States. This meant, of course, that the present Government considered itself to be as centralist and authoritarian as its predecessor allegedly was. The answer continued: . . as any transfer of the nature referred to would require a constitutional amendment.
That may or may not be correct. Powers can be transferred by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States without necessarily requiring any constitutional amendment. The answer continued:
However, in order to be as forthcoming as possible, set out below are details of functions and duties which have been transferred to State Governments or Instrumentalities since December 1975. Also included are details of functions and responsibilities which it has been agreed are to be transferred in the future.
The answer made some reference to the Northern Territory which I will not deal with in this debate. The first department to which the answer referred was the Department of Industry and Commerce. It stated:
In two instances the prime responsibility of States has been reaffirmed.
The first instance was in the small business field. I will not deal with that field. It is not particularly significant. The answer continued: . . in the field of domestic tourism promotion- the Commonwealth, through the Australian Tourist Commission, ceased to be involved.
State/Territory prime responsibility for domestic tourism has been agreed between Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for tourism.
It is interesting to consider that that is one of the first benefits that the Department of Industry and Commerce was able to transfer to the States. In the Budget for 1 976-77- the last year of the previous, centralised, authoritarian Government which our opponents have so much to say about, namely, the previous Labor Government- the Labor Government provided $ 1 .82m for the development of the tourist industry in the various States. What this Government has done, in its great desire to assist the States, is to wipe out that assistance completely. Now the States receive no assistance whatsoever from the Commonwealth for the tourist industry.
We turn then to the Department of Education and find that under the States Grants (Schools) Act there has been a simplification of machinery, which is not of great significance, and the same applies in the tertiary area. We find that in terms of funding the States have come out very badly in this allegedly better deal that they are getting through the Commonwealth transferring more powers, responsibilities and functions to them. In, say, the tertiary sector of education the allocation to the States for the current year is $ 1 66m. But if we index forward the amount provided under the last Budget of the previous Labor Government we find that by this year that figure should have been $234m. So, in fact, in the tertiary education sector the funding for all the States is down by a total amount of $68m under the present federalism arrangemens.
Whatever minimal benefits the States may have received through an alleged streamlining of the powers of the tertiary education authorities, the States have paid dearly for that in loss of funding. We find that under the Budget arrangements for this year capital payments for schools are down by $59m on what they would have been on the basis of the last Budget of the previous Labor Government. So again, in education, the States have paid a very dear price for these alleged transfers of responsibilities and functions. Already from my remarks it is becoming apparent that what the Commonwealth Government in fact has been doing is simply transferring to the States costs in all these areas.
We come then to consider the Department of Social Security. We find that the Australian Assistance Plan is listed as another one of these beneficiaries under this federalism policy. The answer states:
The Australian Assistance Plan- previously within the jurisdiction of the Minister Tor Social Security devolved to the States in July 1977.
That means, in effect, that the Australian Assistance Plan was wiped out in July 1977, passed over to the States with the message: ‘If you want to continue such things as the Area Improvement Program or the Regional Development Program then you will just have to pay more for it’. In the last Budget of the previous Labor Government $ 15.1m was provided for that program; it has since been wiped out by the Fraser Government under its federalism policy. Not one cent has been provided for it by the present Government under these federalism arrangements.
Let us turn now to the Department of Health. We find, according to the reply I have, that:
On 31 December 1976. the Commonwealth terminated the tuberculosis arrangements with the States. Thereafter the
States became responsible for all costs associated with tuberculosis.
I am sure that all State governments must have been excited at the thought that they were to pay for their tuberculosis programs. In the 1975-76 Budget of the previous Labor Government- its last Budget- $1 1.3 m was allocated to the States to assist in tuberculosis control. Under this federalism policy, under which Mr Fraser is so magnanimously transferring those powers and responsibilities to the States, he had said to the States: ‘If you want to maintain a tuberculosis control program then you find the money yourselves. We are not going to pay for it ‘.
– Tuberculosis is almost nonexistent now. It can be treated very effectively.
-Yes, I know about the declining significance of tuberculosis but Senator Jessop should not try to suggest that no expenses are incurred in controlling tuberculosis in the States. Such action by the Government has been symptomatic of the whole program. The next matter concerning the Department of Health that we read about in Senator Carricks reply- I suppose Senator Jessop will tell us that this also is redundant- is:
As from 1 July 1978, Commonwealth funding of capital costs of health facilities provided under the hospitals development program ceased. States now bear the total cost.
That is another of Mr Fraser ‘s gestures to the States under the federalism policy. Let us look at the position under the 1975-76 Budget of the previous Labor Government. That Government provided $107m for capital development programs for hospital construction in Australia. The allocation of funds for that purpose has been completely wiped out by Mr Fraser. Not one cent is being provided for that purpose now. Let us turn to the Attorney-General’s Department. Senator Carrick was very proud to tell us that: . . the functions of the Australian Legal Aid Office have been absorbed by State legal aid commissions in Western Australia and South Australia.
It is proposed to do the same thing in certain other States, with the exception of New South Wales. What do we find in this case? In the last Budget of the previous Labor Government $lm was made available for legal aid to assist the States in the cost of running legal aid services. What is the situation now? The present Government does not give the States one solitary cent, according to the Budget Papers. These are just examples of the Government’s policy. I will come to one other matter which I think emphasised the point. Other matters of a judicial nature are referred to in the answer, but they are not significant; all they do is again to pass costs over to the States.
Concerning the Department of Housing and Construction we are told:
The following powers have been returned to the States since December 1975:
Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement- eligibility tests, maximum interest rates on housing loans and proportion of rental dwellings sold . . .
I am sure that the State departments of housing must have read with great excitement ‘that they were to receive those functions and powers from the Commonwealth. But if we compare the relative situations at the real heart of the housing program- that is, how much the Commonwealth is prepared to make available to the States to build houses, which is what people are concerned about- we find that in the last Budget of the previous Labor Government $364m was made available to the States to build houses. This Government has cut back that amount this year to $ 1 60m. Therefore, in the current financial year the States are receiving $204m less for the construction of housing than they were receiving in the last year of the previous Labor Government. That is the great benefit which Mr Fraser under his federalism policy has bestowed on the States!
The objective of this policy, of course, is to put the States in such a position as to make it increasingly difficult for them to provide these services, whether it be in New South Wales, Western Australia or wherever. It is doing that so that, eventually, the States will be forced into a position in which, in order to build the houses, hospitals, schools and all the rest of the services which are necessary, they will be compelled to institute a State income tax. Of course, that is the second stage of the federalism policy. In the four Budgets which this Government has brought down it has frozen total funding to the States. In fact in actual money terms the total payments to the States has not quite kept up with the increase in the cost of living. So the States are basically receiving less than they were four years ago.
The objective of this exercise is to put the States in a position where they will be compelled to enter into the field of State income tax. Before very long the States will have to raise income taxes over and above the Commonwealth income tax. There are not many ways in which the States can escape doing so; the only way is to build fewer hospitals, roads, schools and so on. We are told that this great benefit has been bestowed on the States under the federalism policy.
The truth of the matter is that this Government is not a tax reducing government at all. It claims to be but of course it is not. In the four Budgets it has introduced since it came to office it has increased personal income tax collections by no less than $ 10,000m. The Fraser Government is a tax transfer government. It wants to transfer the raising of personal income tax from the Commonwealth to the States. If it ever reduces taxation at the Federal level by, say, $10, the whole purpose of this exercise will be to get the States to introduce a State income tax of $10. So, the taxpayer will be paying the same. In these first four years, as I have already indicated, the taxpayer has been paying considerably more.
I know that other matters must be dealt with tonight so I will soon complete my remarks, but before doing so I re-emphasise and stress again the manner in which another one of the promises, another one of the undertakings, which was made in 1975, has not been maintained by Mr Fraser. He said that he would do certain things. He said that he would reduce unemployment, inflation and interest rates. He said that he would do many things. He said that he would not touch Medibank, et cetera. We all know the story. We know how long the list of broken promises is. At least we know that we do not have to put up with the Government a great deal longer.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
– I move:
Perhaps at the beginning of my remarks I should explain what the report on the operation of the Student Assistance Act in 1978 dealt with and also the functions of the Act. This report, which is now two years old, discusses the history of the Student Assistance Act and analyses the terms of the Act generally. It makes the following claim:
The Act . . . provides a framework within which Government assistance to students can be modified and adapted to take account of the changing needs of students and changes in the educational scene.
The burden of my remarks will be to make the point that that is a very charitable description of the Student Assistance Act. Certainly one of the things it does not do is take account of changes in the needs of students and changes in the educational scene.
The report outlines what this means in relation to the three main student assistance schemes which provide financial assistance to students pursuant to the Commonwealth constitutional power. There are three elements of the scheme designed to assist tertiary students: Firstly, the scholarship scheme, which has now been discontinued; secondly, the tertiary education scheme, which is predominantly directed to university students and students at colleges of advanced education; and, thirdly, postgraduate award students, who are the recipients of Commonwealth postgraduate awards for research studies. The many problems associated with the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme and the postgraduate awards indicate why the Act does not provide for the changing needs of students.
I suppose that in speaking to a General Business item in the Senate on a quiet night one can say some things about the student Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme which one might not necessarily say in a more considered statement. I think that I should make one general personal observation about the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. I make it in a bipartisan sense. The Labor Government introduced the scheme and the present Government has continued it. The present Government publishes reports which state that the scheme caters for the changing needs of students and so on. I note that Senator Jessop is smiling. He can wipe the smile off his face. We are both locked into this situation, not just me. One can say that probably there is a need in 1 980 for a whole reconsideration of the philosophical assumptions underlying a scheme which was introduced in 1973. When the scheme was first introduced it was said that it was assumed that parents would make a contribution towards their children’s tertiary studies.
– That is not a bad idea.
– It is not a bad idea if people have the money.
– My father did not have the money but he still found it.
– I understand what the honourable senator is saying.
– He made some sacrifices.
– I always get upset by the interjections of this optometrist of great vision. I am reminded of the biblical injunction ‘optometrist heal thyself. Senator Jessop ‘s vision of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme is a bit limited.
I really want to develop a serious point about this scheme. First of all, many parents are not in a financial position to assist their children’s tertiary education. The scheme is, of course, designed to cater for those parents and to provide full benefits for their children. The more serious point I was trying to make was really a social one. In seven years I think we have become aware of very significant changes in the attitude of young people who would be expected to be beneficiaries of parental assistance and so on. Although such an attitude may be a great virtue in young people, many of them do not want assistance from their parents. They want to be independent of their parents at an earlier age than did people even a decade or so ago. I think that the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme should take account of that interesting and important phenomenon. All sorts of restrictions are imposed under the scheme including restrictions on when one is eligible for benefit, whom one is allowed to live with and things of that kind which are perhaps in a sense out of date in relation to the social aspirations of many young people. I will come back to that point.
This Act and the report on the Act do not provide for the changing needs of students. I will illustrate that by referring to what I regard as four very important anomalies associated with the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. Before doing so, I refer to the general level of the award applicable to the person whose parents are of such insufficient means that they attract the full allowance payable under the award, which is $45.10 a week. I make the comment, which has been made here often enough, that that is an inadequate allowance for a student in that situation to live on. There have been a number of very carefully documented surveys which illustrate that point. When one considers that the level of the dole payments is more than $8 higher than that one sees the TEAS allowance in some perspective. I suppose parents are supposed to make up the difference in that area. I say to Senator Jessop that in some circumstances, they may not be able to.
The level of allowance is important. The group eligible for it, because of the means test cut-off point, is smaller than it ought to be. The present level places a squeeze on a group of parents in the community. There are a variety of other anomalous situations to which I wish to refer. I shall refer to the four most important anomalies in the operation of the students assistance scheme. The first is that relating to independent status regulations. The scheme has a number of regulations which define when a student is independent of his parents for the purpose of obtaining independent status and qualifying for the allowance. To be independent of his parents, for the purpose of attracting the allowance, a student must be 25 years of age. That is the point I tried to make a minute ago. There are many people much younger than that who. for a variety of reasons, have independence thrust upon them or who are desirous of being totally independent of their parents. That creates a number of social problems of some significance which are associated with social aspirations.
A student can be deemed to State, independent by being an orphan, a ward of the State, by being married, or having been married or having lived in a de facto relationship for two years continuously- one year if the student has children. Alternatively a student must have been employed full time for periods totalling at least two years in the previous five years. So if a student wants to be independent and attract the allowance he must be 25 years of age, an orphan, a ward of the State, married for a short period but he must have lived in a de facto relationship for two years, or one year if he or she has a child- or have been employed for two years. Often people cannot easily do this under the present Government’s policies. So one of these criteria must be fulfilled before a student can gain independent status.
Let me point to some of the anomalies in this system. The fact that a student must be 25 years of age or older assumes, often incorrectly, that parents who can afford to support their children as students will in fact support them. I say without fear of contradiction that there are very many instances of that situation not applying. Sometimes it is not a question of the child wanting to be independent of his parents, but of the parents saying: ‘Look, wc have got you through your Higher School Certificate. You are out now. You are on your own’. That situation often occurs. It means that the child is not considered to be independent, although he may have been able to obtain support from his parents who could have afforded to support him. Often students are forced to be independent and because they receive neither parental nor government support they cannot undertake full time study as the scheme provides for.
I refer to another criterion- that of being married. I have already mentioned that people in a de facto relationship are discriminated against by the scheme. A student who lives in a de facto relationship must live with his or her partner for two years continuously or have children. On the other hand married couples automatically receive TEAS allowances. I do not have any evidence or statistics on this, but if one took out statistics about the number of students under the age of 25 who were living in de facto relationships and the number of married students, I think it would be line ball which group constitutes the biggest class in 1980.
That reflects a social change which has taken place in the last 10 or 20 years. Twenty years ago that piece of legislation would have been appropriate in terms of what it was intended to do because the number of students who lived in de facto relationships before the development of the contraceptive pill was very small indeed. That is an extraordinary discrimination to find in legislation of this kind in 1980. The consequence is that many students are said- I believe this to be the case- to marry simply so that they can gain the full allowance under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. That would seem to me to be a bizarre, unusual motive for getting married which in many instances might lead to the State being called upon at a later stage of those persons’ lives to provide assistance of another kind under the provisions of the Family Law Act. The fifth criterion I referred to relates to employment. It makes no allowance for students who have been truly independent but who have been employed for the previous two years. Nor does it make any allowance for those students who have been independent for less than two years. Such stringent conditions often force young people to remain dependent on parents, which is not necessarily a desirable situation for them or the parents.
I refer to the second important anomaly which is dealt with in the report. It relates to the question of parents’ income. The report points out that the means test is normally applied to the income of the students ‘ parents. A number of problems are associated with this. Often parents will not support their children until they are 25 years of age. That is not surprising. The means test, which is applied to parents ‘ income to determine the rate at which a student will be paid assistance, applies to the last financial year unless there is a semi-permanent change in the parental income of at least 30 per cent. Any fall in the income must result in hardship. So in a way this discriminates against students whose parents’ incomes go down, but by less than the required 30 per cent, or students whose parents’ incomes fall but for less than for two years, or students whose parents ‘incomes fall but where hardship cannot clearly be demonstrated.
The present application of the means test to students’ allowances assumes that people in the middle income bracket can easily afford to pay for part of their children ‘s education and living costs. However in many respects such categories of people are worse off than families on low incomes. Usually students who come from low income families receive the full TEAS allowance, but those students from middle income brackets are often means tested out of the allowance or receive only the absolute minimum. So the level of cut-off for the means test is inadequate in contemporary money terms. That is another defect, if I might put it this way, in the operation of the Student Assistance Act. It really needs to be rectified by a government concerned with the operation of the Act.
There are a number of provisions also regarding the means testing of students’ incomes. The means test is applied to a student’s income and that of his or her spouse if he or she happens to be married. This discriminates in favour of students from wealthy backgrounds, because they are in a position where their parents can perhaps provide them with a flat or a motor car or something of this kind or some means of external support such as assistance with rent and so on. That sort of assistance is not taken into account in terms of a student who has an independent status. Of course the worst example of that is those people who have a high level of income, who by means of tax sharing arrangements and income splitting arrangements pay very little tax and whose student children, because of their taxable income, become eligible for the tertiary education assistance allowance. There are a number of anomolies of that kind which are constantly drawn to the attention of people who are interested in the application of the Student Assistance Act. It is another problem which is of concern and which constitutes a major anomaly.
– But, Senator, are not they combined for the purpose of TEAS?
– Are not what combined?
– The income of the two parties.
-Which two parties?
– The incomes of the husband and wife. Are not they combined for the purposes of TEAS?
– They are, yes. I am sorry, perhaps I used the expression ‘income splitting’ incorrectly. It is more correctly stated as tax avoidance arrangements, if I can put it that way. Of course it may be that one party does not work at all, and in that situation I think it is fair to describe it as an income splitting arrangement. Take the example of the wife of a doctor who is herself a medical practitioner, who does not practice but who is a member of the partnership and so on. Her income is really part of her husband ‘s split income, and in those circumstances the student child becomes a beneficiary of the scheme. Perhaps that is not a matter of enormous importance in the context of the financing of the whole student assistance scheme, but of course it is a source of concern that any scheme like this should be made use of in the circumstance in which it is a scheme designed to help the less fortunate student from a socio-economic point of view.
The other two matters to which I wanted to refer in connection with the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme are concerned with what are called the progress rules of the scheme, which really mean that students become ineligible for the tertiary education assistance allowance because of their failure to satisfy rules outlined in the regulations which provide for a continued progress in their study. This requirement applies particularly when there is a transfer from one course to another. A student loses points under the scheme for previous studies which have been undertaken.
There are other examples like this which continually come to hand. For example, I think only last week, it was, I received a letter from a girl in South Australia who, because of illness, had not been able to complete the required number of units in one year. As a result she lost her tertiary education assistance and suffered quite severe hardship. The regulations are so rigid in their application that they do not provide for a situation like that; they are quite mandatory. If one does not do the required number of units one is out of the scheme. She did not do the required number of units because of illness which was documented, and she lost her tertiary assistance.
– The Tribunal was of no use to her?
-The Tribunal was of no use in that situation. I am just coming to the question of the Appeals Tribunal. Perhaps I can come to it now and make the point that the rules which tribunals have to apply leave them very little discretion in many cases of hardship. Any honourable senators who have talked to members of the tribunals in the various States will recognise that because it is a constant source of concern to them that they have to apply very bureaucratic and rigid rules to the matters which come before them, which often results in severe cases of hardship.
The other point which is related very much to the question of progress through one’s course is the question of full time study. The example which I referred to of the girl in Adelaide who was not able to complete the required amount of full time study in order to retain her tertiary education assistance -
– What are you suggesting there, Senator? It is a good point. I am sure that the Government would be interested in some constructive suggestions.
-I hope that the honourable senator is right. I made the same point 2lA years ago. The Government has not taken it up yet, so I do not know why I should do it again in great detail tonight.
– You are making a lot of suggestions.
– Illness is not the same as examination failure. That is simple enough.
-It is really very simple.
– Well, spell it out.
-Look, I am not going to draft legislation while I am on my feet for Senator Jessop or for anybody else. It is a very simple solution to say that a person who gets ill and cannot fulfil the required number of units or subjects ought to be able to go to the Appeals Tribunal and. say: ‘I have a doctor’s certificate. I was ill and I couldn’t do it. Please fix up my Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance’. That would be an instant solution as far as Senator Jessop is concerned; it is very simple. I drew attention to it 2V4 years ago in this place and nothing has been done about it since.
– You have at last spelt it out. You have never done that before.
-The honourable senator could not remember my speaking about this subject 2Vi years ago. I am very flattered by the suggestion that the honourable senator might be able to remember anything I said 2Vi years agobut on this subject, certainly not. The other matter which I want to deal with and which is related to the question of student assistance is that of post-graduate awards. There are at present in Australia close on 3,000 post-graduate award holders doing post-graduate research of various kinds. They are immensely important people in terms of the intellectual life of this country, in terms of the research capacity of this country and in terms of our capacity to develop innovative and indigenous research. They are very important people but the value of their awards has declined enormously since 1978.
Senator Carrick and I used to have arguments about whether the awards had declined by 30 per cent or 40 per cent. He always plunged his hand into his Gladstone bag, and produced some new set of figures, but we are really debating the question of whether they had declined by 40 per cent, 50 per cent or whatever. But it is estimated, I think quite conservatively, that to increase the value of post-graduate awards to the level that they were in 1977 would require something in the order of a 50 per cent increase from $4,200- odd- that is the level that they are now- to something like $6,400, having regard to the fact that they are now taxed. By the way, I take no objection to the fact that they are taxed. I think the government did quite a sensible thing, but I think in taxing the awards it should have taken account of the level of them and the circumstances under which post-graduate award holders exist.
In regard to post-graduate award holders I make one very simple point. I seem to remember the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saying that his Government would be a government for all the people. All I can say, as perhaps a slightly sceptical observer, is: ‘You could have fooled me after all these years ‘.
– That would not be hard.
-As Senator Missen interjects, it may not be hard to fool me, but it is pretty hard to fool the mass of the people. Postgraduate award holders represent a very important group to the intellectual life and the research capacity of this country. They are a group which has been quite callously overlooked by the Fraser Government for the simple reason that in terms of political clout they are a very small group. Their case for an increase in the value of the award is important, and there should, of course, be more awards made available to postgraduate students in Australia.
Further, to stop people like me finding it necessary to make comments on this matter in this way, post-graduate award holders in Australia should have the value of their awards fixed by a tribunal. The awards should not be fixed at the whim of governments and be included in or excluded from a Budget because of the problems which the Government may or may not have at a certain time. That is not the case with the post-graduate award holders. It illustrates what is wrong with the Student Assistance Act, which is the subject of the report I have been discussing. The report documents failure rather than success on the part of students in this country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
- Mr President- (Quorum formed). Mr President, I move:
The matter that I have proposed for discussion in the Senate relates to requirements under Section 34 (a) of the Public Service Act relating to permanent appointment to the Public Service, and the need for such persons to be British subjects. I believe that that provision is now outdated as a part of the Public Service Act. Section 34 of that Act reads as follows:
A person is not eligible for appointment to the Service unless- (a) he is a British subject.
I feel that this provision must now be seen as discriminatory, partly as a result of developments since 1945. lt is not uncommon for the Senate to consider legislation which has become inappropriate to the times. It is in some way or another an anachronism. I suggest that this provision, section 34 (a), in the Public Service Act is such an anachronism. I feel that the issues relating to it- and they are many and complex- ought to be aired in this Senate and ought to be considered by honourable senators. It is a matter of quite fundamental importance, particularly as it relates to discrimination against a large number of people now living in this country.
Since 1975, Australia has had a massive influx of new settlers. I understand that the figure is now in the vicinity of 3.6 million. These are people who in the past 35 years have come to this country as new settlers. People who come here must wait three years before attaining Australian citizenship, with at least 12 months’ continuous residence during that period. During that period, such people are permanent residents of Australia but have not yet obtained their British citizenship. If they are not from a country of the Commonwealth and therefore British subjects, they cannot obtain permanent employment in the service of the Government of Australia.
The Public Service Act was first passed in 1922. In the past there may perhaps have been some justification for preserving special rights for British subjects, because it was really in many respects until the Second World War and afterwards that Australia remained effectively an outpost of what was then called the British empire, without itself very many distinctive outward national aspirations. Certainly in international relations and international law it did not have what would be regarded as an international personality until the period just after the Second World War, somewhere between 1945 and 1 952, that is, between the end of the War and the signing of the ANZUS Treaty which we discussed earlier today. I think it is universally recognised that the 3.6 million settlers who have come to Australia since the last war have made a contribution to the building of Australia. What I think is most exciting about the figure of 3.6 million to which I have referred is that, according to the information that I have been able to obtain, approximately 50 per cent of those people have been non-British subjects. So 50 per cent, 1.8 million roughly of those people who have come to Australia since 1945 have, for at least a three-year period, faced what I believe would be generally considered to be clear discrimination with respect to their capacity to be employed by the Government of Australia.
Also according to information available to me, based on the 1976 census figures, about half a million residents in Australia in 1976, were not British subjects. In other words, despite the fact that they have come to Australia as permament residents, there are 500,000 people-or there were in 1 976 and I assume the figure is probably pretty much the same now- who could not and cannot obtain permament employment in Government service until they become Australian citizens and thereby British subjects, thereby comply with section 34(a) of the Public Service Act. I have suggested that this is discriminatory and that we ought to be examining what we can do about it. The nature of this discrimination has become more obvious because of the very significant changes in Australia and because of the very large scale immigration program since the last War. I think also it is interesting to note in passing that no other nation has a greater proportion of people in its population born overseas, except Israel. Israel is obviously a special case. So, Israel aside, Australia is in relative terms the largest immigrant nation. That has occurred essentially since 1945 the most recent large scale wave of immigration. It is because of that that I think the provision in the Public Service Act has become, as I said earlier, anachronistic and discriminatory. This matter was referred to by the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration which reported in 1976. I would seek leave to incorporate paragraphs 8.2.12 to 8.2. 1 6 in Hansard rather than go through the details.
The document read as follows- 8.2.12 Nationality: One important restriction which excludes all applicants who are not British subjects is laid down in Section 34 ( a ) of the Public Service Act. The requirement is consistent with overseas practice and is not precluded by international conventions relating to discrimination in occupation and employment, or by the Racial Discrimination Act. Nevertheless, it operates as a discrimination against many persons resident in Australia as a result of the immigration policy which Australian governments have pursued since 1945. Submissions to the Commission suggested that it was inconsistent for a government which sought immigrants to exclude them from employment in its own service, or permit their employment only on inferior terms and status. Perhaps more important from the Commission’s point of view is the narrowing of the range of choice open to the government as an employer and the increasing disparity between the social composition of the government workforce and the community generally. 8.2.13 Many of the critics of the British subject requirement have suggested the substitution of an Australian citizenship requirement and this was favoured by the Public Service Board in its recommendation to the Commission. However, given the high number of non-Australian citizens in the labour force, this alternative would limit still further the field from which the government can draw its employees. The fact that non-Australian residents occupy a substantial proportion of temporary and exempt positions suggests that no valid purpose is being served by their present ineligibility. 8.2.14 The Commission recommends that the nationality requirements for permanent appointment be abolished except where the Governor-General in Council prescribes Australian citizenship by regulation as a qualification (not a condition of eligibility ) for particular positions, for example in the diplomatic or security services. 8.2.15 We recommend also that the legislation providing for the staffing of statutory authorities (for example section 21 (3) (a) of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949-1973, section 68(a) of the Reserve Bank Act 1959-1966) should include a similar provision. If the Executive Council is authorised to prescribe Australian citizenship as a qualification for certain positions we recommend that the Public Service Board be required to list in its annual report to Parliament the number, status and location of any positions so affected. 8.2. 16 If Section 34 (a) is amended as we propose, temporary or exempt employees thus made eligible for permanent status should be advised of their right to apply for permanent status and we recommend that the Office of Equality in Employment (see section 8.3 ) should take action to this end.
-I make the point that, having incorporated that document, it outlines more of the background to the matter referred to in the motion which I have moved before the Senate. The royal commission, in summary, has suggested that all nationality requirements should be dropped from the Public Service Act. that is that there should not only not be a British subject provision, as there is now, but also there should not be an Australian citizenship provision. At first sight, many people would question that, but when they look at it, to make the provision relate only to Australian citizenship, would restrict the number of people eligible for permanent employment in the Public Service even more. It would exclude those British subjects who have come to Australia and who are now permanently residing here and who currently are able to be permanently employed, as well as discriminating against those other people who have come to Australia as permanent residents and who are not British subjects. The Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration arrived at the conclusion that in fact all such provisions should be dropped from our Public Service legislation.
On 26 January 1949 the Australian Citizenship Act came into force. It had been passed in 1 948. It established Australian citizenship in law but retained the provision relating to British nationality. Part 2 of that Act relating to the status of British subject, section 7, states as follows:
A person who, under this Act, is an Australian citizen or. by a law for the time being in force in a country to which this section applies, is a citizen of that country, has by virtue of his Australian citizenship or his citizenship of that country, as the case may be, the status of a British subject.
The Act then listed a series of Commonwealth countries. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard that list rather than read the list of Commonwealth countries to which the status of British subject is applicable.
The document read as follows-
Commonwealth of the Bahamas
People ‘s Republic of Bangladesh
Republic of Botswana
Republic of Cyprus
Commonwealth of Dominica
Republic of Ghana
Republic of India
Republic of Kenya
Kingdom of Lesotho
Republic of Malawi
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Papua New Guinea
Republic of the Seychelles
Republic of Singapore
Republic of Sri Lanka
Kingdom of Swaziland
United Republic of Tanzania
Kingdom of Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
United Kingdom and Colonies
Independent State of Western Samoa
Republic of Zambia
Under the Act, Irish citizens also have the status of British subjects in certain circumstances.
– As I have mentioned, this problem has arisen, in my view, because of changes in the course of recent years and has followed the developments of what was once the British Empire, which became the British Commonwealth and is now referred to as the Commonwealth of Nations. I refer in passing to the fact that in 1931 the Statute of Westminster was introduced. In 1942, as I recall, there was Australian legislation which implemented the Statute of Westminster in Australian law, thereby creating dominion status for Australia. In 1948, following that, came this Australian Citizenship Act. This was all part of the process of establishing Australia’s international personality and its independent role as an international entity as the Empire crumbled and as the various former colonies established themselves as clearly independent entities in the international sphere. That is the sort of development that I was referring to when I said that sub-section 34a has become anachronistic. Of course, that has become compounded by the immigration program since 1945. It is for that reason that I think the time has come now to reconsider those provisions in the Public Service Act.
-Has the Government given a reason why it won ‘t accept them?
– I said at the outset that there are a vast range of issues involved. I want to cover some of them if I can in the course of this discussion. It is a terribly complex matter with very wide-ranging implications. My understanding is that it is under consideration. It has been for a long time. I would like to see it resolved. That is why I raised this matter. But I mentioned at the outset that it is a very complex issue. I think that it has to be considered carefully, but in my view it can be resolved. I would hope that this discussion might help that process along. I make the point in passing that I am not critical in any way of the special relationship that has been created by the historical and constitutional links that Australia has with the Commonwealth of Nations and its members. However, I think it is time to consider whether we might extend within our own community that sense of fraternity, and thereby get rid of the discrimination in the Public Service Act which I feel is currently embodied in section 34a.
There are many anomalies, and I would like to discuss some of those. These are the sorts of complexities that I was referring to. British subjects have the right to permanent employment in the Public Service immediately upon entering Australia as permanent residents, but they have to wait six months to vote. There is a different provision relating to permanent employment in government service and the right to vote in this country, and there is a provision in the Public Service Act that relates to that. I would also like to discuss the provisions in relation to various statutory bodies, for example, and also in the States. I think that draws attention to the complexity of the situation now because we have a range of provisions affecting permanent residents in this country who are not British subjects and who may wish to be permanently employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. If one looks at the Australian War Memorial Act 1962-1973 and the National Library Act 1960-1973 Act- I take two major national institutions, one adjacent to and the other opposite, Parliament House- one sees that in section 1 8 in the National Library Act, which is similar to the section in the Australian War Memorial Act, it is stated:
The staff of the Library shall be employed under the Public Service Act 1922-1960.
In other words, section 34A applies directly. The 500,000 people to whom I referred, who are permanent residents but not British subjects, would not be able to be employed in either the War Memorial or the National Library. The National Gallery Act, however, in clause 33 B says:
The terms and conditions of employment … of persons so employed-
That is in the National Gallery- shall be as determined by the Council-
That is the council of the Gallery- with the approval of the Public Service Board.
But there is no reference to the Public Service Act specifically. So it would seem to be clearly possible for the Public Service Act not to apply. If we look at a more recent body, and one perhaps more directly relevant to this discussion, the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs, subsection 35 (2) states:
The terms and conditions of persons engaged in accordance with sub-section ( 1 ) are such as are, subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, determined by Council.
That is pretty much the same as the National Gallery legislation, but worded slightly differently. Whether it means something different is another matter. If we then look at the Australian National Airlines Act of 1 945 and the provisions for appointment to that Commission we find that it is provided that:
A person shall not be admitted into the Service of the Commission unless he-
And, presumably, she also- is a natural born or naturalised British subject.
It also states:
Provided that the Commission may appoint to such positions or positions of such classes as are prescribed, persons who do not possess all the qualifications specified in this sub-section.
In other words, the National Airlines Commission is given a clear waiver of that requirement. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of the various bodies which have different provisions relating to employment in Commonwealth statutory authorities.
The document read as follows-
PROVISIONS IN THE COMMONWEALTH STATUTORY AUTHORITIES
(by enabling Act)
No Nationality Requirement
Australian Postal Commission Act
Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Act
ACT Electricity Supply Act
Australian Film Development Corporation Act
Australian Industry Development Corporation Act
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act
Australian Tourist Commission Act
Canberra College of Advanced Education Act
Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act
Canned Fruit (Sales Promotion) Act
Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act
Commonwealth Railways Act
Criminology Research Act
Dairy Produce Export Control Act
Dried Fruit Export Control Act
Egg Export Control Act
Film and Television School Act
Health Insurance Commission Act
Honey Industry Act
Housing Loans Insurance Act
Law Reform Commission Act
Legislative Drafting Institute Act
National Capital Development Commission Act
Naval Defence Act
Meat Industry Act
Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act
Pipeline Authority Act
Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act
Tobacco Marketing Act
Trade Commissioner’s Act
Wheat Industry Stabilization Act
Wine Overseas Marketing Act
Work Industry Act (The Authorities created under the above Acts which are in a sta tutory relationship with the Board generally follow the Public Service Act provisions in practice).
British Subject Requirement
Commonwealth Banks Act
Commonwealth Police Act
Overseas Telecommunications Act
Reserve Bank Act
British Subject Requirement with power of waiver
Australian National Airlines Act (power of waiver with Commission)
Australian Institute of Marine Science Act (power of waiver with Minister)
Australian Shipping Commission Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Atomic Energy Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Broadcasting and Television Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Commonwealth Teaching Service Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act ( power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Science and Industry Research Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Stevedoring Industry Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
Weights and Measures Act (power of waiver subject to approval by Minister)
-This list shows that for some statutory authorities there is no nationality requirement.
– The Egg Board and the Wine Board do- groups like that.
– It varies. That is quite right. For example, where there is no nationality requirement we find included the Australian Postal Commission, the Canberra College of Advanced Education, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, the Australian National Railways Commission, the Australian Film and Television School and various other bodies. Under another list which has British subject requirements, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) are included. In another groupBritish subject requirement with the power of waiver- we find, for example, the Australian National Airlines Act to which I have just been referring. It is interesting that there is a series of Acts, including the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act, which have provision for waiver by a Minister. As I mentioned earlier, the Australian National Airlines Act has provision for waiver by the Commission. A number of other Acts which are included in the list I have incorporated provide for waiver by the Minister. I also seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list indicating provisions relating to employment in the State public service in Australia.
The document read as follows-
Provisions Relating to Employment in the State Public Services in Australia:
New South Wales- British subject with power of waiver by Governor
Victoria- British subject with power of waiver by Governor-in-Council
South Australia- No requirement regarding nationality
Western Australia- British subject
Tasmania- British subject
Queensland- No statutory requirement- in practice non-British subjects only employed on temporary basis for first two years
Northern Territory- No nationality requirement
– The list shows that there is a wide range of provisions in State public services relating to employment. It it interesting to note that in the Northern Territory, which I think has the most recently established legislation, there is no nationality requirement. In New South Wales and Victoria there is a British subject provision but with power of vice-regal waiver. In South Australia there is no requirement with respect to nationality. Western Australia and Tasmania have a British subject requirement. Queensland has no statutory requirement and in practice non-British subjects are employed only on a temporary basis for the first two years. So in the six States and in the Northern Territory there is a wide range of provisions relating to permanent employment in the public services. Not only do differences emerge in the Commonwealth between statutory authorities and the Australian Public Service but they also appear between the State services.
It is not clear whether this situation results in various statutory authorities having varying terms and conditions of employment. My understanding is that, in fact, it does. In the case I mentioned earlier of the National Gallery those sorts of situations can result in the provisions of the Public Service Act not being applied in the way they are in the Australian War Memorial and the National Library, for example. Again, that seems to be an inconsistency that we ought to try to overcome. Therefore, it would seem that there are roughly half a million people in Australia at any given time who are discriminated against because of provisions in the Public Service Act but who may or may not be discriminated against in a whole range of statutory bodies, depending on the provisions that apply in the various Acts, and who may or may not be affected similarly in State public services. I make the point that at a time when we are trying to provide for greater mobility between State and Federal public services, between outside institutions, organisations and businesses and, for example, the Commonwealth Public Service, these sorts of anomalies do not help very much.
I have information as to employment in a number of Commonwealth departments. It is interesting to note that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs throughout Australia employs only 13 people who are not British subjects. Presumably those people would be employed in temporary positions.I think that highlights the fact that a large number of people are, in this sense at least, discriminated against and are not able to be employed in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I would imagine that many more people are employed in various activities associated with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. But I understand from the information that has been made available to me that only 13 of the half a million people employed in the Department are not British subjects.
It seems to me that at least we ought to consider the proposition that permanent residence should open the way to permanent employment. It certainly does in the private sector. It certainly does in some State services. For example, it does in South Australia and in the Northern Territory. It seems that it does in some statutory organisations, but it does not in the Commonwealth Public Service. I would have thought that we ought to try to iron out this anomaly to overcome any suggestion that there is such discrimination. It seems to me that legislation could be relatively readily drawn up to overcome these anomalies while recognising the problems to which I have already referred and the complexities and implications that would be involved in that process.
In a society such as ours where half a million people are in the category to which I have referred, there are many reasons for people wanting to retain a citizenship which does not encompass their being a British subject. I declare my interest in this matter and refer to my wife. She is an American citizen. Both our children are dual Australian-American nationals. They will remain so because they will have the right to opt for one or the other citizenship at the age of 1 8. If my wife were to renounce her American citizenship and become an Australian citizen our two children would lose their right to opt for either nationality. In other words, my wife feels a very strong obligation to retain her American citizenship so as not to deprive our two sons of the capacity at the age of 18 to opt for one or the other citizenship. Therefore, my wife will remain what I think, in the jargon, is called an alien. Under current provisions she would never be able to be employed in the Australian Public Service.
There are other anomalies. I refer to a case in which I have been involved and which I have been seeking to resolve. Again, it is a case of American citizenship. A teacher was permanently employed in the Commonwealth Teaching Service from 1974 to 1977 and was given a Commonwealth postgraduate scholarship to do a two-year masters degree which was directly related to his teaching responsibilities and to increasing his capacity to handle that job in the interests of his students. When he came back to the Commonwealth Teaching Service he was not able to obtain a permanent position. A number of factors are involved in this case but one is that he is not a British subject. He had a permanent position in a Commonwealth authority but when he came back after two years of study which was encouraged by that authority, for which he was given a Commonwealth postgraduate scholarship, he could not regain his permanent status because of the application of the rules. I point out that under the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act to which I referred earlier there is a waiver provision available to the Minister but because of other factors involved in the case the Minister has not felt able to exercise that waiver. That simply emphasises the problem of having such anomalies in legislation and not providing uniform provisions that may be applied equally across the board to all individuals.
I suggest that in the circumstances we need to have a close look at section 34a of the Public Service Act. It is my view that it is discriminatory and that it needs to be amended. I also take the view that the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration provided what, in the circumstances, is most likely to be the most desirable solution. Given the complexities involved to which I have referred and the probably extensive nature of the implications of any changes- for example, the wide range of laws that might be affected if we try to introduce some uniformity- I believe it is something which has to be approached with care. Whilst, insofar as I have been able to examine this matter and obtain information on it, I favour the findings of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration at this point, I do not suggest that there might not be another solution, a different solution or a better solution. In my view, the best solution, in the interests of equity and in order to provide a more up to date and less discriminatory provision in our Commonwealth law relating to employment in Commonwealth Public Service or statutory authorities, would be to amend section 34a of the Public Service Act to accord with the findings of the Royal Commission of Australian Government Administration.
I make the point that such provisions now exist in law in some parts of Australia- for example, in the Northern Territory and South Australia. My understanding is that in the administration of some authorities the provisions are implemented in a way sufficiently flexible to overcome the discriminatory nature of section 34a. It seems to me to be preferable that we have such non.disciminatory practices, such equity, extending across the whole spectrum of Commonwealth employment. It is for that reason that I brought this matter to the attention of the Senate. I believe that this matter ought to be more widely discussed and considered. While I understand the complexities of the situation, I believe that the drafting of laws that might overcome these problems would be relatively straightforward but the implications and effects of such legislation would need to be carefully considered. However, I think it is a matter that will benefit substantially from further public discussion. It is for that reason that I raised the matter in the Senate.
– We are indebted to Senator Knight for venting the matter of nationality requirements for permanent appointment to the Australian Public Service. The longer one goes on, the more one realises the complexities involved. I well remember that when Senator Murphy was the Attorney-General one of the biggest bugbears was not the matter of residency rights but the attainment of Australian citizenship. Between 1926 and 1972 the iniquitous clauses in the Crimes Act meant that even though a person had citizenship, if he were not born here he could be deported. When Australia is compared with a country such as Canada it can be seen that we are slow learners. After World War I Canada took a rather dim view about people who come from non-British countries and it had legislation similar to that introduced in Australia in 1926 in the form of the Crimes Act. By 1930 Canada had abolished that barrier.
Conversely, there was an industrial dispute in the 1 920s which involved the leaders of the maritime unions, who included Johansen, a Norwegian, and Walsh, an Irishman. There was the dog collar legislation, and the Crimes Act was strengthened. It was only in 1972 that a farreaching Attorney-General like Senator Murphy was able to remove those restrictions. I think it can be said that that came about because of tremendous agitation by most of the major ethnic groups. The legislation was completely unfair, and it was a milestone when many of these shackles with which we had lived probably since the 1 850s were removed.
Senator Knight has mentioned only the beginning. I remember that in 1974 when Senator Bishop was the Postmaster-General, people who joined the mail branch had to have Australian citizenship to get permanency. Of course, there would be a run when a certain number of people were made permanent mail officers and then there was a wait of two years before more were appointed. Obviously, people would find that in that two year period they would slip a long way down on the seniority list. I know that Senator Knight is talking about people at higher wage levels in the Public Service but this was a source of discontent. I know that the then Amalgamated Postal Workers Union-this was before the amalgamation of the unions involved with Australia Post and Telecom Australia- had an understanding with the Minister, and the Department of Immigration and its Minister, Mr Clyde Cameron, who played a very wise role, that where people had given an indication that they had applied for citizenship their seniority rights were preserved.
An important factor in dealing with these matters is that during times of buoyant employment people are reasonably fair, but when things get tight they get a little suspicious. We cannot overlook the fact that the fat cat nations which comprise the European Economic Community have their own ideas on restrictions. I think that this month the British Home Office changed some of its immigration laws. Whilst there has always been an inbuilt reciprocal recognition of Commonwealth countries, the hard fact is that if an Australian becomes a member even of the British work force, the situation is not as simple as that. There is the case of an Australian girl who got into the top echelons of the British Broadcasting Commission. The rule was then applied that people from European Economic Community countries have more rights to employment in Britain than New Zealanders or Australians. I do not argue for one moment that any of the
European Economic Community countries, including Britain and Ireland, should not have that right.
Conversely, I do not think that those same people can argue about the position in Australia. It must be admitted that Australia, unlike Germany, France and Switzerland, has never indulged in that immoral procedure of bringing in guest workers, and treating them completely as cannon fodder. It does not mean that a lot of people here do not have a tough baptism into the work force and that they are not exploited. But Australia was never low enough to use guest workers. During my working days in the railways there was not a barrier so far as Australian citizenship was concerned. Admittedly I said that we are slow learners. I recall when a number of Latin American people arrived in Australia, some of whom had left Chile with the overthrow of Allende. They were active trade unionists. The Navy Department took a reasonable attitude and did not deny work to men who were boilermakers, fitters and other metal tradesmen. They were accepted. The point raised was whether these people could work in what were regarded as high security areas of the dockyards. However, we were realistic enough to realise that at some time every country has had the problem of espionage rings. Obviously because a person is born in a country it does not mean that it is always the Benedict Arnold who will be involved in those situations.
Probably I would tackle the matter in a manner different from that of Senator Knight. I am advocating the doctrine of gradualism. It may well be that by shortening the qualifying period for Australian citizenship the situation could be improved. The qualifying period has come down from five years to three years, with the assumption that after two years and nine months one applies for citizenship, with a reasonable expectation that after another three months or a little more it will come through. I can assure Senator Knight that I am not talking about the situation of Australians with American wives or anything like that, but I do know that some people’s hackles are raised in respect to persons who have permanent residency. I know a number of Americans who came to this country to avoid the call-up to Vietnam. Certainly I do not quarrel with them. Others went to Sweden. If Australia, or Sweden, were good enough havens for them, they owe something to Australia and Sweden. I am not condoning the Vietnam war.
– I was saying some people had good reason for wanting to retain their citizenship.
– That is fair enough. It is those people with permanent residency, as distinct from citizenship, who raise a little irritation. We have got ourselves into a hassle. Senator Evans made a passing reference to the position of a person who has permanent residency but not citizenship and who gets into some problem with the law. The questions arise about deportation and, in one instance, a person ‘s rights before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, or, in another instance, before the Ombudsman, depending on whether he is a Commonwealth national or a non-Commonwealth national. These are the problems we have. There was a time when Australian citizenship could be obtained more quickly. I suppose that the nark Australian is always a little suspicious of people born overseas. However, the argument is thrown right back in his face if the person involved seeks Australian citizenship as quickly as he can. I think that at times we have carried to extremes the impediments we have put on people. On the workshop floor there is the feeling that, if a person is a temporary or a casual, they might get a little more out of him or he might not be as diligent in watching safety regulations because he wants to make his marble good.
These are the problems that have to be avoided if this suspicion is to be destroyed. I know that the trade union movement has been able to make an agreement with private employers, State employers and sections of what are known as Commonwealth employees. Obviously there has to be on-going agitation. It may be argued that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs cannot escape some criticism of this stop and go ability to have applications processed. Two years ago, I and several other honourable senators on Estimates Committee C were able to get a staff increase in the Sydney office. But I know of people who were interviewed in September. They still have no indication when they will get citizenship. We can overdo some of the screening procedures. I know that there was a conflict whether the State police forces or the Australian Federal Police should do the screenings.
The world is in a turbulent state. I know of a couple of diesel fitters at the Cockatoo Dockyard. They had the misfortune to have done their early engineering training in South Korea. They went to work in Iran for one of the big American oil companies. I can well imagine that when the Australian authorities asked for security clearances they would not have put much value on a document they would have got from Iran. I would not accept much less from the neo-fascist government of South Korea if there had been arguments with its police force. The matter is full of complexities. I agree with Senator Knight about the insular attitudes of Australians. They have taken a long while to shed their isolationist tendencies. There is still a long way to go but I hope that we can adopt the more forward thinking attitude that is always manifest in Canada.
When the Crimes Act was amended in 1972, it was not the end of the world. I well remember that, when that legislation was introduced, there was agitation from newspapers such as La Fiamma, the Hellenic Herald and Nova Doba We were curious about the role that the late Senator Greenwood would adopt. He made a very good speech in support of the legislation. It all depends on who takes the plunge at the time. I think that the trade unions, both white collar and blue collar, have to be more active. Regrettably, whatever may be said about militancy on the workshop floor, the Henry Lawson mateship syndrome applies more there than in airconditioned offices where people are more worried. They see everyone coming in as a potential rival whereas seniority probably plays a greater role in manual work. This avoids some of the favouritism that goes on. The boss may feel that a person has more leadership qualities because he has blue eyes or brown eyes. The Public Service unions have a responsibility to marshal their facts. This has largely been achieved by the blue collar manual workers. It has to be ongoing. I might suggest to Senator Knight that when the select committee on immigration whose appointment I have been seeking is established we might add a third matter to its terms of reference.
Debate (on motion by Senator Scott) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
– I oppose this motion. The reason is that I am beginning to realise that the third sitting night each week of the Senate which is devoted to the business of private members who are euphemistically known as back benchers is becoming a farce. Senator Knight has just moved a very important motion concerning 500,000 people of ethnic origin who should be allowed to become permanent employees of the Public Service. I thought that his speech was impeccable in logic. He gave notice of the motion on 7 November 1979, five months ago.
The debate on the matter has been very good. Listeners to the debate might have been stirred in their excitement to think that Senator Knight was raising an interesting matter and to wonder how the Senate would vote on it. The anticlimax came when the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) rose and moved that the debate be adjourned. It will now go to the bottom of the Notice Paper.
– He gave no reason why it should be.
– I am glad of that interjection. There is a reason why the third sitting night on which back benchers debate General Business is a farce. It is as simple as this: Senator Knight has canvassed his proposition with the Government. The Government has said that it is not acceptable and, therefore, it uses this device. This is no criticism of Senator Knight whatsoever; it is a criticism of the system. The Minister adjourned the debate knowing that other items on the Notice Paper will precede it and it will be debated again in the Senate. I believe that that practice is a debasing of the Senate which is supposed to be a House of review, particularly on General Business nights. The motion would have done no damage had it been passed. It simply requests the Government to do certain things about allowing ethnic people to become permanent employees of the Federal Government. The motion has been on the Notice Paper for five months. There was no response to the debate from a Minister tonight. One would have thought that the Government could at least pay honourable senators the courtesy, on the third sitting night of the Senate, to respond when something substantive and important such as the matter raised by Senator Knight is debated. I believe that the Government considers the third sitting night of the Senate in an indulgent way as though to say: ‘This is the back benchers’ night. Let them indulge themselves and have a bit of fun. There will be no harm done. If a difficult question comes up we will simply adjourn the debate and bury it in the Notice Paper. ‘
The next item on the agenda which the Australian Democrats will support is a motion to be moved by Senator McLaren concerning Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd. I would like to be corrected if I am wrong but I am given to believe that he and his colleagues will want to vote on it. The Australian Democrats will want to vote also. We will support the Opposition. Am I right in saying that if the Government by sheer weight of numbers wants to stop a vote being taken all that needs to be done is for a Minister to rise, get the call at an appropriate time and move that the debate be adjourned? If we on this side of the House object to that there will be a division but by the sheer weight of numbers the Senate will be precluded from voting.
It seems to me that the whole system of debating General Business on the third sitting night is a farce. Several honourable senators, particularly Senator Missen and Senator Puplick, last Thursday night quite properly criticised the paucity of attendance in the Senate on the third sitting night. It is no wonder that senators do not attend the chamber. What is the use? I have been listening to this debate for 45 minutes. I was interested in it. I agree with it. What has been the use? It has been a study group discussion but this is a House of the Parliament. With those words I register my protest at the tactics that the Government uses to gag debates on General Business.
– I wish to say a few words. I am impressed with what Senator Chipp has said. I wonder why the debate was adjourned. Senator Chipp gave a reason why it was adjourned. He said that it is not intended that the matter should ever be decided on and that it will go to the bottom of the Notice Paper. That may be the reason but my interjection was that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) offered no reason why the debate should be adjourned. Surely when a Minister moves that a debate be adjourned we are entitled to know the reason why it should be adjourned. Is the reason as stated by Senator Chipp or is there another reason? There may be a logical reason but the Government should let us know.
Senator Chipp has suggested that the reason the debate was adjourned was to avoid making Senator Knight vote on his motion on the opposite side to Government senators. If that is so it holds Senator Knight up to be a hypocrite. The Public Service is a concern of his. He has brought up the matter for no other purpose than to let it go to the bottom of the Notice Paper. I suggest that if the Minister insists that the debate be adjourned without legitimate reasons being given to the Senate on why it should be adjourned we should vote against the adjournment. Let us then see which way Senator Knight votes.
– I must defend myself against the absurd comments which were made by Senator Cavanagh. I thought that Senator Chipp made a reasonable and sensible contribution to the debate. He raised a point of some substance. Senator Cavanagh, as is often his wont, debased the discussion. I moved a motion on this matter because it is a matter about which I feel strongly. Senator Cavanagh may have forgotten that I was a public servant for many years. I moved a motion on this matter because I believe that it is not only one of general significance but also one in which I have taken a personal interest for some time.
– Why don’t you push it to a vote?
– I ask Senator Chipp to give me one second. If debate on the matter is adjourned it will become an Order of the Day. As the honourable senator well knows, earlier this evening we discharged a large number of items from Orders of the Day to try to rationalise and speed up our dealing with Orders of the Day. I have no objection to this matter becoming an Order of the Day, to its being placed on the Notice Paper and coming up again for discussion. I make the point again that this evening we have discharged a large number of items from Orders of the Day in an I raise a point of order. I of the Day. I have moved the motion. In the course of my remarks I indicated that I recognised that this is a complex matter. I made the point that it is a matter which the Government has under consideration at the moment. I would like to see the consideration move along a little faster. For that reason, I have expressed my view in the Senate by moving the motion I moved tonight and making the remarks I did in relation to it. I appreciate the comments Senator Chipp made.
– But it will go to Order of the Day No. 3 10.
– As I just said, an effort is being made to expedite the consideration of Orders of the Day. Over recent weeks, with the co-operation of all parties represented in this chamber, we have discharged a large number of items.
– Only 62.
– It may well be that in the near future we will be able to discharge further items. I want to make it quite clear that, whilst I would very much like to see an expression of view by the Senate on this matter, I have no objection to the matter remaining on the Notice Paper and being subjected here to further discussion as an Order of the Day in the future.
– What further discussion do you want? We were going to support you.
– I think that most honourable senators would support the proposition.
– Well, why not put it to a vote and get rid of it? Let’s make a decision.
– I make the point again: Other honourable senators could have debated the issue. But I would have no objection to my motion, expressing that view, remaining on the Notice Paper and coming up subsequently for further debate. It will remain on the Notice Paper if this motion is carried.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– At the request of Senator McLaren, I will move the motion appearing on the Notice Paper in the name of Senator McLaren. Before doing so, I will seek leave of the Senate to amend the motion to read ‘That there be laid on the Table of the Senate next sitting day . . . ‘ and then continue as printed. I seek leave to do so because, obviously, it is unrealistic to expect that the report might be laid on the table of the Senate this day if the unamended motion were moved and subsequently carried. Therefore, Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to amend the motion by deleting ‘this’ and inserting ‘next sitting’.
– I thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President, and honourable senators. I move:
It will be recalled that this matter was the subject of a matter of public importance in the Senate last week. The fact is that for the first time ever the Government has refused to release to Parliament and the public an Auditor-General ‘s report on financial irregularities in a statutory corporation. Moreover, the Minister responsible has given three mutually exclusive answers explaining the Government’s refusal to do so. That has been further compounded by statements made in this House in the last week. More will be said of that later.
In raising the matter of public importance last week I also disclosed the role played by a publisher and agricultural journalist called Ronald Anderson, his undisclosed conflicts of interest in this and other matters and the assistance he rendered to the Government in covering up this matter. I shall deal with him first. In a letter published yesterday in the Australian, Mr Anderson stated:
Labor Senator Peter Walsh slandered me in malicious and untrue statements in the Senate on March 27 . . .
I have already challenged Senator Walsh to repeat his lies without the protection of parliamentary privilege, so that I may immediately initiate an action for defamation.
His tirade contained a ferrago of falsehoods and is untrue in imputation and thrust, as well as in fact.
As a small example, neither my firm nor I have been engaged with the Federal Government, the Australian Dairy Corporation, Asia Dairy Industries, or anyone else in any sort of ‘cover up’ of any activities or alleged activities of ADI or the ADC.
Neither have I, nor my firm, ever been retained by the ADC or ADI, the Australian Wool Corporation, the Victorian National Country Party or any other political party.
Senator Walsh is not only a man who plays fast and loose with the facts and demonstrates a remarkable penchant for character assassination, but is also a man who lacks the courage of his convictions and is unwilling to subject his allegations to a test in a court of law.
Incidentally, similar complaints were made by Mr Anderson and were published in the Weekly Times of today’s date. I understand also that similar complaints were made to the Melbourne Sun, to which he added that his mercenary relationships with various bodies associated with agriculture were already widely known. The obvious response to that is: If they were already widely known, why is he complaining about their disclosure in the Senate? They certainly were not known to the editor of the Melbourne Age who, immediately he became aware of one of those conflicts of interest, dismissed Mr Anderson. However, I wrote this reply:
Ronald Anderson (April 1st) denies having had any mercenary association with the Australian Dairy Corporation, the Australian Wool Corporation or the Victorian Country Party. ( He also denies having been retained by Asia Dairy Industries. 1 did not say he had been.)
Most of those matters are the subject of questions on notice. If they are answered, they may clarify the position.
In the meantime, Mr Anderson could help us all by making a comprehensive public declaration of his diverse interests.
Since he has not denied mercenary association with the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation -
Incidentally, it is almost the same as the Australian Dairy Corporation- the Australian Wheat Board, the Victorian Grain Elevators Board or Murray Goulburn (the last I understand has been terminated) I assume he acknowledges them.
If, as he says, he was not interested in covering up the Auditor-General’s investigation of Asia Dairy Industries, will he explain why his PIN -
That is, his Primary Industry Newsletter- last September asserted that a PIN investigation had shown the allegation to be without substance?
That problem will be compounded by the admission of the Acting Chairman of the ADC, Mr Pyle, on a national farm report yesterday, that the facts as disclosed about the financial irregularities in ADC were correct. My letter continues:
Finally without the benefit of privilege, I state he was dismissed as a columnist by the Editor of ‘The Age’, as soon as the Editor became aware of his previously undisclosed conflicts of interest.
That is the end of my reply. I am quite willing to have that letter published outside Parliament. I do not believe that it is defamatory. It certainly does not say anything that is not true. Truth is not necessarily a defence against an action for defamation. More importantly, there are grave doubts as to whether, if the letter is published and a writ subsequently issued by Mr Anderson -the issuing of a writ does not necessarily mean he has a case in law- any future parliamentary discussion on this matter may be prevented by the application of a sub judice rule. Subject to a satisfactory clearance that the publication of that letter would not cause further discussion on the subject to be outlawed by sub judice, I will send that letter to the Australian.
Mr Anderson’s reaction contained in a letter he wrote to me on 18 March 1980, one paragraph of which I shall quote, suggests he may not be guilty of hypocrisy but that he is in fact unable to recognise the impropriety of the positions he has occupied in the past. It seems that he may not be guilty of hyprocrisy but may be a victim of moral deformity of the type identified by Cyril Pearl when describing Crick, Willis and other notorious politicians in Sydney in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Mr Anderson, in his letter to me of 1 8 March, said:
We most certainly don’t push the line of any client in PIN, as a perusal of copies over the last 14 years will demonstrate. We ‘ve even taken the lead in exposing the wrongdoings of clients and we have immediately and quite ruthlessly shed any client who tries to stop us being critical of their activities.
I invite Mr Anderson to cite for us the occasions on which PIN did that. I also invite him- since he has claimed his diverse interests are well known- to cite the dates in which those diverse interests were published in PIN or any of his other publications. Mr Anderson concluded the paragraph by saying:
PIN and our consultancy role are completely separate.
That is an assertion which Senator Rae, for one, would find be very difficult to accept. I will not oblige Mr Anderson by publishing that letter outside without a guarantee that it will not restrict further debate on this matter in the Parliament. Mr Anderson has already attempted to suppress, by intimidation, the reporting of parliamentary proceedings. He has failed to do so. I have no intention of giving him the pleasure of suppressing it by legal chicanery. A reference to his attempt to suppress by intimidation the reporting of parliamentary proceedings is exemplified in a letter which he wrote to an agricultural journalist dated 12 March 1980. 1 quote the first two paragraphs:
This is a friendly, personal letter to alert you to a situation you may not have intended to occur and which involves a trap many journalists fall into. I refer to the imputations concerning myself, my firm and Primary Industry Newsletter contained in the article on last month ‘s special hearing of the Senate Committee which appeared under your by-line in a number of papers taking the Western Farmer Service.
The article, apart from its overall highly damaging imputations concerning myself and PIN, contains a number of serious errors of fact-
I will return to that. The letter continues: and these are matters which, in the context of the article, you state and are not covered by Parliamentary privilege. In short, you have fallen into the trap of ‘interpreting’ or enlarging upon statements made under privilege (probably to background them for your readers) but in the process have placed yourself and the papers publishing your article at risk of an action for defamation
This friendly personal letter ultimately turns out to be a veiled threat to take action against this journalist for reporting the proceedings of a parliamentary committee. I have here a copy of the report in question. It reads:
The senate committee also is investigating the board ‘s hiring of public relations consultant Ronald Anderson.
Mr Anderson, publisher of Primary Industry Newsletter, has written articles about the board and the committee’s probe.
There is some public interest from the point of view of the press gallery and the reporting of parliament as to where the line is drawn between fair and unfair reporting of such questions ‘, committee chairman Senator Peter Rae said.
Opposition primary industry spokesman Senator Peter Walsh also has placed on the senate notice paper a question relating to Mr Anderson’s involvement with the AWB and the Australian Dairy Corporation.
Mr Williams told last week’s committee hearing that Mr Anderson had been hired to help in the board ‘s understaffed public relations department.
I refer back to Mr Anderson’s allegation which states:
The article, apart from . . . highly damaging imputations concerning myself and PIN, contains a number of serious errors of fact.
The journalist stated that the Senate Committee was investigating the Board’s hiring of Mr Anderson. That is true; that is a fact. It is said that Mr Anderson was the publisher of the Primary Industry Newsletter and had written articles about the Committee’s probe. That also is a fact. The article quoted at some length directly from Senator Rae. It then stated the fact that I had placed questions on notice concerning Mr Anderson’s association with the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Dairy Corporation. Finally, the article stated that Mr Williams had told last week’s hearing that Mr Anderson had been hired by the Board to help the understaffed public relations department. Five statements of fact were contained in the report, all of which must be covered by parliamentary privilege.
Mr Anderson has complained in the past about alleged breaches, misuse or abuse of parliamentary privilege particularly by me. His criticism in that area is, as I said last week, highly selective. I have yet to see any criticism emanating from Mr Anderson of the action of the Queensland Premier in November 1975 when he called a special one-day sitting of the Queensland Parliament before which he asserted that he had evidence that two Ministers in the former Labor Government had received kick-backs on overseas loan raisings. That did not outrage Mr Anderson’s moral conscience, nor indeed did Mr Petersen ‘s subsequent failure to produce the evidence which he asserted he had or ever to raise the matter in Parliament again.
Mr Anderson’s complaints about alleged abuse of parliamentary privilege are highly selective. He complained that I have a penchant for vilifying revered figures in agriculture. He has cited in a previous issue of his weekly newsletter Sir William Vines, the former Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat, and Mr Webster. Given Mr Anderson’s alleged concern about accuracy I remind him that until last week I had never mentioned Mr Webster in a derogatory sense in the Senate. The only comments which I had previously made about Mr Webster were contained in some mild criticism of some statements he made at the Agricultural Outlook Conference in 1 979. I said that Mr Vines was ,a fraud and a charlatan. The justification for those charges was that Mr Vines was the Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat at the time at which its central theme was the assertion that if wool supplies increased prices would go up. If Mr Vines believed that that was true he was a charlatan occupying an important position and administering expenditure of $60m or $70m when obviously his comprehension of market realities was such that he should not have been trusted to run a pie shop. If he did not believe it he was, ipso facto, a fraud. So much for Mr Anderson.
The subject of the debate is the tabling of the Auditor-General ‘s reports. As a general principle I doubt whether anyone would disagree with the proposition that all reports of the AuditorGeneral ought to be tabled in the Parliament and ought to be made available. This is the first time that an Auditor-General’s report into financial irregularities in a statutory corporation has not been so tabled. Moreover the reasons given for not tabling the report have varied from time to time between inconsistency and mutual exclusivity. For example, on 15 November, when questioned in the House of Representatives the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) said:
That was his excuse for not tabling the report then. On 22 November he said:
The delicate and sensitive commercial report should not be made public.
That was his excuse on 22 November. On 30 November I telegrammed him informing him I would be in Canberra on 7 December and asking him whether I could read the reports in his office in Canberra. I guaranteed not to disclose any commercial information. The telegram I received in reply on 5 December stated:
Reference your telegram of 30th November 79 requesting access to Auditor-General’s report on Asia Dairy Industries. . . While I have noted your undertaking not to disclose any commercial information contained in the reports I believe that it would be contrary to proper conduct in such matters to disclose the contents of the reports until full consideration has been given to the question of further action being taken consequent upon the reports.
That answer and his answer on 1 5 November are mutually exclusive. Senator Scott commented on the matter in the discussion of the matter of public importance raised last week. I do not blame him for this but in the summary of his statements which was broadcast on Australian Broadcasting Commission program National Farm Report last Friday, 28 March, it was stated:
The reports were specially requested by the Minister and as such are confidential.
This implies that their confidentiality is mandatory. That certainly is not true. The ABC also reported Senator Scott- this is a matter which could be interpreted optionally, I think- as saying:
Suggestions in August last year that ADI be restructured had led to the request for an Auditor-General’s report.
August and the restructuring of the ADI were mentioned in the same paragraph by Senator Scott but according to my information the original move to investigate Asia Dairy Industries occurred long before that. There is some doubt as to whether even if this motion is carried- I certainly expect some support from concerned members of the Liberal Party as well as the Australian Democrats who have already indicated their support- the tabling of the reports is mandatory. There is however at least one precedent. On 17 September 1968 the Senate Notice Paper showed a notice of motion from then Senator Murphy as follows:
That there be laid on the table of the Senate all documents or copies thereof which constituted the original arrangements made by the Australian Government for the purchase of Fill aircraft and all subsequent variations in the arrangements.
Finally, after having been amended on a motion by Senator Anderson, to exclude, confidential, technical information which was the joint property of the Australian and United States governments, Senator Murphy’s motion as amended was carried. On 26 September, that is just eight days afterwards, those papers were laid on the tables of both Houses by Ministers in the then Government. So whether it is mandatory, whether there is an absolute legal requirement to do so, the precedent that I have cited is the only one that I am aware of that actually reached the stage of the motion being carried. The Government of the day laid the reports involved on the table. They were stripped only of those matters which affected the United States as well as Australia. If one reads the report of that debate it is perfectly clear that the only objection raised by any Government senators to the principle of tabling such reports was that they may have contained security information which concerned a foreign government as well as the Australian Government. The Journals of the Senate of 1 7 September and the morning of 18 September 1968 shows that the motion was carried and who voted for it.
On the question of whether it is mandatory for the Auditor-General to report to Parliament, section 53 of the Audit Act, clearly requires the tabling by the Treasurer of all Auditor-General ‘s reports on the Government’s own accounts. The Dairy Produce Act of 1975, the parent Act of the Australian Dairy Corporation, and therefore, its subsidiary Asia Dairy Industries, say nothing about the tabling of the reports. It is widely believed, and it has been frequently asserted to me, that all reports of the Auditor-General must be submitted to Parliament and not to a Minister, on the grounds that the Auditor-General is a servant of the Parliament. From my investigations it seems that that matter has not been resolved. I certainly have not been able to find any Act which explicitly states that all reports of the Auditor-General must be laid on the table of the
Parliament instead of being presented to a Minister. For the Government’s own accounts the Audit Act makes it quite clear that they must be presented to the Minister and the Minister must, within 15 sitting days, table them in the Parliament.
– There are some exceptions for security reasons, although very few- ASIO.
-Yes. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is a case in point. Whether that is justified might be another matter. The position of the Auditor-General’s reports on statutory authorities seems to be somewhat unclear. The office of the Auditor-General was the subject of some comment in appendix 4F of the Coombs report on Australian Government Administration. Dr Coombs said:
In contrast, the Auditor-General is a statutory office holder, appointed by the Governor-General under section 3 of the Audit Act . . . He is not subject to the Public Service Act . . .
Additional measures designed to secure for the AuditorGeneral the maximum possible degree of independence in the discharge of his responsibilities and functions, include the special appropriation of his salary (section 4), stringent conditions governing his suspension or removal from office and the circumstances in which he shall be deemed to have vacated his office-
Professor R. N. Spann, Professor of Government and Public Administration, University of Sydney, in a book titled Government Administration in Australia wrote:
Each government nowappoints an Auditor-General-
That is State and Federal government- responsible to Parliament . . .
He stated that the Auditor-General: may be removed from his post only at the request of both houses of parliament. This, along with the fact that his salary is specially appropriated, is designed to free him from ministerial control and to enable him to report independently to the legislature … If the Treasurer is not prepared to act on the suggestions made, the Auditor-General’s remedy is to bring the matter to the notice of parliament, either in his annual report on the public accounts, or in a special report, leaving it to parliament to take whatever action it considers necessary.
According to Professor Spann the AuditorGeneral ‘s special reports may be- at least may be, if not must be- reported to the Parliament, leaving it to Parliament to take whatever action it considers necessary. I do not have much time left. I am at a loss to understand why the Government continues to suppress these reports unless they contain far more damaging information to the Government than has already been released. The matters concerning Mr Webster are now public knowledge because 1 released the information in the Senate last week. It was confirmed yesterday by the Acting Chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation, Mr Pyle, on ABC National Farm Report. It is now public knowledge, so that cannot be a reason for the continued suppression of the report. What other reasons are available? Are the rumours that families and friends of Country Party and perhaps even Liberal politicians are in receipt of illegal payments also true? I expect to get support from at least some members of the Liberal Party on this motion. The principle that the AuditorGeneral’s reports ought to be presented to the Parliament should be supported. The precedent established by the Senate in 1968 that government will table government papers, provided they do not contain security information which was acted upon by the government of the day, ought also to be supported.
Finally, I hope that the Government does not resort to the shabby subterfuge of adjourning the debate on this motion without the matter going to a vote tonight. There was some complaint about this sort of procedure when the previous matter was before the Senate. It is certainly the intention of the Opposition that this motion be taken to a vote. We invite to vote with us all those members of the Liberal Party and, less optimistically, the National Country Party who are concerned about the principles of the accountability of statutory authorities to Parliament, the right of Parliament to know how public moneys and moneys administered by authorities which exist by statute of this Parliament are expended, how their accounts are kept and so on. I hope that we get support from Senator Rae and some of the other Liberals but, above all, I hope that the Government will not adopt the shabby subterfuge of deferring a vote on this matter tonight by adjourning the debate.
-There are two aspects of this matter to which I would like to address myself this evening. The first is in relation to what Senator Walsh has said with regard to the publisher of the Primary Industry Newsletter. 1 do not wish to go at any length into any of the suggestions, allegations or comments which Senator Walsh has made but rather to make available to the Senate certain information without further comment. One of the Committees of the Senate charged with the responsibility of investigation and report in relation to the failure by the Australian Wheat Board to present reports to the Parliament has presented certain reports in relation to that investigation. It presented the most recent report to the Senate on the day that the Parliament resumed. The Primary Industry Newsletter of 20 February 1980, for which Mr Anderson- the man referred to by Senator Walsh-is the publisher, contains an article headed ‘Senate Committee Dips its Pen in Vitriol for Bitter Condemnation of Wheat Board ‘. The article goes on to state:
The Senate Standing Committee’s latest updated expose of the Australian Wheat Board’s accounting indiscretions was a best-seller in the Board ‘s Lonsdale Street headquarters this week. Not quite so popular was the welter of unfavourable newspaper editorials which covered Wheat Board chairman Sir Leslie Price’s desk, all selectively parroting the most damning statements contained in the Senate report.
The article continues in a similar vein. I seek leave to table a copy of that document for the information of honourable senators in considering the matters raised by Senator Walsh. Let me add that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations believes that its reports stand on their own merit. I do not propose to enter in any way into a discussion about any comment that may have been made. However, I make the point that in making those comments about that Committee’s report Mr Anderson did not disclose in his publication the fact that he is and was at material times a paid consultant to the Australian Wheat Board.
-He denied it to the gentleman at the Agricultural Outlook Conference.
-Thank you, Senator Walsh. I simply indicate that the Australian Wheat Board in evidence to the Committee in public hearing stated that Mr Ronald Anderson was a paid consultant of the Board at that time. It also stated, having seen this article, that it was certainly not part of what the Board had expected to receive from the paid consultancy. I do not want to comment any further than that. That is a fact which perhaps should be known by members of this Senate in assessing any other aspects which they are invited to assess. There is one further point and that is that the introductory paragraph which I read refers to a welter of unfavourable newspaper editorials. The Committee searched and found two such newspaper editorials and invited the Wheat Board representatives in public hearing to indicate whether there were more than two which had come to the Board ‘s notice but it was not able to indicate that there were. That is described by Mr Anderson as a welter of unfavourable editorials. I seek leave to table this document.
– What about incorporating it?
– I am invited to incorporate it, Mr President. I am content to accept the invitation. It is not such a long document. Perhaps the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) would like to see it. I am content that it be incorporated.
– The Minister has no objection to it being incorporated at the invitation of Senator Walsh. I withdraw my application to table it and seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
SENATE COMMITTEE DIPS ITS PEN IN VITRIOL FOR BITTER CONDEMNATION OF WHEAT BOARD
The Senate Standing Committee’s latest updated expose of the Australian Wheat Board’s accounting indiscretions was a best-seller in the Board’s Lonsdale Street headquarters this week. Not quite so popular was the welter of unfavourable newspaper editorials which covered Wheat Board chairman Sir Leslie Price’s desk, all selectively parroting the most damning statements contained in the Senate report.
Not that there was anything new in the report. It simply regurgitated earlier Senate comments about the Board’s carelessness in its accounting procedures, with a few barbed reminders that the Senate didn’t like to be kept waiting when it was promised information and that when the Parliament asks for information on an annual basis, that’s what it means.
Surprisingly (?) the key comment by the Committee hardly rated a mention in media reports, which were dominated by juicy phrases such as ‘negligence’, ‘deception’, ‘failure’, ‘glossy paged’, ‘errors’, ‘mistakes’ and sloppy accounting practice ‘.
Yet the key comment was (page 56, para 6.35) that the Board had a limited involvement in the discussions over the significant accounting implications of the changes to its governing legislation in 1974. “Even worse, “ the Committee noted, “the Auditor-General’s Office was not involved at all.”
The new Act apparently was negotiated mainly between the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation and the Government, with little Wheat Board involvement, although the Board was to become responsible for the preparation of accounts in the form required by the legislation.
The Department of Finance claimed that the Wheat Board did not express any opposition to legislative provisions when shown the draft legislation.
The Department tried to wipe its hands clean of the problem in correspondence with the Senate Committee with the claim that it did not expect “opposition or difficulties with respect to the provisions.”
The Department of Finance’s naivety was subsequently shown by the fact that it took two years for it, the Board, the Department of Primary Industry and the Auditor-General ‘s Office just to agree on the format of the new accounts, once the Board realised the difficulties associated with changing an accounting system which it had used without any problems for the previous 35 years.
The remainder of the Senate Committee’s report is juicy reading if you are a statutory authority basher. It certainly goes well beyond the bounds of impartial analysis.
No-one can argue that the Wheat Board made mistakes. Small, silly ones, as well as large important ones. But even the Committee was forced to conclude that there were mitigating circumstances and that steps had been taken to alleviate the difficulties and help ensure their non-recurrence.
But the Committee makes mountains out of some of the Board ‘s errors. For instance it dwells at length on the publication of a public version of the Board’s annual report in a glossy-paged ‘ form.
The inference that the Board deliberately tried to mislead growers by not labelling this public version as an ‘interim’ nature, is laughable. To argue, as the Senate did, that this was tantamount to deception is hysterical. The real answer is that someone goofed.
The Committee also snidely commented that the Board’s monopoly’ powers of ‘compulsory acquisition’ backed by Commonwealth and State legislation “has been the subject of a challenge in the High Court, where its validity was upheld, (albeit by a narrow majority) and is currently under challenge before the Court yet again. ‘ ‘
Note the references to ‘narrow majority’ and ‘yet again’. The narrowness of High Court majorities don’t matter one iota. Either you win or lose.
– Beyond the comments I have made the Committee does not see any reason why it should defend itself in any way against attacks such as that. The integrity of its report stands on the report itself.
Senator Walsh went on to comment about Auditor-General’s reports and that statutory office and the fact that he had had some trouble in finding out the history and the relationship of the Auditor-General in relation to reports prepared for Ministers relating to statutory authorities. I think he and other honourable senators may find some assistance if they go back to the original debates at the time of the establishment of the independent office of the Auditor-General which took place at the commencement of Australian parliamentary history. It was intended that the Auditor-General be given protection and an independence from the Executive Government, to which Senator Walsh has referred, to ensure that there was a free flow of information between the Parliament and the Auditor-General. However, it is my understanding that Ministers are entitled to use the services of the Auditor-General- from time to time they do- to conduct a particular investigation at their instigation for the purposes of their Executive action. That is different from the AuditorGeneral’s normal function in relation to investigation for the purposes of Parliament and to report to Parliament.
It is my understanding that this investigation referred to by Senator Walsh fell into that category of one requested by a Minister for Executive purposes, it was not one in relation to which the Auditor-General was carrying out a function for and on behalf of the Parliament. That is my understanding of the reason that both the Auditor-General and the Minister adopted the position that this was a confidential report and not a report to the Parliament which had to be tabled in the Parliament.
However, I believe that there is considerable public concern in relation to this question. I believe that for some years there have been problems in relation to the operations of this statutory authority. The Senate has seen fit to establish a committee- the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations- with a particular responsibility for the oversight of the activities of statutory authorities. I believe that the answer to Senator Walsh’s problem is that it would be far better for the Senate, if it accepts that there is a reason for concern in relation to things that may or may not have happened- a concern which has been publicly expressed in the community about Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd and some of its subsidiaries and their activities- to investigate the matter properly by means of the Senate committee charged with the function. Considerations of whether evidence ought to be taken publicly or in camera can be considered in the committee situation and any necessary protection can be given.
I support Senator Walsh to this extent. I think there is a public concern that needs to be allayed. I think that the Senate has a legitimate interest in this question. I do not think that the Senate should purport to interfere with the Executive’s use of the Auditor-General for the Executive’s purposes. I do not think that we should be seeking to get that report tabled publicly. I believe that it would be perfectly legitimate and proper for this matter to be referred for investigation on behalf of the Senate to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, at which time there could be discussion with the Auditor-General and there could be an investigation into whatever matters the Senate Committee deems appropriate. I would certainly support that action. I explain to Senator Walsh and anybody else that I will not be supporting Senator Walsh ‘s motion, but I will support any attempt to have the matter investigated through what I would regard as the proper processes of the Parliament. This chamber has a committee which it has established for that purpose. Why not use that committee if the Senate believes, as I do, that it is a matter in which public concern could be recognised by the reference of this matter to the committee for further investigation.
– My colleague Senator Walsh, on behalf of Senator McLaren, has moved:
That there be laid on the table of the Senate this day-
– That has been amended. It is the next day of sitting.
– It continues: the Auditor-General’s report on Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd furnished to the Minister for Primary Industry and referred to in the Auditor-General’s report contained in the annual report of the Australian Dairy Corporation 1978-79.
That notice was given on 22 November 1979, some four or five months ago. As my colleague Senator McLaren said, the item has been amended to provide that the tabling take place on the next day of sitting.
On this subject, this morning we heard the Minister at the table, the Minister for Special Trade Representations, Senator Scott, in reply to a question that was asked of him by Senator Walsh, say that the matter was still receiving the consideration of the Government. Yet this matter appeared in the annual report of the Australian Dairy Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 979. The Government has had the details of this report for at least that long, and the matter has been the subject of consideration of this Parliament by way of notice on the General Business paper since November 1 979. The report does not refer to the activities of a government department. The affairs contained in the report do not relate to the activities of a government department whereby the Minister is directly answerable to this Parliament but more importantly, so far as this Senate is concerned, it relates to the activities of a statutory corporation.
This Senate has established a committee, of which Senator Rae is chairman and of which 1 am proudly a member, namely, the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. By motion after motion, this Senate has expressed concern at the failure of statutory bodies, statutory corporations, to be properly answerable to this Parliament. This report was tendered to the Government for the year ended 30 June 1 979. Since this matter has been on the Notice Paper since November 1979 and this morning the Minister said that the matter was still under the consideration of the Government, I believe that in the interest of this Senate we cannot afford to see this matter deferred any longer.
While I agree with Senator Rae that the matter must eventually come to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, I believe that before that can happen this Senate must be in possession of the AuditorGeneral’s reports on the Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd and its activities so that as members of the Senate we will know the exact matters that we will be asking the Committee on Finance and Government Operations to consider.
Having heard Senator Walsh state a very positive case of concern about public expenditure and public activities on the part of a statutory corporation, and because I heard the Minister this morning at Question Time say that the matter was still receiving the consideration of the Government, I claim that we as a Senate, believing in the supremacy of Parliament, knowing that statutory authorities are answerable to this Parliament, realising that the Auditor-General is an officer of this Parliament and not an officer of the executive arm of government and that therefore he and his reports should be answerable to this Parliament, should have a vote on this matter this evening. Therefore, I move:
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston)- The question is: That the question be now put. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. The question is that -
– We said no, that the question should not be put.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I think the noes have it.
Opposition senators- Divide!
– I raise a point of order. I listened intently when you put the question. You put it twice and, although there were a discernible number of voices which said ‘aye’, I did not hear any ‘no ‘ on the other side of the House. You quite properly put the question twice and, under those circumstances, I believe that the vote should be resolved in favour of the ayes.
– I did say ‘no ‘ on the first call, I thought quite audibly.
– I raise a point of order. Is it not a fact that, under the Standing Orders, two voices are required for a division. We now have an admission from the Government side that there was only one voice, and that the motion was passed on the voices in the affirmative.
– Two of us here said ‘no’.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
There were more than two voices saying ‘no’. The Senate will divide.
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I am speaking to the original motion, and I want to speak in a way which is consistent with what I said in the debate on the last notice of motion before the Senate. For the benefit of those people listening, we have just voted on a motion that the question be put. The question before the Chair, as moved by Senator Walsh, is that the Auditor-General ‘s reports on Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd be laid on the table of this Senate on the next day of sitting. He gave notice of that on 22 November 1979, 4Vi months ago. All we were trying to do with that motion that the question be now put was to ensure that the Senate voted yes or no on that question tonight. We were not voting on the substantive question. We were voting to ensure that the Senate expressed a view as to whether or not those reports should be tabled on the next day of sitting.
I was rather astonished when the Government refused to accept that. One would imagine that the next move would be for a Minister to move that the debate be now adjourned. That simply means, to those listening, that it will then be carried by the weight of numbers and will be transferred to another part of the Notice Paper which is entitled ‘Orders of the Day’. It will then be, I think, item No. 311, less the few that have been taken off the Notice Paper today. That means, as Senator McClelland says, it would be an impossibility for the matter to be ever debated in this Parliament.
All I am saying is that if this place means anything as a Parliament, if this third night of sitting means anything as a private members’ or a back benchers’ night, surely a back bencher- or a front bencher in this case, Senator Walsh- when he puts something up, is entitled to a vote of the Senate on it. It is not as if the matter was introduced last week or the week before; it has been there for the Government to contemplate, as Senator McClelland said, for 4’^ months. I am wondering whether these third night exercises which are euphemistically called private members’ nights are a mere charade. It does not matter what the logic of the argument is, if the Government does not want to vote on it, it simply uses the device whereby the Minister can move that the debate be adjourned. If the Opposition or those on this side of the House object to that, the sheer weight of numbers crushes the wishes of that private member at least to have a vote.
What would be wrong with Government members, if they did not want this report tabled, giving reasons why it should not be tabled and letting us vote? They say: ‘No, we do not want it tabled. That is the fair way, that is the open way, that is the honest way ‘. I suspect now that as soon as the debate is concluded a Minister will simply move that the debate be adjourned. I object. I think that flouts the whole spirit of the third night of the Senate sitting, private members ‘ night, so it is called. As we saw on the last motion moved by Senator Knight, where he put up an impeccable case for ethnic people to be given permanent employment in the Public Service, the Government has obviously said ‘We will not accept this’, and therefore the debate was adjourned. Senator Knight was saved the embarrassment of having to vote against the Government and for his own motion. For those reasons I object most strongly to this procedure.
– I desire to say a few words on this motion as I was the person who gave notice of motion on 22 November last year for Senator Walsh who was absent from the chamber on that day due to some unforeseen circumstances. I think that Senator Chipp has put the whole question in a nutshell. The Government is trying to run away from a responsibility which it has to the electors of this country, to the taxpayers, and to the Parliament. The Auditor-General’s supplementary report on accounts for the year ended 30 June 1979, at page 23, item 12, under the heading ‘Australian Dairy Corporation’, states:
Asia Dairy Industries (HK) Limited-
Apparently this is the Auditor-General making this report-
Paragraph 3.3.9 of my Report dated 17 September 1979 made reference to an inspection and audit of the accounts and records of Asia Dairy Industries (HK) Limited which was carried out following a request by the Minister for Primary Industry under section 63p of the Audit Act 1 90 1 . The company, which is registered in Hong Kong, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian Dairy Corporation and is subject to audit by a Hong Kong firm of chartered accountants.
As mentioned in my previous Report, representations on a number of matters were made to the Chairman of the company on 24 July 1979 and a report was furnished to the Minister on 3 August 1979.
So the Minister has had that report on which we are now moving to have tabled in this Parliament since 3 August last year. That is quite a long time. The Auditor-General goes on to say:
The principal matters arising from the audit inspection included: whether certain company operations which are not related to the disposal of surplus Australian dairy products are within the powers and responsibilities of the Australian Dairy Corporation under the Dairy Produce Act 1924; deficiencies in management control by the Corporation over the company; lack of proper definition of powers, authorities and delegations; inadequate documentation of determinations and approvals for rates of salaries, allowances, bonuses and other staff benefits and conditions of service; lack of competent approval for, and deficiencies in accounting for, overseas travelling expenses; inadequate documentation in regard to the basis for delineation and allocation of certain costs; and deficiencies in financial and administrative systems and internal checks and controls.
A reply to the Audit representations did not include all specific information and comments requested, resulting in a further reference to the Chairman on 19 September 1979. The attention of the Minister has also been drawn to the need for particular actions considered necessary.
We were told in the Parliament last Thursday and again as late as Question Time today that the Government is still investigating the report from the Auditor-General which it has had in its hands since November of last year. Nearly five months have gone by since that report was given to the Government. But we can go back further than that. These discrepancies were drawn to the attention of the Goverment by the AuditorGeneral on 3 August last year. As Senator McClelland has pointed out, the AuditorGeneral is an officer of this Parliament. By the vote that was taken tonight we have found that the Government does not want the AuditorGeneral ‘s report tabled in this Parliament so that we, the responsible, elected members of this place, will be able to ascertain what his report stated. I read out all of the discrepancies pointed out in the Auditor-General ‘s supplementary report which was tabled in the Parliament on 13 November. What sort of an institution are we elected to if the Government, by its actions tonight, by its actions previous to tonight, by its responses to a series of questions and by its response to the notice of” motion I gave on 22 November, is not going to give the Parliament the information which we desire? I think it is a matter for which we must show very grave concern.
I can remember that not so many years ago the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, used to stand in this place, criticise the Whitlam Government and say that it was a government of corruption, deceit and all the other awful things he could lay his tongue to. I am going to throw those challenges back to Senator Carrick tonight. If the Government is not prepared to vote for this motion and to see that the report is tabled we can truthfully say that we now have a Government in Parliament in Canberra that is, in fact, proving to the peoplenot just by allegations being made but by absolute proof- that it is a government of corruption, deceit and cover-up. The Government is not prepared to table that report in the Parliament in the way that we are asking it to, that is, in a proper and legitimate manner. What does the Government have to hide? Why is it so afraid to table a report on a matter which it asked the AuditorGeneral to look into? The Auditor-General has given the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) his findings. Every time Senator Scott is asked a question he says that the Government is still making inquiries. It is not good enough to give an answer in that way. As time is getting on, I will give the Government another opportunity to change its mind after listening to what I have said. In the interests of the taxpayers of this country I again move:
That the question be now put.
– That motion cannot be moved because a quarter of an hour has not elapsed since the same motion was moved.
-Mr President, we have been debating this matter for 12 minutes, have we not?
– This is a part of procedure.
-The interesting point about this debate and the point that has been overlooked is why this matter has not been taken up by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. I would have thought that any matter of this sort would have been referred to the Public Accounts Committee and that the matter would have been subject to investigation by that Committee. Admittedly I have just joined the Public Accounts Committee. We have followed a series of investigations concerning references by the Auditor-General. The Public Accounts Committee has a responsibility to the Parliament to investigate any complaint the Auditor-General has made. This matter seems to me to be a substantial complaint. Has there been any attempt by the Public Accounts Committee to avoid its responsibilities? I doubt it.
– Why don’t you ask the Committee? You are on it.
-That is what I am going to do. It seems to be quite strange that this important matter has not been dealt with by the Public Accounts Committee. There are two procedures which can be followed. The Public Accounts Committee can consider this reference. It possibly will discover that all that has been said about the Government tonight is quite true and that the Government has deliberately avoided bringing the report before the Parliament. The sooner the Public Accounts Committee makes an investigation the better because we are being faced with delaying tactics. We cannot pressurise the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott), who is the Minister responsible, because he is a new Minister. I can assure Senator Scott that a previous Minister in this place, another Senator Scott, was in considerable trouble for not accepting that he had a responsibility to the Senate to give it all the information that was available. Senator Cavanagh will recall the long proceedings in this place which finally led to Senator Scott’s resignation. I think it was called the Hoffman case.
– It wasn’t resignation; it was dismissal.
-It was dismissal. I am not suggesting that Senator Scott, at this early stage, ought to be subjected to the same sort of pressure to which his precedessor was subjected. But unless he gives the Senate the information it is looking for, of course he may suffer the same fate. To put the matter to the test perhaps I should again move that the question be now put. I think the necessary time has expired and that the motion is now in order. I do not see why I should deny Senator McLaren a vote on his motion. I do not take very kindly to the moving of the gag. I never thought that at any time I would be moving the gag. I have always opposed it. This is a very important matter which demands that some decision be made tonight. I think the question ought to be put to the vote. The debate should not be adjourned. I think Senator Chipp has indicated that that is what will happen.
– Could it not be adjourned to another night after the Minister has replied?
– If that is Senator McLaren’s wish I will not move the gag. Perhaps, if the Minister is prepared to speak on the matter it might be sensible for me not to proceed with the motion to apply the gag. Perhaps he has some information to give us. He seems to be eager to speak so I will cede to the Minister.
– I am not aware of any confusion in the chamber tonight. I shall speak briefly on this matter. One thing is quite clear in the discussions relative to Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd, and that is the measure of persistency. As recently as 27 March this subject was discussed as a matter of public importance. I have since been asked a question and for the last hour and a half or so we have been devoting ourselves to this matter once again. So there is no shadow of doubt that there is a real measure of persistency referable to this matter. Having listened to the debate tonight, I have to say that the Government’s response is absolutely similar to and along the same lines as my response on other occasions. Nothing really has been added in this debate, and nothing of great consequence can be added to the reply at this stage.
As I stand here in this chamber tonight it is not my province to defend or to prosecute. It is my province to explain the circumstances that surround the questions involving Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd. Once again I must refer honourable senators to the position as it pertains. This circumstance applies to a number of measures that have been raised tonight by Senator Walsh and others. With respect to the honourable senator’s request that the AuditorGeneral’s reports to the Minister be tabled, I must reiterate the statement that I made on 27 March 1980. 1 stated:
The inspection and audit of the accounts and records of the ADI were carried out under section 63p of the Audit Act 1901. Under the legislation the Auditor-General is required to report to the Minister; there is no requirement for tabling of reports by the Minister in the Parliament.
Such reports to Ministers on inspections of accounts and records, as distinct from reports on financial statements by the Auditor-General, are made on a confidential basis. There is a very good reason that that should be so. If it were not so, we would be running the risk of having any number of unsubstantiated allegations moving through the community- unsubstantiated allegations that may be of extreme damage to individuals–
– They are running around now. If they are not true, table the report.
– That is not my concern; it is my concern that I do not add to them. These sorts of allegations can be damaging to individuals and to organisations, and they could be damaging to the circumstances surrounding our own country in its relations with other countries and other areas of business in which it is involved. I have to say once again that honourable senators certainly can be assured that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), who has instigated these determinations and inquiries, will ensure that all aspects relating to this subject will be satisfactorily resolved and that a statement will be made by him at the appropriate time.
– But will he table the report?
– It is not in our power to table the report now because of the various matters that could be consequential upon that. I have explained- I guess 1 must explain it once againthat under the legislation the Auditor-General is required to report to the Minister. There is no requirement for the tabling of reports by the Minister in the Parliament. Indeed, it may be a matter of judgment. The matter of judgment is that we are not here to add to a whole lot of running allegations and inferences in the community. That is a matter of judgment. We have a measure of concern for individuals and organisations and, indeed, for our country and for the standing of those individuals and organisations. It is in order to ascertain, and to be sure of ascertaining, all the matters that are relevant that we, as a Government, are taking the line that we are in this matter.
Of course, certain irregularities have been alleged and where there are irregularities, whether they be in reference to matters of finance or to general business procedures, the matters will have to be investigated. In this circumstance an investigation over a wide field is needed.
Again I refer to the matter which I raised earlier, namely, that reports by the AuditorGeneral to Ministers on inspections of accounts and records, as distinct from reports on financial statements by the Auditor-General, are made on a confidential basis. I do not believe that it should be necessary for me to add to that. I have already given the reasons for their being a measure of confidentiality in these matters. As I have said, it is important that we be sure of all the facts relevant to the problem that is being investigated before we come down with a final decision. Certainly- I hope I made this clear in my speech earlier tonight- we as a Government are not here in a defence role; nor are we here in a prosecuting role. We are determined that proper investigations over a very wide and deep field will be made and that ultimately the Government, through the Minister, will be in a position to make a responsible reply that will be a total, clear and fair explanation.
– You have said that three times already.
– I am trying to emphasise the point. I am impressed by the fact that the honourable senator had noticed that I have said it three times. It is an indication of the concentration that he is devoting to what I say.
– It is a cover-up. There is grave concern about a cover-up.
-Senator McClelland says it is a cover-up. It is not a cover-up, as I see it. I believe that what I have been saying tonight is an indication that certainly it is not a cover-up. The Government is taking the line it is taking to ensure that there is no cover-up. It is taking that line in order to amass all of the relevant details and finally to display the matters surrounding the Asia Dairy Industries company. The Hong Kong based Asia Dairy Industries company is a subsidiary of the Australian Dairy Corporation. It was established in 1964 under Hong Kong law.
– You are having to waste time. It is the toughest speech you have ever made.
-I am glad that the honourable senator is paying attention. Quite obviously he is enjoying it. It is not essential that he stay and listen. I appreciate the fact that tonight he has chosen so to do.
– Wait till you read your speech next week. You will be ashamed of it.
– Even if that were the case, I imagine the same comment could be applied to some other honourable senators from time to time.
– You have been corrupted by getting into the Ministry. That is what has happened.
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, was that a personal reflection on any person? You used the word ‘corrupt’.
– No, I think it was a general statement in relation to the change in the attitude of an individual.
– The word ‘corrupt’ must be used very carefully and not against a person.
– I am careful, and I would not dare use it against Senator Scott. There can be a change in personality when one gets into a bad environment.
Estimates Committees- The Senate- Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd- Clerk of the Senate
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under Sessional Order, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I inform the Senate that, to enable Estimates Committees to meet on Tuesday, 15 April 1 980, 1 propose to move on that date that the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 4 p.m. to 1 0 p.m. For the information of honourable senators, I have circulated copies of the proposed timetable of sittings of Estimates committees. Copies of those departmental explanatory notes which have been received have been distributed and arrangements have been made for outstanding explanations to be sent to honourable senators as soon as they have been received.
– I wish to take about five minutes on the adjournment debate tonight to raise a matter which I had intended to raise last night. However, unfortunately, last night before the Senate rose I became quite ill and had to go home before the Senate adjourned. Therefore, I could not speak on the adjournment debate last night. I point out that, when I came back to the Parliament this morning and read the Hansard record of the debate last night, I noted that there was a division at about 10.30 p.m. The Senate divided on the motion that the Senate do now adjourn. My name, of course, did not appear in the ayes or the noes, nor was I paired. I had left because of my illness. Even though I notified my Whip’s office that I was leaving, I was not able to be paired. I mention that because it is the first time that I am aware of since I have been a member of the Parliament that I have missed a division. I place it on the record that the division was missed because of my sudden illness. Therefore, I was not able to be in the chamber.
However, that was not the principal matter I wished to raise tonight. I intend to speak on the way the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian newspaper reported the proceedings of the Senate. I mildly chastise both bodies. We all hope, of course, that the proceedings of this chamber are reported properly. From time to time there are errors in the reporting. The errors to which I point this evening are only small but I think it is proper that I bring them to the attention of the Senate, the Australian newspaper and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We all know that earlier this week one of the honourable senators in this place was suspended. On 1 April, when reporting this event, amongst other things the Australian said:
The Opposition spokesman for social security, Senator Don Grimes was suspended from the Senate Tor 24 hours yesterday for refusing to withdraw accusations against government senators.
I point out that Senator Grimes was not suspended for 24 hours. He was suspended for the current sitting which meant that he was able to take his place in this chamber on the next day. He was able to do so at an interval of less than 24 hours after the suspension occurred. On 31 March, Senator Carrick proposed:
That Senator Grimes be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
That meant that he was suspended from 31 March. He was able to come back at any time after the Senate resumed on 1 April. The Australian newspaper also said that he was escorted out by the Usher of the Black Rod. I suppose that technically he was escorted out by the Usher of the Black Rod but those who saw what happened know that Senator Grimes reached the door well before the Usher of the Black Rod got around to escorting him out.
I heard a report from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It also said that Senator
Don Grimes was suspended for 24 hours which I have noted was not correct. The ABC also said that Senator Grimes was ejected from the Senate. It is to this statement that I take objection. He certainly was not ejected. Students of Latin would know that the ‘e’ in eject meant ‘out of. The word ‘eject’ is derived from the Latin verb ‘jacio’ which means to throw. Literally, the word ‘eject’ means ‘to throw out of. Senator Grimes was not by any means thrown out of the Senate. It is interesting to look at what the Concise Oxford Dictionary says about the word eject’. It says that it means to expel from place, office or property. One expels a spent cartridge from a gun, a pilot from an aircraft or a spacecraft especially in an emergency and so on.
Senator Grimes was not ejected; he was suspended. I will cover myself about the meaning of the word ‘suspended’. It can mean to hang up. We certainly did not hang up Senator Grimes. The word also can mean to temporarily annul, adjourn or debar temporarily from office. That is what happened to Senator Grimes. He was suspended. I urge the Australian Broadcasting Commission to make sure that next time an honourable senator is suspended from this chamber- I believe that will probably happen -it states that he was suspended. It should not say that he was ejected because we do not go to those extremes in the Senate. If an honourable senator is suspended for a sitting I urge the ABC to say so and not to say that he was suspended for 24 hours which is not technically correct.
-I express my disgust at what happened in the Senate half an hour ago. If Government senators believe that they have a valid case for not tabling the Auditor-General’s report on Asia Dairy Industries (HK) Limited let them back their convictions with their votes and not shelter behind the procedural subterfuge of allowing time for the debate to run out so that they do not have to vote on it. Government senators are a bunch of shirkers. They will not put their votes where they claim their convictions lie. The Minister for Special Trade Representations, Senator Scott, said that he was repeating what he said last week. He certainly was. He repeated the same puerile old excuses that he gave last week. He failed, however, to repeat a fairly serious misleading assertion or implication in his speech on 27 March. He said:
In August 1979, the Minister for Primary Industry received a proposal from the Corporation for a new charter for its wholly owned subsidiary company ADI. The Government has recieved also proposals and suggestions for restructuring the ADI from dairy industry organisations, including the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. The Minister for
Primary Industry also requested that an inspection and audit of the accounts and records of ADI be carried out by the Auditor-General . . .
That statement clearly implies -
– Order! The honourable senator cannot revive debate on the matter which has just been discussed.
– It has not just been discussed; it was discussed last week.
– Adhere to referring to events of last week.
-Yes, Mr President. That quotation clearly implies that in August 1 979 the Government commenced an investigation into Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd, at the request of the then Minister for Primary Industry. The supplementary report of the AuditorGeneral, delivered I think in November last year even though it was for the year ended June 1979, referring to the Australian Dairy Corporation, stated:
As mentioned in my previous report, representations on a number of matters were made to the Chairman of the company on 24 July 1979 and a report was furnished to the Minister on 3 August 1979.
Clearly the Minister misled the Senate last week- that was the interpretation placed on the incident in the media, on National Farm Report- when he implied that in August last year the Minister for Primary Industry, for the first time, requested the Auditor-General to make some inquiries into Asia Dairy Industries. In fact, as the Auditor-General stated, a report on those matters had been submitted to the Minister as early as 3 August 1979. So Senator Scott has something else to answer for as well as all the other questions he failed to answer last week. I mention the inconsistencies- indeed, the contradictions- in Mr Nixon’s previous puerile excuses for not tabling these reports. On 15 November, the excuse was:
The practices that caused concern to the Auditor-General are no longer relevant.
This evening the issue is finished, dead; it has been buried. He said that on 1 5 November. But on 5 December he said:
It would be contrary to proper conduct in such matters to disclose the contents of the reports until full consideration has been given to the question of further action being taken consequent upon the reports.
What sixteen days before was a dead issue, no longer relevant, then became the subject of further action, consequent upon the reports. Who in the Government will explain the contradiction, the mutual exclusivity, of the Minister’s two previous puerile excuses for not tabling the reports last November? We certainly did not get any answers to that question from Senator Scott last week. He went through that tired old routine, saying: ‘Well, of course, the investigations aren’t yet complete and it would be quite improper for the Government to table the reports when the investigations aren’t complete’. At least six times he was asked by way of interjection whether he would guarantee that when the investigations were complete the reports would be tabled. He did not answer that question. He failed to account for the contradictions in Mr Nixon’s previous answers. He refused to answer a question on whether, when the investigations were complete, the reports would be tabled. So that government excuse has blown out also.
Finally, last week he fell back, again in a misleading way, to section 63B of the Audit Act. He stated that, pursuant to section 63b of the Audit Act, the tabling in Parliament of special reports of that nature was not mandatory. That is correct. However, he implied that the tabling in Parliament of those reports was precluded, that it was.forbidden. That is not correct.
– I remind you, Senator Walsh, that the matter of the tabling of the reports was discussed in debate a few moments ago. You cannot revive that matter.
– I am referring to what happened on 27 March, Mr President. I charge Senator Scott, pursuant to the speech he made on 27 March- I presume it was delivered on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Nixon; therefore, he also is responsible- with failing to give any account whatsoever of the contradictory answers given by the Minister in November and December last year. I charge Senator Scott with misleading the Senate by implying that in August 1979, for the first time, the Minister for Primary Industry asked the Auditor-General to conduct an investigation when, in fact, the Auditor-General had submitted a report on 3 August 1979. I charge Senator Scott with again attempting to mislead the Senate by implying that, pursuant to section 63p of the Audit Act, special reports may not be tabled in Parliament. The tabling of such reports is not mandatory, but it is permitted.
– I believe that in Senator Walsh’s discourse tonight he cast reflections upon Government members on the manner in which they voted. I think it is significant that we should distinguish -
– You cannot revive any matters of debate which we have just concluded, Senator Watson.
-But I wish to make a personal explanation in relation to the matters which were raised.
– You must seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-I seek leave, Mr President.
– I believe it is important in recognising the manner in which certain Government senators voted to note that they made a clear distinction between two issues. The first issue related to a report which was presented to the Parliament in the normal procedure as a result of the normal activities conducted by the Auditor-General. On the other hand I distinguish another case. I believe Senator Walsh recognised that situation but he did not give proper recognition to the motives of Government senators and to the fact that in some cases Ministers of a government can make a request.
– How were you personally misrepresented, senator? Was it in relation to the manner in which you voted?
-I believe I was misrepresented in relation to the manner in which I cast my vote. Certain aspersions were cast on the integrity of honourable senators in relation to how they cast their vote and I believe this reflected on me. I felt that, in this case, the report was the subject of a request by a Minister to the Auditor-General and I believe it is up to the Minister to determine the propriety or otherwise of that report’s being presented to the Parliament. I believe it is up to the discretion of the Minister.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I submit that a personal explanation is not being made and that the matter is being debated.
– The requirement is that a personal explanation be given and that the matter not be debated.
-I therefore wish to conclude by saying that in casting my vote this evening I took a view that I regarded the matter as being purely between the Minister or the Executive and the Auditor-General rather than a matter in which the Auditor-General carried out his duties for the benefit of the Parliament.
- Mr President, I wish to raise a matter which I discussed with you yesterday. I refer to the situation that has now arisen in relation to the Estimates committees. We now have a situation in which the first Estimates committee will have to sit on the first day on which Parliament resumes after the Easter recess, that is, on 15 April. We now find that approval has been granted for positions to be created for extra staff to service Estimates committees but because of staff ceilings those positions will not be filled. The expert staff who have been servicing the Estimates committees for several years have now been allocated other duties and we find that their workload has been thrust upon the research staff of Senate standing committees. Mr President, as I pointed out to you the other day, I am of the opinion that the research staff who service the Senate standing committees are now fully occupied in the work that they have to do in the inquiries that those committees are conducting.
I make a plea to you, Mr President, to make the strongest representations to the people responsible that the Estimates committees be provided with the staff to which they are entitled so that we can do our work on the Estimates committees, looking at the appropriation Bills when they come into the Senate. I feel that we will now be at a disadvantage because we have lost the expertise which has been built up over several years by the Parliamentary staff who have served us in an excellent capacity. On top of that, we find that an extra work load is to be put upon the research staff of Senate standing committees who will not be able to pick up the tab overnight. I have been talking to some of them today. They will now have to sit down over. Easter instead of having a break. They will have to go through a whole heap of documents with which they were presented setting out what the previous staff did, so that they, in turn, can give a proper service to members of the Estimates committees who require it. It may be that not every member of an Estimates committee requires that expertise, but some of us do. On top of that, these people will now have to spend a lot of their Easter break trying to acquaint themselves with matters that committee members will raise at the Estimates committee hearings. In doing that they will have to put aside some of the very important work that they have to do in servicing Senate standing committees. I will leave the matter at that, Mr President. I hope that you will take it up in the right quarters.
– I wish to comment briefly on the notable absence from this chamber over the last few weeks of the
Clerk, Mr Bullock. We understand that he has been ill and unable to perform his duties within the chamber and in the service of honourable senators generally. Mr President, the Clerk is held in very high regard by honourable senators on all sides of the chamber. He is a man of absolute integrity and of good humour. It is always a pleasure and always helpful when one has to deal with him. I certainly look forward to his return to the chamber and to the Senate generally in our next sitting week. I am sure that I am expressing the views of other honourable senators in asking you, Mr President, to convey to Mr Bullock our wishes for his speedy recovery.
– I appreciate the remarks. I shall have much happiness in conveying to Mr Bullock the sentiments expressed by Senator Tate, which I feel are those of the chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.22 p.m. until Tuesday 15 April at 3 p.m. unless otherwise called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act- RegulationsStatutory Rules 1980 No. 62.
Air Navigation Act- Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 67.
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court ActRegulations Statutory Rules 1980 No. 63.
Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Act- RegulationsStatutory Rules 1 980 No. 70.
Canned Fruits Marketing Act-Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 65.
Christmas Island Act- Ordinances 1 980-
No. 2- Post and Telegraph (Amendment).
No. 3- Census and Statistics (Amendment).
Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Act- RegulationsStatutory Rules 1980 No. 66.
Defence Act-Regulation-Statutory Rules 1 980 No. 64.
National Health Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 69.
Patents Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules No. 68.
Seat of Government ( Ad ministration ) Act-
No. 8- Administration and Probate (Amendment).
No. 10- Court of Petty Sessions (Amendment) (No. 2).
No. 4- ( Motor Traffic Ordinance ).
No. 5-( Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance).
The following answers to questions were circula
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
What progress has been made during the summer parliamentary recess to add Goodparla and Gimbat pastoral leases to the Kakadu National Park.
– The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments have established a joint land resources study of the Goodparla and Gimbat area with a Chairman provided by the Northern Territory. Decisions will be made on the future control and use of these areas once the study report is finalised.
Prime Minister: Security on Fishing Trip (Question No. 2415)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1980:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Arl a toxin (Question No. 2527)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 6 March 1980:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Epidemiological studies show that liver cancer in humans in certain areas of Africa and South East Asia can be attributed to ingestion of foods over long periods of time containing very high levels of anatoxins.
This matter is still under consideration by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (Question No. 2574)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 18 March 1980:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The delegation was as follows:
Representative- Dr J. W. C. Cumes, Ambassador, Permanent Representative Australian Mission, Vienna
Alternates- Dr K. W. Edmondson, First Assistant Director-General, Department of Health, Canberra; Mr J. D. Reilly, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Australian Federal Police
Advisers- Mr F. Potts, Chief Pharmacist, Tasmanian Department of Health, Hobart; Mr R. J. B. Good rick, First Secretary, Australian Mission, Vienna; Mr S. C. Whitlam, Second Secretary, Australian Mission, Vienna
The Commission considered recommendations by the World Health Organization concerning the control of a number of narcotic and psychotropic substances which arc the subject of abuse. Some of these substances are newly developed and others feature in changing patterns of drug abuse.
The Australian delegation played a leading role in ensuring that strict international controls were decided upon where appropriate.
Another important matter was the proposal to limit world production of opiates to prevent the development of a dangerous over-supply situation. At the previous session of the Commission a resolution was passed favouring production by traditional producers to the disadvantage of Australia and several countries. At the current session the efforts of the Australian delegation were directed to ensuring that our position, involving, in particular, Tasmanian opiate producers would not be further eroded. In this the delegation was successful.
Register of Birth Defects
Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle- On 19
February 1980 (Hansard, page 10) Senator Mason asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning the establishment by the Government of a register of birth defects.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
There has been no undertaking by the Commonwealth to establish a register of birth defects on a national basis. Late in 1 978 the Minister for Health announced the establishment of a National Perinatal Statistics Unit and agreed to provide financial assistance to those States which had not yet established a statistical collection of perinatal events. Such collections which include statistics on the incidence of birth defects are already in existence in Western Australia and Tasmania and there are proposals to set up similar collections in New South Wales and Queensland.
These and other relevant statistics will be analysed by epidemiologists and statisticians in the abovementioned unit, the establishment of which in the Commonwealth Institute of Health (formerly the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine) at the University of Sydney was announced by the then Minister for Health on 29 August 1 979.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800402_senate_31_s84/>.