31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 12 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women ‘s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
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 (3 petitions).
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 Lewis and Missen.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to a question I asked him a month ago about the Government’s response to the report of the Bowen inquiry, the Committee of Inquiry Concerning Public Duty and Private Interest, and to a statement made last November by the Deputy Prime Minister to the effect that Parliament would be given an early opportunity to debate the findings of the report. I remind the Minister that about a month ago he indicated that he would look into that matter. I now ask again: When will Parliament be given an opportunity to debate that report? I further ask: Having regard to the conclusions of the Bowen committee, have guidelines already been issued in respect of a large number of public servants, pursuant to the findings of the report? Has the Government given any consideration to issuing guidelines in relation to members of statutory authorities and, more particularly, members of the judiciary?
-I am sorry that I have not responded as yet to the first part of that question. I will endeavour to do so within the next 24 hours. I do not have the details with me to answer the second part of the question. I will seek them and endeavour to have them communicated to Senator Button.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Transport to the very long and protracted negotiations to get federal funding for a proposed regional airport at Mount Duneed to serve the Geelong area in Victoria and to the claim that the Department of Transport and the Department of Finance have temporarily halted work on the Geelong bid. Is the Minister satisfied that departmental procedures are adequate to ensure speedy and efficient consideration of bids for federal aid for regional airports? Is interdepartmental liaison adequate to ensure the speedy and efficient consideration of such applications? Can the Minister tell the Senate why Geelong ‘s bid has been under scrutiny now for some three years?
– I have some information from the Department of Transport about the matters raised by the honourable senator in his question. I understand that the answer to his first question is yes, within the limits of normal budgetary procedures federal funds are granted to local authorities for approved maintenance and development works at locally owned aerodromes through the aerodrome local ownership plan. Entry to the local ownership plan confers considerable financial advantage for a local authority owning and operating an aerodrome as federal funds cover 50 per cent of all approved maintenance and developmental works at the aerodrome. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand the eagerness of the Geelong people to establish an aerodrome which will be in receipt of substantial Commonwealth funds. From the Commonwealth’s point of view, the Departments of Transport and Finance, as joint administrators of the plan, must ensure that the $400,000 Commonwealth contribution to the Geelong plan is wisely spent. Such scrutiny is necessary for all grants and works which will involve the expenditure of federal money.
The honourable senator also asks whether interdepartmental liaison is adequate to ensure the speedy and efficient consideration of such applications. I can advise him that the Departments of Transport and Finance carry out the necessary liaison to ensure eligibility of applicants to enter the plan and the efficient use of government funds. Often this liaison requires additional information to be sought from the applicant, as was the case at Geelong. The honourable senator also asks why it has taken three years for this bid to be considered. My advice is that funds under the plan are included in the Budget as grants to local authorities. In the case of Geelong, the Geelong Regional Planning Authority, being a State government body, was not eligible to receive a grant. It was therefore necessary to form another body capable of owning the aerodrome under the terms of the plan. This has caused some delay. In negotiations between the Departments of Transport and Finance, several points remain to be considered fully relating to the projected usage of the aerodrome and other similar matters. Answers to these questions are being prepared and final approval for the aerodrome to enter the scheme will be given only when both departments are satisfied that there is a real need for the facility. Naturally, everyone concerned hopes that this event is not too far in the future.
- Mr President, I direct this question to you because of your dual responsibility with Mr Speaker for the operations of the Parliamentary Library. I ask the question as a member of the Library Committee and in view of the momentous happenings since the last meeting of the Committee. The first happening to which I refer is what has become known as the Jim Dunn episode and the second is the aide memoire which has been circulated by Stewart Harris. On page 2 of that memoire he expresses serious reservations about the Library and the gap between information given to rank and file members of Parliament and that given to Ministers. Against that background, I ask: Is an early meeting of the Library Committee in the offing to consider this serious report? Even better, do you propose making an interim report to this chamber?
– I must inform the honourable senator that the Library Committee will meet tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock. That meeting has been arranged at the request of a number of members of the Committee.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the proposed plant variety rights legislation and the possible development of a super-seed. Could this have an adverse effect or adverse impact on agriculture, particularly if the strain becomes diseased? Would legislation lead to a takeover of Australian seed companies by trans-national chemical companies?
– I have some material here which is referable to Senator Watson ‘s question, which is in four parts. In the first place, the possibility of a company attempting to develop and to promote a so-called super-seed is as great without the existence of a plant variety rights scheme. The development of a super-seed having the effects suggested assumes a lack of competition, an inordinately narrow seed base and the elimination of public breeding establishments. This is not the case today and would be less so with the establishment of a plant variety rights scheme.
– Nonsense. What happened in the United States?
-I will come to that. Plant variety rights legislation encourages plant breeding by both private breeders and by public institutions. It protects small breeding companies and allows them to compete with large companies. For example, in the United States only -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I hesitate to interrupt the Minister, but what he is saying now, obviously in answer to a prepared question, is a matter of extraordinary importance to the Senate and a matter which I listed on the Notice Paper many weeks ago as a notice of motion to be debated on General Business evening. In that circumstance, I ask whether the rights of the back benchers who have motions on the Notice Paper can be protected and whether a statement of extraordinary importance like this can be made at Question Time. If the Minister is going ahead, can he make a statement after Question Time to preserve my rights because I have the matter on the Notice Paper.
– Does the honourable senator claim that debate is being anticipated?
– I do not want to be as technical as that because this is an important matter. Perhaps I should raise it now as a matter for the future, but I think that the rights of honourable senators ought to be protected. The Minister, no doubt unknowingly and unwittingly, is taking away my rights in giving this answer.
– I am sure the Minister would not pre-empt the response to a question which is on notice.
- Mr President, I want to be more specific with the point of order which has been raised. As Senator Chipp is not prepared to press the point of order, I find it necessary to do so. The question is obviously out of order. The matter is on the Notice Paper and the question should be ruled out at this stage.
-Also, there is the matter of the actual verbiage which may not impinge directly on that of which notice of intention to raise is given or which will be raised in the future. I call the Minister.
-Mr President, I do not wish to interfere with Sentor Chipp ‘s future debate on this matter. I trust he has the opportunity to raise it, as he seeks to do. What I have to say in completing my answer is very little indeed. I got to the point of saying that, for example, in the United States only 17 per cent of rights issued since 1970 were granted to only six major seed companies.
- Mr President, I am now cranky because of the response to my previous point of order. The question is obviously one of which prior notice was given not so much to the Minister who is answering but to the Department. We are now faced with a procedure which was evident when the Leader of the Government in the Senate answered a question yesterday. We now have a procedure where a question is forwarded to the Department which prepares an answer and then the Minister reads the answerwhich was prepared by the Department- in this place during Question Time, which is when questions without notice are asked. I suggest that the question and the answer should be ruled out of order and that the question be placed on the Notice Paper.
– I have just checked with Senator Chipp because there does seem to be some confusion about the point of order raised. I understood Senator Chipp to say, and he has now confirmed it, that he has given notice of a motion which relates to the subject matter of the question. Senate Standing Order 98, which deals with questions, specifically says:
It does seem to me that the question is clearly in order and that the matter should be allowed to proceed without further interruption.
– That is my ruling.
– That is not my last point of order, of course.
– The answer is complete.
– Could I ask that the document quoted from by the Minister be tabled in the Senate?
– There has been doubt expressed as to whether the question is in order.
– 1 do not have any objection to tabling the document. It is an answer which was certainly sought from me and I took appropriate steps to have it.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question concerning his extraordinary refusal last week to allow Government back benchers to have a conscience vote on the Olympic Games.
– Would we have no say in that?
– Now that the interjections have ceased, I will repeat my question. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question concerning his extraordinary refusal last week to allow Government back benchers to vote on the question of a boycott of the Olympic Games. Hansard will bear that out. In view of the Minister’s proper statement yesterday that the Government wishes a bipartisan attitude to be shown towards this question, and also in view of the fact that 62 per cent of Australians now oppose the boycott, will he allow Senate back benchers to vote on this issue next week on a conscience basis? On what moral grounds can he justify denying democratically elected members of this Parliament a vote on the most contentious and divisive issue before the Australian people at this time?
-Of course what I said last week does not relate to what Senator Chipp says. 1 said last week that on every issue before them in this Senate, honourable senators on the Government side of this chamber are free to vote and to act according to their conscience, and indeed they do so. Conspiciously, never does one member of the Australian Labor Party ever have the chance to vote according to conscience. Conspiciously, the records of the Senate show that quite clearly.
– Do you realise you are lying again?
- Senator Grimes, you have again charged the Minister with lying. You have said. ‘Are you lying again?’ The inference there is quite complete that the Minister is lying. I ask you to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw for the sake of peace.
– I want to raise a point of order. The Minister quite obviously was giving erroneous information to the Senate when he claimed that this side of the House did not have conscience votes. Twice this year, I think, we have had conscience votes and we have been able to vote in the way that we personally desired, according to conscience. I would like him to correct that before he goes any further.
– There is no point of order. You are indicating a misrepresentation and making a personal explanation about that.
– It is a total misrepresentation.
-I said that Government senators may vote according to their conscience on all matters before the Senate and that, in contradistinction to that, members of the Labor Party cannot. I emphasise that. By shouting, they want to try to obliterate the facts, but I will continue. The facts are that I said to Senator Chipp that at the beginning of this session the Senate was given the opportunity to speak on this subject for two weeks. I think that almost all members of the Senate spoke on their attitude to the invasion of Afghanistan and had the opportunity to express their views on the proposal for an Olympic Games boycott. Virtually all members of the Senate took part in the debate. It was one of the largest and most extensive debates that has occurred. I said then to Senator Chipp that he had Hansard before him to measure the attitude of all honourable senators. I said that they had spoken on the subject and indicated their attitude and that it was unnecessary to do anything else.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. I repeat my question to the Minister -
– I raise a point of order. That is not a supplementary question.
– Order! You must not repeat a question, Senator Chipp. A supplementary question must seek elucidation.
-My supplementary question comes out of the Minister’s answer. It is quite simple. When did the Senate vote on the proposal for an Olympic Games boycott? If it has not done so, will the Minister allow a vote on that question next week on a conscience basis?
– I have made it abundantly clear that individual members of the Senate had the opportunity to express their views. Hansard recorded those views. It is quite unnecessary to proceed further.
– Let us have a vote on Nareen wool. You are a toady for Nareen.
– Order ! Senator Grimes, I am sick and tired of your asides.
– What did I do now?
– You said: ‘You are a toady for Nareen’. I heard it. It disturbs me that you persist with disorderly interjections. It is not parliamentary language. 1 ask you to withdraw.
- Mr President, I heard no one from the other side of the House object to it, particularly the person to whom I addressed it. He knows what he is. I can see no reason in the world why I should be singled out for this sort of treatment.
– I ask you to withdraw.
– This is turning the place into a Sunday school and it is not a Sunday school.
– Yes, I withdraw.
-Mr President, if there is any doubt about the matter, I did not hear the interjection, but I certainly object to it.
– As Senator Messner does not come from Nareen and as his colleague who does knows to whom I was referring, I ignore his remarks.
– Order! You have withdrawn. You must not repeat the offensive remark.
– I did not repeat it.
– You did.
– You said ‘toady ‘ again.
– I did not say ‘toady’. As the cap fits, Mr President; but I did not repeat the term ‘toady’ and I defy anyone here to show from the tapes that I did.
– Order! I call Senator Messner.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to yesterday’s question from Senator Walsh, who sought to denigrate the worthwhile tax deductions for farmers announced last Monday. Is it a fact that, due to the very favourable seasonal conditions of the last two years, the 1 980 financial year generally will be a high taxable income year for farmers? Under the new arrangements, will farmers be able to deduct irrigation and other expenditure incurred before July against this current year’s income, thus substantially strengthening their positions to withstand a possible dry season next year?
– Both the questions asked by Senator Messner contain statements of fact. They underline the essential quality of the Government’s policy which is to give aid to farmers in times of drought.
– 1 direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of his assurance to the Senate that his colleagues have a free conscience vote on all matters concerning the Senate -
-That is reaffirmed by Senator Walters. How free was the conscience vote his colleagues had when electing him as leader in this place?
– This question exposes the complete irrelevance of questions asked by honourable senators opposite. Unlike the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate, the Leader of the Government in the Senate is appointed. Therefore, it is not an elected position at all. If the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate were to be an elected one, honourable senators would have an entirely free conscience vote.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. It was announced in November 1979 that discussions would be held between the Minister for Trade and Resources and the New Zealand Government concerning cheese imports. In view of the concern expressed by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation at the delays in obtaining a determination on the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on cheese, I ask: Have the discussions taken place? If so, what was their outcome?
-Trade in cheese between New Zealand and Australia is still under close examination and discussion by the appropriate Ministers. I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Trade and Resources for his response.
– I refer the Minister for National Development and Energy to a question I asked last Thursday concerning the reduction of $47 a tonne in the price of liquefied petroleum gas proposed by the Government. I asked:
Are these reductions and subsidies actually operating in the market place today?
The Minister replied, amongst other things:
My understanding is that the policy is proceeding to be implemented through various outlets.
Has the Minister subsequently seen Press reports such as those in Thursday’s Age headed ‘Oil companies stalling over cheaper LPG’ in which it is indicated that the reduction is not operating throughout the community and, insofar as it is dependent on Prices Justification Tribunal approval for higher prices for petrol, will not be retrospective when introduced? Will the Minister now agree that the public has been misled on the operation of these reductions? Is the Minister now able to state accurately whether the reductions are actually operating in the market place today?
– My advice is that all refineries are in fact selling LPG at the reduced price. Of course, so are the producers.
– But you are the Minister. You should know. It is not a matter of your advice or understanding. You should be able to tell us. You are the Minister.
– I am grateful for Senator Wriedt ‘s interjection. I have sought to find out from those who have expert knowledge, and I have been advised day by day by those who have expert knowledge, unlike Senator Wriedt.
– 1 draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of a former highly esteemed member of this place, Mr Jim Toohey. The Senate welcomes him warmly and is pleased to see him back in the precincts of the chamber.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– My question, which is addressed to you, Mr President, in relation to your responsibility for the Parliamentary Library, relates to the current topics reading list prepared by the Parliamentary Library’s reference service when major issues are under debate and, in particular, to the paper prepared on the Freedom of Information Bill 1978. Is it a fact that shortly after the Freedom of Information Bill was tabled in June 1978, the reference section of the Parliamentary Library researched and prepared a comprehensive list in respect of this subject for all members and senators wishing to inform themselves on the issues involved? Is it also a fact that senators and members were never informed of the existence of this reading list and that the distribution of this document by the Library has been delayed for nearly two years? Was not the list compiled by qualified officers and staff of the Library? If so, will the President inform the Senate why the list has not been made available? Given that the Parliament is awaiting a statement by the Government of its attitude towards the recommendations on the Freedom of Information Bill put forward by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, does the President agree that matters contained in the current topics reading list remain of immediate relevance to members of the Parliament?
– I inform the honourable senator that yesterday, Monday, 2 1 April 1 980, the Parliamentary Librarian received a report on this matter from the Deputy Parliamentary Librarian. I am therefore able to inform the honourable senator that the list to which he refers was prepared in August 1 979. lt is therefore not a fact that the document has been delayed for nearly two years. I am informed that the list was compiled by qualified officers of the Parliamentary Library. The draft list was received by the Parliamentary Librarian on or about 10 September last year. It was referred to the Deputy Parliamentary Librarian, who provided his general comments to the Parliamentary Librarian on 1 1 September. Among his comments was one stating that a number of technical deficiencies and clerical errors would need to be corrected.
These comments, together with those of the Parliamentary Librarian, were conveyed to the relevant qualified officer on 1 7 September. On 26 September replies to the comments were received by the Parliamentary Librarian who, on 27 September, the following day, asked for a further draft. The Deputy Parliamentary Librarian was asked for details of the technical deficiencies and clerical errors on 3 October. These were supplied to the relevant qualified officer on 3 1 October. The list has not been made available because the revised draft has not yet been submitted for approval. Finally I quite agree with the honourable senator that the matters contained in the list remain of immediate relevance to members ofParliament.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister or Minister for Foreign Affairs: What consultations have taken place between the Australian and United States of America governments in the past week concerning economic sanctions involving Iran?
– That question will require precise information on contacts between the Foreign Minister, his opposite number and others. I will obtain the information and let Senator Wriedt know the answer.
-Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm that the delay in implementing the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act is due to difficulties associated with the managementinitiated retirement section. If so, how important are those provisions to the major objectives of the legislation? Is the Minister aware that a significant number of public servants with 30 years and more service are desirous of early retirement? As their early retirement would create many job opportunities for young people, with a substantial saving in unemployment benefit payments, can the Minister say when he anticipates the Act will be proclaimed? Finally, does the Minister agree that the implementation of that legislation would help to overcome the frustrations of young people seeking work, as well as provide promotional opportunities within the Public Service and a consequent boost to morale?
– The question Senator Jessop asked was in five parts. Whilst I have some information on the matter, I am not fully informed. I suggest that I should obtain the full information and let the honourable senator have it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Does the Government accept that the health and well-being of children is a matter of national concern? In those circumstances, does the Government believe that self-regulation of the use of television for the promotion of food and confectionery sales operates satisfactorily? Is it not a fact that nutritionists, parents and social workers have expressed concern at the growing incidence of television promotion and its effect on children? What views does the Government have about the statement of the advertising industry that it should continue to have the unfettered right to influence the eating habits of young people, including young children?
The matter raised by the honourable senator is one I will need to refer to the Minister for Health. I will also draw the attention of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to the question and obtain information for Senator Gietzelt.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport been drawn to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald relating to the establishment by Aerolineas Argentinas of faster and cheaper travel from South America to New Zealand across the Pole? Is that report and the reference to negotiations by Qantas Airways Limited with Argentine Airlines contained in it correct? Is the Minister aware of the importance and the need to establish a direct air service between Australia and South America which would benefit commerce and tourism in both continents and further facilitate communications and travel between many South American migrants in Australia and their families and friends?
– I saw the report which the honourable senator has mentioned. I am not sure whether Qantas Airways Limited has been directly involved in discussions. I will have to clarify that point with the Minister for Transport. The commencement of any air service of the sort referred to by the honourable senator would involve negotiations with the Australian Government and not merely with Qantas. It does not appear that there have been any negotiations of that kind between the Argentinian Government and the Australian Government. According to the Minister for Transport the matter has not been raised with Australia, nor has the Government initiated any discussions with Argentina or any other South American country on the question of establishing direct air links.
All honourable senators will be aware that we try to establish links only where the traffic is adequate to carry a service. In the case of South America there is an existing connection through Lan-Chile Airlines which operates to Tahiti and connects to services which operate out of Sydney. At the moment there is reasonably convenient travel between Australia and South America.
The Government knows of no proposal to institute other direct flights. Of course, the sentiments which the honourable senator expressed in his question about the importance of people such as the migrants Australia has gained from South America having access to their countries of origin are accepted by the Government. However, it appears at the moment that they can with reasonable convenience get back to their home countries.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to a statement by the chairman of the Australian Telecommunications Commission in the Commission’s annual report. That statement outlined that the Commission had proposed that staff with five or more years service be granted a concession on metered call charges but that the proposal had not been accepted by the Government. Can the Minister advise whether Telecom’s proposal has yet been accepted and if not, when it is likely to be accepted?
– I have some recollection of this matter. My understanding is that the proposal has not been accepted but I will check with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and let the honourable senator have an authoritative reply.
– I preface my question to the Leader of the Government by drawing the Minister’s attention to an article appearing in the Australian of today’s date headed ‘Labor officer praises Soviet invasion ‘. It states:
The principal Press Officer of the Victorian ALP has said one should rejoice’ over Soviet actions in Afghanistan.
– I raise a point of order. The honourable senator should ask his question. We do not want information. We have read the article.
– I have not heard the question as yet.
– He was giving information.
– I have not heard the question.
– Neither has anyone. That is my complaint.
- Senator Bonner will restrict his question to areas which are within the competence of the Minister to whom it is directed.
-Mr President, to make this question sensible, I have to read a little more of the article. I will certainly ask a question and I am quite sure that the Minister will be able to answer it quite adequately.
– Put the question.
– The article continues:
The press officer, Mr Noel Turnbull, calls for support for the Russians in the April issue of Labor Star, the official organ of the State ALP.
I ask the Minister whether any credence can be given to this statement. What would be the Government’s response to such a statement?
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, it must be evident to the whole of the Senate that a question of that nature, based on an alleged statement by one individual, in no way represents the policy of the Australian Labor Party on this matter. Our policy has been stated over and over again. I believe it would be completely improper and would set a precedent which would open Question Time to abuse after abuse if you were to permit that question to proceed. I am not arguing on the basis that it is not within the province of Senator Carrick to address himself to a question on that subject. The question is based on a report which, 1 am sure, Senator Bonner cannot authenticate. He might be able to verify that it is in a newspaper but he would not be able to verify the accuracy of the statement itself. I put it to you that in the interests of this chamber it ought to be ruled out or order.
– I appreciate the points you have raised but I am not competent to assess the veracity or otherwise of the substance of questions put in this place. For that reason, at this stage I cannot rule the question out of order.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Mr President in your first rejoinder to the proposition you pointed out that the Minister should have competence in respect of that area. In light of what Senator Bonner has raised, I ask you again to consider whether the Minister has the competence to answer a question about an alleged statement in a Labor newspaper. Obviously he does not. Consequently, I ask you, in ruling on the matter, not to allow the Minister to canvass the argument widely.
– I have said that I do not know about the veracity of the article, but the Minister has been asked about his attitude. I will allow the question to be answered by the Minister. I call Senator Carrick.
– I have read the article in the newspaper. If such a view were expressed and that view were to align itself with that of the 18 nations in the United Nations which voted along those lines–
– I take a point of order. It is obvious that this is a cooked up question. Some Government member is misusing the ability of Senator Bonner to ask questions by giving him a prepared question. From what the Minister is saying it is probable that he is involved in it. I think the question should be declared out of order.
– I shall always insist on a reply being given only within the area of ministerial responsibility.
- Senator Bonner can assert, and so can I, that I had no previous knowledge of this question.
– Who would believe you?
-I said that I had read the newspaper. I do not vouch for the veracity of the views printed, but they line up with those of the 18 nations in the United Nations, mostly from the communist bloc, which voted against the 105 nations which share this Government’s view that the Afghanistan invasion was a horror, a tragedy and a threat to world peace.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that there are people in the New South Wales Liberal Party who are accused of having Nazi sympathies and connections. Is it not true that a recent inquiry into the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party was based on the assumption -
– What a dirty question.
-If this is the standard that is being allowed in this place, the honourable senator can cop it. Is it not true that the recent inquiry into the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party was based on a well-founded belief that a member or members of that branch had Nazi sympathies? Why has the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party not rid itself of those elements?
-I take it that Senator Wriedt is referring to a gentleman named Mr Urbanchich. I understand that the Chifley Labor Government, with full knowledge of Mr Urbanchich ‘s background, gave him permission to come into this country and ultimately to become a citizen. I find it rather hard, in those circumstances, to understand why Senator Wriedt asked the question.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister tell us why, on 15 February this year, 11 members of the Granville branch of the Liberal Party resigned for the very reasons I have just stated?
-Clearly, this matter has nothing to do with my responsibility as Minister. However, I am on my feet, and with your indulgence, Mr President, I will respond. Senator Wriedt ought to take note of the injunction: Physician, heal thyself. He took a point of order that it was not within my competence as a Minister to respond to a matter relating to an alleged Labor member. Now he has committed the same offence himself. I understand that a number of people have resigned from the Liberal Party. I understand that a much larger number have resigned from the Australian Labor Party. In fact, in Queensland there are not one but two or three Labor parties at this moment. I suggest that the Labor Party should remember the injunction: Physician, heal thyself.
– Honourable senators, I observe to you that questions should seek information within the parameters of the responsibilities of a Minister. When a question is introduced which is not within the immediate parameters of a Minister’s responsibilities but is on a slant, a situation arises which is not conducive to the proper giving of information. I make those comments to senators on both sides of the chamber.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. What progress has been made in defining the area to be covered by the lease over land in the Jervis Bay area for the Aboriginal community at Wreck Bay? What stage has been reached in settling’ a formal lease for those Aboriginal people to establish title to their land at Wreck Bay?
-The honourable senator will recall that a lease over some 87 hectares of land at Wreck Bay was accepted by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Housing Company in 1975. In 1977 it sought inclusion of substantially more land on the grounds that the area was traditionally Aboriginal. The Minister has had an independent investigation made by a consultant appointed by the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, but has not yet considered the interim report submitted by that consultant. Discussions over the covenants of lease have been held intermittently since 1975 and several draft leases have been forwarded for consideration by the Housing Company. Several issues have not yet been resolved. The Housing Company is deferring comment until the Minister is able to respond to the issue of the lease boundary.
- Mr President, my question is addressed to you because you have responsibility for the Library. I raise a matter concerning the Library because it is important to members on both sides of the chamber that they get advice in which they can be confident. Following the questions asked by Senator Mulvihill and Senator Missen, I ask: Did Mr Stewart Harris, when he resigned, write to the Librarian and to the Presiding Officers making criticisms of the Library and Government pressure on the Library staff? Was one of the criticisms the matter that was raised by Senator Missen? Is it a fact that Mr Harris’s job has now been advertised, but as having only a two-year tenure on a contract? Why was this change made? Has it been made to ensure that the Librarian or the Government is more able to exert pressure on Mr Stewart Harris’s successor? Mr President, would you present to this House a report on Mr Stewart Harris’s resignation and the matters raised in his letter so that we can be confident that we are getting the advice we need from the Library?
– I shall study the questions put by Senator Grimes and bring down a reply for him if I can.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware of reports of an increasing incidence of ear and sinus disorders among air travellers, sometimes resulting in severe pain and injury? Is he also aware that expert medical advice on this subject is available and could be used to educate passengers? Can air safety regulations be amended to include preventive measures against injury to the middle ear?
– I was not aware that there has been some increase in ear and sinus disorders related to air travel. I certainly am aware that such disorders are capable of treatment. I will refer both the fact that there is an alleged increase in the incidence of these disorders and the need for some possible remedial action to the Minister for Transport for his consideration.
– I refer the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to page 6544 of yesterday’s Notice Paper and to Question No. 2640 which I placed on the Notice Paper three weeks ago. To refresh the Minister’s memory the question asked:
What amount of the finance for Aboriginal Affairs allocated in the 1979-80 Budget remained unspent as at 3 1 March 1980.
How much of this allocation does the Minister anticipate will remain unspent by 30 June 1 980.
Has the Minister had indication from the Queensland Government of the amount of Commonwealth funds allocated to that State for Aboriginal Affairs, under all headings, that will remain unspent by 30 June 1980.
As the question was placed on the Notice Paper over three weeks ago, I ask the Minister when and if I am likely to get a reply to it.
– I have already processed an answer to that question. I am a little mystified as to why the honourable senator has not yet received the answer. My recollection of the answer- it is some days, if not a week or so, since I saw the answer which has been prepared by my Department- is that not all the information that he requested can be made available at this stage. However, I will chase up the answer which has been prepared and approved by me and find out why the honourable senator has not received it to date.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that the Minister understands that an answer is in the pipeline, I ask him: Why cannot all the information be made available?
– I think it is just a matter of the information not physically being available at this stage of the year with respect to all of the matters raised by the honourable senator. But I have an imperfect recollection of the matters of detail that are raised. I would have to rely on the answer which was prepared. My recollection is that I approved the answer as prepared by my Department.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question relating to the financial problems of the nation’s railways. I refer to the urgent need to update Australia’s railway system and also to the poor state of Australian railway services as well as to the subsequent low morale of many railway workers who have to keep the antiquated system working. Will the Minister give consideration to forgiving railway debts, or at least part thereof, which reach back to Federation? If the Commonwealth will agree to forgo these debts to the railways, could not the earnings of the railways be employed to refurbish these highly essential institutions?
– Essentially, the issues raised in the question are, of course, the concern of the Minister for Transport. Railway finances are a difficult problem for governments, especially in relation to arrangements with the States. However, to waive railway debts would simply amount to providing a hidden subsidy which would run counter to the philosophy that railways should be run as business undertakings. Servicing of debts is a way of bringing to account the real costs of providing a service. Where the debt referred to by the honourable senator is owed to the public by the States or their authorities, the Commonwealth has no power to forgive the debt. The management of State railways is essentially a matter for the States concerned. However, in recent years, the Commonwealth has improved the position of the States in relation to the conduct of their financial affairs by the provision of generous tax sharing entitlements. Being of a general purpose nature, they are available for use by the States as they see fit and according to the priorities they choose, which might include railways. The matter is essentially one for the States to decide in their priorities of financing.
– I ask that the document from which the Minister quoted be tabled.
- Mr President, I am always happy to do so. Lest there be any nervousness about it, as all Ministers since Federation have done, I come in here with a brief on matters of various kinds, and this is a page out of the brief. I table it.
– I was going to say that that is dishonest, but I will not say it.
– You said it, though, just the same. Withdraw.
– I withdraw.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. When can a decision be expected on the family reunification scheme proposed at the recent meeting of immigration Ministers by Mr Dondas of the Northern Territory? What decision was taken on the other proposal to settle 400 Vietnamese refugees in the
Northern Territory? If the supply of Vietnamese refugees is drying up, as suggested in the media, will the Minister consider negotiating with Indonesia to allow refugee families from Timor to take their place?
-A number of matters are raised by Senator Robertson. I will get the information from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and see that the honourable senator is advised.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In reply to my question No. 2342, the Department of Transport has indicated to me that departmental operations require the installation and maintenance of communications and navigational aid stations at appropriate points along air routes and that many of these points are in remote areas in the Northern Territory and also in some States. As the Department is having problems in staffing these isolated areas and as a fundamental review of all aspects of remote stations staffing policy has been conducted, it has been indicated that a number of changes to the system of transfers and staffing generally have been recommended. I understand that all these matters have been referred to the Public Service Board. Can the Minister advise what is the present situation in regard to the matter? When can decisions by the Public Service Board be expected regarding these somewhat urgent problems?
– My advice is that the Public Service Board received a submission from the Department of Transport early this year seeking substantial changes to conditions of service and to staffing policy in relation to remote areas. The submission raises fundamental issues which require detailed consideration. They have implications for the remote locality staffing policy of other departments and could have significant cost implications. Certain aspects contained in the submisson have previously been the subject of examination by the joint council, which is a body under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the Public Service Board and which comprises representatives of departments and staff associations.
The departmental submission is under consideration, as I understand it, by the Public Service Board, but in view of the substance of the matters raised and the need for consultation with other departments and staff organisations, it is not possible to indicate at this stage when a decision will be reached on the matters raised by the Department. Nevertheless, I will bring the various aspects of the question to the attention of the Minister concerned.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and it follows an answer that he gave yesterday to my colleague Senator Elstob. In replying to my colleague the Minister stated:
The reports from commerce and industry generally are that the economy is in good shape and that the orders being placed are healthy compared with the trends of the past.
If things are as good as the Minister professes, how does he explain the fact that, in an answer to me last week, he pointed out that the Australian Statistician had indicated that retail sales per head of population for the year 1975 were $1,236 and for the year 1979, despite the inflation that has occurred under this Government, retail sales were running at only $1,239, a mere $3 above the 1975 level?
– The first thing I would have to know is whether we are dealing in real money terms or nominal money terms.
– Real money terms.
– If it is real money terms, that shows in fact that there has been, however modest, an increase. In my reply to Senator Elstob 1 referred to the reports that we are receiving as a government from a wide range of sections of industry and commerce, and they are that this country, happily having one of the lowest inflation rates in the Western world, is a country which has attractive circumstances for those who live in it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether, in view of the previous problems of safety and efficiency standards of liquefied petroleum gas conversion kits for motor vehicles, the Government will have discussions with the States to take the necessary steps to establish uniform Australian standard regulations for all LPG conversion kits for motor vehicles in Australia.
– The Government regards the conversion of motor vehicles to liquefied petroleum gas as a matter of some importance, given the shortage of liquid fuels in Australia. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Transport and seek his advice and action as required.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs make available the submissions and evidence given to the Public Service inquiry into the charge of misconduct under section 55(2) of the Public Service Act against two Customs officials who were charged on 5 October 1 979 with improper conduct as a result of having in their possession articles of jewellery taken from a passenger’s luggage while such officers were making a search of such luggage? Will the Minister disclose the accounts of the two officers as to how they obtained the articles?
-I will seek the information and let Senator Cavanagh have what information is at hand.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Education may recall making a visit to the Launceston Student Workshop last year in his capacity as Minister for Education. To enable further advanced planning of this excellent project, can he advise whether or not a renewal of funding has yet been approved? If so, how much, and for what period? If not, when can we expect an announcement?
-I well recall Senator Archer inviting me to look at the student workshop in Launceston. I think it is one of the most imaginative and effective undertakings that I have seen in terms of student training. As I understand the position, it was originally funded under the Schools Commission special projects innovations program in 1978 on a grant of some $128,000. That was approved for a two-year period. The project is concerned with an alternative form of education for secondary students in the 14 to 16 age group. Students who are not coping in normal secondary schools are selected to have work experience. The aim of the project is to use work experience to bridge the gap between school and work force.
As to the funding for the future, I do not have the fullest of details. 1 understand that there are discussions with the Tasmanian authorities. Generally the innovation funding from the Schools Commission starts a project going and then the State governments take over. I will seek to learn the progress and let Senator Archer know.
-The Leader of the Government in the Senate may recall that on 6
March I raised a question with him, and I also referred it to you, Mr President, in which I referred to the issue which followed the Dunn incident and the Afghanistan incident. It appeared that the Prime Minister’s criteria inhibited the flow of information to the members of the Parliamentary Research Staff. The Minister considered that the issue was an important one and promised to advise the Senate whether this was so. In view of the recent events which have occurred in the Library and which are generating some concern, I wonder whether the Minister can decide the question and let the Senate have the information.
-I well remember the question. I think Senator Bishop has asked me two questions on fairly related matters. I regret that we have not provided the information. I will see whether I can do so in the next few days.
-Yesterday Senator Wheeldon asked me whether the Government had recognised the new Government in Liberia following the assassination of President William Tolbert who was also the Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity. I am advised that the Government has not yet recognised the new Government in Liberia and that it will wait to see how the situation develops before making a decision. There is no urgent requirement for the Government to make such a decision. In my reply, I also said that the Government was not yet aware of what arrangements would be made for the succession of a new Chairman of the OAU. I am now informed that until a new Chairman is elected at the OAU summit in Freetown, Sierra Leone, later this year the first ViceChairman of the OAU, President Leopold Senghor of Senegal, will act as Chairman.
-Yesterday Senator Sibraa asked me a supplementary question regarding the nature of the aircraft which took the Government party to England for Earl Mountbatten ‘s funeral. He referred also to the Hansard record of, I think, Estimate Committee A. I confirm that the aircraft used by the Governor-General, the Governor and others who travelled was a Royal Australian Air Force Boeing 707 aircraft. The only RAAF Boeing 707 aircraft available, the other being in block servicing, was used to transport the party to the funeral. This unexpected requirement to utilise the RAAF Boeing 707 aircraft in an alternative role resulted in a Qantas aircraft being chartered for the changeover of the Butterworth personnel which had earlier been planned for the same time. The planning for this changeover had proceeded to the stage where training commitments for the returning rifle company and the fact that personnel and their families had already vacated their accommodation meant that the changeover could not be deferred. I hope that that clears up the somewhat confused answer that is in Hansard.
-Yesterday Senator Bishop asked me for details of proposed American sanctions against Iran. An answer has been provided by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which states:
The honourable senator will by now have seen reports of President Carter’s announcement on 17 April of new United States economic measures against Iran. Mr Carter indicated that further steps, including a complete ban on the export of food and medicines, and the interruption of communications with Iran, would follow these new measures if the hostages in Tehran were not released. He pointed out that only a limited range of peaceful measures remained available, and that other actions might become necessary if the hostages were not freed. In this context President Carter, in response to questions, referred to ‘some sort of military action’ aimed at the interruption of commerce with Iran. He said that he did not feel it was appropriate to set a specific time schedule for the imposition of further actions.
In his announcement, President Carter referred to the current consideration by allied countries of further measures against Iran. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced on 15 April the United States has requested that the Australian Government take certain steps in support of United States actions. In his statement, the Minister said it had been decided not to appoint a new Ambassador to Iran for so long as the hostage question was unresolved and that, consistent with the restraint that Australia is showing with respect to trade, the Australian Trade Commissioner in Tehran would be withdrawn. I understand that the Minister will be announcing further measures in support of the United States today.
The Australian Government is determined to maintain its strong and consistent support for efforts by the United States Government to secure the release of the hostages. The United States has on several occasions expressed appreciation of Australia’s efforts. Throughout the hostages crisis, consultations between the United States and Australia have been detailed and timely.
– Earlier today Senator Keeffe asked me about Question No. 2640 which he put on notice on 1 April. My office advises me that I have a very imperfect recollection and that in fact the reply has not yet come from my Department so that it has not yet been approved by me. I will have to expedite it and get it to the Senate as soon as possible. I have some recollection of either discussing or dealing with the first part of the question, but I will have to try to clarify that for Senator Keeffe.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 408.
– Earlier today in Question Time Senator Donald Chipp asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and implied, on my understanding, that members on this side of the chamber, which includes me, were not given an opportunity for a free vote on the matter of Afghanistan and the Olympic Games, but in fact, were directed by the Leader as to how they should vote. He said that we had no opportunity for a conscience vote. The Hansard shows that I did not take pan in the vote on the issue. I was paired because of a physical disability and an inability to come into the chamber to vote in divisions. Because I do not want to be seen as a senator who could be accused of walking away from an issue by being paired, I give an assurance to the chamber that in party meetings I attended no such directions were given to me or to any of my colleagues on this side of the chamber on the matter of Afghanistan or the Olympic team going to Moscow. As I did not vote last time on the issue I give a further assurance to the chamber that if I had the opportunity I would support the way Government members voted.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 408.
– I too want to speak in respect of the matter raised by Senator Don Chipp. I also did not speak in the earlier debate.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I can understand why Opposition senators do not want to hear what I have to say. However, Senator Chipp wants a debate on the issue. I did not speak in the debate concerning Afghanistan. I have campaigned publicly and privately for an Olympic Games boycott for about two years. On, I think, 3 January I, along with Mr Hodgman, sent a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) requesting a reconsideration of the boycott because of the Afghanistan situation. That, of course, is well known.
The suggestion that I was denied a freedom of conscience vote on this subject is nonsense. I exercise my conscience whenever I can in this Parliament. I assure the chamber that I expressed my view on the proposed boycott in the chamber in the debate concerning the report on human rights in the Soviet Union which was presented by a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I have made my views very plain. I know of no honourable senator on this side of the chamber who has any interest in wanting to debate the matter which Senator Chipp wants debated. I do not need any such debate.
– I have received a letter from Senator Button proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The pressing problems of rural education in Australia.
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 Opposition has put forward this matter of public importance because, in the context of April 1 980, it can be seen that on the basis of even this Government’s own utterances there have been considerable delays and neglect on questions concerning the education of country children. I begin my speech by referring the Senate to an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 30 June 1979. It is written by the education editor of the Age and begins with these words:
They are the nation ‘s forgotten children.
When they leave school they will join their brothers and sisters who make up more than half of the rural jobless- and contribute to a massive social problem for rural towns that has gone unheralded by either the Government or the media.
In the school-to-work transition those worst off are rural youth and in a nation dominated by rural politicians it is surprising so little has yet been done.
The article goes on to point out that those comments come from the author of a report ‘soon to be released by the Office of Youth Affairs in the Federal Department of Employment’. It was on 30 June 1979 that those words appeared in the report. I simply make the point that, to the best of my knowledge as a result of inquiries I have made in April 1980, that report has not been released. Of course, that indicates something of this Government’s pressing concern about the problem we raise in the Senate today. I shall refer the
Senate to one or two other matters which are specifically referred to in the article of 30 June by Mr Maslen, the Education Editor of the Melbourne Age from which I read. I do so simply because they illustrate in a quite lucid way some of the points about which we are concerned, points which I will seek to make in another way at a later stage in this debate. The article states further:
School auricular in rural areas, he says, are dominated by teachers indoctrinated in an academic city culture. Few teachers training courses give any attention to rural culture or rural concerns or working with a rural community.
The article goes on a little later to state:
The curriculum itself, especially at secondary level, is oriented to examinations, certificates, subjects that have little relevance to rural children.
Worse, because of its academic structure, it even fails to allow room for teaching about those aspects of city culture that might be relevant to rural school leavers who, must seek city jobs.
It goes on to identify some of those aspects. It identifies using newspapers, job seeking, infiltrating a bureaucracy, finding accommodation and using support services as matters which rural children should have included in school curricula if they have to seek jobs in the city. The article goes on to state:
He says rural parents convey a narrow set of aspirations to their children. Rural fathers press their daughters to do well at school more than their sons and they feel their sons are less able to do better than they already are with schoolwork.
Boys in rural areas leave school earlier than any other group and the highest number of students who see schooling as useless come from rural areas. Their complaint is that schools overstress academic skills at the expense of other forms of competence.
I read one further passage which deals with one of the conclusions of the report. The article states:
There is a need for a reorganisation of rural education so that schools share their facilities across areas and build on wider community resources.
As I said, those were issues which were raised in a report which the Government, in a sense, commissioned through the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs and which, as at 30 June 1979, was to be published shortly but has not yet been published, for what one imagines are pretty obvious reasons of neglect and lack of concern. As the author of the report indicates, it is surprising indeed that that lack of attention comes from a government which is dominated by country politicians. It is dominated by country politicians not only in terms of numbers- farmers constitute the highest professional representation, if I can call it that -
-I thank Senator Walsh. They constitute the highest number of occupations in the Federal Parliament. Not only that; it is common knowledge that from day to day rural pressure groups, particularly the National Country Party, dominate this Government’s thinking on all sorts of issues, whether they be related to trade sanctions against Iran or Afghanistan, or the price of liquefied petroleum gas -
– Yes, censorship or a host of other matters which are debated on a daily basis in this Parliament. It is surprising indeed that a party and a group within this Parliament which exert so much clout and influence on all those other issues are so neglectful of the children in the areas which that party and group represent. It is a shocking indictment, particularly of the National Country Party, that this is so. Senator Sheil, by way of contribution to the debate, grins. I suppose that expresses his concern about the problem I raise. It is important because it is par for the course in the history of the National Country Party. The National Country Party has talked for years about the importance of decentralisation. It has been the biggest party to talk and the last party to act on issues of decentralisation. No fools they in the National Country Party! they know where their political interest lies. It does not lie in having industries established to a significant extent in country towns. While they talk about decentralisation, whether it be in relation to industry or education, they do nothing about it whatsoever, having regard to the influence they exert on government. Indeed, one searches in vain in the deliberations of Federal conferences of the National Country Party for any pronouncement on education at all apart from one or two to which I shall refer later and which have been taken up by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) with his National Country Party intellectual affiliations. I referred earlier to an article in the Melbourne Age which identified some of the needs of country education.
– That is the only point you have made so far. Have you any other facts?
-The honourable senator should possess his scant patience. I hope that he can last a few minutes longer. I know he is excited about this subject. It is encouraging to see that he is so diligent about it at this stage of his career. I referred to a number of points in the article in the Age which was written on 30 June. I am making the point- this is another point I made earlier- that the present Government has done nothing about publishing the report that it commissioned. Perhaps Senator Teague can ask about that in the party room to pursue his interest in the subject.
– It is superseded by the Williams report.
-It is not superseded by the Williams report. I suppose that Senator Teague ‘s next interjection will be to tell us that it is superseded by the school to work transition program which was announced by the Government in November last year. One of the points that the article in the Age made and which the unpublished report presumably makes is that the problems of school to work transition are endemic in country areas and provincial towns. They are problems of long standing, not the problems which have become the subject of trendy debates in academic institutions in recent years about school to work transition in the cities. They are matters which have been going on for a very long time. That is where the comments I made about sloth on the part of the National Country Party, which seemed to offend Senator Teague, become very relevant.
What has the Government done since this report was presumably made available to it in June 1979? There has, of course, been the school to work transition program which does not give any emphasis to the endemic nature of school to work transition problems in provincial towns. It treats the whole problem as though it were a national problem across the board. The reason it does that is that the Government has not thought about the school to work transition program. If anybody wants to challenge that statement let him ask the State education departments which were given a week’s notice by the Commonwealth Government which said: ‘We have this money which we have to spend on youth employment programs. Tell us how we will spend it. ‘ In Victoria the Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation, Mr Brian Dixon, a politician of some independence of mind, attacked in public Senator Carrick who was then the Minister for Education when he presented the school to work transition program in Victoria for what Mr Dixon regarded as a superficial document.
The Catholic education authorities, if one bothered to ask them, would say that they were given about four days’ notice in order to prepare school to work transition programs because the Government intended to make extra money available. Why was that shoddy exercise indulged in? This Government read the opinion polls which are the dictator of every Government policy which is ever announced. Opinion polls are the spur, the initiative, which dictates action by the Fraser Government. Opinion polls showed that people in this country were beginning to be very concerned about youth unemployment. So there was the release of this shoddy document, which, as I have said, made no reference to the particular problems of rural and provincial towns in connection with school to work transition issues.
Quite apart from the absence of any action, where are the initiatives from the Fraser Government about this problem of rural education, which has been identified in a number of documents to which I wish to refer? The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) talks his silly head off day after day about the benefits which his Department will bring to people in the outback. Does he ever say a word about outback education? He talks his head off about the satellite system and the benefits that it will bring to country people, but he never says a word about the possible use of AM frequencies for outback education. One would have thought that a person with his responsibility and portfolio would at least think about that, but there has not been a word about that sort of thing. Where are the initiatives from the Fraser Government on any of these issues relating to education in rural areas?
The members of this Senate who sat on the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts during its inquiry into the education of school children in isolated areas know very well what I am talking about. In the years that that Committee deliberated there were, I think, something like 800 submissions- I think Senator Davidson, who played a prominent part in that, will recall this- from mothers, not from people who were making a quid out of education, who were concerned about the plight which they faced day after day in trying to educate children with inadequate assistance in terms of radio programs or teaching aids or without any sort of assistance in tutoring or anything of that kind. As I recall it, that Committee reported about four years ago. Certainly it made a mark on the thinking of those honourable senators who were members of that Senate inquiry. But, as I will point out in a few minutes, it has not made much of a mark on the Government. I say again that this is strange for a Government which is so dominated in most of its thinking- if the cerebral process in the Fraser Government can be called thinking- by country interests.
I want to set what I have to say about the degree of importance of this problem in a general context before I deal with specific matters. I want to do it in the context of what we are frequently treated to day after day in this country, that is, attacks on the education system because of all sorts of alleged, and actual, defects in society. We see people such as representatives of the Victorian Employers Federation appearing on television and saying that the education system has not delivered the goods and that there should be cuts in education, health and welfare expenditure because business is concerned about these issues. On the other hand, there are quite cynical attempts by politicians in this Government to blame unemployment on the education system, although the one committee which this Government set up and made such a fuss aboutthe Williams Committee- went out of its way to say in its findings that unemployment was not the responsibility of the education system, that it was a consequence of the recession. In other words, it said that the jobs that the Fraser Government promised to deliver are not available. That is why young people do not have jobs; it is not the fault of the education system.
That was a finding of that much vaunted Committee- Senator Teague acknowledged that when he interjected about it- which a number of leading politicians of the Government studiously ignore. It found that youth unemployment is a consequence of the recession. Of course, the Government is reluctant to accept responsibility for that. So the overall environment in which the question of the education of country kids has to be considered is, first of all, created by business attacks on education- mindless attacks, in my view; across the board attacks- governmental cynicism about the general issues in education, cynical attempts to blame unemployment on the education system -
– That is not seriously entertained by Government members. That may have been an offhand remark by one individual in the past, but it is not coming from the Minister or from Government members.
- Senator Teague ‘s interjection is premature. It comes from the Prime Minister, amongst others, and I will quote him in a moment. Of course, it is part of the general notion of the scapegoat syndrome with which this Government is obsessed. Let me turn to what the Prime Minister has had to say about some of these issues. If Senator Teague will bear with me for a moment, I will search for the relevant speech.
– It is the Young Liberals Convention speech you are looking for.
– It is the Young Liberals Convention speech. I am indebted to Senator
Puplick. First of all let me refer to how the Young Liberals Convention speech came out in the national newspapers of this country. That is important. In the Sydney Sun of 1 5 January the heading is ‘Fraser Attacks Education’. The article refers to the statements by the Prime Minister that the education system needs to be drastically restructured and so on, and that we are spending over $4 billion on education. He then dealt with the question of a cost benefit analysis. That is how the speech was reported in the Sydney Sun, and it was reported in a variety of other newspapers in the same sort of way: ‘Prime Minister Blames Education System’; ‘Backing for Fraser’s Attack on Education’ in the Australian; ‘School System Failing Children, Prime Minister says ‘, and so on.
– Isn’t that what you are arguing, that there are endemic problems in the country? It is the same point.
-It is not the same point, Senator Teague. If I have difficulty in making my points clear, I hope that the honourable senator will let me know. I understand the points I am making. If the honourable senator does not, he may continue to interject. I have referred to those matters because, as I have said, a number of them are illustrative of the environment in which education issues are considered generally. This Government has an extraordinary record in relation to education matters. In the nearly five years the Fraser Government has been in office there has been hardly a new initiative in education to which this Government can point. We waited for three years for the Williams report. The matter was fobbed off at Question Time, day after day. ‘No, the Government does not have a view on that matter. We are waiting on the Williams report for an answer on that matter. Bide your time. Be patient. We will get the Williams report, and that will tell us what it is all about’. We waited for three years, and then the Williams report came. It provided a marvellous smorgasbord of information, I concede that, but in terms of suggesting initiatives -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate has been detained by 20 minutes of repeated windy rhetoric from Senator Button, who kept on promising that he would get to the point. When his time expired, not only had he not reached the point but also he had not told us what the point was to be. The speech he gave was based essentially upon extracts from the
Melbourne Age, attacks upon the National Country Party, and an exclusive concentration on the question of education in schools. I want to deal with this matter by referring to both university education and colleges of advanced education in country areas, to support given by the Commonwealth Government to the States for technical and further education projects, to support given for schools, and to actual support given for individual students.
In Australia the parties on this side of the chamber have been the pioneers of university education. Since the commencement of the first Menzies Government a very high priority has been accorded to matters of university education. In terms of the establishment of universities outside the major metropolitan centres of Australia, in 1954 the University of New England was established at Armidale; in 1970 James Cook University was established at Townsville. (Quorum formed). In 1977 Deakin University was established and has since undertaken a great deal of activity in terms of its external education programs, which are designed specifically to provide quality education for those in the rural areas of the State. When one looks at the colleges of advanced education, one can find regional CEAs in Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland and Warrnambool in Victoria; Darling Downs and Capricornia in Queensland; Riverina in Wagga Wagga, Northern Rivers in Lismore and Mitchell in Bathurst in New South Wales, and in the northern part of Tasmania. At paragraph 6.45 of the report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training it is stated:
The colleges of advanced education are more dispersed geographically than the universities. In 1978, there were 18 colleges located in regions with less than 100,000 population. These were four agricultural colleges, six teachers colleges and eight regional colleges. In Victoria the regional colleges are in commuting distance of populations of 45,000- 100,000. The population in commuting distance of the Riverina College (which absorbed Wagga Agricultural College) is 55,000, and of Northern Rivers College 75,000, of the Darling Downs Institute 105,000, and of the Capricornia Institute 70,000.
As to the assistance provided to these regional colleges, in 1978-80 the following funds were allocated to those colleges: $2m to the Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education; $6m to the Bendigo College of Advanced Education; $6m to the Bendigo College of Advanced Education; $5.5m to the Ballarat College of Advanced Education; $2m to the Riverina College of Advanced Education; $2. 5m to the Mitchell College of Advanced Education; $3m to the
Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education; $2m to the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education; and $2m to the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education.
When one considers the TAFE institutions, one can see from Volume 3 of the Recommendations for 1980 of the Tertiary Education Commission that funding for on-going works is provided at places such as Tamworth, Ballarat, Sunraysia, Longernong, Ipswich, Riverland and Port Hedland. We know that plans are under way for the establishment of a further two colleges in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. So one can see, in terms of post-secondary education, that this Government has a commendable record in the expansion of post-secondary education institutions outside the metropolitan areas. It has provided access to colleges, institutions and universities for a much larger number of rural dwellers in Australia than has ever been the case in the past. As I said in terms of post-secondary education, it has a most commendable record.
I turn now specifically to support for schools. Senator Button, with his usual cavalier disregard for fact said, among other things, that there really had been hardly any new initiatives in education to which this Government could point. It may well be that Senator Button does not regard the Disadvantaged Country Areas Program as anything of an initiative. I am not surprised that he is embarrassed by the success of this program which was instituted in 1977.
– How much was spent on it?
– I am not surprised that he was embarrassed by the success of this program because it was recommended to and ignored by the Whitlam Government. The Whitlam Government, which was in office in 1975, would not have a bar of it. The Disadvantaged Country Areas Program was recommended to the Whitlam Government in the 1 975 report of the Schools Commission and was not taken up by the Whitlam Government. DCAF had to wait for the advent of the Fraser Government before it was put into place. It is no wonder that members of the Australian Labor Party try to dismiss this program as an initiative which is not being taken up.
An honourable senator asked what the expenditure was. The expenditure in the three years 1978,1979 and 1 980 is $ 1 8,6 1 1 ,000. At the moment, the 1980 program involves 70,000 students in 530 schools in 23 areas across Australia. It brings the Northern Territory into its ambit for the first time. The honourable senator might well decide that she wishes to dismiss the Disadvantaged Country Areas Program as being nothing of consequence and as not being an initiative. Well might she want to do that on the basis that it was put to her own beloved Prime Minister of former years and got short shift from him. For instance, we know that in 1978 in DCAP -
– How many students are involved in that program?
-If the honourable senator had been listening instead of yapping a few minutes ago she would have heard that I gave the figure of 70,000 students. I note that in 1978, 57,428 students were involved in the program. That is 9.78 per cent of the 586,900 students that the Schools Commission report for 1975 estimated lived in towns with populations of less than 5,000 people. As I said, that program now involves 70,000 students and 530 schools in 23 areas across Australia. It has even been expanded to allow Western Australia and South Australia to bring their correspondence schools within the ambit of the plan. Senator Button spoke in terms of there being no initiative. He complained about the quality of teacher education, saying that teachers are over-academic. He dismissed the establishment of the Auchmuty inquiry into teacher education as being no initiative. Once again we see this cavalier disregard for the facts that Senator Button has brought into education debates whenever he speaks in this place.
I turn now to the support given to individual students through various financial provisions. For instance, one knows that under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme the maximum rate of allowance for a student living away from home, allowing for the family allowance component, is $2,348 a year. The same rate is applicable to independent students. This is $825 a year above the maximum rate for students living at home and attending a tertiary institution. Students who are entitled to the allowance at the living away from home rate are paid the allowance for the whole of the year though they might spend their vacation periods at home. Some TEAS allowance is payable in 1 980 provided the parental income, minus deductions for other dependent children and for costs incurred in earning the income, did not exceed $17,509 in the 1978-79 financial year. This compares with an upper parental income of $14,209 for a student living at home and attending an educational institution. Fares allowances are similarly provided under TEAS. Of that living away from home- (Quorum formed). We can see that the percentage of those people attracting an allowance at the living away from home rate in fact has risen from 26.8 per cent in 1978 to 28 per cent in 1979. Of course, a very large proportion of those involved will be children from rural areas who will be getting their education in centres removed from their homes.
One can consider also the operation of the Assistance for Isolated Children’s Scheme, which at the moment covers some 19,000 students and which is attracting expenditure in this financial year of $12.5m for the 14,000 boarders, the 1,000 pre-school correspondence children and the 3,000 pupils who are studying under correspondence schemes. This scheme is specifically designed to provide assistance for children in isolated areas. This Government is funding the scheme now, as I have said, to the extent of $ 12.5m. One can look, particularly in terms of the rural areas, at the broad outline of the Aboriginal Studies Grant and the Aboriginal Secondary Studies Grant. Under ABSTUDY as it is known, the number in receipt of assistance in 1977 was 2,451. The number now in receipt of assistance is 7,209. Expenditure has gone up from $3.5m to $6.7m. In relation to ABSEC, the numbers went up from 14,800 in 1977 to about 16,000 last year. Expenditure in this area went up from $12m to $13. 6m. A very large percentage of those Aboriginal kiddies would live in isolated and rural areas. When one looks, for instance, at the Aboriginal study grant and at the fact that the number of recipients under the scheme has gone up from 2,45 1 to 7,209, one can see the real progress that has been made. The living allowances under the Assistance to Isolated Children Scheme attaching to a grant in 1973 was $ 1 ,004 and is now $ 1 ,5 50. A total of $400 of that increase was provided by the actions of the Fraser Government. So the proposition that Senator Button puts is total nonsense. That it is a total nonsense proposition is indicated by the fact that only three members of the Australian Labor Party are in the chamber to pay any attention to a debate that the Labor Party initiated. Given this level of interest I move:
- Mr President, I was about to call a quorum.
– I am sorry. I was on my feet to call a quorum.
– The President had not recognised you.
- Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the House. I cannot see how any vote can be taken in the Senate at the present time.
– A quorum is not present; ring the bells. (Quorum formed).
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement on Government policy relating to deportation of persons convicted of criminal offences.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present copies of an agreement with Victoria in respect of projects in connection with the development and management of water resources.
– I present the minutes of the twenty-second meeting of the Australian Water Resources Council.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present a report by the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on annual reports referred to the Committee. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
The Committee raised a number of points in the report. Many of its comments concerned the content of the annual reports which the Committee was examining. These comments have been brought to the attention of the relevant departments and statutory authorities and will be borne in mind in the preparation of future annual reports.
The Committee considered that the interdepartmental working party on the content of annual reports should report as soon as possible to facilitate preparation of annual reports, of maximum value to honourable senators and members and the public, for the 1978-79 financial year. So far as departmental annual reports are concerned, the Government last year approved a set of guidelines to assist in the preparation of these reports. A copy of these guidelines has been provided to the Joint Committee on Publications. In relation to statutory authorities, the Government has been considering the recommendations of the seventh special report of the Joint Committee on Publications and the reports by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on Statutory Authorities. The Government intends to make a response on these matters shortly.
I am sure that honourable senators will appreciate that Ministers will always be concerned at problems raised in reports of departments and authorities for which they are ministerially responsible, and that appropriate action is taken wherever practicable. Responses to specific matters raised by the Committee in its report are contained in a document which I shall present in a few moments.
I now turn to three specific recommendations of the report. The first is that the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board continue its review and follow-up procedures to ensure that information about the Act and the Board ‘s practices and procedures is adequate. This has been of major concern to the Board, and a number of steps have been taken since July 1978 to rectify the matter, including special briefings for manufacturing and mining industries.
The Committee further recommended that the Australian Institute of Marine Science should have an important influence on the conservation and protection of marine wildlife and in the formulation of management policies and priorities for the cooperative development of a system of Australian reserves. The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and State conservation agencies find the results of much of the Institute ‘s research valuable in the formulation of policy and the development of management plans for marine areas. The resolution of Commonwealth-State jurisdictional responsibilities for marine parks is expected to facilitate inter-agency discussions.
Moreover, the Committee recommended that further wetlands in addition to the Cobourg Peninsula Flora and Fauna Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary should be nominated for inclusion under the convention on wetlands of international importance, especially as waterfowl habitat. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced on 6 March 1980 that it had been decided to nominate the wetlands area of Kakadu National Park for inclusion on the list of wetlands of international importance, especially as waterfowl habitat.
– by leave- I move:
I am in an invidious position. I have a copy of the statement. At page , three it refers to the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment that further wetlands in addition to the Cobourg Peninsula Flora and Fauna Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary should be nominated for inclusion under the convention on wetlands of international importance. It goes on to state:
The Prime Minister announced on 6 March 1980 that it had been decided to nominate the wetlands area of Kakadu National Park for inclusion on the list of wetlands of international importance . . .
I will show the statement to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) in a moment. When the Senate Standing Committee met I advised it that, without leaving the matter there, I would take the opportunity of writing to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and asking him to emulate the United States Government- as he has emulated it on other matters- in regard to the policy practised by it in relation to Alaska. I asked him to apply the same ground rules to the Northern Territory. In effect, what I was advocating in regard to the Northern Territory was what had happened in Alaska where the United States Secretary of State has set aside 40 per cent for no mining whatsoever. I will hand these papers to the Minister while I am talking, Mr President.
- Senator Mulvihill, you should not walk away from your bench.
- Mr President, I am not trying to be disrespectful, but I do not know of any Standing Order which would stop me from walking back in that way, as long as I am walking towards you and not walking away. Without being at all disrespectful, I have handed the Minister the document in which I put that principle to the Prime Minister. I stated that I felt that it would be a very small gesture if we told all the mining companies in Australia that there are some areas in which they can mine, but as far as Kakadu and the Cobourg Peninsula are concerned, they are off-limits for all time. Honourable senators may feel that that is Utopian, but two succesive Secretaries of the Interior, one a Democratic and the other a Republican, have espoused the same principles with regard to all of the problems that the United States has in regard to fuel and natural gas. If we are to look to President Carter for inspiration as this Government does in regard to a number of things, here is a golden opportunity to go all the way with Jimmy Carter and his Secretary of State. I am waiting with bated breath for the response from the Prime Minister. I want to be quite fair. I have an acknowledgement from the Prime Minister in relation to the future exclusion of Kakadu National Park and Cobourg Peninsula wildlife reserve from all forms of mining operation. The defence rests on that statement. I seek leave to have my letter to the Prime Minister and his acknowledgement incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
Canberra, A.C.T. 19 March 1980
The Rt. Hon. M. Fraser, M.P.,
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
My dear Prime Minister,
Future exclusion of Kakadu National Park and Coburg Peninsula Wild Life Reserve from all forms of mining operations.
I draw your attention to the attached Senate Hansard extracts wherein I asked Senator Durack, as your representative in the Senate, if following your action in seeking the listing of Kakadu National Park and the Coburg Peninsula wet lands on the world heritage list, it would naturally be assumed such land tracts would be offlimits to future mining operations.
You will note that in my adjournment remarks on the same day I tabled in the Senate extracts from the Washington Post and New York Times which disclose the firm action taken by the United States Government in future land usage in Alaska.
In essence, with ample acreage within Alaska available for various forms of mining, at least some of the residue, designated national parks or wildlife refuges, should be left in their natural state for ever more.
It should be noted that various United States Secretaries for the Interior, both Republican and Democrat, have adopted this stance.
It is mindful of this important United States precedent in the area of conservation I respectfully await your anticipated response that such a conservation doctrine will be adopted by yourself. Similar to Alaska, the Northern Territory has massive acreages outside prescribed national parks and wildlife refuges which should more than meet the exploratory appetite of mining interests.
In anticipation of an early response,
Senator for New South Wales
Dear Senator Mulvihill, 3 1 March 1 980
Thank you for your letter of 19 March 1980 regarding future mining operations in the Kakadu National Park and the Coburg Peninsula wet lands.
Receipt is also acknowledged of your further letter of 25 March 1980 with which you enclosed the relevant extracts from Hansard.
I shall write to you on the matter raised as soon as possible.
Senator J. A. Mulvihill,
CANBERRA A.C.T. 2600
-I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) relating to his recent visit to the Arabian Peninsula and Malaysia.
– I present the Government’s responses to the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence given in the report on Australian representation overseas. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the responses.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The document read asfollows-
Mr President, I am pleased to be able to present to the Parliament the Government’s response to the report by the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, ‘Australian Representation Overseas- the Department of Foreign Affairs’. Honourable senators will recall that the Committee was asked by the Senate to consider this reference in March 1978. The Committee’s report was tabled in February 1979. Since then, the report has been widely circulated and closely examined as a guide to future action. Before discussing the substance of the report, I would like to pay tribute to the constructive and thoughtful manner in which the Committee approached its task. The comprehensive and systematic character of the report itself is the best evidence of the quality of the Committee’s work. The Report has made an enduring contribution to maintaining and improving an effective foreign service.
Over the past five years there have been eight examinations of facets of the Department’s operations. Those reviews represented a considerable expenditure of time and effort. They reflected not just the Government’s general concern to promote greater economy and efficiency in its operations, but the need to reassess the role of foreign ministries in today’s world. Many major foreign services around the world have been subject to scrutiny- in some cases to several reviews- over the past few years. Some of the reasons for this re-examination of the role of foreign services will be apparent from the statements I have made to the House: the changing nature of the international agenda, the closer links between domestic and international affairs, the growth in multilateral diplomacy, the range and complexity of issues tackled at the international level, and the changing power structure in the world.
The Senate Committee rightly emphasised that ‘Australia is necessarily an outward-looking nation, a significant trading nation, a donor of development assistance and a nation which has a large immigration program’. We must manage, protect and project our own interests overseas. No other country can do this for us. Nor can we hope to insulate ourselves from what goes on in our region or in the world generally. Recent events in Iran and Afghanistan only serve to confirm the need for a continuing active involvement by Australia in international affairs.
There are also other, if less spectacular, activities in which our national interests are strongly engaged; the Law of the Sea negotiations, the North South dialogue, nuclear safeguards, to name but a few. In fact, as the record of the Government’s achievements indicates, Australia has a distinctive place, a forceful voice, and a substantial contribution to make in the consideration of current world issues. To pursue this role effectively, we as a nation must have access at all times to the thinking of others and to reliable and analytical material relevant to the wide range of Australia’s interests throughout the world. This is a task for a highly professional overseas service of which the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs provide the core. By legislation, regulations, and Government practice the Department of Foreign Affairs has been established as the central instrument for the formulation, execution and administration of Government foreign policy. This ensures consistency and coordination in the handling of our diplomatic efforts and enables the Government to take full advantage of the breadth of experience, skill and judgment built up in all areas of the foreign service.
The Committee report maintains that Australia has a high calibre foreign service. I can only endorse that conclusion. In doing so, I would like to pay tribute to the integrity, efficiency and application of the officers who serve Australia abroad. I include not just those officers of my own Department or those who are based in Australia. Our Posts overseas could not operate without the services and dedication of locally engaged staff. I would also like to draw particular attention to two aspects of the operations of the Department. Honourable members may recall my speech to the House on consular activities in May 1 978. As I made clear in that speech, consular work is in one sense the cutting edge of the activities of overseas Posts. Consular tasks are amongst the most urgent, public and demanding which our officers have to fulfil. This has been particularly evident since the introduction of cheap air fares and consequential increase in consular workloads. I wish to advise honourable members that a Joint Management Review into the consular service has commenced; that review will provide recommendations on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the consular function.
I would also like to pay tribute to the Director and staff of the Australian Development Assistance Bureau, both at home and overseas. The aid program constitutes an essential element in Australia’s foreign policy objectives. The Bureau has managed a greatly expanded and increasingly complex aid program with energy, skill and success. The growing size and complexity of Australia’s external relationship- of which the consular and development assistance functions are two important aspects- involve of course the requirement for the foreign service constantly to keep abreast with changing circumstances. In this connection, the Committee suggested the need for ‘a critical self-examination of functions of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the methods employed to perform those functions’. The Department in fact undertook such an examination before the hearings finished, resulting among other things in a reorganisation of the Department’s top structure, which has now been implemented. This has resulted in a number of improvements: It has resulted in a strengthening of the structure of the political division; the Department’s capacity in the economic area has been enhanced; there is better overall co-ordination and a greater capacity for flexible response to changing situations; and management capacity in respect of forward planning, systems and review has been strengthened.
Since the Committee’s report was tabled the Australian Development Assistance Bureau has also undertaken a systematic review of its structure and functions, resulting in a re-allocation of resources to areas of highest priority need. In relation to the activities of the Department in Canberra, the Committee also proposed a review of the effectiveness of ‘policy co-ordinating capabilities’. With the ‘new agenda’ of foreign policy, many issues have become multilateral and multidisciplinary involving a variety of areas within the Department and also a number of other departments in Canberra. This task is a continuing one. However it has been accorded a high priority within the Department and indeed the appointment of a third Deputy Secretary has already led to an improvement in policy co-ordination.
Managing a foreign service is not cheap. The Department’s administrative costs at home and abroad amounted to $89.4 million in the last financial year. But that figure I suggest needs to be seen in perspective. For example the amount is comparable with the administrative costs of the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Departments of Home Affairs and of the Capital Territory. For that money, the Department, in practical terms runs 84 overseas posts in 71 countries. These missions are accredited to, or have reporting responsibilities for another 129 countries and territories; the Department services over 74 major international organisations plus their various offshoot committees, arranges representation at international conferences, provides common services including local staff for all departments represented overseas, operates the Government’s overseas communications network, provides consular and passport services, and administers a $454 million aid program. The foreign service provides the taxpayer with value for money.
The Committee recommended that ‘a modest expansion’ in the Department be considered, Commensurate with Australia’s increasing activities and responsibilities internationally’. The Government has responded by agreeing to a moderate increase in staff ceilings over the next two financial years. However, the need to preserve austerity and economy in the Public Service remains as urgent as ever and any expansion in the Department will be undertaken on a strictly accountable basis of cost-efficiency and service. In this context, I should remind honourable senators of what the Government has achieved in the expansion of its overseas activities. For example, seven new posts have been opened in the past three years. The significant increase in Australian representation in the Pacific region is evidence of the Government’s commitment to an expanding, effective and efficient diplomatic effort.
This has been achieved at the same time as the overall level of the Department’s staff has fallen and numbers overseas reduced. We have achieved the objective of improving efficiency in the overseas service. At the same time we recognise the impact which the Government’s initiatives and other pressures in the international field are putting on the resources of the Department, and these will be taken into account in determining future staff ceiling figures. I come finally to the specific recommendations made in the Senate Committee Report. For the information of honourable senators, I table the Government’s response to the Committee’s 14 proposals.
Many of the Committee’s recommendations and observations have already been acted on. In other instances, the Committee has sought an expansion of an acceleration in Departmental programs. These recommendations are being carefully considered against the background of our commitment to policies of budgetary and staffing restraint. I fully acknowledge the importance of the issues which the Committee has raised and assure the House that all will be given full and serious consideration. The Government has directed, for example, an examination of the Department’s language training capabilities and will be reviewing, in the budget context, our overseas information effort. Six of the Committee’s recommendations relate specifically to facilitating the implementation of ADAB’s diverse programs. We are actively following up those recommendations. In conclusion, let me reiterate the Government’s appreciation for the work of the Committee. Its report will serve as a basic document on the foreign service as Australia seeks to accommodate itself to the changes and demands of the 1980s, and as it seeks to take advantage of the opportunities open to it as a vigorous and forwardlooking member of the community of nations.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note or the statement.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present a report of the Australian Delegation to the Thirtysixth Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present a report of the Law Reform Commission entitled Lands Acquisition and Compensation’ together with the text of a statement by the Acting Attorney-General relating to the report.
-by leave- move:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I present the report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on the land claim known as the Yingawunarri (Old Top Springs) Mudbura land claim. I seek leave to make a statement on the report.
– This land claim was the fifth to be concluded by the Commissioner under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The Act provides, inter alia, that Aboriginals can make claims to unalienated Crown land in the Northern Territory on the basis of traditional ownership of that land. Claims must be heard by the Commissioner who then reports to me and to the Administrator of the Northern Territory. This claim was for an area of 2 1 7 square kilometres, being a travelling stock reserve lying wholly within the Montejinni pastoral lease. The Commissioner found that the whole of the area claimed is unalienated Crown land, that there are Aboriginals who are the traditional owners of that land, and he has recommended that the land claimed be granted to a Land Trust. In making his recommendation, the Land Commissioner is required by the Act to comment upon the number of Aboriginals who would be advantaged by the land grant, the nature and extent of that advantage, whether detriment might result to any person or community as a result of the grant, and the effect which the grant would have on existing or proposed patterns of land use.
The Commissioner found that about 200 Aboriginals would benefit from the granting of this land. There is a strong attachment by the Mudbura people to the claim area, which contains a number of important sites. Up to 50 claimants have indicated their desire to make a permanent home on this land. Other claimants and members of adjoining clans also see the area as a place to live during the wet season. It is the view of the Aboriginals that the return of this land to its traditional owners will enable tribal elders to exercise more influence on younger tribe members and would help preserve their culture, customs and ceremonies. By itself, the claim area is too small to be an economic proposition as a cattle station. The area is well watered however, and is good cattle country. It could carry enough cattle to provide meat for those living on the land and possibly some stock could be turned off each year at a profit. As to any detriment which might result from the claim being granted, the Commissioner found that some disadvantage is likely to result to the holder of the Montejinni pastoral lease, who would need to sink three new bores to replace the Government watering points he has been using on the claim area. The claimants have agreed to allow the owner a reasonable time in which to make other arrangements. It was suggested by Montejinni ‘s owner during the claim hearings that the north-eastern corner of Montejinni including the eastern area of the land claimed, should be ceded to the claimants, and that the western half of the claim should then become part of the Montejinni lease. That was not a matter upon which the Commissioner should comment, and he did no more than mention the fact in his report. It will be for the parties involved to discuss between them any such proposals for the use of land at Yingawunarri. Apart from this, the Commissioner found that there would be no detriment to the cattle industry or other Aboriginal groups from the granting of this claim.
In reaching my decision, I have carefully considered the views of the Northern Territory Government. The Northern Territory Government initially opposed the claim on the grounds that the loss of the reserve for travelling stock and the stock route would be contrary to the public interest. During the hearing evidence was given that a portion of land around a Government bore known as Pussycat Bore had a valuable role to play in disease eradication and control, because of holding yards and facilities including a cattle dip which exist there. The Commissioner commented that the evidence demonstrated a value in the retention of an area of one square mile or thereabouts around Pussycat Bore for these purposes. After carefully considering this matter and the views of the Northern Territory Government, I have decided to excise from the grant an area of 12.95 square kilometres- 5 square miles- around the bore. This will be in accordance with a request by the Northern Territory Government, which sought the additional area to allow for the possibility of a much larger number of cattle being quarantined for longer periods than would have been possible with the smaller excision.
As to the question of continued use of the two stock routes which pass through the land claimed, I do not intend to excise these from the claim. The Commissioner found that there has been little, if any, use of the stock routes in recent years and at the moment they serve no practical purpose. Indeed, evidence given during the land claim hearings indicated quite clearly that they are unlikely to ever be used again. I am conscious how.ever, that in view of the rising cost of fuel and the uncertainty as to supply, it is conceivable there may at some future time be a need to move cattle on foot over these routes. In the unlikely event that such a need arises, the Northern Land Council and the traditional owners of Yingawunrri would not have any reason to deny access to the Dry River and Murranji stock routes. With regard to roads across the land claimed, the Commissioner found that there are two roads over which the public has right of way. One, the Buchanan Highway, is in current use. The other, known as the Murranji Track, has not been used for many years and for practical purposes is no longer a road. The Northern Territory Government has formally agreed to close this track by gazettal and it will therefore not be excluded from the grant. The Buchanan Highway, however, remains a public road and will not form part of this grant.
Having regard to the Land Commissioner’s recommendations and comments, and having given careful consideration to the needs of the Mudbura claimants as well as the interest of other groups, I have decided that the land claimed with the exceptions of the Buchanan Highway and a 12.95 square kilometre excision surrounding Pussycat Bore should be granted. I shall establish a Land Trust and will recommend to the Governor-General that a grant of an estate in fee simple of the land be made to the Trust.
– by leave- I move:
I am very pleased that the report on this land claim has been brought down. I know that the Aboriginal people in the area also will be very pleased. They have been waiting quite some time for this claim to be presented. From recollection the claim was listed in about May 1978. 1 understand that it came through to the Minister in October of last year. As indicated in the report, 200 Aboriginals will benefit from the acceptance of this claim. There are a number of important sites in the area. The report states that 200 people will be involved in the claim, either on the spiritual side or in another area, and that an additional 50 people will live there during the wet season. I also draw attention to page 2 of the statement of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), which states:
It is the view of the Aboriginals that the return of this land to its traditional owners will enable tribal elders to exercise more influence on younger tribe members and would help preserve their culture, customs and ceremonies.
The point was made by the Minister that the area is too small for a cattle station and, of course, it was not allocated for that purpose. But it is well watered, it is quite good cattle country and it is appropriate for the home land concept. Obviously, that is not the same as its being spiritual homeland but it is ideal for the people who live on pastoral properties. Once again, I commend this concept to the Minister. People on pastoral properties ought to be given enough land- the term ‘enough’ will vary in different parts of the Northern Territory- to run a few cattle and to have some independence from the pastoral property owners.
It is my contention that every pastoral property in the Northern Territory should be required to set aside an area of land for this purpose. I go so far as to say that legislation insisting on that ought to be brought down. When Aboriginal people are happy to continue working on a station but do not want their own stations, then I would go so far as to say that they need an area of land which gives them the independence to which I refer. An interesting comment in the report is that the owner of Montejinni has been using Government water bores- in other words, the bores on the stock routes. I make no comment on this at this stage. I notice that the Northern Territory Government has opposed the claim. This seems rather strange as the Aboriginal Land Commissioner found that the route was not used and in terms of the report, had no practical purpose. One wonders why the Northern Territory Government then went forward with an objection to the claim being made.
– On principle.
– I imagine it was on principle. It is a most unfortunate principle for a group of people who claim to have the interests of the Aboriginal people at heart. Page 3 of the Minister’s statement reads:
During the hearing evidence was given that a portion of land around a Government bore known as Pussycat Bore had a valuable role to play in disease eradication and control, because of holding yards and facilities including a cattle dip which exist there. The Commissioner commented that the evidence demonstrated a value in the retention of an area of one square mile or thereabouts around Pussycat Bore for these purposes.
I notice that the Aboriginal Land Commissioner suggested that one square mile should be retained and that the Minister has decided to excise from the grant an area of 12.95 square kilometres or 5 square miles. No doubt when we debate this matter further in the chamber the Minister will care to indicate to us why he thought that 5 square miles was needed whereas the evidence presented to the Commissioner, on which he based his ruling, was that one square mile was enough. One wonders why a 400 per cent increase was recommended. Perhaps we will get Aboriginals putting in land claims in which an additional 400 per cent is sought. I am pleased to see that the Minister has taken the attitude that he has to the stock routes. He said:
In the unlikely event that such a need arises -
That is, the need to move cattle on foot over these routes- the Northern Land Council and the traditional owners of Yingawunarri would not have any reason to deny access to the Dry River and Murranji stock routes.
I trust that the Minister, in making this statement, is speaking after having consulted both the Northern Land Council and the traditional owners. If he is not, there could well be reasons why people might deny access to that route. The Minister mentioned the Buchanan Highway and said that it will remain a road. He has given no indication of whether rangers will be needed to supervise movement along this road. My observation is that this will not be necessary, but perhaps it is worth keeping in mind that we do not simply declare roads but if they are to pass through sites of significance and certainly by sacred sites, rangers could be necessary to supervise the move. No doubt the comments that have been made about roads in this report will be referred to when we have a debate tomorrow on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill since it deals with roads. I make the point briefly that this fifth claim is far more acceptable than some of the earlier ones. I refer in particular to the Borroloola claim. I will not raise that matter again. I commend the concept. I feel that it is a good idea to set aside an area of land for people who are working cattle stations. I hope to see it extended. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Dried Fruits Research Committee 1978-79.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement on the Government’s most recent position in relation to Iran in the light of the continued detention of American hostages in Tehran.
– I seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard, it having already been delivered in the other place.
The statement read as follows-
My colleague, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and I are jointly responsible for giving effect to these decisions.
The Government has made a further review of trade in non-food items with Iran and had considered a range of options open to it. It has been decided to prohibit further exports of Disappearing Automatic Retaliatory Target- DARTequipment to Iran until the hostages are released. The DART equipment is the only item of military or quasi-military equipment now being exported to Iran from Australia. We have also decided to cease remaining official assistance to trade in non-food items with Iran. The assistance which is now to cease will include export insurance cover on new business and export incentive arrangements in respect of non-food trade with Iran.
I take this opportunity to draw the attention of Australian exporters to the increasingly unfavourable climate for trade with Iran. Our judgment is that the climate will continue to deteriorate unless and until the hostages are released. Their continued detention is not only an affront to a fundamental principle of relations between states, it is also a cruel and increasingly dangerous affront to the American people in human terms.
Innocent American citizens have been detained for nearly half a year. Whatever their physical condition, there can be no doubt regarding the mental strains and anguish they are suffering. Neither can there be any doubt about the strength of feeling among their fellow countrymen concerning their condition and safety. In the circumstances the United States has shown remarkable forebearance. It has walked the path of negotiation with patience, in the face of considerable provocation and repeated disappointment. To assume that its forebearance is unlimited or to equate it with indifference or weakness would be a grave mistake. A great democracy cannot be expected to wait indefinitely while revolutionary factions resolve their differences- with the lives of its citizens being used as pawns.
In taking these further decisions that I have announced, the Government’s objective is to register with the Iranian authorities, in the clearest possible terms, its repugnance at Iran’s behaviour in using hostages as a political device and its concern about the danger to peace which flows from that behaviour. Attempting to humiliate and test the limits of the patience of a great power is an extremely dangerous game. The Government’s firm view is that only concerted action by the United States’ friends and allies will bring home to the Iranian authorities that their handling of the hostages issue is totally unacceptable to the international community.
The United States is moving in a deliberate and considered way to make clear to Iran the costs of persisting in detaining the hostages. The justice of its case; the common interest in maintaining the principle of diplomatic immunity; the responsibility of alliance; and of overriding importance, the need to remove a danger to world peace- all these considerations justify firm support from America’s allies.
The Government’s concern has been reinforced by the consultations last week of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) with Commonwealth and other leaders in Salisbury during the Zimbabwe independence celebrations. So long as there is no movement in the situation, other measures open to the Government will be kept under close and constant review. But the hope of the Government is that there will be movement, and that this irrational and callous behaviour will cease forthwith.
– by leave- I move:
As I received a copy of the statement earlier this afternoon, I felt it was unnecessary for it to be read again in this chamber. It is unnecessary for me to emphasise the gravity of the position presently confronting not only the United States of America but also, by implication, possibly a whole series of countries and even the whole world of what is happening in Iran at the moment. One would have assumed that, in view of the Australian Government’s decision to take measures that are to some degeree in line with the request of the Government of the United States of America, it would have put down in this Parliament not only a fairly full statement of the actual measures which are contained in the statement but also a paper indicating the Government’s position in respect of Iran. Only three weeks ago a statement of nine pages in length was brought down in the Parliament on the Harries report on the Third World. The statement on Iran is only four pages in length. Anyone who had read the Harries report would have realised the enormity of the subject it was dealing with and the importance of it. Yet all we got from the Government was a nine-page statement which made only passing reference to the Harries report and which spent almost the whole of the time restating the Government’s position in respect of Afghanistan. We now have a far more serious position in the world.
As long ago as 23 January- before the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) went to America- I said that he would find that the United States Government views Iran as a much more serious crisis than it does the Afghanistan issue. I went on to say that Afghanistan does not carry any implications of military action for the United States, but Iran does. That was three months ago. Yet we have been living with the fiction that the Government has been putting to us about Afghanistan being the most serious crisis that has confronted us since the Second World War, using every possible avenue to persuade the Australian people of how dangerous that issue is. Now, of course, the seriousness of what may happen in Iran is apparent to all of us, even to Mr Fraser and presumably to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock. I think that anybody who heard President Carter on the news broadcast at half past 12 would realise just how serious the position has become. Yet the Australian Government which has involved itself in the issue cannot tell the Parliament why it has taken these steps. It has brushed off the Parliament with a statement which contains four printed pages. I do not intend to brush off the issue with a four-page statement. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) today delivered a detailed speech in the House of Representatives on the position as the Labor Party sees it. The Australian people are entitled to know that Government’s position just as they are entitled to know our position.
The statement announces a series of sanctions against Iran. The sanctions are limited but they amount to another turn of the screw of pressure against a government which shows no signs of yielding to pressure. It seems to relish pressure or at least to be willing to resist further pressure even at the cost of economic and diplomatic penalties. The Government, the Parliament and the country have to ask the questions: Is there any point in this pressure? Could it in fact have an opposite effect to that intended?
Some basic matters seem to me to have been overlooked about the dangerous saga that is unfolding and, indeed, erupting in Iran. First, what is immediately at stake is the lives of the 50 Americans who have been illegally detained in the United States Embassy in Tehran for the past five months. The Opposition has condemned this detention as illegal and as an affront to all diplomatic traditions and practices. It is also inflicting an ordeal on the hostages and their families. The Opposition condemns the detention on that ground also. We join in the calls of many countries and governments for the immediate release of the hostages. We believe the lives of the hostages are primarily at stake. What is at stake also in any proper analysis of the situation is not the political future of any particular leader or, necessarily, Australian-American relations. What is at stake is not the foreign policy of the Fraser Government. There are political overtones in all the actions of Washington and Canberra and perhaps in the actions of other governments. It would be a cynical act in the extreme if local politics and foreign policy were allowed to take precedence over the safety of the hostages. We should be thinking of the hostages and not what their plight means in political terms in this country or anywhere else.
The second basic point that seems to be overlooked or at least not understood sufficiently is that Iran is still undergoing a revolution. In trying to deal with Iran we are not dealing with a government but a revolution. The latest news from that country of street violence between warring political factions and of fighting between the Kurdish minority and the Iranian Army ought to be vivid reminders that the revolution which began with violence late in 1 978 is still going on politically and physically some 18 months later. Dealing with any revolution is a difficult and potentially dangerous process. The concern of the Opposition is to impress on the Government and on the Australian people the risks involved in trying to apply pressure in such a volatile situation no matter how sincere the motives and no matter how humanitarian the cause.
There seems to the Opposition to be several kinds of dangers. Outside pressure could provoke the militants in Iran both from the Left and the Right of the political spectrum. Outside pressure could weaken and undercut the moderate elements in that country. There are Iranian leaders trying to maintain a moderate stance amid the shifting sands of the revolution. Outside pressure could push the revolution as a whole into attitudes and directions which cannot serve the long term interests of Iran itself or serve the interests of the Western alliance which has strategic and economic stakes in an area where Iran is one of the key countries.
The hostages are hostages of a revolution. We know from history that revolutions and revolutionaries reject outside pressure. That occurred in the American revolution, the Russian revolution and the Vietnamese revolution. We are, of course, still living in a revolutionary period. Another danger in taking decisions or actions that may be construed in Iran rightly or wrongly as unjust or unwarranted is the prolonging of political fervour in the political struggles in the country. The country is by no means united. It is vulnerable to separatism, to civil war and to splitting into various factions. Regional, ethnic and separatist forces are at work. There are substantial minorities, notably the Azerbajanis, the Kurds and the Arabic speakers, with differing political and nationalist aspirations. There is also an old and now renewed animosity between Iran and its western neighbour Iraq. Recently there have been armed clashes along that frontier. It will probably be argued by those who consider the Iranian revolution as a negative and threatening development that the best hope for a solution lies in the division and dismemberment of Iran. I point to these dangers and to the fact that we do not have in Tehran a united government but an on-going revolutionary struggle not to make excuses for what is happening there but to suggest explanations and to try to find solutions.
What is wanted in any debate about Iran at present is not heat but light. The emotions and the frustrations of the American people and their leaders in the long, and to many humiliating, saga of the hostages is understandable. In seeking to point to the dangers and complexities of the situation, I do not denigrate or ignore those emotions or the fears for the safety of the hostages which are real enough. We all share them. Three developments this week are significant. Firstly there seem to be two positive signs. Yesterday the mother of one of the hostages was allowed to see her son. We all welcome this development. It may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Also encouraging is the news that this young man who has been detained for five months appears to be in good physical and mental health. All the reports we have had from various sources seem to suggest that that is the condition of all the hostages.
Yesterday there was another development in Tehran which to some degree must temper our hopes which have been raised by the reunion which I have just mentioned. I refer to the violent conflict which has been reported from Tehran between groups of extremist students in that city. That seems to add another dimension of danger to the situation of the hostages. At the very least, it adds to the confusions and the contradictions about where power now lies in that country. First reports indicate that one of the student groups in the street clashes is linked to the group of Islamic fundamentalists occupying the Embassy. It is true that the reported fighting is not in the vicinity of the Embassy. It would also seem likely that while open conflict is going on between different student political groups, those holding the hostages are not likely to be in a mood for concessions such as releasing the hostages.
I mention these latest events and raise these speculations to illustrate the continuing and perhaps increasing difficulties of devising a way out of the dilemma that the United States now finds itself in. While Australia of course has no quarrel with Iran- our relations with that country have been very good in recent years- basically this is an American-Iranian dispute and we, to some extent, have been drawn into it. Now is not the time for a display of partisan politics. Obviously this situation is far too dangerous for that. We realise that it is time to be sympathetic towards the difficulties which confront the United States of America. But we would be less of an ally if we were not to question the efficacy of what the United States has asked the Australian Government to do.
The measures announced by the Government today are the second round of sanctions taken against Iran. Last week the Government decided not to replace our Ambassador in Tehran and to withdraw our Trade Commissioner. The Opposition feels that the first action is wrong and the second is a gesture without effect or importance. The new round of sanctions announced today also are little more than gestures in that they will have little impact on the Iranian economy. In neither Tehran nor Washington will those sanctions be viewed as significant. Are they intended to be a gesture towards an ally or a warning to a temporary or possible adversary? They seem to fail on both counts. Short of placing an embargo on food exports, which we have not yet been asked for and which would be an expensive intervention in a quarrel which is not our own, Australia lacks any means of applying pressure. Even an embargo on meat and grain could be brushed aside. As we now know, sanctions busting is a very well developed commercial technique. It was adopted for some years by the Rhodesians.
In making gestures of support for the United States we might be encouraging that country to move closer towards applying the very real pressures it is able to bring to bear. They include such measures as a naval blockade of the Iranian ports and perhaps the mining of those ports. Of course, other military options would be available to the United States. So far President Carter and the United States have been extremely patient. They have been very cautious. As I have indicated in statements I have made in the last three or four months, we on this side of the chamber commend the policy which has been followed. We honestly cannot see any other approach succeeding while the hostages almost literally have guns pointing at their heads. The danger for them now- indeed, the danger for the whole of the Iranian region- is that American patience will be exhausted and will snap.
We do not know what the Fraser Government is saying to the United States. We do not know in what way the Government has tried to counsel our ally. As was the case three months ago in the Government’s reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Government has made no effort to consult the Opposition. It has made no effort to find a basis for any bipartisan policy. So we on this side and the nation at large are left in the dark as to how the Government analyses the Iranian problem. So far all we have are unexplained actions, too vague to be fully understood and too insubstantial to be worth while. What is still lacking is a statement on how it and its advisers in the diplomatic and intelligence services see the position in Iran. Is the Government, in making its decisions, taking into account the power struggles, the dangers of the country of Iran splitting apart, the dangers of war with Iraq and the possibilities of the moderates succeeding or failing?
What is the Government’s analysis of the claims made by the Iranian Government against the United States? I refer to the Iranian Government’s charges that the Shah is alleged to have stolen billions of dollars of national funds. I refer also to the claims that have been made for many years that the United States interfered in Iranian internal affairs and supported the Shah in repressive policies. These matters appear to be at the heart of the animosity of the Iranians towards the Americans. Have we discussed those problems with the United States? I suggest that it is not useful to believe that the United States is the only aggrieved party in the seizure of its Embassy. It would be foolish to ignore the reality that the Iranian leaders are at least unanimous about one thing, and that is that they claim to have had, for a period of about 28 years, grave grievances against the United States. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that their country has been exploited, has been manipulated and has been spied upon by the United States for a generation. Those sorts of emotions, built up over many years, certainly have not disappeared in the last five months.
– But that does not justify the holding of hostages, does it? You are not advocating that, are you?
-No, I have made that plain. I am just trying to make the point, as Senator Knight would well know with his background, that there are very few international arguments in which all right is on one side. I draw the attention of the Senate to an editorial on Iran which appeared in the Times of London on 14 April. The Times could not be described as a radical newspaper and certainly it could not be described as an anti-Amecian newspaper. It is on record as being a firm supporter of the Western alliance. The editorial states that there are arguments in favour of taking two different types of action in the current situation: Sanctions or patience. The Times prefers patience. It states:
Patience will produce no quick results but it is probably safer for the West and safer for the hostages. It may look weak’ in American terms but it could just as well be called wise, and it is no weaker than the endless patience habitually used in dealing with hijackers and other terrorists holding hostages.
However, the Times then points out that President Carter is now saying, in effect, that if the alliance does not support a tougher policy his policy will become tougher still. Thus, the Times concludes that, although it advocates patience, the alliance will have to go some way with President Carter. Apparently the Government is choosing to do that. We would counsel very strongly that in doing so at every stage we should continue to urge the United States to be patient. That is very difficult to do in what may well be an eleventh hour situation. I also point out that both the President of Iran and the Ayatollah have said- apparently, at least until today, they stand by this-that the Iranian Parliament, when elected, will be able to deal with the matter. If that Parliament reflects the sorts of feelings held by President Bani-Sadr, almost certainly there will be a distinct possibility of a favourable resolution of the problem.
Lastly, I take the opportunity of commenting on a statement made this afternoon by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives. I think it is well known to every member of this Parliament that the Government continually has accused the Opposition of not wishing to have any bipartisanship in these matters. The statement made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and, I would hope, the one I am making, do not reflect our adopting a partisan position. But, unfortunately, after Mr Hayden spoke, the Minister for Foreign Affairs rose to his feet, obviously upset- upset, I believe, by the sheer logic of Mr Hayden ‘s statement- and engaged in the most petty, partisan, bucketing speech that I think I have heard him make in this Parliament. I regret that that was the note on which that debate had to close in that place.
In particular, I take exception to the Minister’s reference to statements on this matter which I have made and in which he implied that simply because I had advocated that we should maintain an ambassador in Tehran I was siding with the revolutionary council in Tehran. I am surprised that a man of his experience and with his attitudes towards foreign policy allowed himself to fall into such a puerile trap as to say that. I am quite sure that in his own mind he knows that what he said is not the case; nevertheless, he made that claim. He referred also to a Press statement I issued on 9 April, in which he alleged I made a critical statement about the withdrawal of the Trade Commissioner. In looking at a copy of that statement, I can find no reference to that. Anything I would have said about it would have been to the effect that basically I did not think it would have much impact one way or the other on our trade relationship. I referred to the forthcoming meeting of the Iranian Parliament. The Minister seemed to say that I was suggesting that this would be the be-all and end-all of the issue. I said:
It would be a tragedy if the possibility for the Iranian Parliament, when it convenes in a few weeks time to decide the release of the hostages was to be lost by a further deterioration in the relations between Iran and the United States.
It is unfortunate that Mr Peacock should see fit to place himself in the extreme partisan position in which he placed himself this afternoon. I repeat that anyone who has looked closely at this issue over the last three or four months must know that in this country there will certainly be no winners or losers. We will all be in one camp or the other.
-I will take a few minutes to endorse what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) said. This is an important subject. It concerns the dangers that confront the Western world. The Government argues that to a large extent those dangers also confront Australia. Whilst we do not agree, of course, in any way that Australia is faced with a direct threat, it is clear that the position in Iran ought to be negotiated and considered by the great powers. It is surprising that the whole subject is dismissed in a document of a page and a half, recognising that over the last two weeks some very important questions have been put to the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) seeking information on the Government’s proposed reaction to the United States’ pressure on all its allies, including Australia.
I remind the Senate that over the last week official reports from reputable Press sources have stated that the United States President in the year of a presidential election was taking it upon himself to influence the allies in respect of the imposition of sanctions and that this would create a perilous situation. I refer to the statement which has now been accepted as a concrete proposal. President Carter has said that unless the hostages are released by 15 May the United States will consider, if not military action, the mining of Iranian ports. There have also been reports from America that some other supplementary military action might be taken.
We have asked important questions in this place seeking advice on how the Australian Government proposed to respond to the American overtures. Most of us, including Government senators, argue that Australia should take an independent line. We do not want to be seen to be a slave to United States policy. The Opposition heartily agrees with this policy. If we are to take any action which may lead to perilous and warlike circumstances we have to be seen to be doing it because we feel that in some way our sovereignty, independence, economic future and rights are imperilled. I would have expected the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the Leader of the Government who represents him in this place to have stated the position of the Government. This afternoon Senator Carrick answered questions from honourable senators, including me, most of which supplemented and confirmed reports in the Press in recent days that the Americans are putting pressure on their allies. Those who have read the newspapers today will know about the visit to Tehran by the mother of one of the hostages. The reports confirm a rather conservative attitude within the United States itself on whether it should take any military action and whether this would somehow or other delay the release of the hostages.
I would have expected that the responsible Minister in this place and in the House of Representatives would have dealt more fully with the issues of the day. If the reports are correct Australia will be lead, willingly or unwillingly, into a serious and critical international situation. I hope that in the next day or two the Government will consider the position in a different light and will inform the Parliament more fully about these matters. It should certainly do better than it has done today. It has made a very brief statement on matters which are critical not only to ourselves but also to the history of the world. I hope that the questions which have been asked in the last three or four days will be examined in another light and that information will be given to the Senate in a much more complete fashion than that in which it was given today.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Senator GEORGES (Queensland) i (5.2) - I regret that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) thought it necessary to adjourn the debate on such an important matter.
For that reason I oppose the motion that the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting. I suggest that because the matter is so important we should debate it at a later hour this day. I will not move a motion to that effect. I do not think it is necessary for me to go to that length and cause the Senate to divide on this matter. I merely take the opportunity to express the point of view that an important statement of this sort should be debated by both sides of the chamber. It is necessary for the Senate to express an opinion as a whole on the serious situation which the world faces today. On the initiative of the President of the United States we have now moved from a cold war situation to a hot war situation. I believe it is necessary for us to debate whether Australia should be taking an independent line. The safety of the hostages in Iran is a matter of concern. That concern ought to be expressed in this place. The view ought to be put before the Senate today that a very delicate approach is needed to a very sensitive situation in recognition of the danger which faces those hostages. It would be very well for us to support the United States-
– The honourable senator must not debate the matter.
– I will not debate the matter. I am merely pointing out how necessary it is for me to say today what I feel ought to be said. I have to express now what I would have said later in order to impress upon honourable senators the importance of the matter. The Minister shakes his head. He was an effective Whip in this place for some time. He knows the difficulties which the Government Whip faces when the Opposition decides that something is important and needs to be debated. I think it would have been wiser for the Minister to have allowed the matter to flow a little rather than to move that the debate be adjourned. I put the view that he is remiss in so doing. It is important for us to have an expression of opinion from the Senate today. We ought to put to the Senate the need to consider carefully the initiative taken by the President of the United States, not in opposition to or as an antagonist of the United States but in support of the people of the United States, particularly the hostages. For that reason, I suggest to the Minister that he withdraw his motion that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting and give us some assurance that he will bring back the matter for debate later today.
– in reply- I have listened to what Senator Georges has had to say. There is no dispute that this is an extremely serious matter. Indeed, the very fact that this statement has been put down to advise the Senate of the most recent decisions taken by the Government in respect of relations with Iran underlines that importance. At the same time, I do not propose to take up his suggestion that there should be further debate today. The Senate has a good deal of business with which it is also important to deal and the Senate has not been dealing with Government business at any great rate over the last few weeks. It is the wish of the Government to deal with the business planned for today. If the honourable senator is concerned about this debate, I suggest that he take it up in the normal conferences which occur between the Government and the Opposition with respect to business of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works concerning comments on an analysis of the Defence Force Academy by the Department of Defence.
– Is the honourable senator not making a statement on that matter?
– I have presented a report.
-by leave- I move:
This report is about a very important matter. I have used the phrase ‘very important’ twice today. The other matter was important in a different context, that is, a foreign affairs context. This matter is very important from a domestic point of view. If I am correct, this document is the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the Defence Force Academy.
– It is a report of the Committee in response to comments from the Defence Department on the Committee’s report about that.
– That makes it all the more important.
– It does. If my understanding of this matter is correct, the report is very critical of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). It was the Opposition’s intention to make some comments on this matter. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) will rise and try to get the call when I sit down. I suggest to the Minister that he should allow Senator Button to proceed when I sit down. That was my intention when I first got to my feet. Having put down the report, I thought that Senator Young would speak to it or, for that matter, read a statement about it.
- Mr President, for clarification I point out to Senator Georges that he will find that on nearly all occasions Public Works Committee reports are presented to the Senate without comment. That has been the practice. So, Senator Georges should not think that we are being smart today. It has been the practice for Public Works Committee reports to be presented in that way by senators from both sides of this chamber.
-I will look at my papers while there is some discussion between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I cannot see a copy of the statement. Where is it?
– If Senator Georges looks at the business sheet he will find reference to that on the front page.
– I am speaking really on a point of procedure. I am not suggesting that Senator Young had anything to hide but surely he could have made some sort of comment to initiate a debate on the matter. All I know is that Senator Button wishes to speak on this report. I am on my feet speaking about something with which I am not conversant. I have no written material in front of me. I have had to drag it out of Government senators by way of interjection. Mr President, you will agree that that is not the way in which to proceed in this place. Perhaps what I have said could be considered as a point of order, a point of procedure or merely seeking information, so that Senator Button would be allowed to proceed.
– The situation is quite clear. You sought leave to move that the Senate take note of the paper put down by Senator Young. I call Senator Chaney.
– I understand that a member of the Opposition now would like to make a substantative speech on the report which has been put down by Senator Young on behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. I suggest that the business of the Senate would be facilitated if these matters could be given some consideration before we sit, since it was known that this report would be put down. I have no wish to put the Opposition in a position of difficulty because it has not anticipated a matter which is on the business sheet for today. I am happy to resume my seat to give Senator Button an opportunity to speak. I would like simply to make the point that there is business before the Senate and we all have some interest in dealing with that. It is simply wasting the time of the Senate if we have to proceed as we have on this item.
It is not the fault of the Government, nor is it the fault of Senator Young, that there has been some doubt and confusion on the matter. Leave was sought to move a motion. That was granted as a matter of course and the Opposition Whip had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Opposition. He had not prepared himself to do so and I sympathise with him, having been in a roughly similar position on one or two occasions. I want to make the point that for the Government to go on granting leave and agreeing to debates being prolonged is something which, if it continues, might raise doubts about the good faith of the Opposition in these matters, which is likely to cry foul and say it is not being given a fair go. The Government is anxious that the Opposition should have a fair opportunity to deal with matters that are brought before the Senate. On this occasion I do not propose to move the adjournment of the debate before Senator Button, as the appropriate Opposition spokesman, has had a chance to speak. I invite the Opposition to follow the forms available to ensure that there is a little more organisation.
Senator YOUNG (South Australia)-I wish to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 408, to clarify a point made by Senator Georges. I seek leave to do so.
– I want to point out to the Senate, particularly to Senator Georges, that the presentation in this chamber of reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is rotated between members from both sides. If one goes back through the records one will find that the presentation of reports of the Public Works Committee alternates from the Opposition side of the chamber to the Government side. It was at no request of mine that I presented this report today. I give an assurance that there was no cover-up at all.
– I wanted to speak briefly on this report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, but I will have to take a little longer in view of what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) said. Although he was attempting to introduce enlightenment and wisdom into this chamber, he did so in a manner which I found offensive. For example, he suggested that the time of the Senate was being wasted and that in some way it was an abuse of the processes of the Senate. Having sat here for five years and having heard what has gone on, I do not regard any words uttered in this chamber as being appropriately described as a particular abuse of the processes of the Senate. It was suggested in the course of his remarks that the Opposition had some very clear indication of the nature of this report. The business sheet for today simply says that there will be reports from committees by senators, the first being from Senator Young from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, lt then goes on to say that Senator Kilgariff would present two reports from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– Don’t you have members on those committees?
– Certainly we on this side of the chamber have not been provided with any report which was to be presented by Senator Young.
– Don’t the reports go to the offices of senators once they have been presented to the Senate?
– I have been provided with a statement signed by Mr Mel Bungey, whom I do not recall being a member of the Senate.
– The report goes to offices.
– I do not want to argue the point about all those issues. That is what we were provided with. As I understood it, the matter was also to be dealt with in the House of Representatives. My understanding of it is that, for some reason which the Government apparently knows, it has not been dealt with in the House of Representatives. Of course, this matter is of particular concern to the Senate because it is in this place that the Government laid down the line which the Department of Defence has taken up in its response to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. It is in this place that not so long ago the Government’s position was stated by Senator Carrick at Question Time. When he was asked about the report of the Standing Committee on Public Works in relation to the Australian Defence Force Academy, it was here that he set forth the view that the Committee had exceeded its charter. One might have thought that that was a highly provocative allegation, particularly when it was pointed out to
Senator Carrick in subsequent questions that the Committee had not exceeded its chaner at all. That is the matter of concern which probably has provoked, more than anything else, the response by the Public Works Committee to the Defence Department’s analysis of its report.
I refer the Senate very briefly to the contents of that response and point out that a whole section of that response dealt with the allegation that the Committee had exceeded its authority, an allegation made by Senator Carrick which the bureaucrats of the Defence Department took to themselves as their own position. I do not think that it is any business of the Defence Department to put out a document charging a committee of this Parliament with exceeding its authority, on the basis of wild allegations made off the top of the head of a Minister in the Senate. That is what has happened. I share the concern of the Public Works Committee at the nature of this response to its report by the Defence Department. In the context of the Senate, this is not an issue about which cheap political capital can be made. It is an issue which concerns the role of parliamentary committees in this place, a role which has declined drastically with the growing power of the Executive, particularly under the Fraser Government.
– God save us.
-Senator Walters moans in ecstasy or whatever, but that is a fact. When the honourable senator talks about this place being a House of review- I suppose she does, or she may be one of those who talks about it as being a States’ House, I do not know- for goodness sake, what does she mean in the parliamentary context? What happens when a joint party committee of members of both Houses of the Parliament, acting within its authority, rejects a project of the Executive of the day? That authority is established by an Act of this Parliament. When somebody down there snaps his fingers, Senator Walters, who is the bastion of democracy in this place, the bulwark of the functions of Parliament in a democratic system, can only groan when somebody objects to it. That has a certain Orwellian flavour about it, if I may say so, but it suggests to me a very limited view of the function of a senator as Senator Walters sees it. That is what the Defence Department’s response to the Public Works Committee is all about. I do not want to argue the pros and cons of whether a defence force academy should be established in Canberra. We have been through that exercise before. This report is from a collection of faceless bureaucrats in the Defence Department. For all the rhetoric, and we would plead guilty too, I think, no government has had the guts to do anything about the thousands of bureaucrats there producing we know not what, except when a crisis comes upon this country, and then we know that they are not producing very much.
– That is an unwarranted slur.
-It is not an unwarranted slur. The honourable senator is one of the people who has been talking for ages about this issue.
– It is. It is a quite unwarranted general slur on a lot of people who work hard for this country.
-Honourable senators opposite keep on with all this waffle about cutting down the public sector, but the Government has made not the slightest impression on the Defence establishment in this country.
– I hope it will increase.
-I am not talking about defence personnel, who are engaged actively in defence, I am talking about public servants.
– He is insulting public servants.
-That is a good issue for an Australian Capital Territory senator to take up. I know that he puts it out in his local branch news sheet. But the issue is more important that that. In a sense, I was being quite bipartisan about this issue. 1 said that neither party’s government had done much about the size of the Defence Department about which every expert outside it continually comments. The rhetoric about cutting down the public sector is the Government’s. The reality is that, as a government, it has made no impression on the size of the Defence Department. Indeed, it has made no impression on the size of the public sector in Australia. It has transferred the numbers from the Commonwealth Public Service to the State public services. We have far more Public Service employees in this country now than we had when the Fraser Government came into power.
I turn now to the report. The point I make about it is not in relation to the merits or demerits of Casey University. I understand that that matter will be debated again by members of the Government parties at 8.30 a.m. tomorrow. There is nothing about the details of Casey University that I can contribute to that debate. However, I put very seriously to the Senate that this report is an important document in the sense that it details the hypocrisy about the whole question of the function of parliamentary committees and their relationship with the Executive. Simply, this report says that a committee of this
Parliament, a committee on which both Government and Opposition parties and both Houses of the Parliament are represented, conducted a full inquiry into the Australian Defence Force Academy. When the Government, the Executive of the day, runs into some difficulty about this matter, because of the obsessions of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) dating back a decade, what do those people at Russell Hill do? They adopt the Government line on this question and take it upon themselves to put out a document abusing a committee of this Parliament, and I do not think that ‘abuse’ is too strong a word. They have accused the Committee of a number of things of which, in the circumstances in which these accusations were made, I believe a parliamentary committee should not be accused by public servants. The report documents the work of a committee of this Parliament, conclusions of a committee of this Parliament, and embarrassment within the Executive arm of Government about those conclusions. In the system to which I hope we all subscribe, the Executive should be, if not subordinate to, then very considerate of the deliberations of a committee of that kind. Because of difficulties in the Executive, we have a rejection of a report of a parliamentary committee and attempts to say that the committee has exceeded its authority, which it has not done. Those suggestions have been alleged by a Minister in this Government. Then we have members of the Defence Department making the same sort of suggestions in a document, and entering into the debate in the way in which they have, and it is documented in this report.
I noticed in a newspaper the other day that the Liberal member for Henty in Victoria- I do not remember his name because he has not made an impression on me- made a contribution on this issue. He was reported in the Melbourne Age last week as saying that he regarded the statements of the Department of Defence about the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works as a breach of the privileges of the Parliament and as an abuse of the process of Parliament.
– I thought he didn’t make an impression.
-Senator Walters, they were very strong words indeed from the honourable member for Henty. Of course, he is right. For that reason it is wrong for Senator Chaney to suggest, in terms of the function of the Senate as a so-called House of review, that this report is in the same category as the annual report of the Australian Egg Board or something like that because it is not.
– That is an important Board, Senator.
– Get up and make a personal explanation.
– I will.
-After a careful look around the chamber I would like to change my reference to that Board to the Australian Dairy Corporation.
– It does not have such a good reputation.
– No; but seriously, to consider the implications of this report in the same way as one considers all the other reports which flow through this place -
– You should have been here to consider it, Senator.
-What is the substance of that allegation?
– If it is so important, where were you?
-Senator Chaney puts his remark in the same mediocre basket as everything else he has said on this issue. He probably refers to the fact that Senator Button, for reasons which Senator Chaney does not know about, was a couple of minutes late for the debate and that attains the same order of offence as the comments made by the Department of Defence about a parliamentary committee. It is all so bland that we do not think about these issues any more in relation to any question of priority. I venture to suggest that this is probably the first time, certainly in my time in this Parliament, that a parliamentary committee has unanimously felt it necessary to defend itself against what it regards as scurrilous allegations made by public servants against the integrity of its deliberations. If any honourable senator opposite such as Senator Young, with a longer memory in terms of service in this Parliament, can remember another such incident, I would be very pleased to hear about it. I think it is probably the first time for many years that a parliamentary committee has had to go to the lengths of defending itself against what it regards as scurrilous allegations by public servants. That is the important and unique feature of this report.
I think it is absolutely despicable that the Government seeks to sweep this issue under the carpet. It is the Government which, in moments of heady rhetoric, had its Ministers talking about the importance of preserving parliamentary democracy and matters of that kind. When this important and unique matter comes before the
Senate it is treated in this way. I think that is the important matter, not the son of detailed issues about whether we should call the academy the Casey University Defence Force Academy or whatever name is currently being proposed for it. They are not the issues. They can be debated at another time. The important issues are the role of the Senate and the role of the Parliament. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debated adjourned.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Holsworthy Army Development, Stage 2, New South Wales; and
Rehabilitation of Radio Australia facilities, Cox Peninsula, Northern Territory.
-On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare I present a report on the annual reports referred to the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-I have the honour, on behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, to present a report on annual reports referred to the Committee. In accordance with the terms of the resolution of the Senate dated 1 March 1978, a total of 27 annual reports were referred to the Committee between August and November 1979. Of the 27 annual reports, eight were tabled in the Parliament more than 12 months after the period reported on. However, annual reports of all of these organisations have already been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for inquiry into, among other things, the reasons for their late presentation to Parliament.
The annual reports of the Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund, the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund and the Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund for the calendar year 1978 were tabled together on 13 November 1979. This was almost 11 months after the period reported on. The Committee was told that the delay in tabling was caused by the fact that the Auditor-General took three months to report on the accounts of the Royal Australian
Air Force Relief Trust Fund and by the Australian Government Publishing Service taking four months to print its 12 page report.
With the recent moves to reduce the delays in the tabling of annual reports of departments and statutory bodies, some consideration needs to be given to the concomitant pressures being placed on the Auditor-General’s Department and the Australian Government Publishing Service with regard to their role in the preparation of reports. They need to have the capacity to deal with annual reports quickly so that the reports can be tabled in the Parliament without some of the lengthy delays that have occurred.
In the case of the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund report for 1978, the time taken to print 12 pages was inordinate and the Committee recommends that the Joint Committee on Publications takes up this matter with the Australian Government Publishing Service. I commend the report to the Senate.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement on a matter referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare in 1978.
-On 31 May 1978 the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare:
The management and financial affairs of the Ralkon Agriculture Co. Pty Ltd, Narrung, South Australia.
The Ralkon Company is an Aboriginal farming enterprise incorporated on 2 October 1975 under the South Australian Companies Act by the Point McLeay Community Council to farm at Point McLeay two South Australian Aboriginal lands trust blocks and one farm acquired by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission. After receiving substantial funding, totalling approximately $466,000, the company came into dispute with the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs and further funding was refused. After consideration of the initial statements provided by the parties to the dispute, the Committee believed that, in view of the nature of the dispute, a more judicial kind of inquiry would be desirable. The Committee canvassed other possibilities and concluded that this dispute might fall within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The company was advised to ask the Ombudsman to examine the matter. This the company did.
On 24 August 1978 the Chairman reported these developments to the Senate. He also reported that the Committee had resolved to await the outcome of the approach to the Commonwealth Ombudsman before considering any further action. The Committee recently sought to find out what had happened since the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. In an exchange of correspondence with the company, the Committee was told that the report of the Ombudsman had not yet been finalised.
On 27 March 1980 the company wrote to the Committee asking that the inquiries of both the Committee and of the Commonwealth Ombudsman be closed. The company explained that, at the time of the instigation of the inquiries, its viability was at risk as a result of cessation of Commonwealth funding. However, circumstances have changed over the time and the company believes that a continuation of inquiries would achieve no real purpose now and may even serve to reopen old sores. The Committee has decided that, in these circumstances, it will no longer proceed with this reference.
– by leave- The reason I speak on this matter is that I was the senator responsible for having this inquiry referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, and I did so after long discussions with the people who make up the Ralkon Agricultural Co. Pty Ltd. What I have had to say on behalf of that company is well documented, both in the Senate Hansard and in the Senate Estimates Committee Hansard. To say the least, I am somewhat disappointed at the report that is now brought down by the Standing Committee on Social Welfare. I am not actually criticising the Committee, but I am criticising the Commonwealth Ombudsman because as the Committee has stated in this report, no report has yet been made available from the Ombudsman to the Committee.
Most of the report which has just been tabled by my colleague Senator Elstob is a straight quote from a statement made by Senator Baume in this Parliament on 24 August 1978- it is found at page 372 of Hansard- except for the last couple of paragraphs where the Committee said that it recently sought to find out what had happened since the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Committee stated:
In an exchange of correspondence with the company, the Committee was told that the report of the Ombudsman had not yet been finalised.
I would have expected that, one month short of two years of a matter having been referred to this Committee and then, in turn, having the reference forwarded to the Ombudsman for inquiry, the Committee would have been highly critical of the Commonwealth Ombudsman because that office had not brought back some report to the Committee. It is because of the fact that the Ombudsman has not made a report that the manager of Ralkon wrote to Senator Baume on 27 March this year and requested that no further action be taken. I have been given liberty by the manager to read part of that letter in order to put the record straight. Mr Hillock, the manager, said:
In May 1978 the Standing Committee on Social Welfare was requested to undertake an inquiry on our behalf to resolve difficulties that had arisen between the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and ourselves that were at that lime seriously affecting the further development of this company. The protracted nature of this inquiry has now endured so long as to make it counter-productive. The problems that loomed so large and urgent then have passed into the shadows of history. That is not to underplay the gravity of the problems in the context of their time. They involved real issues and real people. They have left their scars and the occasional exposed nerve-end- witness a recent letter of mine. But they are over.
The Chairman and myself have discussed this and we believe that the matter should be closed. Any other course would be regressive and places all parties in the invidious position of wandering blindly through endless dark tunnels that lead nowhere and to no purpose.
I would be grateful if you would pass on our decision to the Ombudsman and also to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I think that there are lessons to be learned for all from this affair.
Arising from that, please convey to your committee and to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that if I can be of any assistance in the necessary constructive discussion on this important development work’- and as manager of the only truly viable Aboriginal enterprise in Australia. I know that I can- I will be only too pleased to help.
That letter was written to the Chairman of the Committee because the people at Ralkon were frustrated over many years at not getting any proper satisfaction from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and, in particular, from the regional director, Mr Barry Powell, in South Australia. That is all documented in the journals of this Parliament. On two occasions, I think, Mr Malone told me at a Committee of the Senate that no money was available for the Aboriginal enterprise until it sacked the white manager, who was Mr Hillock, the person I am talking about. There was persecution of an Aboriginal enterprise be use it was not prepared to sack the white manager. That is documented in the papers, mentioned by Senator Baume, on 24 August 1978 which I gave to him to peruse before the inquiry was sent to his Committee.
I want to go on record as saying that the liaison between the regional director in South Australia and that particular Aboriginal enterprise of which we are talking left a lot to be desired. The opinion was that the company was not a viable concern. I have said in this Parliament on many occasions that in my view it was a viable concern, and I am very pleased to say that now it has proved to be a viable concern, despite the frustrations that it was facing. It now shows a profit as at 29 February this year of $30,000 and it has an equity of over $200,000 in its property. That has been brought about mainly because the Aboriginals would not be bullied into sacking the white manager, as the regional director of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in South Australia wanted them to do. They said that they would not sack him and that they would go their own way. Under this man’s management they have proved that it is a viable enterprise. It is going ahead in leaps and bounds. I have been there on many occasions. I have talked to the people and looked at the property, and I am convinced that it is a really viable enterprise.
At this stage I want to thank Senator Chaney for going down to that property, having a first hand look at it and talking with the people involved when he first became the Minister. I cannot give any thanks to his predecessor, Mr Viner, because he flatly refused to visit the property and obtain first-hand knowledge. He preferred to rely on information given to him by Mr Powell. At least Senator Chaney does not work in that way; he goes and sees for himself these problems, and I think that that is why he is making such a success of the portfolio that he now holds.
I want to place my tribute to the late Mr Bill Koolmartrie who was chairman of Ralkon from the time the company was first formed until his untimely death in early March last year. Mr Koolmartrie was held in the highest esteem by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him, and that was borne out by the very great numbers of district residents, both Aborigines and white people, who attended Mr Koolmartrie ‘s funeral. It was one of the largest country funerals that I have ever attended. People came from far and wide to pay their respects to the late Mr Koolmartrie. My first involvement with Mr Koolmartrie was soon after my election to the Senate when I was invited by Mr Nigel Thompson, who was then the agricultural consultant employed by the South Australian Aboriginal Lands Trust, to visit a property known as Block K, at Point McLeay of which Mr Bill Koolmartrie was the resident manager. That is one of the three properties that now make up the Ralkon agricultural enterprise.
At that time, the Aboriginal Lands Trust was facing trouble- getting a grant to buy seed and superphosphate to plant the crop for that year.
At Block K the Department was doing everything it could to frustrate the Trust. I made arrangements for Mr Nigel Thompson to come to Canberra for discussions to endeavour to obtain the finance to get that property under way. Unfortunately, Mr Nigel Thompson suffered from the frustation levelled at him by officers of the Department and he retired from the job because of ill health. Mr Koolmartrie stayed there, the Ralkon agricultural enterprise was formed, and he became the chairman. I think that all the frustration and the agonising that that man had to put up with brought about his untimely death. I place on record my tribute to that man for the work which he did for the Aboriginal people in that particular area. I also pay tribute to Mr Bill Nankivell, who was the then Liberal State member for Mallee. Mr Nankivell took a great interest in the Ralkon Aboriginal enterprise, and he was chairman of its consultative committee. He was able to guide these people, together with Mr Hillock, the manager, along a successful path until it became what is one of the most successful Aboriginal enterprises in Australia. I think this enterprise can be held up as a model both to us as members of Parliament and to other Aboriginal enterprises that they can be a viable concern, if they get the right advice and carry out that advice.
I was concerned at one time when there was some criticism levelled at Mr Hillock that he may have been taking an unfair advantage of the Aboriginals. I want to say that that was never ever done. Anyone who visits the Ralkon residence in which Mr and Mrs Hillock live will see that they do not live in any elaborate circumstances. They have a very modest home and they have lived there for many years. Mr Hillock has the support of his wife in doing everything possible for the benefit of the Aborigines, and they do appreciate it. The present chairman of Ralkon Agricultural Co. Pty Ltd is Mr Spencer Rigney who is also held in high esteem. I hope that the Department will not in the future refuse this company any further grants if it falls on hard times. It is very successful financially now. I hope that it will not be necessary for anyone to have to come back into this Senate and put forward another argument over the head of the regional director of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in South Australia so that finance can be granted to a company which, as I have said, has proved itself viable. The success of Ralkon is a great tribute to the people there, and it will be a lasting memorial to the fine work which was put in by the late Mr Bill Koolmartrie
– by leave- I wish to make a short statement. I do this because an officer of my Department has been named in the debate. While acknowledging the very generous comments by Senator McLaren directed both to me and various other people, he was critical of Mr Powell. I wanted merely to put on record that firstly Mr Powell is a very devoted officer who to my personal knowledge works very hard and long hours for the Aboriginal people of South Australia. There have been difficulties between my Department and the Ralkon Pastoral Company Pty Ltd. These difficulties did result in the cutting off of funding a couple of years ago. It is interesting to see that the result of that seems to have been to spur that group on to further greater efforts. I must say that when I first visited South Australia the officers, from Mr Powell down, gave me a very generous assessment of the achievements of the company in the period since the Department of Aboriginal Affairs had not been involved. I place simply on record that the officer who has been criticised is a devoted officer who does very good quality work and who, in my dealings with him, has been generous in his assessments of the people at Point McLeay. I think that statement is necessary simply to balance the remarks which were made by Senator McLaren.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Honourable Kenneth Wriedt, stating that Senator Georges has requested that he be discharged from further attendance upon the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and nominating Senator Tate to be appointed to the Committee in place of Senator Georges.
Motion (by Senator Chaney)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Georges be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and that Senator Tate, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36aa, be appointed to the Committee.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Honourable Kenneth Wriedt, stating that Senator Georges has requested that he be discharged from further attendance upon the Standing Committee on Social Welfare and nominating Senator Grimes to the Committee in place of Senator Georges.
Motion (by Senator Chaney)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Georges be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee on Social Welfare and that Senator Grimes, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36aa, be appointed to the Committee.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it has agreed to the Bill without amendment.
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 incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill proposes amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The amendments are complementary to legislation which has been introduced into the New South Wales Parliament. The two pieces of legislation are necessary to bring into effect the agreement which has been reached between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government to deal with complex legal, jurisdictional and industrial relations problems at Australian Lubricating Oil Refinery Limited, Australian Oil Refining Pty Ltd and Total Refineries Australia Limited in New South Wales. Where necessary there will be provision for a joint sitting of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Industrial Commission of New South Wales to deal with certain oil industry matters.
By way of background, the Senate will recall the very serious industrial situation at Australian Lubricating Oil Refinery Limited, Australian Oil Refining Pty Ltd and Total Refineries Australia Limited in June last year when three of the four oil refineries in New South Wales were closed down, causing massive disruption in that State and hardship to many thousands of its citizens. It should not go unsaid that if in June last year the Premier of New South Wales had been willing to acknowledge that it would be in the best interests of all Australians to support a national, rather than a sectional approach to industrial relations, then this whole tortuous exercise may not have been necessary. It is unfortunate that his recognition of this enlightened approach emerged so long after he had in fact associated himself with sectional interests. In the event, however, it was agreed at that time by the two Governments that in order to restore normal operations at the refineries, a joint Commonwealth- New South Wales officials working party be established to investigate the provision of a tribunal to regulate conditions of employment in the oil industry in New South Wales.
The working party reported to both Governments and after protracted and intensive negotiations between all concerned, including the responsible New South Wales Minister, Mr Hills, and the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street, and the various parties in the oil industry, the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments agreed upon the approach to be taken to resolve the industrial relations problems at these refineries. The agreed arrangements have the following main features:
They will apply only to the operators and their employers at the Caltex and Total refineries in New South Wales;
Common negotiations- the established process for handling Federal claims by the Federal parties within the Federal jurisdiction will proceed as they have always done, untouched by the agreed arrangements;
A mechanism will be provided, including the right of intervention within the New South Wales jurisdiction, for determining which matters will be the subject of a joint sitting;
Appeals from decisions on joint sittings will lie in the New South Wales jurisdiction.
The very circumstances which gave rise to the need to create the special arrangements which this legislation provides reflect the intensity of the conflicting interests with which the Government has been confronted. Accordingly we have taken the view that overall community interest had to be given first priority. What has been arrived at is not being suggested as the ideal, but it is, in the Government’s judgment, the very best that can be wrung out of difficult circumstances- the best means of serving the community. It can work and serve the community well. But no party touched by it can say it meets their every requirement. Without goodwill by all concerned it can founder; without vigilance it can be misused; it therefore places responsibilities and obligations squarely on unions and workers, companies and the tribunals. For our part, we are, within the arrangements, doing everything possible both to encourage such goodwill and to ensure the necessary vigilance. The stakes are so high that the Government must, and will, closely oversight all aspects of the introduction and operation of these arrangements. Let no one misunderstand our position. While we will support them and help to make them work, our fundamental commitment is to ensure that all those who rely on this vital industry can do so without the unpredictable turmoil which has all too often disrupted its operations.
I therefore give notice that we will review our position if the opportunity to make the scheme work is not genuinely taken up. Our prime responsibility to safeguard the community interest demands we reserve the right to do this. Our monitoring and review provisions have been developed precisely for this reason. Safeguards have been built into each stage of the arrangements and both Governments remain committed to preserve the national characteristics of the oil industry. The two Governments have agreed to provide the mechanism for determining which, if any, matters which are the subject of claims within the State jurisdiction should be dealt with by joint sittings and whether any of the matters within claims in the State jurisdiction are currently the subject of common negotiations federally.
An essential safeguard is the opportunity for Federal parties to have the right of intervention within the State jurisdiction in respect of matters which they consider should be dealt with by a joint sitting of the two Commissions. The New South Wales legislation has been drafted in a technical way to fit the principal Act. Consequently there is provision only for the parties respondent to the various federal oil industry awards to have a right of intervention in the New South Wales jurisdiction. The Commonwealth has accepted the assurances given to it and all other parties by the New South Wales Government that there will be no impediment to the Commonwealth’s involvement in these proceedings. A further critically important feature of the arrangements-and another safeguard- is that when there are matters which are currently the subject of common negotiations federally, the Industrial Commission of New South Wales is prohibited from dealing with a claim in the State arena when the subject matter of that claim is included within common negotiations.
Mr President, I turn now to the substance of the proposed amendments. The Bill provides that oil industry industrial matters concerning the oil industry branch operators and their employers at the refineries to which I referred earlier will no longer come within the jurisdiction of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Instead these matters will be dealt with by the Industrial Commission of New South Wales. The Bill also provides for the concurrent operation of a prescribed New South Wales Act insofar as that Act makes provison for dealing with oil industry industrial matters and it provides for a Presidential Member of the Australia Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to be designated to perform functions, exercise powers and carry out duties under a prescribed New South Wales Act.
As part of the agreement between the two Governments, there is an understanding that, if either Government so wishes, there be a review after two years of the arrangements which are being established by the Commonwealth legislation and the complementary New South Wales legislation. This understanding is not embodied in the legislation but has been agreed verbally by Mr Hills and Mr Street, Minister for Industrial Relations, and is to be the subject of an exchange of letters between the two Governments. In summary, Mr President, it is as a result of a unique situation that the two Governments have agreed to the approach which is being taken. It is intended to deal with a specific problem within New South Wales and I stress that the Commonwealth Government remains committed to preserving the national approach to industrial relations in the oil industry. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I rise to speak on the first reading of this Appropriation Bill. I do so because earlier today I was in the course of making a speech about education and its qualities in Australia. I am certainly desirous that it should all appear in the one edition of Hansard. I want to continue the remarks that I was making earlier today when 1 was so rudely interrupted. 1 had been talking about -
– Did you say that you desire to revive the debate- a matter that you have discussed?
– I am talking about rural education, Mr President. There were one or two matters to which I wanted to draw particular attention, which emphasise that the matter that has to be discussed has in a sense a documented need in terms of instrumentalities of the Australian Government. I refer to some of that documentation and indicate that in 1 976, in its report for the 1976 to 1978 triennium, which was published in June 1975, the Schools Commission specifically examined the special needs of country children in Australia. One of the matters to which the Schools Commission then drew attention was the declining work opportunities of young people in Australian country towns. From that it concluded that particular attention should be given to ensuring that country children were not further disadvantaged by inferior educational opportunities. On other occasions I have referred to the fact that in country towns within Australia there are very real problems in terms of job opportunities. These problems have been dealt with in a number of debates in this Senate over a long period as if they were national problems that had arisen in the previous year or two.
They are not problems that have arisen in provincial towns of Australia in the last year or two. They are problems which have been going on for many years.
It was in that context, I think, that the Schools Commission reported about the importance of educational opportunities for country children. In 1975 the Schools Commission specifically recommended that educational opportunities should be brought to country children rather than that children should have to go where the educational opportunities were. In saying that, it was saying something which is consistent with the view of the Opposition, that is, that one should not in any sense be disadvantaged because of where one lives, in a geographical sense, in Australia. The Schools Commission recommended in that context that a variety of teacher incentives be examined with a view to reducing the turnover of teachers in smaller communities and attracting more experienced teachers. Sometimes it is said rather cynically that young teachers practise on country school children for a three-year stint and then return to the cities where, for a variety of cultural and social reasons, the teachers seem to be happier. They leave their charges, as it were, in country communities and return to the cities. For that reason the Schools Commission also recommended that additional specialist services should be available in country regions and needed to be extended.
The Schools Commission was not in a position to administer all the details of suggested programs which would fulfil the needs which it identified, but it was able to spell out what it felt was a Commonwealth role in relation to rural or non-metropolitan education. The Commission recommended that the Commonwealth, in its funding role in relation to education, should spend an additional $56m over three years on improving the quality of education in country areas. That amount in 1979 money values would be equal to about $89m. That was the view that the Schools Commission expressed in 1 975 in its report for the coming triennium. In 1976 another Government inquiry was established to have a go at the same problem. I refer to the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty. In 1976 it published its fifth main report entitled ‘Poverty and Education in Australia’. This report indicated a number of important things about country education in terms of disadvantaged children and their needs compared to those of children in the cities. For example, it pointed out that the length of time at which children stay at school in country areas up to form 12 is approximately only half of that of the city schools- that is, half the children per head of population in country areas stay on until form 12 compared with their corresponding peers in the cities.
The Commission of Inquiry into Poverty also pointed out in its report that in some States the retention rates of schools in various small country communities is virtually the same as that of the most socially disadvantaged schools in Australian cities. There has been a lot of talk in Parliament and elsewhere about the socially disadvantaged in city schools- schools which contain children from the low socioeconomicgroups and schools with high migrant concentrations and children who have difficulty mastering languages. Those are the sorts of schools which are essentially regarded as being disadvantaged in city areas. The essential criterion of the disadvantaged in city areas is the socioeconomic background of the parents, which includes a number of factors, including the fact that they might be migrants. The Poverty Commission pointed out that country schools are in as bad a category of disadvantage as those seriously disadvantaged city schools.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I was talking about the 1 976 report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty entitled ‘Poverty and Education in Australia’. I had previously mentioned the report of the Schools Commission on the educationally disadvantaged in country areas. I had made one or two points about unemployment amongst school leavers in country areas. Another point which was made by the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty was that the ratio of registered unemployed young people in the country to unfilled job vacancies was almost double that for juniors in the metropolitan area. I made the point earlier in my remarks that youth unemployment has now become in a sense a question of national importance in that it is discussed across the board as if it was all the same whether youths lived in metropolitan areas or country areas and that it was a thing of relatively recent origin.
I remind the Senate that the 1 976 report which was written in 1975 was already pointing to the fact that the number of unemployed young people in the country was, in ratio terms, double that of metropolitan areas. As I say, this has been a long-standing problem particularly in provincial towns. A number of other things were mentioned in the findings of that report including the fact that research had indicated a much higher proportion of students in country areas than in the cities felt that schooling was a useless activity. The cultural attitude to education was again something which the inquiry found had been prevalent for a long period.
Two reports document as it were the question of disadvantages which are experienced by pupils in country schools as against kids in city schools. The first was the report of the Schools Commission and the second was the report from the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty to which I have just referred. There was, of course, a third inquiry. I refer to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts which published a report in 1976 relating to isolated school children. That inquiry was conducted over some time and attracted a lot of attention particularly from parents of isolated school children. Let me refer briefly to the main findings of that report. The report found that co-ordination between Federal and State governments was bad in relation to the treatment of isolated children particularly in matters like transport. The Committee referred to the particular problems of Aboriginal children, the need to improve boarding facilities, the need for extended, modernised and co-ordinated schools of the air and correspondence education facilities. Earlier I criticised the Government for a lack of imagination about the use of radio facilities for education in remote areas and the particular need for special education services.
The report also commented on the need to index the isolated children’s allowance paid to parents in respect of special disabilities which children in isolated situations suffer. I remind the Senate that the isolated children’s allowance was introduced by the Whitlam Government and has not been indexed by the present Government. In a moment I will show how the value of that allowance has deteriorated very significantly under the Fraser Government which, as I mentioned earlier, is a government upon which enormous influence is exerted by virtue of the fact that it has a very large number of farmers in its own ranks- people from rural electorates- and also is continually subjected in all its policy deliberations and formulations to the influence of the National Country Party in matters such as trade embargoes, whether they be in respect of Afghanistan, Iran or anything which is detrimental to the interests of the rural community. I am not saying that that is not a legitimate exercise of influence. It is extraordinary that those influences are exercised in relation to those matters yet the same sort of influences do not seem to be exercised by the National Country Party in relation to, for example, the very important subject of the education of children.
The Government’s response to the reports which I have mentioned and to the programs which have flowed from them demonstrates a very sanguine- indeed, thoughtless- attitude to this problem. For example, while the Schools Commission’s disadvantaged country areas program recommended an expenditure of something like $89m in 1979 money terms, the Government will have spent some $18m or $ 1 9m on the program in the four years since it started. This is a very long way from the proposal recommended by the Schools Commission. I do not want to go into any detail but there is no doubt that where the program is working it has been a success and is regarded as such by country communities. There is a lot of parental involvement. It has really been very important in improving the educational life chances of many country children.
In 1978 the scheme involved only 56,000 students, only 9.6 per cent of the 586,000 children which the Schools Commission identified in 1 974 as living predominantly in rural areas or in towns with a population of 5,000 or less. Large areas of outback and rural Australia are untouched by the program which, as I said, has had great success where it has been implemented. There is a real need for the Government to proceed with the implementation of the program. Indeed, it is good to see that the Commission has extended the program in 1980 for the first time to the Northern Teritory. Throughout the four years of its operation, as I have indicated, some $19m has been spent instead of the sum recommended by the Schools Commission. If the Government were concerned with the problem it would realise the very real need to upgrade the program.
The other matter to which I refer is the isolated children’s allowance which was introduced by the Labor Government in 1973. It offers boarding, correspondence and second home allowances for children who live some distance from the nearest government school. In 1979-80 the Government will spend $ 12.5m on the program. It is estimated that to make the allowance equivalent to what it was in 1973 an additional $5m will need to be spent. There has been a decline of some 40 per cent in the value of that allowance. The Opposition says that, despite the National Country Party’s alleged commitment to country areas, the Liberal-National Country Party coalition has failed to increase funds in respect of the major two educational programs which are specifically designed to remove inequalities in education for country residents.
There is ample evidence that education in country areas must be given a more satisfactory deal by governments. Of course, that depends upon one ‘s priorities. In the overall context of debate about education, the Government has adopted a very broad brush and unimaginative approach. In a business interest, say, the Government claims that educational expenditure is too high; it is wasted. It claims that expenditure on health and welfare, for example, is too high. Education is treated in exactly the same way. Those sorts of remarks are reiterated by people such as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in broad brush attacks on the education system, without their looking to see what the particular needs in particular areas are.
As I said, no initiatives have been taken by the Fraser Government in the area of education. All that has followed has been an extension, as it were, of Labor Government programs, with significant cutbacks being made in the amount of funds which have been made available for them. In the Fraser Government’s approach to education there is not a tittle of evidence that this society now, in 1 980, is any different from what it was in 1975 or, indeed, in 1970. There is no suggestion that education might be more significant now, perhaps, because of very rapid technological change and its effect on employment. None of these issues have been foreshadowed in any Government statements about educational expenditure. More importantly, there is not a tittle of evidence of concern for gross inequalities in school education, which exist between disadvantaged schools in the cities and less disadvantaged schools, between migrant children and children of Anglo-Saxon birth. The Government appears to believe that no inequalities exist as a result of those situations. More particularly, in the context of what I am saying, there is not the slightest recognition by this bunyip sort of Government that we have that country children are in any way disadvantaged.
There are gross inequalities, which have been documented and identified. They are particularly evident in the sort of documentation to which I have referred in the course of my remarks. In a country of this wealth there is no reason for allowing these sorts of inequalities to continue. It is a matter which ought to be of concern in conjunction with other areas of educational inequality which can be equally well documented and which are equally apparent to anybody who removes the blinkers and takes the trouble to look at the evidence. It is in the context of overall discussion in the education debate that I particularly raise this problem tonight.
– When I joined the Senate my major regret was that my party was not in government. Although I stood for the Senate in 1970 and 1974, and although I presented myself unsuccessfully, to the Parliament of Queensland in 1975, subsequently in 1975 I was elected to the Senate. When I was elected I had not experienced any service in government. Now, four and a half years later, I foresee that I shall not have to wait long before I have the opportunity to serve in government. The Government is not accepted by the people of Australia. Except for a minor hiccup recently, polls consistently have shown a preference for the Australian Labor Party. Even with that minor hiccup, the assessment on that occasion was that the Labor Party would win government narrowly.
A major reason for the Government’s lack of popularity is its handling of the economy. That is seen by the people of Australia to be quite ineffective. Certainly, the present Government, before it came to power in 1975 and in 1977, made many promises. But those promises have not been backed up by performance. Even when the Treasurer (Mr Howard) brought down a statement on the economy last month, newspapers throughout Australia could not hold back their anger at the incompetence of the Government. We saw such headlines as this: The Treasurer’s Three-card Trick’, ‘When A Tax Cut is Something Else’, ‘A Lightweight Tax Package’. Another headline, with a sub-headline read: ‘Howard Niggles Wives Who Work. Last week was the week of the tax cuts that weren’t’. In my State of Queensland the Courier-Mail, referring to the tax rip-off at the petrol pump, carried the words: ‘T’anks a lot for nothing, Mr Howard’. The Treasurer opened his speech by talking about inflation. He said:
At the time of the last Budget we expected inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, to rise by a little above 10 per cent for 1979-80. On the evidence so far, this prediction remains unchanged.
That statement, on the surface, appears reasonable. But let us look at some of the statements on inflation which the Government made before then. I go back to 1975 and read from the policy speech of the then caretaker Prime Minister. He said:
The Government’s economic strategy will bc designed to bring down the rate of inflation.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) followed that up with another statement on the matter in his 1977 policy speech. In the light of those statements made in 1975 and 1977 and the many statements which have been made in this chamber, it is interesting to consider the Government’s record on inflation. We would be churlish to say anything other than that the rate of inflation did drop for a certain time after this Government came to power. It started to drop in 1976, but only slightly. The main drop came in about December 1977, when it dropped from 13.1 per cent to 9.3 per cent. Then, in 1978, it dropped to 8.2 per cent. It then dropped to an all-time low for this Government’s period in office in June, September and December, when it was 7.9 per cent, 7.9 per cent and 7.8 per cent respectively. (Quorum formed). But in 1979 the inflation rate started to rise again. It rose from 7.8 per cent in the December quarter of 1978 to 8.2 per cent in the March quarter of 1979. In the next quarter it was 8.8 per cent. The September quarter showed an inflation rate of 9.2 per cent. In the December quarter the inflation rate again went into double figures at 10 per cent. Throughout 1979 there was a steady and sure increase in the rate of inflation in this country. What does the Government do now that the rate of inflation is increasing? I refer to what the Treasurer said about this in March. He said:
Honourable members will be aware of the sharp rises in inflation overseas in recent times . . . It was, of course, impossible to isolate the Australian economy from this development, which was a major reason why prices rose faster in 1 979 than in 1978. These overseas pressures persist.
In a paper presented to the Forty-sixth Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science Congress on 22 January 1 975, on this very topic, Mr Fraser said:
I do not believe that men and women are governed by inexorable events beyond control. When political leaders say the present situation cannot be helped, it is part of a world situation, they are expressing the futility of their own leadership when if they were men of real stature, they would be saying ‘we can overcome’.
Mr Howard was obviously saying that overseas pressures were increasing the inflation rate in Australia. But Mr Fraser was saying in 1975, admittedly before he was the Prime Minister, that one cannot use that type of excuse to explain the increasing inflation rate. Mr Fraser was saying that one should do something about it. The Government cannot have it both ways. The public is looking for consistency from the Government. If Mr Fraser’s statement in 1975 about what we should be doing if there are overseas pressures is correct, let us keep to it. If Mr Howard’s statement that overseas pressures increase inflation is correct, let us keep to that. But let us not dodge from one to the other as Mr Fraser and Mr Howard have so obviously done.
I use this occasion to look at the employment record of this Government. Again, it is probably worth while to have a look at the statement by Mr Howard in March of this year. In part he said:
In the Budget Speech, I said that I did not expect unemployment to improve in the year ahead … At the end of January 1980, approximately 440,000 people, or 6.7 per cent of the labour force, were unemployed compared with 7 per cent in January 1 979.
How can we become complacent as Mr Howard obviously has when probably more than half a million people are unemployed? The figures to which Mr Howard referred and to which I will refer shortly relate to those people who are registered as unemployed. We know only too well that many people in the community who are unemployed do not register as unemployed. I remind honourable senators again of Mr Fraser’s 1 975 policy speech in which he spoke about employment. We know only too well that he said:
Only under a Liberal-National Country Party Government will there be jobs for all who want to work.
What was the record that followed that statement? In December 1975 when Mr Fraser made that statement 329,000 people were unemployed. In December 1979 441,000 people were unemployed. Over 100,000 more people became unemployed during that period. Yet in 1975 Mr Fraser said that his government would provide jobs for everybody who wanted to work. The latest figure I have noted shows that 462,000 people are unemployed. That figure is for February 1 980. We must remember all the other people who have opted out of the work force. The participation rates are becoming lower. Many people in the community have decided that it is not worth while going out into the work force and they have opted out. They are either staying at school or they are married women who are staying at home. They do not register as unemployed.
Finally, I look at the taxation record of this Government. Taxation was also mentioned in the policy speech of Mr Fraser in 1975. Australians are taking an increasing interest in the Government’s tax policy. After all, each time they fill the petrol tanks of their cars, they are providing revenue to the Government. The Government has made many promises on tax indexation. In 1975 Mr Fraser said:
We will fully index personal income tax for inflation over three years … It will make government more honest with your money. They will no longer be able to rely on the secret tax increase of inflation.
In 1977 Mr Fraser reiterated in his policy speech the Government’s commitment to tax indexation. He said:
Tax indexation saves every Australian taxpayer more money each year.
But what has happened? We certainly do not have tax indexation in the way Mr Fraser suggested in 1975. We do not have 100 per cent tax indexation. If we are to have indexation it must be 100 per cent indexation to mean anything at all. Again I refer to the speech of the Treasurer of March this year. He said: . . Government has decided to apply 50 per cent indexation of the personal taxation scale . . . with effect from 1 July 1980.
As was noted by many newspapers, the results of this will be that from July millions of Australians will have an extra 85c a week. Let us look at what followed after Mr Howard said that there would be 50 per cent tax indexation. I claim that if we have only 50 per cent tax indexation we really cannot call it indexation at all. Mr Howard said:
We might assume that the average CPI figure for the four quarters ending March 1980 will be about 9.5 per cent - . . Discounting that figure for the effects of indirect taxes and the first two stages of the move towards parity pricing for all . . . would produce an indexation factor of about 8.1 percent.
The full increase in the consumer price index will not be used. First of all we will take out increases because of the first two stages of the move towards parity pricing for oil. Therefore, this will artifically reduce what could be a 9.5 per cent CPI figure down to 8. 1 per cent. But the discounting does not finish there. The Treasurer also said that it is the intention of the Government to discount for health insurance charges. So any increase arising from those charges will not be used for tax indexation purposes. The fourth factor by which to discount the CPI will be the further impact of the Government decision to move to full import parity pricing of crude oil. Those two factors will reduce the CPI figure another 0.9 per cent. Instead of having a CPI of 9.5 per cent for tax indexation purposes we are down to 7.2 per cent because we have discounted for four separate items. Even that figure of 7.2 per cent will not be used for indexation. We will use only half of that discounted figure. The figure of 3.6 per cent will be used for indexation.
Let us suppose there is an increase in the CPI of 9.5 per cent. We will not even use half of that figure, which is 4.75 per cent. We will be down to 3.6 per cent. That is the figure which will be used for indexing taxation. It is a charade to say that taxation is being indexed if we have a consumer price index figure of 9.5 per cent and we index taxation at a figure of 3.6 percent. No wonder we saw headlines in newspapers the following day which said that millions of Australians will get an extra 85c per week and that that extra 85c will come in July. Of course, by that time the value of that 85c will have well and truly disappeared because the price of petrol will have gone up again. The 85c will probably go in a week’s tankful of petrol. Other prices will have increased, too. So in itself the 85c is illusory. Even though it is illusory it is supposed to disappear in another way, too. I would like to quote another section of the Treasurer’s speech. He said:
As a result of these changes millions of Australians will receive an increase in their take home pay. Against this background the Government expresses the very firm hope that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will take full account of these tax reductions when making both its indexation and work value determinations.
He was saying that even though there was indexation at the rate of about 3.6 per cent, the
Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was expected to take this into account so that workers would get less when their claims were being determined by that body.
Few of the Fraser Government’s election promises have been fulfilled. This evening I have taken the opportunity to mention those promises in the fields of employment, inflation and taxation. Between now and the next election, whenever that may be, we of the Australian Labor Party will be reminding the electorate of all these failures. So too will we be outlining Labor’s alternative policies. Four main areas have been submitted already to the electorate, showing policies for health, housing, employment and energy. Given the Government ‘s sorry record and the excellence of Labor policies, I look forward to seeing Labor in power next year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1979-80 which, together with Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1979-80 which I shall introduce shortly, comprises the additional Estimates for 1979-80. In these Bills, Parliament is asked to appropriate moneys to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures additional to the appropriations made under Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2) 1979-80. The additional appropriations total $367. 5m. Of this, $323. 9m is sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and $43. 6m in Appropriation Bill (No. 4). The additional appropriations sought in the Bills are offset to some extent by savings in appropriations made by Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2), resulting partly from the Government’s determined efforts to achieve savings in expenditure wherever possible. These savings, amounting to $1 15.8m, are detailed under the relevant appropriation headings in the document, Statement of Savings Expected in Annual Appropriations, which has been distributed to honourable senators.
Notwithtanding the additional appropriations now sought, current expectations are that total outlays in 1979-80, including those financed from special appropriations, will exceed the Budget Estimate by only a relatively small margin. This reflects the Government’s continued adherence to its policy of maintaining maximum expenditure restraint. I now outline some of the main areas where the Government has found it necessary to seek additional appropriations in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1979-80. Honourable senators will recall that the overall Budget figuring contained an allowance of $65m for prospective wage and salary rate increases in the Public Service including Defence, but that that amount was not then appropriated. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate $70. lm to meet increases in award rates and other wage and salary costs since the Budget consisting of $32m, civil, and$38.1m, Defence.
Included under administrative expenses votes is $3. 2m for the Department of Defence, due to program variations including the Zimbabwe contingent and training of FFG crews in the United States of America, and to cost increases. An amount of $ 1.5m is required by the Department of Housing and Construction to cover additional expenditure on the engagement of architects, engineers and other consultants on such projects as the Brisbane Airport development, the National Biological Standards Laboratory and new terminal complex at Coolangatta.
Under the Other Services heading,. $49.4m is sought for the Department of Defence mainly to fund a revised schedule of payments to the United States Department of Defence in relation to the FFG project, and $4 1 . 1 m for the increased cost of fuel and additional purchases arising from decisions on Defence priorities. An additional $ 12m has been included for the Department of Foreign Affairs in accordance with the Government’s decision to provide $6m in relief aid to Kampuchea, $2m as Australia’s contribution to Timor’s humanitarian relief needs, $lm to each of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appeals for refugees from Afghanistan and Zimbabwe and $Im each to Tanzania and Uganda.
Other significant other services provisions include: $2. lm for the Department of Administrative Services for general increases in contract rates for removal services and increases in storage service costs; together with $l.lm to enable donations to the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust to be matched by the Government on a dollar for dollar basis; $2m for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs relating mainly to a higher level of sales of subsidised products; $4.4m under the Department of Education for cost supplementation of the recurrent program for the Australian National University; $1.6m under the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs to meet additional payments under the Community Youth Support Scheme; $6m under the Department of Health for higher than expected redundancy payments to retrenched Medibank Standard staff and salaries payments to surplus staff; a further $3.2m for the Capital Territory Health Commission including additional costs for the construction of Calvary Hospital; $4.1m for the Department of National Development and Energy for payment to the Energy Research Trust Account in place of funds for energy research which are not available for payment to the newly created trust account; $2. 8m for the Department of Transport for the net increase in operating costs of the Australian National Railways; $3.6m for the Department of Productivity for increase in subsidy payable on production of Nomad aircraft; and $ 17.2m for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for increases in medical, dental, pharmaceutical, hospital and ambulance charges, together with increased use of services by veterans. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) 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 Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1979-80 in which appropriations totalling $43. 6m- additional to those made by Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1979-80- are sought for capital works and services, payments to or for the States, and other services. The proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1979-80. I now mention some of the major items in respect of which additional appropriations are sought in the BDI.
An amount of $5.6m to be provided for the Department of the Capital Territory includes labour and costs increases- $4. 6m- which are a Commonwealth liability under the terms and conditions of National Capital Development Commission contracts and additional fees$0.8m on major projects resulting from increased building costs. An amount of $3. 5m is required under the Department of National Development and Energy for the Pipeline Authority, principally in relation to the settlement of a litigation dispute with one of the contractors for the construction of the Moomba-Sydney pipeline. An increase of $5. 6m in working capital is required for the Department of Productivity to finance production of aircraft by the Government Aircraft Factories. Sales are now expected to be finalised early in 1 980-8 1 when a repayment of excess working capital should be possible.
To enable initial payments to be made to the States and the Australian Capital Territory under the first stage of a $250m five-year program and to help school leavers make the transition from school to work, $7m is to be provided under the Department of Education. An amount of $ 10.9m is included under the Department of Finance to provide additional funds necessary to meet the Commonwealth’s contribution towards increased estimated expenditure by the States on natural disaster relief and restoration, mainly in respect of recent disasters, including extension of drought relief arrangements in Western Australia and cyclone activity in Queensland.
Other additional appropriations of significance include:
An amount of $1.5m for the Department of Housing and Construction, the major part of which is required as a consequence of faster than anticipated progress with construction of the multi-storey ward block and kitchen at the Repatriation General Hospital Greenslopes; $1.5m for the Department of National Development and Energy, being the Commonwealth’s sharethat is, one-quarter- of additional costs for the Dartmouth Dam incurred by the Murray River Commission; $lm for the Department of Transport to meet cost escalation on committed purchases of capital equipment, relative to provision of airport and airway services; and $I.3m for the Department of the Treasury being additional funds to be provided to the Northern Territory by means of tax-sharing entitlement and general purpose capital assistance, following transfer of Executive responsibility for the Northern Territory Supreme Court to the Northern Territory Government on 1 October 1 979. 1 commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 1 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I presume that the Income Tax Laws Amendment Bill 1980 and the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill 1980 are being debated cognately.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- Is it the wish to the Senate that the Bills be debated cognately? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill 1980 provides for the declaration of rates of tax payable by individuals and trustees on the income of dependent children. The other Bill, and probably the more important Bill, is the Income Tax Laws Amendment Bill. It does a number of things. It changes the basis of taxing the income of trusts of dependent children; it varies the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act dealing with the taxable value of accommodation provided to employees free of charge or at subsidised rates; it purports to close off further tax loopholes, in this case dealing with the deductibility of bad debts; and it grants deductible status for tax purposes to relief efforts in Kampuchea and East Timor.
We of the Opposition will not be opposing these Bills but we wish to make it clear, as we are talking about at least $30m of taxation revenue which the Government is forgoing by these rather watered down amendments relating to income splitting for children by the use of trusts, that we find it surprising that the Government was not prepared to be tougher and stick to what it had indicated earlier. I will come back to that. As this Government has expressed so much concern about reducing expenditure and increasing revenue and as the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has, in the eyes of many supporters in his party, mounted what they regard as an almost evangelical campaign against tax avoidance, it is extraordinary that this legislation is not stronger. We have been seriously concerned that following the abolition of gift duty it has become very much easier for wealthy parents to use trusts established for their children as a means of reducing their total tax liability.
I do not propose to go into the same detail as did my colleague the shadow Treasurer, Mr Willis, in the debate in the House of Representatives. During that debate he incorporated in Hansard a table which shows quite clearly the impact of income splitting by the use of trusts. For example, instead of paying $32,528 tax on a taxable income of $100,000, the tax payable before the announcement by the Treasurer of 26 July last year was $20,279. Under the current legislation the tax payable would have been $36,234 but the income splitting arrangements will reduce that to $16,573. Again it is clear that the wealthier sections of the community, those in a better position to take advantage of the taxation system, are able with the support of the Government to shift that tax burden to the lower income groups.
In spite of the Government’s declared intentions last year to close off the child trust loophole, very strong pressure was brought to bear on the Treasurer and the announcement of 26 July last year subsequently has been watered down. That proposal was that all income other than employment income of unmarried persons who at the end of the income year are under 1 8 years of age or are full time students up to the age of 25 years would be taxed at the middle rate of income tax. In this tax year, that rate is 47.07c in the dollar. Had the Treasurer had the courage to stick to his original proposition, which I think would have found a great deal of sympathy in the community, the measure would have collected $ 125m in a full financial year. The mere fact that it has been estimated that that amount would be collected indicates the extent of income-splitting arrangements through family trusts. Between July and November last year obviously there were very strong pressures from the better off sections of the Liberal Party who exercised their influence on the Treasurer and on 14 November a new set of proposals was announced. What we are talking about is raising an additional $70m, but I suspect that with further use of trusts and other tax avoidance schemes, the amount collected will be more like half that figure- $30m or perhaps $35m. The proposals announced on 14 November were that the new arrangements would not apply to student children between the ages of 18 and 25 years but only to children under 18 years of age. However, the Treasurer now claims that that would have adversely affected the student who wished to obtain work.
The second modification to the Treasurer’s statement in July was that the level of nonemployment income exempted from the new system would be increased from $416 to $1,040 per annum, or from $8 to $20 a week. But the full rate of tax does not start to apply until an income of $3,625 is reached, and there is still very real scope for distributing income to minors. The level of investments would have to be reasonably high, probably in excess of $14,000, for the higher rates to be paid. It would be pertinent for the Treasurer to indicate how many incomeearning students and other minors he believes to have investments in excess of such a figure. I suspect that there would be very few. These figures illustrate very clearly that instead of closing off a tax loophole, in fact the Government has formalised an area of abuse within the taxation system.
The third modification deals with income derived from the property left to a child as part of a deceased estate. It permits such income to be exempt, and while the Opposition supports the proposal, it sees that it could have some prospect of being used by surviving spouses for tax avoidance purposes. We presume that the Treasurer and the Government will maintain a careful observation of the workings of this provision. The fourth change deals with a child ‘s income from savings or from the child’s business. It is very difficult to understand how many children under the age of 25 years would have a substantial business. Perhaps we can think in terms of newspaper boys, children doing odd jobs, such as lawn mowing and that type of thing, but I doubt whether many children would be in that substantial business income area. We argue that it will be almost impossible for the Taxation Office to detect when a child’s income is being increased artificially by parents’ income.
The fifth alteration involves income from compensation awards, court-ordered settlements, or public appeals for needy persons. We do not find any objection to that modification, but we do have some objection to the discretion which will be given to the Commissioner of Taxation under the new amendment. For example, a person who entered into an income-splitting arrangement before 26 July last year is protected from any increase in taxation. We contend that if a taxpayer entered into a tax-dodging arrangement before that date- that is, 26 July- he did so with known risks. The Treasurer has stated his intention to crack down on tax avoidance, although in this case actions are not matching words. There is no justifiable reason why this Parliament should be concerned with the problems and costs tax avoiders may have in disentangling themselves from their arrangements. The ludicrous position is that, in spite of the Treasurer’s claims, there is ample scope for continued diversion of parents ‘ incomes to children and a consequent reduction in total tax collections. We make our position quite clear. We support the recommendations of the Asprey Committee, which recommended that the income of children under trusts be taxed by adding that income back into the parents’ taxable income. If there is additional property income which is not obtained by an earning on the part of the child, this should also be added back and the total taxable income taxed at the proper rate.
I now turn to the proposed amendments affecting section 26 (e), which follow the review of that section of the Act dealing with the value of a house provided by an employer to an employee at either concessional rentals or free of charge. Early in 1979 we were aware that the Government proposed to add onto an employee’s income the full estimated commercial value of concessional rental accommodation, and quite a number of questions were asked about it in this place. This would have increased quite considerably the tax burden for many pastoral and mining workers. There was no indication that the assessed rentals for many executives and professional people living in large city establishments, which had been paid for as a prerequisite or were owned by tax avoidance companies, would be similarly treated. We do not object to the changes the Government proposes. However, we cannot help but have the suspicion that if the Government finds itself in urgent need of revenue, it will quickly crack down on employees with concessional rental accommodation. We were surprised that it took so long for the Government to produce the set of criteria by which the assessment of concessional rental accommodation would be judged. Because the assessment is at the Commissioner’s discretion, we are never absolutely sure that the position of those workers in remote or difficult areas is protected. Whilst the zone allowances are restricted, concessional rental housing has been a means of attracting people to work in isolated areas. The same cannot be said for concessional rental housing in the inner suburbs of, say, Sydney or Melbourne, whence I suggest comes much of the support for the Government. I have been very surprised that the National Country Party, which purports to represent people who live in rural areas, has not been more vocal about the treatment of concessional housing. There must be many farmers and graziers whose employees have found their taxable income increased by adding commercial rentals on property accommodation. It seems to us that the position of these people should have been made a great deal clearer.
We are not opposing any of the amendments to either of these Bills, but we do find some difficulty in understanding the basic attitudes of the Government towards this general area of taxation. The Fraser Government has been the largest tax collector in the history of this country. We have a Treasurer who has campaigned about tax avoidance in an almost missionary sense. Unfortunately, some of his followers in his party are not as zealous about the matter as he is. The present Government obviously is prepared for higher taxation, especially on the lower and middle income groups, higher petrol taxation, higher inflationary scales, and higher indirect charges and taxes. At the same time, it is prepared to leave open large areas of tax avoidance and, in our view, amendments in this legislation do little other than to institutionalise some of those schemes.
– The debate tonight relates to the Income Tax Laws Amendment Bill 1980. The main thrust of that Bill is to make certain amendments which were first announced by the Treasurer ( Mr Howard) last July in respect of trusts and the means by which those people who were taking advantage of those trusts would be taxed. Under previous arrangements, tax had been charged at a different rate but higher than that applicable to persons receiving income from ordinary sources. The purpose of this Bill is to raise that rate of tax applicable to income in excess of $1,040 to the middle personal income tax rate of 46 per cent. As Senator Wriedt has pointed out, it is not the top marginal income tax rate that is being applied.
He mentioned particularly that it was a recommendation of Mr Justice Asprey in 1975 that that should occur. However, I think Senator Wriedt overlooks the fact that at the same time, Mr Justice Asprey also spoke of a different tax rate structure or a different regime applicable to business incomes of many types. In particular, he was speaking of the incomes of private companies which were at that time the most common vehicle for ordinary private family businesses. The purpose of Mr Justice Asprey ‘s remarks in that respect was to allow a similar income splitting device as a trust would allow by virtue of people opting to treat themselves as a partnership of various family members rather than as one corporate group. Consequently, the effect of that suggestion, under Justice Asprey ‘s recommendations, would have been exactly the same as the system under which incomes were being split under trust arrangements previously in force. What I am trying to say is that Senator Wriedt has not read all of Mr Justice Asprey’s report. Of course, had the Government assumed that his recommendation should be put into force, it would have been reasonable that the maximum marginal rate would be applied. But in the circumstances under which the proposals have been brought foward by the Government, I believe that it is perfectly reasonable to have worked on the middle income tax rate of 46 per cent.
The second point I would like to make is that, quite apart from the fact that the recommendations which were first announced in July 1 979 were aimed at anti-tax avoidance, there were several unintended effects which stemmed from the recommendations. In fact, we saw situations in which children engaged in fairly minor and low income work would have found their incomes taxed at a rate of 46 per cent from the first dollar earned. People in receipt of social security benefits would have been taxed as if they were in receipt of non-employment type income. We would have found that widows in receipt of pension payments from superannuation funds administered by trustees would have been taxed at the exceptionally high rate, in their circumstances, of 46 per cent. Single orphans also would have found themselves in that situation. Does Senator Wriedt say that in fact we should have maintained that initial regime in order to penalise heavily those groups in the community which could be regarded as disadvantaged? Does he therefore argue -
– In that case, what is he saying? I challenge Senator Wriedt to argue otherwise because he is claiming that the Government’s actions, in fact, have allowed all sorts of loopholes for further diversion of income for the purpose of avoiding taxation. I put it to the Senate that the actions that have been taken are reasonable and, I believe, popular in the community on the same grounds as the action taken in making sure that the anti-tax avoidance regimes stick is also generally very popular in the community.
I shall examine one or two other aspects of the Bill. I believe that the Australian Labor Party has criticised the discretion of the Commissioner of Taxation as set out in the Bill in proposed new section 102AJ. That section allows the Commissioner of Taxation, in cases of hardship, to make a special decision in favour of the taxpayer. Again, I believe, that is a perfectly reasonable approach in circumstances where it is possible that unintended effects of the legislation could become evident in due course. To provide a power for the Commissioner to do something in those circumstances is perfectly reasonable, bearing in mind the anti-avoidance effects. Stripped down to its bones, the proposal is sensible and is aimed at ensuring that, in fact, a strict anti-avoidance regime is applicable, that the most pertinent anomalies are relieved in all the possible circumstances that can be envisaged at present and that the Commissioner has a discretion in order to relieve hardship where it becomes evident. That seems to me to be the basis of very sensible legislation in this area.
I think we have to bear in mind that taxation legislation these days is becoming very complex. In fact, one has only to look at the latest consolidation of the Income Tax Assessment Act to see that. The latest Act incorporates amendments made up to 3 1 December 1 979. Even though the Act is printed on very thin paper, it is now more than 2Vi to three centimetres thick. Of course, we know that more amendments are already in the pipeline. The complexity which that Act, in terms of how ordinary people can read it and determine their situations, is causing a great deal of concern in certain quarters of the community. I am not talking about that group which would automatically seek at every chance to exercise its opportunities to exploit loopholes. The fact is that legislation such as the Income Tax Assessment Act is becoming extremely complicated and very difficult to understand for the ordinary person.
I would like to voice a few concerns about the general principle of anti-tax avoidance legislation. Senator Wriedt mentioned earlier the Asprey Taxation Review Committee report which was brought down in 1975. I am concerned that only part of the Asprey Committee recommendations has been implemented. In fact, I believe that very substantial and worthwhile recommendations are set out in that report which deserve consideration by the Government. One of those recommendations relates to the matter which I have just mentioned in connection with the allowance for persons who opt to be treated as partnerships rather than companies for the purpose of taxation. Another very sensible recommendation, and one which has had a great impact on businesses in recent times, was that there ought to be an allowance against taxable income in the form of a deduction for the provision of long service leave. I support that suggestion wholeheartedly because it has a very great impact on the ability of firms to remain liquid in times of rising wages such as we have seen over the last six years.
Another very important suggestion in that report related to self-employed persons who are restricted in respect of the amount they can deduct against their taxable incomes for payments and contributions to superannuation funds. In fact, in general terms, persons in that category are subject to the same rules as are people who are in employment. The disadvantage to self-employed people is that they are unable to accumulate the amounts which are required in order to provide them with a retirement fund in the same way as can employed people who have others contributing to them.
As an example of that, take the case of a public servant who is in employment and who, under normal rules, would be entitled, upon his retirement, to a retirement pension which is indexed according to inflation. That is a very important benefit in terms of his future lifestyle. In fact, he contributes to a superannuation fund in accordance with a formula that is based on five per cent or thereabouts of his salary. The Government, being the employer, contributes a larger sum. I do not have the numbers at my fingertips, but the amount would be far greater than the amount which the employee is contributing.
My point is that the self-employed person is in no position to be able to obtain a deduction for any amount in excess of what might otherwise be allowable as a tax deduction to that employed person, but indeed the employed person has another party contributing to his final benefit. It is that which I believe is inequitable in the present situation insofar as self-employed people are disadvantaged in terms of providing for their own retirement benefits. 1 believe that the particular matter which flows from that has to be discussed tonight as well, that is that in that particular category- it has been demonstrated in recent times- there has been a great upsurge in the amount of artifical tax schemes being sold in the community to persons in that category.
It is quite obvious that the major reasons why this is occuring is because self-employed persons- because of ethical considerations and because of legal considerations in many cases- find themselves unable to take advantage of tax laws and other employment provisions available to employed persons. Consequently, I believe that this disadvantage which selfemployed people suffer is a major thrust in their abandonment of standards which may have previously applied, and the adoption of many tax avoidance schemes which they previously would not have contemplated entering. It is also a result of very high rates of income tax which persons are subject to in Australia, especially at the top rate. While a person is earning $100,000- that might sound a princely sum to the average citizen, and indeed it does to me- I would like to(Quorum formed). Before the quorum was formed, I was discussing the matter of selfemployed people and the taxation problems which they face. I now turn to the small family business’ which operates in the form of a company. The particular matter to which I refer is Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act which requires a family company to pay out 30 per cent of its after-tax income to its family members. Indeed, that has been demonstrated on many occasions as having a very detrimental effect on businesses of this type in that it draws off liquidity of family businesses and prevents them from employing more people and from developing programs of plant expansion and new product development.
In that particular area recommendations have been made, as I mentioned earlier, by Mr Justice Asprey, for the option to treat people in that category as partners rather than as a company. 1 also draw the attention of the Senate to a publication entitled Undistributed Profits Tax- a Critical Analysis, published by the Taxation Institute Research and Education Trust, which was written by Mr Y. F. R. Grbich and Mr B. Cooper. ( Quorum formed).
With regard to Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, I have pointed out that because of the heavy impact of a second tax which is not applied to shareholders of a public company, this is a disincentive to the employment of people and the development of businesses. In particular, in the report I mentioned earlier, the suggestion is made that a test ought to be applied by the Commissioner of Taxation whereby amounts which are set aside and retained by companies for the purposes of development of their business as denned along the lines of a concept of genuine business requirements ought to be retained within the business free of the effects of Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. It seems to me that that is a quite reasonable and very worthwhile suggestion for overcoming the difficulties in this particular section of the Act, insofar as it would provide an incentive for firms in this situation to ensure that they maintain their liquid capital base, and can enter more favourable or rather better developments of their businesses.
In paragraph 5.16 of that report some guidelines are drafted for the attention of the Taxation Office, and which a Commissioner could have regard to in the event of his adopting the suggestions for discretion in this area. I read those guidelines:
I believe those are sensible suggestions (Quorum formed). In respect of family companies of this type I should like to mention just one other aspect before I conclude my remarks. I would hope that even Senator McLaren might learn something. It relates to the problems of businesses which are subject to inflation in the same way as anybody else, and in particular the problem that businesses of this type are taxed on the concept of taxable income as distinct from their income as calculated in accordance with accounting principles. Although they may sound the same, there is a very significant difference between the two. Although it is a large company in order to demonstrate the point, I will refer to the annual report of BP Australia Ltd. If one calculated the taxable income of that company in accordance with the normal principles laid down by the Commissioner of Taxation, the taxable income of that company in the last financial year would be $97. 8m. However, BP Australia went to the extent of working out what the profit would have been had it applied full principles of current cost accounting, that is, to value stocks in accordance with an index value which discounted its profit by the amount of inflation in its stocks, and to take into account the full effect of depreciation on the present value of its assets and plant.
In those circumstances, the profit dropped to $4.2m. That is a drop from $97.8m to $4.2m. Many examples around Australia demonstrate this point. It is not only the question of private and small companies which are affected. It applies also to large companies. The point that is made here is that the income that is available from the profits and trading of any company, is significantly less for the purposes of” reinvestment and development of the business and in order to keep up the level of inflation than is the profit which is actually taxed by the application of normal taxation principles.
I referred to one or two cases of that earlier, particularly in respect to the provision for long service leave. Only in the case in which payments of long service leave are made are those amounts deductible against taxable income. In circumstances in which all companies and all employers are required by law to set aside amounts of money within their business to meet the future long service leave of their employees, those amounts are not tax deductible. As a result, the liquidity base of a business is severely restricted and consequently there is a very great difficulty in funding up the developments of that particular business. It is to that area that I should like to draw the attention of the Senate because it is in fact a rather different thought which comes to people’s minds when such significant differences between the taxation income and the accounting income are taken into account. Here we have a situation in which companies are paying significantly more taxation in respect of their real income than they would otherwise be taxed.
That to me means that the real rate of taxation applicable to business people who are working in those circumstances is significantly higher than those rates which show on the income tax scales and which are incorporated into our laws. Persons who are employed do have the protection of their incomes rising not only in real terms but also in terms of national wage case adjustments each year, and consequently are being protected against inflation to that extent. In those circumstances there is no automatic protection for companies and businesses. Bearing in mind all those particular aspects, I believe that many questions are raised as to the direction of antiavoidance tax policy, as indeed I believe there ought to be circumstances considered by the Government in relation to radical reforms of the law, especially in terms of the capacity of the individual company, the individual business, to provide for its own welfare, to provide more jobs, to provide more opportunities for the development of the business in order to provide for the retirement from his own resources of the selfemployed which is not available to the employed citizen in the normal circumstances. Whilst I support generally the principle of small business, I would make the point that at this stage and in the terms of this legislation the Government ought to consider those matters. I support the Bills.
– The Income Tax Laws Amendment Bill and the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill give effect to announcements over recent months concerning various taxation reforms. Although the proposals cannot be construed in any way as major revisions of the income tax structure, they represent significant legislative advancements in those areas to which they apply. No one would argue about the provision of tax deductibility for gifts towards relief efforts in Kampuchea and East Timor. At the same time, the changes in the basis of taxing the income of trusts and dependent children, and the moves to counter tax avoidance and the exploitation of bad debts as deductions to evade taxation are all legitimate and responsible actions taken in this Bill.
Senator Wriedt mentioned the zone allowance. Whilst it is not part of this Bill, I do enter a plea for the zone allowance to be upgraded because people living in the remoter parts of Australia, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia, do suffer great financial disabilities from living in those areas. Just off the top of my head, I would think that many country areas in the north of Queensland have an increment of at least 15 per cent to 25 per cent in their cost of living coming out of the freight cost of bringing all the goods needed and the services required into the areas. There is need for a revision of the zone allowance so that people who are in those remote areas in the legitimate service of Australian commerce get some compensation for being there.
I wish to direct my initial remarks to that part of the legislation which covers the taxable value of housing provided by employers. I would take issue with what Senator Wriedt said about its applying principally to the supporters of the Liberal Party of Australia in the centre of Sydney and Melbourne. I do not think that he has read the legislation. I will deal with that in a moment.
These provisions represent a most socially productive and economically sound measure. Over 18 months ago- on 12 July 1978- the Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced that the Government had begun a review of the provision of the Income Tax Assessment Act relating to subsidised housing, which is to be found in section 26E. Those Australians with no choice but to accept subsidised housing from employers welcome this legislation as recognition of their legitimate demands. In dealing with the point which I think Senator Wriedt did not understand, I would like to read out the five clauses of the Bill which deal with determination made by the Commissioner of Taxation. They are: Firstly, the remoteness from major centres of population; secondly, whether it is customary in the particular industry for employers to provide accommodation; thirdly, the lack of suitable alternative accommodation; fourthly, whether the accommodation provided exceeds the standard that that employee would normally seek; and finally, any onerous conditions applying to the use of the accommodation. I think that remoteness from major centres of population and the lack of suitable alternative accommodation do provide a barrier against people living in the centres of Sydney and Melbourne who claim that they need support for their housing. Of particular importance to many taxpayers is the application of this legislation to the 1977-78 financial year to ensure a reduction in taxation liability, regardless of whether rights of objection and appeal have already been made.
My principal concern with this amendment to section 26e relates to the provision of housing for employees of the sugar industry in Queensland. Historically the sugar industry has provided some housing for mill employees. Over the last 18 months I have received many submissions from all sections of the industry. The industry was quite concerned that it would not be fairly treated in this matter. Late in 1977 a major reassessment was made of the rentals paid by occupants of houses provided by the sugar mills. In some cases that resulted in the assessments going up by nearly 800 per cent. When the Commissioner of Taxation moved against the mining industry, which is also a big supplier of housing in Queensland, the industry through its unions announced a series of strikes and threatened further strikes if it was proceeded with. It was after that that the review of the Act was initiated. I am pleased that this legislation applies universally to housing in this category. I am pleased also that the fears of the sugar industry have been allayed.
The sugar industry has provided housing more or less since its inception. ( Quorum formed). The sugar industry has always had to provide housing for some of its employees in the mills. The reason for that is that the mills were always situated in the centre of cane fields to minimise transport problems and in some cases there were no towns nearby. In a submission prepared by the Australian Sugar Producers Association and the Proprietary Sugar Millers, Mr Roy Deicke summarised the problems facing the industry. I would like to quote four paragraphs from that publication because it summarises the position very well. He said:
It has been a long standing policy of Bundaberg Sugar Co. to afford staff and some employees housing to an appropriate standard. To the best of our knowledge such a policy has applied for at least 50 years. For staff, especially those with a tertiary level of education, such a condition was and still is frequently necessary to provide an incentive to move from a capital city environment to the remote areas of the country. Further, competition demanded that at least equivalence be offered with other competing industries relative to conditions of employment. The exclusive nature of the sugar industry vocationally also provided for significant staff movement between sugar companies and the offer of company housing removed the restriction of ownership of a residence which was inherent when the need to shift employment to gain experience and promotion came about.
That situation still exists. He went on to say:
More recently, because of the integration of the milling companies locally into one corporate body, the provision of company housing is of cardinal importance in allowing transfer between mills in the one group. Of equal importance has been the general need to have staff and some key employees reside close to actual operations and in this regard the remoteness of these operations from normal urban development has multiplied the need to provide housing close to mills at hand.
That statement puts the situation very well. It has been necessary to provide housing in close proximity to sugar mills. That has been a functional aspect. Having seen many of these houses and been in a large number of them, I know that by and large they cannot be classed as providing luxury levels of accommodation. Most of them are old. The residents suffer some disability in living in them. The mills work shifts through the week when crushing is taking place. There is a lot of noise from the heavy machinery and whistles and a great deal of dust because the environment of the mill is usually unsealed. There are few roads or pathways for cane trucks to use. Generally the mill accommodation is not to be compared with the accommodation enjoyed in a suburban residence.
The sugar industry has played a very important part in the development of the Queensland and Australian economies. Sugar is one of Australia’s largest export earners. Australia ranks as the world’s third largest sugar exporter after Cuba and the European Economic Community.
I would like to contrast their conditions with those of the mining industry which also provides a great number of houses in Queensland. Compared with the houses provided by the sugar industry, the houses provided by the mining industry offer a much higher standard of accommodation. The houses, by and large, are of recent construction. They are situated in well laid out towns that have enjoyed the benefits of a high degree of urban planning. By and large, the residences are very pleasant. They do not suffer the disability of being on the mine site. They are usually a few miles away. The noise, dust and all the other problems of mining are remote from where the families live, and this is how it should be. It is possible to provide such accommodation in that industry.
The point I cavil about in the mining industry relates to the unions. Whenever any assessment is made of the liability of unionists to pay income tax on the housing benefit they receive in lieu of salary, the unions have reacted by using the strike weapon, something which was never used by the sugar industry. It has to be remembered that the miners enjoy many privileges other than cheap housing. A month or so ago I saw a miner’s pay slip and I was surprised to learn that his union dues were $ 1 a week more than he was paying in housing rental. I find that quite surprising. One or two parliamentary recesses ago I was at Blackwater. I found that fuel was being sold through the Ampol and Shell service stations for 37.5c a litre. The Blackwater mine owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd was making fuel available to its employees at a cost of 30.5c a litre. That to me was an evasion of the income tax liability of those mining employees. They were receiving fuel at a lower than retail price in lieu of an increase in wages. People cannot avail themselves of such facilities in the sugar industry.
I will now look briefly at some of the changes to the income tax law which are contained in this Bill. The tax scales operated by the Government have been significantly improved. The level at which earnings are free of tax has increased from $2,5 1 9 to $4,003. The spouse rebate has doubled from $400 to $800. (Quorum formed). Under the present Government some half million people no longer pay income tax at all. That is a notable change.
I would like to see the whole business of tax looked at in a major way. While the changes are welcome the Bill is really part of a fine tuning of a system that is already vastly overstressed
I was interested to see the document proffered by Senator Messner during his very penetrating speech delivered a few minutes ago. I noted that the Income Tax Assessment Act was about three centimetres thick. It is a huge document and is far too complex for Australia. I acknowledge that there is a problem of altering income tax laws that plagues all governments, irrespective of their political hue. One of the major changes made in recent years to the personal income tax law has been to reduce the number of tax categories to three. However, even that significant amendment did not address itself to the basis of the taxation system itself. It simply grafted to the existing system a different administrative method of raising revenue.
As I see it, the problem is twofold. The first problem relates to the system by which we collect our taxation and the second lies in the assumption that the Government can pay for anything and that if it needs more money it can raise more taxes. This second consideration is rarely challenged in this chamber. I do not believe that the community has an infinite capacity to pay for measures introduced by the Government. Furthermore, I do not believe that the Government is the right vehicle to fund a lot of the programs that society needs. The Government is in no position to make the myriads of decisions which would normally be made in the business world. The exercise of judgment comes only with experience. The government is denied the experience to make decisions in fine detail as to how the economy should be run.
Most importantly many of the services that the government provides could be provided much more economically by smaller units in the community. The key to doing so is to bring in lower tax rates to enable people to pay for services themselves. At present, we have a system of very high taxation, both direct and indirect, where people are denied the right to provide for themselves many things that they should be able to provide through their working lives. Most importantly, the taxation rates are so high that people cannot provide for their own retirement and so are dependent on support schemes such as pensions and health insurance when it would be more efficient if governments gave people the capacity through their working lives to provide for themselves. Therefore, I make an earnest plea that the tortuous system we now have in Australia for the collection of tax be looked at and that a much simpler and fairer system be introduced which allows people to provide for their own welfare to a much greater degree.
– I commend the Bills to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 31 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 3 1 march, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition will not oppose the Pig Meat Promotion Amendment Bill 1980. Its subject matter is not terribly important. The Bill seeks to amend the Pig Meat Promotion Act 1975 so that what previously was just an advisory committee will become a body corporate, with the usual powers of a body corporate. The chairman of the body corporate, once it is established, will be a producer representative nominated by the pig producers instead of his being, as is the case under the present legislation, a public servant from the Department of Primary Industry.
I make just a couple of fairly brief comments on meat promotion generally and, in particular, promotion within Australia. It is something which needs to be watched because it can easily get out of hand and expenditure on the domestic market well in excess of likely returns to growers can easily be incurred. This could easily happen, especially if all the different red meats were heavily promoted in competition with each other and through a single marketing body, such as the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. There are a number of demonstrations of that sort of ill-considered promotion being undertaken at home in the past. For example, back in the 1 960s in Western Australia during the spring glut period the conventional wisdom was that lambs should be promoted to increase the domestic consumption of lamb, which would help to get more lamb on to the domestic market, as against the export market. It might or might not have done so, but the significant point is that, even if it had increased the penetration of lamb on the domestic market, prices were set by export parity and it would not have made any difference whatsoever to the price because the marginal changes in domestic consumption within one State would not measurably affect the domestic price. Nevertheless, the Government of the day, in which I must say the Minister for Agriculture was not particularly perspicacious even by National Country Party standards, fell for the argument and so did most of the lamb producers.
More recently, we saw the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, which ought to know better, spending half a million dollars on beef promotion on the domestic market at a time when beef prices were extremely high, when the marginal price of beef on overseas markets was barely distinguishable from the average price; in other words, it was just not conceivable that there could have been any significant gains, or perhaps any gains whatsoever, to Australian beef producers from that promotion program. But to some extent an institution develops a momentum for such a program which after a certain point becomes unstoppable. In this instance, the program was not subject to the sort of critical appraisal by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation to which it should have been subject. It has been amply demonstrated that the per capita consumption of beef in Australia is determined overwhelmingly by the price of the product. As economists put it, demand for beef is price elastic. Per capita consumption has been shown to increase by 60 per cent when there is a substantial price fall and to decline by anything up to 40 per cent when there is a substantial price increase.
Farmers- I suppose it is understandablehave a propensity to be mesmerised by smoothtalking advertising agents and their backstops in the agricultural bull dust industry. The most alarming demonstration of that ever happening was back in the 1960s when professional agricultural bull dusters were supporting the preposterous assumption that if the production of wool were to increase the price of wool would rise. Of course, those professional agricultural bull dusters, who mindlessly supported that preposterous nonsense at the time, do not like being reminded now of their culpable stupidity and gullibility.
Returning to what is strictly the subject matter of the Bill, pork promotion is not funded by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, which restricts itself to dealing with red meats. It is conceivable that pig producers might gain something in isolation from the promotion of pork on the domestic market. If they happened to be beef producers, mutton producers, or poultry producers at the same time; it is conceivable also that the gains which might accrue to them from pork promotion would be lost on one of the other products they were producing. But it is scarcely conceivable that the promotion of all red meat, en bloc, and its fairly close substitutes even, such as pork, on the domestic market could return substantial, or indeed any, dividends to
Australian producers. In this instance no government funds are involved. If farmers want to spend their own money on promotion recklessly, ill-advisedly or however they choose to spend it, it is reasonable to argue that that should be their business. If, on the other hand, they want significant government contributions that becomes public business. In this instance there may be some gain to producers in the promotion of pork in isolation. It is their own money they are using. In any case, this Bill is not concerned with the promotion levy per se, but simply with the corporate structure of the body that administers it. Therefore the Opposition will not oppose the Bill.
– The Senate is debating the Pig Meat Promotion Amendment Bill. Many honourable senators will recall that legislation in the past dealing with the pig industry has been used as a vehicle by honourable senators to raise many issues. I well recall a colleague of mine speaking for three days on the Bogle case on the first reading of a pig Bill. People often refer to the pig Bills as the pigs laughter Bills. This Bill gives no cause for laughter. It gives further proof that Government senators handle the truth very carelessly when they repeatedly claim that the Labor Party has no interest in primary industry. The Pig Meat Promotion Bill was placed on the statute book during the Whitlam Labor Government’s term of office. This legislation is borne out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) as being of great value to the pig industry. Once again it is on the record that very valuable legislation has been introduced by a Labor Government despite the fact that the other day the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) had the audacity to say that the Labor Party has no interest in country people or primary producers. This Bill is clear proof that we have. Other Bills will shortly be introduced dealing with the wool industry which will give further proof that whilst we were in government we had the interests of primary producers and country dwellers very much at heart.
– Where is the Country Party tonight?
– My colleague Senator Grimes has reminded me that the National Country Party is lacking in the numbers it has in the Senate tonight. The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) is in the chamber. When the Bill was debated in the other place only one member of the National Country Party spoke on it. Three members of the Labor
Party spoke on it. No Government senators are listed to speak on the Pig Meat Promotion Amendment Bill tonight. It is again left to the Labor Party to put the case for primary producers. When the chips are down National Country Party members who claim to represent country interests are always missing. Labor Party members are always to the fore. The fourth annual report of the Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee indicates that whilst production of pig meat in 1 978-79 showed little change from that of a year earlier, returns to producers rose substantially in the 12 months to June 1979. (Quorum formed). The gross value of pigs slaughtered rose sharply and is estimated at $2 44m for 1 978-79. The report stated:
There has been a continuing increase in the average slaughter weight of pigs since 1 975-6 . . . These trends have been encouraged by the promotion activities of various sections of the industry.
This legislation which, as I said, was introduced by a Labor Government, has enabled promotion activities to be carried out. Page 2 of the report indicates that in 1 975-76 1 74,000 tonnes of pig meat was produced. The following year 185,000 tonnes was produced. In 1977-78 199,000 tonnes was produced. The provisional figure for 1978-79 is 198,000 tonnes. In 1975-76 the weighted average price to producers for 65 kilogram to 70 kilogram pigs- the figures are given as at June of each year- was 104c a kilogram. In the next year it was also 104c a kilogram. The following year the price rose to 11 lc a kilogram. According to the provisional figures for 1978-79 the price rose to 151c a kilogram. The gross value of pig meat production in Australia in 1975-76 was $183m. In 1 976-77 it was $ 1 97m. In 1 977-78 it was $2 1 5m. The provisional figure for 1 978-79 is $244m.
It is emphasised in the report and also in the Minister’s second reading speech that it should be noted that all funds for promotion purposes are provided by the pig industry. No government funds are involved. The pig industry along with the egg producing industry is able to stand on its own two feet. It does not have to depend on government subsidies like many other primary industries. I am very pleased that the pig industry is able to stand on its own two feet, as is the poultry industry. I am sometimes charged in this place with having been an active member of the poultry industry in years gone by. Those two industries should be very proud of their record. Because of their expertise and ability they are able to stand on their own two feet.
I said that the provisional figure for 1978-79 for the gross value of production was $244m.
That reminds me of a nursery rhyme that my parents used to recite to me when I was a child. It was used to pacify children when they were a little obstreperous. It went something like this: This little pig went to market and this little pig stayed at home.’ The pig industry might now be in a similar position. The Government’s policy of a rapid increase in petrol prices may mean that many little pigs will not be able to go to market and will have to stay at home. Many small farmers in country areas, particularly in South Australia, use the pig industry as a sideline. Because of the Government’s foolish policy of rapidly increasing petrol prices these farmers will be at a great disadvantage compared with the very wealthy supermarkets which are setting up their own piggeries and getting their products to the market. Their freight costs will rise astronomically. We might find that the small farmers who use pigs as a sideline, as a cash crop, will have to forgo that means of raising income. I am sure that the Government will find that they are another section of primary industry that will turn against it at the ballot box when they get the opportunity, and rightly so.
The Labor Party is often chided in this Parliament about not having the interests of the primary producers at heart, but we continually see actions by this Government which have a very great detrimental effect on primary industry and particularly on people who live in country towns. So it will not only affect the primary producers who use the pigs as a sideline for income but also reflect on the small bacon factories and small slaughter houses. (Quorum formed). During the formation of the quorum, Senator Puplick requested I recite the remainder of the nursery rhyme. We might find that the little pigs going home from market are reciting words they heard their producers engulfing namely:
This little pig cried ‘The high price of petrol, the high price of petrol, the high price of petrol ‘, all the way home.
This will echo in Senator Puplick ‘s ears when the Government loses the votes of the small farmers because of its actions in bringing about this rapid increase in the price of petrol. The Opposition supports the Bill. It does so with great glee because, as I have said, the parent legislation was introduced into the Parliament by the Labor Party when it was in government to support primary producers. Members of the Opposition have great pleasure in supporting the legislation.
– I shall be very brief. I thank the Opposition for its support of the Pig Meat Promotion
Amendment Bill 1980. Not only does this legislation have the support of the Opposition but also the amendments themselves are the result of requests to the Government by the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation. The amendments convert what was formerly an advisory committee into the Pig Meat Promotion Committee, which will have considerably greater powers than the original committee. It has been mentioned already that this body finances itself; it is not dependent on the Government and consequently it should have the sort of powers that it will have from this point. It is a small committee of only four members- two producers, one from the Department of Primary Industry and a marketing expert. From this point a producer member will be the Chairman of the Committee.
The Committee is to be a corporate body, as the Opposition has indicated. It has the power to employ its own staff and to enter into contracts referable to promotion. It is worth saying that promotion in this industry, and across the whole range of primary industries, has become recognised for what it is worth. It is worth an immense amount. The long and somewhat tedious arguments about the value of promotion are basically matters of the past. I do not need to continue this debate any longer. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have a question on clause 10 of the Bill, which deals with section 12 of the principal Act. Proposed sub-section (1a)(c) of section 12 states that if a member is absent, except with the permission of the Minister, from three consecutive meetings of the Pig Meat Promotion Committee, the Minister shall remove him from office. What procedures will be adopted to replace a person removed for any one of those qualifications set out under clause 10?
– The matter raised by the honourable senator would appear to be an extremely unlikely circumstance. If it did occur and if a producer member were involved I suppose the matter would be referred to the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation and a replacement sought. I believe that that is the most appropriate answer that I can give to the matter. I shall seek for the honourable senator’s information any further more accurate definition, but I believe that that would be the only proposition open to the Minister.
– The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) has said that the situation I raised would be highly unlikely to happen. I now draw his attention to paragraph (b) of proposed new sub-section (lA), which states: a member or the deputy of a member becomes bankrupt or applies to take the benefit of any law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his creditors or makes an assignment of his remuneration for their benefit; or
It then goes on to the matter I raised. We know that people are going bankrupt every day. The Minister might recall that in my speech on the second reading of the Bill I said that pig producers might find themselves in very difficult financial straits because of the rapid increase in the price of petrol. It could well be that one of the two producers who are on this Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee might find themselves in the position I have just outlined. So it cannot be said that this situation is unlikely to happen. It is something that we have to guard against, and that is why I am concerned. If the Minister cannot give me an answer now, I will be happy to have it when he can get it.
– It has been drawn to my attention that a member of the Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee can appoint a deputy and, if he is unable to attend, he should advise the Minister and act accordingly.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 April, on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– After the complications of agricultural Bills, we can now deal with something much more simple. The two Bills with which we are dealing are the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1980 and the Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill 1980. I assume that the Government wants to take these Bills cognately. The first of these Bills, the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill, provides for changes to a series of matters which are mainly of a housekeeping nature. The second Bill deals with two new double taxation agreements between the Philippines and Switzerland. We oppose neither measure and therefore have no objection to the Bills being taken cognately.
I think it is appropriate again to remind the Parliament and the electorate that the Government which is presenting these income tax Bills has established a record as the highest tax government in Australia’s history. It came to power with promises of reduced taxation and small government. It promised substantial income tax relief and, most significantly, it promised full tax indexation for individuals and trading stock valuation adjustments for companies. It has failed to fulfil either of those policies. Full tax indexation is a myth, as we know, and that matter was dealt with adequately tonight by Senator Colston in his speech on the first reading of Appropriation Bill (No. 3). In respect of the trading stock valuation adjustments, it is pertinent to pause and consider the words of Sir Roderick Carnegie, the Chairman of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, who I am sure is not known for his active support of the policies of the Opposition. In the latest report of CRA he said:
Abolishing the trading stock valuation adjustment deduction was a retrograde step. Taxing authorities must recognise the erosion in real capital assets caused by inflation. Taxation based on historical conventions unduly distorts a company’s cash flow and restricts its ability to reinvest in the business. The tax system must allow companies to maintain the real value of the assets employed and tax only real profits.
With the abolition of tax indexation for companies there is an incentive not to invest. The rate of development is restrained and the preservation of the existing business becomes a priority. With no risks taken, with no development, there are no new jobs.
What Sir Roderick Carnegie said about the corporate sector could be echoed equally by the private individuals who have been waiting for this Government to introduce genuine tax reform. Instead, taxation collections have continued to rise, supplemented by the income tax surcharge and the petrol tax. By comparison, it is interesting to look at the manner in which those tax collections have accelerated. In the last year of the previous Government, total personal tax collections amounted to $6 billion. In the last financial year of the present Government, net income tax collections increased to nearly $12 billion. In other words, there has been an annual doubling of those collections. If we add to that the massive increase in revenue from the crude oil levy, a measure which has hit the family motorist and which we all know to be a Government measure that has been rejected by the electorate, the tax burden which has been imposed upon the individual taxpayer is staggering, to say the least. There is no doubt that the present Government will continue to soak the private individual and impose higher and higher taxes on him, especially through the petrol bowser.
I wish now to direct some comments to the Bills. In summary, there are five main propositions in the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill. First, it allows tax deductions for expenditure incurred by candidates in Northern Territory Legislative Assembly elections. Secondly, it makes tax deductible contributions of over $2 to the Child Accident Prevention Foundation. Thirdly, it extends from 30 to 90 days the period for valuing property donated under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. Fourthly, it closes a loophole which deals with the payment of royalties to non-residents, and fifthly, it makes provision for shareholders’ rebates for capital subscriptions to eligible petroleum companies. We do not oppose any of these measures. However, there is some concern about the way in which charities are added to the allowable deductions list without the Treasurer (Mr Howard) giving any clear indication of reasons for so doing. Over the last few years a varied collection of bodies has been added, including the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust. There is no doubt that some of these charities are worthy of the allowable deduction. But with the Government foisting more and more of the burden for welfare back onto private individuals and organisations, it does seem strange that there is no clearly stated policy about the basic criteria for allowing organisations to be classed as approved for taxation purposes.
The Senate will recall that some time ago unscrupulous sections of the tax avoidance industry were using donations to charities as a means of reducing tax, rather than as a means of assisting people genuinely in need. I think that the time has arrived when the Treasurer should state clearly the criteria for including charities in the list of those to whom deductions are classified as allowable. As the entitlement to shareholder rebates depends upon exploration companies making a declaration to the Commissioner, we also have some concern to ensure that companies intend to spend moneys subscribed for on-shore or off-shore exploration. There are some disadvantages in tax terms for the company lodging such a declaration. It would be interesting to establish the names, number and proportion of exploration companies which have lodged such applications. Possibly we could obtain that information from the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) or perhaps I could ask about this matter in a question upon notice at some subsequent time.
I shall now make some observations about the second Bill which deals with the new double taxation arrangements. The first arrangement is with the Philippines and is different in many respects to those arrangements which have been negotiated with other countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium and the limited agreements which exist with France, Italy and Greece. The second agreement is with Switzerland and that agreement is more in line with the traditional double taxation arrangements. Whilst there is some individual variation, most of the agreements coincide with the conventions set down by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. I note from an answer given by the Treasurer to a question upon notice that in addition to the Philippines agreement, another three agreements are being negotiated in the Pacific basin region. It should also be noted that the Deputy Commissioner of the United States Internal Revenue Service has suggested that a Pacific basin taxation union should be established. Presumably, the purpose of such a union would be to codify the various double taxation agreements which are in existence in the region and to assist investment and development by creating greater certainty about the taxation arrangements.
Although the Treasurer claims that he is being kept in touch with developments, it is surprising that the Government has not said a little more about what seems a sensible idea. Its adoption might help reduce the amount of disclosed and undisclosed funds which end up travelling through the remaining tax havens around the world while the double taxation agreements, some of which are dealt with in this legislation, help reduce the incentives for companies and individuals to use tax havens. It is very difficult to establish how much tax is avoided by the use of lower tax countries and tax havens. In spite of the attempts which have been made to close loopholes, a number of schemes are readily available for Australian residents effectively to shift funds from Australia to those tax havens. The most familiar one, of course, is where an overseas supplier of a commodity invoices the commodity to a company- for example, Hong Kong or possibly the New Hebrides. The company is usually a subsidiary of an Australian company to which the goods are then invoiced at a considerably higher price. In most cases, the goods never really go near the tax haven. The only items that pass through the tax haven, of course, are the documents and the funds involved. Many companies arrange for their goods to travel through a double invoicing procedure and thus the real profits which should be taxable by the Australian Commissioner of Taxation remain outside the country.
Similar schemes operate in the provision of services and the payments of royalties. An intermediary company in a low tax country invoices the services. The Australian resident is either the direct or beneficial shareholder in the intermediary company and the funds can be returned to Australia as loan or portfolio investment funds and be welcomed by the Australian Government as essential foreign investment. In fact, if they are invested in petroleum exploration companies which have lodged declarations, they will receive further Government assistance. We are concerned about these transactions because a series of questions upon notice asked last year revealed that the Reserve Bank of Australia either did not collect sufficient information to be able to establish the extent of these practices or, if it did, was unwilling to disclose that information. If Australians who are prepared to pay their fair share of tax knew about these arrangements, I am sure that there would be greater pressure on the Government to close those loopholes. It concerns the Opposition that it is possible under the present arrangements for some very large sums to be earned by Australian residents and lodged overseas.
Other avenues are commissions paid upon the purchase of ships or aircraft. A company agrees to purchase a ship or an aircraft for use in Australian waters or in Australian air-space. The directors of the purchasing company are induced to agree to the purchase by what are known around the trade as introduction commissions. They may be as small as one-quarter of one per cent of the purchase price. The company which they control buys the overseas equipment and the introduction commission is then paid into a Swiss or tax haven bank account. The directors may regard it as a justifiable procedure but it is income which really should be taxed in this country.
It is the Opposition’s view that the Government has not attempted to close off some of these major abuses. In the longer run they could be prejudicial to our relations with some of the Third World countries if they find they are being used by a section of the Australian community to further tax avoidance schemes. The Opposition stated in the debate in the House of Representatives that we will be indicating ways in which the income tax burden can be shared more equally throughout the community. But we are convinced that if the present Government really made an effort and closed some of those loopholes, it would be possible to offer marginally lower rates of income tax. Of course, it would be futile and quite wrong to say that there has not been a genuine attempt on the part of the current Treasurer to close many of the tax loopholes which have existed in this country for some years. It is a program which must be continued. These loopholes must be identified and the Government should be quite fearless in its efforts to ensure that in fact those loopholes are changed.
As was indicated both on this side of the chamber and also on the Government side in the debate on the two taxation Bills which were before us earlier, there would be very strong community support for the efforts of the Government in doing so. ‘I close my remarks with the comment that I feel certain that on both sides of this Parliament there is a genuine belief that the Australian community, by and large, will support efforts to close tax loopholes used by those people who are prepared to sort the system for their personal benefit, those people who are in receipt of incomes or in business occupations where they are able to beat the system in comparison with the great majority of wage and salary earners in this country who are not able to do that.
– The Senate is debating the Income (International Agreements) Amendment Bill 1 980. This Bill provides for new double taxation agreements with the Philippines and Switzerland and for a protocol to amend the double taxation agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. The Australian Democrats approve the inception of such new double taxation agreements with appropriate nations. Double tax reduces incentives and hence productivity on a world basis, especially at the higher rates of taxation we now have. In the view of the Australian Democrats the rates are much too high in Australia. However, it could be said that these higher rates also apply now in most parts of the world which is a testimony to the long suffering nature of modern man. Hence, from a global point of view, double tax agreements are useful and constructive. We do not oppose the Bill.
I wish to raise a matter of long standing anomaly in the area of double taxation that in fact, has been known to the Government for some time. I wish to make an appeal to the Government to reconsider this matter which has been causing difficulties for many thousands of Australians for some years- in fact, virtually since the end of the Second World War. I hoped that this Bill would have included an amendment to remedy this anomaly which I understand has been taken up with various people, including Government senators and members of the House of Representatives. It represents a serious injustice. In speaking to that matter I would like to raise in particular the case of a constituent of mine, Mr Nicholas Melkman. He is a former citizen of the Netherlands who lives in Vaucluse, Sydney. During World War II Mr Melkman suffered terribly from the atrocities perpetrated in that country on people of his race and religion. His wife and his family were killed. His property was destroyed completely. He was left with nothing. I do not think I have met a person in this country who I feel more deserves the tranquillity and the best that his new country can offer. If I met other people in the same category in which he unfortunately falls, I would probably find them equally deserving of the respect, care and compassion of the society. Mr Melkman, as it happens, has as his next door neighbour one of his ex-enemies, in fact an ex-German soldier. One of the nice things about this is that these two people get on extremely well.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– As I was saying it is good- (Quorum formed). As I was saying, Mr Melkman, who suffered so severely in Holland as a result of Nazi atrocities during the War and his neighbour, an ex-German soldier, are now both good
Australian citizens who get on well and amicably, trying to forget the ugliness that both of them suffered. One ugliness, however, still remains, and that is a matter of our governmental inattention to the details; our lack of ability to recognise that our Government is or should be for people and for their benefit. The ugliness is that the ex-German soldier receives a pension from the German Government which is nontaxable in Australia but Mr Nicholas Melkman receives a pension from the Dutch Government, paid originally with funds supplied by the German Government in reparation to people who suffered in Holland, which is in fact, taxable in Australia. I understand that if it had been a straight Dutch originated pension which Mr Melkman had, it would not be taxable. We have this ridiculous and topsy-turvy situation still in the law, where a person who suffers most is brought to this country, thereby to suffer even more from this kind of stupid anomaly. On the information I have, some 3,000 people in Australia suffer from this same inequity. I think it is worth referring- particularly honourable senators of the Liberal Party- to the Budget debate of 1959-60 in which Mr Harold Holt spoke about the Republic of Germany accepting responsibility for restitution in respect of personal injuries and losses suffered by residents of Germany under the Nazi regime both before and during the 1939-45 War. I think Mr Holt then made a statement of what I would have thought was a reasonable Liberal philosophy. He stated:
These restitution payments are made partly as capital amounts and partly in the form of pensions.
Some of the people receiving these payments are now residents of Australia. In these cases, the capital sums are free from tax, but the pensions, being of an income nature, are technically liable to Australian tax.
Having in mind the unfortunate circumstances for which restitution is being made, the Government has decided that the value of these pensions should not be diminished by taxation.
Exemption will accordingly be granted, with effect from I July, 1959.
That situation applies to German nationals who suffered in that way. A little later that year, on 24 September, the then Rt Hon. R. G. Menzies, speaking to a Bill to implement that provision in that year’s Budget said:
The payments have their origin in very unhappy circumstances and the recipients may well be left to enjoy the full amount of the allowances without diminution by taxation.
I will not delay this debate. I think I have made the point. The point is one, I think, of a grave and serious anomaly, and I appeal to the Government to take the trifling effort and to commit the trifling sum of money which would correct this anomaly which, as I say, affects 3,000 people.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill, and particularly the clause which amends section 78 of the Principal Act. Before section 78 of the principal Act was passed, a taxpayer could claim deductions for gifts to art galleries and similar institutions only if he purchased the item being presented within the preceding 12 months. This provision meant that there were very few donations to our galleries and museums. The passage of section 78 meant that a taxpayer could claim a tax deduction of the market value of property donated to a public library, an art gallery or a museum, or to the Australiana Fund. The Australiana Fund, by the way, is designed to receive cash or works of” art, including furnishings, for Government House, Admiralty House, Kirribilli House or the Prime Minister’s Lodge. Any such donations must be for inclusion in the collection that either exists or is being planned.
I am sure that everyone can see that there is scope for income tax avoidance if the valuation of these items being donated is not accurate. In the Income Tax Assessment Act it is provided that such gifts must be supported by valuations made by two or more approved valuers, that is with the exception of gifts which are made within 12 months of” purchase when the price paid by the collector is accepted as its value. This new scheme was introduced on 1 January 1978 and has been a remarkable success. It is especially valuable to smaller institutions which have limited funds. It is also of considerable value to the community at large because works which might otherwise have sold overseas are being retained in this country.
Up to February of this year the scheme had attracted 137 donors to 46 institutions, and the gifts have been of a value of almost $2m. What benefits have accrued from this scheme? First of all, the gifts have provided works of art to galleries which would never have had the means to acquire them on the commercial market. It often means that an important Australian painting goes to the most suitable gallery for that painting, which by no means always should be the State gallery; very often the regional gallery is the most suitable. The scheme also means that five collections have tended to remain intact instead of being broken up for sale, and of course these gifts have also provided the nucleus for new collections and new spheres of art exhibition. Interesting, valuable and unexpected collections have come to light through these gift provisions.
I give the example of a medium-sized town in north-eastern Victoria, Benalla, with a population of 8,300. It has one of the finest provincial galleries in Victoria and it has benefited, since this scheme was introduced just over two years ago, by between $80,000 and $100,000 worth of gifts. For example, gifts to its Ledger Collection, which is devoted to realist Australian paintings from 1840, have in the last 12 months, included a Scheltana valued at $6,750, a McCubbin valued at the same sum, a Lambert valued at $9,000 and a Fred Williams valued at $4,000. In addition, the Gallery has received a Dobell worth $24,000 and a Norma Redpath sculpture worth $2,500. These are by any standards remarkable acquisitions for a regional gallery. They show what this scheme is achieving.
To turn to a different example, a larger gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria, which I prefer to call the State Gallery, has received an Arthur Streeton worth $63,500; a large oval silver gilt tray worth $1 1,250; three items of brass worth $18,000; 33 items of ceramic, jade and bronze worth $22,952; 22 items of Australian silver worth $60,723; one glass decanter jug worth $1,550; and brass inlaid cabinets worth $22,500. These are remarkable acquisitions even for such a fine gallery as the National Gallery of Victoria.
But any scheme does have problems, and this Bill fixes one of them. One of the difficulties stems from the valuation system which, as I said, is an area which must be tightened to prevent abuses. The trouble has been that the list of approved valuers is held in separate categories such as painting, pottery or furniture, and is lodged with the Department of Home Affairs. In the principal Act there were two ways in which a valuation could be made, apart from having acquired the article in the last 12 months, in which case the price paid was taken as the valuation. For items older than that there were two methods of valuation. Either the donor could obtain two or more valuations from approved valuers within 30 days before the gift was made, or alternatively he could make the gift and obtain valuations within 30 days after the gift was actually made.
The problem is that this scheme works well in Melbourne and Sydney where there are plenty of valuers on the approved list, although even then there may be difficulties with the valuation of unusual items. One example I would give is a
Bastian Le Prage painting. It could not be valued within the 30 days and the donor lost the tax deduction. He faced two options. He could either withdraw the item, probably for sale overseas, or he could accept the loss to himself by persisting with the gift. In the case of the Le Prage, the donor bore the loss himself and persisted with the gift. But this by no means always happens.
The problem is particularly acute as represented to me by people when I was in Tasmania. They had virtually no one on the approved list of valuers and the problem of sending items away for valuation within 30 days was almost insuperable for them. What this Bill does is to increase the period for valuation from 30 days to 90 days before and after the gift. This seems to me a fair and reasonable solution to the problem, and one which I am sure will be welcomed by all of the art gallery collectors. What else is wrong or what other problems do we have with this Bill and the principal Act? The scheme, which as I have said, is an admirable one, was introduced on 1 January 1978, and was to remain in operation for a three year trial period. This trial period expires at the end of this year. I suppose one could say it was an example of sunset legislation. The purpose of sunset legislation is to allow the Parliament to weed out the schemes which are not working effectively. In this case it is clear that this scheme is both flourishing and beneficial and we must see that it is retained and made permanent. It is the most important scheme that any government has introduced for ensuring that important material remains in Australia and in the public domain. I urge the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to ensure that this scheme is made permanent in his forthcoming Budget.
Senator SCOTT (New South Wales)Minister for Special Trade Representations) (10.45)- in reply- There is no need for me to delay the Senate except to say that once again I thank the speakers on both sides of the chamber for their support of the legislation. Senator Wriedt did pose a question. He asked whether the Senate could be advised of the names, the numbers, and the proportion of the companies in the industry which have lodged declarations for the purposes of the shareholder rebate scheme. I am unable to give full details at this notice, as indeed Senator Wriedt recognised would probably be the case. Also, the secrecy provisions of the taxation laws may not make it possible to provide all the information that he requires. But I shall take that question on notice and attempt to provide as full an answer as is possible. I have noted Senator Mason’s problem relating to his revelation of an anomaly in the taxation field and I shall refer that matter to the Treasurer (Mr Howard).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 1 April, on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This evening I wish to take up a short period of the Senate’s time in outlining a current problem facing the Queensland town of Cooktown. Cooktown is in far north Queensland, about 170 kilometres north of Cairns. It has a population of about 560. Although it is a small town it is of great historical significance. We all remember that Captain Cook beached his ship on the Endeavour River in 1770. Those who have had the opportunity to visit the Cooktown museum would realise the richness of the history of Cooktown and its immediate hinterland. Cooktown once had a population of several thousand. The nearby gold fields on the Palmer River had over 20,000 inhabitants. The magnificent structure and interior of the Bank of New South Wales bear witness to those former prosperous days.
The town is now heavily dependent upon the tourist industry. It is always difficult to estimate the number of tourists who visit a particular place. Nevertheless, some indication of the number of tourists visiting Cooktown may be gained by looking at how many visit the museum each year. The museum estimates that it has 12,000 visitors annually. Unfortunately tourism to Cooktown has been dealt a severe blow. In a flash flood one-third of a bridge close to Cooktown airport was recently washed away. This bridge, which crosses the Endeavour River, forms part of the link between the airport and the town. Instead of the distance from the airport to the town being 1 1 kilometres people now have to travel an extra 13 kilometres and much of that is on a quite rough road. The damage to the bridge has added an hour to the round trip from the airport to the town and back.
One may say: Why worry about an hour? One worries and one is concerned for two reasons. One reason is the possibility of emergency medical evacuation being needed from the Cooktown hospital to, for example, the hospital in Cairns. Not only is extra distance and time involved in the journey but also at night the road is particularly difficult to negotiate. Secondly, a large section of the town ‘s tourist industry is in jeopardy. Each year BP Airlines, or Bush Pilots as it is locally called, brings about 4,000 tourists into Cooktown on a special short visit. This visit includes about 1 Vi hours in the town area. With the delay caused by the washed away bridge the operator cannot provide his service to and from the airport. This means that about 4,000 potential tourists are lost to Cooktown each year. If each of these tourists spent $10 in Cooktown- not an unreasonable expectation- $40,000 a year is lost to the town. An amount such as that lost to Cooktown will have a significant effect on its economy.
It has been suggested to me that the Army be asked to assist in the provision of a temporary bridge. Has any serious request been made of the Army by people in the area or by the Queensland Government to assist in the provision of a temporary bridge to replace the one which has been washed away? If representations have been made, what decision has been made by the Army authorities? I would argue that if no representation has been made, Defence Force personnel should look at the situation in Cooktown to see whether it is possible to give any temporary assistance. This may seem a small matter to us in Canberra, but to the people of Cooktown it is one of vital importance both for the town’s economy and for the well-being of residents if emergency evacuation is necessary.
I realise that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) will not be able to give me a reply tonight on behalf of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), but I would ask that the matter be investigated to see whether some relief may be given either to hasten the repair of the bridge or to provide some temporary structure while repairs are taking place.
– Tonight Senator Teague and I want to draw to the attention of the Senate, essentially for its and the community’s information, the situation facing Bruce Jacobs in
Taipei at the moment. I understand that Senator Teague will give some background to the situation in which Bruce Jacobs finds himself. When I say ‘background’, I refer to some of the historical background that is relevant to the situation which Bruce Jacobs faces. Senator Teague and I were in Taiwan recently and were staying, as it happened, at the same hotel as Bruce Jacobs. We were able to meet with him on a number of occasions. It had been suggested to us before we left Australia that we should make contact with him. After our arrival he was able to make contact with us before our inquiries about his whereabouts were successful. We met with him on probably six or eight occasions. On three or four of those occasions we met at dinner or lunch when we spent a good deal of time together discussing the issues and problems facing him.
Bruce Jacobs is a citizen of the United States of America. It may well be asked why Australians and Australian parliamentarians in particular should take an interest in his case. There are six reasons at least that I would like to suggest for our taking an interest in the situation of Bruce Jacobs. First of all he has been a resident of Australia for some time. Secondly, he is a teacher at La Trobe University. Because he is not able to leave Taiwan, a course which I understand he was to be teaching this year has had to be cancelled. Thirdly, Bruce Jacobs is an authority on Taiwan. He is recognised in Australia as such an authority. From what I have read of his works and from my discussions with him he could only be considered a favourable authority, that is, favourable to the authorities in Taiwan, at least for the most part and in significant ways. Fourthly, his situation in Taiwan has aroused considerable interest in Australia. When he became involved in his present difficult circumstances he was in Taiwan undertaking the research for which he has become well known and which has made him a recognised authority on the recent history, economy and politics of Taiwan. The fifth reason is that others on his behalf, and he personally, sought our intervention knowing that we would be visiting Taiwan at that time. Sixthly, we are concerned at the impact of the situation in which Bruce Jacobs finds himself on the development of any sort of association between Australia and Taiwan at a time when the number of Australian visitors to Taiwan is, as I understand it, in the vicinity of 20,000 a year and when there are quite remarkable prospects for trade between Australia and Taiwan.
For the information of the Senate and the community, I would like to put on the record some documents that Bruce Jacobs gave to
Senator Teague and me when we were in Taiwan. The first document is dated 1 5 March 1980 and is a letter to the Chief of the Taipei Municipal Police Bureau. It refers to the situation in which Bruce Jacobs has found himself. I seek leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
The document read as followsLETTER 15 March 1980
To: Hu Wu-hsi, Chief, Taipei Municipal Police Bureau
Carbon Copies To:
Shih Ming-chiang, Chief Procurator, Taipei District Procuracy
K’ung Ling-sheng, Commissioner, Police Administration Division, Ministry of Interior
Wang Ching-hsu, Commander, Taiwan Garrison Command American Institute in Taiwan
Main Points: (1)I have decided to take Cathay Pacific flight 52 1 leaving 12.25 on March 22 from Taiwan to Hong Kong in order to catch a flight to Australia and begin my teaching at La Trobe University. Kindly please assign personnel to protect me and enable me to leave safely according to this itinerary.
During my stay in Taipei, I have unfortunately become involved in the occurrence of the Lin Family murder case. Furthermore, owing to some deliberate promulgation of filth, distorted and false reports, I have been falsely seen as being under suspicion with the Lin case. This has caused me grave distress and has even raised considerations of my personal safety. Fortunately, security personnel of your honourable bureau have closely protected me and no incidents have occurred. Thank you. At the same time, I have also truthfully and sincerely cooperated and assisted those handling the case to the utmost of my ability. Because of this, I have repeatedly postponed my original date of departure (8 March 1980) and my original air ticket has become invalid causing a substantial loss. La Trobe University, where I teach, has already commenced the academic year and my daughter also needs my care. My university and family responsibilities make it impossible to further postpone my departure. In actuality, I have already provided all of the cooperation and assistance to the people handling the case and have no further information to offer. Because of this, I have decided to take Cathay Pacific Flight 521 leaving CKS Airport in Taoyuan on March 22, 1980 leaving Taiwan to go to Hong Kong in order to return to Melbourne, Australia. Furthermore, I have already made plane reservations. Since the above mentioned considerations of safety have not been completely removed, I respectfully request that your honourable bureau continue to provide protection in accordance with the above mentioned itinerary in order that I may safely leave the country. Thank you. If there is still any place in which I may contribute assistance, please raise this before my scheduled departure and I will be pleased to help in any way which does not affect my scheduled departure. (Signed)
(NOTE: This is a fairly literal and unpolished translation of the Chinese original for reference use.)
– I would also like to incorporate a letter of protest of 22 March from Bruce Jacobs to the Commander of the Taiwan Garrison about the same subject.
The document read as follows-
LETTER OF PROTEST (March 22, 1980)
Wang Ching-hsu, Commander, Taiwan Garrison Command
Shih Ming-chiang, Chief Procurator, Taipei District Procruracy
K’ung Ling-sheng, Commissioner, Police Administration Division, Ministry of Interior
Carbon Copy: American Institute in Taiwan
Because of deep affection for those murdered in the Lin Family murder case, I have sacrificed considerable time and money, neglected my employment and family in order to help the authorities of the Republic of China to solve this crime. I have cooperated with the prosecutors and the police investigating task force in a sincere manner, but some authorities have misled me and used methods which may possibly go beyond the limits prescribed by law. Even worse, the work of the prosecutor and police have at times been sloppy. These actions have infringed on my personal freedom, a freedom enjoyed by all persons in Taiwan irregardless of whether they be Chinese or foreign.
1 ) Although the court produced a document on March 4 prohibiting me from leaving the country, I did not see this document until March 20 at 4.30 p.m. Since this document severely affects my freedom and is not secret, I should have been shown a copy immediately in order to be able to respond. But, in fact, I was only able to see a copy through the intervention of the American Institute in Taiwan and I have still not been allowed to make a copy. (AIT had been promised to see the document for at least six days before it was finally produced.) This method is both unnecessary and not open. Because it is both unnecessary and not open, my personal rights have been unfairly and not-impartially infringed. NOTE: Open, fair, and impartial are a commonly linked desirable three-some in Taiwan politics.
The document prohibiting me from leaving the country, which says that I am ‘under grave suspicion, clearly is empty words which severely infringe on my personal rights. From beginning to end, the persons responsible for investigation have told me that I am not under suspicion. On March 2, when I voluntarily went to the Taipei Police Bureau to clear my name, Brigade Leader Wang Tsan and Team Leader Chang Yu-wen repeatedly assured me that I was not under suspicion. On March 12, Taiwan Garrison Commander Wang Ching-hsu personally assured me that I was not suspected of being either the murderer or a member of a plot to commit the murders. He has also indirectly told me the same through at least two other persons. On March 14 I asked Team Leader Chang Yu-wen what my legal status was. Team Leader Chang said, ‘Important related person’. I said the termimportant related person had not legal status and asked what my legal status was. He told me, i.e. an important witness’. In fact, I am not an important witness, but in any case, according to ROC law, authorities do not have the power to prevent a witness from leaving the country. Since the persons responsible for investigating the case believe I am not under suspicion, the prosecutor must also have no basis for saying I am under suspicion. Because of this. I believe there is no basis for saying I am under suspicion. The objective must be to prevent me from exercising my legal rights and privileges. I request that this illegal and unsuitable order be immediately rescinded.
While 1 wish to express my respect for the work of the ROC police and wish to express my gratitude for their work on my behalf. I must also at the same time point out that some sloppy work on their part has contributed to the production of so-called ‘discrepancies ‘ in my testimony.
On March 12 Taiwan Garrison Commander Wang pointed out that I had received a call at 12.15 p.m. on Feb. 28 from Dr T’ien. (At that time I was outside buying a box lunch.) I have never seen any evidence of this call and, according to what my friends have told me, Dr T’ien denies having called me. I have repeatedly said ‘Mr T’ien’ was probably T’ien Yung-k’ang of the Government Information Office. Why has this not been cleared up?
In my written statement of March 5 signed “Bruce Jacobs wants to sleep,” I raised a number of formulas to facilitate the police investigation. Yet, a week later, a group leader of the investigating task force told me that the police had still not investigated these points. If the police had utilised the suggestions for investigation which were raised in my written statement, they would have discovered that AIT had called me in my room at 1 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 28. This would have proven the statement given by Police Commissioner K ‘ung to the Interior Committee of the Legislative Branch (that a witness had seen me at 1 1:30 a.m.) was in error. Why has such sloppy investigation been allowed to occur?
The methods used by the investigating authorities to make me tell the falsehood that I went to the Lin home on Feb. 28 at 12:30 p.m. seem to have gone beyond the scope allowed by law.
on March 4, when I went to the interrogation, I believed I was going to a press conference. I was never told I was going to be held for twenty-four hours. When, at 2 a.m., tired and exhausted, I said that I wanted to leave even if reporters were outside, the police told me I could not leave the room and physically prevented me from leaving. During an interview on March 20. Prosecutor Hsieh Wen-ting told me this may have been illegal. Furthermore, the police lied to me in an effort to make me tell a lie, and they furthermore threatened to use a famous method of torture.
At 2:20 a.m. on March 5,I requested to sleep a bit. (I had not slept well since the murders occurred. ) We agreed that after 1 slept for half an hour that I would talk with them for two hours; then I would be able to sleep. The police furthermore promised that they would not again utilise the system of rotating interrogators. But at 5 a.m., in complete contrast to police promises, they again rotated interrogators thus using “a lie in an effort to make me lie.”
Shortly after 5 a.m., the police told me, “You cannot sleep until you tell the truth.” Deprivation of sleep is a timehonoured method of torture. This method truly insults the Republic of China.
On several occasions during the March 4-5 interrogation, police put their hands on me and indicated willingness to use force. Fortunately, after I said. “Don’t use force,” they did not physically abuse me.
On March 14, the police said that if I told them what they believed I saw at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 28,I would obtain the following three secret benefits: (i) I would receive NT$ 10 million; they furthermore made very clear this was double the openly announced reward and exceeded US$250,000, (ii) the complete clearing of my scholarly reputation in Taiwan, and (iii) a safe and secret trip to CKS airport and exit from Taiwan. But, I replied: ‘The truth is given free. You can beat out falsehood, but you can’t buy it. You have investigated me for so long and so clearly, but you still don ‘t know what kind of a personIam.’
In summary, I am not completely satisfied with the actions of the police and prosecutor. They have illegally prevented me from exercising my rights to leave the country freely. Because of this I am unable to carry out my employment and family responsibilities and have had my freedom infringed. If I am needed for assistance at the time of the indictment or trial for the murder case, I am willing to return to Taiwan to help. But I cannot wait for an indefinite period ( 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?) until the case is broken.
I would like to re-emphasise my friendly ties with Taiwan. I have come to Taiwan many times for study and research and I would hope to return frequently to Taiwan in the future. I have cooperated fully with the investigating authorities with respect to the Lin Family murder case and I hope the authorities can similarly cooperate with me likewise.
As my university employment and family responsibilities urgently require my return to Australia, I no longer can accept any further delay and I ask that this matter be dealt with appropriately without any further delay so that I may return. Otherwise I will be forced to reveal all of these truths to the foreign and Chinese press and to concerned persons around the world in an effort to obtain justice. (Signed)
Bruce Jacobs (This translation is a fairly literal and unpolished translation of the Chinese orginal. For reference use. )
– I also seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an application to Procuracy dated 9 April 1980, again from Bruce Jacobs.
The document read as follows-
APPLICATION TO PROCURACY
Status: Applicant and Defendant
Name: Chia Po, Jeffrey Bruce Jacobs
Birthdate: 19 September 1943
Occupation: University Professor (Lecturer)
Native Place: U.S.A.
Residence: Temporarily living in Room 1770, Grand Hotel File No.: 1 980, Chen, No. 6083
To apply for rapid conclusion of the investigation procedure according to law, for a decision not to indict or a prior removal of the prohibition against leaving the country, in order to avoid senseless delay and inappropriate losses and (loss of) the defendant’s rights and privileges:
) The brutal murders on Feb. 28, 1 980 of the family members of Mr Lin Yi-hsiung is an unfortunate event for your honourable country. This defendant also has a deep sense of grief. This defendant has absolutely no connection with this murder case and, furthermore, the defendant feels he has repeatedly and truthfully told all facts relevant to the case to the authorities in your honourable country who are handling the case. Since I am still wrongly regarded as “under suspicion” in the murder case, in addition to a feeling of surprise, I am also extremely indignant and unhappy: (Please refer to my Letter of Protest of March 22, 1980 sent to the Chief Procurator of the Taipei District Procuracy.)
Since this defendant was questioned by the honourable procurator on March 2, 1980, two weeks have already passed; in that period of time I have not seen those handling the case conduct any investigation work which has concretely advanced the case. And from newspaper reports one cannot but doubt that the case has not had any progress. And since this defendant was prohibited from leaving the coutnry on March 4, 1980 by your honourable procuracy, my losses incurred have increased day by day. Since the honourable procurator and your honourable country’s persons handling the case believe the Lin family murder case is the most important case, why have we not seen urgent further investigation utilising effective investigating methods? Especially with regards the part for the defendant’s so-called “suspicion” and the parts regarding the defendant’s so-called “discrepancies” in testimony, the investigation should be extraordinarily simple and easy to conduct. This defendant has repeatedly informed the investigating authorities of your honourable country that if they believe this defendant has any untruth in his testimony, that this defendant is willing to take a “lie detector” test to decide or any other suitable scientific method to scientifically test and clarify any doubts held by the authorities of your honourable country. This defendant again notes doubts in the truth of the testimony of the authorities so-called “secret witness”, and furthermore again requests the use of a suitable, outside (i.e. not investigating authority) person to cross-examine the truth of the testimony of the so-called “secret witness”. This defendant himself knows he is without guilt and is not afraid of any scientific investigation method which can determine the truth; 1 only fear torture, interrogation without sleep, or other inappropriate methods to force statements which are not true; I fear even more the guessing and speculations which have limited and obstructed this defendant ‘s freedom. I believe the honourable procurator can understand the pain of being guiltless and yet implicated and of furthermore each day suffering greater losses. This defendant deeply feels that the responsible authorities of your honourable country have numerous places of errors and mistakes. I have heard that the authorities now doubt that the second cable I sent on Feb. 29, 1980 was sent by myself and that another person did it for me, etc. etc. Actually that cable was definitely sent by this defendant himself (as soon as one examines the signature on the cable application this would be clear). I fear there must be numerous errors in the investigation work like this one. And one cannot but doubt that such errors in the investigation methods of the so-called “secret witness’ have also occurred. I respectfully request the honourable procurator in his position as an upholder of the law to use sensible and accurate methods to supervise those handling the case in deliberating on the application of the defendant explained above, to conclude actively and rapidly the investigation, in order, in the shortest time, to investigate clearly that the defendant is without guilt and further to dispose of the case without indictment.
Because this defendant has received the punishment (a decision) from your honourable procuracy preventing him from leaving the country, which has caused loss of personal freedom and rights, my university teaching and family responsibilities have been neglected. This has caused consternation and pain which everyone knows. And since the defendant has worked to improve SinoAmerican and Sino-Australian friendly relations, therefore many people both in and out of government in the United States and Australia have shown concern for the misfortune of the defendant. A case in point is the recent visit to two Australian senators, John Knight and Baden Teague. This defendant and those who are concerned about this defendant all feel that even if the case of your honourable country cannot be broken in a short time, that not permitting the defendant to leave the country for an indefinite period or a long period or a long period will not contribute to the case. Furthermore, speaking from the actual signifiance as related to the spirit of the rule of law, it also clearly is suspected of inappropriately infringing on the defendant’s freedom. At the same time this defendant repeatedly said that after returning to Australia, if the investigation or trial of the case still requires me to come (to Taiwan), that this defendant is willing to guarantee returning (to Taiwan). The honourable procurator can also consider suitable methods according to law to establish such a guarantee to ensure that this defendant will return to Taiwan). The above mentioned two senators have expressed deep sympathy as well as concern for the teaching responsibilities of the defendant at Australia ‘s La Trobe University. They hope that the defendant can return with them on the same flight to Australia on April 12, Cathay Pacific Flight 521. With regard to their concern, this defendant has no way to make a definite answer; I can only hope that a sensible and intelligent procurator will have the courage and responsibility to make an appropriate decision. Then this defendant will be very blessed: Sino-American and Sino-Australian friendship will be blessed: And the rule of law in the Republic of China’s future will be blessed: (Signed)
(Note: This translation is a fairly literal and unpolished translation of the Chinese original; for reference use)
– There have been some reports in Taiwan indicating that Bruce Jacobs is not likely to be significant to the case in the context of which he has been implicated in some other reports. I refer particularly to a report from the newspaper the United Daily News of 8 April and a translation by Bruce Jacobs in which it is suggested that the probability of his being of any assistance in the case is, to quote the report, ‘not very great’. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the translation of that report by Bruce Jacobs which is preceded by a few of his comments.
The document read as follows-
Translation from Lien-ho-pao (United Daily News), 8 April 1980, p. 3. While the first part of the article repeats many of the errors to which the press is prone and contains many unnecessary invasions of privacy, the last part of the article is especially revealing and relevant. (When the press wants to say something in contradiction to the authorities, it often lays on the authorities’ side of the question in the same article.) Following is a translation of the final part of the article:
Many high police officials are unable to say how to solve the Jacobs problem.
Following is part of a press interview with a (Lin case) investigating task force police official:
How do you evaluate the elements of Jacobs’ suspicion?’
I feel he is possibly covering up some facts. ‘
In the past month, you have regularly talked with him. What are the results?’ (Literally: ‘How great is the harvest?’).
One can say none. At first he was clearly a bit nervous: now he is extremely composed. ‘
In any further talk, will he be of any assistance in the case?’
The probability is not very great. ‘
Then, according to your understanding, since the evidence regarding Jacobs is not sufficient, will it be possible to remove the restriction on his leaving the country?’
Before the entire case is solved to let Jacobs leave the country would require great courage and responsibility. ‘
If the present situation continues, when will you let him go?’
The prosecutor has already questioned Jacobs, so he must be asked to make the decision. ‘
Examining the present situation, it seems that the police and prosecutor are both using the method of ‘delay’. In that case Jacobs will still have to spend some time in Taiwan.
– I would also like to mention that, arising out of reports we saw in the English language Press during our time in Taiwan and shortly before our departure, there must be some concern about the tone that seems to pervade some aspects of the reports. For example, let me quote from a translation by Bruce Jacobs of one of the reports. The translation comes from a newspaper entitled the Youth Warrior Daily of 10 April. The translation from Bruce Jacobs is as follows:
Yesterday, after ‘interrogating’ the American citizen, ‘big beard’, Bruce Jacobs, the police task force investigating the Lin family murder case has already discovered that since coming to Taiwan, Bruce Jacobs has carried out some weird activities which are closely related to the murder case. It is said the police together with the prosecutor are now considering another step- arresting him or indicting him.
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the full text of the item as translated by Bruce Jacobs. It includes at the end of the article some comments made by Bruce Jacobs.
The document read as follows-
OMINOUS TRENDS IN JACOBS CASE
Partial translation of article in Ch ‘ing-nien chan-shih pai (Youth Warrior Daily), of April 10, 1 980, p. 3. (NOTE: This newspaper is run by one of the security agencies, the Political Warfare Department of the Ministry of National Defense).
Yesterday, after ‘interrogating’ the American citizen ‘big beard,’ Bruce Jacobs, the police task force investigating the Lin family murder case has already discovered that since coming to Taiwan, Bruce Jacobs has carried out some weird activities which are closely related to the murder case. It is said the police together with the prosecutor are now considering another step- arresting him or indicting him.
The police task force said that in the police investigation of Bruce Jacobs they discovered an extremely surprising matter- Bruce Jacobs has secretly compiled materials on the background of military and government leaders of the ROC and that the contents of these materials are very detailed. Furthermore, they have discovered he has collected materials about the Communist spy cases which have occurred in Taiwan during the past several years. The security forces are even more surprised that Bruce Jacobs has had close connections with suspects in a communist spy case involving a certain cultural group in northern Taiwan in 1 962. (*** omit paragraph which says Jacobs not cooperating with police).
Since Jacobs ‘ connection with the Lin family murder case grows deeper day-by-day, and since his reason for coming to Taiwan is extremely complicated, this has already deepened the security agencies’ doubts about Bruce Jacobs. They are now preparing further steps of ‘action.’ What will this action’ finally be? The security agencies have refused to divulge this.
(END OF ARTICLE)
NOTES: ( 1 ) Have never gathered materials on military leaders; materials on government leaders are all on public record.
Have never compiled materials on communist spy cases.
First visited Taiwan in 1965, not 1962.
While received complete cooperation from party and government for research in past, since the murder case have, been attempts to suggest CIA or some other foreign group (which responsible for murders), even accusing Amnesty International of such plans.
) A similar report also appeared in the Tai-wan jih-pao, April 10, 1980 p. 3.
-Of course, Senator Teague and I have not been in a position to make a judgment on the case as a whole or even on Bruce Jacobs’ role in the matter. It seems to us that there have been long delays in this matter, as the reports that I have incorporated in Hansard indicate. The prosecutor, as we understand it, is still to make a decision on the matter. The report from which I just quoted referred to the possibility of Bruce Jacobs being arrested or indicted. Senator Teague and I spoke to Bruce Jacobs in Taiwan again last night on the telephone. I can only say that I was deeply concerned at the apparent distress that he is now suffering because of his situation. We would like to see a decision made on this matter. We would like to know how long he may have to stay in Taiwan and whether some other action might need to be taken, as has been suggested in the report. A decision should be made promptly by the Taiwanese authorities. He has now been detained, I think, for almost two months. He was held, first of all, in the Grand Hotel, partly for his own safety, as he acknowledges. We found that he is relatively free to move around but nevertheless is restricted in that he cannot leave Taiwan.
Some concern has been expressed in Australia about this matter. We would like to see it cleared up by the Taiwanese authorities as soon as possible. It seems at this stage that there have been quite long delays. We appreciate that the Taiwanese authorities are dealing with the case in accordance wtih their law. It appears that the matter is distressing Bruce Jacobs and is weighing heavily on him. It has become of even greater concern to me and to Senator Teague since talking to Bruce Jacobs last night. In conclusion, I can only emphasise again that we hope a decision can be made by the Taiwanese authorities in this matter as promptly as possible because Bruce Jacobs has now been held in Taiwan for such a considerable time.
– While in Taiwan, Senator Knight and I came in close contact with Dr Jacobs and, in the way Senator Knight has outlined, we had numerous conversations with him and with a number of foreign journalists who were his peers. We had discussions with Government officials. We came to various conclusions about some political and local events in Taiwan in which this Australian resident, Dr Bruce Jacobs, has become embroiled. Out of concern for the situation in which this Australian resident now finds himself, I want to outline to the Senate briefly something of the web of political and other events that has occurred over recent months in Taiwan and the way in which Bruce Jacobs has been entrapped and I believe is being held for reasons which are not totally apparent. I hope that, despite the intricacies of this web in Taiwan, Dr Jacobs may soon return to his lecturing duties at La Trobe University.
Perhaps the story begins with the United States recognition of the People’s Republic of China in mid-December 1978- about 16 months ago. Following that time there was heightened political speculation amongst the people of Taiwan and in 1979 a group of persons interested in political matters, but not members of the dominant nationalist party, the Kuo min tang, formed themselves, somewhat as a group of dissidents, around a group that was publishing a magazine called Formosa which of course is the name the Portuguese gave to the island of Taiwan. It means ‘beautiful island’. In August 1 979 this group began publishing the magazine. The group had been able to publish it for about four months. The circulation grew to about 100,000 copies. This was quite a significant development in Taiwan which is under military rule and which is a one party paternalistic state. However successful it has been in economic development and in every area of social development, it continues to be dominated by one party.
A rally was organised in December 1979 which the Government was concerned about.
Police were detached to surround the rally participants. Apparently, they were given careful instructions not to be in any way violent to those persons associated with the magazine Formosa. In fact, the rally was organised so as not to be violent. This rally came together in Kaohsiung which is the chief port in the southern pan of Taiwan. As it happened, the police so surrounded the 1,000 demonstrators or the persons coming together in a rally that they felt they were locked in with no exits and they struggled to get through the police cordon. Reports have it that 183 policemen were injured. There is no indication as to how many civilians were injured. As a result of this the leaders of the magazine Formosa were rounded up and eight of them were put together on a major trial which opened at the end of February. These eight defendants were specially chosen to stand trial on a charge of sedition which in Taiwan carries a death penalty. Some 30 or 40 others were charged with minor offences and their court hearings are yet to occur. Only last week the verdicts were given in the case of those eight Kaohsiung defendants. One received life imprisonment and the others received sentences ranging from 14 to eight years’ imprisonment. There is speculation about how fair the trial was. There is speculation about whether confessions were extorted from those persons. But that is one thread of what has been happening recently in Taiwan.
As it happens, a second thread is that on the day that the trial opened for the Formosa dissidents horrible, brutal murders took place in which the mother and children of one of the defendants were murdered by a vicious knife attack in that defendant’s home. His name was Lin. He was attending the first day of his trial. His wife was allowed to attend the trial, so his mother was looking after his three children in the house. At about the middle of the day of 28 February this year some intruder came in and, with a knife, murdered Lin’s mother and then murdered his twin daughters, aged six years. Apparently the older daughter, aged nine years, returned to the house in the middle of this horrible scene, received six knife wounds and was left for dead. But in fact later in the day she was found, was revived and is recovering in hospital.
These murders shocked the whole of Taiwan. They occurred not only on the first day of a trial but also on a day which was an anniversary of a Taiwanese uprising which took place in 1 947. So speculation about who could have perpetrated the murders went in all directions. Could it have been a communist seeking to make trouble?
Could it have been someone from the most radical wing of the Formosa group who had been put out by statements made by the defendants in the court? Or was it a totally machiavellian and brutal person who wanted just to stir up trouble in that direction? Was it a psychopath? Nobody knows. So that murder has become entwined with this political thread of a dissident group in Taiwan.
The third series of events concerns Dr Bruce Jacobs. Dr Jacobs is 37 years old. He was born and educated in the United States of America. He has a Ph.D. from Columbia University, majoring in Chinese studies. He is now senior lecturer in politics at the La Trobe University in Melbourne. He is a specialist on Taiwan. Few people in Australia would have as careful a knowledge of Taiwan or would be as broadly sympathetic of the achievements and the international goals of the Republic of China, Taiwan. He speaks Chinese fluently and since 1965 has visited Taiwan regularly. He has lived there. He has studied at the National University of Taiwan. He married a Taiwanese. He has since been separated from his wife.
Last summer he went to Taiwan and was following up not only his academic interests in Taiwan but also all the current political and other events occurring there. He followed up, among other events, the dissident group associated with the Formosa magazine, including the Kaohsiung group which was arrested pending trial. He was also asked by Amnesty International to attend the trial if he could and to report to Amnesty International on the nature of the trial. He also was accredited as a journalist for the Australian newspaper to give reports on these events of very real significance in Taiwan.
In following those interests and some personal interests he sought to question some of the families of the defendants in the trial. That led him to establishing a very close association with the Lin family. He called on them over several days, including the day before the brutal murders took place. On the first day of the trial, the day of the murders, Dr Jacobs rang the Lin household every few hours to try to gain that day’s news about the trial. He did not know that Mrs Lin had gained permission to attend the trial. He did not attend the trial. At about 6 o’clock that night, when he rang the family household, a male voice answered the phone and said that a tragedy had happened and that the family was at the hospital. He went to the hospital and was shocked to learn that all but one of the children he had come to know well in the preceding days had been murdered and that the other one was recovering.
He learned that Lin had come from the trial to be at the hospital with his wife and was shocked. All the newspapers in Taiwan, even the international Press, carried photographs of all this. Jacobs himself happened to be photographed at the hospital that night.
This is where reason seems to end and mystery deepens. It appears that within a day or so of the murder, there not being any positive leads as to who might have committed the murders, with speculation rife throughout the whole adult community of the 18 million people of Taiwan, there was a need for a statement to be made indicating that perhaps a solution was in the making. It was then that the newspapers- some people allege under Government direction, some allege under intelligence direction- started to build a story, in very elliptical terms at first, about the possible connection of Foreign Bigbeard. At first they called the person Foreign Bigbeard and then, a couple of days later, they mentioned that this Foreign Bigbeard had a Columbia Ph.D. Then Dr Jacobs thought: ‘Aha, is this possibly me?’ He went to the police and asked: ‘Do you have something against me? Am I the person being referred to in the newspapers?’ He co-operated entirely with the police and, after more days had passed, he was carefully questioned.
One wing of the security system seems to have felt that he may have been implicated. One or two witnesses came forward and said that they had seen a foreigner with a beard at the Lin house on the day of the murders. But no one has been able to counter question those witnesses. Dr Jacobs has been able to outline to us and to his peer group, who have very real respect for him and know him very well in Taiwan, and in the American institute, where he was that day, in such a way as to clear him of suspicion. He was questioned in one long session by the security people in Taiwan. The conclusion of that is that they do not have anything with which to charge him. A clear case cannot’ be made out even to claim that he was a witness. The closest he came to the family that day was at the hospital after receiving the tragic news that night.
However- I can only note speculation on this- if persons close to the security officials of Taiwan somehow manipulated those murders, horrific though the thought may be, they would need to find someone around whom they at least could build a public image of his being a suspect or maybe involved with a suspect to focus attention in another direction and to provide a heat conductor until some weeks passed. We were unable to gain from any of our conversations in Taiwan an indication of there being substantial evidence that Dr Jacobs in any way was suspected of being involved or even that he was a witness of those terrible events. In the light of that and in the light of the newspaper comments of recent weeks, Senator Knight and I are very concerned that a person with Australian resident status is unable to leave Taiwan to get on with his family life in Australia, to get on with his teaching duties at La Trobe University; that his civil and personal rights are being compromised.
I refer to an example of what one of the local newspapers was printing at the time we were in Taiwan. The Lien-Ho Pao, the United Daily News a major Taiwan newspaper, on 8 April carried an article which may have summed up the security officials’ attitude to the case. The article stated:
Many high police officials are unable to say how to solve the Jacobs ‘problem.
Following is part of a press interview with an . . . investigating task force police official:
How do you evaluate the elements of Jacobs’ suspicion?’ 1 feel he is possibly covering up some facts ‘.
In the past month, you have regularly talked with him. What are the results?’
One can say none. At first he was clearly a bit nervous; now he is extremely composed ‘ . . .
In any further talk, will he be of any assistance in the case?’
The probability is not very great’.
Then, according to your undertanding, since the evidence regarding Jacobs is not sufficient, will it be possible to remove the restriction on his leaving the country?’
Before the entire case is solved, to let Jacobs leave the country would require great courage and responsibility. ‘
If the present situation continues when will you let him go?’
The prosecutor has already questioned Jacobs, so he must be asked to make the decision. ‘
This very elliptical summary seems to indicate -it is one of many examples in the Press- that the security officials have something against Jacobs. They are looking after him in the best hotel in Taipei. He is able to travel freely about the city despite having a security guard in the room next to him. He is able to receive telephone calls, as he did from me and Senator Knight last evening. But he is increasingly worried that the rather vague attitude that he will not be of any value as a witness towards the solving of this case might lead by some manipulation of events to a charge being made against him on an indictable offence, even if evidence has not been gained from him in interview or in any other way. That is a rather ominous possibility. It is not one that honourable senators or this Parliament could in any way be happy about, whether it affects Dr
Jacobs or any Australian resident or citizen in a foreign country. I refer to another newspaper, the Ch’ing-nien chan-shih pao of 10 April. A paragraph in an article in that newspaper stated:
Since Jacobs’ connection with the Lin family murder case grows deeper day by day, and since his reason for coming to Taiwan is extremely complicated -
Both those associations have been made by a journalist who is very likely prejudiced in a newspaper which has certain controllers. They spread wider the web of association without hard facts. The article is not open to any libel laws under which this individual could try to defend himself. The article continued:
The security agency has refused to divulge this.
This month there is much at hand to indicate that there may be closer practical relations between Australia and Taiwan. I myself have this week in the Senate asked the Government to give careful and serious consideration to the establishment of an office in Taiwan to facilitate relations between our countries, in particular trade between Australia and Taiwan, which now exceeds $800m per annum, and to provide visas and other travel facilities, an information office and a means for cultural exchange. The prospects for these developments are so bright- I hope they may soon come about- that I see the situation of these political events which are somehow engulfing an Australian resident as being ominous and not at all helpful in the development of closer relations between Australia and Taiwan.
It is for the judgment of the Australian Government, other senators and the people of Australia as to what steps can more directly be taken to enable Dr Jacobs to return to Australia and get on with his life here. One of the difficulties, of course, is that, there being no Australian representation in Taiwan, the matter cannot be followed through more directly by consular or other representatives of Australia in Taiwan. So it has fallen to two visiting senators- Senator Knight and me- to observe these matters and to bring them before the Senate in this way tonight.
– in reply- I shall comment very briefly. Senator Colston’s expressed concern that a road link and bridge to Cooktown had been closed. I shall bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and see that the senator is appropriately advised. I shall refer the matter of Dr Jacobs in Taiwan, which was referred to at some length tonight by Senator
Knight and Senator Teague to the appropriate Minister, whom I believe to be the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), to see whether anything can be done in relation to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Defence Act- Determination- 1980- No. 16- Indonesia (Maluka) Allowance. Remuneration Tribunals ActRemuneration Tribunal- Determination - 1980/2 - Remuneration payable to holders of certain public officesFilm Censorship Board, together with an explanatory statement, dated 28 March 1 980.
Senate adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 20 February, 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
INVALID PENSIONERS AND WIVES OF INVALID PENSIONERS-NUMBER CURRENT
Wives of Invalid invalid Period ended pensioners pensioners
30.6.77……. 202.963 43,684
30.6.78……. 204,944 49,068
30.6.79……. 219,843 56,153
9.7.79……. 220,082 56,307
3.8.79……. 220,959 56,775
31.8.79……. 222,034 57,288
28.9.79……. 223,244 57,753
26.10.79……. 224,121 58,182
23.11.79……. 225,212 58,611
21.12.79……. 226,600 59,175
Under the Pensioner Entitlement Review Program all invalid pensioners are selected for review and receive a questionnaire asking details of their circumstances at that time. The selection is normally timed to coincide with the anniversary of grant of pension. In addition, there are other special reviews, e.g., medical reviews, reviews related to possible earnings and a child attaining 16 years, etc. Historical data about these reviews is not held in the computer record. To obtain this type of information it would be necessary to undertake a considerable amount of clerical effort to physically examine every invalid pension paper file in all offices.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 27 February 1980:
From whom and when has the Treasurer received representations on behalf of Mr N. Melkman, Vaucluse, New South Wales, regarding the taxation of benefits he receives from the Netherlands Government.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have received a number of representations on behalf of Mr N. Melkman regarding the taxation of benefits received by him from the Netherlands Government.
As a matter of principle, however, I would not be prepared to release details of that correspondence without there being express approval from Mr Melkman for doing so or some other good reason.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 20 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
No delays are expected with the leaflets due for release in May 1980.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800422_senate_31_s85/>.