31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 67 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.
– I present the following petition from 45 citizens of Australia:
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index. By this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Adjust all pensions and benefits quarterly to the consumer price index, including the ‘fixed ‘ 70 ‘s rate.
Raise all pensions and benefits to at least 30 per cent of the average weekly earnings.
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
The present static threshold of $75 per week for taxation purposes be increased to $ 100 per week.
A substantial reduction in indirect taxation on consumer goods.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
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 Senators Peter Baume, Carrick and Puplick.
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 Womenof Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian Women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council. ‘
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle.
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Taxpayers who incur child-care expenses in order to earn income should be able to have those expenses exempt from income taxation in the same way as other taxpayers can deduct business expenses from their assessable income.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Ryan.
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the National Women’s Advisory Council and request the Government to abolish the Council.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Scott.
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Collard.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate:
1 ) Notes the finding of the Bowen Committee of Inquiry on Public Duty and Private Interest that:
It is now accepted that judges should not engage in business or in any way be associated. with business institutions, for example as director, trustee, or adviser;
Notes that the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, during his tenure as Chief Justice, appears from documents on public record to have engaged in or been associated with extensive business transactions, involving land and share dealings, in his capacity as Governing and Managing Director of the New South Wales registered company, Mundroola Pty Ltd;
Notes further that it appears from documents on public record that Mundroola Pty Ltd had shares in certain companies, namely Ampol, Brambles and CSR, at or about the time that such companies, or companies associated with them, were engaged in litigation before the High Court, and that the Chief Justice appears to have participated in the hearing and adjudication of such matters without either disqualifying himself or disclosing the nature of his interest in those companies;
Notes further that it appears from documents on public record that another director of Mundroola Pty Ltd., Mr L. J. Thompson, is or was at the time of the relevant litigation, a director of the companies, or companies associated with them, referred to in (3) above;
5 ) Expresses its concern that the Chief Justice ‘s involvement in the affairs of Mundroola Pty Ltd may in all the circumstances have been such as to involve a significant conflict between public duty and private interest and to have constituted behaviour tending to imperil public confidence in the administration of justice in this country; and
1 ) that a Joint Select Committee of the Parliament be appointed to inquire into and report on:
the holding by the Chief Justice of a directorship in a private company, Mundroola Pty Ltd;
b ) the nature and extent of the involvement of the Chief Justice in the land, share and other business dealings of Mundroola Pty Ltd;
the hearing and adjudication by the Chief Justice of matters involving companies, or companies associated with them, in which Mundroola Pty Ltd held shares;
the hearing and adjudication by the Chief Justice of matters involving companies, or companies associated with them, a director of which was a fellow director of the Chief Justice ‘s in Mundroola Pty Ltd;
the extent to which the Chief Justice heard and adjudicated matters involving questions of law in taxation, real property, company law and other areas of relevance or potential relevance to the conduct of business activities by Mundroola Pty Ltd;
the extent to which the Chief Justice has engaged in business otherwise than in association with Mundroola Pty Ltd or been associated with other business institutions as a director, trustee or adviser;
whether in all the circumstances the actions of the Chief Justice have been such as to involve a conflict between public duty and private interest contrary to the high standards required of judicial office holders;
whether in all the circumstances public confidence in the administration of justice has been imperilled by the Chief Justice;
if so, what action should be taken by the Parliament by way of censure, proceedings pursuant to section 72 of the Constitution, or otherwise; and
whether the Parliament should legislate and, if so, in what terms, to prescribe standards of behaviour in relation to the public duty and private interests of the Australian judiciary;
) that the Committee consist of three members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, two Senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, one Senator nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and one Senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democrats;
that the method of appointment, powers and procedures of the Committee be as follows:
every appointment or nomination of a member of the Committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
the Committee elect as Chairman one of the members appointed by the Prime Minister or nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate;
the Committee elect a Deputy-Chairman who shall perform the duties of the Chairman of the Committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee and, at any time when the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman are not present at a meeting of the Committee, the members present shall elect another member to perform the duties of the Chairman at that meeting:
the Committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the Committee is empowered to examine;
the Committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to place and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament; ( 0 four members of the Committee constitute a quorum of the Committee, and a majority of the members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee;
in matters of procedure the Chairman or Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote and, in other matters, the Chairman or Deputy-Chairman have a deliberative vote only;
the Committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources;
the Committee or a sub-committee have power to authorise publication of any evidence given before it and any document presented to it;
the Committee report by 30 June 1980 and any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report; and
the foregoing provisions of this Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders; and
that a message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of these Resolutions and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that, contingent on the Senate proceeding to the calling on of the Order of the Day, Government Business, for the consideration in Committee of the Whole of Message No. 464 from the House of Representatives in respect of the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979, 1 shall move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me moving an amendment to insert a new clause in the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 immediately upon Message No. 464 from the House of Representatives returning the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 being read by the Chairman in Committee of the Whole and prior to consideration of the amendments insisted on by the House of Representatives.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1 905.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that, contingent upon the Wireless Telegraphy Amendment Bill 1980 having been read a first time, I shall move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: In view of the current crisis involving Iran and the United States and the widespread apprehension in the Australian community at the current drift of events, does the Australian Government consider that it is in a position where, in conjunction with other governments, it can make any positive moves which would help to resolve the differences between Iran and the United States? Can the Minister assure the Senate, and indeed the Australian people, that the Government will use every possible avenue available to it to bring its influence to bear to avert a violent resolution of the current conflict, with all the incalculable consequences that failure to do so may have for the whole world?
– Taking the second part of Senator Wriedt ‘s question first, this Senate and the Australian people can have the full assurance of the Government that it will take every possible action it considers useful and effective to avert violence. The Government shares with Senator Wriedt a considerable apprehension with regard to the peril to the world in the course of existing events. The Government fully understands the need for restraint, the need for wise counsel. In consequence of this, the Government has been taking those diplomatic steps it has deemed desirable, not only in full and frequent discussion with its Western allies but also with countries that are non-aligned, countries that can play a useful part because they may have a more direct dialogue. Of course, Australia has been in direct dialogue with the Iranian Government.
The Australian people would want us to express to the American people our great sadness that the hostage situation has not been resolved, our tremendous understanding of their desire that there should be a resolution, and therefore our sympathy for their present plight. It is the plight of a great nation, a powerful nation, that has been rendered virtually impotent in its attempts to free the hostages because it must accept responsibility for ensuring that, by its actions, it does not bring the world to war, whether global or regional.
I say emphatically to Senator Wriedt that the Government is bending its mind to the use of every possible diplomatic avenue that might produce teamwork and bright ideas which could help to break the present deadlock and to cool the situation. Certainly there is at this moment a need for restraint throughout the world, a need for wise counsel and a massive need for sympathy for the American people.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the announcement by Bonds Coats Patons Ltd of a net operating profit representing a return of 16.02 per cent of its total shareholders’ funds, I ask: How does the recent profit performance of clothing, textile and footwear producers compare with the profits of the rest of the manufacturing industry?
– I cannot answer specifically. It is a comparison that Senator Sim seeks. I will refer his question to the responsible Minister and seek the details that he requests.
-I ask the Minister for National Development and Energy whether any estimate is made by his Department of the primary job creation effect of mining projects and the multiplier effect upon other areas of employment. If such estimates are not made by his Department, are they made by any other?
– A series of estimates on a number of mining projects is made by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. Similar estimates are made by my Department. For example, I have seen estimates of the foreshadowed Rundle project, both in the construction and development stages, in relation to employment, the employment of families, the creation of societies and neighbourhoods and the multiplier effect. It might be desirable if I were to get some examples of projected developments and let Senator Button have them.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. With respect, my question was directed not to examples. It was trying to elicit whether there was in train a process of providing estimates of the multiplier effects across the industry. I ask the Minister: If figures are available, as he suggested in the early part of his answer, will he make them available to the Senate as soon as possible?
-I will certainly do so. I think I understand the honourable senator’s question. By ‘mining’ I do not mean only extraction industries. At the moment we are aiming to persuade other countries that it might be far more efficient for them in the saving of bunker fuels and freight to combine their energy component and minerals in Australia and to provide more industries in Australia. These, of course, will be much more labour intensive than will the extractive industries. Those additional industries can be added to the list. There has been a very sympathetic response by overseas corporations in that regard. I will seek the information.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen in today’s Courier-Mail a report that the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, is calling for the Federal Government to give tax concessions to graziers in many parts of Australia affected by drought? Will the Minister consult the Treasurer to see whether it is possible to give some assistance to people affected in this way? Moreover, will the Minister consult the Premier of Queensland with a view to having him and his Government give freight concessions to graziers who have to move their cattle by rail for agistment?
– I have seen references to the statement by the Premier of Queensland. The Senate will be aware that the Prime Minister announced on 14 April taxation concessions for water conservation expenditure by primary producers. The Premier’s suggestion goes further than that, covering the idea of tax holidays for drought affected areas. That idea raises other matters of both policy and practicalities relating to demarcation and other matters. I shall draw the suggestion to the Treasurer’s notice. The Government already has co-operative arrangements with the States which provide for assistance in the case of major natural disasters. This assistance, unlike tax concessions, would still be available to those not receiving income and would also put funds in the hands of those eligible without the delay involved in tax concessions.
The arrangements, amongst other things, allow for assistance where stock have to be moved for agistment purposes. However, it is the responsibility of the States under these arrangements to decide when situations are severe and extensive enough to warrant particular forms of assistance. The arrangements incorporate limits above which disasters qualify for Commonwealth assistance. It is a matter for the States to advise the Commonwealth when a situation is believed to meet these criteria. The arrangements are intended to cover only disasters of a magnitude that could be beyond the State’s capacity. Unless a situation exceeding the limits set down has arisen, assistance is left, by these arrangements, to the States concerned.
– I direct my question to you, Mr President. Is it a fact that a strike of members of the Australian Public Service Association and the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association has been called from 12.30 p.m. today? What is the stated cause of the strike? What effect will it have on the operation of the Senate and on the management of the Senate’s business?
– My attention has been drawn, since we gathered this afternoon, to the absence of attendants from this chamber. I am seeking information on this matter and shall advise honourable senators as quickly as I can.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It is reported in today’s Australian that Qantas Airways Ltd is to spend $3m on cargo terminals in Perth. Extensions to the passenger terminal at the Perth Airport are of more general and immediate concern to most Western Australians. I have heard a rumour that plans are complete for substantial extensions to the Perth Airport passenger terminal. Can the Minister confirm this rumour? Can he give me some indication of when the urgently needed extensions will be completed? Is he in a position to say what portion of the cost of these extensions will be met by the airlines which use the terminal? -
– The Government is aware of the concern which has been expressed from various quarters about congestion at the Perth Airport. I think Mr Viner, representing Mr
Hunt, the Minister for Transport, conducted an inspection of the airport with the State Minister for Transport, Mr Rushton, some months ago. I was a little puzzled as to why that was necessary since many of us fly in and out of the airport twice a week and it is fairly easy to see that there are difficulties during peak periods with respect to the utilisation of that aerodrome. The present position is that the Government is moving to remedy the problems which exist and is aiming to carry out substantial extensions and renovations to the Perth Airport passenger terminal. This will involve both the international area and the domestic area which are, of course, contiguous. It will additionally cater for the planned introduction of domestic wide-bodied aircraft into Perth.
At the moment the immediate plans are for an extension of the Customs and health hall for international arrivals. Tenders for those extensions will be let before June of this year. Extension of the international departure area and of the airline and office areas is currently programmed for the 1980-81 financial year. The third area for expansion is the domestic departure, ticketing and baggage handling areas, which will include the construction of holding lounges to relieve pressure in the general areas. That is currently under consideration in connection with ground facility requirements for the introduction of domestic wide-bodied jets.
I think Senator Thomas would be aware that part of the problem at Perth Airport is the very high ratio of what are called .-I…….. ……….., Although very few of us who travel from here are met or greeted, large crowds of people are always waiting either to meet passengers or to see them off. That has made a difficult situation worse. The general position as far as costs are concerned is that under the Government’s policy of cost recovery, 100 per cent of costs should be recovered from the airlines using the facility. The costs are recovered not as an initial capital sum but through the charges which are levied for the use of the facility.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. I refer to the matter of public importance which has been listed by Senator Wriedt for discussion today and which calls on all political parties to use their good offices in reconciling current differences in the current grave world situation. Is it true that the Government will gag this debate after one senator has spoken? If so, is this not a scandalous abuse of Parliament and a shocking denial of the rights of the members of Parliament to discuss an issue which is deeply concerning all Australians? If we are to be prevented from debating and voting on such issues, will the Minister inform me what is the use of our coming to Parliament?
-The Senate is meeting today for a very good reason. This is an extra sitting day because the Senate, for many reasons including a proliferation of matters of public importance, has fallen severely behind in its legislative program. It has devoted a considerable amount of its time to other matters. It is the normal arrangement in the Senate to have a number of speakers on matters of public importance on Wednesdays, and on other days to reduce the number of speakers to one from each side. The fact of the matter is that there are ample opportunities for honourable senators to speak on matters of public importance. Senator Chipp need not comment on that matter because I note that in about the last four urgency debates he has been given opportunities to speak well out of proportion to the numbers that he and his colleague command in the Senate. So, generous concessions have been made in that respect. If honourable senators wished to speak on foreign affairs matters they had two full weeks of debate at the commencement of this session in which to do that. They have had ample time in which to debate such matters. Honourable senators have had the opportunity to speak during urgency debates and during first reading debates. They also have available, on any night they desire, the adjournment debate. No parliament chamber in the world offers to individual parliamentarians more opportunities for the presentation of facts than does this chamber.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the Minister’s answer in which he said that we had two weeks during which to debate foreign affairs issues, do I take it that it is his view that nothing happened over the weekend to warrant an urgent debate on this matter?
– Order! Do not debate the question.
-Mr President, that is not a supplementary question. The answer is no.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, concerns the ban which the
Government imposed on Soviet cruise ships visiting Australian ports. Will the Government investigate the transactions involved in the ownership and charter of the now Greek registered 24-year-old ship Rasa Sayang, formerly the Golden Moon, formerly the Rasa Sayang, formerly the Degrasse, formerly the Bergensfjord, and the companies Sunlit Cruises Ltd and Sunlight Shipping Co. and the newly formed Rasa Saya Cruises of the same address as Charter Travel Services, a Soviet shipping agency, to ascertain how these transactions are and have been funded? Is the Government satisfied that the present owners of this vessel are not just a front for a Soviet agency and that the jiggerypokery apparently involved in registration, ownership and charter is not simply a means of circumventing the ban on Soviet cruise activities? Is the Government also aware that advertisements for cruises on the Rasa Sayang simply state European officers and Asian hospitality’ and give no indication of the nationality of the ship or of its crew members? Can the Minister tell us whether the profits from this venture will flow back to Moscow?
– The honourable senator asks a series of questions relating to a ship called the Rasa Sayang. I am not able to answer all the questions which he raised, but I am able to give him some information with respect to this matter. I think all honourable senators are aware that the Government decided to suspend the operation of Soviet cruise ships from 31 May 1980, which is the end of the current season. It was following that decision that the Australian agents, Charter Travel Services, which is a Russian owned company, sought clarification from the Government whether next year they could operate the Rasa Sayang in place of previously scheduled Soviet cruise vessels. Charter Travel Services was advised that the Government’s decision does not apply to cruise vessels other than Soviet vessels. Apparently the vessel to which the honourable senator referred is a Greek vessel. Any Government action against Greek vessels would have ramifications which would affect our relationship with Greece and, therefore, the ship is able to be operated. The honourable senator has raised a whole series of questions which go beyond the information which I have from the Department of Transport and the Minister. I will seek answers to those detailed questions and let him have those answers as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the Government’s repeated assertion that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to world peace since the Second World War, can he tell the Senate why Australia continues to maintain a trade commissioner in Moscow and yet has withdrawn its trade commissioner from Tehran? As the function of a trade commissioner is to promote trade, does the continued presence of the trade commissioner in Moscow mean that, despite claims to the contrary, the Government is actually promoting trade with the Soviet Union? Can he explain why the Embassy official responsible for liaising with the Soviet authorities on Olympic Games matters was transferred to other work while the trade commissioner has remained unaffected? Is this another illustration of the Government’s double standards?
– There are no double standards. The fact is that the trade with the Soviet Union has been conducted on the lines of the Co-ordinating Committee on Exports of Technology to Communist Countries agreement, which has been spelt out in this Parliament and which is an understanding by Western nations with regard to the limitation of war-type materials. That has been rigidly enforced. Equally, the Government has agreed to follow the American decision on the restriction of additional food shipments, and it has done exactly that. Throughout the world the convention has been that only in drastic circumstances does one touch the basic food trade.
– Isn’t the possibility of World War III drastic?
– That interjection must suggest that the interjector supports the abolition of the food trade. It has been thought generally that it would be a serious matter to cut basic food supplies from the nations concerned. There is no double standard; there is no contradiction in terms at all. The terms of COCOM have been enforced and will continue to be enforced.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. In relation to the recently reported profit of Bonds Coats Patons Ltd, is the Minister aware that in fact there was a percentage profit decline in relation to shareholders’ funds compared with the previous year? Further, does the Minister not agree that the profit related to net tangible assets would be a more reliable indicator of return? Is the Minister aware that a substantial part of that profit is due to the company’s compliance with successive Government requirements as to restructuring? Is the Minister aware also that such compliance necessarily leads to a situation of reduced employment with high-producing, world-efficient machinery? Does the Government now deny these textile firms the right to exist, as is implied in the recent Industries Assistance Commission draft report on the clothing, textile and footwear industries?
– I will ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to let me have an answer to that question.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the present campaign in Victoria by 35 welfare organisations, the churches and the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association against the harsh application of the work test on the unemployed? If so, is she aware that threats were made to union members in the Department of Social Security who had the conscience and the courage to take part in the campaign, as reported in the Press last week? What impediments were put in the way of the Department’s counter officers and social workers in their effort to bring this matter to the attention of the public in their own time? What action, if any, has been taken against them?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI am aware that there were some difficulties with regard to the work test for the unemployment benefit. I am not aware by whom threats were made to the Department of Social Security officers. If the threats were made by people in Victoria or in other States I would wish to know about that. The officers of the Department of Social Security and the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service are aware of the requirements of the Act and of the determinations which need to be made for eligibility. I am aware that these matters were drawn to the attention of the officers of my Department. As to any other matters raised in the question, I will see whether there is any information which needs to be given to Senator Grimes in response.
– I ask a supplementary question. Would the Minister consider it proper that senior officers of her Department should take part in threats or put impediments in the way of junior officers of her Department taking part in such a campaign without first seeking her advice or at least advising her?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEIf we now have the information that the threats were made by senior officers of the Department -
– They are not going to be made by junior officers. Now, fair go.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI was not aware from the honourable senator’s question whether he meant that the threats were made by people outside the Department, people who were seeking benefits. As to the matter that has been raised with regard to senior officers, I am aware that the members of the Department who are engaged in these duties were reminded of the operation of the Act and of its requirements with regard to eligibility. I would think that senior officers of the Department would counsel junior officers about their responsibilities as members of the Public Service in. the administration of the Act. I am not aware of impediments that may have been introduced into these matters. 1 would seek further information from Senator Grimes on that matter.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs follows the statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on 31 January 1980.I ask whether the Minister includes marihuana in the category of illicit drugs. In his statement he said:
Accordingly, in the absence of compelling circumstances, people who render themselves liable to deportation because of convictions for involvement in the production, importation, distribution or trafficking of illicit drugs have been and will continue to be deported.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI understand that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs includes marihuana in those circumstances.
– Does the Minister for National Development and Energy consider the use of liquefied petroleum gas in cars is really a proposition? Would he agree that in the national interest Australia’s LPG should be dedicated to the petrochemical industry in an ethylene feedstock? Does he agree that such an energy policy decision presents an opportunity for national investment that is sure to produce benefits for all Australia? If so, what guarantees is the Minister prepared to give that LPG will be allocated in this way?
– The Government has decided that the two priority uses for liquefied petroleum gas should be, firstly, automotive and, secondly, petrochemical. It acknowledges that the use for petrochemicals is very significant. The Government believes that in the years immediately ahead the use of LPG as automotive fuel will replace 14 per cent of gasolene use. That saving would be enormous. Today 80 per cent of our LPG is exported. We believe that in four or five years time all our LPG will be used at home, gaining energy for Australia equivalent to 14 per cent of the gasolene which is used now. We believe that that is of immense importance.
We have reason to believe that the petrochemical industry may well be supplied from places such as Bass Strait and the Cooper Basin and, in due course, significantly from the North West Shelf. We have asked the partners there to strip the natural gas of LPG, and this will be available. There is no doubt at all that LPG can form a nationally significant industrial base which will provide jobs and significant growth for Australia. In fact, the two work together. The need to turn wheels is so vital in this country, and the need to make sure that if there were a perilous situation in the Middle East which cut off our supplies we could turn them with our own energy is so vast that we would have to put automotive use of LPG ahead of petrochemical use.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of recently published estimates that the informal, underground or irregular economy of the United States of America is of the order of one-third of the size of the official economy measured by government statistics; in other words, that about a quarter of all economic activity in the United States of America evades taxation measures generally? Do any estimates exist which indicate the size of any irregular economy in Australia?
– From time to time one hears of countries, such as America and France, where socking it away in the sock under the bed has always been a well exercised national pastime, where there are alleged to be illegal economies. I am not aware of the nature or extent of such an illegal economy in Australia. I am able to say that the Australian Statistician, in his preliminary statement No. 1 to the 1978-79 Australian national accounts released on 1 April, cautioned that there were reasons to expect understatement of the level of domestic production on both the income and expenditure sides of the production account. That is a signal, of course. On the income side, he stated that the major area of understatement is considered to be unincorporated enterprise income because of understatement of income as reported to the Commissioner of Taxation. Among the areas of possible understatement on the expenditure side, the Statistician indicated that no allowance is made for the purchase of illicit drugs or payments related to illicit gambling or prostitution. So there is, of course, some illegal economy in Australia.
– I ask honourable senators to take notes which they would normally hand to an attendant to the Hansard reporters at the table.
– And scab on those on strike.
– I make the suggestion for the convenience of Hansard.
-by leave -Mr President, you have now raised the matter and you have highlighted the difficulty which we face. Not only are we now being requested or invited to take our notes down to the Hansard reporters in breach- shall I term it- of the position that has been taken by the attendants in this place, but we have also been told that the second reading speeches cannot be circulated. We are rapidly getting to a position where the Senate cannot work without the service of the attendants in this place. I put it to you seriously, Mr President, that in these circumstances it may be necessary for you to adjourn the Senate. It is quite unfair to ask any person in this place to do the work of the attendants in breach of the efforts of those attendants.
– We have them -
– I say to Senator Walters that it is obvious that on the Government side of the House there are people who are prepared to do the work of the attendants who at present are engaged in a dispute about their conditions. If honourable senators opposite and the Government Whip want to circulate documents and do the work of the attendants, then by all means let them do so. The officers of this place- not the attendants- have taken the view that they will not do the attendants’ work. It is an affront for anyone to suggest that senators should do the attendants’ work. It is my view that, because of the situation which we are now facing, if there were to be a division there would be no one to lock the doors of the chamber as is required by the Standing Orders. A division will be called today. At that point the Senate will come to a standstill. I am suggesting that as the matter has been raised we ought to adjourn the Senate until such time as the attendants are back on duty.
– by leave- Whatever may be the rights or wrongs of an industrial dispute involving people who work in this chamber, there is an overwhelming responsibility on all parliamentarians. No parliament can claim that because of some industrial dispute it is incapable of carrying out its business. To do so would be the denigration of responsibility. Whatever the difficulties, whether from industrial dispute confrontation or not, or whatever the irritations may be, the work of the Parliament should go on. It is not for us to decide the rights and wrongs of an industrial dispute. In the end it is for you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker to do so. If it will help the proceedings of this Parliament for notes to be given to Hansard writers and for second reading speeches to be circulated, certainly honourable senators on the Government side will co-operate so that the Government at least discharges its duties, which is the proper duty of a parliament, whatever may be happening in the circumstances surrounding it.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. Obviously Senator Georges does not know his Standing Orders. Standing Order 174 reads:
The doors shall be closed and locked as soon after the lapse of three minutes as the President shall think proper to direct;
Obviously, if the President does not think the doors can be locked in an efficient way, he does not need to so direct.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Was any use made of American intelligence gathering bases in Australia preparatory to, or during, the recent abortive attempt to rescue the United States hostages in Iran?
– I am not aware of any such matter. I will refer the question to the Minister for Defence.
-Does the Minister for National Development and Energy agree with the statement made by spokesmen from the oil industry that the demand for petrol in Australia has slumped by as much as 6 per cent in the past few months, not only because of the increased use of four-cylinder cars which use less petrol but also because of the altered driving habits of large engine car owners since the price of petrol increased? Does the Minister agree with the view of the spokesmen that Australia now faces a glut of petrol?
– Consumption figures show that happily there has been a decline in the trend of gasolene use. There are a number of reasons for that, the predominant one put forward by the automotive industry being that there is a demand by consumers for more fuel-efficient and smaller cars. That has had an effect. Conservation has occurred also because of the scarcity price operating in the market place. It is the second cheapest of the Western-type countries. Nevertheless, it is a significant reminder to people of the need to conserve. I do not know that there will be a glut of gasolene. I could put up with that luxury, in present circumstances. The fact of the matter is that the four elements of our oil policy are working. We are conserving; we are switching to alternative fuels; we are exploring; and we are stimulating the development of synthetic fuels. On each of those scores we are pacesetters in the world. We are making sure that in the years ahead Australia will have oil.
– Following the question from Senator Walters, I now ask the Minister for National Development and Energy: Is it not a fact that a glut of petrol exists in Brisbane, as in all other cities? Is it not a fact that, because of this glut, petrol companies are now heavily discounting petrol in Brisbane? Is it a fact that petrol in Brisbane can be purchased now at 29.5c a litre while it sells for as much as 40c a litre in country areas? How can the Minister justify the statement he has just made that the Government’s policy, of which he is master, has led to conservation of fuel when oil companies are busily discounting petrol to get rid of the glut?
– I have been asked how I can justify my statement. I justify it by reference to the quantities of fuel sold. In the years leading up to 1 979 there was an average growth of about 4 per cent a year in the consumption of petrol. Growth fell to under 2 per cent in 1 979- a very significant decrease. There are indications that it is falling again. The discounting of petrol, which is causing considerable worries to independent operators who do not have the benefit of this situation, has been with us for many years. One has to go only to States such as Victoria to see discounting at its full extent. Despite the discounting, conservation of petrol is occurring. In terms of the price of petrol in country districts, I am happy to say that the freight subsidy that has been introduced by the Commonwealth Government reduces to 2c the price margin between city and country users. Country people are gaining a benefit which will cost the taxpayers of Australia $123m a year- a massive subsidy to equalise prices between city and country.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As Australia is shortly to host the next meeting of the consultative parties on the Antarctic Treaty, is it the intention of the Australian Government to support the adoption of the so-called Washington draft of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources or will the Australian delegation be pressing for a strengthening of the draft? Is the Government aware of criticisms which have been made of the draft that it is more a charter for exploitation than a convention for conservation of Antarctic resources, especially in such sensitive areas as krill fishing and mineral exploration and exploitation? Finally, will the Government give careful consideration to the proposed amendments to the draft convention which have been submitted to it by various Australian and international conservation organisations?
-I am advised that the present draft text of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, sometimes referred to as the Washington draft, has been the subject of intensive negotiation and represents the latest stage reached after six rounds of informal consultations over the past two years among the Antarctic Treaty consultative parties. It necessarily reflects a careful balance between the interests of states fishing in the areas and those states that place primary emphasis on the conservation aspect of the Convention. The Australian delegation to the conference will be working towards the adoption of a draft convention, substantially along the lines of the current draft text, which meets the interests of all the parties whose participation is essential to the success of the conference.
The draft Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is not concerned with mineral exploration and exploitation. That matter is a subject for separate negotiations. In regard to marine living resources, the draft text of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention incorporates an ecosystem approach to the protection of related as well as harvested Antarctic marine species and establishes a clear conservation standard for the protection of those species.
It is therefore not accurate to state that the Convention is more a charter for exploitation than for conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. Indeed, a number of influential conservation groups have recently stated that the present text represents a new and desirable approach to management of ocean resources.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, follows upon the question asked by Senator Wriedt. If I might say so, the Senate would take the response of the Leader as indicating that the Australian Government is favourable to a policy of restraint and that in any discussions with the United States the Australian Government might well guard against taking a tougher policy with Iran. I ask the Minister: Firstly, is that presumption a correct interpretation of the Government’s position? Secondly, in view of the possibility of the worsening situation which was mentioned by Mr Peacock last week, is it the Government’s intention to brief fully leaders of the parties in the Parliament and, to the maximum extent possible, members of the Senate? I think he would agree that in respect of these matters members of the Parliament should have the fullest information possible, subject to some security arrangements.
-If I may take the second part of the question first, my understanding is that the Government intends to keep the leaders of the Opposition in both places fully briefed. My understanding is, subject to correction by Senator Wriedt, that within the last few days an extensive briefing has been made available. That is my belief at this moment. My understanding is that upon request Mr Hayden and Senator Wriedt will get full briefings by the Office of National Assessments and by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– What you are saying is that you threaten ONA officers with the sack.
– The fact is that ONA has our full confidence and ONA will give impartial, accurate and objective advice to the leaders.
– The interjections are such that I take it, therefore, that because the
Whip of the Labor Party believes that would not be so, he would advise his Leader not to go to ONA and not to go to the Department because the information would not be effective.
– What he is saying is that you prevent ONA from giving advice.
– You know what he is saying.
-Nevertheless, that information is available. It is objective and it is as accurate as human nature -
– How can they be accurate when you threaten them?
– Order! Senator Grimes, I warn you to cease interjecting. You are persistently so doing.
– You gentlemen make it very difficult.
– Order! I shall not warn you again.
-Senator Bishop asked me what interpretation he could place upon my appeal for restraint. That was restraint against actions which could provoke in fact violence of action. It is not to be thought that the Australian Government might not countenance some widening of sanctions, some- in the honourable senator’s words- tougher action, if that were judged to be necessary and were judged to be moving towards effective circumstances.
We would need to judge circumstances on their merits as such. The appeal for restraint is an appeal against plunging the world into acts of violence which could lead to global war.
– I am afraid that I must direct another question to the Minister for National Development and Energy, this time in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Is it a fact that the Assistant Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University met on Wednesday, 16 April, with students who had withheld part of their fees to tell them that if the amount was not paid they would be expelled? Did this meeting take place between approximately 2.30 p.m. and 3.45 p.m.? Is it a fact that the anonymous payment of these students’ fees was made to the university several hours before that meeting? Why then was the threat of expulsion necessary? Why were the students involved not told at that time that the withheld amount had been paid? Was a receipt issued for the amount paid? To whom was it issued?
-I sought some information on this matter because it had been raised a number of times in the Senate by honourable senators.
-Can we have a straight answer?
– Order, Senator Georges! Cease interjecting.
– My advice is that on 16 April the Assistant Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University met with students who had withheld part of their fees. The purpose of the meeting was to advise the students that the University was considering action and to ascertain whether the students understood the possible result of such action. The Assistant Vice-Chancellor had given the Minister for Education an undertaking that he would talk to the students before the University decided on a course of action. I understand that the meeting took place during the afternoon. The anonymous payment of fees was made at some time on 16 April but, in accordance with usual procedures, the time of payment was not recorded. I understand that the Assistant ViceChancellor was not aware before meeting the students that the payment had been made. Receipts are normally issued in the names of the students for whom the fee is paid rather than in the name of the person making the payment. That practice was followed on this occasion.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I understood the Minister to say in his answer that the Assistant Vice-Chancellor had given an undertaking that a meeting with the students would be held before the University decided on a course of action. My understanding is that at that meeting those students were told that they would be expelled; in other words, the University had decided on a course of action which, from what the Minister just said, was quite contrary to the undertaking given to the Minister for Education.
– Is this a statement or a question?
– Order please, Senator!
– Well, I take a point of order.
– Order, Senator; be seated! When I rise, you sit down and cease interjecting. I have indicated that, under Standing Order 438, persistent interjections which indicate a disregard for the authority of the Chair must be dealt with.
- Mr President, I apologise. I now raise a point of order which I should have raised earlier. My point of order is that the question is not supplementary. Senator Knight is making a statement on the answer given by the Minister at the table. That is exactly the situation. I suggest that such so-called supplementary questions should be ruled out of order.
- Mr President, speaking to the point of order -
– Order! I shall rule on the point of order. The question being asked by Senator Knight is supplementary to his original question. He is seeking further elucidation. The supplementary question is in order.
-Mr President, my supplementary question relates specifically to a statement made in the answer given to my original question. The second part of my supplementary question relates specifically to the Minister’s reference to receipts having been issued. If receipts were issued in the names of the students concerned, I ask: Can those students get copies of those receipts so that they can seek a refund of the amount paid when the University frames its statute defining appropriate services and amenities?
-I stated what I had been advised was the situation. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Education in another place to the suggestion made by Senator Knight, that is, that the students were advised otherwise. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Education to Senator Knight’s suggestion regarding the receipts and will invite him to respond to Senator Knight.
-My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy and follows a question asked earlier of the Minister by Senator Walters. I draw the Minister’s attention to the document headed ‘Statement of Savings Expected in Annual Appropriations . . .’ which recently was published by the Department of Finance. I ask the Minister: Has it been declared over and over again that it is Government policy that everything should be done to encourage energy research and development in Australia and also that everything should be done to encourage energy conservation in Australia? If so, can the
Minister explain why the statement of the Department of Finance in respect of the Minister’s Department shows an under-expenditure of $4.1m on energy research and development in respect of a total appropriation of $9m, representing an under-expenditure of nearly 50 per cent, and a saving of $967,000 on a national energy conservation publicity campaign for which a total appropriation of just over $ lm was made? How does the Minister explain the statement of the Department of Finance in view of the Government’s stated policy?
– The National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council which advises the Government on research projects has a rolling program. It receives requests and makes recommendations. It is not possible simply to look at the statement of the Department of Finance and say that because the money has not been spent at a particular time it will not be spent. I think the total amount which has been spent on research and development projects is just under $39m in the years that the program has been running. It is not to be thought that because the money has not been expended it will not, in the longer term, be expended. I have no doubt at all that when the bills for conservation advertising come in the money will be spent.
Senator Messner having addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations-
– Order! The question is out of order. It involves a matter which is not completely within the jurisdiction of a Minister. That must be realised by all honourable senators in this place.
– I refer the Minister for National Development and Energy to my questions concerning the Government’s failure to ensure that subsidies and reductions in the price of liquefied petroleum gas actually operate in the market place. Is it a fact that within the Australian Capital Territory, which is under the sole control of the Federal Government, distributors of bottled gas are telling consumers that they have received no notification or directive from the Government which would enable them to reduce their prices in accordance with Press releases emanating from the Minister’s office over the past three months?
– I have no information that the distributors of bottled gas are so saying.
If Senator Tate has such information and will pass it on to me I will bring it to the attention of the responsible Minister and ensure that appropriate action is taken. My understanding is that there was some reduction in the price of liquefied petroleum gas in the Australian Capital Territory.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question to clarify the answer. Has Senator Carrick indicated that he is not the responsible Minister?
-I was referring to the Minister for the Capital Territory who has a responsibility with regard to the prices chargeable in the Australian Capital Territory. I was also referring, of course, to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs who has some responsibilities in this regard.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to air fares charged by Qantas Airways Ltd on the Darwin-Singapore route. Is the Minister aware that Qantas return air fares from Darwin to Singapore are listed as $1,149 for a first class ticket and $880 for an economy ticket and that those fares are about 80 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively, higher than they would be if they were based on our reputedly high domestic air fare tariff formula over the same distance? Is the Minister aware that if Qantas were asked to reduce its fares to those that domestic operators would be allowed to charge over the same distance, first class passengers would save $5 1 8 and economy passengers would save $303? Are Qantas fares held high on that sector purely as an offset to the low load factors that it gets in its exclusive jumbo fleet that it has to use on that route? Finally, will the Minister ask Qantas to re-examine its fare structure in that area?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Transport for examination and reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. It is likely that hydrocarbon plants will play a major role in providing fuel for the future. As South Australia has a suitable climate and semiarid lands which could be made productive with irrigation to grow such plants, I ask the Minister whether the Federal Government, in consultation with the States concerned, will consider the completion of the Chowilla Dam so that adequate water can be made available for a future vital industry.
– If there were a sound reason for any particular water conservation system in South Australia, that would come through the South Australian State Government to the Federal Government and be considered under our water resources program. I take it that Senator Elstob is referring to those agricultural products that can be used to produce, say, ethanol, which would be a fuel extender.
– No, hydrocarbon plantsmainly straight hydrocarbon plants, such as milkweed plants.
– Well, any of those that may produce the hydrocarbons which would be extenders for fuel. Very considerable research is being done into those plants. The location for the growing of them is, of course, important and they will need water. But they will bear relationship also to whether there is sufficient fuel for their conversion and all sorts of other residual matters. I have not had expert advice whether South Australia would lend itself to such a prospect. However, I will seek information on that matter to see what the prospects are.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is it true that the Soviet Minister, Gromyko, in his visit to France has deliberately and provocatively denied that there will be any- even smallwithdrawal of Soviet troops from their present aggressive positions in Afghanistan? What are the repercussions of this on the Australian Government’s call for a boycott of the Moscow Olympics? Further, in the spirit of bipartisanship shown in Senator Bishop’s question today, I ask: Does the Government welcome the change in direction taken by Opposition spokesmen over the weekend increasingly to recognise that there will be an effective Olympic boycott and that it is reasonable to adopt a bipartisan approach to strengthen the Government’s foreign policy in the same way as there are bipartisan approaches in New Zealand, Germany, Canada and the United States?
– Order! Senator Teague, you will put your question more briefly. Questions are becoming far too long in their presentation. I must insist that they be put more briefly and relate more specifically to the information sought.
– I have seen reports of such a statement coming out of France, but I have no sound and accurate knowledge whether the statement was made. If it was made, it gives to Afghanistan a greater importance than before in terms of its potential threat to world peace. The pressures of the world upon Russia were for her to withdraw her troops from Afghanistan. Quite clearly, the statement is a rejection of that call. Many countries saw the need for withdrawal as a basis for their lifting the boycott. So, that will simply enhance the strength of countries to proceed with the boycott.
I can only say that over the weekend a number of countries, including their Olympic federations, accepted, and accepted with significant majority, the need for a boycott. This indicates that there will be an effective boycott. Of course I invite the Labor Party to join with us in that regard.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the ill-fated 49 horses shipped from Victoria and destined for a knackery in Japan. I ask the Minister, as a senator from a rural area and one who is aware of the role of the horse in transport in an earlier era, whether the Government could use some of the revenue derived from the fuel used by the motor transport of the present day to meet the cost of pasturing out those horses and thus at least emulate the cold-hearted colliery owners of earlier times who did the same for pit ponies. Secondly, will the Government consider devising some way of levying the Victorian exporters concerned so that the animals in question- and there are only 49- can spend their last days in peace instead of being sent to a knackery?
-The suggestion of the honourable senator that there should be other ways of using horses than sending them to knackeries is certainly worth while and deserves the consideration of all Australians. I will take on board his proposal referable to the recent question of horses being destined for Japan and will refer it to the Minister for Primary Industry.
-On 23 April 1980 Senator Evans asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following questions without notice:
Is it the case that no one has been granted political asylum in Australia since the Petrovs in 19S4, and that during that time many hundreds of applications for political asylum have been rejected but at the same time thousands of people have been admitted to Australia with refugee status?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer:
According to official records which have been checked, Miss Giersch is the first person to have been granted asylum in Australia since the case of Mr and Mrs Petrov in 1954. 1 will inform the Senate if further research reveals other cases where asylum has been granted. A number of people who have applied for asylum have been allowed to remain in Australia on other grounds falling within the responsibility of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
-On 23 April 1980 Senator Evans asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following supplementary question:
In seeking further information from the Minister, will Senator Carrick also establish and advise us whether the decision to grant political asylum was one that was recommended by the departmental officers?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer:
Yes, it was one of the options recommended. Indeed the departmental submission stated that ‘the grounds on which Miss Giersch has based her application are amongst the strongest of any recent application for asylum ‘. Moreover, during the period of this Government, it was the first time that a positive recommendation was offered.
-On 23 April 1980 Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs:
Why is it that Mr Aziz, about whom I asked the question earlier today, has not been treated according to exactly the same principles as Senator Carrick has just enunciated?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer:
I am not aware of any application for asylum by Mr Aziz. I understand that he has lodged an application for refugee status which will be considered by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. However I can say that this application will be carefully considered on the same basis as all such applications.
Senator Mulvihill also asked me a question on this subject.
– Last Wednesday, 23 April, I sought leave to have incorporated in Hansard a document detailing expenditure on overseas visits by Ministers of the previous and present governments. I am advised that, due to a clerical error, two visits were inadvertently omitted from the tables and I have asked officials to make the necessary amendments to the weekly copy of Hansard.
-On 22 April Senator Lajovic asked me a question about a reported interest by Aerolineas Argentinas in operating services to Australia. In the course of answering that question I undertook to seek clarification on whether Qantas had been directly involved in discussions on the matter. I am advised by the Minister for Transport that Aerolineas Argentinas has raised with Qantas the possibility of the Argentinian airline operating services through Sydney as part of a new trans-Antarctic route linking Argentina with east Asia. The discussions have not to date led to proposals which would call for government to government consideration of the matter. As previously mentioned, the Government accepts the need for migrants from South America to have access to their countries of origin. However, reasonably convenient services are available at present.
– by leave- I wish to clarify a matter. Senator Carrick, in answer to a question from Senator Bishop, referred to contact over the weekend between the Government, specifically the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), and me. I acknowledge that it was not Senator Carrick ‘s intention to misrepresent the position in any way, but as I heard the answer it at least gave the impression to me that contact was made by the Government to offer briefing information on the current problems in Iran. I wish just for the record to make it clear that contact with the Minister for Foreign Affairs was made by me. I add that he indicated his readiness to make available to the Opposition whatever information he could.
– I have received a letter from Senator Wriedt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The need for the Australian Government and Opposition parties, recognising the grave world situation and its consequences for the peace and security of nations, to call on all governments to pursue policies which will assist in reconciling current differences between States.
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-
– We are debating today a matter of public importance. Of course, that is the formal description it is given. It might be more appropriate to call it a matter of national importance, because it is certainly of national concern and of international concern. We in the Opposition have been stressing for more than three months the grave dangers inherent in the situation in Iran, not only the personal perils which the American hostages face there but also the wider regional and, indeed, global dangers which flow from that illegal and deplorable detention. I reminded this chamber of that warning. It was only on 23 January this year, three months ago, that I pointed specifically to the military implications of developments in Iran. I said in that statement that when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) arrived in Washington he would find that the United States Government viewed the situation in Iran as a much more serious crisis than the Afghanistan issue. I went on to say that Afghanistan does not carry any implications of military action for the United States but that Iran does.
After the attempt to rescue the hostages by military actions has failed, we meet here today in an atmosphere of very real international tension, uncertainty and, indeed, foreboding. The United States is today moving two more aircraft carriers and their escorting vessels towards the Arabian Gulf. Already a large American naval force is in those waters. The reinforcements will make that fleet the largest United States fleet in any part of the world at present- in fact about one-third of its total operational naval strength. Already in that troubled area there is similarly a heavily armed Soviet naval force. We also meet within a few hours of the resignation of the United States Secretary of State, Mr Cyrus V Vance, whom many of us in this Parliament have met. He is a most distinguished diplomat known for his moderate and mature views, lt is reported that Mr Vance resigned because he had opposed the decision to attempt a rescue of the hostages. It seems clear that he has resigned as a consequence of that attempt and its tragic results.
– Are you certain of that?
– I understand that he has resigned. I can go only by the information available to me. That is the position as I understand it. I take this opportunity of recording the regret of the Opposition at the deaths of eight or possibly more American servicemen in this mission. We extend our sincere sympathy to the American Government, the American people and to the relatives of the dead servicemen. They are the first, and we hope the last, fatal casualties of the American ordeal in Tehran.
The Opposition has called for this debate today for four main reasons: Firstly, to call on the Iranian authorities, divided and diverse as they are, to release the American hostages who have been unlawfully detained since last November. Their detention has brought us to the brink of a crisis far wider than that being suffered internally in Iran, which is suffering the agonies of a national revolution that is by no means over. The Opposition repeats its condemnation of the seizure and detention of the hostages. Secondly, today the Opposition wishes to repeat and to strengthen its warnings to the Government to exercise the greatest caution in going along with policies and measures which it is clear do not by any means command universal international support; nor, as we have seen today, do they command full support at the very highest levels in the United States Administration. It is one thing to support an ally- in this case our American ally- but obviously it is another thing to support an ally without question and without counsel. It seems that the Australian Government has been doing that up to the present time.
The Opposition ‘s third purpose in raising this matter today is to repeat and to enlarge the counsel it is pressing on the Australian Government to state what it believes our Government should be saying to our American allies.
– Do you think we should have universal international support for anything we do?
-I have limited time in which to speak. I have only 1 5 minutes available to me. If the Government were prepared to allow debate on this issue the points that Senator Knight is making could be debated. The fourth and final point I wish to make is that the Opposition has called on this debate in an attempt to get from the Government a full statement of its policies on Iran. The country knows little or perhaps nothing of the Government’s analysis, its attitude or its estimation concerning the Iranian position. If we are to judge the situation by the Government’s actions, it is making policy as it goes along. It tends to react to events but does not think about the implications of those reactions. Given the present and obvious dangers, it is clear that Australia would be better served and would be better placed to contribute to their solution if there were a bipartisan policy on this issue. I have risen today not to speak in partisan terms and to make political points. The Opposition certainly has not called for this debate simply so that it can say: ‘We told you so’. But the dangers mount and the urgency of the need for restraint increases.
In answer to a question today I was very pleased to note that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) emphasised the need for restraint, wise counsel and cool heads. I commend him for those sentiments. The Opposition’s purpose certainly is not to exploit what some critics of the United States see as a moment of weakness and confusion in Washington. One does not kick someone when he is down. One certainly does not attack an ally in adversity. The United States and Australia have long been allies. They still are allies and I believe they will continue to be allies. There is no partisanship in the Opposition’s questioning of Government policy on Iran but that is not to say that there is a bipartisan policy. We believe there are serious faults in government policy- at least in that part of which we are aware- but, of course, we do not know much about the Government’s policy. We have been deluged in this chamber and elsewhere in Parliament, as well as in statements made outside by Government speakers, by words and warnings on Afghanistan and the need to support the Olympic boycott.
In regard to Iran, the problem is acute and the possibility of military pressure and response by the United States is much more likely- indeed, it has now occurred- but the Government has said very little. Step by step it has responded to American requests for diplomatic and economic support in sanctions against Iran. Presumably, the Government has explained to the United States its view of events in Tehran. Presumably, it has explained why it feels able to apply the requested sanctions. Presumably, it has asked what are America’s intentions. But none of this has been explained even in the broadest waywithout breaching security and confidentiality- to the Australian Parliament or the Australian people, nor did the Government seek the support of the Opposition as it set out on what may well be a collision course in the Arabian Gulf, the Middle East area generally, and possibly an area even wider than that; nor has the Government taken the lesser course of consulting the Opposition, or even of offering, until asked at the weekend, to give a security and intelligence briefing on the complex and turbulent chain of events that led inevitably, it now seems, to the tragedy in the Iranian desert last Thursday.
Last Friday, on Anzac Day- the one day of the year on which Australians share and celebrate their national remembrance of past wars and their hopes that there will be no more- the news from Iran burst on us. It is no exaggeration to say that, in that moment of remembering other wars, thoughts of new conflict would have been the first reaction of most Australians. I think also that it is no exaggeration to say that over the weekend, national anxiety, the anxiety of millions of men and women, reached heights, or depths, that fortunately we have not experienced for some years. I suggest that that anxiety would have been less if in recent weeks and months the Australian people had received from the Government information which reflected the true position as the Government understood it. That information should have been given in this Parliament. In bringing on this debate, members of the Opposition are responding to public anxiety, amongst other things. We are responding to a public need to know where the Government, and thus the nation, stand and where they are going. It is clear that there is come disarray in policy. There are differing views, differing voices, and apparently this situation also exists in the United States. The apparent resignation of Secretary of State Vance is a dramatic symbol of the tragic differences that exist there also.
Obviously there are no divisions in either the United States or Australia on the proposition that the American hostages must be released from their ordeal. The debate and division relate really to how this can be best done. As I said in this chamber last week, it is our view that what is at stake, what is the absolute priority, is the safety of the hostages. What is not at stake, on any proper analysis of the situation, is the political future of any political leader in any country. What is not at stake is the saving of anyone’s political face or foreign policy. I can only repeat what I said last week, that it would be cynical in the extreme if politics were allowed to take precedence over the safety of the hostages. We believe that this is a situation in which the greatest wisdom lies in the greatest patience. Looking back some 10 years to the case of the United States naval ship Pueblo, the American Government waited patiently for some 300 days to secure through diplomacy the release from North Korea of the crew of that ship. We all remember that that wait was successful. It was successful in two ways: The captives were released and the risk of hostilities was avoided. It was not a dramatic solution, but it was a safe one. There was indeed a triumph of caution. In advocating caution the Opposition ignored the thoughtless attitude that confuses patience with weakness. Last week we repeated our call and our view that the Government should urge on the United States at every stage the need for caution. I am pleased that today Senator Carrick indicated a much greater realisation on the part of the Government of the need to act in that manner.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has made a quite serious error in accusing the Opposition’s policy on Iran of being a mirror of the policy of the Revolutionary Council in that country. I deeply regret that the Foreign Minister saw fit to make that statement. The last thing we need in a debate of this nature is polemics. I am afraid that the Foreign Minister is guilty of that. I am glad that the tragic and bloody events of the weekend have brought the Government to a much closer position to our own of calling for greater restraint by all parties. Both the Foreign Minister and the Government are now compelled, as a result of the tragedy of the weekend and the resignation of Mr Vance, to make some reappraisal of their approach to this great problem. We believe support can come just as effectively in the form of a question as it can in the form of an instant agreement. We believe support and sympathy for an ally can come just as effectively in the form of counsel and discussion as they can in the form of an immediate approval to every decision.
We are not saying that this Government approved or was even asked to approve the American action at the weekend. Because of the needs of military secrecy, information about that decision no doubt had to be restricted to a very small circle of American leaders. In approving step by step every preceding action that may have been taken, we may well have given the United States the impression that we were willing to go along with any decision that it may make and that we always trust its judgment. I do not wish to presume or to analyse, on the basis of imperfect information, the military details of the failure of that mission which, to our deepest regret, cost those lives. In urging the Government to consider more carefully in future the implications of its uncritical eagerness to accept certain policy judgments, we would again urge the greatest caution.
The following question is being widely asked: What can be done? Is it possible at this stage of development for the Iranians and the Americans to find a way out of what is now a dangerous dilemma for both countries? It would be presumptuous of anyone to come up with a ready-made solution. The matter is now far too complicated for that. It would seem that even if a breathing space, what may be called a holding position, can be achieved- I am speaking politically- that would give both parties time to reflect on the horrendous possibilities that are now unfolding. It can be a starting point for all of us to recognise the enormous emotions which now exist in both countries. Emotions have been building up in Iran over an extended period in which the people believe that they have been aggrieved. Similar emotions have developed in the United States because its people also believe that they have most certainly been aggrieved by the taking of hostages. If those emotions can be dampened and if governments of goodwill throughout the world- most if not all of which must recognise the possibility of themselves becoming involved- then perhaps we will have a chance of achieving that breathing space.
The great majority of people feel a sense of bewilderment and helplessness in times such as these. They can only look to their leaders, elected or otherwise, to find some sensible, reasoned way out. I believe it is not beyond the wit of world leaders to find that way out. It is very difficult in these circumstances to continue expecting forever restraint and a more conciliatory attitude. How much Australia as a nation can contribute is doubtful, but whatever we can do we must do. We owe it to our country and to the world at large.
– The Government welcomes the terms of the matter of public importance. The principles contained in it, of course, are completely acceptable to the Government. The Government agrees that the international situation is grave and that the trends of events are very dangerous indeed. It recognises that the interests of international security would be well served if nations facing this situation were to show restraint and respect for international law. The Government would welcome a coming together and a narrowing of the differences between the views of the Government and the Opposition. In order to accept that- I do so with goodwill- may I say that I see a fundamental difference in the analysis of the situation by the Opposition from that of the Government.
Senator Wriedt keeps insisting that the events of Afghanistan and Iran are two separate, totally isolated and different events- that there is no link between one and the other. I think he said that Afghanistan does not carry any implications of any military action by the United States of
America, but Iran does. I think he repeated that from a statement of the past. The tragedy of the two countries is that the majority of the nations of the world in their analyses see the two as irrevocably linked. The majority of the countries of the world- particularly the countries of the Middle East- see the Russian move into Afghanistan as a threat to the very stability of the countries of the Middle East, a threat to the Middle East oilfields and a destabilisation of the whole area. The majority of the countries sees the events in Iran as symptomatic of the events in Afghanistan. They also see amongst the revolutionary tending and contending in Iran, the Marxist influence which is, of course, leading towards the destabilisation of the nation. As so many fear- indeed, countries such as Egypt have enunciated in their fear- that the revolutionaries and the Marxists want instability in Iran as a pretext to invite the Russians to come in, as it was suggested was the reason for the invasion of Afghanistan.
Time and again the countries of the world have seen the two situations as holding the same grave threat to the world. To see Afghanistan as simply an entry by the Russians to contain some rebel forces is to misunderstand the whole situation of Afghanistan. Why do the Russian forces need sophisticated surface-to-air missiles to fight the hill tribesmen of Afghanistan? Why do they need 80,000 soldiers and 1,000 tanks? Why do they need to move to the borders and the perimeters of Afghanistan? Why do they need 40,000 reinforcements on the border of Afghanistan if this is to contain the hill tribesmen? It is not Australia speaking about this. The fact of the matter is that the countries of the world have said that they see the Russian intrusion into Afghanistan as an inevitable threat towards movement to the Middle East and the shattering of the national content and stability of the countries of the Middle East- a threat to the oilfields of the Middle East itself. Because of that, from the very beginning of the Afghanistan incursion, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saw the real peril, not only to Iran but also to other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the whole of the Middle East. In conjunction with the American President he sought to alert the world- including the nonaligned world- to the real meaning of Afghanistan and to its implied threat to Iran and other countries. Indeed, looking back on this we see that the major contribution that was made by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in their journeys throughout the world- the Prime Minister through the Western world, talking with its leaders, and the Foreign Minister into the Asian countries, to India and the developing countries- must now be viewed as being perceptive analyses of what is likely to happen in the future.
Let me remind the Senate that a very great Foreign Minister in England, Lord Carrington, fully realised this and made a memorable journey throughout the Islamic world. The Islamic world has united in its fear of the threat of international communism, not international communism attacking the hill tribesmen of Afghanistan, but international communism moving down as a threat of invasion to the Middle East, and not just by military invasion but by subversion and incursion so as to destroy the basis of the Middle East and to cut off the world ‘s supply of oil. That is the basic analysis. To suggest that there has been any departure by this Government from its policies is to pervert the course of history. This Government’s policies have been proven right.
– What about Iran and the Islamic movement in Iran?
– The Government has been joined by the people of the world in acknowledging that the Afghanistan situation is a threat to the shattering of the Middle East. The Islamic world has united in pointing towards the threat of communism. President Sadat in Egypt, a courageous man in identifying these things, has never ceased to point out the true meaning of the Afghanistan incursion in relation to Iran and other countries. So to say that the one is isolated from the other is to misread the events of history.
– You have not been asked to take a military position in Afghanistan but you have been asked to take a military position in Iran.
– I respect the views of Senator Bishop. He is a thoughtful member of the Opposition. The world could very well be asked to take military positions because of the Afghanistan destabilisation of the Middle East. The one is part of the other. Of course, we want to proceed towards a comity of views in the world. On Anzac Day I was reminded of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation constitution which says things better than I could say them. It says: ‘Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed ‘. It is abundantly true that we must construct the defences of peace in the minds of men and, therefore, get a dialogue with nations. Of course we want to talk. The basis of the reason that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister travelled the world was to try to get a dialogue of understanding. Indeed they got that dialogue. It was for this reason that we wanted to get a message to the Russian people to try to get- if we could- some steadying of the Russian movement outwards from Afghanistan. We wanted to avoid the destabilisation of the world; we wanted to avoid war. We saw these events as coming together. The agony of this situationparticularly the agony for the American people- is that it takes two to want goodwill, to come together, and to want to discuss. How many discussions have there been with the Russian people?
Let us look at the deterioration of the world in recent years because of Russian incursion. We know of the relentless military expansion of the Russian people and notably their incursion into Angola, the Horn of Africa, Yemen, IndoChina this was done in support of Vietnamese aggression- and, ultimately, Afghanistan. The whole picture paints an attempt to bring communism into world domination. The whole situation shows a massive growth of tension and a complete lack of goodwill.
The fact of the matter is that the whole of the Russian movements of rearmanent internally is a threat to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and an indication that Russia itself is not simply arming for defence parity but for military domination. Australia and America do not constitute an aggressive threat to the world. America, other parts of the Western world and the developing nations will not attack. They will not be the aggressors. One must ask: Why, then, is Russia rearming?
I come now to the agony of the Iran situation. We have been endued today to have patience. The American Government and its people have pursued, for six long months, policies of infinite patience and infinite discussions throughout the world. America has used every kind of diplomatic device to try to get its message to the people involved and to seek the good neighbour help of others, as Australia has done in a dozen or more different ways. America has tried to get good sense into the Iranian people who are in charge so that they will release the hostages. The dilemma is to know who is in charge. The dilemma is to recognise that the various groups of revolutionary people are quite uncontrollable and quite unwilling to provide dialogue.
It is not the Australian Government that has lost patience. On the contrary, its policy has’been uniformly consistent the whole time. It has said: Let us marshal, if we can, the goodwill, the strength and the diplomatic pressures of the world. Let us get the developing world and the Western world moving together to get a message to the Iranian people and to the Russian people against the horrors of what may happen should there be a military context’. There has been the gentlest, really, of actions against Iran. The sanctions in themselves have been very limited. They are simply appeals to the good sense of the people in Iran to release the hostages. But none of that has worked.
In the decades and centuries ahead, the world will debate the pros and cons of the military action of the American Government on 25 April. There will be those who will argue that it should not have happened and those who will argue that it should have happened. None can really be proven right or wrong. America was in agony. Its 50 hostages were held in Iran and were liable to be destroyed at the whim of any fanatic as such. The American Government has a duty to its people to free the hostages if it can. Whatever may be our private thoughts or criticisms, let us acknowledge that we have the most massive sympathy for the American people and the American Government. The American Government tried to carry out a very limited sortie which might well have succeeded and which could have been done without the conflict of war. What a tremendous sympathy we ought to have for them; that it failed does not lessen the value of the idea. The value of an idea itself is one that we should understand and recognise. The American people face the very dilemma that those who oppose them want them to face. One must understand that there is a deliberate attempt to exhaust the patience of the American people, a deliberate attempt to exhaust the patience of the Western world and a deliberate attempt to provoke so that an excuse can be made to bring about a military situation, to bring about an invitation to the communist world to come in on the same hypocritical pretext that was used in terms of Afghanistan.
Of course one wants peace, but this is the eternal problem of mankind. What are the ingredients of peace? Shall we have peace with dignity, or peace at any price? Is tyranny preferable to any kind of reaction and this, I suppose, was the message to Australians last Friday? There comes a time when nations such as America must get to the point of exhaustion of their patience; they must get to the point of understanding that they are being provoked. Of course the Australian Government is emphasising to the American people our total understanding and our total sympathy and that our hearts are bleeding in the situation. We are eagerly seeking with our friends and allies ways and means of bringing about a successful outcome, but the fact of the matter is that it takes two in this regard.
I make one comment regarding Senator Wriedt ‘s speech. The honourable senator suggested that there was no offering of briefings by the Government to the Opposition. 1 must make it abundantly clear that there is a standing and continuous offer to Leaders of the Opposition of briefings at any time upon request. Let me make that absolutely and abundantly clear. There was no question of comparing this situation with the North Korean incident involving the Pueblo. The situation in Iran is one in which we cannot tell from moment to moment when the whole area may explode. The Australian Government’s policies as they have been pursued throughout the world, in the giving to the world of a message of teamwork and understanding, in attempting a unity of the world, are directly within the terms of this policy. Our understanding of the unity of the issue on Afghanistan and Iran is that they form the same issue; it is the reason that we have taken the Afghanistan issue as the vivid indication to the world of the dangers. I move:
The bells having been rung-
– Order! Lock the doors. The question is–
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. The doors have not been locked as you ordered and as the Standing Orders demand.
– Lock the doors.
The doors having been locked-
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 3 p.m. or such time later as the President may take the chair.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That leave of absence be granted to Senator Coleman for one month on account of ill health.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
No second reading speeches have been circulated. As Government senators have now taken on the duties of the attendants in this place perhaps they should circulate the Bills to come before the Senate so that we can be aware of their nature and so that the Opposition can take the action it deems necessary.
– There is no point of order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act 1967 so as to provide for the granting to a permanent mission of a particular type of regional international organisation which might be established in Canberra, the same privileges and immunities as are accorded to a diplomatic mission of a foreign country. Honourable senators will recall that the 1967 Act gives effect in Australian law to the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the text of which is set out in the Schedule to that Act. The particular type of regional international organisation contemplated in the Bill would be one whose overseas missions perform functions substantially corresponding to functions exercised by diplomatic missions. These functions are set out in Article 3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The amended 1 967 Act will be applied to each appropriate regional international organisation and its mission, by regulation. Although the Bill is in general terms, its immediate purpose is to enable the granting of privileges and immunities to the proposed permanent mission in Canberra of the Commission of the European Communities. It might be helpful if, at this point, I were to bring specifically to the attention of honourable senators the distinction between international organisations which it is proposed should be covered by the present Bill, and those covered by existing legislation, that is the International Organization (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963. The organisations contemplated in the present Bill are organisations comprising overseas countries in a particular geographical region which have empowered the central organisation to perform certain functions on their behalf. An overseas mission of such an organisation would perform a diplomatic representational role in respect of those functions which substantially corresponds to that of a diplomatic mission. The privileges and immunities of this type of international organisation have not so far been the subject of a specific multilateral convention.
The 1 963 Act, on the other hand, covers those organisations of which Australia is a member and which are rarely confined to a specific geographical region. The office of such an organisation, if established in Australia, would not perform a diplomatic representational role, but would act as the regional office or headquarters, as the case may be, of that organisation. In short, it would not perform functions substantially corresponding to those performed by a diplomatic mission. Accordingly, the 1 963 Act provides for the granting of privileges and immunities to the organisation, its officials, and persons serving on committees or participating in the work of, or performing a mission on behalf of, the organisation, which are of a level less than that applicable to a diplomatic mission. This is in accordance with the provisions of the many international agreements on the privileges and immunities of those organisations established since the formation of the United Nations.
I have referred to the immediate purpose of the present Bill as being to enable the granting of diplomatic privileges and immunities to the proposed permanent mission in Canberra of the European Communities, which I shall refer to as the EC. The EC comprises the regional association of the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic CommunityEEC and the European Atomic Energy Community-EURATOM. Prior to 1965, each of the three Communities had its own separate organisation. In that year, however, a Merger Treaty established a single Council and a single Commission for the three Communities. The Commission in Brussels is, in effect, the secretariat to the Communities and it is expected, on the basis of precedents in other non-EC countries, that the mission in Canberra will be formally known as the Delegation of the Commission of the European Communities in Australia.
The EC encompasses over 260 million people and is a major world aggregate in political, trading and general economic terms. As such, it is of very substantial importance to Australia. The Government welcomes the proposed establishment of the mission in Canberra, both as indicating the importance of EC-Australian relations and as facilitating the conduct of those relations.
The EC is in the nature of a supra-national body to the extent that its members have divested themselves of a not inconsiderable part of their sovereignty in its favour. It has the power to take action against its members for breaches of its internal rules and there have been cases where community law has overridden the national laws of its members. It has a directly elected parliament of power and significance. Honourable members will recall that it recently rejected the 1980 EC Budget. The EC has a substantial external relations function and has developed a network of overseas missions in a number of countries. These have been established in Washington; New York, to the United Nations; Ottawa; Tokyo; Bangkok; Geneva; Vienna; Paris, to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; Caracas; and Santiago.
It is necessary, in advance of the establishment of the EC mission in Canberra, to make arrangements to accord privileges and immunities to the mission and its personnel. Given the nature of the EC and the diplomatic character of its overseas missions, it is considered appropriate that the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act 1967 be amended to enable its provisions to be applied to the EC and its overseas missions, as well as to any similar regional organisations and their missions in the future.
Clause 3 of the Bill provides that a regional international organisation of the particular type contemplated in the Bill may be declared by regulation to be an international organisation for the purposes of the section. Should an international organisation be so declared, the 1967 Act would apply to it as if each reference in the Act- other than in section 12- to an overseas country, and each reference in the Vienna Convention to a sending state, or to the Government of a sending state, were a reference to the international organisation or to an organ of the international organisation if that organ is specified by the regulations. Furthermore, the Act would apply to the organisation as if any mission of the organisation which exercises functions substantially corresponding to functions exercised by a diplomatic mission were in fact a diplomatic mission. A mission of Australia to a declared international organisation, if it exercises functions substantially corresponding to functions exercised by a diplomatic mission, would be regarded, in applying sub-section 12 (1) of the 1967 Act, as ‘a mission of Australia in an overseas country’. In applying the same sub-section the mission in Australia of a declared international organisation would be regarded as ‘the mission of that country’.
The Schedule to the Bill sets out formal amendments of a drafting nature to the principal Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 March, on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I suggest, with the leave of the Senate, that this Bill and the States (Personal Income Tax
Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980 be debated cognately.
-The Opposition believes it to be important that these Bills be proceeded with as soon as possible.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
-The Senate is debating two Bills- the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980 and the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980. Most of my remarks will be confined to the former Bill, the local government Bill. Subsequent speakers will be mentioning the second Bill, the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980. At the end of my comments, I will be outlining an amendment which the Opposition wishes to move to the motion that the second of these Bills, the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill, be read a second time. In the meantime I wish to make some comments about the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980.
The purpose of the first of the two Bills we are discussing this afternoon is to amend the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 to increase the annual percentage of net personal income tax collections allocated to local government from 1.75 per cent to 2 per cent as from 1 980-8 1 . In some respects this is a remarkable Bill. It is remarkable because it actually puts into legislative form one of the Fraser Government’s promises. Mr Fraser, in his 1977 election policy speech, said that local government’s share of income tax collections would be raised to 2 per cent by 1980-81. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill but it has some criticisms of this Government’s funding of local authorities.
Firstly, however, I shall mention something of the history of this legislation. Ten years ago such a Bill as the one we have before us this afternoon would not have been presented to this Parliament. A decade ago the Commonwealth did not make general purpose grants available to local government. Indeed, it was not until the Whitlam Government amended the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act that it was possible for the Commonwealth to make equalisation grants to local government throughout Australia. When we are debating this amendment Bill this afternoon, we should remember that it was during the time of the Whitlam Government that changes were made which allowed the Commonwealth to become directly involved in assisting the third tier of government- local authorities- throughout Australia.
Sometimes we probably take it for granted that untied Commonwealth funds are made available to local authorities, but this procedure really commenced only after the election of 1972. During the period from 1973 to 1975 the principle of the central Government’s helping to fund local government bodies throughout Australia was established. In those days the funds were passed through the States, as they still have to be. Due to constitutional constraints, the Commonwealth Government does not have the power to make funds directly available to local authorities. Those honourable senators who are interested in local government funding would be aware that there are some minor exceptions, as some Acts allow certain moneys to be allocated to the local authorities. This occurs because local authorities are carrying out certain functions such as the provision of welfare programs.
After 1975 the system changed. When the Fraser Government came to power it continued to provide untied funds although the format by which it provided them was different. The principal difference was that a fixed percentage of personal income tax was made available to local authorities. Basically the funds were used to provide two types of grants, namely, a per capita grant and an equalisation grant. After the Fraser Government came to power the funds were no longer distributed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission but were distributed by individual State Grants Commissions. For 1976-77, 1977-78 and 1978-79 the share of personal income tax which was made available to local government was 1.52 per cent. In November last year the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Act 1979 raised the share to 1.75 per cent for 1979-80. This Bill increases that 1.75 per cent to 2 per cent. The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott), in his second reading speech, painted a rosy picture of Federal Government funding to local government throughout Australia. For example, he spoke of the remarkable growth in untied funds. He spoke of local authorities being far better off than previously. It is regrettable but necessary to take the Minister to task over some of the amounts and percentages which he quoted in his second reading speech. The Minister has been deliberately selective in a definite effort to make the local government position look better than it is. In his speech, the Minister said:
Since this Government took office at the end of 1975, the total level of all Commonwealth funds flowing to local government in the States has increased considerably- from S235m in 1975-76 to $333m in 1978-79, the last year for which comprehensive figures are available. This represents an annual average increase of over 1 2 per cent.
At first blush this seems to indicate a splendid government record but there are certain factors left out of the statement which, if taken into consideration, indicate that the Government’s record was, at best, mediocre. Its performance is quite pedestrian. I shall list the factors to which I refer. Firstly, the amounts of $235m and $333m to which the Minister referred were not in constant dollar terms. They were in 1 975-76 dollars and 1978-79 dollars respectively. If the former is equated to 1978-79 dollars it represents $308m. This represents a real annual average increase of 2.7 per cent, not the 12 per cent quoted by the Minister. Would it not have been more honest of the Minister to say this rather than ignore the rate of inflation so that he could quote a spurious percentage increase in Commonwealth funds flowing to local authorities? Secondly, the Minister’s statement is misleading when it claims that $235m represents the total amount of all government funding flowing to local government for 1975-76. In his second reading speech the Minister admits this. He stated: 1 might add, for the information of honourable senators, that the figures I have quoted exclude funds provided under the Regional Employment Development Scheme and employment grants passed on to local authorities by the States. Under those schemes which were terminated by the previous Government in 1975-76, local authorities were merely used as a channel for the disbursement of funds to assist employment.
This is a misleading statement by the Minister. Regional Employment Development Scheme funds, in particular, were welcomed by local authorities throughout Australia. They gave local authorities the opportunity to carry out many worthwhile projects which otherwise would have been left undone. To exclude these funds from an historical comparison of Commonwealth funds flowing to local government is bordering on dishonesty.
As an example of how Regional Employment Development Scheme funding assisted local authorities I refer to a Press release of 18 April 1975 by the then Minister for Labour and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, in which he listed four Queensland projects approved after a meeting of regional employment development Ministers on that day. I refer to those four projects. The first two projects concern the Mulgrave Shire Council, which has its headquarters at Cairns in north Queensland. The first of these projects was designed to construct 64 precast, prestressed. deck planking bridges to replace old timber bridges which were expensive to maintain and were unsuited for present day traffic conditions. It was to cost $103,000, of which the RED Scheme would contribute $ 100,000, and it would employ 20 unemployed people for 16 weeks. In the same Press statement in relation to the Mulgrave Shire Council it was stated:
Water reticulation and tree planting at 7 beach resorts near Cairns to improve picnic facilities for residents and tourists, to cost $103,000 (REDS $100,000) and to employ 24 unemployed people for 16 weeks.
The same Press statement outlined that the Johnstone Shire Council, which has its headquarters in Innisfail in north Queensland, would receive the following assistance:
Kerbing, channelling and stormwater drainage construction in 32 streets in Innisfail town, to cost $262,953 (REDS $237,908) and to employ 42 unemployed people for up to 20 weeks.
Finally, the Press statement outlined that the Moreton Shire Council, which has its headquarters in Ipswich, Queensland, would receive:
Construction of 5,500 metres of kerbing and channelling and 500 metres of footpaths in the town of Rosewood, to cost $143,538 (REDS $142,568) and to employ 24 unemployed for 24 weeks.
I mention these to outline how local authorities throughout Australia welcomed this assistance. To exclude such projects from statistics for total Commonwealth funding to local government would be quite misleading. The Minister is totally disregarding $94m which went directly to local authorities in 1975-76. In a similar way, about $15m in Commonwealth employment grants was passed on to local authorities in 1975-76. To say, as the Minister did in relation to these grants to local authorities, that they were merely used as a channel for the disbursement of funds to assist employment’, again is not being totally honest. What was the real position in 1975-76? If the Regional Employment Development Scheme and employment grants are included, the value of Commonwealth projects to local government in 1975-76 was of the order of $343m, not the $235m which the Minister mentioned. In money terms, this amount of $343m is higher than the $333m which the Government allocated in 1978-79. In real terms, the $343m would be equivalent to $450m at 1 978-79 values. Thus, there has been a decrease since 1975-76, not an increase as claimed by the Minister.
The third paragraph of the second reading speech of the Minister for Special Trade Representations should have read: ‘Since the Government took office at the end of 1975, the total level of all Commonwealth funds flowing to local government in the States expressed in terms of 1978-79 values has decreased considerably, from $450m in 1975-76 to $333m in 1978-79, the last year for which comprehensive figures are available. These figures represent an average annual decrease of 8.6 per cent’. That type of statement would be more helpful to local government administrators. They are concerned with the real level of funding which they have at their disposal. At one stage in his second reading speech the Minister stated:
All in all, local authorities are far better off since the introduction of tax sharing arrangements than before.
When one carefully analyses the figures, one sees that that statement is absolutely false. For the Minister to slant figures to bolster his argument is one thing; to make false statements is another. It is quite clear that as far as Commonwealth funds are concerned local authorities are not better off than they were in 1975-76. Local government authorities are likely to have a minor windfall in 1980-81 due to the Government’s income tax policy. Income tax will not be fully indexed and even the Government’s half indexation will be discounted for a number of items. The end result of this policy will be that local authorities will receive 2 per cent of the Government’s additional tax take.
However, I see a cloud on the horizon for local authorities. The Fraser Government is taking millions of dollars in tax from motorists throughout Australia and local authorities will not receive one cent of that revenue. In fact many local authorities will be contributing to the Government’s petrol tax take. Next year the Government is likely to receive at least $3,000m from its petrol tax. If local authorities were to receive 2 per cent of this amount they would receive an extra $60m a year. This is not an inconsiderable sum. It would represent about a 15 per cent increase in the revenue which local authorities would receive from the Commonwealth Government. Such an increase would make a marked difference to the services which local authorities throughout Australia could provide. What local authorities must carefully monitor is the way in which the Government receives taxes. If there is a major shift away from raising revenue through income tax or if income tax becomes a less significant part of the total revenue, local authorities will have to consider their position carefully. It may be necessary for them to lobby for an increased share of income tax or a share of taxes which are at present closed to them, such as the massive petrol tax which Australians now pay.
To return to the point I made earlier, the Opposition has some criticisms of the Fraser
Government’s funding of local authorities. I have definite criticisms of the misleading way in which the Minister presented his figures in his second reading speech. However, in view of-the extreme financial need of many local authorities in Australia, the Opposition does not oppose the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980. 1 mentioned in my outline that I would be speaking principally to that Bill because later speakers for the Opposition will speak principally to the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill. I believe that Senator Wriedt in particular will be speaking mainly to that Bill. However, on behalf of the Opposition I foreshadow an amendment to the motion that the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980 be read a second time. This amendment reads:
At end of motion, add ,’but the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill is grossly deficient in that it-
only guarantees the States a minimum entitlement to general financial assistance in 1 980-8 1 which is lower real value per capita than the level of such payments in 1979-80;
provides this inadequate guarantee for only 1 year, after which the only guarantee for the States is that the total money amount of such payments will not be reduced in future years, a guarantee which would allow continuing reductions in the value of such payments in future years;
in combination with the severe reductions in the real value of specific purpose payments to the States, will place the States in acute financial difficulty; and
will accordingly place great pressure on the States to introduce a second income tax as provided for by the Fraser Government ‘s new federalism ‘.
Senates MESSNER (South Australia) (5. 10)- I would like to confine my remarks today to the area of local government financing as provided for by the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980 because I believe it is in that area where the Fraser Government is demonstrating most clearly its commitment to the new federalism policy. That policy, as we all recall, was enunciated prior to the 1975 Federal election and was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people at that election. Clearly this policy, which entails the distribution of funds not only to the local government bodies but also to State governments, is a major boon to those bodies. More importantly, the policy carries with it another factor which is most important in our democracy; that is, it clearly diffuses power as expressed through the bank, if you like, throughout the various interest groups in our community.
It seems to me that the payment of a share of income tax by the Federal Government direct to local government allows local pressures to apply in respect of the distribution of those funds in local communities. That is, I think, one of the key elements in trying to establish the relationship between a taxpayer and the way in which taxes are distributed in the community, by ensuring that the local person who exercises his vote through the ballot box at local government elections elects councillors to local councils who have a decision in distributing funds which were first collected by the Federal Government. That is a vital element in this policy and I think it was well recognised by the people back in 1975. It is a matter of pure philosophy, and Liberal philosophy, which we are all committed to. Not only is this a philosophical matter, it is also a very practical one. Clearly the commitment to the distribution of funds via local government bodies means that local needs are best served. Local government organisations, subject to local pressures, are best able to judge the way in which money is spent for the benefit of taxpayers in local areas. Therefore the policy ensures that it is spent most wisely and where the need is greatest.
That is a clear, positive gain for the taxpayers and the citizens of Australia. It has a side benefit also of ensuring that centralism in decision making is reduced. This consequently brings the added benefit of reduced administrative costs in distributing those funds. In other words this very far-sighted measure, which was implemented by the Fraser Government in 1976 with a distribution of 1.52 per cent of personal income tax collections, is a policy aimed deliberately at diffusing power in the community and ensuring the best distribution of funds to meet local needs. It clearly provides the sinews for local government to get into areas of concern and to demonstrate positively the policy which in previous times was only set out in writing. This policy, by distributing money in such a way, gives local government the means to meet its commitments and thereby demonstrates the real earnest of the Fraser Government’s interest in real Liberal principles and philosophy of diffusing power through the three-tiered governmental structure which we have in this country.
I would like to refer to some of the distributions which have been made in the last couple of years in my State and, in particular, the western suburban areas of Adelaide. I do this because in some ways- as has often been stated by organisations interested in social security matters- the western suburbs of Adelaide tend to be regarded as somewhat disadvantaged. Since 1978-79 the total amount of money that has gone into the region defined in the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission report of 1979 has been $2,039,000. In 1979-80 that figure rose to $2,446,000, which represents a rise of just a shade under 20 per cent in one year. That figure does not take into account the provision in this Bill which raises the total amount of money that will be distributed by the Federal Government to local government bodies from 1.75 per cent of total collections to the promised 2 per cent which was first enunciated by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his election policy speech in 1977. Clearly, the Prime Minister is honouring his promise in respect of the citizens of the western areas of Adelaide.
– That is the exception which proves the rule.
– I say to Senator Button that those disadvantaged citizens are very proud to support the Government in this matter and, as he would well know, were responsible for electing the third senator in South Australia in 1 977. When we look at individual councils in this region we see that last year the Glenelg City Council received an additional $2 1 ,000 for its own distribution. The Henley and Grange City Council funds have been increased from $160,000 to $195,000. The Hindmarsh Town Council, which administers a very depressed area in metropolitan Adelaide, has had its funds increased from $1 15,000 to $142,000. The Port Adelaide City Council- an area of which I have an intimate knowledge and which is very concerned with the future of its senior citizens who make up a very high proportion of people in that area- has had its proportion of funds increased from $540,000 to $648,000 in this current financial year. The Thebarton Town Council, a smaller council, has had its funds increased from $134,000 to $161,000. West Torrens City Council, one of the larger councils in metropolitan Adelaide, has had its funds increased from $346,000 to $395,000. Woodville City Council, perhaps one of the largest of the councils in metropolitan Adelaide and certainly one with a very big commitment in the area of new housing developments, has had its funds increased from $593,000 to $733,000.
Not only do these distributions of funds represent the sinews for the working of local government bodies in those areas, but also they provide a very real benefit to the individual citizens of Adelaide who live in those areas. Clearly, that is a very beneficial means of ensuring that not only do they obtain greater benefits which reflect themselves in new services being provided by local government bodies, but also it ensures the maintenance of administration at the lowest possible cost and it ensures that rates and other taxes that are imposed by local government bodies are not rising by inordinate degrees. This is a very significant factor and represents particular personal family benefits for every person who lives in that area. That is a very real contribution from the Federal Government on behalf of the individual citizens who live in those parts. Of course, it is also an expression of the Fraser Government’s earnest and definite policy in this regard.
I conclude by drawing the attention of the Senate again to this very worthwhile means of ensuring that funds are distributed through the power structure in our community. It ensures that benefits are made available at the most local level where they can do the most good and it ensures that people have a very real say in the needs of their local community. I know that these measures are popular at a local government level. Certainly they are popular among the citizenry of the western districts of Adelaide. Consequently, I support the Bill.
– The Senate is debating cognately the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980 and the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1980. It will be recalled that last Wednesday I endeavoured to raise a matter in the Senate, on a motion concerning the first reading of the excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3), on behalf of many local government bodies in South Australia. As honourable senators know, certain events overtook me and I was unable to do so. I will continue my representations today on behalf of those bodies while speaking to these Bills. Senator Messner quoted extensively from the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission’s annual report of 1979, and he went on to say how well local government in the metropolitan area of South Australia had fared under the Grants Commission. I remind Senator Messner that the report was compiled during the reign of the South Australian Labor Government. It was very pleasing to hear him give due credit to the previous Labor Government in South Australia because so often honourable senators opposite criticise that Government and say that it did not give a fair go to all councils.
Some time ago I received a letter from my own council, which was critical of the State Government because it was not carrying out the terms of the legislation as it ought to. I want to quote from that short letter to me, which enclosed a copy of a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser. Under the date of 30 January 1980, the letter to me reads:
Please find enclosed a copy of a letter submitted to the Hon. Prime Minister, Mr Fraser regarding Road Grant Funds for rural local governing authorities.
Your support in this matter would be appreciated.
The Council, in writing to the Prime Minister, pointed out that it had been concerned for some time at the apparent reduction in road grants to local government bodies in South Australia. It went on to say that it could not speak for the situation in other States as that was unknown. The letter continued:
The Local Government Act in South Australia provides that a division of funds made available through the Highways Fund is to be divided among Council ‘s allowing 75 per cent of the monies allocated to other than Metropolitan Councils and 25 per cent among Metropolitan Councils. This Council questions whether these requirements have been met in recent years and strongly believes that this Section of the Local Government Act is not being adhered to.
I had occasion to write to the Clerk of the Council on 15 February, in reply to the Council’s letter. I acknowledged the copy of the correspondence to the Prime Minister and said:
I would be very grateful if you would provide me with full details of why your Council believes that the Local Government Act has not been adhered in recent years, to enable me to make inquiries of the responsible Departments.
I repeat that that letter was written on 15 February. As I had not received acknowledgement from the Council of that letter, I wrote again to Mr Coventry, the Clerk, on 10 April, that is, two months after I received the correspondence. I referred him to his correspondence of 30 January, which enclosed a copy of a letter to the Prime Minister, regarding the road grants about which I have spoken, and said:
In my reply of 15 February 1980 1 sought from you the full details which led your Council to believe that the 75 per cent-25 per cent allocation of funds under the Local Government Act in South Australia has not been adhered to.
As nearly two months have now elapsed, I would be grateful if you would make the information available to enable me to follow up your request of 30 January.
As of today, I have not received any communication from the District Council of Murray Bridge setting out the areas in which it thinks that the South Australian Local Government Act was not adhered to during the reign of the South Australian Labor Government. I am disturbed that statements can be made, and no doubt they have been made in council, that the State Government had not dispersed funds it received from the Commonwealth under this legislation in conformity with the State Local Government Act. Of course, I will be unable to take up the matter with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), or whoever is responsible, until the Murray Bridge District Council acquaints me with the facts as to which aspects of the State Government Act have not been adhered to. I am left in somewhat of a dilemma because I am unable to do that. Yet other councils have written in and bitterly complained that the Federal Government is responsible for the fact that funds for councils to carry out their local government’s road works have run out in South Australia. I want to quote from a telegram dated 19 March that I received from Mr Jim Hullick, the Secretary-General of the Local Government Association of South Australia Incorporated. The telegram is addressed to me and the address is 6 Third Street, Murray Bridge. The telegram states:
Local Government Association South Australia extremely concerned about deterioration of Australian road system. Local government and State government cannot continue to shoulder the burden of decreases in federal road funds. Fuel economy safety and roads investment are at stake through refusal of Federal Government to meet its full responsibilities in tripartite road funds system. LGA of SA calls on Federal Government to recognise road needs as high priority and to increase road grants to $900m in 1 980-81. Australian motorists must receive a fair share from estimated $3,000m fuel taxes and oil levy. SA share of federal road grants declining dramatically and LGA seeks increase of 10 per cent of total federal roads funds in 1 980-8 1 to meet SA transport needs.
Local government in South Australia seeks your support in the Parliament for increased road grants in 1 980-8 1 and an increase to a fair share for SA. Letter following.
I received a letter dated 19 March setting out all the reasons why the Local Government Association of South Australia had contacted me to seek my support for the allocation of extra grant funds to the South Australian Government to enable local government to carry out its road works. I am doing that here in the Parliament today. I endeavoured to do it last Wednesday, but as I said I was unable to raise this matter then.
One would have thought, from listening to Senator Messner, that the State Government of South Australia has any amount of finance available to it from this Federal Government. The honourable senator quoted in detail from the Grants Commission report. He listed all the metropolitan councils that had received much more money under this Government than apparently they had received under the Whitlam Government. Yet the Local Government Association of South Australia has written to South Australian members of parliament complaining that local government is not receiving enough. No doubt you, Mr President, along with other South Australian senators have received similar type of correspondence in which all the local government bodies set out their complaints.
As I said earlier, I am in a dilemma over the correspondence that I received from the Murray Bridge District Council. I find myself in a further dilemma now, having listened to Senator Messner who said that in fact this Government is providing adequate funds for the South Australian Government to disperse.
– That is in his opinion.
– That is in his opinion. He is saying that this Government is providing adequate funds for the South Australian Government to disperse to local government bodies in South Australia. It is quite obvious that if Senator Messner has received the same correspondence that my Labor Party colleagues Senator Bishop, Senator Elstob and Senator Cavanagh have received, he has not bothered to read it. If he had done so he would not have stood up in Parliament today and said that his Government, the Fraser Government, is making any amount of money available to the authorities in South Australia to enable them to carry out the road works that are necessary. Of course, as my colleague Senator Colston pointed out, it was the Whitlam Labor Government that first introduced legislation to give local government bodies a share in federal revenue. Until the Whitlam Government brought that legislation into the Parliament local government bodies had no direct access to grants from the federal sphere whatever. Yet we find that on many occasions the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) gets up in this place and criticises the Whitlam Government. He always refers- he does this particularly during Question Time- to the terrible things that were done from 1972 to 1975 under the jurisdiction of the Whitlam Government. Yet we know full well that the Whitlam Government instigated and put on the statute books legislation which in fact was of great benefit to local government bodies.
I have had occasion to reply to quite a few of the letters that I have received from local government. I will quote from only one of my replies because I have written the same letter to all of the local government bodies which have written and asked me to support their plea for extra grants and funding for roads in South Australia. I will quote only one section of my letter, which is typical of the type of letter I have written on other occasions. I said:
Whilst I will do everything I can to support your case, I must point out the difficulty I face due to the repeated statements by Mr Tonkin -
That is the present Liberal Premier of South Australia- during the last State election campaign that he Tully supported the policies of the Fraser Government.
During that State election campaign last year, in every advertisement we saw in the Press and heard on radio and television we witnessed Mr Tonkin and his fellow candidates, who are now the Ministers in the State Government, stating that they fully supported the policies of the Fraser Government. Now we find that local government bodies are in financial difficulty due to the funding arrangements and are asking members of the Federal Parliament to support their plea for extra funding. As I have pointed out to them, I am sure that we will get the answer: ‘Mr Tonkin is quite happy with the situation. Why should we alter the format of funding for local government in South Australia when Mr Tonkin is on record as having said time and again last September that he fully supported the policies of the Government?’ I would say that Mr Tonkin will have a very hard row to hoe when next he comes to Canberra seeking extra grants for local government bodies in South Australia. If Mr Fraser is any sort of a politician he will trot out all those advertisements and Press statements. He will say to Mr Tonkin: ‘Why did you support me during the State election campaign and say that you were quite satisfied with what I was doing for South Australia?’ Mr Tonkin will not be able to have it both ways. He probably will return to South Australia a very crestfallen man because of the utterances he made during the previous State election campaign.
Now I come to the other problem we face, particularly in country areas. I think this problem was emphasised here today. I refer to the high price of petrol in country areas in all States. The local government bodies have emphasised the problems created by increases in the price of petrol and the high level of taxes, through the petrol pump, being levied on every taxpayer. As the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, has said repeatedly, Mr Fraser has used every petrol pump as a tax office. Local government is now saying that it is entitled to receive a greater share of that tax revenue to help it to carry out its functions in constructing roads. We were told in the Senate today that a petrol war is now going on in metropolitan areas. I think that Senator Georges said that today petrol can be purchased in the Brisbane area for about 28c a litre, yet in some of the country areas of Queensland people have to pay over 40c a litre for petrol. For the people who live in the country there is no equality with the people who live in the city.
Yet the Government uses the ploy, as did the Minister for National Development and Energy,
Senator Carrick, today, of stating that it has granted an extra freight subsidy so that petrol will not cost any more than about 2c a litre in the country than it is in the city. That is a complete myth; it does not happen. Even in Murray Bridge, where I live, petrol is anything up to 6c a litre dearer than it is in Adelaide, just 50 miles away. The local retailers of petrol are finding it very difficult to maintain viable enterprises because they have to pay more for the petrol they buy from the petrol companies to fill their bowsers than they would have to pay if they were to go to Adelaide and buy it retail from some of the pumps run by the petrol companies.
What Senator Georges said when he asked a question here today is quite right: There is no equality in Australia today as far as the price of petrol is concerned. Local government realises that and is asking this Government to make more funds available. Mr Hullick, the SecretaryGeneral of the Local Government Association of South Australia Inc., wants another $900m in grants so that the local councils can do their bit in constructing local roads. What we have to realise is that not only the people who live in the country towns and shires use those local roads. Where I live in Murray Bridge massive juggernautsthese massive road transports- are significant users of the roads. I have referred to them before. They are the ones which do all the damage to the roads. Yet many times in the Parliament we hear people criticise our railway system because it is heavily subsidised. It is subsidised because it is giving a service to the people. Nothing is ever said about the amount of money expended on constructing roads throughout the length and breadth of this country so that massive transports can run on them. They do untold damage, much more than the private car. This is one of the problems which local government faces.
As I have said before in speaking on matters pertaining to the closure of country rail services, local government bodies will have to get more and more money to construct roads. For every country railway service that is closed down country roads will have to be used more and more by road transport to service the farmers and people who live in country towns. If this Government is not prepared to make more funds available to local government bodies to construct roads we will find in the not too distant future that roads in the country areas of Australia- not only South Australia but also in other areas- will be unusable. Where will we go then? We have to get the produce which is grown by the farmers to market. If we cannot do that what will the Government do? Will it start building railways again which it is now foolishly closing down? That is something about which the Government ought to be thinking. Instead of closing down railways and forcing local government bodies to seek more funds to construct roads in their areas, we ought to be upgrading the railways so that this will not happen.
I have put the case on behalf of the local government bodies which have approached me. I repeat that I am very disappointed that Senator Messner obviously did not read the correspondence which he received from those local government bodies imploring this Government to make more funds available. He took the opposite view and stated that South Australia in particular, the State from which both he and I are elected, is doing well from the funding arrangements of this Government. We say that it is not. We agree with the local government bodies that more funds are required. It is no good the Government’s crying poor and saying that it does not have the wherewithal to provide funds. We know that with the massive tax rake off which the Government is now getting from every petrol pump in the country it is well able to afford increased funding for local councils, local roads and many other things that are required in the country areas of South Australia. As Senator Colston pointed out, we support one of the Bills. He has foreshadowed an amendment to the other Bill. It depends on what the Minister says in reply to some of the problems which I have raised about funding for local governments as to whether it will be necessary to pursue this matter further in the Committee stage of the Bill.
– The Bill before the Senate is designed to increase the annual percentage of net personal income tax allocated to local government authorities in the States from 1.75 per cent to 2 per cent, an increase of 14 per cent. The general inflation rate over the past year means, in effect, that local government will receive not an increased share but rather just sufficient actual income. Whilst supporting such a move, as it is Labor Party policy to do, we say that the Bill is far from satisfactory. The Labor Party has always regarded local government as a key level of administration. It is here that the Australian people can become most directly involved in making and influencing decisions in their local communities in accordance with their own wishes and aspirations. It is at the local government level that people feel closest to the whole decision-making process. They can see the impact of moneys spent with proper organisation and a proper allocation of funds. They can develop a decent sense of community.
Having regard to the problems besetting local government, one would have thought that the Government would have had some regard to the need to look at the funding of local government in the way in which the Whitlam Government did in the years 1972 to 1975. 1 contest the view that this Government has- that is, its ideological position- that what is required in Australia is access to more consumer goods and more services provided by the private sector whereas, in fact, experience shows that it is the area of community facilities, public facilities, that the Australian people feel most strongly about. Having served for a long period in local government and having noticed the demands of local government to which my colleague Senator McLaren has just referred, I can speak with a degree of confidence when I say that, contrary to what this Government believes, there is a rising demand for more funds, not in the form of direct taxation through rates, but in the form of additional funds from the central government. Such funds would enable local government to provide the range of services which local government and the people believe are their just right.
There is no question that no matter what local government area we examine, no matter what State we examine, we will find that people want better roads. In that sense, I am talking of roads that are the responsibility of local government. They want better community facilities, more recreational facilities and better libraries. In fact, they want a whole range of community facilities that accord with the needs of a modern community. That is why the Whitlam Administration had as the corner-stone of its philosophy on local government the need to use local government in a most active way. As the years since 1 975 pass, it is becoming more and more obvious when we look at local government, which is a labourintensive section of the Australian community, that this is one area where properly directed resource fund allocations can provide a wide range of job opportunities that would take into account the needs of the Australian people. After all, it is in this area that we can envisage the improvement of the physical environment in which all people live. The planning of areas, the provision of proper transport facilities, rehabilitation, the provision of land for recreational purposes, the planting of trees, and the provision of child care centres, kindergartens and library facilities are just a few ways in which local government can be used by a government that has a correct philosophical position.
We find unacceptable the Government’s propositions that we should be spending less on community services and that we should be spending more on the private sector to get the economy going. Only in the last few days have we heard the words of the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, in this regard. In one of his addresses to an organisation, he said that not only should the Federal Government be cutting back on Commonwealth revenue, Commonwealth spending, but so should the States and so should local government. That is quite contrary to all experience in Australia, which indicates that people are demanding better community facilities in all the ways in which State and local government can operate. At this very moment we see motorist organisations such as the National Roads and Motorists Association in my own State and sister organisations, to a lesser extent in other States, campaigning for more national funds, more Federal funds, for the purpose of improving our main road system as distinct from what is required in the local government system.
The Fraser Government has an entirely different attitude. It hands out as little as possible at the local government level. It has a highly conservative attitude to the potentials that exist at the local government level and consequently provides no room for experimentation or expansion. I would have thought that, if this Government were interested in solving the problem of unemployment, if it were interested in the rights, the needs and the aspirations of people, it would be looking to local government as one of those areas which could provide an ever widening range of activities and which could provide employment opportunities for the increasing numbers of people who cannot find employment in the private sector of our economy.
I invite honourable members to recall some of the innovative local activity schemes for which the Whitlam Government was responsible. I refer to the air improvement programs and to the Australian Assistance Plan. They were highly innovative, labour intensive and successful in that they did provide local government with an opportunity to stimulate community involvement and provided local, State and Federal governments with plans under which communities could improve their environment. Although I am not suggesting that all of the programs were necessarily successful they did show the way by ensuring devolution of power and decentralisation, by enabling local people to make suggestions and to involve themselves in the needs of their community.
If we had a national government that really understood local government and its potential it would be a different matter. If we had a national government that really wanted to help local government in a full-hearted way, that government would be examining the important experiments of 1973-75. It would be concerned to communicate with local government about its needs, about how to expand, progress and provide the resources to take up the slack in employment. It would involve communities in planning for a better environment. The Fraser Government has done none of these things.
I remind the Senate of the tables that were incorporated in the House of Representatives Hansard of 25 March by my colleague Mr Uren. They indicate clearly how this Government’s philosophy affects local government adversely. They show that specific purpose payments to local government have been either withdrawn or cut drastically-from $180m in 1975-76 to $27m in 1979-80. Such payments facilitated programs which allowed for the sharing of ideas and for greater contact between those involved in the three levels of government. We were given an opportunity to see co-operative federalism really functioning. We saw Commonwealth funding and initiative, State government co-operation and local government providing the framework for community activity. This Government shows little concern for such ideas and, consequently, little concern for the unemployed. It runs away from providing the necessary funds to aid a growing pool of desperate people. It does that because it believes, one might say sincerely but certainly wholeheartedly, in the principle that only in the private sector should capital funds be applied by those who possess them for the purpose of generating activity. Thus, return upon or profit from investment is seen as the only criteria upon which the private sector should operate. The private sector will not provide the necessary stimulus to get the economy on the go again. Time and time again we have seen that the Government has based the whole of its approach to regenerating the Australian economy on the actions of an unspecified private sector, in the hands of groups of people whose interests are distinctly different from those of a national government.
The basic question that we must ask ourselves in respect of this legislation is: Why does local government funding possess a particular importance? The answer is that it is the one key area in which the inherent injustices of the taxation system, which benefit the middle and upper income earners, can be counterbalanced by Federal funding. My colleague Senator McLaren has referred to the fact that Federal Government revenue from income taxation is declining in significance relative to other forms of taxation. Therefore we have, in a period of inflation, a depreciating share of income tax revenue for local government coupled with an increasing emphasis on such other taxes as, for example, the petrol tax, from which local government receives no revenue whatever.
Let me deal with this in more detail. For example, only about 1 7 per cent of Government receipts comes from company taxation, whereas approximately 5.6 per cent comes from Customs, 14 per cent from excise, 8 per cent from sales tax and 45 per cent from income tax. Companies come off very lightly indeed; and it is this sector which is expected to expand in the present economic circumstances, according to the philosophy of this Government.
Local government financing provides an important means of creating regional balance in resource utilisation. No one could argue that such a balance exists today. For example- I am talking now in the context of New South Wales- does this Government really believe that we can compare Mount Druitt with the suburb of Killara? Do children of the western suburbs of Sydney have the same opportunities as those on the North Shore? Surely a society which is concerned with the needs of people should attempt to weigh social, geographical, demographic and density features in its financial decision making. But this legislation provides no means of reaching that equilibrium or even that objective. At June 1975 local government in Australia employed 1 4 1 ,000 people. Solely as a result of the cutback in local government funding by the Federal Government- that is, the Federal funds which have been deliberately cut despite the objectives stated in this piece of legislation- the local government work force in Australia at June 1979 stood at 127,500, which was 13,500 less than the number employed when the last Hayden Budget was presented in 1975.
A drastic drop in employment has taken place in the manufacturing sector of our economy over the last decade or so- a drop approximating 20 to 30 per cent. In local government employment, one of” the areas which is labour intensive, there has been a drop, albeit a small drop. The movements in these areas indicate the reasons why this Government finds itself unable to overcome the problems of permanent unemployment, which is a feature of the policies of the Australian Government. This Federal Government is using inflation as an excuse for making cutbacks in key areas of social need. At the same time it is generous to the rich and powerful corporations which are given all sorts of incentives to increase their exports, their investments and their introduction of technology, all of which are designed to make big companies bigger in terms of profitability and to reach certain social objectives which, after this Government has been in office for almost five years, clearly are not being achieved. Yet this Government persists with that ideological position.
This Government has no regard for the impact that these cutbacks are having on average citizens, in particular those who are most heavily affected. The 950-odd local government bodies in this country are decentralised throughout the country in areas which can provide a range of opportunities for employment and which can realise the aspirations and expectations of local communities. Of course, in rural areas, where we are witnessing a slow but perceptible decline in employment opportunities for a whole variety of reasons which are associated with a world-wide trend, local government provides one of the few opportunities of extending the range of job opportunities.
Despite difficulties and despite the beginning of the decline of all the economies throughout the Western world the Labor Government set out consciously and in a planned way to try to provide additional funds in local government areas. Schemes were established for employment and to mobilise people. Schemes were created to meet local needs and to provide opportunities for work. It is an absurd argument to say that not enough funds are available. We challenge the theories of this Government because we believe that the direction of the economic policies pursued by this Government has to be changed; the direction in which Federal funds are being allocated has to be challenged. We are challenging the direction in which this Government is taking this country by pursuing the false belief that if we provide sufficient incentive for the private sector it will respond in some nebulous, unplanned, altruistic way to provide the sorts of work opportunities that will give every person in this country the right to a job.
The absurd argument that insufficient funds are available is used constantly by all government spokesmen. We have only to examine the balance sheets of all the major companies to see the tremendous increase in capital funds accumulation and in profitability of the major sectors of the Australian economy. It is an absurd proposition that we should leave it to those who have the right to make decisions about how those funds should be allocated. It is absurd that those people should be left free of any community influence or any national government influence about how these important capital funds should be applied for the purpose of providing jobs. This is so particularly when we have a government which takes the view that there ought to be cutbacks in funding to local and State governments in the same way that there are cutbacks in the Federal sphere. It is a question of social priorities. It is a question of understanding social needs and it is a question of concerning ourselves with the attitude that this Government takes on these important questions of social priorities.
More than at any other time in our post-war history there is a growing urgency for conteracting the discernable, growing trend for some regions in our country to become richer and better equipped at the expense of other regions which are struggling to reach a satisfactory level of spending. Of course, I am referring to local government. In all Western countries there is a growing polarisation of wealth on the one hand and poverty on the other. I defy any Government spokesman to deny that that is the statistical trend- it is an alarming one- that is taking place. Economists who think about it and who have a social conscience are concerned about this trend. They argue that regional income redistribution is a useful method of relieving this trend.
The Australian Labor Party makes no apologies for the period it was in government. It had a policy of recognising need in relation to how local government funding should be organised. In other words, when the Labor Government looked at the new suburbs that were developing around most of our capital cities it attempted to make more funds available to those regions because their need was greatest. The Labor Government also recognised the need to spend money based on need in respect of education. That is another area which this Government has transgressed. It has changed the priorities and has made allocations based not on need but on a plan which in fact assists the greedy and the well provided for rather than the needy and those who badly require federal funds to equalise education opportunities. This applies also in the local government area to the needs of local communities. In the post-war period conservative governments in Canberra have resisted consistently the pleadings of local government. I refer particularly to the 1950s and the 1960s when local government was pressing for 5 per cent of national revenue to be made available to local government. Deputations to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, sometimes through the agencies of
State Premiers were rejected out of hand by all the conservative governments.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed).
– It must be remembered that during the whole of the post-war period conservative governments in Canberra- that is, from 1949 right through until 1974- have resisted the pleadings of local government for proper recognition in the trinity of government that exists in this country. It is only in more recent times that there has been an acceptance that local government has an integral part to play in the whole structure of government in Australia. Throughout the post-war period, massive development took place, the needs of migrants became apparent, and the suburbanisation process occurred. There was tremendous post-war growth, when hundreds of new communities were developed, principally at the local level and under the responsibility of local government. During this time the national government, at the behest of Liberal-Country Party philosophy, resisted the provision of the necessary funds to plan those new communities properly. It was left entirely to local government to find funds from local sources, without any assistance from the States, to provide for the proper and orderly development of those new suburbs. The consequence of this was that community facilities lagged far behind the needs of those new and local communities.
The Gorton Government was no more sympathetic than the Menzies Government, and the McMahon Government was no more sympathetic than either the Gorton or Menzies governments before it. They would not listen to the pleas of local government. In fact, in 1 970 the Liberal-Country Party Government refused to meet a deputation from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, which was then pressing very strongly for the recognition of local government as an integral part of the trinity of government organisations in Australia. It was left to the Whitlam Government to change this process and to recognise the vital role that local government played in grass roots democracy in this country. In 1973 the Commonwealth Government, accepted for the first time since Federation, responsibility for some areas of funding for local government, not only in the form of direct grants but also in the form of ancillary or additional funds based on need, community involvement, and the Australian Assistance Plan, and the area improvement programs, which were a very important addition to the needs and expectations of local communities throughout the length and breadth of our country.
The Fraser Government has decided as part of its policy to continue somewhat the principles which were established during the Whitlam period. However, it has managed to take the essential driving force out of the Whitlam philosophy. It has sought only to establish a technical and mechanical arrangement which does not recognise need and the right of local communities to make representations through the States to the Commonwealth Government and which therefore falls far short of the essential requirements that are inherent in most other countries in the relationship between local authorities and a national government. Nevertheless, this legislation certainly represents an improvement on the past neglect by conservative governments in Canberra. It is certainly an improvement on the 1.75 per cent assistance which was provided in the last Budget. However, we believe cutbacks have flowed from this Government’s approach in the 1979 Budget. Whilst direct grants have been made, this Government has failed to take into consideration the extensive additional funds which were made available to local government authorities through the special grants arrangements and has failed to recognise the needs concept. Nevertheless, it is better to have half the cake if we cannot have the cake itself.
To that extent the Labor Party will not oppose the Bills which are now before the Senate. It regrets that the Government has not seen fit to make the essential step to place local government finances on a firm basis to meet its requirements and demands, some of which were so ably represented by my colleague Senator McLaren in respect of South Australia. The views of local government bodies throughout Australia can be adequately summed up as follows: There is still insufficient and adequate recognition at the national level of the needs of local government funding.
– Tonight we are debating cognately the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill and the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill. Each of these Bills recognises the important concept of federalism, namely that in addition to the Federal tier of government there are two other levels- the State level and the local government level. Now the Federal Government has sought to share responsibility with these other two levels of government. The Federal Government recognises the important part that both local and State governments play by being very close to the Australian people. All too often we hear criticism that government is remote from the people. These Bills seek to bring government closer to the people. For that reason they have my wholehearted support.
The States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill provides amendments to the 1 976 Act to the effect that each of the States ‘ tax sharing entitlements for 1980-81 will be equal in real terms to the 1979-80 entitlements. This Bill is the result of agreements which were made at the December 1 979 Premiers Conference on the subject of minimum tax sharing entitlements. Under this Bill the States will receive 39.87 per cent of their personal income tax collections for the previous year. Under this Bill we also find that the revenue from land used for mining purposes will now be added to the States entitlements. The consumer price index is to be used as a yardstick for ensuring that real tax equivalents are guaranteed. It is expected under this Bill that the States’ entitlement will be 1 1.3 per cent higher in 1980-81 than in 1979-80. Of course, the rights of the States will be protected as the tax sharing arrangements are to be reviewed by the end of 1 980-8 1 .
I think that it is important to give some examples of the Federal Government’s responsible attitude towards the States. In a Treasury summary which was issued in February this year it is stated that in the six months to December 1979 the States have accumulated a surplus of $ 159.2m. We also note that the State public services have actually increased their work force by 30 per cent while at the same time the Commonwealth Public Service has increased its work force by only 1 7 per cent. Thus, as a result of the Commonwealth ‘s generosity towards the States, the States have been able to substantially increase their range of services and employment opportunities. The Fraser Government has increased the amount of general purpose grants as opposed to specific purpose grants because it believes that general purpose grants can be best used and are best used at the discretion of the States.
I believe that this is one main difference between our Government and the Whitlam Government. Whereas the Whitlam Government chose specific purpose grants, this Government favours giving discretion to the States and we have increased the amount for general purpose grants. In fact, the States will receive 20 per cent more from the Commonwealth Government this year due, of course, to a 20 per cent increase in personal income tax. This is based on tax collections to March 1979 as compared with March 1978, which is the yardstick. Since 1974-75, Commonwealth contributions have risen by 69 per cent in 1977-78 and by 88 per cent in 1978-79. From 1974-75 to 1978-79 Commonwealth contributions have risen by a staggering 88 per cent. At the same time the States own revenues have risen by a lesser amount. They rose by 54 per cent in 1977- 78- that is 15 per cent less than the Commonwealth contributions- and by 65 per cent in 1978- 79-23 per cent less than the Commonwealth contributions.
The agreement that we are discussing tonight in the cognate debate will entitle the States to apply an additional surcharge or alternatively grant a rebate if they wish. I have mentioned that in the six month period to December 1979, the States have accumulated a surplus of $ 159.2m. Therefore, if the States wish to grant tax relief, here is a medium for them to grant that relief. It is true that the Federal Government is in favour of giving as much tax relief as possible. Here is a vehicle in this Bill that provides the opportunity for each State Premier to provide tax relief.
I now wish to issue a challenge to each of the State Premiers to recognise some of the iniquitous taxes that they raise. The first and only one that I believe is relevant tonight concerns payroll tax. Therefore, I issue a challenge to each State
Premier to abolish payroll tax and to take advantage of the measures in the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill to provide the necessary revenue to offset this iniquitous form of tax which effectively means that there are fewer job opportunities in the community. At five per cent on wage costs, payroll tax virtually represents the twenty-first employee on any workforce.
It is significant that over the years Commonwealth contributions to State revenues have increased quite dramatically. I have asked the statistics group of the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library to provide me with certain figures which it has collated based on a publication of the Bureau of Statistics called State and Local Government Finance’. These statistics compare the funds available to the States provided by the Commonwealth as distinct from the States’ own services. In examining these figures we should define our terms. State revenues include not only taxes, fees and fines, but also income from property and public enterprises, loan raising and other financing items. The statistics I have are for 1962-63, 1967-68 and for each year from 1974 to 1977-78. I seek leave to incorporate these tables in Hansard.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800428_senate_31_s85/>.