31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) left Australia on 22 August 1 980 to attend the Eleventh Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Economic Development in New York. The Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs until Mr Peacock returns to Australia on 10 September 1980.
– I present the following petition from 224 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth:
That in order to place Australian citizens residing in the Northern Territory on an equitable basis with those residing in the South in terms of real economy.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should:
Support the chief minister of the Northern Territory in his drive to gain an increase of the Zone ‘A’ Taxation Allowance for residents of the north of Australia to $2,500.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 416 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth:
That in order to: lower transport costs; boost tourism; improve defence; increase transport reliability; generally assist northern development.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should:
Urge that the Federal Government proceed immediately with the construction of the Alice Springs/Darwin railway.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read/ ‘
– I present the following petition from 1 34 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth that:
hostilities in Asia, and most recently in Afghanistan, highlight the vulnerable situation of Darwin - Australia’s gateway to the north;
better defence preparedness is required in Northern Australia with increased surface mobility for the defence forces:
more economical and reliable transportation is required between Darwin and the South, and
additional facilities are required for the development of the north.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should:
Urge that the Commonwealth Government give foremost priority to the immediate construction of the Alice Springs/Darwin railway as a matter of prime national concern.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 34 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.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We the undersigned, being concerned citizens of Australia and of the world noting widespread violations of fundamental Human Rights around the world observing that Australia has taken a leading role in the United Nations Commission for
Human Rights being aware that less than 40 per cent of money raised by Amnesty International is remitted outside Australia urge the Government to support Amnesty International in a practical way by permitting donations to it to be deductible from income for taxation purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition or the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index, by this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Georges.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that lone parents receiving Social Security benefits are being further disadvantaged by the fact that their benefits are only partially adjusted to the Consumer Price Index.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure that the necessary legislation be enacted to raise the dependents allowance for pensioners and the level of permissible income for pensioners and that both these factors be indexed in future.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Hamer.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned quadriplegics and severely disabled and concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the financial disadvantaged ‘the disabled’ are being continually burdened over many years and now ask redress. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should request that:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
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 Peter Baume.
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 he 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 Evans.
– Pursuant to sessional order, I give notice that it is my intention, at discovery of formal business on the next day of sitting, to withdraw Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name for that day, relating to the disallowance of Amendment No. 28 of the Telecommunications (Staff) By-laws.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate identify which debts the Prime Minister was referring to when he said in his post-Budget Press conference that Australia has ‘paid off the Labor Party’s debts’? 1 also refer the Minister to Table 9 of Budget Paper No. 6 at page 29, and ask the Minister how he reconciles that statement about paying off debts with the rise of the national debt from $441 per person in 1975 under the Labor Government to $1,265 per person in 1980.
– The people of Australia fully understood, if Senator Button did not, that the Prime Minister was referring to the huge and unprecedented Budget deficits which the Australian Labor Party had incurred and which had been one of the ingredients primarily responsible for the record inflation created in Australia.
– The record inflation was in 1951.
– The record inflation was in 1951.
– Order! Senator Walsh, cease interrupting.
– Make him tell the truth.
– The words ‘tell the truth’ are an imputation against the Minister. There is an inference there. Senator Walsh, you will withdraw.
– I withdraw any inference that the Minister is a liar, but he stated that there was record inflation in 1974. In fact there was record inflation in 1951.
– Order! Do not debate the question.
– As I was saying, the people of Australia fully understood that the Prime Minister was referring to the huge deficit of the period of the Whitlam Government which had been a primary factor in creating inflation al a very high level throughout Australia, and which was a major cause of disemployment in Australia. Some 1 50,000 people were put out of work in one year by that and by tariff cuts. The Prime Minister quite rightly was pointing to the fact that we had been able to report a proud achievement- that is, a domestic surplus in this Budget of $39m. That is a very significant accomplishment after the Labor debacle.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I ask the Minister whether he will answer that part of the question which related to the rise of the national debt from $441 per person in 1975 to $1,265 per person in 1980. Further, will he table in the Senate the total deficit for the three years of Labor Government and the total deficit for any three years of Liberal-National Country Party Government under Mr Fraser?
– The national debt was not the factor which the Prime Minister was referring to. Each year the national debt incurs a burden of interest and not a burden of total repayment. The debt which the Prime Minister was referring to was putting Australia into debt by way of a deficit. There is no relevance between the two. The relevant figures do not need tabling. They are all contained in the Budget Papers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Firstly, what time frame will the oil companies be given to install lessee dealers in company operated sites in place of salaried staff? Secondly, what provision is there to safeguard against depots or company agents retailing through dog sites to circumvent State prohibition legislation?
- Senator Bonner is referring to the package of legislation in relation to petrol retail marketing which has been foreshadowed by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. That legislation has virtually been drafted. I think the Minister hopes to introduce it into the Parliament in the very near future. The specific question raised by Senator Bonner will probably be covered in the legislation, although I am not familiar with the full details of it. I will refer the honourable senator’s questions to the Minister. I think that any answer probably should await the imminent introduction of the legislation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy, although it might be relevant also to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry as it concerns the cost of petrol and distillate used on farms, with special reference to export earning industries such as the wheat and cattle industries. Is it a fact that wheat is now
Australia’s biggest single commodity export, earning well over $2 billion a year? In view of this, has the Government yet given any consideration to representations made by me and others at the request of the wheat industry that its potential to compete with other major growers is now suffering because of the high cost of distillate and petrol due to the crude oil levy? Since the economic welfare of our major export industries is obviously important to the whole community, will the Government urgently institute an inquiry into this situation with the objective of reducing the crude oil levy on farm used fuel to the extent that these industries can remain competitive on the world market?
– As to the first part of the question asked by the honourable senator, I believe wheat is our main agricultural export; I do not think it is the main export of Australia. Senator Mason was probably referring to agricultural exports. As to the second and third parts of the question, the fact Is that the best way in which to help the Australian farmer to compete throughout the world is to ensure two things: Firstly, that the general inflation rate in Australia is lower than that of the countries with which we trade. I am happy to say that in the past five years we have transformed the trading position of Australia from one where we were virtually costed out of world markets to a position of trade where at this moment, due to our favourable inflation rate, Australia lies amongst the lower inflation countries in the trading world. Certainly our inflation rate is something like three to four percentage points below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average. That is the fundamental help that one can give to Australian farmers or to any other traders.
The second point to make clear is that, by comparison with almost every other country of any consequence in trade, gasolene in Australia sells at a much lower price. For example, the cost of gasolene in Australia is about half what it is in Europe and is certainly lower than it is in the countries of most of our trading partners. The price of distillate is also favourable by comparison. The fact is that the Commonwealth Government has made major steps to aid the people of country areas in this problem that the world faces; that is, high fuel costs, lt has, of course, made sure that no road tax is applied on distillate - whether for use on farms or in fishing industries - and it has introduced a freight subsidy for fuel which costs something like $ 1 23m of taxpayers’ money a year. These are great helps. The fundamental answer to Senator Mason’s question is that to help the farming community we must get Australia’s inflation down compared with that of other trading nations. To help farming communities, we must also aim to have the cost of Australia’s petrolem products lower than that of other trading nations. I am happy to answer that in both cases it is.
– I ask a supplementary question. With respect to the Minister for National Development and Energy, our main competitors in the wheat industry, I would have thought, are Canada and the United States, where fuel is a lot cheaper than it is here. Will the Minister answer my question: Has the Government considered those representations and will it hold the inquiry I have suggested?
– I think the price of gasolene in America today is either identical with or slightly higher than the price in Australia. It runs at something like 34c by comparison. In Canada the price is lower. Australia’s price is, I think, the second cheapest of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Canada’s price is lower only because under its federal system of government it finds it impossible to achieve parity pricing; it would if it could. The Government has seen no reason for an inquiry to be held. The Government re-emphasises that it has two main aims - to keep inflation down so that we can trade externally, and to provide fuel in sufficient quantities and quality and at prices competitive with those in the world outside. We are doing both those things.
– My question is directed to either the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources or the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, whoever is the most appropriate, ls it a fact that the Government is sending officers of the Department of Trade and Resources and the Department of Industry and Commerce to South East Asia to explain the Government’s decision on textiles, clothing and footwear? What will be the basis of their explanation, as no public explanation has so far been provided? How does one explain the unexplainable?
– I am not aware whether my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Resources in another place, is in fact sending officers to countries overseas to explain our decision on textiles. I am aware - I have been in his presence when he has been able to say, with accuracy, to all those countries - that per capita Australia imports about three times as much, in terms of money, as the countries with which we trade. So, in fact, on a trading basis we are much freer in our trade than the countries with which we deal, the countries that ask us to put our barriers down. I fully understand Senator Sim’s desire to ensure that there should be effective competition in Australia. We are achieving a significant degree in that regard. At the same time, the employment of Australian people in the manufacturing industries is a significant factor which guided the Government. As to the second part of Senator Sim’s question, perhaps I can get him the relevant Press statement and let him have a look at it to see whether he finds that an adequate explanation.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, although it has some relevance to his own portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs. In view of the success of the mobile polling booths in the recent Northern Territory Legislative Assembly election, will the Minister take appropriate action to enable mobile polling booths to operate in the Northern Territory at the forthcoming Federal election?
– I have not had any direct report - although I am sure the Minister for Administrative Services has - on the success or otherwise of the mobile polling booths to which the honourable senator refers. They have recently been tried in difficult areas for polling in both the Northern Territory and Western Australia. I will take the matter up with the Minister and ask him to let the honourable senator have a considered reply.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of a number of claims that have recently been made of preparations made by the Ethiopian military forces, supported by the Soviet Union, to use nerve gas and other chemical weapons in their campaign against the people of Eritrea? Is the Minister aware of the report in the London Times of 27 June 1980 of the supplying by the Soviet Union of helicopter gunships and troop carriers, together with experts in chemical warfare who have been brought to Asmara in Eritrea for the purpose of being employed against the entrenched guerrilla forces? Will the Minister make urgent inquiries as to whether these weapons have been used and generally as to the present state of aggression against the people of Eritrea? Will the Government register with the Ethiopian and Soviet governments and with intergovernmental bodies its protest against the use of such barbarous weapons? Is it prepared to take further steps to assist Eritrean refugees and displaced persons with food, medical and other humanitarian assistance?
– I am aware of recent Press reports that Ethiopian military forces have been using chemical weapons, allegedly supplied by the Soviet Union, in operations against Eritrean secessionist forces inside Ethiopia. The Government takes such reports very seriously indeed and arranges to have allegations of the use of chemical weapons investigated. That is being done. I am advised, however, that investigations following the reports of chemical warfare in Eritrea have provided, as yet, no evidence to substantiate the recent allegations.
Australia is participating actively in international efforts to achieve a comprehensive prohibition of chemical weapons. Recently the Australian delegation to the United Nations Committee on Disarmament played an active part in drawing up the parameters of a chemical weapons convention. The matter is on the agenda for this year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly. Australia will continue to work actively in this forum and elsewhere to achieve a ban on chemical weapons.
The Australian Government is seriously concerned at the human suffering and loss of life brought about by the Eritrean conflict and other disputes in the Horn of Africa. Australia has provided funds to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees program for assistance to Eritrean refugees in the Sudan and has also provided a matched grant of $20,000 to three nongovernment organisations- Austcare, the Australian Council of Churches and Community Aid Abroad - which provide humanitarian assistance to Eritrean refugees.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General and refers to the answer he gave to my question last Thursday that the Australian Government had not taken any part in initiating or any part at all in court cases in Greece conducted by the Greek Government against Greek citizens for offences committed in Australia. Is the Attorney aware that a spokesman for the Australian Federal Police has stated publicly that in fact the Greek authorities acted at the request of their predecessor, the Commonwealth Police? If this is a fact, can the Minister tell us which officer or officers of the Commonwealth Police asked the Greek authorities to take such action? Did they do this with Government knowledge or approval?
– 1 am not aware of the statement to which Senator Grimes refers. I certainly will follow the matter up in view of his giving me information about it. He may need to give me further information about the statement, such as where it is and who made it. I will certainly follow the matter up as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and refers to casual workers working during the week for a number of employers. Is the Minister aware that under present income tax regulations an employee can sign and lodge only one income tax instalment form claiming the general exemption in respect of work for only one employer? Is the Minister aware that tax must be deducted at the standard rate of 32 per cent in respect of all employers other than, say, the first who, for example, may employ the casual worker for only one day each week? Will the Minister request the Australian Taxation Office to examine the regulations with a view to providing greater encouragement for casual workers to seek work?
– Senator Watson raises a series of questions, not all of which I am competent to answer in specific detail. I think it is important that we should clarify the position of such workers. I will bring the substance of the questions to the attention of my colleague, the Treasurer, and seek his study and comment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. 1 draw the Minister’s attention to a report on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news this morning that an Australian nun, Sister Anna Gleeson, has been arrested in Santiago, Chile, allegedly ibr distributing anti-government propaganda in that country. Is the Minister aware that Senator Young, the Honourable Clyde Cameron, the Honourable Les Johnson and I met the sister only a fortnight ago at the residence of the Australian Ambassador in Santiago? ls the Minister aware also that the sister is in Chile as a member of the Order of the Sisters of Mercy in order to assist the weak, the poor and the underprivileged of Chile? Will the Minister lodge the strongest protest with the Chilean military junta at the apprehension of Sister Gleeson, who is a very kind and humane Australian, and will he report to the Parliament the results of any action the Australian Government takes to secure the release and freedom of the lady?
– I have some information on the matter. I understand that an Australian nun, Sister Anna Gleeson, was arrested in Santiago, Chile, on 23 August under a decree which allowed her to be detained for up to three months. The Embassy has now confirmed that she was released today, following a formal approach by the Embassy to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No charges were laid against Sister Gleeson. We believe that she was one of a group of people arrested following a visit to a hall which was to have been the site of a meeting to discuss the proposed constitution and the forthcoming plebiscite. The authorities had denied permission to hold the meeting.
I was not aware that Senator McClelland and some of his colleagues had met the sister. 1 accept Senator McClelland’s assurance that she is a person of considerable integrity performing a humanitarian task. Against that background, I point out that the Australian Embassy has made a formal approach on this matter to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is awaiting a reply. In the meantime, the Embassy will continue to keep in close touch with Sister Gleeson and will offer all normal consular assistance. If any further matters which would help the Department of Foreign Affairs could be brought to my attention I would be happy to have them from the honourable senator.
– Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister recall that the Woodward further report into drug trafficking in New South Wales clearly indicated that investigation into the affairs of the Nugan Hand group of companies should be undertaken? Does the Minister further recall that, apart from suspected breaches of Federal laws suggested by Mr Justice Woodward, the Nugan Hand group of companies has been linked with both alleged attempts to frame a senior New South Wales State politician and activities connected with the marihuana problem in Griffith? Has the Minister now seen allegations made by the Victorian police in the Melbourne Coroner’s Court that there may be a link between the Nugan Hand group and the drug-related slaying of Douglas and Isabel Wilson in May last year? In view of the repeated and serious allegations made about the activities of the Nugan Hand group of companies, will the Federal Government urgently consider the appointment of an appropriate investigation with sufficient powers and authority to undertake the fullest study of the activities of these companies and to make recommendations about any action necessary if breaches of the law are found to have been committed?
– I have seen the report of Mr Justice Woodward. The Government and the Attorney-General have available to them the various reports of Mr Justice Woodward and, of course, the previous report of Mr Justice Moffitt, as well as the complementary report of Mr Justice Williams on drugs at the Federal level. It is true, as Senator Puplick said, that Mr Justice Woodward indicated that there were significant avenues for further investigation. It is true that among those avenues are matters of very serious Federal responsibility; for example, any matters of breaches of currency laws, any matters regarding immigration or passports or any matters regarding drugs and drug smuggling. I have been acutely sensitive to the evidence given in the coronial inquiry in Victoria in recent days, which has added to this matter. All of this adds up to a story of potential criminality on a massive scale, focused particularly in New South Wales. The Government has all these matters under study at this moment, and I hope that the Government will indicate its intentions in the near future.
– My question, which follows Senator Button’s question, is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. His answer referred to deficits, whereas Senator Button’s question referred to government debt. 1 followed his advice to refer to the Budget Papers to see what the deficits were during the years of Labor government and what they are now. Can he confirm that during the three years of Labor government the total deficit was $6,445 billion, for the first three years of the Fraser Government it was $9.55 1 billion, and for the last three years of the Fraser Government, including the estimate for this year, it is $7,078 billion, in both cases substantially higher than under Labor? Can the Minister give us any idea of who will pay back the Fraser Government’s debts?
– As to the final question posed by Senator Walsh, the Fraser Government has demonstrated that it is able to put its domestic deficit this financial year in balance and create a surplus of $39m. So, indeed, it has achieved a significant success, which the Whitlam Government was not competent to do. The significant thing about the figures, whether correct or not, assuming that the trends outlined by Senator Walsh are correct, is that in the last year of the Whitlam
Government, and taking Mr Hayden’s own statement as Treasurer as the basis, the deficit was running riot. Indeed, he said in his Budget, if honourable senators will recall, that it was to run at double the rate. So it was the trend of inflation of that last year which was the significant situation that had to be coped with.
– A web of lies.
- Senator Button, you know full well that you cannot utter those words, because they imply or state that a person is a liar.
– With respect, Mr President, what I said was that the Minister was caught in a web of lies. That is no reflection on the Minister at all. It describes his position. He is caught in a web of lies. I did not accuse the Minister of telling untruths at all.
– I call the Minister.
- Mr President, if I may, I want to draw the attention of the people of Australia to a tactic being used in both Houses of the Federal Parliament; that is, continuous interjection by Labor senators and members, no matter what Minister is on his feet, alleging lies. This is a concerted tactic. Quite apart from its being totally unparliamentary and unjustifiable, it is important that the people of Australia realise that this is the threadbare propaganda of a party that has no other policies at all.
– I raise a point of order. The Leader of the Government has accused Opposition senators of conducting a campaign of repeating the word ‘lies’ and accusing Ministers answering questions of telling lies. That is not so. We have never accused Senator Chaney, Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle or Senator Durack of telling lies. The only person we accuse of telling lies is Senator Carrick because he is the only one who does tell lies.
– Order! Senator Grimes is stating that the Leader of the Government tells lies. He knows he is wrong. He will withdraw immediately.
– I will withdraw. He is still in his web.
– Order! Senator Grimes, did you withdraw?
– Of course I withdrew.
– If 1 and the people of Australia needed proof of a tactic that has been repeatedly continuously we have just had it from Senator Grimes. Labor senator after Labor senator believes that he can escape the rules of this chamber simply by withdrawing after making a statement in breach of privilege. That is happening both here and in the other chamber. It is important that the people of Australia understand that it is happening.
– I ask a supplementary question. The question I asked previously was not about the direction in which the deficit was heading in 1975 or 1980. The question was about the absolute level of the deficit under Labor and under the present Government. It is much greater under the present Government than Senator Carrick has implicitly conceded. Who will pay back the Fraser Government’s much greater deficits? I ask the Minister to address his remarks to that question and to answer it.
– I am very happy to answer that question. I pointed out and I repeat that in this Budget there is a domestic surplus. Therefore we have managed to reduce the deficits that were created over the years and to have a domestic surplus. That has been acknowledged by economic and finance writers throughout Australia and throughout the free world as a very significant accomplishment in an anti-inflation policy.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, concerns the operation of the means test for the age pension in the two contrasting cases of superannuates - one who is able or who chooses to take a lump sum superannuation payment and the other who in retirement receives substantial regular superannuation payments. Is it true that even though the original superannuation benefit may have been identical in the two cases, in the first case, the lump sum case, a person may receive the full age pension and even fringe benefits whereas in the second case, the regular payments case, a person may receive no pension and no benefits? Does the Government recognise this kind of anomaly? What remedy can now be provided? If there is no present remedy, will the Minister give every consideration to taking the steps necessary towards a fair and equitable solution to this problem?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEAll income, including periodical superannuation payments and interest obtained from a lump sum payment of superannuation which has been invested, is taken into account in the operation of the income test on pensions and fringe benefits. Prior to 1976 both capital and assets were considered under the means test in determining entitlement to both pensions and fringe benefits. Since 1976 an income test only has applied.
Therefore, while assets such as lump sum superannuation payments are not taken into account for pension and fringe benefit purposes, the income that is produced from those assets is taken into account. There is, therefore, not the anomaly suggested in the question.
Whether a person is entitled to receive the full or part pension or fringe benefits depends on the level of his income. Payments may take the form of periodical payments of superannuation or of interest received on the lump sum that may have been invested by the person concerned. However, I will take note of the question asked by Senator Teague and see that consideration is given to it.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it not a fact that under the last Labor Budget each Australian–
– Who is going backwards now?
– 1 am going backwards for the purpose of making another comparison. Honourable senators opposite are very fond of making comparisons; let me make one now. Is it not a fact that under the last Labor Budget each Australian family paid $1.20 a week in tax on oil? To bring us to the future, is it not a fact that under the present Budget each family will pay $14.20 a week in tax on oil, representing a difference of $ 1 3 a week? Does this not justify the claim that Mr Fraser is engaged in the greatest tax rip-off ever imposed upon the Australian people? Further, is the answer to Senator Walsh’s question about who pays off Fraser’s debts that it is the Australian people?
– In answer to the last part of the question first, no, this is not the greatest tax rip-off on the Australian people. What Mr Hayden is saying would be the taxing policy of a potential Labor government would put the present Government’s policy into amateur status. Already the promises have amounted to beyond $2,500m. Already there are talks of wealth taxes, resources taxes and capital gains taxes - one after the other. The people of Australia must understand one thing, that is, the resources tax is aimed to raise more money than the oil levy raises. Indeed, Mr Hayden says that he wants more money because he wants to pay for extra medical benefits. Mr Keating wants to set up an Australian hydrocarbon corporation. One by one the cost of the Opposition’s promises goes up and up. It can pay for the policies only–
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. You have ruled on numerous occasions that political replies cannot be given to questions. A question was asked. The content of the answer has been disproved in another place because it has been proved that the figures brought out by a department were false. Now the Minister is compounding the situation. I ask you to draw his attention to the fact that he has a question to reply to and that he ought to do it.
– There is no point of order.
– I repeat that on the statements of the Labor leader the taxation that would be exacted upon the Australian people would be enormously higher. Indeed, if a Labor government sought to achieve some of its finance through the deficit Australia would pay in inflation and unemployment the price it paid in 1975. It is not true that this is the greatest tax rip-off. The greatest tax rip-off is the chain of promises of the Hayden Labor Party, which I am happy to say will never be implemented.
I cannot tell whether the comparison of taxes on oil is as Senator Georges claims. All I can say is: Yes, it is true that there is a heavy excise on oil in Australia. Australia still produces some of the cheapest gasolene in the trading world, certainly in comparison with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and the countries with which we trade.
The real test to apply to oil is the one which the Australia Labor Party refuses to apply. An oil policy is measured by its ability to produce a continuity of supply of oil and petroleum products for the years ahead rather than having some spiv type of a frozen price for a few months. The fact is that the Labor Party’s policy would produce in the end dearer petrol and scarcer petrol because it is no policy at all for producing petrol in Australia, but in fact it drives exploration away. That, of course, is the key to the whole situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment. The public protestations of the scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Fisheries and Oceanography regarding the Government’s decision to move their headquarters to Hobart are of considerable concern to the people of Tasmania. Can the Minister assure the Senate that the Government still intends to go ahead with that move?
– The very simple answer to the question asked by the honourable senator is yes. The sorts of reasons which motivated the Government have been reported on in the past. At the moment the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography has a site which presents a number of disadvantages and is inadequate for modern marine research. It is overcrowded and has no deep berthing facilities for research vessels. There are long term problems with the tenure of the site because a large part is leased from the New South Wales Government. The relocation of these activities to a new site in Hobart in Tasmania should remove that difficulty. I have no doubt that all Tasmanians and, indeed, all Australians, will welcome this move which should encourage a high quality of research. No doubt it will also be a very welcome addition to activities in Tasmania.
– My question to the Minister for National Development and Energy follows on earlier questions and answers in which the Minister said that the Government has paid off Labor’s debts. Is the Minister aware that the Treasurer advised me in answer to a question earlier this year that the total overseas borrowings by the Fraser Government since November 1975 amount to $6,628m and that in the financial year 1983-84 a debt repayment will be required of nearly $l,000m in capital interest? I ask the Minister: Who will pay that debt of the Fraser Government?
– The earlier question to me concerned the statement by the Prime Minister which referred to the fact that Labor had created huge deficits and that the Government had now managed to produce a domestic surplus. As I have said, that has been acknowledged as a significant achievement by writers and economists throughout Australia. A heavy borrowing rate has been incurred by this Government; the debts will be paid off. Throughout the years of this Government - and prospectively also - there has been and will be a huge growth in the capacity of Australia to produce and to earn by exports. Therefore, the gross national product will be such that the repayment of the debt will be well within the competence of future governments of the day. The honourable senator confused the two situations. One relates to the massive deficit which was highly inflationary and which was causing unemployment. Of course, he failed to take note of the other factor- the significance of the present domestic surplus of which the Australian community can justly be proud.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the rhetoric of Senator Carrick’s answer, I ask: Is it not a fact that the $6,500m to which I referred and which the Fraser Government borrowed overseas since it came to office has to be repaid? Who will repay it? Will it not be the Australian taxpayer, through the Government?
– Of course borrowings have to be repaid. The way to ease the burden of that repayment is to make the earning of this nation increase in very real value year by year. That has been done. Therefore the debt burden is lightened accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. The report on quarantine by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources was tabled in the Senate on 20 November 1979. The Government has responded to the inquiry in legislative and other ways and to many recommendations contained in the report but has yet to table its response to the report. Can the Minister indicate when the Government’s response to this report will be tabled?
I regret to hear that the response to the report to the Minister for Health has not yet been received. 1 will refer the matter to him and seek an early response for the Senate on the recommendations that were made.
– Has the Minister for National Development and Energy seen a Press report in the Age of 23 August headed ‘Government Booklet Misleads on Economy’ which described a publication of his Department entitled The Government’s Economy Guide’ as ‘totally misleading on fuel consumption figures’ and stated ‘If you are concerned about fuel consumption forget all about the bumph being quoted by manufacturers . . . with Government endorsement’? Will the Minister conduct an immediate inquiry to see whether this publication is misleading as is quoted and, if it is, have it withdrawn?
– The booklet to which Senator Gietzelt refers is prepared by my Department. lt is prepared as an entirely factual and non-political statement, and the work is done by officers who deal in facts. It is prepared in consultation with the whole of industry. As the automotive industry is highly competitive there is an inbuilt audit system. Any automotive manufacturer is very keen to ensure that details of other vehicles are set down accurately. So there is an inbuilt audit of accuracy which is very rare in publications. It is generally accepted by the automotive industry that this is an accurate publication.
It is a publication whose statements can be tested by every person who drives a car. Every person can obtain a copy of this booklet, read what it says and test the performance of the car in question. Certainly there would be variations according to drivers, age of vehicles, maintenance and tuning, but in general the information is accepted by those with expert knowledge as being a very useful step forward.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether, in view of the Australian Dairy Corporation’s deciding to withdraw from promotion of its Dairy Soft product, there has been any effort by the Corporation to have further research, experimentation and promotion of this or other blended butter spreads by existing manufacturers of alternative spreads. Alternatively, is the way now open for those manufacturers to proceed with such a project, or are there still some States, and if so, which ones, that would prevent other spreads combining butter and vegetable oils from being produced by other than dairy companies?
It is true that the Australian Dairy Corporation has completed its test marketing of Dairy Soft on the Adelaide market, and it has decided that it is now appropriate for commercial interests to decide on the future production and marketing of blended butterfat - vegetable oil products for the Australian market. Following completion of the test market operation, the Australian Dairy Corporation published a detailed report covering all its findings, including those on technology, finance and marketing, lt was distributed by the Corporation to interested sectors of the industry in May this year. Additionally, an open day was held to which all interested parties were invited, and at which a full explanation of the test market results was made to those who were present. Whilst the Corporation itself is not directly involved in further experimentation, it has encouraged and partially financed further experimentation in this field by the Victorian Department of Agriculture. I understand that this research is continuing.
It is now open for dairy companies to consider the possibility of commercial production of a blended product. The Corporation has circularised all butter manufacturers in this regard and has indicated a readiness to discuss with manufacturers any aspects of the technology or promotional activity. To this date, one company has announced that it will be launching a blended product commercially, and an additional five companies have indicated that they are considering the possibility of launching such a product.
I am not in a position to answer the honourable senator’s question regarding the position in each of the States relating to companies other than dairy companies manufacturing a blended product, but I will arrange to have that aspect of his question researched thoroughly and will advise him about it at a later time.
– I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a question of some urgency I asked on 20 August 1980. It is listed as No. 3103 on the Notice Paper. I again ask: When may I expect to receive a reply to that question?
– I will look up question No. 3103 and see whether I can get an early reply for Senator Keeffe.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Resources, relates to the boundary line that separates Tasmania and Victoria, ls it true that there is renewed pressure from certain Victorian quarters pressing for an alteration to the boundary line that separates the States of Tasmania and Victoria? Of course, the separation is desired for the benefit of Victoria and was tried late last year. Is the Minister aware that if the boundary line were altered from 39 degrees 1 2 latitude south to 39 degrees 30 latitude south it would actually pass through some Tasmanian territory, namely Hogan Island, that the State would lose fishing rights in an area that produces some 14,000 tonnes of squid per annum and that such an unnecessary move would jeopardise the long term development of fishing ports in the north, north-west and north-east of Tasmania? When will the Minister ask the Government to make a statement to clarify this situation once and for all?
– It has not escaped my notice that there has been considerable discussion and, indeed, apprehension on the part of Tasmanians regarding the definition of a boundary line. It probably has not escaped the notice of the Attorney-General either. The question of boundary lines and sea lines has been one for the whole of Australia. I am aware that there has been a controversy and that various arguments have been put for the alteration of the boundary line. As far as I am aware, at the moment it remains at 39 degrees 12 latitude south. There may have been developments since last I looked at the matter. I am aware that should the boundary line be shifted certain current Tasmanian territory might be engulfed. This would cause something of a civil uprising. I do not know what the present state of affairs is.
– It is not a humorous matter in Tasmania, I can tell you.
– I know it is not a humorous matter. I ask Senator Wriedt from Tasmania, who has now discovered the lower House, to listen because I was about to say that I would take up the question as to the present state of play and obtain a statement from the relevant Minister.
– I hope you have more success than I had three or four months ago.
– It does not surprise me that Senator Wriedt had no success. It is not a very good qualification for the prospective candidate for Denison.
– My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows on from Senator George’s question in relation to taxation. Can the Minister explain the figures on page 298 of Budget Paper No. 1 which show that income tax from wage and salary earners, which averaged $33 a week for each Australian family under the last Labor Government, has now increased to $60 a week?
– Sixty dollars?
– lt is $60 a week. I do not desire to know what Mr Hayden or Mr Fraser may do in the future, but does this situation not place this Government on record as being the highest taxing government which we have had up to this time?
– In relation to the last part of Senator Cavanagh ‘s question, the answer is no, it does not. The Whitlam Government was the pacesetter for income tax. 1 am not aware of the figures on page 298 of the document concerned. I do nol have it with me. I will look the figures up and, if the question requires a further answer, I will let Senator Cavanagh have one.
– Can the Minister for National Development and Energy indicate what action the Commonwealth Government proposes to take on the recommendations made in the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Soil Conservation in Australia and referred to by his predecessor, the Honourable Kevin Newman?
– The Government’s response to the report was tabled in the Parliament on 23 August of last year, lt included an inprinciple commitment to assist the States in a national soil conservation program. It has not been possible to introduce the program yet, but the Government will review the matter later this financial year.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who is also the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Bearing in mind the importance of these matters for Australia’s credibility and standing in the rest of the world, does the Government share the reported view of its likely future coalition senator, Flo Bjelke-Petersen, that the fact that the League of Rights is anti-semitic, racist and pro-nazi is less important than the fact that it stands for the Queen, our heritage and is anti-socialist?
– I doubt whether the question comes under my responsibility.
– I ask a supplementary question. Do I take it that the Government is not prepared to put on record its attitude to the League of Rights, bearing in mind the importance of these matters in a foreign affairs sense for Australia’s standing and credibility in the rest of the world?
– That is not a supplementary question.
– What Senator Evans takes or does not take is a matter for himself.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. In view of the comments made by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its June 1980 economic survey of Australia that inflation risks will be lessened the more rapidly the longer term policy of reducing protection is pursued, how does the Government reconcile its antiinflationary goals with the maintenance of high levels of protection for the clothing, textiles and footwear industries?
– As honourable senators know, the Government gave very lengthy consideration to the report of the Industries Assistance Commission. It gave careful consideration to the employment consequences of the decisions that it would be taking and it took a decision which it believed would preserve significant areas of employment in Australia. They are matters which I understand to be of great public concern in this country. 1 note the very widespread support which has been given to the Government’s decision.
– My question to the Minister for Social Security refers to child care. From time to time the Minister has reported to the Senate about reviews of child care proposals and the intention to introduce legislation. I ask the Minister whether the Government intends to pursue the question of child care legislation.
– The Government intends to pursue the introduction of a children’s services Bill. I must advise Senator Bishop that it is not proposed to introduce it in this Budget session.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: What stage has been reached in the drafting of an ordinance dealing with the handling and disposal of radioactive materials in the Capital Territory? In view of the fact that a recent accident at Sydney airport emphasised the importance of clearly defined rules and enforcement, although there was no danger to the public in the situation referred to, will the Attorney-General ensure that this matter is now given the highest priority as the Australian Capital Territory is, as I understand it, the only State or Territory without such legislation?
– Instructions for the preparation of an ordinance to control the use and disposal of radioactive materials were given some time ago. In mid 1979 it was suggested that the gazettal of an ordinance may have been expedited by the adaptation for the Territory of legislation in force elsewhere. This suggestion was taken up in the-r/reparation of a draft ordinance based on the legislation the Northern Territory had prepared. However, that did not meet the requirements of the instructing department and further instructions were given in December last year. The alterations are of great length and complexity and require a new draft. Some work has already been done on that draft. Priorities for the drafting of Territory ordinances are determined by a committee of officers representing all ministers having responsibility in the Territory. This ordinance has a high priority, but it has been delayed because of the need to attend to other matters of even greater priority. However, I have taken the matter up with my Department. It is about to resume work on the draft and will do everything in its power to complete the draft as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The Treasurer indicated in his Budget Speech that there would be an increase of 1 7.7 per cent in defence spending. Does the Government intend to use any of this increase to pay higher wages and allowances to servicemen and women?
– 1 understand that a committee looks at this question from time to time. I do not know that there is in those figures any budgeting for the matter that Senator Melzer has raised. I will refer it to the Minister for Defence.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. As the Government is now initiating considerable impetus in Australia’s defence capabilities with the purchase of new equipment, review of Defence Force salaries, increased numbers of reserves and regular forces and the construction of new defence bases, what action has been taken to put the War Book - which is the blueprint for co-ordination of government departments et cetera in time of hostilities - into an up to date condition? In the event of hostilities requiring urgent mobilisation of reserves and other manpower, is action being taken to ensure that necessary individual equipment, firearms, et cetera are available in reasonable quantities?
– The War Book was developed throughout the British Empire during the 1930s and an Australian edition was published in 1939. Extensive revision resulted in a further edition in 1956. That document is not readily adaptable to changing conditions. The need for a modified approach to long term planning has been recognised. Work is in progress to examine the various types of problems and issues which could arise for government administration in Australia. The Department of Defence and the Defence Force are continuously reviewing their possible requirements for stocks of equipment and other supplies and are maintaining and improving production capacity not only to deal with the day to day needs but also to take account of changes in the strategic situation.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry follows the matter I raised during the adjournment debate on 20 August and about which I asked a question on 21 August. I ask whether the Minister is aware that Mr Bill Pyle, Deputy Chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation, in an interview on AM on 21 August when questioned about his use of the ADC Toyota Crown, said:
It’s a pool car that I drive and still drive, and if 1 am on (United Dairy Farmers of Victoria) business it is funded by the UDV and if 1 am on ADC business it is funded by the ADC. ls Mr Pyle or anyone else entitled to use a Corporation car when on UDV business? If not, will the Minister request his colleague to cease turning a blind eye to this matter, as did his predecessor, and take urgent steps to ensure that the law of the land is strictly adhered to?
I will need to refer the matters raised by Senator McLaren to the Minister for Primary Industry to seek advice, on them.
- -Senator Keeffe asked me Ibr a response to a question, the number of which he cited. I give that response. On 20 August Senator Keeffe asked me a question concerning the continuing disasters in Vietnam, Nepal and the Caribbean and what assistance, in terms of cash, food or other help, was being provided. The strongest hurricane reported in the area this century, Hurricane Allen, swept through the Caribbean earlier this month causing considerable damage to a number of Caribbean countries including St Lucia, Haiti, Dominica, Jamaica and Cuba. Natural disasters of this type have a tragic impact on the smaller developing countries.
Australia has donated $50,000 for relief work in the area to the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation which is co-ordinating relief operations. Of the sum donated, Australia has stipulated that at least $25,000 be used for relief operations in St Lucia, the island worst affected by the hurricane. The Prime Minister has sent messages of sympathy to Prime Ministers Manley of Jamaica and Louisy of St Lucia.
In relation to Nepal, Australia has made a cash grant of $10,000 to UNDRO to help to meet the costs of needed relief supplies for the victims of the recent earthquake. Australia has no plans to resume its aid to Vietnam.
– by leave - Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation. Last Thursday Senator McLaren chose to attack me in what I regard to be a scurrilous way. I have become quite accustomed to his attacks on me personally in this chamber. deplore that sort of strategy. I want to make my record clear. Any intelligent senator will realise that from time to time chairmen of Senate standing committees as part of their responsibilities have to speak at seminars, open conferences and attend meetings of organisations dealing with matters which are of interest to their committees. Occasionally, those speeches attract the attention of a journalist and are reported. From time to time chairmen of committees are required to make statements to the Press concerning committee activities. That is quite a proper function for the chairmen to fulfil.
Senator McLaren referred to a statement that was reported following my attending a conference at Mildura arranged by the Sunraysia and Riverland Committee on Salinity. I was asked to attend the conference because of my position of chairman of a Senate committee. Other senators were present at that conference, including Senator Thomas, who attended because of his interest as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources. After I addressed that conference I expressed concern about applications for additional licences which were to be considered by the New South Wales Government and which involved an irrigation area of something like 62,000 hectares. As a result of my concern and having regard to public interest in the matter as well as the particular interest of people in South Australia, I issued a Press statement, which I will read for the benefit of honourable senators, lt is headed ‘Expansion of Irrigation in New South Wales could lead to Increased Salinity in the River Murray’ and states:
Senator Don Jessop, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, made this comment in Adelaide today.
He had just returned from a Conference in Mildura arranged by the Sunraysia and Riverland Committee on Salinity (SARCOS). The State Minister of water resources and irrigation, Honourable Peter Arnold, also attended and addressed the gathering, as well as other members of Parliament from Victoria and New South Wales.
Senator Thomas and Senator Archer were there also. The Press statement continues:
Senator Jessop said the meeting was alarmed at the fact that the New South Wales Government currently had before it applications this year to date for new irrigation licences involving over 62,000 hectares of land in the tributaries of the River Murray. This could be disastrous, particularly for South Australia as well as Victoria.
Senator Jessop expressed the view that these should not be approved until an assessment was made of the effect such action would have on the pollution of the Darling and other rivers that flowed into the Murray.
If there was any doubt about increased salinity then the licences should be disallowed.
Senator Jessop also expressed dismay over the delay in legislation to give effect to changes in the River Murray agreement which would give the River Murray Commission control over water quality.
This is the part which was misinterpreted and misquoted by the journalist concerned:
Senator Jessop said his Committee was currently preparing a report on the Maunsell recommendations to the Federal Government suggesting Salinity Control measures involving an expenditure of over $75m in 5 years.
That was recommended in the Maunsell report, lt is quite true to say that the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment is interested in the matter and has instructed its staff to examine it. In due course it will bring forward a substantive report on the matter to follow a progress report I presented in this chamber in June 1 979. My Press statement went on to state:
He said that these were only temporary expedients and would not provide long term answers to what was a National problem.
Rather than read the whole statement, perhaps I could incorporate the rest of it in Hansard.
The document read as follows - lt was vital that the Federal Government and every State come to grips with the need to establish a National coordinating body to establish water quality standards and rules to be adopted by all Governments regarding future development along all our rivers.
Unless something was done urgently our most priceless National resource would suffer from pollution problems that would cost billions of dollars to correct.
Senator Jessop told the conference that he was also concerned about the effects that Sodium and Chloride could have on health. There was overseas medical evidence to suggest that drinking water over a certain salinity level could contribute to high blood pressure and kidney disease. More work should be done in Australia to investigate this aspect as River Murray water exceeds the World Health Organisation salt limit, and this applies to many other rivers in Australia.
– I am very grateful to Senator McGibbon and Senator Baume for attempting to prevent Senator McLaren’s continued attack on me. I do not really get too upset about these things. 1 believe the whole question ought to be cleared up. I suggest that now that
Senator McLaren has listened to my explanation, it would be appropriate for him to apolgise.
– by leave - I will deal first with the last matter raised by Senator Jessop. He wants me to apologise. I say right at the outset that I have no intention of doing so because on Friday I had occasion to phone Mr Barry Hailstone, the author of that article, and Mr Hailstone said to me that he did not seek out this information which he reported. He was standing in for the ordinary science writer when he wrote that article. This matter came across his desk and he published it. When I read to him what was said in the Senate - some of the interjections and some of the remarks made by Senator MacGibbon - he said that if Senator Jessop had been of the belief that his Press release was misreported he most surely would have contacted him between the date of the printing of that article, 20 June, and Thursday night last when I raised the issue. At no time did Senator Jessop approach Mr Barry Hailstone and claim that he had been misreported. No such words were uttered by Senator Jessop until he claimed in this chamber today that I continually attack him.
There again, the record must be put straight because every time I have risen in the Parliament to speak about Senator Jessop it has been because of statements which he has put out and which he can never verify. This matter goes right back to when Senator McClelland was the Minister for the Media. I made a long speech in the Parliament detailing all the false reports Senator Jessop put out about television services for Leigh Creek. He used to take what was said by Senator McClelland in answer to questions asked by me and say by means of a Press release that he had been told by Senator McClelland that certain things would be done. These statements would be broadcast on radio and television. I had occasion to retrieve those Press releases and quote them in the Parliament.
– Do not debate the matter, Senator McLaren.
– What I am saying, Mr President, is that Senator Jessop always claims that I attack him. I repudiate what he says only when he puts out false Press statements. Again this is one which he did not deny–
– Order! It is a reflection on the honourable senator to say that he puts out false Press statements.
– 1 will say they are erroneous ones, and I have moved that in the Parliament on many occasions. But the matter I raised last Thursday night revolved around two things about Senator Jessop: Firstly, either he was divulging information from a Senate committee which had not yet tabled its report–
– He has demonstrated he did not do that.
– He says that, but he also said that his Committee was discussing this matter and that he was having staff look at a report whose recommendations involved the expenditure of $75m over five years. I claim that Senator Jessop, as the chairman of that Committee, has divulged, to bignote himself, business which is before the Committee and which is not yet public knowledge, the report not having been tabled in the Parliament. Secondly, up to the present he has not repudiated his claim made on 20 June. He saw fit to bask in the glory of the fact that, as chairman of that Committee, he was recommending expenditure of $75m over five years but made no move to retract that statement. As a matter of fact, he sat back and basked in the glory. He misled people on the River Murray into believing that the Committee was to recommend the expenditure of $75m when no such thing has been done by that Committee.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter, dated 26 August 1 980, from Senator Wriedt:
Dear Mr President,
Pursuant to Sessional Order, I give notice that today I shall move
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The Australian Government’s continued recognition of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea is not in Australia’s national interests’.
Yours sincerely, (K.S. Wriedt) ls the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places -
– I move:
In moving this motion 1 am, in effect, taking up where the Opposition left off in this chamber some three months ago. In the Senate on 15 May we declared that the fact that the Government continued its recognition of the Pol Pot regime as the legitimate government of Kampuchea was a matter of urgency. We described this policy as fundamentally wrong, we described it as an insult to the Australian community and we called on the Government to end its recognition of a regime which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) himself had described as the most repressive of modern times. The three months since then have shown how timely and correct the Opposition was in drawing national public attention to this shameful policy. Since then events on the border of Kampuchea and Thailand, which I shall refer to later, and reactions in Australia, have shown that the policy of the Opposition is not only correct, but the only policy that can be justified. Moreover, it has the support of the great majority of the Australian people. It has the support of almost every editorial writer and foreign affairs commentator in the country. It commands support on the Government benches, and indeed in the Cabinet.
Since the Opposition first raised this issue in public statements last April and in this chamber more than three months ago there has been a national wave of support for our demand that the Government should stop its intolerable, insupportable, and unjustifiable support of the murderous remnants of the Pol Pot regime. This support has come from the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock). It has come from a Government senator with wide experience of international affairs, lt has come from a distinguished church leader. There has been public support from two leading Government back benchers in the other place. The main aid agencies with thoughtful, experienced and moderate people, have joined the opposition in the growing consensus against recognition of Pol Pot. The President of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party has expressed his support. The executive of the Liberal Party in Victoria has, according to Press reports, taken a similar view.
All these voices are against the continuation of a despicable and shameful policy by which Australia lends its official support to a regime that will go down in history as among the great mass murderers in modern times. If we look further afield at international attitudes we can point to similar and significant developments. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Norway, Dr Hoist, called on me recently and informed me that his Government intends to withdraw its recognition from Pol Pot. The Government of India announced last month that it intends to go a step further and recognise the opposition claimant in Kampuchea, the Heng Samrin administration. We in the Opposition, of course, do not recommend that that course be followed.
We call only for an end to the growing scandal of Australia’s official diplomatic recognition of Pol Pot and his regime in exile. But the Indian decision and the Norwegian decision show the way the international winds of change are blowing on the issue of Pol Pot.
If this long catalogue of opposition to Pol Pot over the last five months had produced some change, some moderation in the policy of the Prime Minister, the Opposition would be the first to acknowledge and support such a change. But there has been no such change. Indeed, there has been a hardening of the Prime Minister’s attitude. Everybody is in step except Mr Fraser. Or, as he would see it, everybody is out of step except Mr Fraser. The country is not unaccustomed to conservative political leaders being out of step on foreign policy. Conservative governments dragged this country into war in Vietnam and kept it there long after public opinion had swung against them. It was left to a Labor government to end that equally shameful episode. Conservative governments persisted for a generation in ignoring the diplomatic existence of the most populous nation on earth, namely China, long after public opinion and common sense dictated that such a reality be recognised in the proper diplomatic and political way. It was left, of course, to a Labor government to end that equally dismal era in our country’s foreign relations, and it now seems that it will be left to another Labor government - the Labor Government that will be elected later this year - to end another shameful episode in Australian diplomatic history.
One of the first actions in foreign policy of the new Labor Government will be to withdraw Australia’s diplomatic recognition from the Pol Pot regime. In doing so Australia will be taking a logical and diplomatically appropriate step. I am indebted to Senator Knight for that expression, as he no doubt will remember. According to the Canberra Times of 26 July, Senator Knight wrote to the Foreign Minister stating that it would be logical and diplomatically appropriate to recognise neither of the claimants in Kampuchea - neither Pol Pot, nor Heng Samrin. That is of course exactly the position of the Labor Party. I am glad to hear that Senator Knight agrees with that. But, of course, he is in very good company - not only in his own party, but in the wider Australian community. He said in his letter to the Foreign Minister, and again I quote from the Canberra Times report:
There is evidence of widespread opposition to our continued recognition of Pol Pot.
Of course there is. In ending that recognition Australia will be joining itself to the sensible, wellconsidered positions of such nations as Great Britain, France and the United States. If such a decision, such a position is so logical, and so well supported at home and overseas, why is the Parliament faced with this motion? Why do we have to bring on this debate?
One member of this Parliament who can answer this question at first hand, of course, would be the Foreign Minister. He has, in his own words, and in the Press reports on his recent actions, tried hard, but in vain to get some sense out of his Prime Minister on this issue, but he has also failed. In other words, on an important and indeed symbolic aspect of foreign policy, the Prime Minister of this country is not only rejecting the advice, the counsel, the opinion of the Opposition, which has been supported by a wide range of public opinion, but he is also prepared to reject the advice of his Foreign Minister. So, clearly Mr Fraser is beyond reason when it comes to this issue.
Let us turn to the catalogue of the voices that have been raised in support of de-recognition of Pol Pot. The National Chairman of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, Mr Richard Alston, who is also President of the Victorian Liberal Party, said that his council was adamant that Australia withdraw its recognition from Pol Pot. I commend him for that. He said that he and his Council had a very practical reason for calling for the end of diplomatic recognition. They said that this recognition was ‘hampering relief operations’ on the Thai-Kampuchea border. Another authoritative and thoroughly reasonable voice repeated this appeal to the Government. In a letter to the Foreign Minister in July, the religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, said:
Australia must withdraw recognition from Pol Pot.
Then came World Vision, an aid organisation with a world-wide reputation. World Vision similarly resolved that recognition of Pol Pot should be ended. The flow of statements critical of the Government continued. The Dean of Sydney, the Very Reverend Lance Shilton, on 20 July described the Pol Pot regime as infamous and genocidal. Dean Shilton, according to a statement released by his office, said:
The average Australian, with his fair-go attitude is puzzled by the political arguments advanced for still recognising the infamous and ineffective Pol Pot regime . . . Surely there is a way through the problem of continuing official recognition of those responsible for the most brutal, genocidal pogrom of this generation, involving hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.
He went on:
Short term political expediency is a poor substitute for long term humanitarian concern. The present Federal Government policy is evoking cynicism . . .
There is no shortage of reasonable voices on this issue. We come next to the Liberal member for Macmillan (Mr Simon). He was reported in the Press and on the Australian Broadcasting Commission on 1 and 2 August as saying he was receiving representations from school kids to elderly citizens to branches of the Liberal Party seeking to change the Government’s mind on this issue. On the next day, 3 August, there were Press reports that officials of the State executive of the Victorian Branch of the Liberal Party were unanimous in their condemnation of the Pol Pot regime and there was very strong feeling within the party that Australia should drop recognition of Pol Pot. On the same day the Liberal member for Perth (Mr McLean) was reported as saying that he intended to seek talks with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister ‘to get things moving on a change of policy’. I could also quote from editorials in newspapers around the country, from my own State in the south to commentators in the far north, all repeating the same theme, condemning the Government’s persistence in recognising Pol Pot.
I know, as we all know, that many senators on the Government side agree with the Opposition’s views. I sympathise with them, as I sympathise with the member for Perth in his hopes to get’ things moving on a change of policy. I sympathise with them because there appears to be no hope of a change of policy, at least until after the coming election. The Prime Minister, after rejecting the advice of the Foreign Minister and flying in the face of public opinion of all parties, is quite clearly determined to stick to his lonely and stubborn policy of recognising Pol Pot. Why does he do so? He has not explained his reason but we have a precise explanation from the Deputy Prime Minister. No one would claim that the Deputy Prime Minister is an expert in foreign affairs. We will get some evidence of that in a moment.
At Surfers Paradise on 26 July the Deputy Prime Minister, according to a transcript released’ by his office, gave an explanation of the continued recognition of Pol Pot. He said:
For us to now not recognise the Pol Pot would be seen to be offensive or irritating to China, Japan, and to the United States.
Who has ever heard a more ludicrous explanation of a major foreign policy decision than that? We must ask ourselves: Have we become a satellite of China? It is incredible also that Mr Anthony should make that statement. Obviously he was not aware at the time that the United States does not recognise the Pol Pot regime anyway and that Japan takes a very cautious view on these matters, it is extremely unlikely that even Japan, let alone the United States, would have found any offence in a change of policy by Australia.
There is indeed evidence that the Prime Minister is moulding, shaping and tailoring his foreign policies and his decisions to what seem to be decisions in line with the requirements of China. This seems to be to us a very dangerous and short sighted policy, lt is also, of course, very ironic. We all recall that the Prime Minister said, for many years, that China was the greatest threat to the security of this country, lt is not so long ago that he was saying that the Chinese would float an atomic bomb into an Australian harbour in a merchant ship and destroy a city. He now seems prepared to allow China to influence his foreign policy. This is an incredible turn of events. I do not think I have lo say a great deal more. I feel that the case for the Opposition is clear and convincing. It has strong support not only from the Opposition but also amongst people on the Government side, and so it should.
I urge the Senate today to support this motion for a very practical reason. At the United Nations General Assembly session which will begin soon the Australian delegation has been instructed to vote for the credentials of the Pol Pot group - in effect, to vote for continuing recognition of this totally discredited and disgraceful regime. By voting today for this motion the Senate can send a clear message to the Government that -this policy must be reversed and ensure that Australia votes in the United Nations against an inhuman regime which has no possible right to sit in an assembly dedicated to the progress of humanity. It would, I suggest, be a tragedy if the procedures of the Senate were now used to prevent a debate taking place. If in fact that happens it can be for no other purpose than to hide from the Australian public- if that is possible - the great division that exists on this issue on the Government side.
– lt is a considerable feat of political legerdemain that the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) can speak on the subject of Kampuchea and fail to mention that 200,000 Vietnamese troops, foreign troops, are occupying what was once a free country. He failed to mention that the foreign incursion by that massive military force is being supported to the tune of $1 ,000m a year by way of military aid by Soviet Russia.
Let me make that perfectly clear. At any point that one would seek to look at the status and sovereignty of a nation one should look at the present circumstances. But Senator Wriedt has chosen to hide from the people of Australia the significant circumstance that at the moment 200,000 foreign troops are in the country that the previous government, whatever its quality, was overthrown by foreign military incursion that the present regime is maintained by foreign military incursion, and that the same country which has invaded Afghanistan and threatened the stability of the world and particularly the Middle East is at present pouring millions of dollars and armaments into support for the Heng Samrin regime in Kampuchea.
It would be very good if one started by looking at the question of sovereignty. Somehow members of the Labor Party can eliminate from their minds any military invasion by communist or foreign forces, any occupation, any explusion by force of a government and the propping up another and the attraction of millions of dollars from Soviet Russia. They can escape the fact that the Heng Samrin regime is bringing a horror of death, starvation and famine to the Kampuchean people. Indeed, it is threatening the borders of Thailand. Senator Wriedt managed not to mention in the whole of his speech any of the realities of the moment. That is quite a feat indeed, lt is, in fact, a little forgotten by him that the Whitlam Government in its day recognised the Pol Pot regime which was in power in 1975. Somehow that passed from opposition senator’s minds.
Let me put this matter in perspective having now set the stage on the situation in Kampuchea. What do we seek to do? What does a foreign policy seek to do? A foreign policy, first of all, seeks to rid a country of foreign invaders who have used military force. There was no mention of that at all in Senator Wriedt’s speech. A foreign policy then seeks to give the people, by the right of selfdetermination, the right to elect their government and then to get both a dejure and de facto government. But there was no mention of any of that by Senator Wriedt. The whole purpose of his speech today was that we must not recognise Pol Pot. It is apparently all right that 200,000 soldiers are there, that massive Soviet forces are propping up this country and that the regime is ugly and brutal. But we are polarising the issue by looking at the Pol Pot regime. It should be made perfectly clear that, by continuing to recognise the Pol Pot regime, we do not imply in any way any approval of the policies of that regime, past or present. We have repeatedly repudiated the policies of the Pol
Pot regime and condemned the abuses of human rights it has perpetuated.
We faced a similar problem in recent years in dealing with Uganda under the Idi Amin regime. Despite the brutality of the Idi Amin regime, of which we strongly disapproved, it was widely recognised internationally and we continued our dealings with it. A list of the countries which this Government recognises or which the Whitlam Government recognised shows that there are countries of which from time to time both governments have strongly disapproved because of brutality and their whole anti-humanitarian approach. But that is not the test of recognition and not the test of credentials.
The failure of the Opposition was to recognise that the present regime is in power only because 200,000 military troops of a foreign nation are in the country. The Government of Democratic Kampuchea was widely recognised as the government of that country before it was overthrown by the Vietnamese armed intervention in January 1979. That intervention installed the Heng Samrin regime which continues to rely on 200,000 Vietnamese troops to maintain its authority, lt clearly does not have the support of the majority of the Kampuchean people. Continued recognition of Democratic Kampuchea and, in particular, continued support for its seating in the United Nations is part of a political strategy devised by the Association of South East Asian Nations - the countries most directly affected - to put pressure on Vietnam to agree to withdraw its forces from Kampuchea and negotiate a political settlement. There was no mention of this at all by Senator Wriedt. How could he, in the whole of his speech, fail to mention that the ASEAN countries who are our neighbours and with whom we share a desire for freedom and co-partnership in the whole of our area in fact are the countries who have blueprinted the situation? There was not a mention of that. Just as he can blot out the fact that there are 200,000 foreign troops in Kampuchea, just as he can blot out the Russian support, so can he blot out the whole of the plan of the ASEAN countries to put pressure on Vietnam. Any move away from continued recognition of Democratic Kampuchea must therefore be seen as weakening those pressures being applied to Vietnam. It would be interpreted by Vietnam and the Soviet Union as movement towards tacit acceptance of the Vietnamese invasion and recognition of the Heng Samrin puppet regime, lt would thus give encouragement to Vietnam, to the Heng Samrin regime, and to Vietnam’s ally, the Soviet Union, whose interests Vietnam serves in the region and from whom it receives military and civil aid amounting, as I said, to something in the order of $1 billion a year - in fact, $3m a day. I repeat that Senator Wriedt was capable of making a full speech without identifying a single one of the facts which lie before us. The ASEAN countries have said: ‘We are closest to the firing line’. Indeed, who could be closer than Thailand? May I pay tribute to the way in which the Thai Government and the Thai people have faced the threats to their border and magnificently handled the tremendous invasion of refugees upon their borders. They have shown the world a way to be both forthright and humanitarian in a very difficult situation.
The ASEAN countries believe that we should use every technique we possibly can to try to press for the withdrawal of the Vietnam forces from Kampuchea. There can be no sovereign government in Kampuchea in the true sense unless there is a withdrawal of those forces, unless there is a self-determination by the free will of the people.
– The same as in East Timor?
- Senator Wriedt reminds me of East Timor. He ought to remind himself that when he was a Minister in a government which had the opportunity to do something about East Timor he was desolately silent and did nothing at all. Senator Wriedt does not like being reminded of the facts.
– They are the facts, are they?
– That was the situation.
– It was not.
– I invite Senator Wriedt in due course to tell us what was the Whitlam Government’s reason for its inactivity, and what were the exchanges between the Whitlam Government and the Indonesian people in those times.
Our policy towards Kampuchea accords closely with that of the ASEAN countries, which are united in presenting a firm front against Vietnamese pressure. They attach great importance to the continued acceptance of Democratic Kampuchea’s credentials at the coming United Nations General Assembly, and to the campaign to achieve this, lt is quite clear that any change in the Government’s policy which undermines this ASEAN strategy in regard to the credentials vote at the United Nations would harm Australia’s relations with ASEAN without bringing closer a political solution to the Kampuchean problem. Our basic aim in relation to Kampuchea’s future is to work in close co-operation with ASEAN and other like-minded countries towards the reestablishment of a sovereign and independent
Kampuchea*! nation in which all the Khmers can live in peace and security. This goal cannot be achieved, however, as long as Vietnam keeps 200,000 troops in Kampuchea and continues to regard the political situation it has created there as irreversible.
Mention has been made of the attitude of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). Let me read to the Senate some statements by the Foreign Minister as late as 1 5 August this year. He said:
At the global level the invasion of Afghanistan represents the most serious current threat to international order, since it involves the direct use of force by a superpower in a very sensitive area. But for Australia the use of Soviet power to subsidise the Vietnamese intervention in Kampuchea to the tune of over $1 billion a year- is of special importance: obviously because of ils effect on the region; less obviously perhaps because, taken with the invasion of Afghanistan, it represents a geopolitically significant movement of Soviet power into the southern part of the great Asian land mass.
Australia’s policy towards Kampuchea has three basic and interrelated aims: first, to try to re-establish a sovereign and independent Kampuchean nation in which all Khmers can live in peace and security: second, to minimise the extension of great power influence and conflict in the region: third, to support and help maintain the unity of the ASEAN countries in confronting the problem Kampuchea presents.
To implement these aims we are working to seek a political solution to the problem, based on the ASEAN sponsored resolution passed by a substantial majority in the United Nations General Assembly in November last year. This called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Kampuchea and for an act of self determination by the Khmer people, free from outside interference and coercion. Australia co-sponsored that resolution. We have supported, are supporting and will continue to support strategies devised by the ASEAN countries as the countries most affected . . .
Let me read again what the Foreign Minister said:
We have supported, are supporting and will continue to support strategies devised by the ASEAN countries, as the countries most affected, to put diplomatic pressure on Vietnam to achieve these ends- to remove the 200,000 troops which at present prop up the Heng Samrin regime.
You may think, and you may be right, that the chances of success are slim. To that I would make two answers. First, we shall not know for certain until we have tried to the utmost: if there is to be failure it must not be because we have omitted to explore the possibilities. Second, us I have said, we have three basic objectives with respect to the problem, not one. While we are deeply concerned about the fate of Kampuchea we are also concerned about the future of ASEAN and about minimising great power influence and conflict in the region. The policy we follow must keep all three of these objectives in mind.
That is a statement of the Foreign Minister some 1 1 days ago. Only recently the ASEAN senior officials met in Asia. Their resolution dated 1 August reads:
I have been authorised by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers to make the following statement: The ASEAN member States express grave concern over the continuing conflict in Kampuchea and the threat this poses to the security of countries in the Southeast Asian region.
The ASEAN member-states welcome the timeliness of the U.N. Secretary General’s visit to Southeast Asia in view of the continued presence of Vietnamese forces in Kampuchea, despite the call by the (J.N. General Assembly for the withdrawal of all foreign forces, and the attendant fighting, which have not only heightened tensions along the ThaiKampuchean border but have also increased the gravity of the Kampuchean refugee problem.
They underscore the fact that the main cause of the present strife and tension in Southeast Asia which has produced a sustained threat to the security of Thailand is the continued Vietnamese military occupation of Kampuchea. They oppose all manoeuvres to divert world attention from this fundamental issue. They therefore reject any and all efforts aimed at legitimizing the presence of Vietnamese forces in Kampuchea and the regime sustained by them as well as attempts to create a military fait accompli which are in flagrant violation of the time-honoured or the United Nations Charter and of international law. They call for a prompt implementation of UNGA resolution 34/22 which requires the immediate and total withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea so as to allow the Kampuchean people to exercise their right of self determination . . .
I wonder how a leader of the Labor Party could get on his feet, speak of Kampuchea and yet fail to mention the military invasion, that the present regime is simply the puppet propped up by a military invasion, the Soviet backing of that invasion and the threat to the stability of Thailand and other countries, the brutality of the Heng Samrin regime and its warlike tendencies, and that the ASEAN countries are down range in the firing line. He failed to mention that the ASEAN countries believe, rightly or wrongly, that a continued world pressure upon the Vietnamese may well cause the withdrawal of the fighting forces from Kampuchea so that self-determination can occur. They have said that they do not want to weaken in any way the position of that psychological thrust by anything that could be taken by Vietnam or Soviet Russia to be some legitimising or some recognition down range.
Senator Wriedt is smiling. During the whole journey of his speech he did not mention any of the fundamental realities of the world. Of course we deplore the Pol Pot regime. Of course we believe it was cruel and brutal and that what it did deserves the full condemnation of the world. We have made that condemnation. Equally we are emphatic that the 200,000 Vietnamese deserve to be condemned, that the Heng Samrin regime deserves to be condemned and that the brutality that is being meted out to the Kampuchean people today is something that must be worked against. Indeed, we are bringing to bear all the force that we can to try to pressure for the withdrawal of the Vietnamese forces and for self-determination. I have no doubt at all that in full self-determination neither a Pol Pot nor a Heng Samrin regime would survive. It is those circumstances that we are aiming for. It is those circumstances that Senator Wriedt has entirely ignored.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, stated that in 1975 the Labor Government recognised the Pol Pol regime. I point out to him that just about everybody else in the world did so at that time. We believe also that recognition of that regime should be withdrawn. This is rapidly becoming the case throughout the world. What concerned me about Senator Carrick’s speech was not only that it was so pro-China but also that it was so unreservedly pro-ASEAN - that is, the Association of South East Asian Nations. Does that mean they are always right? What about an independent foreign policy Australia? That leads me to ask the question: Who is making Australian foreign policy these days? is it China, ASEAN or the Australian Government?
– What is an independent foreign policy? ls it one you go alone on?
– The honourable senator will gel his chance to speak later. The Opposition is indebted to Senator Knight, as reported in the Canberra Times of 26 July 1980, for his views on this matter. According to the report Senator Knight pointed out that there was evidence of widespread opposition to Australia’s continued recognition of Pol Pot. The Opposition and I agree with that statement. The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, in a rare moment of truth, described the Pol Pot regime as the most repressive regime in modern times. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, acknowledged that on any reading of the Australian community there is a great deal of repugnance to the Pol Pot regime. We on this side of the Parliament are not privy to what happens in the Cabinet discussions. I ask Senator Carrick: If this is not the view of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, why did he threaten to resign over this issue?
The Australian Council for Overseas Aid, which organised the national appeal for aid to Kampuchea, through its Chairman, Mr Richard Alston, who is also Chairman of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party, stated that the Council was adamant that the Australian Government should withdraw recognition of the Pol Pot regime. Community leaders, such as Dean Shilton of Sydney, have pointed out that the average Australian, with b’s fair-go attitude, is puzzled by the political arguments advanced for still recognising the infamous and ineffective Pol Pot regime. Dr
Milton Osborne, of the Australian National University, writing in the Australian of 19-20 July 1980 stated:
The continued recognition of the former Pol Pot regime is an act of supreme political cynicism.
As Senator Wriedt said, this is a view that newspaper editorials throughout this country have been supporting. Let us look at the record of this Government and its policy towards the Pol Pot regime. As I have just said, leading members of the Government have condemned the Pol Pot regime. Meanwhile, in a display of rank hypocrisy, the Fraser Government maintains diplomatic relations with the Pol Pot regime and actively supports that regime’s continued representation in the United Nations. The Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, acting on instructions from the Fraser Government, supported the Pol Pot regime’s claim to representation in the United Nations, both in argument before the General Assembly and in the vote which decided to continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime.
The arguments put forward by the Australian Government to advance the cause of the Pol Pot regime in the United Nations are flimsy and false. For example, the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations on 21 September 1979 argued that Australia’s position was based on legal and technical grounds. Such an argument is nonsense, as is the long running case of who would be the competing claimants for the seat of Chinawhether it would be the People’s Republic of China or Taiwan. These arguments were not legal and technical. Of course, they were political arguments. The question is not whether Kampuchea has a seat in the United Nations but which of the competing groups should occupy the seat - or whether the seat should remain vacant until a claimant is recognised.
The Fraser Government’s vote in the United Nations in support of the Pol Pot regime has given aid and comfort to this despicable regime. If the Government believes that its decision to support the Pol Pot regime in the United Nations can be passed off as a decision on legal and technical grounds, untarnished by political considerations, let me quote the triumphant appreciation of Pol Pot’s representatives in the UN for Australia’s vote and those others who supported the vote. The statement, which was made in the United Nations by the representative of Pol Pot on 22 September 1979, stated:
The vote just taken by recognising the legitimacy of the Government of Democratic Kampuchea, acknowledges the right of Kampuchea to remain an independent nation with ils own identity. This acknowledgement of the legitimate rights of Democratic Kampuchea will encourage the people of Kampuchea to pursue their struggle, whatever the sacrifices and difficulties involved, for the survival of the nation of Kampuchea.
Regrettably everybody here knows and the whole world knows what the Pol Pot regime means by sacrifices. We have all seen the photographs of the skulls and bones of the victims of those sacrifices. The point is that Australia, by its vote in the United Nations gave respectability to the Pol Pot regime. As I have said before, the vote was determined not by legal and technical considerations but by a political decision. All honourable senators opposite know that that is the fact.
I make it clear that the Australian Labor Party is not arguing that the Heng Samrin regime be recognised as the legitimate government of Kampuchea. We condemn the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea and the continued presence of some 200,000 troops in Kampuchea, as Senator Carrick has stated. We condemn that just as we have condemned the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. What we do say is that it is reprehensible to continue to recognise a regime which on all evidence engaged in ruthless genocide of its own people. The Labor Party, unlike the Liberal and National Country parties, has given serious consideration to the questions of Kampuchea. The Labor Party has faced up to the issues involved. Unlike the Fraser Government, our policies are not being dictated by Peking or some government in the ASEAN region. Our policies are based on a clear perception of what we consider to be in Australia ‘s best interests.
I have the honour of being the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party. We have kept developments in Kampuchea under notice. At a conference of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party in June of this year, I moved for the adoption of the Committee’s report on Kampuchea which was approved overwhelmingly by the conference. I will read the recommendation of the conference in the vague hope that the Fraser Government will swallow its pride and hypocrisy and adopt a similar policy. The resolution of the conference, which was supported overwhelmingly, stated:
The Australian Labor Party is deeply concerned by the very real prospect of the extinction of the people of Kampuchea. Devastated by massive United States bombing during the Vietnam War, subject to the brutal excesses of the Pol Pot regime, Kampuchea, following Vietnamese military intervention is now a battle ground between groups representing rival communist bloc powers. It is above all a human tragedy with few historical parallels.
Kampuchea desperately needs peace and efforts must be made to convene a conference of all interested parties at which arrangements for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and the holding of free elections under supervision could be negotiated. Kampuchea’s neutral status should be recognised and observed by the great powers and neighbouring countries.
Australia should place itself in a position to take a lead in organising such a conference by withdrawing recognition from the Pol Pot regime and reserving recognition of a government of Kampuchea until after the holding of elections. Australia should provide humanitarian aid to the people of Kampuchea through organisations such as OXFAM, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees which have some scope for the effective distribution of aid. Al the same time Australia should reinstitute aid to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and encourage other countries- particularly those involved in the Vietnam War, to assist in the rehabilitation of Vietnam.
I say that is a resolution that should be supported by the majority of honourable senators opposite, as they would support the position taken by the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, none of which recognise any of the claimants.
I feel genuine alarm about this Government’s foreign policy and about the increasing tilt it is taking towards China. I go back to events of 1971 and 1972. The then Labor leader, Gough Whitlam, was accused of treachery because he was visiting China. It is not that long ago. He was accused of treachery for advocating recognition of the People’s Republic of China. One of his most vocal critics at the time who accused him of being traitorous was the present Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Anthony, who now falls over backwards to assist whenever there is any talk of promoting trade with China. I can understand the Liberal Country Party view at that time. We had been conditioned for years in Australia that the yellow hordes would come from China, that this Red threat would come down to take over Australia. We all remember the election campaigns when brochures were put out showing red arrows coming from China simultaneously landing in every electorate in Australia, lt was going to be one of the most well-organised invasions of all time.
–The Nedlands golf course.
– Yes. What occurred in 1972 was that there was a change of policy with President Nixon in the United States. The then Prime Minister of Australia, Billy McMahon, was left high and dry. Nobody rang him to tell him what was happening in United States policy. When Whitlam was being attacked for being in China, Kissinger was already in Peking doing the deals that led to the United States’ recognition of the People’s Republic. He was there while the Australian Labor Party delegation was in China. Then it became very respectable to be friendly towards the Chinese. This Government has now turned completely the full circle. Vanguard. which is the newspaper of the Marxist-Leninist group, praises Fraser ibr his support of China.
– Is that an Australian paper?
– lt is put out by the MarxistLeninist group in Melbourne which supports the Chinese. It would be the smallest political party in Australia. It supports him strongly for his stand on the Olympic Games and for his general policy of anti-Sovietism. If it were not so serious, it would be funny. Chairman Mai is being supported by Vanguard. We have a Prime Minister who is not critical of the Chinese missile tests in the Pacific. I wonder what he would have said if there had been Soviet missile tests in the Pacific. It would be interesting to see what the South Pacific countries have to say about that at the conference that is to be held in Port Moresby in October. We have heard of reported discussion - I do not know whether the reports are true - of joint defence exercises with Australia co-operating with China. It will be interesting to see the views of ASEAN nations to that. I consider that they would probably have a bil of a laugh about it.
This is the Prime Minister who is concerned with human rights in the Soviet Union, a view that I share. But he seems to turn a blind eye to human rights in South East Asia. What is he saying about human rights in the Philippines? What is he saying about human rights in Indonesia? What is the Government at the moment saying about the trial of Kim Dae-Jung in South Korea? Has it sent a formal protest? Of course it has not. Kim Dae-Jung has been reported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs as the candidate most likely to have won the ballot for the presidency of South Korea. He is a social democrat whose life is now in jeopardy. And we do not hear a word of protest from this Government. What does the Prime Minister say about human rights in Tibet? I wonder whether he discusses that with the Chinese leaders when he goes to Peking?
– How did they get Tibet? They marched in with their army and took it.
– That is exactly what the Soviet Union did to Afghanistan. There were recent initiatives by China to try to get a Tibetan government back inside that country but, of course, the people are not accepting the situation that the Chinese forced upon them. Any foreign policy that attempts to play China off against the Soviet Union in this part of the world or anywhere else is shortsighted and dangerous. The Australian Labor Party stands for harmonious relations with the People’s Republic of China. We initiated those good relations. The Labor Party does not believe that it is in Australia’s national interests to toe a pro-Peking line and continue to recognise one of the most monstrous regimes in history.
– This is one of the most extraordinary debates in which I have taken part. To listen to Senator Sibraa, who outlined to us at the last moment what he considers to be Australia’s national interest, really was remarkable. He painted a picture for us in which he was trying to demonstrate that Australia is somehow within the ambit of the People’s Republic of China. Nothing could be further from the truth. The situation is quite clear for all to see. Certainly there is something of a common interest with the People’s Republic, but there is a greater common interest with the people of the South East Asian region who are under direct threat from the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea. If Senator Sibraa and the Australian Labor Party are unable to see that the presence of 200,000 Vietnamese troops in Kampuchea is not a threat to Thailand, I am afraid that they have totally the wrong idea and are completely running in the wrong direction.
– Look at the motion. No one is denying that.
– The Opposition has not mentioned that at all in any of its speeches. Quite apart from that aspect, we have the very real prospect of the Soviet Union being a major supporter and supplier of those 200,000 troops in Kampuchea. In the period November, December of 1978 and January 1979 Kampuchea was invaded by huge numbers of Vietnamese troops to drive out the Pol Pot regime. Nobody is here to stand and defend the Pol Pot regime, least of all myself. I will give my reasons in a moment. There was an invasion of another country’s territory by Vietnam - no doubt egged on by the Soviet Union; certainly supplied by the Soviet Union - with the primary purpose of developing a further beachhead for the communist, imperialist pressures in South East Asia. The drive down the South East Asian peninsula has been achieved.
In January of 1979, along with five members of the Australian Parliament, I visited Peking. With my colleagues 1 discussed with several of the leaders the question of Pol Pot and the regime presently struggling against the Heng Samrin regime forces in Kampuchea, lt was quite clear from my discussions with members of the Peking leadership that they were supporting the Pol Pot regime. However, it was also clear from our discussions that they did not in any way give any support in the moral sense, nor did they condone in any way the way in which the Pol Pot Government continued its activities in Kampuchea.
Clearly, in our presence they condemned those activities. There was no support whatsoever for Pol Pot from the Peking leaders. Through representations made by our group and by others there is an understanding among the various countries of South East Asia and the People’s Republic of China that the Pol Pot Government was indeed the most horrific in history and that its activities and actions in its own country in carrying out genocide against its own people are so horrific as to be absolutely rejected by all persons throughout the world. Indeed, that was a common view held by Australia along with the People’s Republic of China and certain South East Asian nations at that time.
That brings me to the question as to why this matter is being raised now. Senator Sibraa is very eloquently trying to stir up emotions on this matter at the moment. One has to wonder why. It is almost 20 months now I think since the invasion of Kampuchea by the Vietnamese forces. It is almost about the same time since China invaded Vietnam. The issues have been quite clearly before us for this time. Yet very little effort has been made by the Australian Labor Party or by other organisations with which we are connected to draw this issue out and to get stuck into the situation of decrying the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea. We have heard very little of it over the last 20 months.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– I ask Senator Elstob to point out to me the calls for a change of attitude over Pol Pot in the early part of 1979, particularly when the Vietnamese forces were invading Kampuchea. Would the honourable senator refer me to them? I did not hear any of those calls at that time. Therefore the motives of the ALP have to be called into question. The situation is, as we all know, that the results of gallup polls which have been announced in recent times show support for a change of attitude in this regard. One always has to have regard to the way in which gallup poll questions are asked of the public. It seems to me that the ALP is getting on to a bandwagon and quite clearly is drumming up support for this attitude at the moment whereas 18 months ago it did not see the need to do so.
Apart from those motives, the next question the ALP has, in my opinion failed to demonstrate in this regard is: What is Australia’s national interest in this matter? Surely all questions surrounding our foreign affairs, the way in which we conduct our relationships with other nations, are circumscribed chiefly by that overall determination, that overall policy- what is Australia’s national interest? Can the ALP clearly tell us what it means by the national interest of Australia in relation to this matter? In fact, the Opposition spokesman, Senator Wriedt - he is supposed to be an alternative Foreign Minister - has not made any point whatsoever along these lines. He certainly left us on this side in total confusion over the whole argument he was trying to make. What is Australia’s national interest in this part of the world?
I refer to one other comment Senator Sibraa made in this context. He said - I think I heard him correctly - that, in fact, we ought to have an independent foreign policy. What does he mean by an independent foreign policy? Does he mean that our national interest is best served by having a foreign policy which has no regard to those policies of other countries with which we deal? That is the policy he is stating. One could not assume that the ALP would be so irresponsible as to put forward that sort of argument. Does that mean that every Australian government should not have any connection with any other country in a mutual defence arrangement, such as the one we have with the United States of America or New Zealand? Is that what he means? Does he mean that we should be totally exposed to having to defend ourselves without the reliance on any alliances with other nations? Senator Sibraa is not even here to answer, but I am not hearing any comments from the other side. One can draw the conclusion only that what we are talking about today or what the ALP is trying to sell us is that there ought to be a foreign policy which is totally independent of any other nation and which is designed to get this country into a situation where it is totally defenceless.
If that is the attitude the ALP is trying to put forward and if that is what it means by Australia’s national interest, I will not have a bar of it. Clearly we on this side are very great supporters of our international alliances. One part of those international alliances happens to be friendly relations with countries in this area of the world. It was not so long ago that we saw the ALP decrying Australia for not being more involved in affairs in Asia. Now we are to have no regard whatsoever to the views of the Association of South East Asian Nations. Which are the ASEAN countries? They are the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, ls the ALP saying that we should not pay any regard to any of those nations? I will repeal them. They are Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Thailand happens to be the next country on the list for Vietnamese imperialism. That nation borders Kampuchea and there is a great deal of pressure against the borders of Kampuchea from the Heng Samrin forces at the moment.
– Where do you get your information from?
– I should think Senator Gietzelt reads the newspapers as well as I do. Maybe I do not read the same ones as he does. I think we have to recognise that those nations with which we have established very important connections not only in trade but also in the sense of cultural exchange and other arrangements are very important to the future of Australia in this part of the world. Members of the ALP would deny that and would have no regard to it. Indeed, they stand condemned out of their own mouths for what they have been saying about that matter in the last few minutes. I can say only that I believe we need to have due regard to those views, bearing in mind that we have our own national interest to serve. It is most important for Australia as a nation in this part of the world to have due regard to those views and, consequently, to do what we can to support our friends in that situation. For Senator Sibraa to pervert that view by trying to represent the Australian Government as being in the thrall or being controlled in some way as to its foreign policy by the People’s Republic of China deserves absolute condemnation. Clearly the Australian Government has decided upon an independent line, having due regard to the interests of the friendly nations with which we deal in South East Asia and, of course, having regard to the views of the People’s Republic of China.
There are coincidences in views held by the Australian Government and the Chinese Government about the way in which affairs should be conducted in this area of the world. That does not mean to say in any way that we believe everything China says we should follow. Indeed, I believe this Government is the only one which is displaying an independent viewpoint on the development of foreign policy in regard to Kampuchea. Quite clearly the two questions - whether we recognise the Pol Pot regime or whether support is given for the recognition of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea so that it can have a seat in the United Nations - are two separate questions. Clearly, we have to divide our views in that regard. The Australian Government’s view certainly is in the best interests of supporting the Australian national interest.
– The Australian Democrats strongly support the motion but wonder why the Australian Labor Party did not move it on a Wednesday when the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast. I believe it to be one of the most important issues facing the Parliament at this stage. At the outset, I register my disgust at the Government’s tactics in this debate, lt is quite extraordinary that on a Tuesday, when our proceedings are not broadcast, an urgency motion moved by the Opposition should be permitted more than one speaker from each side of the chamber. I would not expect to be contradicted even by the Government Whip on that. But quite extraordinarily, on this day and on this subject, the debate will be talked out.
– Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
– For Senator Missen, who is notorious for his championing of human rights, to make such a facetious and cheap remark in this debate does not do him credit. I will put Senator Missen right under the hammer on whether he is fair dinkum about human rights. At the conclusion of my remarks I will move that the question be put and he will then be tested.
– Before I speak?
- Senator Missen will have a second opportunity to vote on this issue later. The clear tactic of the Government on this matter is not to have a vote of this chamber on this issue. That is why it is to be talked out. That is why, when I move my motion and later when another attempt from this side will be made to force a vote on the issue Government senators twice today will vote against standing up and being counted on this issue.
– How will you get a second chance?
– There will be a second chance, I promise honourable senators opposite. I just wonder what this Parliament is coming to. Are we a body of men and women who are prepared to stand up in this chamber and speak and vote on violations of human rights, or are we to become a group of people who are dictated to by political parties which say simply: ‘It is not in the national interest: If we vote on this it will be embarrassing’? Let Senator Missen, Senator Lajovic and all the other liberal-minded senators on the other side of the chamber stand up here and make pretty speeches about violations of human rights, but also let me challenge them to do something. Sometimes words can be very cheap; it is the votes that count.
Surely to God, with the violations of human rights which are occurring in this world, we can make some sort of a ripple if we as a Senate at least have the guts to vote on these issues. From time to time pretty speeches are made in this place about the massive violation of human rights in South Korea and now in Poland, about the atrocities occurring in Uruguay, about our doing nothing concerning the annexation of the Baltic states, about the monstrous treatment of the people in East Timor by Indonesia, about the cruelty and the brutal tortures in Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan- the list is endless. But do we in this chamber make any impact if we simply make speeches?
I would have thought that the function of politicians was to stand up and vote on issues. Today all Government senators will vote not to vote. During the forthcoming election campaign I will remind Senator Puplick, the great champion of human rights, how he voted on today’s motion that the question be put. How will two other candidates for the Senate, Senator Maunsell and Senator Sheil, vote? How will the third National Country Party member on the Victorian Senate ticket, Senator Neal, vote on this? How will Senator Kilgariff and Senator Messner vote?
– Senator Knight is a candidate too.
– Indeed; I include Senator Knight.
– I am not a candidate.
– No, Senator Messner is not a candidate, but I presume he will play a role in having his party’s Senate team in South Australia elected. Let those honourable senators make their decisions. We are not debating just a political matter. The Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) is on record as having said that we should stop recognising the Pol Pot regime. Today a lot has been said about the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. A desire was expressed to get some of us on record concerning our views on some of the ASEAN countries. I will put myself on the record. Do not cite and hold up to me the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia as leaders in the fight against violations of civil rights. They are three which have the most corrupt, rotten governments in South East Asia. That is now on record. They are countries where human rights are being violated daily.
– I am sure they will all be most impressed.
– Simply because those governments are on our side, people such as
Senator Walters follow the pathetic line that, because those countries are anti-communist, they must be good and we must follow them at all times. Even those countries are not unanimous about the Pol Pot regime. Recently Dr Mochtar, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, expressed reservations about the implications of ASEAN’s call for an immediate withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Kampuchea. Referring to the Vietnamese, he said in December 1979:
They say ‘no’ when we ask them to withdraw but I would say this: they have a point. They say that if they withdraw Pol Pot would come back. ‘Do you want that’?’ Well, that’s a difficult question.
Are we to have Thailand held up to us as a champion of human rights? Do we admire Thailand’s attitude in forcing thousands of refugees back across the border into the war zone, preventing some refugees being attended properly by aid officials, conniving with the Khmer Rouge on the control and misappropriation of aid in the border areas and taking almost no action to prevent pirates from preying on boat people? Do not hold up Thailand to me as an example.
– Who did that?
– Senator Messner did when Senator Lewis was out of the chamber. We strongly support the motion before the Senate. We think it is incomprehensible that the Pol Pot regime, which has been described even by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as one of the most brutal and hideous regimes in history, should be able to retain its seat at the United Nations and be supported by Australia.
It is not necessary for me to canvas further the horrors of the regime from 1975 to 1978. In passing I just note that members of that regime murdered, butchered, tortured, killed over two million of the seven million people of Kampuchea. That was done by a group of madmen; I do not think any other description properly fits them. Similarly, we deplore the Heng Samrin regime. We deplore the mischief the Soviet Union is creating by the massive amount of aid it is giving to the 200,000 Vietnamese troops in Thailand. We do not suggest for one moment that the Heng Samrin regime should be recognised. What we do say is that the recognition of the Pol Pot regime gives respectability to a monstrous regime, one of the most brutal of modern times, lt has no moral authority. Apparently it will supply sufficient guerrilla forces to continue to put up a fight. Clearly it is not even in a de facto possession of the territory of Kampuchea.
Recognition of the Pol Pot regime aggravates the situation. Large quantities of international aid are being used to support the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, who use their control over the distribution of aid as a political weapon to maintain control over civilians in the area. That is occurring in the Thai border area. Recently it has caused major international relief agencies to suspend operations until the situation has somewhat improved. We recommend that we should adapt an even-handed policy of non-recognition of either regime, at least ibr the present. That is the policy adopted by the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America. Let me look just for a moment at the possible reasons for Mr Frasers obsession with recognising the Pol Pot regime. He is reported to have said that the Government has received no intelligent information to warrant a change in policy. He is reported to have said further:
Recognition of a regime does not, and never has. carried with it any approval for that regime.
I agree with him in that respect. I am not suggesting for one moment, and neither to my knowledge is anybody on this side of the House suggesting, that Mr Fraser supports the past actions of the Pol Pot regime. What we are critical of is his present action in continuing to recognise it. Then -this is the only rationale that I can find of Mr Fraser’s reasons - he said:
We recognised Uganda under Idi Amin, and he was a pretty frightful ruler. And during the communist purges in Russia, especially in the ’30s we still recognised the Soviet Union as the Government.
That begs the whole question. Idi Amin and Joseph Stalin were in actual possession of the countries they claimed to rule; Pol Pot is not. We did nol continue to recognise Amin after Uganda had been ‘liberated’- -I put that word in inverted commas and invaded by Tanzania. If we had done so, that would have been a parallel with recognition of Pol Pot, not the argument put by the Prime Minister. I want to answer Senator Messner’s statement that people on this side of the chamber suddenly have found this to be an issue to raise - a bandwaggon, he was rude enough to say. His memory is either very bad or short, because 1 remind him that this is not the first occasion on which this matter has been raised on this side of the chamber. As recently as 15 May 1980 Senator Wriedt brought on another matter of urgency in identical terms. On that day the Government did not even see fit to put up a Minister against the argument; it put up Senator Sim. I have a high regard for Senator Sim; he occupies a very senior position on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
– He is Chairman.
– He is Chairman?
– But he is not even a Minister, and that illustrates the contempt with which the Government seems to treat this question, lt gagged the debate immediately after one speaker from each side had taken part in it because, it said, delicate negotiations were proceeding.
– He is better than a Minister.
– I do not disagree with Senator Missen on that point. I can only suppose that the main reason for supporting the Pol Pot regime is to support China, which is the only country to give wholehearted support to Pol Pot, with only the mildest reservations expressed about ‘policy errors by the Pol Pot regime’. What is the reason for that? ls the reason trade? Is the reason for the continuation of recognition of this hideous regime the dirty dollar? ls the only reason we are recognising Pol Pot that China would want us to and that China would be angry if we did not? 1 know that that is true. I have just been to China. China has an obsession about two things: Firstly, a third world war with the Soviet Union and, second, the continued recognition of Pol Pot. Mr Fraser receives accolades from the Chinese Government from lime to time because he follows Chinese foreign policy.
I just wonder where any person who believes in human rights stands against that. I am amused to see that the latest critic of Malcolm Fraser is that notorious left wing Liberal organisation, the Australian League of Rights which is condemning him for his policies and for following China, lt reminds us of Solzhenitsyn who said that the acceptance of Communist China as an alternative to the Soviet Union is an act of madness. I wonder when we will come to our senses on that very question. But to continue a policy, an attitude, of recognising what has been said to be the most brutal regime in history because it might jeopardise some trade with China, I believe, is an assault against morality. I wonder to what extent the Government will go in its foreign policy and in its trade policy. Senator Messner was honest enough virtually to say: ‘Where is our national interest?’ ls that all that counts? Do not the lives of human beings in other countries count as well? Recently we heard great speeches about boycotting the Olympic Games and about how we must teach the Soviets a lesson. Australian trade with Russia has tripled in the last 10 months. Mr President, to test whether honourable senators want to stand up and be counted, I move:
That the question be now put. The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-l welcome the opportunity I now have to speak on this motion, an opportunity which was almost denied to me by the attempt made by Senator Chipp to gag the debate and to force a vote on the motion at this stage. I make it very clear that people on this side of the chamber voted against that motion because they wanted to have the matter further debated and because they recognise that the rather crude attempt which the Opposition has made, and which was exposed to us by Senator Chipp, was designed to gain political mileage and not with consideration for the people of Kampuchea.
It is very clear from the way in which the names of various senators dripped around the mouth of Senator Chipp that he contemplated some political advantage to his cause from the proposition and that it was not the future of Kampuchea that concerned him and Opposition senators. I have listened to the Government’s case today. My views on the subject are fairly well known around the place.
– That is why we are listening.
– 1 am glad that Senator Tate is listening. I intend to indicate quite clearly what are my views and to express what I believe are the views of many senators on this side of the chamber, including Senator Bonner, who would like to have the opportunity to speak on this subject and to express their views. I will not waste too much time with the chitchat from the Opposition side because I want to make some points.
I recognise that the Government makes a strong case for the three policies of which it speaks. Mr Peacock, has spoken of them. The first is the need to re-establish a sovereign and independent Kampuchean nation in which all Khmers can live in peace and security, of course they want to be able to eat and have security. We have already done a great deal in regard to that. We are, in fact, supporting the desire for a political solution. The solution will not be found in one of two rather horrific governments - either the Pol Pot Government or the Heng Samrin Government - coming to complete power in that country. We are doing a great deal in giving aid to the people who are suffering in that country.
The second of the policies is to minimise the extension of great power influence and conflict from great powers in the region. That is a desirable policy which we cannot lose sight of at any time. The third policy is to support and help maintain the unity of the Association of South East Asian Nations in confronting the problem that Kampuchea presents. Of course, we have to take account of the neighbours and colleagues with which we have trading and other relationships.
– -Of course.
– I have a lot of objection to some of the practices in some of the countries in the ASEAN world.
–You get a buck from them. That’s the important thing.
– I do not get a buck from them. The honourable senator should not be so stupid. I have no such relations with them at all. I am concerned with human rights in that area. I do not hesitate to criticise those governments and to try to get our Government to criticise them when it is necessary.
Having heard the Government’s case I do not find myself persuaded that we should continue to recognise the Pol Pot Government. I have not felt that we should do so for some considerable period. I know that I hold the view which is held by most of my Liberal colleagues in Victoria and, no doubt, by many people in other parts of Australia.
– Will you vote that way?
– A vote in this chamber will not alter any policies. If we carry a vote which is critical of the Government’s policy, that will not change the policy. We can work towards it. I have no doubt that the Government will know very clearly what are the feelings and beliefs of honourable senators in this chamber. They will be very clear whether Opposition senators like it or not. I have no doubt that honourable senators will work ultimately to the conclusion that the regime cannot continue to be supported in any way, even in a technical legal nature.
I do not believe that ASEAN is a united force. I believe that a number of ASEAN countries already have doubts about the recognition of Pol Pot. I believe they have a justifiable fear of an invasion from Vietnam, backed by Soviet forces. That is the thing that keeps them supporting the recognition of the Pol Pot regime which has control of only a very small part of Kampuchea. Furthermore I do not believe that Pol Pot is in effective control of anything but a small portion of Kampuchea. That, of course, is a very important matter in connection with recognition. Nor do I believe that to withdraw recognition would necessarily in any way weaken the condemnation of the invasion. If, of course, we were to recognise the Heng Samrin Government, that would be a different matter. I think that would give a great deal of support to the invading forces. I do not believe that by non-recognition and by putting ourselves in the same position as Great Britain or the United States of America we would show any recognition of those forces. 1 believe that the Pol Pot regime was a brutal one. It is a disgrace to humanity. 1 would be very happy to see it disappear.
– Why support it?
– I do not support it one iota. As at May this year 44 countries continued to recognise the legality of the Pol Pot regime. Twenty-nine other countries recognised the socalled People’s Republic of Kampuchea. All these expressions are nonsensical. Names such as Democratic Kampuchea and the People’s Republic of Kamuchea are a farce. Nonetheless, that was the way those countries stood at that time. There may have been some changes since. The United States, of course, recognises neither government. The United Kingdom withdrew its recognition of Pol Pot in December 1 979.
I do not believe that the derecognition situation is easy. We once recognised Taiwan as the Republic of China. We then withdrew that recognition. Of course, it did not control any longer the mainland of China. It did not have control of China. I think that shows that whether a government is in control is fundamentally the basis on which we decide recognition. But it is not the only thing. For example, when this Government came to power it derecognised Soviet control of the Baltic States. That indicated some moral condemnation of the Soviet’s attitude and actions in taking over the Baltic States. Moral questions arise.
– Our policy is exactly the same. We are consistent.
– The Opposition is not consistent about this. The Labor Government chose to recognise the Soviet takeover of the Baltic States. We had to undo that action.
– What is the policy now?
– In the third case we derecognised a leader, Idi Amin in Uganda. Honourable senators will remember that when Uganda was invaded with some success by Tanzanian forces, we were very swift in withdrawing our recognition of Idi Amin. I believe that action was desirable. We did not wait until control of the country was fully taken over. When there was some substantial control we recognised the new government, even though it was supported by invading powers from elsewhere. I believe therefore derecognition is based mainly upon the question of the control of a country, but moral questions can arise in relation to it.
I do not believe our relations with China should be predominant determinant of our foreign policy. Of course, we have better relations with China than we have with the Soviet Union, but I do not believe we should go overboard. We know that China can change its mind, we know that different arrangements may be made. China’s views on the subject should of course be taken into account, but they should be well down the track in determining the decision which we as a country make about recognition of another country.
I have said that the grounds for derecognition, or the test of credentials, whatever way we put it, must take into account the appalling record which the Pol Pot regime held. I think we should therefore be ready to cease any recognition of that regime at an early date. Mr Peacock, in speaking on this matter in July, had this to say:
Of course, recognition is a legal term, it is not a moral judgment.
The bestiality of that regime -
That is, the Pol Pot regime - is such that there is no way that I can allow a feeling of revulsion that exists in the Australian community to be simply swept aside.
The final’ decision of Cabinet at that time was not Mr Peacock’s preference. He stated:
Cabinet has made a decision - that is that the policy will not change . . . The policy is under review and 1 am to present a paper to Cabinet in due course.
The matter is under review. I stress that fact.
– That is progress!
– Well, it is progress. I do not think it is enough progress, lt is not the sort of progress that satisfies me. It does not satisfy my view and the views of a great number of my constituents and colleagues to whom I speak about it. I believe in Australia there is an overwhelming desire to see a change as soon as possible.
– You don’t think a vote of the majority of the Senate could influence the Government?
– I do not think it would change the Government’s policy at this stage. I think what the Government will know of the views of the honourable senators - the Government will have no difficulty in finding out those facts - will have some useful effect, but I do not believe the party political attempt which has been made today to try to gain some succour from this situation will make a difference. In fact, it might make the position worse. In my view the situation is such that this continuing review must surely soon show us that the Pol Pot regime is not in control of the country and that there is a great deal of feeling in this country on this subject and, indeed, in favour of the derecognition of the Pol Pot regime. I believe, given the pressures which all of us can exercise, this will come through. Let me draw attention to what I think was a useful statement of that situation in the Herald on 14 July 1980. In an editorial the Herald bad this to say:
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Peacock, is right when he says the Australian community’s revulsion at Pol Pot cannot be simply swept aside. He talks of adopting a neutral stance in which he does not recognise either the Pol Pot regime or the Heng Samrin Government which ousted Pol Pot.
We are faced with an impossible choice between two regimes both of which are repugnant to our philosophies. To recognise the Heng Samrin Government is to condone a government which has been put into power by an invading Vietnamese army, lt would give tacit approval to Soviet-type Afghanistan aggression. The Australian Government has so far not been able to do this. Apart from other considerations, it would be offensive to our ASEAN allies.
On the other hand, to continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime- which pleases our new-found friend, China - is to perpetuate the fiction that Pol Pot is in control. There is no easy way out of the dilemma. Mr Peacock’s suggested neutral position may well be eventually the best compromise.
I believe it will be the best compromise, but it ill becomes members of this Senate to use party political gain today to try perhaps to block off what I believe will be the solution in a very short time.
- Senator Missen has demonstrated that he and his colleagues prefer the environment of a schoolboy debating team to fulfilling the function which is appropriate to them as senators of the Commonwealth of Australia, namely, having a vote recorded in the Journals of this Senate indicating their stand concerning the recognition of the Pol Pot regime. That is what we are asking honourable senators opposite to do and that is what they have refused to do. Senator Missen in attempting justification put forward the extraordinary view that a vote of the Senate, of this chamber, could have no impact whatsoever on government policy. I find that to be an absolutely incredible acceptance of the dominance of this House of review, this deliberative chamber, so called, by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who has determined this policy. It is utterly his obsession; as we all know the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) does not share it and wanted to resign because of his abhorrence of our recognition of the Pol Pot regime.
We are debating the recognition of one of the most brutal regimes that has been visited on any people. We will be confronted in a few weeks not with some passive acceptance of a fact, which is how the Government has tried to state the international situation, but we are going to see over the next few weeks the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations prowling the corridors of that building, lobbying other governments- perhaps governments which are susceptible because they receive Australian aid- to get them to support the recognition of Pol Pot. It is no passive activity, or rather no passive stand that we are talking about; it is an active lobbying in the United Nations to see that this regime continues to be recognised. Why is that? Senator Chipp was correct. The Association of South East Asian Nations, China and Japan - which was in this morning’s news - are our great new trading partners. Adam Smith warned that market forces, which he believed in, needed to be controlled by a higher morality. I am afraid that in this decision by the Australian Government we have coming to fruition the very thing that he feared, namely, market forces, the desire to trade and to do business, are dominant over the claims of morality to do with death, torture, destruction and genocide. That is what we are being asked to support and that is what I hoped that this chamber would have been prepared to vote on.
asked: ‘Why now? Why is this motion before this chamber at this time?’ It is true, as Senator Chipp pointed out, that Senator Wriedt moved a motion along these lines in May, but it is also true and has to be recognised that the public takes some time to become informed and public opinion takes some time to be formed. As with the Vietnam debate, it takes a period for ordinary people in the electorate with their myriad of concerns to recognise the truth and reality of a situation. It does get through to them, thank God, because we live in a country which has a relatively free Press and forums such as this Parliament. Eventually the public is informed and it is public opinion to which we as representatives are legitimately responding.
asked: ‘What is the Australian interest at stake?’ I will tell him what our national interest is. lt is to conduct a foreign policy which is predictable because it is based on international law and not on temporary trading interests. The way to avoid armed conflicts is eventually to bring nation states into an understanding of their obligations as ruled by international law. What is the international law on recognition? lt is absolutely clear and unchallenged. I could give quotations from the best authorities, such as Creig’s book International Law published by Butterworths Pty Ltd in 1976. Let me refer to the British practice. The Foreign Secretary, Herbert Morrison, said in 1 95 1 in the House of Commons:
The conditions under international law for the recognition of a new regime as the de facto government of a state are that the new regime has in fact effective control over most of the state’s territory and that this control seems likely to continue.
That is the basis for de facto recognition. No one could claim that that precondition for de facto recognition exists in this case. I think that really answers one of Senator Carrick ‘s points. We cannot have recognition based on trading interests, on the need to pacify countries with which we have a geographical contiguity. We need a foreign policy based on legitimate principles of international law, and that is the overriding national interest which the Australian nation has in this matter, lt is not as though we are pursuing an idiosyncratic course in the international community. The United Kingdom, France and the United States do not recognise the Pol Pot regime. These are Western industrialised democracies, ls there any suggestion that those democratically formed governments are acting in a way which is blind to the realities of the international situation? They are as sophisticated and as well informed as the Australian foreign ministry about the implications of their refusal to recognise the Pol Pot regime. We would be in good company - the company of our allies - in withdrawing our recognition of the Pol Pot regime.
I now turn to the speech made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). I made some notes on five points which he made. He mentioned that there was an incursion of a foreign force into Kampuchea. That cannot be denied. 1 think it would be a fact that the invasion by the Vietnamese to get rid of the regime was supported by world opinion. The continued occupation of Kampuchea is perhaps another matter and would not be supported by world opinion.
– 1 don’t think an invasion is accepted in international law.
– This applies in the same way as the invasion of Uganda was supported by world opinion. The continued occupation is another matter. I am now pointing out in any case that no one on this side of the chamber is advocating recognition of the regime supported or sustained by those invading and occupying forces. That is crucial to the stand taken by this side of the chamber. All we are saying is that, along with the United States, France and the United Kingdom, we should offer no recognition to any of the regimes competing for international acclaim or propriety.
Senator Carrick said: ‘Well, we do not like them’. But, as I pointed out, we are still prepared to lobby every governmnent of the United Nations in order to secure recognition for the Pol Pot regime as legitimate government of the Kampuchean people. We are actively pressing its cause. That hypocrisy, doublespeak and charade will not be accepted by the Australian people any more than the condemnation - the proper condemnation - of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan could stand alongside the continual sending of wool to Leningrad by the Prime Minister. It is that hypocrisy that sticks in the throat. Senator Carrick then said that we cannot move recognition around on the basis of our revulsion at atrocities, at genocide, at tortures and at killings. Maybe that is correct but, as J have pointed out, the correct criterion for recognition is control of the territory concerned. Nobody on the government side can claim that that well-recognised international legal principle is here fulfilled.
Finally, Senator Carrick tried to picture for us the Foreign Minister, Mr Peacock, being in harmony with the Prime Minister in Cabinet on this matter. Every Australian knows that the Foreign Minister offered his resignation, so disgusted was he with the stand of the Cabinet on this matter.
He saw his policy, a policy in harmony with that of our major allies, rebutted by the Australian Cabinet, and he offered his resignation. Everybody who will read the Hansard or who is listening to this debate, knows that. The Foreign Minister is acting in accord with not only the decisions of our major allies but also public opinion in this country. Surely, as representatives of the Australian people, we are entitled to express that concern by a vote of this chamber. It is for that reason that I also move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) .
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Once again the Opposition has endeavoured to prevent Government senators from speaking on this matter.
Government senators - Shame!
– I agree. I think it is quite shameful. Although the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) moved that in the opinion of the Senate the matter he raised was a matter of urgency, it is quite clear that Opposition senators and Senator Chipp, with all due respect to him, totally ignored the wording of the motion, which is:
The Australian Government’s continued recognition of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea is not in Australia’s national interests.
On a number of occasions Senator Chipp criticised speakers on the Government side for talking about what was in the national interest. That is the whole subject of the debate. For some reason or other it seems that Senator Chipp decided to conduct a merry little debate of his own, no doubt seeking a headline. It is clear that he and the Opposition were involved in an attempt to get a headline in the Press. They are not interested in the Kampuchean people at all; they are not interested in what happens in Kampuchea. They are interested only in somehow or other disclosing some sort of division which they allege exists in the ranks of Government senators. Senator Wriedt made that perfectly clear. The Hansard will disclose that at the end of his speech he said that the purpose of his motion was to disclose division within the ranks of Government senators. Let me assure Senator Wriedt that of course there is division within the ranks of Government senators. For any person who applies his mind to this subject there is a division as to what position he should take. It is a very difficult question. It is a question of recognition of a bestial government which I totally condemn. I join with every other senator and member of parliament in totally and utterly and completely condemning it.
On the other hand, it is a question of recognising the problems of the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and their difficulties in connection with the Vietnamese aggression in their area. The ASEAN nations have asked Australia to support them in not derecognising the Pol Pot regime at this stage. I ask the Senate what is any decent, sensible, thinking member of parliament to do? Will he totally ignore the ASEAN request or will he give it consideration and try to come up with a sensible, sound conclusion?
The Opposition has been critical of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Cabinet, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) for having differing views on this subject. I do not see any reason for being critical on that ground. I am sure that the people of Australia also, if they get the right story from the Press, will not be critical of the Cabinet if its members have differing views on this subject. In the Age of Friday, 22 August 1980, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is reported as having said to one Michelle Grattan:
What is wrong with that? Is there anything unreasonable about the Cabinet asking the Minister for Foreign Affairs to conduct a thorough review, no doubt discussing this matter with our ASEAN friends and partners and the governments in the area which are very concerned about their future and reporting back to the Cabinet so that the Cabinet may make a decision as to where it is going on this subject? If anyone tells me that there is something wrong with that policy, I will not believe them, lt is as simple as that.
Throughout the past year the Government’s aim has been to achieve a political solution to this problem. It is based on the ASEAN resolution on Kampuchea, which was co-sponsored by Australia and adopted by a large majority at the United Nations General Assembly. That resolution called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Kampuchea, an act of selfdetermination by the Khmer people, free from outside coercion, and humanitarian relief for suffering Kampucheans.
What have we been involved in today? We have heard a whole lot of highfalutin nonsense talked about a theoretical matter of recognition. Many people, wishing to sleep easy tonight, have no doubt salved their consciences by standing up and spouting big words, but not one of those words will put an ounce of food into the stomach of any of the people of Kampuchea who are starving, nor will they save any Kampucheans from the bestiality being inflicted upon them by both sides. What Opposition members were talking about was the theoretical question of recognition and derecognition; not one member of the Opposition is concerned about the Kampuchean people. Not one word of sympathy for the Kampuchean people has been uttered by the Opposition today. Not one of the Opposition senators had the courage to stand up and speak in favour of the Kampuchean people and their efforts to achieve their self-determination and their independence. All we heard was a lot of highfalutin nonsense about divisions within the Government ranks. Of what relevance is it if there are divisions in the Government ranks? The question is purely and simply a question of the people of Kampuchea being able to continue with their own self-determination.
At the moment there are 200,000 Vietnamese troops occupying Kampuchea. They are being supported by the Soviet Union to the extent of $1 billion a year, that is $3m a day, and the Opposition uttered not one word of criticism of that. Not one word of sympathy did we hear for the Kampuchean people. The Opposition simply made an attack on Federal senators and Ministers, quoting people on our side of politics who have expressed views critical of the Pol Pot regime. We are all critical of the Pol Pot regime. What relevance is that to the people of Kampuchea? If only we could get some sort of consensus politics in the Senate and the Opposition could come up with some motion that all honourable senators could support senators would be unanimous and we may achieve something. Instead there was a political move to try to get a headline from people who may be in the Press gallery during the debate. We heard long words but there was very little meaning in those words.
– The motion was designed to embarrass those senators who are less sycophantic than you are.
– The Opposition is trying to embarrass the Government. I suppose that is legitimate politics. I am sorry to see Senator Wriedt playing those sorts of politics. He disappoints me from time to time when he does that. He certainly presents an image to the public, or purports to present an image to the public, which is not along those lines. He comes into this place and plays politics. Perhaps Senator Georges gives him the ideas; I do not know. It disappoints me that Senator Wriedt should play such politics. The ASEAN countries are united.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. The time allotted for the discussion has expired.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Audit Act 1901 I present the report of the Auditor-General upon the status of financial statements of statutory authorities and other activities dated 26 August 1 980.
– In accordance with the practice which we have recently adopted in relation to the presentation of papers, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the list as circulated to honourable senators.
Proposed Presentation of Papers
Tuesday 26 August 1980
*7. Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, together with a Protocol amending the Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods and an Explanatory Memorandum by the Attorney-General’s Department.
The Minister will seek leave to make a statement relating to the document.
Australian Broadcasting Commission
Australian Development Assistance Bureau*
Australian Institute or Marine Science
Australian Science and Technology Council
Business and Consumer Affairs
Employment and Youth Affairs
Housing and Construction
Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Industry and Commerce
National Capital Development Commission
National Development and Energy*
Office of National Assessment
Parliament House Construction Authority
Parliamentary Reporting Staff
Postal and Telecommunications
Prime Minister and Cabinet*
Public Service Board
Science and the Environment* Senate
Special Trade Representative
Trade and Resources
Together with Departmental Expenditure under the Advance to the M Minister for Finance 1 979-80.
– by leave- Due to the shortage of time I seek leave to have the paper on Energy Policy and Related Resource Development incorporated in Hansard.
– With the proposed presentation of papers there is a list of departments. What is the attachment?
– That is a continuation of item No. 1 1 .
– 1 raise a point of order, Mr President. Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate given anyone a copy of the statement? As I understand it, the statement which he proposes to make relates to energy, lt is a fairly fundamental statement. I have not seen a copy of it, yet I am asked to give leave for it to be incorporated in Hansard. 1 would have thought courtesy demanded that we have a copy of it.
– If courtesy is demanded, I assure the honourable senator that, as always, we seek to give him those documents. We will continue the courtesy. If the statement has not been circulated until now it is not from want of good endeavour on our part. Our aim, as has been indicated, is in order to facilitate time for honourable senators to discuss matters, we save the time taken up by Ministers. In that way honourable senators would receive their list and papers and could then respond to those papers. I seek leave to have the text of item No. 10 incorporated in Hansard.
– I wish to raise a query. If leave is granted for the incorporation of the statement, will we have to move straight into discussion on item No. 1 0 or can we go back to any of the preceding papers which have been tabled?
– If there is any difficulty I will proceed to read the statement. Let me make the position clear. The list as presented aims to help honourable senators, and largely honourable senators on this side, to have time to deal with matters. They may refer to any item on the list. That has been laid down.
– The Minister has missed the point of the question. Do we proceed with the one which has just been incorporated or can we–
– As indicated the other day, we may proceed with any items on the list. My own view is that it would facilitate matters if it were agreed that the Chair take them in numerical order. Since a great deal of time was taken up today, even though paper No. 10–
– We tried to get a decision on the motion early.
– 1 have observed the principle laid down by the Opposition that motions should be gagged. I will keep that in mind for the future. I seek leave to have the paper under item No. 1 0 incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows -
1 would like to review the Government’s energy policy and to outline the quite exciting prospects ahead for Australia in the area of resource development. Our energy policies are firmly in place and recent events serve to illustrate their correctness. Successes in this area are already evident; but in view of the uncertainties about future oil prices and supplies we cannot relax our efforts.
Associated with the rapid increases in crude oil prices, there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for the energy resources with which Australia is richly endowed, lt has provided Australia with great opportunities. Australia’s objective must be to make the most of those opportunities, while continuing to reduce our vulnerability to disruptions of world oil supplies, and to further increases in world oil prices. The energy problem is a global problem. Failure to make appropriate adjustments will mean lower world economic growth, higher unemployment and inflation. Sustained economic growth in the remainder of the century will require further major changes in the Western world’s energy usage patterns.
Australia is participating in discussions on energy with our industrialised partners within the international energy agency. The IEA has emphasised the need for measures to reduce levels of imports, to use oil more effectively, and to develop alternative energy sources. There is overwhelming agreement within the IEA that domestic oil prices must reflect fully movements in internationally traded oil prices.
The Venice Economic Summit in June agreed on the need to place maximum reliance on realistic pricing to reduce dependence on crude oil. These strategies represent a full endorsement of Australia’s energy policies especially our crude oil pricing policy.
Australia’s position is one of considerable opportunity, but at the same time, of some risk to which 1 shall refer later. Our energy resources, combined with abundant supplies of many raw materials, create the opportunity for a large expansion in energy exports and in energy intensive resource developments. These developments will add greatly to our national product, to incomes and to wealth, and all Australians stand to benefit from being members of a wealthier society. The benefits of economic growth will, as always, extend far beyond those directly involved; they will extend to all sections of our society. Our potential is illustrated by:
Increased interest in and demand for direct exports of energy sources from Australia - primarily coal but also Liquefied Natural Gas:
Increased desire to process raw materials in Australia;
Accelerated plans to increase coal-based electricity generating capacity in Australia.
The developments in prospect will, of course, need to comply with government requirements in areas such as the environment, foreign ownership, and taxation. We are determined that all companies, both domestic and foreign owned, shall operate in the interests of all Australians.
Australia recognises its responsibilities in an increasingly energy hungry world. Our rich resource endowment carries with it an international responsibility to make our resources available on fair terms and conditions to countries who are less well endowed than ourselves. Developed and developing countries alike are vitally dependent on stable and secure supplies of resources for their economic advancement and well-being. In turn, Australia expects consuming countries to provide stable access to our resources by way of long term contracts. This is absolutely essential if companies are to commit the huge amounts of risk capital which are necessary to bring Australia’s resource projects on stream in the 1980’s.
Australia’s greatest energy resource is coal, which comprises over 80 per cent of our identified energy resources. As well as providing 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the country’s electricity, coal is a major and rising export product, with total exports reaching 38 million tonnes in 1978-79. With increasing emphasis on coal-generated electricity throughout the world, Australian exports of steaming coal are expected to increase greatly in the future.
The Government is determined that potential developments should not be held back by lack of necessary infrastructure. To this end, projects involving borrowings amounting to around $228m to provide coal export facilities have already been approved by the Loan Council under the infrastructure program. In addition, the Loan Council has approved borrowings of $ 1 82m for up-grading and electrification of the Waterfall-Port Kembla railway, primarily to facilitate haulage of coal to the new loader at Port Kembla. Possible infrastructure borrowings to finance electrification of other coal railways are under consideration.
Plans for the North West Shelf project are firming up, with arrangements for the joint venturers to supply natural gas to Western Australia in 1984 and to commence exports of LNG in 1986. The joint venturers have demonstrated their confidence in the project by letting contracts for construction of some of the major facilities, and arranging the borrowings to finance development of the project.
Australia contains around 16 per cent of the Western world’s low cost reasonably assured uranium reserves. Although anticipated growth of nuclear power programs in some countries has been reduced in the last few years, there are signs that the contribution which nuclear power can make to energy needs is being reassessed in the light of the overriding priority of reducing reliance on oil.
As the cost of oil continues to rise, it is becoming increasingly attractive to process raw materials in Australia in preference to transporting them to other countries where energy costs are higher or where there is a doubt about the availability of the required energy. The availability in Australia of low cost coal-based electricity is of prime importance. The combination of low cost energy and plentiful supplies of raw materials has increased the opportunities for economic raw materials processing in Australia. The most outstanding example here is aluminium smelting. Annual smelting capacity is expected to expand from 280,000 tonnes at present to about 1.3 million tonnes over the next five years, requiring the investment of around $2.9 billion. Further aluminium projects under serious consideration could lift annual capacity to over two million tonnes in the second half of the 1980’s, bringing total potential investment in the industry to around $4.5 billion. In addition, substantial new facilities are planned for the petrochemical industry, based primarily on hydrocarbon feedstock material from Bass Strait and the Cooper Basin.
Investment in additional electricity generating capacity represents one of the greatest development challenges in Australia. Recognising the very high cost of, and long lead times associated with the construction of electricity generating stations, the Commonwealth has taken a series of initiatives to encourage and assist the State authorities concerned.
The Commonwealth has encouraged the States to bring forward proposals for coal-based electricity projects to be financed under the infrastructure program which it initiated specifically to facilitate the provision of public sector infrastructure required to complement the big prospective increase in private sector investment in developmental projects. Borrowings of $3 billion have been approved under this program for electricity generating projects with an estimated total cost of $7.4 billion. In addition, there are under examination further electricity generating projects proposed, including those by New South Wales and Queensland for which total borrowings of about $4.4 billion are being sought towards outlays of $9.1 billion, and further proposals from other States have also been foreshadowed. lt is difficult to convey the magnitude and importance to Australia of these developments. Projects already approved will add 40 per cent to Australian electricity generating capacity by about 1990. The proposals from New South Wales and Queensland currently being examined by officials involve almost half as much again. Installed generating capacity in Australia has grown dramatically since 1950:
Between 1950 and 1960 it grew by 165 per cent or 3,500 megawatts
Between 1960 and 1970 it grew by 160 per cent or 8,400 megawatts
Between 1970 and 1980 it grew by 71 per cent or 10,000 megawatts
On the basis of current plans installed generating capacity is expected to rise by a further 9,000 megawatts by 1985 and by a further 12,000 megawatts in the second half of the decade to reach about 45,000 megawatts by 1990. In this decade the increase in generating capacity is expected to be greater than in any previous decade or even two decades. In 1979, the Commonwealth in conjunction with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, set up a committee of inquiry into electricity generating and sharing of power resources in South-east Australia. The main function of the inquiry is to examine the feasibility of a strongly integrated electricity supply grid in south-east Australia.
Resources and energy related developments have an immense potential for generating economic growth in this country and raising the standards of living of all Australians, but the realisation of this potential could be imperilled if appropriate policies are not pursued. I refer particularly to:
Our vulnerability to disruptions to supplies of crude oil and the need for appropriate energy policies to minimise risk;
The need for sound economic policies which will provide an economic environment in which the massive investments which will be required can be made with confidence; and
The need for unions to play a positive role in this development and to avoid the industrial unrest which might put at risk major investments by adding to costs and uncertainties and might prejudice Australia’s image as a reliable supplier. The Commonwealth will seek consultations with the trade union movement in every effort to improve the industrial relations climate.
The National Energy Advisory Committee has estimated that if we do not find more oil our selfsufficiency in naturally occurring crude oil is expected to fall from about 67 per cent today, to about 40 per cent in 1990, and to 10 per cent by the year 2000. In order to avoid increasing reliance on potentially unreliable overseas supplies of oil, government policies need to be directed at reducing our dependence on crude oil and towards cushioning the effect in Australia of any external oil shock.
The cornerstone of our policy is the pricing of indigenous crude oil at import parity. When we introduced import parity pricing policy, we knew that it would not be popular; but we believed that it was right, and necessary for the future wellbeing of Australia. Import parity pricing is vital to conserve our scarce supplies of liquid fuels, to encourage exploration for oil and to assist the development of alternative sources of energy- this policy is clearly working. The case for the policy is overwhelming:
It is vital that we should price our own supplies of oil at the value placed on them in world markets and not allow them to be used at artificially low prices;
If we were to allow our irreplaceable indigenous oil reserves to be squandered- used up - at unrealistically low prices, it would be an act of extreme selfishness towards our children;
Only by pricing indigenous crude oil to reflect world prices can alternative sources of energy, such as shale oil, ethanol, become viable and thus contribute towards reducing our dependence on imported oil;
Because these developments will take time to have their full effect we must begin to make the necessary adjustments on a wide scale now;
The choice we face is between paying realistic prices for petroleum products now or paying even higher prices later to producers in other countries when we may be unnecessarily dependent on expensive and uncertain supplies of imported oil;
The crude oil levy recovers for taxpayers generally a substantial part of the windfall profits which would otherwise accrue to domestic oil producers as oil prices rise. It has assisted the Government to meet defence obligations which could not be postponed, to help reduce the deficit, and to finance cuts in taxation applying from 1 July 1980.
Notwithstanding our adherence to import parity pricing for indigenous crude, the price of Australian petrol is amongst the lowest of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries - for example, prices in Europe range from 55c a litre in the Federal Republic of Germany, to 62c a litre in the United Kingdom and to 78c a litre in Italy. Australia’s import parity pricing is based on the price set for Arabian Light’, the lowest price at which a major part of the world’s oil is traded. In addition, the Government has backed up its pricing policy with supplementary measures to achieve its desired objectives to which I should now like to refer.
Conservation offers the most effective means of reducing our reliance on oil in the short term, and has the potential for further gains as investments are made in energy efficient capital equipment, vehicles and buildings. Pricing of crude oil at import parity encourages conservation by ensuring that consumers make decisions based on realistic prices. To encourage conservation, the Government:
Launched last November a national energy conservation campaign;
Introduced a national industrial energy management scheme to promote and foster efficient energy consumption patterns in industry;
Will be seeking a commitment from industry to establish and maintain energy management programs, under which companies will monitor energy use, establish goals for reducing energy use, and report this information through their industry association.
The available evidence suggests that despite strong economic growth consumption of petroleum products is slowing in Australia.
Whenever possible the Government wishes to replace the use of petroleum products by other, more readily available substitutes. Again, of course, the prime incentive for such substitution is provided by realistic pricing of petroleum products arising from import parity pricing. Natural gas, which is already available in all mainland capital cities, and in many other centres, provides an attractive alternative to crude oil products for many users. The Government is committed to extending natural gas pipelines to provide wider access to this energy source. Construction has commenced on a Sydney-Newcastle pipeline and will shortly commence on a line from Young to Wagga Wagga and Cootamundra. Plans have been approved for a spur line to Canberra and consultations are being held with New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia on the possible extention of the southern lateral from Wagga Wagga to Albury. Such a line would link the Victorian and New South Wales gas distribution networks, and the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait Gas Fields.
In June last year I announced a number of initiatives to encourage the automotive use of liquefied petroleum gas. When it became evident that massive increases in the world price of LPG threatened this policy I, as Minister for National Development and Energy, announced last April measures designed to restore an element of certainty to potential automotive users of LPG by tying the price of LPG to that of indigenous crude oil. These measures also recognised the position of household consumers of LPG by providing a temporary subsidy of $80 a tonne. This will give households the opportunity to switch gradually to more suitable indigenous fuels such as natural gas and electricity.
The Government’s import parity pricing policy provides a basic framework within which alternative fuels can be developed. The Rundle shale oil project is a classic example of the effectiveness of the Government’s import parity pricing policy. The developers of this project have made it clear that the Government’s import parity pricing has been crucial in their decisions to make the very large investments required in this project. The first stage of the project is expected to cost between $300m and $400m in 1979 values, and if it is successful to lead to a project costing many billions of dollars, and producing about 200,000 barrels of syncrude a day- probably between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of our expected requirements at that time. Its output should come on stream as Bass Strait oil production declines in the early 1990’s. Indeed it is likely to be the largest project ever undertaken in Australia, and one of the largest in the world. Rundle is only one of several rich oil shale deposits. If it proves to be viable it will almost certainly lead the way with its technology in the development of a great new industry for Australia.
Development work is being carried out to arrive at processes for the economic conversion of coal to oil. Joint ventures have been set up by Australia with Germany and Japan to investigate these possibilities. Another promising alternative to crude oil is ethanol, which can be produced from a number of vegetable products, such as grain, sugar cane, sugar beet, lt has potential for use primarily as a petrol extender in blends containing 10-20 per cent ethanol. The Commonwealth Government is providing funding to assist in an economic and technical evaluation of the potential contribution of fuel ethanol to Australia’s liquid fuel needs. Ethanol for use as an on-farm or transport fuel has been exempted from excise whether produced on the farm or commercially.
Research into alternative energy sources and other aspects of energy use is necessary to develop viable techniques to reduce our dependence on oil. The Commonwealth is providing increased funding for a substantial research and development program.
The response by oil explorers to the Government’s policies has been very pleasing, Confidence of investors has been restored and exploration activity has increased dramatically. Import parity pricing has, of course, provided the certainty as to future returns which has underpinned this recent expansion in oil search activity. For instance:
The Australian Petroleum Exploration Association now expects that expenditure on petroleum exploration and development will exceed $7 1 5m in 1980, compared with $150m in 1975:
Last year 108 exploration and development wells were drilled in Australia and in 1980 it is expected that 121 such wells will be drilled - only 29 wells were drilled in 1975.
The Government has been concerned to provide greater security of supply of petroleum products to Australian consumers. In the event of a major interruption to oil supplies we would need to have adequate stocks of both crude oil and petroleum products. Our greatest protection against disruption in international oil markets is contained production from Bass Strait.
The Government considers that a prudent objective for stock holdings in Australia is the equivalent of about 75 days of total consumption of crude oil and petroleum products. To put this objective into perspective, at the beginning of 1979 stocks of crude oil and petroleum products in Australia were equivalent to about 52 days consumption. They have now risen to about 67 days, and discussions are being held with the oil industry to increase these stocks to the target level. Member countries of the IEA are required to hold a minimum level of stocks equivalent to 90 days of net oil imports in the previous year. Australia easily complies with this requirement.
Our oil and gas production facilities in Bass Strait and the associated on-shore facilities in Gippsland meets some 62 per cent of our domestic oil consumption and all Victoria’s natural gas requirements. The Government has taken action in consultation with Victoria and with Esso to enhance the security of these installations and to enable more rapid restoration of supply in the event of disruptions. The Government is acting to reduce further the risks of accidental collision by vessels with the off-shore installations. On 6 June the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) announced that increased surveillance and related activities were being undertaken by units of the Australian defence forces, including naval and air units, in the vicinity of the Bass Strait production platforms.
Sound economic management is of fundamental importance to the realisation of Australia’s great development potential. Continued downward pressure on inflation and the avoidance of destabilising imbalances in the economy are prerequisites for the very large investments required. The Government’s record in this area is good and the recent Budget demonstrates our resolve to continue to pursue anti-inflationary policies. The Government’s foreign investment policy is understood and accepted by foreign investors. It ensures consistency, equity and predictability for investors, while ensuring that Australians get maximum benefits from developments.
Planning, development and operation of major projects involving the investment of very large sums require reasonable certainty about costs and timetables. Delays arising from industrial unrest which could adversely affect both costs and timetables must therefore be avoided. We also need to avoid industrial unrest in the production phase particularly in the mining sector, as disruption to supply can be a source of concern to our trading partners, as well as to prospective investors. An essential component of Australia’s image as a reliable trading partner is our ability to meet contracts as scheduled. The Commonwealth will encourage consultation and co-operation between management and workers in an effort to reduce the level of disputation and to provide a constructive industrial relations environment.
Events of the past 12 months confirm that the Government’s stategy is working:
In 1979-80 consumption of petrol declined by 0.7 per cent, compared with an average annual increase of 4.6 per cent in the five years preceding full import parity pricing;
In 1979-80 consumption of healing oil and fuel oil fell by 36 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, over 1978-79;
Introduction of natural gas into Sydney is estimated to have saved the equivalent of 2 million barrels of oil in 1979;
Esso and the Rundle partners have announced that they have signed heads of agreement to develop the huge Rundle oil shale deposit;
Exploration for oil has increased dramatically since the mid- 1 970’s;
The latest survey by the Department of Industry and Commerce has indentified investment of $29 billion either committed or in the final feasibility stage in major resource and manufacturing projects, with some two-thirds being energy related:
Investment in electricity generation and transmission exceeding $19 billion over the net decade has been foreshadowed.
The policies being pursued by the Commonwealth will create the conditions which encourage the massive investments necessary to bring the potential resource-based developments to fruition. The investment of many billions of dollars in resource based development will stimulate economic growth and employment. This investment, the growth of great new industries and the expansion of others will mean increased incomes and higher living standards for all Australians. This exciting prospect has relevance for all of us; we all stand to participate in it.
Our energy policies are firmly established and their success is already evident. The Commonwealth will continue to build on these policies to ensure that Australia is well placed to meet possible upheavals in the international oil markets. The measures I have outlined evidence this determination. In the statement I have made, I have provided an outline of the Government’s energy policy and the prospects for resource development. For the information of honourable senators, I now table a more comprehensive statement on these matters.
Motion (by Senator Rae) - by leave- agreed to:
That the third annual report for the year ending 31 August 1979 be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report as to the reasons for the delay in the presentation of the report.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave - agreed to:
That the annual report 1978-79 be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report as to the reasons for the delay in the presentation of the report.
Motion (by Senator Rae) - by leave - agreed to:
That the twenty-third annual report for the year ending 30 June 1979 be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report as to the delay in the presentation of the report.
– by leave - I apologise to Senator Carrick. I have been informed that the statement on energy policy was delivered to my office. I have not been in my office. I did suggest that it was a matter of discourtesy. I totally withdraw that remark and say to the Government that, as ever, it has been courteous in this matter.
– by leave - I move:
The statement which has just been incorporated in Hansard is a boring re-hash of known facts, although not many facts. It is full of self-laudatory rhetoric, false assertions, internal contradictions and self-delusionary nonsense. For example, the reference to strong economic growth leads me to ask: What strong economic growth? In relation to the reference to the North West Shelf firming up, the contracts for the North West Shelf were supposed to have been signed in September of last year. Let us look at some of the specifics in this statement. It states:
That is, energy developmental projects - in prospect will, of course, need to comply with government requirements in areas such as the environment, foreign ownership, and taxation.
It is a matter of public record and a matter of public scandal that in order to attract a project to Australia the Government will sell out on any and all of these issues, particularly foreign investment. We have no meaningful foreign investment guidelines at all. The Government waters them down on individual projects to whatever degree is necessary to attract the individual investor. Following a lengthy discourse in which figures are thrown around recklessly about generating capacity for electricity and potential for investment in aluminium smelters, we find this remarkable statement:
In 1979, the Commonwealth in conjunction with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, set up a committee of inquiry into electricity generation and sharing of power resources in south-east Australia.
Of course, we know that happened. We know that the Government made an announcement that it was setting up such an inquiry last year. The point is: What is the use of an inquiry such as that when this Government has already abdicated responsibility in this area and has forsaken the one option which was open to it in order to ensure that there was rational development of mineral processing, particularly aluminium smelting, in Australia? In the most irresponsible abdication of power and responsibility ever seen from an Australian government, in December 1978 the Fraser Government announced that the States had what was tantamount to unlimited borrowing powers outside the restrictions of the Loan Council both inside and outside Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Every couple of months the Government brings down what it calls an energy statement in the Senate in an attempt to generate the illusion that it actually has an energy policy. This attempt has been no more successful than its previous attempts. As I have said, it is a boring rehash of a very few facts, self-delusionary nonsense, internal contradictions and so on. One of the matters to which it inadvertently draws attention is the abdication of responsibility by the Commonwealth Government in the area of the development of aluminium smelting in Australia. The Commonwealth has declared open season on borrowings by the States at home and abroad to provide infrastructure for alumina smelters or, indeed, infrastructure for anything at all, including the scandalous world trade centre in Melbourne. As a consequence of that policy, and in response to the high unemployment policies of the Fraser Government, all the States are desperately trying to persuade people to locate aluminium smelters in their State instead of some other State. In order to do that the most important thing is the price at which electricity is supplied. The States are competing with each other, indulging in cutthroat competition to sell electricity at below economic costs. They are not only aided and abetted but they are also actually encouraged to indulge in this self-destructive activity and nationally destructive activity by the failure of the Federal Government not only to accept its responsibilities, to exercise the ordinary development of aluminium smelting in Australia, but also its invitation to the States to behave in this way.
The real tragedy of all this is that aluminium smelters would locate in Australia even without all that self-destructive idiocy because Australia would retain very strong comparative advantages in aluminium smelting even if correct prices were charged for electricity. We get the usual assertion that the corner-stone of our energy policy is the pricing of indigenous crude oil at import parity. We are asked to believe that whatever arbitrary price the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries decides from time to time to charge the world for its oil is the optimum economic price for Australian oil. That is a fairly extraordinary proposition, that the economic optimum price is whatever price the OPEC members arbitrarily decide twice a year they will charge for theirs. That is not a proposition that could withstand very serious analysis. The energy policy statement pontifically and self-righteously continues:
If we were to allow our irreplacable indigenous oil reserves to be squandered - used up - at unrealistically low prices, it would be an act of extreme selfishness towards our children.
That is very sanctimonious. What this Government proposes to do is to deny petroleum supplies to today’s poor in order to conserve them for tomorrow’s rich. That is what underpins the Government’s energy policy. All this talk about extreme selfishness is sanctimonious claptrap. The statement then asserts, and this is factually wrong, that:
Only by pricing indigenous crude oil to reflect world prices can alternative sources of energy, such as shale oil, ethanol, become viable and thus contribute towards reducing our dependence on imported oil.
That is patent nonsense. It is quite possible - and indeed until 1978 even this Government had this policy - to price new oil, or alternative sources of liquid fuels, at import parity prices without also charging import parity prices for the oil from oilfields already producing in Bass Strait. The two prices may be varied independently without any adverse effects. Indeed, if they were to be varied independently as the Labor Party proposes, there would be beneficial effects because the inflationary consequences of the present Government’s crude oil policy would be avoided.
On page 9 we read that to encourage conservation the Government launched, last November, a national energy conservation campaign, introduced a national energy management scheme, to promote and foster et cetera. What, in fact, the Government did last November was to appropriate large sums of public money for a political advertising campaign designed to con an ever more hostile public into accepting its oil pricing policy. It displayed the developing tendency within the Liberal Party to get its money mixed up with the Government’s. More than Sim was allocated last year, and a similar amount has again been allocated this year, for this advertising campaign which is a blatantly political advertising campaign for the benefit of the Liberal Party, not any serious contribution to conservation.
In the section headed ‘Inter-fuel Substitution’ we get the old doublespeak about the pricing of liquefied petroleum gas. The statement says that wherever possible the Government wishes to replace the use of petroleum products with the use of other more readily available substitutes and that again the prime incentive for such substitution is provided by realistic pricing of petroleum products arising from import parity pricing, lt does not actually mention liquefied petroleum gas; it mentions liquefied petroleum gas in a later section. I want to analyse that statement, lt says that the Government wishes to replace the use of petroleum products with the use of other more readily available substitutes and the way to do this is with realistic pricing of petroleum products. That explains why the Government, pursuant to its stated objective of reserving liquefied petroleum gas as much as possible for its premium use as an automotive fuel and a petrochemical feedstock, sells it for $250 a tonne ex-refinery for a petro-chemical feedstock and $125 a tonne for the crudest of all possible uses, space heating. That is responsible, rational, economic management, Fraser style, 1980! If one wants to reserve a particular commodity for premium use as a petrochemical feedstock, one charges twice as much for it for that purpose as for some other purpose which has no special merit! I could goon and on. lt is worth mentioning that on page 12, the Government attempts to deceive the public about the level of stocks it intends to hold. The policy statement reads:
To put this objective into perspective, at the beginning of 1979 . . . about 52 days . . .
The objective is for a stock of 75 days’ supply. In 1979 we had 52 days’ supply and that has been increased to 67 days. The statement continues:
Member countries of the IEA are required to hold a minimum level of stocks equivalent to 90 days of net oil imports in the previous year. Australia easily complies with this requirement.
What the Government is conveniently ignoring is that net oil imports for nearly all the other International Energy Agency countries are the same as total oil consumption. In other words, most of the other countries are holding the equivalent of 90 days’ total consumption, and our objective is only 75 days’ total consumption.
On ethanol, which receives a page or two, I again make the point I made a couple of months ago, the last time the Government brought in one of these phoney statements, that we do not believe there is any justification whatsoever for limiting the number of licences granted for the excise-free production of ethanol. No dangerous technology is involved and people ought to be able to make individual decisions as to whether they will establish small scale plants for their own use without any pettifogging interference from governments or government bureaucrats.
I shall say a last word on the Government’s energy policy or lack of energy policy, lt does not have an energy policy. It has never had an energy policy, lt has a fuel taxing policy, a petrol taxing policy, which will raise in this financial year $3.5 billion which is the cause of both the reduced Government deficit and the rising inflation. It is no mystery, it is no coincidence, that at the same time as the deficit goes down inflation goes up. Those two phenomena have a common cause. The common cause is the Government’s petroleum taxing policy which is responsible for the reduction in the deficit and for the increase in inflation. The Government continues to talk as though a reduced deficit guarantees lower inflation, blithely disregarding both the empirical evidence of the last three years and, of course, the conclusion to which any rational analysis of the cause of that lower deficit would lead one to. As the last word on the subject 1 will quote from a Dunkeld grazier, Mr Lin Cameron, who was reported in the Warrnambool Standard on 5 July last as having resigned from the National Country Party, which was a fairly astute move. It took Mr Cameron 62 years to do this. The catalyst was the Government’s oil pricing policy. The article states: . . Mr Lin Cameron, yesterday resigned from the National Country Party over its support for Federal Government fuel policies.
Senior party officials were unavailable for comment last night, but Central Councillor, Mr Geoff Dyson, said the news came as a shock.
The 62-year-old sheep and cattle producer has been actively involved with the Country Party since 1937.
– He was a candidate on several occasions.
– Yes. The report says that on several occasions he was a candidate for the Country Party and was actively involved for the last 43 years.
– For how long did he belong to the Country Party?
– For the last 43 years he was actively involved in the Country Party and he just resigned. He could not stand it any more because the Country Party supports the Government’s fuel pricing policy. He was reported in the article as saying:
I hope my resignation will carry some weight and bring home the point. lt was a last resort to get the Federal Government to come to its senses and change the fuel policy before the next elections,’ he said. If they altered the policy to give people the benefit of cheap Australian crude oil, I would consider rejoining.’ 1 have only one comment to add: The Country Party not only supports this disastrous petrol taxing policy which is about to cost this Government office but also the Country Party was the architect of the disastrous petrol pricing policy. Mr Anthony has unashamedly argued for it at every opportunity since 1974. He finally conned the Liberal Party into accepting it mostly because, I suppose, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saw what he thought was an excellent way to pursue further his high taxing policies by stealth. Mr Cameron has shown very good judgment in resigning from the Country Party over the issue, but he has not got it quite right. The Country Party is not a collaborator in the policy: It is the instigator and architect of it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– In terms of Standing Order 448 I move:
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston)- There is a motion before the chair. The question is that the motion be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-In terms of Standing Order 448 I move:
– I second the motion.
– We have abundant evidence here today of an apparent attempt by the Government to mislead the Australian people grievously on a matter of great and urgent importance, that is, the Government’s energy policy. Not only do we have that situation but also we have an obvious attempt by the Government to suppress discussion on this matter in the Senate. I gave notice that I wished to speak on this matter. In spite of that notice the debate was adjourned at the stage where only one speaker–
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. This statement relates to matters of substance, not to the motion before the Chair.
- Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. Senator Mason has been forced into this situation. I think he rose actually to speak on the motion that the debate be adjourned to the next day of sitting. He should have been allowed to speak to that motion.
– No, he moved that Standing Orders be suspended.
– Subsequently he did. In so moving he has now given the reasons why he has moved that motion. I do not see how the Government can possibly stop him on this occasion, lt is fairly clear that he has given the reasons why he has moved that Standing Orders be suspended.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- On the point of order, there is no inclination from the Chair to stop you, Senator Mason, but you realise, of course, that any matters that you mention must relate to the motion you have moved in relation to the Standing Orders.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am very well aware of that and, indeed, I thought that was the line of my argument. In moving this motion I feel I must justify that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would permit me making a statement on energy. The point 1 am attempting to make is that we have had evidence in the Senate today that there is a gross effort - at least in our view - to deceive the Australian people on this subject. Because of that it is necessary that I be permitted to bring up certain matters which, in fact, are matters of comment on those points brought up in the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) today. I think this is a fair comment on the motion. The matter of energy is crucial to the Australian people. In terms of Standing Order 448 I cannot move a motion unless I am genuinely convinced of some urgency, and indeed I am. Time is running out for this country very rapidly on this whole matter of energy. If we are to take what is in this statement which was presented a little while ago as being a statement of what the Government’s intentions are, the Government is not taking such steps as are necessary to guarantee the welfare of the people of this country. Moreover, the Government makes statements which are not correct and which are against the demonstrated facts. For that reason I believe it is essential that I be allowed to present the demonstrated facts and the debate continue on that basis. What other matters would the Government propose to bring on for debate tonight? I doubt that anything of more importance than this matter could be brought on tonight.
– Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. It is quite clear that the honourable senator is going well beyond the bounds of Standing Orders in debating issues rather than debating the motion before the Chair. I believe you should enforce the Standing Orders in that respect.
– 1 think this situation arose because Senator Mason wished to speak to the motion that had been moved earlier concerning energy.
– No, no.
– Let us try to sort out the matter. When we discussed the procedures before the suspension of the sitting for dinner we agreed, as I understood it, as we did last week, that to expedite the presentation of papers to the Senate no senator was precluded from speaking to any one of those items. I think Senator Carrick made that clear last week.
– That is absolutely untrue. It did not preclude any senator from moving a motion.
– You may regard it as being untrue. It is certainly not intentionally untrue. But it certainly was my understanding that last week Senator Carrick made it quite clear that he would not prevent discussion simply by adopting this new method of presenting statements to the Senate.
– He prevented discussion last week.
– That may be so, but I do not think there was a desire to prevent discussion today. Senator Walsh sought leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement. Had the Minister realised that Senator Mason wished to speak - I do not know whether she knew that - I do not think that there would have been an intention to prevent him from speaking on the matter. Mr Acting Deputy President, you called an honourable senator from the Government side of the chamber - I do not say that that was intentional - when Senator Mason rose to speak. I was watching him. We now have ourselves in a bind. Surely Senator Mason is entitled to speak, but to do so he has to adopt the method of moving a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. He should not be prevented from making his comments on the matter of energy. That is the position we are in. Certainly, if points of order are to be taken against him by Government senators simply to prevent him from speaking, 1 suggest to the Government that it should either let him proceed and make his comments or seek leave to move a motion again in respect of the statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston)- On the point of order. Senator Mason moved that the Standing Orders be suspended, lt is to that motion that he is speaking. Senator Mason, I call you and ask you to confine your remarks to that motion. We can go ahead with subsequent motions from there.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. With all good will, at the time that the last point of order was called, I think I was speaking about a comparison between the motion I moved to permit me to make a statement on energy and other business might come before the Senate tonight. I think what I was saying was highly relevant to the motion, lt had nothing to do with energy; it was relevant only to the question of whether the motion should be carried. I am speaking to the motion in the hope that it will be carried. Senator Knight raised a point of order because I was making that point. If a point of order against my making that point in an attempt to justify my moving that motion is sustained the place will have come to a very strange conclusion indeed.
To continue with that thought, I would have thought that from what I have said so far - by no means have I commenced directly on the ministerial statement; I have merely made a statement which to my mind is factual - it would be apparent that it is a matter of urgency to the Australian people that the record should be set straight on matters of energy because persistently and repeatedly it has been put wrong. I believe that I have the right to move the motion I have moved to enable me to achieve that objective. That, in fact, is what I am attempting to do at this time.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I am sorry to interrupt if I am doing so unreasonably.
– I beg your pardon, are you taking a point of order?
– I wish to raise a point of order under Standing Order 448.
– Then you should say so.
– The honourable senator indicated that he believed that statements which have been made have been wrong and he clearly indicated that he wishes to debate those issues. He has a motion before the Chair, lt is his task to prove the case for that motion and not to debate the issues, as he is doing. He has just indicated that what he was saying previously was irrelevant to the motion which he moved. If his comments are irrelevant, I put it to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that he is not properly observing Standing Orders. If I may make one comment on what Senator Wriedt said, what is being done in this case is not in any way different from what is normally done with the presentation of papers and statements in this place, lt is not in any way different from what has normally been done in the handling of the program of the Senate in the past or, for example, last week.
– I would like to speak to the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Standing Order 450 reads:
The suspension of Standing Orders shall be limited in its operation to the particular purpose for which such suspension has been sought.
I have listened very carefully to Senator Mason and I think that what he is endeavouring to do is in line with that Standing Order. Senator Knight is trying to restrict Senator Mason in outlining his reasons for using Standing Order 448 to seek a suspension of Standing Orders to allow him to speak to a statement which was presented to this Parliament. It was not even read to the Senate. Leave was granted to incorporate this very important statement in Hansard. Apart from very few selected senators in the chamber, none of us knew what was contained in the statement, even though the Minister was granted leave to incorporate it in Hansard. In my view, the Minister should have read the statement. That is the matter which is concerning Senator Mason. I put it to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that Senator Mason should be allowed to develop the argument which he is putting forward for the suspension of Standing Orders under Standing Order 448.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I will allow Senator Mason to continue. He knows the parameters within which he must speak on the motion. If his motion is passed he will be able to speak on the energy matter. I think that if we all allow Senator Mason a few minutes to establish his argument we will be able to put the matter to a vote and carry on from there.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I would like to clarify this matter if I may. With all respect to Senator Knight, I do not think that he has realised what the motion I moved is. I said that, in terms of Standing Order 448, 1 move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Mason making a statement on energy.
I do not want to discuss the statement on energy at this stage; I merely wish to justify the need for the suspension of Standing Orders. My reasons, and I repeat them, are simply that I believe that in the Parliament today we have had evidence that the Government is attempting, for whatever reasons - I would like to examine them - to deceive the Australian people in important ways on the subject of energy and that, moreover, the Government is attempting to suppress discussion of that matter. I rest my case on that point.
– I wish to reinforce Senator Mason’s argument. I think Senator Knight has overlooked the fact that in the halycon days of the Democratic Labour Party that party was given special privileges. I think all Senator Mason wants for the Australian Democrats is the same treatment as the Government gave that political mercenary, the DLP. Senator Knight, by his opposition, is denying the Australian Democrats that treatment. In practical politics, the Australian Democrats want the same crack of the whip as the DLP had. I could not put it any clearer than that.
That the motion (Senator Mason’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - I move:
I move this motion because we have before us a report that is tantamount to being appalling, and we will never be given time to read it and to debate it properly. This report, from what I have been able to gather, indicates that the Opposition view that the Government would allow no thoughts of care and consideration of Aboriginal people to stand in the way of the uranium industry was correct. It illustrates that our view that this Government believes that profits come before people was correct.
At the time when this Government was forcing through the Parliament legislation that would enable the nuclear power industry to do what it liked to the northern part of this country, we were accused of using and abusing the Aboriginal people of Australia to prevent the Ranger uranium project going ahead. We were called at that time emotive and hysterical. We were told that we did not know the facts. We were told that what we wanted to do was to stop the development of Australia. I wonder who has been proved correct. Is it hysterical now to say that the nuclear industry is dying? Nowhere in the world has the nuclear industry reached its stated potential.
The nuclear industry in countries such as Britain, France, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the United States of America, we were told, was to prove to be the saviour and was, by this time in our history, not only to provide the greater amount of the energy in those countries but also to provide Australia with jobs and with money. All those countries have had breakdowns in their nuclear reactors. All those countries have nuclear reactors that are out of action. All those countries are behind in their stated programs of reaching a certain level of nuclear energy. Why is that? They are in that state because the nuclear industry is inefficient, it is out of action more often than it is working, and it is too expensive. As one United States Congressman said: ‘Hell, if it isn’t even cheaper, why take the risk?’ That is exactly the sentiment that is sweeping across Europe and across most other countries of the world, that thought they would be taking their energy from the nuclear industry.
The cost of producing energy has gone from $200 a kilowatt to well over $3,000 a kilowatt if produced from nuclear power. The cost of building nuclear power stations is rising to $4 billion. The Environment Energy and Natural Resources Sub-Committee of the United States Congress in its findings said:
Capital construction costs of nuclear plants as well as fuel costs have risen dramatically. Construction costs have risen 10 times faster than the Consumer Price Index and more than twice the rate of coal fired plants.
The cost of alternatives, when those nuclear plants have broken down, is now abortive. The cost of closing down and burying those nuclear power stations is a cost that nobody knows. That same United States Congress Sub-Committee said:
After 30 years of nuclear power development, technology to dismantle a large commercial reactor has not yet been demonstrated and the costs of dismantling such a reactor are still unknown.
Nobody knows how far over $3 billion that cost will go. What about the waste? Again, nobody knows. The United States Congress Subcommittee said:
Neither the Federal Government nor the Nuclear Industry has prepared reliable cost estimates for the ultimate disposal and perpetual care of radioactive wastes and spent nuclear fuel.
The nuclear industry is screaming because it can no longer contain the waste and it cannot continue until it knows the answers to these questions. Over $300m has been invested in the Ranger uranium project, and still no contracts have been signed except for one miserable contract with South Korea. That is the only contract that has actually been signed. Apart from that, it is all theory. Where are the customers who were to beat a path to our door? Where are the 200,000 jobs that Australians were to have arising from the nuclear industry? Where is the profit that was to increase our standard of living? Instead, what do we have? We have few jobs, and they are getting fewer. There has been no increase in our standard of living; in fact, more people in Australia are living below the poverty line. There may be unknown damage to our environment, to our inland waterways, to our animal, bird and fish life, and now, worst of all, to the people who live there, to the people whose homeland this is. They did not want uranium mined. They did not want the profit from mining uranium, but this Government pressured them to sign an agreement that they did not want. I will quote from what was said by two people who epitomise the varying arguments put up about Ranger Uranium Mines.
Mick Martin, an employee of Ranger Uranium Mines said:
The big states down south, they’re jealous . . . this is a multi-multi-billion dollar project … we could mine here for 200 years.
We may mine for 200 years but it will be much longer before we get those multi billion dollars. On the other hand, Silas Maralngurra, the Oenpelli Council Chairman, said:
We don’t want that Ranger town. That is our country. We could be destroyed, like our people in the southern states.
Those were the two views put to this Government about mining uranium. Were the Aboriginal people allowed to develop their point? Did the Government listen? On the one hand, the white people working in the mines were seduced by the jobs, the high money for a time, the booze and the fishing. On the other hand, the Aboriginal people were left without their homeland and the areas they held sacred with no help from big government, no assistance, compassion or care. They are little people desperately striving to hold out against the multinationals who care not one jot that they will be destroyed. The Government cannot say that it did not know. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry reported in 1977. The Fox report stated:
The Region has been occupied by Aboriginals for at least 25,000 years and probably much longer. The rivers and wetlands of the flood plains, the open forests and woodlands of the lowlands, and the sandstone gorges and plateaux provide a great variety of habitats and food resources. Before European settlement, the Aboriginals’ lifestyle was dictated to a large extent by the wet dry seasonal regime. Different parts of the Region provided food resources at different times and the seasons governed the ease of movement from place to place. The rock shelters and caves of the escarpments of the main plateau and outlying sandstone massifs provided protected shelters conveniently placed for exploiting all habitats. The Region is naturally productive, and a large portion of it was occupied until recently by a relatively large population of Aboriginals.
The Government cannot say that it did not understand what the land meant to Aboriginal people. Now we hear cynical jokes from members of the Government and the miners about declaring places sacred sites. The miners maintain that the Aboriginal people use the theme of sacred sites and say ‘the land is part of me’ to prevent their developing mines. The considerable body of people who conducted the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry found otherwise. The report of the inquiry stated:
Of all the relationships traditional Aboriginal man has with anybody or anything, the most important is that which binds him to a particular tract of land which he refers to as ‘his country’. This is a religious bond. The people have a spiritual relationship with the species and the physical features of their environment, expressed through the concept of the dreaming’.
Were the people who made up the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry dupes? Were they people who were not likely to understand ? Were they just sentimentalists or were they people who really understood what one means when one talks about sacred sites and the land being part of a person and part of his whole environment? The Fox Commission said:
The Aboriginals are the largest ethnic group in the Region, and the only one considering the area their permanent and only home. Most continue to hold values and beliefs consistent with traditional Aboriginal society and continue to recognise a religious relationship with the land. The Aboriginals continue to hunt game and gather foods, but their lifestyle is more sedentary than in traditional times.
I can imagine what members of this Government would say if somebody did what they considered to be an obscene thing to St Paul’s Cathederal in Melbourne or the Roman Catholic cathederal in Sydney but they do not seem to care a jot when somebody does very obscene things to the land which the Aboriginal people of Australia regard as sacred and to which they believe they have a religious relationship. The Fox report continued:
The Aboriginals are faced with programs involving rapid social change, and these are causing a great deal of concern and difficulty for the people. The Gunbalanya Council is on the verge or breakdown, and increasing numbers of people are seeking refuge from the growing tensions and pressures either by withdrawing from contact situations (decentralisation) or by seeking relief through the consumption of alcohol.
The Aboriginals of the Region are a depressed group whose standards of living are far below those acceptable to the wider Australian society. They are a community whose lives have been, and are still being, disrupted by the intrusions of an alien people. They feel the pressures of the white man’s activities in relation to their land. In the face of mining exploration, and the threat of much further development, they feel helpless and lost.
The Government knew that. It knew that there were people living in that area balanced between two cultures. One of those people balanced between two cultures, Mr Silas Roberts, who was Chairman of the Northern Land Council, said: lt is true that the people who are belonging to a particular area are really part of that area and if that area is destroyed they are also destroyed . . . We are worried that we are losing a little bit, a little bit, all of the time. We keep our ceremony, our culture, but we are always worried. We still perform our ceremonies . . . lt is a long hard road to final answer. Sometimes a person or group will say ‘yes’ then talk a little bit more and then say ‘no’. Then more talk might take place after a few months and still no final answer. Then all the people who really belong to that country will go over it all again until everyone is sure of his answer and then the answer is given. That may be years after the first talks if the question is a hard one.
The question was a hard one for those people. Aboriginal people will not be destroyed because they are weak or unintelligent but because they are given no assistance to cope with an acquisitive technological regime by a government which wanted to rush in and grab what there was to grab. All civilisation is knocked out of the situation because of the belief that profit is everything by a government that rushed in to try to get some return for the uranium miners in a market that was rapidly weakening. We knew in 1977 when the report of the Environmental Inquiry came down that there was very little future for the uranium industry or the nuclear industry. By then the writing was on the wall right across the world. Country after country was moving away from nuclear power because it could not handle the technology. Those countries cannot handle it now.
A group of Japanese people are in this country at the moment trying to get us to take their thousands of tonnes of waste from the nuclear industry because they cannot cope with it in Japan. They hope that because we have a large tract of land, and because we want to sell them uranium, we will take their waste. After all, as I have said before, if a person has a product on a falling market for which there are not too many buyers, if he adds some sort of incentive to the material he has to sell he might sell it. I cannot believe that the Government has not held out some sort of carrot like that to bring the Japanese to Australia hoping that we will take their waste. The Government has knocked all civilised thought out of its dealings with the Aboriginal people in Australia. That is because, as I said, to them profit is everything and people are nothing. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry came down with a conclusion about the Aboriginal people in the area of the Northern Territory. It said:
The arrival of large numbers of white people in the Region will potentially be very damaging to the welfare and interests of the Aboriginal people there. All the expert evidence on this matter was to the effect that, despite sometimes sincere and dedicated effort on the part of all concerned to avoid such results, the rapid development of a European community within, or adjacent to, an Aboriginal traditional society has in the past always caused the breakdown of the traditional culture and the generation of intense social and psychological stresses within the Aboriginals. There is no evidence which convincingly demonstrates that the result in the Region will be different, although the recognition of Aboriginal land rights is a uniquely favourable factor in this regard.
We have a conclusion. The Government did not pay any attention. The conclusions that could have been drawn from the Ranger Inquiry were not drawn. The Aboriginal people of northern Australia are in a devastating position. We have before us tonight a report by a special committee of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. The reports warns the Government that Aboriginal communities face major confusion over compensation and royalty payments. It criticises the failure to provide adequate financial and investment advice to Aboriginals suddenly confronted by immense wealth. It deplores the lack of adequate consultation with Aboriginal groups affected by mining. It warns of growing frustration and anger among tribal communities suddenly faced with modern civilization. It warns of possible future violence as a chain reaction to social changes sets in. It urges the Government to stop uranium mining in the Northern Territory until the Aboriginal people who are involved have been given time to adjust. We all know that the Government has that time, because it cannot sell the uranium that has already been mined in the Northern Territory - the uranium that is sitting there, covered in concrete, waiting for the fairy godmother to turn it into those millions of dollars that were going to make Australians so much richer. But it appears that the Government may yet be brought to account by the very people that it refuses to consider. Members of the National Aboriginal Conference are going to Geneva to give evidence before the United Nations Sub-committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This Government and Malcolm Fraser may yet be asked to account to the world for their inhuman, uncaring exploitation of the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Mr Deputy President, it has been my intention to speak in relation to the paper that has been presented. There was no–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no debate, Senator.
– I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the report on Aborigines.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I gather that you put that question and that it was carried. Is that correct?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have still to put the question.
That the motion (Senator Dame Margaret Gullfoyle’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave to make a statement on the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Leave not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Coleman) put:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Coleman making a statement on the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
The Senate divided: (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– As the debate is of such an urgent nature, I move:
– The purpose of the debate is to deal with those people to whom we have an obligation to give some protection. Possibly it is our most important consideration. If the Government pushes it aside until the next day of sitting the matter will go on the Notice Paper and will not be considered for the rest of the session. This is shameful behaviour by Government senators. I think the Government, although by its numbers in the House it has succeeded in not permitting a debate on this question tonight, nevertheless has some responsibility. It cannot plead with the National Aboriginal Conference not to go to the United Nations to argue its case about the Government’s selling out the Aborigines at Noonkanbah when it will not discuss Aboriginal grievances here.
This report has been made by possibly one of the most respected institutions dealing with Aboriginal affairs - the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies headed by Df Ucko. The notoriety of the issue can be seen in the report, brought down by the committee of which Dr Coombs was a member. The report deals not so much with the question of uranium mining but with -the effect it has on the social conditions of the Aboriginal people. Although we may be giving them wealth and enrichment we are nevertheless destroying their whole culture, the whole tribal system of Aboriginal existence. It appears that we are doing so with the Ranger project. The white population is increasing in Arnhem Land where the Aborigines have rarely seen white people. We are introducing grog and the image of sexually desirable individuals in the mining camps. What can we do about it? The Government wants to leave the finding of a solution for this question until the next session. The Opposition is insistent. The important thing is that we should make an immediate study of this report which I have seen only within the last half hour.
– And you had to ask for it.
– And we had to ask for it. We must see whether there is some solution to the problems which have presented themselves. A competent committee has reported on this matter and presented the report to us for our consideration and discussion. In my opinion, to ignore this Committee’s report is frightful.
Another matter of interest is that we were able to read in the Australian this morning some of the essentials contained in the report. We did not get the report until after 8 o’clock, after asking for it; nevertheless it was published in the Australian this morning, ls there something suspicious about politicians that requires that the public should have a report first? We were not told about the contents of the report, but we saw the article in the Australian this morning telling of an Aboriginal traditional owner, a female, who received a cheque for $52,000. She did not know what to do with it. She lives in an area without a bank, without Bankcard facilities, without a building society and with no credit institution. She took the cheque to the nearest garage and exchanged if for a fleet of secondhand cars. That woman spent $52,000 on a fleet of cars. The cheque had no significance to her; it was without value. But it did provide some capital gain in that she got a car. She got not only one car, but also a fleet of cars for the $52,000.
I notice from a quick glance at the report that whilst the Government has introduced a system to give Aboriginals the financial benefits of uranium mining it has made no provision for teaching the Aboriginals how to use that benefit. This system has brought about the destruction of everything that the Aboriginals hold dear. It is not so much related to the sacred sites, the hole in the ground or anything else, lt is the complete destruction of the primitive nature of Aboriginal society, and we must realise what this will do to the young Aboriginal people.
I appeal to the Senate to see that this report is treated with the urgency that it deserves, the urgency which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) speak of in expressing their concern for the Aboriginal people. I appeal to the Senate to treat the report seriously and ensure that we have a full discussion tonight, possibly after we have read the report.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment and 1 move:
That the question be now put.
– Mr President, 1 merely seek your guidance. Senator Baume has seconded the amendment and moved that the question be now put. I think that is contrary to the Standing Orders. He cannot second an amendment and move a motion in the same breath.
– Yes, he can.
– Which Standing Order states that?
– When I need Senator Baume’s very doubtful advice, I will ask for it.
– I inform Senator Keeffe that it is quite within the competence of Senator Baume to second the amendment moved by Senator Coleman and to move the motion that he has moved.
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment agreed to.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That Government Business, Orders of the Day Nos 3 to 7 (Honey Industry Bills 1980) be postponed until after consideration of Government Business, Order of the Day No. 8 (Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979).
– I wish to move an amendment to the motion proposed by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). 1 move:
Add at the end of the motion the words ‘and after the consideration of General Business relating to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies report’.
The Minister seeks to postpone Government business, orders of the Day Nos 3 to 7, until after consideration of the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) and in compliance with the decision of the Senate to debate the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. We have a clear decision of the Senate that the debate on that report should be brought on at a later hour this day. The Government has agreed to that course in the knowledge that it will not bring the matter on. This demonstrates defiance of the Executive of the expressed opinion of the Senate. This practice should not be allowed to continue, lt should not be allowed to operate in this House.
A decision has been made. 1 am not asking for a reason why this is the case. I am asking only for the observance of the superiority of the Senate over the Executive. I ask that the matters which the Minister seeks to defer until after consideration of other Government Business be deferred also until after consideration of the matter that the Senate decided be dealt with at a later hour this day. If we do not accept that course, we do not accept the majority decision of the Senate as having any legal binding or any binding at all upon the Senate. We have expressed a desire that the Senate should be the master of its own destiny. Instead of that, we are now getting to the position where, no matter what the Senate decides, the Executive determines the order of business in this place.
– ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. I wonder whether the
Senate realises how serious the matter is that we are seeking to debate. The report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, which is a very important report, was brought before the Senate tonight, lt is now known that the report was published in the Australian this morning. I think that was the crux of the argument that Senator Coleman was to place before the Senate. She could have moved a more substantive motion that the matter was one of privilege, because it seems obvious that the person who is responsible for the report leaked that report to the Australian before the Senate had knowledge of it and before it was tabled in this place. 1 think we ought to consider the amendment in that light. The matter needs to be debated now because arising out of the debate there may be a further motion which would take the matter to you, Mr President, by way of privilege.
All too often now we are finding very important reports being dealt with in this manner. This is a particularly important and rather damaging report. It is suggested that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) accepts that the report is damaging. This report would have been debated fully in the normal way if the Government had not suddenly decided to stifle debate. 1 think honourable senators would have then appreciated that something serious is at stake. A report which specifically was to be presented to the Senate - we do not receive such reports until they are tabled - was given to a journalist and was published in today’s Australian. How can we find a more serious situation? On previous occasions we have referred such matters to the Privileges Committee. Such action on the part of anyone is to the discredit of the Senate and we should search out the matter. For that reason I second the amendment. I suggest that the Government accept the amendment, that we proceed to debate the matter and allow Senator Coleman to put her case to the Senate on this very important report.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment. The amendment is confusing Government Business with General Business. By tradition General Business is dealt with in the Senate at times other than when Government Business is dealt with. By this motion the Government simply wishes to rearrange the order of its own business today, lt is highly unlikely that that matter, according to the order of business proposed by Senator Cavanagh, would be reached today in any event. If in the unlikely event that the business the Government wishes to deal with today was completed before the time for putting the motion for the adjournment tonight, we could give further consideration to whether this Order of the Day under General Business could be brought on for debate.
That the amendment (Senator Cavanagh’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
Some governments are prepared to regard persecution, prejudice and discrimination as acceptable. Even worse, there are governments prepared to expel their unwanted populations without concern for the people themselves or for the consequences their policies have for other countries. Some governments may unpredictably change their attitude and allow a large group of citizens who were previously refused permission to leave, to accept offers of sanctuary. This situation, which occurred recently in Cuba, seems to have been largely aimed at achieving Cuba’s own ends. But whatever the reason, freedom is too highly prized to be refused. This sort of situation, unfortunately, can lead to rackets involving the clandestine importation of illegal immigrants flouting the laws of the country of entry. Such ventures may involve the carriage of people secreted in ships and aircraft crossing national borders. Their motivation is greed and the returns can be large.
This Bill is directed at people who may attempt to bring people to Australia without first obtaining permission for their entry. It is intended to deal with anyone who attempts to introduce to Australia, by sea or air, passengers who have not obtained prior authority for travel to Australia. I emphasise it is not directed at the passengers themselves, whose situation may not be of their making and who may well qualify for consideration as refugees and, eventually, for resettlement under refugee programs. Events in the past few years have heightened concern at Australia’s vulnerability to this type of action.
Towards the end of 1978 five large freighters filled with Vietnamese arrived in parts of South East Asia. The Southern Cross sailed into Indonesian waters, the Hai Hong arrived off Malaysia, the Huey Fong and the Sky Luck showed up in Hong Kong and the Tung An went to the Philippines. Each carried between 1,500 and 3,000 passengers who had paid to leave their homeland with the sanction of their Government.
Over the past five years, small boatloads of refugees have made their way direct to our shores. A total of 53 such small boats has arrived in Australia carrying a total of 2,067 people. This total number is smaller than the numbers carried by some of the large vessels I mentioned. We have continued to be concerned about the risks taken by people in small boats who undertake this hazardous journey. The Government has established machinery to ensure that only those among these arrivals who qualify to remain in Australia are permitted to do so. We have noted that the Vietnamese Government, to date, has kept to its undertaking to maintain a moratorium on organised departures of its people. Whilst we hope that the moratorium will continue and that no other similar situations will arise, there is at present no adequate legislative provision for dealing with the arrival of vessels carrying people without visas or other prior authority to travel to Australia in the sorts or circumstances 1 have mentioned. This is not surprising. Few Governments have domestic legislation of this kind available. For this reason I am introducing legislation which is sufficiently comprehensive to deal with such situations, which will provide severe penalties for people be they owners, masters, crew, agents or charterers involved in such dealings and which will enable the Government to control such operations in Australia’s waters.
This Bill will enable the Government to take firm, responsible action against those profiting from human distress. In so doing, it will provide for the first time for adequate controls on vessels, be they refugee-carrying vessels or not, which might sail without invitation to Australia. To those who might argue that the penalties are harsh, I respond that they need to be so to deal with situations where millions of dollars can be made. While the situation remains stable we do not expect to need to use legislation of this kind. On the other hand, given the pattern of recent history, we must be ready to control new challenges which might be pressed on us by racketeers trafficking in human beings.
Australia has an extensive refugee resettlement program. We intend to continue that program at a responsible level. These measures are not intended to have a deleterious effect on innocent passengers. Separate machinery exists to deal with any problems posed by their arrival. Applicants for refugee status are considered by the Committee on the Determination of Refugee Status - the DORS Committee. Genuine refugees are granted sanctuary in conformity with the conditions laid down by the 1951 Geneva convention and 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees. The DORS Committee’s consideration is related to the definition of a refugee provided in the convention.
Genuine refugees have nothing to fear in seek- , ing Australian Government assistance. That is not to say, Mr President, that we will always be in a position to accept without question large numbers of refugees who push their claims for resettlement ahead of those of their compatriates who wait patiently in camps overseas. The Convention provides that we should offer asylum to genuine refugees presenting themselves here. That does not mean that Australia is bound to resettle them here. We must retain the right to make satisfactory arrangements in appropriate cases for refugees who should be resettled elsewhere. Whilst we recognise that for 2,067 Vietnamese arrivals Australia has become a country of first asylum, from time to time we have made arrangements with other countries for the resettlement of refugees where we believe there are compelling reasons for them to go to those countries. Such reasons may include the presence of family members in those countries. They may also relate to the responsibilities of those governments to accept refugees from vessels carrying their flags.
This Bill is intended to deter ships’ owners, masters, crew, agents and charterers from bringing people without visas or other proper prior authority to travel to Australia. We have no reason to believe that any vessel of this kind is currently sailing towards Australia but we cannot afford to assume that in the future no such vessels might try to make their way here.
I shall now deal with particular aspects of the Bill. Clause 6 is central to the scheme of controlling unauthorised arrivals to Australia. The clause makes it an offence, punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or 10 years’ imprisonment, or both, for the operators including crew members, of aircraft and ships to bring into Australia more than five relevant persons. A relevant person is defined in clause 3 to mean a person who is not an Australian citizen, does not hold a visa or a return endorsement for travel to Australia or is not exempted by the Minister from the necessity to obtain a visa or return endorsement.
The number of relevant persons may be increased or decreased by regulation under the Bill. Clause 5 authorises the making of regulations prescribing different numbers of persons for different classes or types of vessels. The Government has given careful consideration to determining the appropriate number of relevant persons. Five has been selected as a means of excluding from the heavy penalties contained in the Bill small boats and commercial flights and cruises which may include a small number of unauthorised persons on board and which may inadvertently bring to Australia persons who have not been issued with a visa or return endorsement. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) has instructed his Department to examine the means whereby regulations can be made that will differentiate between bona fide commercial carriers and the unscrupulous people at whom this Bill is directed.
As mentioned previously, the Bill is designed as a deterrent to profiteers bringing unauthorised arrivals to Australia. Failure to render the crew of a vessel strictly liable would lessen this deterrent effect. Whilst it is unusual for crew members to be liable for offences experience has shown that crew members of the big refugee boats have been intimately involved in the operation. It is therefore considered that because of the special situation to which the Bill is directed, participating crew members should be equally liable for the offence. Persons coming to Australia on board an aircraft will be treated as having been brought to Australia only if the aircraft lands in Australia, whether or not they have disembarked. Persons coming to Australia on a ship will be treated as having been brought to Australia on the ship if it brings them into Australian waters.
Because clause 6 applies to aircraft and ships which bring people to Australia in circumstances where the people do not intend to disembark in Australia and where it is not really intended that the aircraft or ship come into a port in Australia, the clause sets out a number of defences that may be raised in a prosecution for an offence against the clause. Sub-clause 6 (7) makes it a defence in relation to an aircraft if the person charged establishes that the aircraft landed in Australia only by reason of an unforeseen emergency. Subclause 6 (8) makes it a defence to a prosecution in relation to a ship if the person charged satisfies the court that the ship entered the territorial sea in the right of innocent passage or if the ship entered Australian waters in consequence of an unforeseen emergency which rendered it necessary for the ship to be brought into Australian waters in order to secure the safety of the ship, its cargo or human life.
Sub-clauses 6 (3) and 6 (4) deal with the situation where a vessel has been commandeered by persons and after such commandeering has taken place, more than five relevant persons are brought to Australia. The offence in these sub-clauses involves substantially the same elements of the principal offence but makes liable, instead of the owner, master, crew, agent and charterer, each person involved in the commandeering.
Should a vessel come within the provisions of the Bill, clause 7 makes it an offence for any person, without lawful excuse, to disable or scuttle the vessel. The offence is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or 10 years’ imprisonment or both. It will be a defence under the clause if the person can satisfy the court that it was reasonable in all the circumstances for him to take the action he did in order to secure the safety of the vessel, its cargo or human life. Clauses 8 and 9 regulate the disembarkation of persons from vessels to which the Bill applies.
Clause 8 establishes an offence of disembarkation from ships or leaving an appointed airport without written permission. The effect of the clause is to require the master and crew of the vessel to see that no one other than Australian citizens, and those who have been granted an entry permit or have been exempted from obtaining an entry permit, disembark from the vessel without authority. Failure to comply with this requirement renders the master and crew members liable to a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for two years or both in respect of each person who disembarks without authority. Because it is possible that, having regard to the condition of the vessel or the situation in which the vessel is placed, persons have to disembark in order to protect themselves from being killed or injured, subclause 8 (II) provides that it is a defence to a prosecution if the person charged establishes that there were reasonable grounds to believe that had the person remained on board the vessel he was in danger of being killed or injured.
Clause 9 establishes a procedure whereby the persons concerned may be permitted to disembark from a vessel that has entered Australia as a result of an emergency without their being deemed to have entered Australia. Clause 10 provides that persons who have disembarked in accordance with a permit may be granted an entry permit under the Migration Act permitting them to remain in Australia or that the Minister may direct that they have entered Australia, become prohibited immigrants and thus liable to deportation under the Migration Act. Where persons have disembarked either with or without a permit from a vessel that has entered Australia as a result of an emergency, Clause 1 1 provides that the master may be required to remove or make arrangements for the removal of those persons from Australia without charge to the Commonwealth. Failure to comply with such a requirement renders the master liable to a penalty of $5,000 or two years’ imprisonment or both in respect of each person he refuses or fails to remove. Clause 1 3 imposes a liability on the master of the vessel to reimburse the Commonwealth the costs it may have incurred in maintaining persons who have disembarked from the vessel and were required to obtain a disembarkation permit.
Clauses 16 and 17 are largely facilitation provisions which enable the boarding, searching and detention of vessels in relation to which a clause 6, 7 or 8 offence is believed to have been committed. Clause 1 8 provides that if the master of an aircraft or ship claims that an unforeseen emergency affecting the airworthiness of the aircraft or the seaworthiness of the ship rendered it necessary to bring persons on board that aircraft or ship to Australia, the Minister may require the master to undertake the necessary repairs within a specified time. If those repairs are not undertaken and completed within that time, the master becomes liable to the same penalty that he would have incurred if he had been prosecuted under clause 6 and was unable to avail himself of the defence in relation to an unforeseen emergency.
Clause 19, a supplementary provision, provides that where circumstances giving rise to an unforeseen emergency have ceased to exist - for instance by virtue of completion of repairs; abatement of a storm or hospitalising of sick persons who were on board the aircraft or ship - the Minister may, by notice in writing, require the master to cause the vessel to leave Australia within a period specified in the notice. The penalty for failure to comply with the notice is the same as the penalty for the primary offence in clause 6. Clause 20 provides that in addition to any penalty that may be imposed for an offence against clauses 6, 7, 8, 11, 18 or 19, a court may also order the forfeiture of the vessel or the vessel and its cargo. Before any proceedings for an offence which attracts a maximum penalty of $100,000 and/or 10 years’ imprisonment, the consent of the Attorney-General is required to be obtained. This requirement is contained in clause 23 of the Bill, lt further provides that, notwithstanding the fact that the Attorney’s consent has not been obtained, a person can be charged for the offence, arrested and remanded in custody or released on bail.
Finally, clauses 2 and 31 provide that the Bill is to come into operation on a date to be proclaimed and remain in force for a period of 12 months unless sooner repealed. Clause 3 1 provides that the Governor-General may extend the Act’s operation for periods of up to a maximum of 12 months but only in accordance with a resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament. This will give the Parliament control over the extension of the operation of the Act. Mr President, the Government sees the Bill as an essential part of maintaining immigration controls and believes that it will provide an effective deterrent to the operators of vessels who may consider bringing unauthorised persons to Australia. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
– I move:
I think this amendment shows the importance of the report of the Institute, lt is a Senate decision that the report be discussed at a later hour today. The Government puts Aboriginal affairs so low in priority that now it wants to discuss the establishment of a museum before the report is debated. I suppose all Aboriginals will be in the museum before uranium mining is finalised. I think it is important for the Senate to insist on its decision and the superiority of the Senate to make the decision. I do not think we should bring on legislation concerning a museum while we have on the Notice Paper a report that we are not prepared to discuss. Therefore, I have moved the amendment.
– I second the amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh. I do so for a number of reasons. My concern is that once again we see the situation - this is not the first time we have been faced with this situation in the Senate - where we arrive in the morning and receive a copy of a newspaper detailing to great extent a report which it states will be tabled in the Parliament later that day. We arrive at our desks during the afternoon when the House sits at 2.30 p.m.–
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. This matter has already been brought before the Senate and it has been ruled on. The Bill before the House should be dealt with. I raise a point of order that this matter has already been decided by the Senate.
– There is obviously no point of order. The motion being debated is: That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay’. It has nothing to do with what Senator Teague is talking about.
- Senator Coleman is seconding an amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh. There is no point of order. I call Senator Coleman.
– Thank you for your assistance, Mr President. I was saying that all too frequently we arrive at our desks in the afternoon and are presented with a list entitled ‘Proposed Presentation of Papers’. Paper No. 9 is:
Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies- Report to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the Social Impact of Uranium Mining on the Aborigines of the Northern Territory, together with the text of a statement relating to the Report.
This report has already been fully published in this morning’s Australian and it is now being presented to us as secondhand material. As yet we have not seen the text of the statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). As yet we have not seen the report. As yet we have not - unless we ask for it - been able to obtain a copy of the report to the Minister.
– Do not debate the report,
– I am debating the need, as Senator Cavanagh sees it, to have this matter debated immediately. I believe it is very important that we are now in a position to ask how a representative of the Australian newspaper was able to take advantage of a report which was not presented to us as members of this Parliament until later today. As Senator Cavanagh has already said and to my mind, it is much more important than a Bill dealing with a museum. It is of great importance to a large number of Australian people, both black and white. We on this side of the chamber at least are concerned that there is an opportunity now to air our points of view not only on the report but also on the way in which the report has already been published in a daily newspaper.
– But you cannot debate that report at this stage. You are seconding an amendment to do a certain thing in respect of deferral.
– I am endeavouring to point out why it is so much more important–
– The motion was That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay’, to which Senator Cavanagh moved an amendment. Do not debate the subject matter which could possibly lead to what was indicated by Senator Cavanagh.
– I am simply making the point in support of Senator Cavanagh’s motion that this item is of much greater importance to a large number of Australians than a report on a museum or a Bill to establish a museum. I am not endeavouring to debate the issue. I am simply questioning the right of members outside this chamber to have access to a report prior to the time that it is received by the members of this Parliament. I believe that is the matter of great importance at this time and should be proceeded with without any further delay.
– The Government opposes the amendment. In substance the question has really already been discussed this evening and decided by the Senate. It was decided that Government Business will not be postponed for the purpose of consideration of this report to which the Opposition seems to be attaching great significance this evening. The Senate knows perfectly well that the motion I have moved is a formal one moved in the course of getting a Bill introduced into the Senate. There is no intention of debating this Bill tonight ahead of other Government Business.
-I wish to speak to the motion in view of what Senator Durack has just said about the matter having already been decided. I raised this matter with you, Mr President, on a point of order after the last division. Senator Cavanagh’s amendment to facilitate our proceeding with this matter which we wish to discuss was lost on the vote. Mr President, you then put the motion, while Opposition
Senators were on the other side of the chamber, that Senator Durack ‘s motion be agreed to. That is the same motion that is being put now. My distinct recollection was that you declared the vote to be in favour of the noes. Mr President, I ask you to listen to the tapes and report back to the chamber tomorrow because no division was called for and you declared the vote to be in favour of the noes. That meant that Senator Durack’s motion was lost and the chamber should have proceeded with the motion which was moved by Senator Cavanagh by way of an amendment. Mr President, I ask you to listen to the Hansard tapes so that you can verify that you declared Senator Durack’s motion lost.
– I believe 1 was correct in that which I stated.
That the amendment (Senator Cavanagh’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
This Bill provides for the establishment of a national museum of Australian history. Its establishment will fill a gap in the array of institutions charged with the preservation of our cultural heritage and will demonstrate to the world the pride that we have in our country. As a nation we have been somewhat diffident in expressing an interest in our history and our culture. This is to be regretted for our history and culture are rich, fascinating and, may I add, developing. Our children should have the opportunity to see and to understand aspects of life in Australia in the past so that they can learn for the future. This museum will provide that opportunity and will, I hope, prove to be a national focus for all Australians.
In 1 975, the report of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections - the Pigott report - was tabled in the Parliament. The report contained a number of important recommendations and the Government has already implemented a number of them. Those implemented include the Scheme on Tax Incentives for the Arts, the Historic Shipwrecks Act and training courses in materials conservation. In this Bill, the Government proposes the implementation of perhaps the most important recommendation of the report - the establishment of a national museum of Australian history. I would like to compliment the members of the Committee for the very forward looking report they submitted. It is a tribute to them that the majority of the major recommendations have now been acted upon and the museum movement and Australia generally are richer for their work.
The national museum is, as recommended by the Pigott Committee, to be known as the Museum of Australia. It will have three main themes- the history of Aboriginal man, the history of non-Aboriginal man and the interaction of man with his environment in Australia. 1 commend the Committee for this exciting and unique concept. This Bill has been drafted so as to encourage the Council, which will be appointed following proclamation of the Act, to develop the concept and bring it to fruition. The Museum of Australia will not be three separate museums on the one site. To be effective the three themes must be inter-related and complement each other. Man is affected by and in turn affects his environment and it is to be regretted that, in the past, museums have tended to treat human and natural history separately. The Museum of Australia will not have this failing and visitors to it will have the opportunity of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of life in Australia.
The Bill provides that the history of Aboriginal man will be encompassed in the Gallery of Aboriginal Australia. The Gallery is the first of the themes recommended by the Pigott Committee, and is specifically mentioned in the Bill, not by chance but to indicate that a history of Australia would be meaningless or misleading if it did not highlight the history and culture of the original inhabitants of this continent. As the report of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections states:
If the human history of Australia were to be marked on a 1 2 hour clockface, the era of the white man would run for only the last three or four minutes.
The Museum of Australia will not give mere token recognition to Aboriginal history and culture. Nor will it portray that history and culture in the way considered suitable by Europeans. The Council is required by the Bill to pursue a policy directed at securing the development and maintenance of the Gallery and the exhibition of historical material by persons who are Aboriginals. In effect. Aboriginal people are invited to explain to the world their history and the richness of their culture. The Bill does not specify in any way how the other two themes which constitute the balance of the Museum of Australia will be developed. This is left to the staff and the Council of the Museum.
Provision is made in the Bill for an Interim Council which may be established before the permanent Council is appointed. The Interim Council may exercise all the powers and functions of the Council but it is envisaged that it will be primarily concerned with developing the concept and preparing a program of construction and costs. One particular task that it will have will be to prepare an acquisitions policy for the Museum and to implement that policy within the constraints of the funds made available. The basis of a national historical collection already exists but considerably more research and planning will be necessary before it can be developed into a collection worthy of a national museum.
In this regard, I would remind members of the Scheme of Tax Incentives for the Arts. This was introduced several years ago to encourage persons owning material suitable for the collections of public libraries, museums and art galleries to donate it and in return they are entitled to claim a tax deduction based on the market value of their donation, lt is an excellent scheme and the people of Australia will, following the passage of this Bill, be able to assist in the development of our national museum of history with the advantage of this tax incentive. I am sure that there is a wealth of cultural material of national significance still in private hands and I hope that many will seize this opportunity to do what they can to assist.
The Council has a complex and difficult charter, lt will need to consist of people with vision as well as of sound business and practical backgrounds. To ensure that it will have available to it the range of expertise obviously required, the Bill provides for the appointments of committees of the Council. It is envisaged, for example, that one or more committees will be appointed to examine and report on aspects of the Gallery of Aboriginal Australia. As the Government has made a commitment that Aboriginals will have a full and meaningful involvement in the planning and operation of the Gallery of Aboriginal Australia, the role of committees in this regard will be vital.
There is a whole range of interests in the Museum of Australia and it is not possible for them all to be represented on the Council. There are, for instance, a number of Commonwealth departments and authorities which will wish to ensure that in the planning and development of the Museum their particular areas of interest are not overlooked or disregarded. The States have been planning and operating museums for many years and as a result we have in Australia a wealth of experience which we would be most unwise to ignore. The Council will be asked to have regard to these interests.
An early appointment of a director of the Museum will be sought. The Pigott Committee attached particular importance to this as it considered that he should be heavily involved in the formulation of policy as well as being responsible to the Council for its implementation. As we are planning a museum of world class, the director will be a key figure and a person who will need to be well qualified to run such an institution. The director is to be a member of the Council. There are those who believe that the chief executive should not be involved in the formulation of policy as this could create constraints in the event of there being a difference of view between him and other members of Council. In this case, as the Council and particularly the Interim Council will be involved with matters that will set the scene for many years to come, the Government believes that the director must be a member of the Council and the Bill has been drafted accordingly.
There has been some concern expressed that the Museum of Australia will duplicate existing State institutions and enter into competition with them. That is not the case and indeed it will complement and reinforce their position. As I have already explained, the Museum of Australia is a unique concept and it is not possible for a State to establish or develop a museum of national history. I hope that the establishment of the Museum of Australia will be seen as a drawing together of the museum movement in Australia and a long overdue recognition of the vital contribution it makes to our cultural or social lives. It is to be hoped that once the Council is appointed and its members have had the opportunity for discussions with representatives of the museum profession, any fears or reservations held will be dissipated. 1 consider that the establishment of the Museum of Australia will be an important addition to the cultural life of Australia and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
– I again move the amendment I moved when a similar motion was moved on the previous Bill, namely:
Leave out all words after ‘stages’, insert ‘after consideration of the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies’.
The Senate desired that matter to be made an order of the day for a later hour this day. I do not want to repeat what I said earlier. I just adopt this attitude to indicate the importance we place upon Aboriginal affairs and the welfare of Aborigines. That matter is more important to us than possibly any other matter the Government might raise. My efforts follow the request tonight by Senator Coleman, who has a great knowledge of this matter, to be granted leave to make a statement, which would have been of short duration, outlining her knowledge and opinions on the matter. Had leave been granted for her to do so, it would have taken a lot less time than has been taken by leave being refused. So I ask the Government, if it desires to push business through in future, to consider that point when leave is sought. I do not think that any Labor honourable senator seeks leave to make a statement unless a matter is of grave importance to that senator.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, Mr President. In doing so, I reiterate the point Senator Cavanagh made. When an honourable senator seeks leave to speak on a statement before the House, it surely must be considered wise now to grant such leave at the time that senator - in this case it was Senator Coleman - seeks leave rather than to go through this tortuous exercise, lt seems to me that what we are doing now is the only way in which the Opposition can make it clear to the Government that it resents a curbing of the rights of honourable senators on this side of the House.
– But you gagged a debate this afternoon.
– We gagged a debate this afternoon for specific reasons, if I may answer the interjection, Mr President. I suppose it is disorderly for an honourable senator to interject and highly disorderly for me to respond; nevertheless, I do so. This afternoon we moved the gag on a very important motion before the House. We believed that many Government senators supported the motion and that it was important for the Senate to make a decision on the recognition of the Pol Pot regime. 1 will not go into that debate again. I was listed to speak on that motion but was cut off by a manipulation of the clocks. 1 thought I had the call but it turned out that I did not. I could go on now and say what 1 would have said then had I had the opportunity to do so, but let me get back to the point I was making, lt has always been proven that the denial of a right of an Opposition senator does nol in any way save time for the Government; rather, it leads to tedious repetition until the Opposition makes it clear to the Government that it is far better for it to grant leave than it is for it to deny leave. Senator Coleman, in half the time we have taken now in debating this issue, could have made the point she wanted to make.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for Commonwealth authorities to comply with the Government’s policy of giving preference to Australian-made goods in Commonwealth procurement. The Bill will override certain provisions of legislation governing some statutory authorities which at present inhibit the ability of those authorities to carry out the Government’s Australian preference policy, and will provide procedures whereby adherence to the policy will be facilitated.
This Government has taken the view that producers of Australian goods and related services and their employees should receive a measure of preference when bidding for contracts to be arranged by Commonwealth departments and authorities. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced a policy of giving preference to Australian-made goods in September 1976. This policy was based on the traditional approach of giving selective assistance in special circumstances. Over the succeeding year, however, it became clear that the policy was not sufficiently effective. Accordingly, in October 1977, the Government decided to adopt a more positive preference policy, and this was announced by the Prime Minister in his election policy speech in 1977. In accordance with this policy Government departments and authorities were instructed to:
Whereas, in the past, there had to be special grounds for giving preference to Australian-made goods, departments and authorities are now required to provide substantial reasons if they wish to do otherwise than purchase Australianmade goods or goods of relatively greater Australian content. The policy motivates companies bidding for Commonwealth contracts to examine carefully the possibility of increasing the use of materials and components from Australian sources, thus creating a flow-on effect.
Since the introduction of the policy, however, it has become apparent that there is some unevenness in compliance by the various Commonwealth authorities. The enabling legislation of some authorities has the effect that purchasing must be on the basis of best value for money. In some cases legislation provides for Ministerial decision in respect of major purchases only, whilst in the majority of cases the enabling legislation of authorities does not provide for Government direction on purchasing matters. These and other factors have resulted in some inconsistency in implementation of the Government’s preference policy.
I should point out that purchases by Commonwealth authorities represent a very significant proportion of total Commonwealth purchases. Purchases by departments of State are estimated to be in the region of $ 1 ,500m per annum whereas purchases by Commonwealth authorities are estimated to be in the region of $3, 300m per annum, lt can be seen that purchases by authorities are more significant in total value than purchases by departments and are therefore of considerable importance in the context of the preference policy.
My Department has conducted a survey of the extent of compliance with the preference policy by authorities. The results of this survey show that whilst the majority of authorities indicated that they were complying fully with the Government’s policy of preference to Australian-made goods, there was another group of authorities which found it necessary to qualify their responses. A further group indicated that they were unable to comply with the Government’s policy.
In view of all these factors, the Government decided to introduce overriding legislation to facilitate and ensure compliance by Commonwealth authorities with the preference policy, except where specific exemptions are granted. The Government recognises that there will be some special cases where authorities may need to be exempted from the provisions of the legislation; for example, full compliance with the preference policy might, in some instances, jeopardise the commercial viability of a business undertaking. The Bill provides the necessary flexibility to cope with these special cases.
In this regard, the Prime Minister has written to the Premiers of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia concerning the possible extension of the Government’s preference policy to certain bodies jointly conducted by the Commonwealth and a State government or governments. There would be obvious advantages in a uniform approach to preference in government purchasing across Australia as a whole. The practice of individual States pursuing their own purchasing preference schemes for suppliers in their States can lead to a distortion of trade between the States. This may encourage a greater degree of industry fragmentation than would otherwise occur. This could mean that we are not achieving the optimum use of our resources throughout the Commonwealth as a whole.
I now turn to the main features of the Bill. The Bill covers all authorities established under Commonwealth law and under the law of the Australian Capital Territory. Authorities which are jointly conducted by the Commonwealth Government and another government or governments will, however, be removed from the scope of the legislation by regulation, except where, in case of Commonwealth-State authorities the partners agree to the preference policy being applied to the authority. I should mention that the coverage of the Bill does not extend to companies incorporated under State law. Qantas and other Commonwealth-owned companies established under State law, are however subject to direction by the Government as principal or sole shareholder through their respective Ministers. Unless specifically exempted such companies will, therefore, be subject to the same requirements as those set out in this Bill.
The first of the operative clauses of the Bill, clause 4, recognises the possibility that the drafting of specifications for a procurement in a narrow or restrictive way can render Australianmade goods ineligible to meet a requirement. Clause 4 provides that specifications are not to be drawn up in such a way as to exclude suitable goods of Australian origin or higher Australian content from consideration. The Bill also contains, in clause 5, provisions requiring the invitation of tenders for significant purchases either publicly or from a list of registered tenderers. These requirements are based upon the finance regulations under the Audit Act which govern purchases by departments and authorities within the public account. They are designed to ensure that there is no undue restriction on the opportunity for firms to tender for the requirments of authorities. They include the normal exceptions to the general public tender rule which apply under the finance regulations.
The authority to approve exceptions by a ‘Certificate of Exemption’ procedure, will be appropriately delegated to officers of authorities. I should mention that the system of open lists of registered tenderers set out in clause 6 represents a departure from the tendering procedures which apply to departments, lt is included in the Bill because the Government recognises that some authorities, especially business undertakings, may require a more flexible purchasing system than departments. The registered tenderer system will, however, involve regular advertisements by the authority concerned to meet the underlying principles of public tendering.
I now move to the stage of tender evaluation and contract award, the stage where preference is appled. lt is a long-standing principle of Commonwealth purchasing that Australian producers should be entitled to the same protection against competition from imports in relation to Goverment purchases as they enjoy under the Customs tariff in relation to commercial transactions. Accordingly, in the case of Government purchases, departments and authorities are required to evaluate tenders on a duty paid basis whether or not any imported goods offered are to be exempt from duty as Commonwealth Goverment imports. The Bill provides the necessary procedures to give effect to this policy.
Tenderers are also to be required to set out the Australian content of the goods tendered or, in the case of purchases of small value, information as to whether or not the goods are of Australian origin. Authorities will be required to follow the procedures already in general operation and which were described in my media release of 2 October 1979. These procedures have the effect that for purchases under the value at which public tenders are required to be invited, a simple Australian-made preference may be applied at a point of purchase against products identified as imports.
For purchases above the public tender threshold, or in smaller purchases where the Australian content method is used, but where the lowest suitable tender is less than $100,000 a general Australian-made preference factor will be applied resulting in a margin of prefernce related to the Australian content of the goods tendered. In the case of all purchases costing $100,000 or more where the highest Australia-content suitable tender is proposed to be passed over, or for lesser purchases with special features, cases are referred to the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) who decides the case or refers it for consideration by the Industry Policy Committee of Cabinet.
The preference margin applied in the case of purchases which follow the Australian content is 20 per cent of the value of the Australian content of each tender, the resultant figure being subtracted from each tender price. In the case of smaller purchases, generally below the public tender threshold, a loading of 20 per cent is added to the duty paid prices of all offers identified as of imported origin. In both cases, the lowest suitable tender or quotation is then accepted.
I should mention that the present preference arrangements, and this Bill, recognise the difficulty of arriving at precise measures of Australian content. Accordingly, differences in Australian content between tenders of less than 10 per cent are to be disregarded. To ensure that contracts are not awarded to tenderers submitting inaccurate or misleading estimates of local content, selective investigations of claimed Australian content levels are undertaken by investigators from the Department of Administrative Services. Lists of suppliers who provide consistent or substantial misstatements of Australian content are to be compiled and circulated to Commonwealth departments and authorities.
Clause 1 6 of the Bill provides for the disclosure to interested persons such as unsuccessful tenderers of the level of Australian content of successful tenders. This enables unsuccessful tenderers to challenge any claims they consider doubtful. Also, to ensure that the level of content tendered is achieved, appropriate conditions are being developed to provide for enforcement of Australian content levels submitted by successful tenderers. Spot checks will also be carried out by departmental investigators, particularly in the case of period contracts to ensure that the Australian content, on the basis of which a contract was awarded, is achieved.
As I indicated earlier, the Bill also provides for certain exemptions to be granted by the Minister for Administrative Services where it can be shown that the commercial viability of a Government business undertaking or the ability of a Commonwealth authority to fulfill all of its functions, including any financial requirements, would be jeopardised by applying preference to some or all of its purchases. The clause of the Bill concerned, clause 1 7, is drafted in such a way as to permit exemption of a particular purchase by an authority, of purchases of a particular class of goods by an authority, or of all the purchases of an authority. These exemption provisions are designed to allow the necessary flexibility to deal with special cases whilst not detracting from the overall impact of the policy. Other provisions of the Bill enable the Governor-General to make regulations prescribing various matters arising under the clauses, and enable the Minister for Administrative Services to seek such information as he may require concerning procurement by Commonwealth authorities to enable him to administer the legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to decisions taken by the Government following a review of the structure of the Australia Council. The amendments that are proposed in the Bill reflect the Government’s wish to see that the Council operates with increased efficiency and effectiveness, whilst continuing to provide the Government and Parliament with the best possible advice on arts policy matters. The opportunity will also be taken to make some minor amendments to the Act that are of a machinery nature.
The principal Act provides that the Council shall comprise between 15 and 19 members, including the Chairman and the Council’s General Manager, who is an ex-officio member of Council. At present the Council has its full complement of 19 members. We now believe that such a large number of members is unnecessary and that the functions of Council can be more effectively carried out by between 1 0 and 14 members.
The existing structure of Council is that the Chairman of each of the specialised boards established to administer a particular area of the arts is ex-officio a member of Council. There are at present seven such Boards, covering the areas of music, theatre, literature, visual arts, Aboriginal arts, community arts and crafts.
The Bill contains provisions to amend the existing structure of Council. Firstly, it removes from the principal act the requirement that all board chairmen are ex-officio members of Council, replacing it with a provision that at least two board chairman be appointed to Council by the Governor-General. This amendment will leave the majority of board chairmen free to concentrate on their particular are area. More importantly, these and other amendments are designed to ensure that the Council will have oversight of, and control over, the activities of the various boards and their expenditure. It is important that the Australia Council be able to lay down, implement and from time to time change policy in relation to the arts within the limits of its budget. These amendments will, the Government believes, enable the Council to exercise this control over policy.
In addition, it is proposed to amend the membership provisions in the principal Act so that, in appointing members under section 9 (2) (e), the Governor-General shall endeavour to ensure that a majority of these members are people who practice or have practised the arts, and in addition that the membership of Council includes a reasonable balance of persons who practise or have practised the various arts. The transitional provisions of the Bill provide that, although the majority of Council members will remain on Council until their terms of office expire, board chairmen appointed by the Minister on or after 1 July 1 980 will not remain ex-officio members of Council after the Bill takes effect. It is expected that this provision will only affect the board chairmen appointed last month to the Aboriginal Arts Board, the Visual Arts Board and the Crafts Board.
The Act provides at present that the Chairman and members of the Council are part time. The role of the Chairman of the Council is of great importance and the tasks he has to perform are increasing, particularly in relation to the development of policy. Furthermore, with a reduction in the number of members, as set out in the amendment Bill, there is the likelihood of greater demands being thus placed on the Chairman. In these circumstances, the Government wishes to have the flexibility of appointing the Chairman on a full time basis should this be considered necessary. The amendment will allow the Government to review the situation when the term of office of the current Chairman, Professor Geoffrey Blainey, ends on 30 June 1981. If a full time Chairman is appointed, the amending Bill provides that the General Manager of the Council will not continue as an ex-officio member of Council thus being free to concentrate on the administration of Council’s policies and programs.
Currently included in the responsibilities of the Australia Council is the administration of the Public Lending Right Scheme. This scheme was included in the responsibilities of the Australia Council by the 1976 amendment to the Act, following a recommendation to that effect by the Administrative Review Committee. It has been decided that it would be more appropriate for responsibility for the scheme to be with the Department of Home Affairs. Public Lending Right is a scheme designed to compensate authors Ibr loss of sales through readers borrowing books from libraries, rather than buying their own copies. As such, whilst it certainly does promote the interests of authors and publishers of creative literature, its application is not confined to books of an artistic character. Accordingly, it does not fit well within the Australia Council framework. This transfer of responsibility is being made with the agreement of the Public Lending Right Committee and also the Australia Council. The importance that the Government attaches to the Scheme will not be diminished in any way by the transfer.
There is also a new provision relating to disclosure of interest by members of the Council and its Boards which How from the findings of the Bowen Committee.
There are a number of other amendments of a machinery nature included in the Bill. The principal amendments however, are designed to ensure that the Council is as streamlined as possible, consistent with its responsibilities within the Government’s overall policies for the arts. 1 believe the proposed new Council structure achieves this end.
Finally, I shoud like to take this opportunity of reminding honourable senators of the very real achievements of the Australia Council over the past 4 or 5 years. For example, in 1977 the Government recognised the need to stimulate a broader involvement in the arts by the community at large and created a specific Community Arts Board within the Council to this end. This Board is now responsible for assisting arts centres and festivals and assisting activities initiated by community groups or local organisations. This provides for wider participation in the arts and the Board has become a link between central government and local government, to the extent that during 1978-79 the Board, in partnership with local government, subsidised community arts officers serving some 60 local government areas.
As honourable senators will now be aware, the Government has recently indicated its commitment to the arts through an allocation of $29,379,000 to the Australia Council in the 1980-81 Budget. The overall increase to be provided is 1 1 .7 per cent over the amount available to the Council in 1 979-80. The allocation to General Support for the Arts, which goes to groups and individual artists, is $17,197,000, an increase over 1979-80 of 12.8 per cent.
Mr President, the Government remains committed to its policy of the promotion of excellence in the arts, and the amendments contained in the Bill should in no way be seen to reduce that commitment. By contrast, the Government considers that by providing greater flexibility to the Council, the Council will be able to respond more effectively to the challenges faced in the 80s in this important area of the lives of all Australians. Might I also say that the amendments that the Government proposes to make to the Council in no way imply any criticism of the existing members of Council. The Government has every confidence in them and in the capacity of the Chairman.
The purpose of these amendments, quite simply, as I have already stated, is to strengthen the capacity of the Council to operate in terms of the development of policy and the administration of policy in the arts in Australia. It is very important that, in this very volatile period in Australia’s history and in the development of Australia’s culture, the Australia Council be equipped to deal with these matters in a flexible and progressive way. The Government believes these amendments will achieve that objective. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
– The Opposition will oppose the motion that has been put forward by the
Government. This is the first occasion to my knowledge - I have endeavoured to get some information on the matter - on which Estimates committees have been programmed to meet in a week during which the Senate was not sitting. One would naturally ask why the Government intends to have honourable senators back in this place next week when it would be normal for them to be performing other duties in their various electorates. One can only assume that the Government has some reason for haste. If in fact the Government intends to get the Parliament up in about three weeks’ time for an early election - that is not what the Parliament was led to believe would be the normal period of this session - why does the Government not tell us?
Why cannot the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) tell us now what the Government’s intentions are, instead of forcing on this chamber, on honourable senators and on the Estimates committees a rearrangement of their programs? It is accepted that we all have our programs set out well in advance, especially during the week up. The Government obviously intends to bulldoze this motion through in order to get its way and to get a report back to the chamber by 1 1 September. Would it not be a good idea if the Government were to come clean and tell us what it is doing, instead of having the position in which we now find ourselves? The normal procedures have been deliberately upset just because of some particular desire of the Prime Minister. (Mr Malcolm Fraser), presumably, to bring on an early election. One would have thought that, with the experience of elections in this country, both State and Federal over the last three or four years, the Australian people had had enough of early elections. What is the Government frightened about?
We all know the electoral position of the Government at present. If an election were held tomorrow the Government would be defeated. If that is the position the Government is facing in the immediate future, it is quite obvious that it is worried sick about what the position will be later in the year. That, of course, will be the real reason why the Government intends to go to the people early and the reason why we are having this procedure foisted on us next week.
I see no grounds why we in the Opposition should accept the desire of the Government in this instance. If the Government is prepared, through the Minister, to lay its cards on the table and tell us why it wants adopted this unique procedure - this precedent - of forcing the Estimates committees to sit in a week when they normally would not be sitting, the Government ought to say so. I can assure the Minister that we reject entirely the concept of adopting this procedure, lt is quite obvious that we are facing a government which is worried sick. We saw an exhibition of that in this place this afternoon when a divided Government was hanging on by the skin of its teeth in some show of unity because the wounds and the complete lack of confidence among Government senators in their own leader, Mr Fraser, are now so apparent.
Senator Walters sits there with that stupid smirk on her face, which we see so often. She knows as well as I do that Government senators are being led into an election by an electoral disaster - a situation they could have changed 1 8 months ago when they could have got rid of him. They did not have the backbone to do it then and now they are all regretting that Mr Fraser is still leader. If Senator Walters was a little more active in the electorate in Hobart than she is, she would know the lack of esteem in which Mr Fraser is held at present. If there is one person who shares that thought with us on the Opposition side, it is Senator Withers who sits there with a quiet, knowing smile on his face. He shares every sentiment that I am expressing because he also knows of the disaster that has happened to the Government parties in the last 18 months under Mr Fraser’s leadership. That, really, is what this matter is all about. We are being bulldozed into adopting this procedure by a government that is rattled and is frightened. It will try to use any method it can between now and whenever the election occurs to save itself. We will oppose the motion.
– I wish to oppose the proposition moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I express the Opposition’s concern at the unprecedented steps that the Government suggests the Senate should take in having its Estimates committees next week to deal with the Budget Estimates. If it was the desire of the Government that the Senate sit for three weeks, the Government could have had the decency and the courtesy to tell us. lt could have taken the normal steps of advising honourable senators on both sides of the Senate of its wishes in this respect, but it was not until a few days ago that the Senate was advised that in fact it was proposed that the Senate sit for two weeks, rise for a week and then sit for another three weeks.
That procedure has been changed, and the Government, in its usual fashion of riding roughshod over the Senate and certainly over the Opposition, has given absolutely no reasons why the processes and the procedures which have been available to each member of the Senate should be changed. We can add out conjecture, we can hazard a guess, and maybe our guesses will lead us to the conclusion that the Government is anxious to complete its Budget considerations for the purpose of holding an early election. But everybody knows that that early election will certainly change the composition of this chamber, that there is no chance at all of the Government maintaining its numbers in this place, whatever may happen in respect of the House of Representatives.
The Government treats us with complete contempt by saying: ‘The Senate will meet next week’ without any consideration of the commitments that senators have entered into, without any decent, due notice and without any of what should be the normal courtesies and procedures in the way in which the Government and the Opposition operate. We have had an example of that this evening. If there had been a little leeway and decency we would have been at least another hour and a half through our program. Because of the obstinacy of this Government and the dogmatic way in which it operates the Opposition took what time was left to it to express its displeasure at the way in which the Government operates in this place. Of course, it is now an almost foregone conclusion that there will be dramatic changes in the representation in the House of Representatives. Yet the Government is not prepared to come clean and say: ‘We want an early election’.
What does the Government want an early election for? It enjoys one of the largest majorities any government has ever had. It can continue in office until December. Yet Mr Fraser, for his own internal egotistical reasons, wants to keep everybody guessing about the actual election date. Is it because he wants to go overseas and leave Australia in a period of uncertainty but, nevertheless, force us all to the will of the Executive? The Senate will become just a rubber stamp as it has tended to be in the period since Fraser came to office. It is not the independent House he talked about when he was in Opposition conspiring with the Governor-General to bring down a properly elected government. Since he came to power this dictator has tried to create an impression of benignness. He has tried to create the impression that his Government is governing for all the people. When the chips are down, of course, we see that the naked power of the Executive makes the decision. All the party hacks on the other side of the chamber jump to the tune and agree without question to disfranchise the Senate and remove the rights of honourable senators, particularly those of the Opposition. For no advantage whatsoever are we being forced to agree, knowing full well that the numbers, the tyranny of the dogmatic and automatic majority in this place, will be applied without regard to the wishes of the Opposition or the wishes of Government senators themselves. The master has spoken and everyone must dance to the tune.
We are being called upon to deal with the Estimates in a hurry, without adequate opportunity to Study them. We normally have a week’s recess in which the Estimates are able to be examined by honourable senators so that we can carry out our so-called role of review of the Executive. That is being denied us. On the very week in which we should be analysing the Estimates and carrying out our proper review role the Estimates committees are to meet. We will be going through the Estimates and bringing the myriad of public servants to this place without adequate analysis of the way in which the Estimates have been prepared. Why the hurry? There is no reason. We are being treated with the contempt with which the Fraser Government treats the Australian people, the House of Representatives, this very House and the State governments in this country. Without any adequate debate or reason we are supposed to succumb to the whim of Mr Fraser who spends his time berating not only the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Olympic Federation and Australian sportsmen, the whole trade union movement and the media if its members dare criticise his government but also the Senate by the way in which he says the Senate shall meet next week whether it wants to meet or not. The automatons on the other side of the chamber glibly say yes and give him a majority to see that the will of the Executive is carried out.
I think this is a disgraceful event having regard to the fact that no reasons whatsoever have been advanced by the Government. No reason has been advanced why honourable senators should set aside their commitments to their electorates and to examination of the Estimates. No reason has been advanced why the Senate should agree to the proposition which has been moved by the Attorney-General for the purpose of carrying out a future desire, perhaps a premature desire, of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He wishes to force us to carry out an essential task in respect of the Budget so that the decks are cleared for him when he - one man - can make the decision that the Parliament shall be dissolved and an election held. He is talking away the rights of the Senate without one moment of protest by any Government senator. These are the Government senators who only four, five or six years ago were on the floor of the Senate asserting the independence of the Senate when they wanted to bring down a properly constituted government that was seeking during the years 1972 to 1975 to redress the wrongs, injustices and inequalities of this society. This is a disgrace. One would hope that at some time in the future, if not now, some spark of decency will be expressed by honourable senators on the Government side. Of course, we know that they are all intimidated by this man. When he cracks the whip they dance to the tune.
– The Attorney-General, Senator Durack, on behalf of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) has moved:
If I recall, notice that Senator Carrick would move this motion was given last Wednesday, the day after the Parliament reconvened for the Budget session. In the week before the commencement of the Budget session all honourable senators were circularised with a program of proposed sittings of the Senate. It stated that the Senate would sit for the first two weeks to consider aspects related to the Budget, that there would be a week’s recess and that we would then come back for another three weeks. Everyone assumed that in conformity with past practice in that week’s recess all honourable senators would be given the opportunity to peruse with their research officers the multiplicity of explanatory notes that have been given to them by the Government so that they can examine in some detail the estimates of the various departments. But within a day of the Parliament’s having met the Government changed its mind. Obviously, it does not want us, particularly Opposition senators, to look in some detail in that week’s recess at the explanatory notes that have been issued by the departments for our consideration.
The Government, in its haste, in its obvious desire to cover something up or to have an early election before some other scandal breaks, has decided that this week, after two days of discussion probably tomorrow and Thursday - of the Budget on Friday the Estimates committees will sit and that they will do so on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week and will continue until Tuesday, 11 September, when all Senate Estimates committees are to report to the Senate. What this Government has done is to rip up the rule book completely. For a start, it has been custom and practice to have only two Senate Estimates committees sitting on the one day. If we read page 425 of Australian Senate Practice we will see that when the President’s report in relation to the Estimates committees, came on for consideration on 15 March 1971, it was resolved that: . . not more than two committees should sit simultaneously; . . . meetings of the committees should be held, when possible, in the Senate Chamber and . . . Committees Room LI 7; . . . and . . . The additional estimates … be referred to the committees in the same manner as the annual Estimates; . . .
In 1971 the annual Estimates were again referred to the five Estimates committees, with not more than two committees sitting at any one time. The overall time occupied by the committees totalled 55 hours. Now under the proposal that has been put forward, we will have three committees sitting next Friday, three committees sitting next Monday, three committees sitting next Tuesday and so on until the committees have dealt with the various departments and are in a position to report to the Parliament by 1 1 September. That is the first instance of the Government’s having ripped up the rule book.
The second point is, as Senator Wriedt pointed out, that this is the first time in the decade of sittings of the Estimates committees that the Senate has been asked to break itself up into Estimates committees on any week in which the Parliament was not due to be sitting. I have had the Senate tables office take out for me some figures which indicate the actual position. One can see from the short table that I have recently obtained - I now show it to the Attorney-General for the first time - that every time there has been a sitting of an Estimates committee to date, it has been in a week in which the Parliament has been scheduled to sit. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows -
– I thank the Senate. Not only do I point out that previous sittings of the Estimates committees have taken place in the weeks when Parliament has been due to sit, but 1 also point out that never before have the Estimates committees been asked to report back to the Senate by such an early date as is now proposed - 1 1 September. In 1970 the date for reporting back was 1 3 October; in 1 97 1 , 4 November; in 1972, 10 October; in 1973, 15 November; in 1974, 12 November; in 1975, 9 October; in 1976, 2 November; in 1977, 11 October; in 1978, 7 November; and in 1979, 10 October. In 1980, this year, for some unusual reason, some reason unexplained by the Government, some reason yet to be announced by the Attorney-General or any other member of the
Government, the Government has brought the reporting date back to 1 1 September i 980.
– lt has a sinister implication.
– As my colleague Senator Mulvihill has said, it has some sinister implication. Every one of us has received this great number of documents, this large volume of explanatory notes. While we have been sitting in this Parliament this week none of us has had a chance to peruse one of those documents, yet this Parliament will be sitting until 1 1 p.m. tomorrow and this Government expects three Senate committees to sit on Friday and deal with the Estimates in some detail.
I might say frankly that it will be the last time for a long time that such a proposal will be put to the Senate- 1 assume it will be carried by the Senate because of the sheer weight of numbers of the Liberal-Country Party in the Senate - because this time next year that party will not be in office and certainly will not be in control of the Senate, lt concerns me that the Government, which allegedly expresses some feeling for the successful functioning of the Parliament including the Senate, has ignored the simple rules that have been laid down for a long time and has decided to treat the Parliament and the committee system in such a cavalier and complacent way, in much the same way as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) looks with scorn on the electorate at large.
What is the situation with regard to the Estimates committees? They are being asked to convene and deal with these matters not only in haste, but also with insufficient staff. It was reported recently to the Senate Standing Orders Committee that representations had been made to the Government for an increase in the Senate staff ceilings. But advice had been received that the staff ceiling figures for 30 June 1979 were unchanged and as a consequence appointments could not be made to the five positions of research officer to the Estimates committees which had recently been created. I think a request was also made by the chairmen of the Senate Estimates Committees that these committees have an overview of departmental expenditure over the whole time in which the Senate is sitting. But, no, the Government decided in haste what was to happen.
I suggest that members of the Senate have to look with suspicion at the way in which the Government is acting. They have to remember also that in the last autumn session when the Senate Estimates committees reported after some detailed consideration, the Government gagged and guillotined the debate in the Committee of the Whole. We had the spectacle of the Leader of the Government in the Senate who, when the Estimates of his own department and the Estimates of the departments of the Ministers whom he represents in the Senate were before the senate Committee of the Whole, chose not to come into the Senate and left it to some other junior Minister to move the gag and the guillotine to get the Estimates through. I say it is not good enough. Already today we have had an expression of opinion on the part of the Senate that a matter should have been brought on for debate this day. The Government has chosen to ensure by its methods that that matter would not come on. As it has ignored that matter, so too is it ignoring the rightful requirements of senators to study in some detail the explanatory notes issued by the departments. Whilst the back bench members of the Government might be required to support their Executive by supporting this proposal, I plead with them to go into their party rooms, to stand the Executive members of the Government up for their callous disregard of the Senate and to make sure that the rights of senators are protected.
– I have a few words to say on this matter. Two points come to mind. One is the Government’s timing of sittings of Estimates committees. These committees originated after long debate. They were initiated by the Government. I always thought that committees were independent, that they were not part of the Executive. Therefore, when the committees are formed they meet to decide when they will sit.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Reference to Estimates Committees
– No longer have Estimates committees the power to decide that they will sit to suit the convenience of their members. The Government tells them when they will sit. This is wrong. We cannot say that independent Senate committees are supervising the expenditure of departments. The committees are appointed by the Senate and have to carry out the decisions of the Senate. They have no power themselves. One would think that the committees would sit at the times most suitable for the Senate. I appreciate and accept that the Senate has a right to say that committees shall report by a certain date. But sitting times should be decided by the committees and not by the Government. I take this move as an infringement upon the whole question of the liberty and the freedom of the independent committees.
The other point I want to raise is that members of the committees on both sides of the House are disappointed at this attitude. Everyone is, I think, suspicious about the purpose of the House rising to hold an early election. The Government has the right under the Constitution to hold an early election. I have no quarrel with that. But I am of the opinion that the Government will get into much more difficulty if it does not tell the Opposition why and when it requires the election. If the Government does not seek the co-operation of the Opposition to get the business through when the Government requires it, I think it is heading for a lot of difficulty. Every time the Opposition has obstructed business in the Senate the Opposition has been irate at some decision of the Government and the members of the Opposition have thought that the Government was restricting their freedom or their opportunities. It may be that the Opposition will nol agree with the Government decisions. But if we continue in the remainder of the session, however long it lasts, to be antagonistic the Government will experience a lot of trouble in getting through its business.
I make a final appeal which I think I make as each session nears its conclusion: For God’s sake, let us get together and work out a program. If the Government has some intention of the House rising at a certain date let it outline the Bills it wishes to debate and inform us of the sittings of the Estimates committees, lt should then ask: How can you help us get along?’ If that cooperation is offered the Government will not find the Opposition unco-operative.
– I join with my three colleagues who have already spoken and have advised the Senate that the Opposition will object to the motion which has been moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). It is quite obvious again tonight that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) is as conspicuous by his absence tonight as he was when we debated the Appropriation Bills during the autumn session. As my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, a junior Minister had the odious task of moving the gag on very important legislation - Appropriation Bills. lt has always been my understanding in the nine years that I have been a senator that honourable senators who cannot attend meetings of every Estimates committee have the opportunity in the Committee of the Whole to debate matters with which they are concerned. This is because they can serve only on one committee as, Mr President, you would be well aware. That right was taken away from us in May this year. The Government declared those Appropriation Bills urgent Bills. Expenditure of millions of dollars was agreed to in the Parliament without any debate whatever taking place. I think that is an absolute scandal.
We are told at every election - no doubt we will be told again at this election- that this House is a House of review, lt is a Stales House. 1 have said in this House on many occasions - I repeat it tonight - that the Senate, under a LiberalNational Country Party Government is not a House of review. This has applied for many years. It is a rubber stamp for the Liberal and National Country Party when it is in government in the other place. It is a House of frustration when the Labor Party is in government and the Opposition has the numbers in this place. That has been borne out on many occasions.
We are now being treated in a cavalier fashion. The Government is bringing Estimates committee members back to Parliament on Friday of this week and on five days of next week to debate Estimates after it had circulated to every honourable senator a program of sitting right up until November of this year. Of course, senators made their arrangements in their respective States. As I have said earlier, the Senate is supposed to be a States House. We have commitments. We have made arrangements to be in various parts of our States to speak to various people and to attend various functions.
Now, at the drop of a hat, all of those arrangements will be torn down because of the Government’s indecent haste to have an election, or so we believe; the Government has not yet told us. I am the fifth speaker tonight to ask the Government to tell us why it is giving the Estimates committees just five days to examine the Estimates of a Budget which the Government said is a good Budget. We are expected to examine those Estimates and report back to the Senate within a week. I say again that that is a scandal. People outside Parliament ought to be aware of the cavalier fashion in which they are treated by a government which has a large majority in the other place and a fairly substantial majority here. The voice of the electors is not being allowed to be heard. I place on record my strong objections once again to the way that this Government is treating the people of Australia. 1 am sure that when the people get the opportunity to vote they will throw the Government out and on to the Opposition benches which is what it justly deserves.
I could go on for quite a long time and repeat what I have repeated before in this place about the very unscrupulous method by which the Government gained office in 1975. Of course, Fraser got away with those unscrupulous tactics. He went in the back door of Government House and came to an arrangement with a person who has now fled the country. I cannot even get answers to questions during the hearings of the
Estimates committees or in the Committee of the Whole as to whether the previous GovernorGeneral is provided with a free telephone. The Government will not even tell us that. No doubt I will be denied the opportunity again when we debate these Estimates in the Committee of the Whole. When they are brought into the Committee of the Whole they will no doubt be gagged again. Honourable senators can see that sticking out a mile by the tactics that the Government adopted last week and which it has adopted again this week.
– He got deported, didn’t he?
– Senator Withers asked one day when I was pursuing questions whether I was not satisfied with hounding the previous Governor-General out of the country. He made the accusation. That is something about which I feel very proud. We are well rid of someone who tore down the Constitution of this country and allowed a person by the name of Mr Malcolm Fraser to assume office and to hoodwink the people for the last five years. He had only two years in government before he called an early election. It looks as though he will call an early election on this occasion. It will not be held as early as the election of 1977 but it certainly will be held much earlier than we anticipated. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is not confident that he can win the election. If he were he would let the Parliament run its full term and then face the electors. He wants to run to the electors now because things are getting worse for him every day.
The Budget has slipped away from the Government. We know that it is not talked about as the Howard Budget, it is talked about as the Oakes Budget. Laurie Oakes was able to tell everybody at large what was in the Budget and I think he hit the nail on the head in just about every line.
– Perhaps he wrote it.
– 1 do not know who wrote it but through the early leaking the Government certainly lost any glamour which might have been attached to it. However, that is getting away from the point which is before the Senate at the moment, and that is the tactics which this Government is adopting to gag debate on just about every issue that comes into this Parliament. This is no longer a parliament of free speech where honourable senators can put a point of view. I do not expect the Government always to agree with the Opposition point of view but at least we ought to be allowed to put that point of view. Each and every one of us in this Parliament faces the electors, and the electors vote for us on our merits. Once we are elected to this place we ought to be allowed to put a point of view instead of seeing people on the Government side repeatedly gagging debates. In the Senate tonight we were accused of gagging debate. I think the record will show that the only reason that we supported the motion by the Australian Democrats to gag the debate on the matter of public importance was to put the Government members in the position where they would have to cast a vote, and of course they even wriggled out of that. They did not want to vote on that matter of public importance today. Yet they say we gag debates.
In conclusion I would say that the Government cannot expect any co-operation from many of us on this side of the House because of the tactics it is adopting. I think they are very poor tactics and they will not win out for the Government. If the Government is not prepared to let members on this side of the House debate the expenditure of thousands of millions of dollars and to bring the Ministers to account when we have the officers here, I think we might as well not be here. We are wasting our time and the taxpayers’ money by even being in this place. As I said earlier, when the Labor Party was in government from 1972 this place was a House of frustration, and it has been a rubber stamp for the Fraser Government since it came to office. I think it clearly shows up what puppets the people are who sit behind the Leader of the Government in this place. They do not have the courage to stand up and put a point of view; they just go along like lambs to the slaughter. I am sure that many of them will be slaughtered when the election comes about.
That the motion (Senator Durack’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 August, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, may I suggest that we have a cognate debate covering the National Health Amendment Bill 1980 and the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill 1980.
– I should have suggested that. I agree with that suggestion.
– There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– These Bills have been a long time coming, largely because of the determination of the Government, for some reason, to prevent Senator Coleman from speaking tonight on a very important issue. I suppose the Government has its reasons. It must have been concerned about what Senator Coleman intended to say. These two small Bills amend legislation which controls the functioning of nursing homes in this country. They are not opposed by the Opposition. The National Health Amendment Bill 1980 widens the extent of information which is required to be produced by approved private nursing homes, the furnishing of audited accounts and an extension of the records which are at present required to be kept by proprietors of those homes. The Bill also provides for penalties for failure to produce required accounts and for deliberately providing false and misleading information. The penalties that can be imposed are a fine of up to $10,000 or a period of five years in goal. The Bill also introduces an alternative power of suspension rather than revocation of the approval for the operation of nursing homes under the present Act, with protection for the patient during the period of suspension by ensuring that the proprietor rather than the patient carries the penalty of such suspension. The Opposition certainly has no objection to that.
The second Bill, the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill 1980, applies penalties for providing false or misleading information to the deficit of funded nursing homes which are run by non-profit, religious and charitable organisations. Those organisations have had to provide similar information to the Government up to the present. This sort of legislation is necessary because the nursing home business, like all other businesses, contains saints and sinners. The problem is that in the nursing home business when the proprietors are sinners they are among the worst of the preditors of human infirmity and misery in our society. They may be few, but they need controlling. This legislation is a recognition by both sides of the Parliament that controls are necessary in this area. When we add to this the fact that nursing home benefits are subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of some $300m a year, we have the potential for some very great rip offs in the community. This is an added reason for the sorts of controls and extensions of controls that the Government has found it necessary to introduce.
Some elements of the nursing home business not only try to exploit their patients shamelessly but also are not above using them politically to extract more money from governments. People on both sides of the Parliament have suffered from this sort of approach. We do not have to be a member of parliament for very long before we are exposed to threats of putting elderly patients out in the street if the nursing home subsidy does not go up. We have seen cases where the media have been organised and where patients have been put out on the street to demonstrate allegedly heartless behaviour by governments. It is a difficult area and it has always caused problems for governments of all persuasions.
The problem which the Opposition faces when confronted with this sort of legislation is to know whether just to go along with what in fact is fiddling with legislation - fiddling with legislation in the absence of any goals or aims or any overall concept of where we are going in the provision of aged persons accommodation in this community, which is a problem which faces many areas in the welfare field. We seem to be continually fiddling with ad hoc changes to legislation without their being any broad goals or stated clear aims by the government of the day. The situation today remains largely as it has been for years. The elderly and some of the disabled people in this community are living in nursing homes, hostels, independent living units and sometimes in their own homes. They are dependent largely upon the local services which are available to them, the distribution of homes in the various States and cities, the other services that exist in various regions, and the prejudices and sometimes the financial capacity of the relatives of these people.
In the period that this Government has been in office we have had introduced a triennium expenditure of $225m on nursing homes. This triennium was extended to a period of five years because of the inability of the Government, or the unwillingness of the Government, to expend properly in this area. We now have another triennium expenditure of $225m, which represents no increase at all. In fact, it is a decrease in real terms. Already in the first year this area of expenditure has been underspent to the extent of some $ 11.4m. We have a maldistribution of nursing home accommodation and other accommodation facilities for the aged in this country as far as geographic and demographic matters are concerned. In some of the more wealthy and socially cohesive areas, where there is the ability to raise funds and therefore to qualify for government subsidies by the presence of sufficiently wealthy clients, sufficiently wealthy donors and sufficiently popular charities and even, in some areas, sufficiently cheap large old homes to covert into nursing homes, we have this maldistribution of nursing homes and of accommodation for the aged in general, which is well known to all in the community.
We still have in this country a fairly primitive program for domiciliary assistance. As yet we have no program for housing maintenance for the aged or the disabled. We have a system for the supply of home meals, such as Meals on Wheels, which is usually based on a 5-day week. This system is utterly dependent upon voluntary efforts, so there is very little encouragement for aged people to stay in their own homes. Unfortunately we still receive distressing reports of elderly patients suffering neglect and malnutrition in aged persons homes and in nursing homes in our community. The situation is not very satisfactory. The only time we hear about nursing homes and accommodation for the aged in this country is around Budget time when a limited amount of money is expended on this area. In the recent Budget small increases will be introduced for the distributed meals programs and for the homeless persons program. I think this is a great pity.
In 1975 and since there have been reports which have suggested to government what we could do in the aged persons programs and the nursing home programs in this community. In 1975 the Social Welfare Commission, in a very good report entitled ‘Care of the Aged’, gave some sort of blueprint and some alternatives as to what could be done in the nursing home area. Honourable senators will remember that a program was proposed which was based on community care and on keeping the elderly in their own homes. The program involved a large increase in the stock of low rental housing in the community for the aged and the handicapped. It involved the provision of a large number and wide variety of housing and domiciliary services for the aged and the handicapped. Above all it provided the opportunity for more choice of accommodation, for more participation in the community in the care of the aged and for general community care of our aged and disabled people. That report has not been acted upon. The report has not been discussed much. The Government still has no program available, no vision of the future, as to just what we should be doing for the aged and disabled people in the community.
Although we have improved a little we are still too dependent upon the institutional type of nursing home and home which is established not so much for the benefit of elderly but, in many cases, for profit. I think we all recognise - I am sure the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) recognises it - that the method of subsidising the construction of nursing homes and of the subsidising nursing homes generally is inappropriate to this present age. I think we have to look towards providing a comprehensive set of services for the aged by giving a choice of accommodation, health care services and recreational services and, where possible, we have to integrate them with services for others in the community of all ages through a community care program which will mean that they can share experiences with others and that those with common needs can share the planning and the programs to overcome those needs. In this way we can use the skills and the caring which is present in every community but which today largely remains latent because of lack of encouragement and opportunity.
We badly need to provide a home maintenance scheme for the aged through, say, loans as suggested by the pensioners’ association to assist those who wish to stay in their homes, maintain them and repay the loans later out of the estate. We need to de-institutionalise and decentralise the whole system and replace the care which has been lost with the changes in society in recent years with the community care that this increasing proportion of people in our community deserve. I believe we need to let the aged know where they are going and we need to have a greater concept and idea of where we are going. In the meantime, we have to regulate those organisations that we have; we have to stop those I described as the sinners in this area from ripping the system off and we have to stop them exploiting the aged and their relatives. One way we can do this and one way we can keep an eye on them is to pass legislation like this, legislation to strengthen the Government’s and Parliament’s ability to keep an eye on what is going on in this area which has caused so much distress and difficulty in the past. For that reason, the Opposition does not oppose the legislation.
– As Senator Grimes has said, these amendments to the National Health Amendment Bill 1980 and the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill 1980 are of a technical nature and are supported by both sides of the chamber. The Senate is probably aware that private nursing homes sought approval for payments of Commonwealth benefits and their fees have been controlled since 1973. If these nursing home’s are willing to accept Commonwealth benefits, both sides agree that proper accountability must be entered into. There must be accuracy in the applications put forward. At present, fees are paid by Commonwealth benefits, health funds and patient contribution - 871 per cent of the pension is paid towards these fees. Nursing homes may apply for increases in their fees as costs rise. As I said, there is a great need for accuracy in these applications.
The Government reviews Commonwealth benefits yearly. Previously penalties have not applied and, as Senator Grimes said there are those who have abused the system in the past. In the second reading speech, the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) said that this has not been great abuse. Very few have attempted this abuse and the Government believes that if penalties are brought in through these amendments perhaps these abuses will disappear altogether. The penalties that are being introduced are the same as those that apply to those people who make false claims for the medical benefits. I believe that that is a very good thing. The making of false claims for medical benefits is very close to what we are talking about this evening.
The permanent head of the Department of Social Security may request audited accounts from the proprietors of the nursing homes. If these accounts are not supplied within three months he will be able to suspend or revoke the nursing home’s registration. At the moment the permanent head can only revoke. This was very difficult knowing that it would disadvantage the pensioner patients of that home. Suspending the registration is far more practical. While under suspension that nursing home will not have Commonwealth Government funds paid to it. The health funds will not be required to pay contributions but the proprietor will have to deduct the amount of Commonwealth benefits from the fee of the patient. The proprietor has the right of appeal to the Minister for Health (Mr MacKeller) if he believes that the rejection or the suspension is not a fair thing. Furthermore, if a proprietor can prove that he had no knowledge that the information he was giving was not accurate or had no reason to suspect that the information he was giving was not accurate, he will not invoke any penalty.
A penalty also applies to other matters in relation to which incorrect or misleading information is given. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, these other matters include the making of applications for alteration of conditions to which the approval of a home is subject or for a variation of the nature of approval of a home. A request can be made by the permanent head. He can also request information for the purpose of ascertaining whether the conditions of approval of a home have been complied with. The maximum penalty for contravention of these provisions is a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for five years.
As I have said, these amendments are just of a technical nature and I do not propose to delay the House any further on them this evening. The time is late and we have other business to go on with. Both sides of the House agree on these amendments and I commend them to the Senate.
– I greet these two Bills- the National Health Amendment Bill 1980 and the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill 1980- with a certain amount of regret. As has been said here tonight, the world is full of saints and sinners and these Bills are really designed to take care of the sinners. I presume that the Bills are occasioned by the fact that the Government has assumed a near monopoly on the care of people who require nursing home attention. This has occurred because successive governments have pursued policies which have rendered a whole group of people completely uninsurable. We will be stuck with this problem until we start following some policies which generate a new group of people who are insurable when they get to the stage of requiring nursing home attention.
The Bills have two main purposes. The first is to require the provision of more accurate information to the Department of Health. The second is to extend the powers of the permanent head of the Department of Health. No one can argue with the first provision - the increase in the penalties for people involved in fraud. This is accepted by both sides of the House. The part of the Bill that does give me concern is the extension of the licensing powers of the permanent head. As it is now, the permanent head can revoke a licence if he finds that the offence is sufficiently great. This is a very severe penalty to apply to anyone. But if someone has been engaging in fraud against the Government, certainly that person should have his licence revoked. The permanent head should be able to substantiate his case against the offending proprietor in an open court of law.
With this new extension of powers whereby the permanent head can suspend or extend a suspension of a licence, goes another penalty that may be imposed on proprietors; that is, that during the period of suspension they do not qualify for the Commonwealth benefit or their nursing home benefit but are still required to look after the patients in their institutions. So it is a very heavy penalty. Even just the threat of it could act as a great coercion, I can understand this power being used only in cases where the permanent head feels he can substantiate fraud, but where he feels that he can use that power for the ordinary running of nursing homes, then he can work his will by demanding that the nursing home proprietors fulfil his requests on providing information on almost anything - from floor coverings to what type of toilet paper is used in the nursing home. I feel such a power could be put to very severe use.
As has been said, there are saints and sinners in every walk of life and undoubtedly there are saints and sinners amongst permanent heads; so one never knows - this power could be used capriciously. This concerns me. It particularly concerns me because even though there is provision for an appeal to the Minister, if the Minister overtuned the permanent head’s decision to suspend, there is no provision to reinstate the payments of Commonwealth benefits and nursing home benefits that have been denied the proprietor during the period of his suspension. I regard that as an inequity. If he can sustain his innocence against the charge he ought to have his payments reinstated. Under the Bill there is no provision for that at all.
There are three types of nursing homes in Australia. There are the religious and charitable nursing homes which are non-tax paying. They are supported by all levels of government and are virtually under complete government control. They quietly go about their business, doing good as they see fit. They are completely subservient to government rules and regulations and they submit to this quite readily because if the Government requires that anything be done the Government pays for it. So they do not worry. There are the deficit financed nursing homes. They are also nontax paying. They run their businesses at a loss and the Government picks up the tab. So they are completely controlled. These Bills apply only to the tax paying nursing homes in Australia, the socalled non-government nursing homes. All the other homes are government nursing homes which are part of the monopoly I was mentioning before. The non-government or tax paying nursing homes are under a considerable degree of government control at the moment because they derive a fair amount of their income from the Government. The passage of these Bills will extend the fiery fingers of the Federal Government even further in control of the private tax paying nursing homes.
I would like to see the Government include a provision that this power of suspension of licences and extension of suspension of licences can be used only if the permanent head can substantiate a claim of fraud against the proprietor and not use that power in respect of any act that is part of the ordinary running of the nursing home. Another provision I would like to see included would permit the repayment of the Commonwealth and nursing home benefits to any proprietor who could prove his innocence against a claim by a permanent head of fraud.
– I thank the Senate for the support of these two measures. I have noted the comments Senator Sheil has made and the very important questions which may arise about private rights of nursing home proprietors in relation to action taken against them. The position is, as has been observed, that this legislation is designed to increase penalties and in some cases where there are no offences, to create offences and impose penalties. I think we all agree that is appropriate. Senator Sheil has raised some wider issues as to the methods by which proprietors may be protected against administrative decisions. Last week the Senate passed a very important measure - indeed, the Parliament has passed a very important measure - which will give much improved judicial redress in those areas. I am sure the Senate would be interested to know, and Senator Sheil in particular would be interested to know, that the whole matter of review of decisions of the kind he has mentioned under the health legislation is being considered by the Administrative Review Council. I expect that the matters raised by Senator Sheil will be addressed and will be the subject of report by the Administrative Review Council to me in the first place and then to the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar). Of course, the Government will be giving consideration to those matters in the light of the Administrative Review Council’s report.
– What about the question of repayment?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I will deal with the question that Senator Sheil raised at the end of the second reading stage of the debate. I imagine that that matter will be part of the area that will be the subject of report from the Administrative Review Council, but I will specifically mention the concern of Senator Sheil to the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar).
– I want to say a few words on the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill 1980.
– We are on the first Bill.
– Yes, but I cannot understand why the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) replied to a question which came under the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill. I gathered that we must be dealing with both Bills together. The Temporary Chairman now advises me that we are only dealing with the National Health Amendment Bill.
– Are you raising a point of order, Senator Cavanagh?
– No, but I do not want the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill to go through the Committee stage without my knowledge and the opportunity for me to say a few words.
– There is no connection, Senator Cavanagh.
– But the Attorney-General did reply to Senator Sheil on this Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 August, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– I rise to voice my opposition to clause 3 of the Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill. I refer to proposed clause 30A which deals with a section of the community with which I do not have much sympathy - those who set up an establishment, I understand, to try to make a profit out of the invalid, the aged and the sick. Nevertheless, even these proprietors have human rights. Section 30B states:
Subject to sub-section (2), a prosecution Tor an offence against section 30a shall be an indictment.
It is not on summons; it is a very loose form of prosecution. The indictment is formed and I take it that a person is guilty until proven innocent. That is a question which I complain about - the reversal of the onus of proof, lt has long been accepted in the Senate that there should not be a reversal of the onus of proof. If an insignificant penalty were involved one might say that perhaps it could be accepted, but the penalty to be imposed in this case is not insignificant. The Bill provides for a penalty of $10,000 or imprisonment for five years - a terrific penalty. Proposed new subsection 30A (2), provides that the penalty will be imposed upon a breach of the following requirement. a person shall not, in pursuance of an agreement under section is, furnish information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Of course, someone cannot be prosecuted and sentenced to five years imprisonment for giving false or misleading information if that was done unknowingly. If such information were given unknowingly the person concerned could use that as a defence and be exonerated. On every occasion the prosecutor brings a charge involving such a penalty he has a responsibility to prove every detail of the indictment. One of the details would be that the person charged knowingly gave information that was false or misleading in a material particular. Proposed new sub-section 30a (3) provides an escape. It states:
In a prosecution of a person for an offence against this section, it is a defence if the person proves that he did not know. and had no reason to suspect, that the statement or information to which the prosecution relates was false or misleading, as the case may be.
In the prosecution of a defendant under the section, the responsibility rests with the defendant to show that he did not knowingly furnish false or misleading information and that he had no reason to suspect that the statement or information was incorrect. Here we come to a matter which all people concerned with civil liberties under the British system of justice have fought against for most of their lives, namely, the reversal of the onus of proof. In this instance, the defendant will not be innocent until he is proven guilty; he will be partially innocent upon receiving the indictment and will have to exonerate himself. One can visualise the difficulty that such a person might experience, even though truthful it might be that he did not know at the time or had no reason to suspect that a statement or information was false or misleading. I place on record my protest against placing an onus of proof or an onus of exoneration upon a defendant in a prosecution under this proposed new section.
– We are familiar with the subject of Senator Cavanagh’s comments. He always expresses concern about reversals of the onus of proof. It is an important matter which should be considered - certainly it is considered by Government - in relation to these matters. The situation with this Nursing Homes Assistance Amendment Bill is that new offences are being created for the provision of false or misleading information by a proprietor of a nursing home in seeking to obtain what might be very substantial benefits indeed from the Government. The actual penalties imposed by proposed new section 30a and indeed the requirement that the person concerned prove that he did not know and had no reason to suspect that information was false or misleading are based on a similar provision in section 1 29 of the Health Insurance Act. That section imposes penalties identical to those contained in this Bill for the supplying of false or misleading information in relation to an application, approval or claim for a payment under the Health Insurance Act. So already an identical provision is contained in health legislation.
– That does not make it right.
– I was just about to add - we have had debate about this on numerous occasions in the Senate - that in situations of this kind where in fact the information is exclusively within the knowledge of the proprietor of, in this case, a nursing home or where there is information which provides a defence which is peculiarly within the knowledge of the accused, it is quite common practice to put upon that person the onus of bringing forward the information which would exonerate him rather than placing the onus on the prosecutor to provide that evidence. As I said, the information is such as to be within the knowledge of or easily obtainable by the defendant rather than the prosecutor. I think that that is simply another example of that principle. I agree that it is something that needs to be justified, but I believe in these cases, and on the precedence that we have, that it is justifiable.
– I really do not want to take the matter further. I want only to express my opposition and to say that I am not satisfied with the reply of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). He said that this tyrannical rule is contained somewhere else in the health legislation and that on that basis we can use it again. I suppose we will use it until we finally hang the victim. It seems that having made the mistake once we will keep repeating it.
This matter concerns information which is only within the knowledge of a person. That means that a prosecution can be launched without knowledge of whether a person deliberately gave false information. The onus of proof is on that person. I would be prepared to forget this part of the legislation if the penalty were not so great, but a man can be put into gaol for five years if he is unable to prove that he did not know when he made a statement.
The Attorney-General says that the benefits of this legislation are generous. I remind him that the penalties are also very generous. A prosecution which is unable to prove a case can indict a person on the grounds that he unknowingly gave misleading information. If that person is unable to convince a court that he unknowingly gave misleading information he could have to serve five years imprisonment or pay $10,000. This situation arises only because of the onus of proof provision. I do not relish bringing up this matter, but one can appreciate that a government official would have been in difficulty in company proceedings in New South Wales if the onus of proof were reversed. The court found that the prosecution had not proved its case. I do not know where that individual would have been if the onus of proof of innocence that is being placed on a nursing home proprietor in this legislation were placed upon him.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Civil Liberties in Latin America - Mr James
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I believe we in the Senate are being treated in a very cursory manner. I believe we are entitled to proper consideration when decisions are made by the Senate as a whole. Those decisions should be binding on the Senate, and that includes Government senators and Ministers of the Government. Perhaps it applies more particularly to them than it does to other members of the Senate.
It is alarming to me that a Minister in the Government should move That the Senate do now adjourn’, knowing that the matter has not been fully debated. One can only presume that that motion has been moved because the Government is frightened to have the matter debated properly. There are issues that require answers from a responsible member of the Government. We need to know how a very important report which was not presented to this chamber until late this evening appeared almost in full- it certainly highlighted the major points in the report - in today’s Australian newspaper. That means that a reporter of that newspaper had as early as yesterday afternoon information that had not then been provided to the Senate. I think we have a right to be told just now Mr Russell Schneider–
– Order! Senator Coleman, what is your point of order?
– My point of order is that we had before this chamber a motion, agreed to by the Senate as a whole, that this matter be brought on for debate today.
– What Standing Order do you refer to?
– 1 do not know the number of the Standing Order, Mr President, I ask for your ruling on this. It is a reflection on the–
– There is no point of order. You have been allowed to discuss this matter on a point of order, but there is no point of order involved.
– In that instance, I will have to continue the remarks that I wanted to make as part of the adjournment debate. I intend to keep honourable senators here for quite some time. As I have already said, I believe we are entitled to a response from the Minister as to how this has occurred. I am disturbed that a number of–
- Senator, I shall call you at the correct time on the adjournment debate.
– Mr President, 1 raise a point of order. I wish to seek information from you, Mr President. I would like to understand what the procedure really is. After all, an amendment was moved by Senator Coleman concerning consideration of Government Business. She moved that that item be brought on at a later hour of this day, and now I find–
– That is not the issue.
– I am seeking an explanation from the President, not from the honourable senator. I would like to understand how the Senate has got around this procedure when the Senate as a whole carried an amendment, without any voice of dissent, that the matter be heard at a later hour of this day. The day is not over yet.
– The workings of this place, Senator Mcintosh, are determined by the Senate itself within the Standing Orders as honourable senators know them. It is up to the Senate to determine how the business of this place is conducted, within the parameters of the Standing Orders. I can say no more than that.
– I rise to seek from the Government a more specific response on the Government’s attitude to acts of oppression on the Latin American continent. I think it was significant that late last week Senator Chipp asked a question in relation to civil liberties in Uruguay. As late as today my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland asked a question about Chile and the fate of an Australian citizen, Sister Gleeson. I want to take that matter a little bit further. In the foreign affairs field I wonder what has been happening in recent months between certain forces in the Khyber Pass, and with the Khmer Rouge and other forces in South East Asia. We want to know what our Government is doing in those fields. I have held the view in relation to any act of political oppression that there should not be double standards. I have said repeatedly in relation to the Argentine, Chile, Bolivia or Uruguay, that we have been rather slothful in our public condemnation, and - this is an area 1 will not go into tonight - in the way in which we have absorbed quotas of political refugees in concert with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Tonight I want to deal only with our track record in foreign affairs, lt is significant that the Chilean Government is presenting the facade of a new plebiscite. This has been happening ever since the demise of the Allende Government. I have a manifesto which was issued by Ana-Maria Cortez, President of the Popular Party of Chile, who is in exile and is domiciled in Australia. I ask for the leave of the House to have that document incorporated in Hansard after the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has perused it. I do not think the Minister will take umbrage at the sentiments contained therein.
The fascist dictatorship that exists in Chile is much more insidious. We find that agents of that country have gone to certain lengths in the United States of America when Letelier, a former Foreign Minister in the Allende Government, was liquidated in Washington. Those honourable senators who have read recent publications about this matter will know that the Central Intelligence Agency was, to say the least, very apathetic when facts came to light about the assassins. One of the assassins was a man named Michael Townley. I want to make it clear to the Senate that he is not a member of the Senate. He is a different Michael Townley. I have made that point perfectly clear. This situation indicates how the tentacles of fascism, particularly in these Latin American countries, stretch out to people who condemn these regimes. I hope that the Minister has perused the manifesto so that it may be incorporated in Hansard. I will return later to that matter.
I want to deal now with the role of the Argentine. Several times I have raised in the Senate the case of Anna Mohadad, a girl who presently is an inmate of the Cordoba Penitentiary in the Argentine. I obtained the approval of our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Andrew Peacock, to have two lengthy discussions with the then Argentinian Ambassador. Our Government was prepared to accept this girl as a political refugee. The Argentinian Government played that peculiar cat and mouse game of releasing the girl for 48 hours and as she was preparing to come to Australia she was picked up again on other charges. She is still an inmate of the prison. We accept the credentials of various Ambassadors. At times we have rebuked representatives from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics because of actions against the accepted canons of peace and fair play. But I do not know whether we have ever ticked off some of these Ambassadors from countries with ultra-right governments. If one looks at the situation in the Argentine, in Chile, in Bolivia and in Uruguay one has a quartet of countries whose authoritarianism extends everywhere from the highest to the lowest. Our concept of free speech is non-existent. The annoying thing is that they prate and preen that they are anti-communist and against totalitarianism but they replace one form of totalitarianism with another of an even more vicious variety. At this stage I ask whether the manifesto on the aims of the Chilean government can be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
To the Government, Political Parties, the Trade Union Movement, Humanitarian and Student Organisations, the Diplomatic Corps and the People of Australia.
As Chileans we feel an historical and moral imperative to address to you our public denunciation of the coming oneman plebescite, I 11th September, in Chile.
The military dictatorship has retained power in Chile since the bloody coup which overthrew the constitutional government of Salvador Allende, and is now preparing to strike a final blow against the people. At the same time it seeks to silence criticism from inside and outside the country and legitimise that which cannot be legitimised. The dictatorship has resolved to implement a fraudulent public plebescite to invent a non-existent popular base, and promulgate a fascist constitution.
We make it clear that until the military coup. Chile was governed through one of the world’s oldest constitutions, and note the following:
The political constitution of Chile, formulated in 192S, provided the juridical framework of our institutions and the basis in action of one of the most solid and functional democracies in the world.
On 11th September 1973, the fascist military, directed and financed by national monopolies and foreign capital, abolished the constitution and began to govern by concentrating all of powers of the state in the hands of a small clique of reactionary generals. Under this leadership the country has been governed since then as if it were a barracks, through a series of military decrees and laws completely divorced from any legal, constitutional or legislative process.
With the passing of time and the intensification of international and internal pressures, the dictatorship has attempted to create a pseudo-legality to reinforce its repression. To achieve this it empowered a group of fascist ideologues to create a constitution that would embody the philosophy, means and ends of the dictatorship. After years of work behind closed doors, behind the backs of the people, of secret discussions and sinister modifications, they now want to impose this fraud on the people, using fear tactics and deceit.
The most diverse legal, university, religious, political and union institutions inside Chile have denounced this plebescite as one of the most grave actions of the dictatorship in its drive to perpetuate its own power. The bishops of the Catholic Church, the leaders of the Professional College of Lawyers, innumerable constitutionalists, teachers of law and people from right across the political spectrum in Chile are agreed that only the people can delegate sovereignty, and that power to elect a true constitutional assembly, or alter the constitution, lies solely with the electorate.
This, and nothing else, is the germ of a true and domocratic constitution. The plebescite conforms to the same style and intent as the earlier one held two years ago. lt is an attempt to mount an armed military operation against the people and impose on it the will of the military. The people will have to go to the elections intimidated by arms and threats, without the liberty of expression of opinion, without the possibility of argument, and without a free press. It will be an ‘election’ without voting rolls and with voting places controlled by the goons of the dictatorship empowered to personally scrutinize any voter or vote. In summary, it will be an election threatening the dignity, physical safety and civic maturity of every Chilean.
As a consequence of the above the Chilean exile community in Australia, which forms a part of the one million Chileans in exile throughout the world (10 per cent of the total Chilean population) resolves:
. To inform the dictatorship of our categorical rejection of its project, and repudiation of its fradulent terrorist tactics, which have already been amply demonstrated to the Chilean people. One of Pinochet’s paid assassins, Michael Townley, convicted by a U.S. Grand Jury of the murder in Washington of President Allende; Foreign Minister Letelier claimed to have voted seven times in the 78 .-,-/–:.-
To condemn the repression unleashed against the Chilean people by the Secret Police and official ‘Vengeance Squads,’ who violate free and sovereign popular expression by intimidation and terror.
To express our solidarity and gratitude to the patriots of the resistance in Chile, who daily oppose the despotism of the dictatorship, and give special significance to patriotic opposition to this fraud.
To call on political unions, legal, religious, women’s and student organisations, indeed all democratic sectors of Australia, to initiate actions which prevent the Pinochet dictatorship from implementating its fraud, and which maintain its international isolation.
Authorised by Ana-Maria Cortez, President, Unidad Popular (Exile) in Australia: on behalf of the following organizations:
– As I said, I believe that the Argentinian Government is playing a sinister role in the case of Anna Mohadad whose relatives in Australia have fought very strongly to have the girl released. In addition, it is playing a sinister role in relation to the situation in Bolivia. I think it is well known that a plebiscite was held for a presidential election. The successful candidate on primary votes was Hernan Zuazo. That would probably have been confirmed at a meeting of the parliament but the military junta did not wait, lt took over. The Carter Government in the United States was the first government to cut off economic aid to Bolivia.
We have had some success in Australia in getting some dependants out of La Paz in the last six weeks but again, I have been a little critical of the Government. I feel that it should be more militant in this role. The great difficulty is that it is a different matter when people get out of some eastern European country, present themselves to our Embassy in Vienna and ask for political asylum. I know of one or two members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association in New South Wales. They are power station workers and not on princely salaries. They have to provide air tickets for their relatives to go from La Paz to Lima, which is a considerable air journey. Quite apart from that, the relatives have to have medical examinations and be vetted in other ways before their long journey, probably by air via Los Angeles, to Sydney. One can realise the magnitude of the economic difficulties some Australian citizens of Latin American origin face when they seek to get their relatives out. I will have much more to say, not at this time of the night but on Estimates Committee C when dealing with immigration, on how we can bestir the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In the foreign affairs field I repeat that, whatever I said about Chile and the Argentine, 1 think that General Luis Garcia Meza. the dictator of Bolivia, should be exposed. If anybody has read this morning’s Australian Financial Review he will have noticed that it appears that there is a billion dollar connection with a small group of army officers in relation to cocaine and other drugs. I harp on the theme of what role Australia can play in an external area. The European Economic Community nations, including Britain, have all argued that the World Bank should cut off aid to Bolivia. I have said that already the United States has cut off aid. Probably it has learned its lesson from when it failed to stop the emergence of facism in Chile. It is quite obvious that the Government has no credibility in the Bolivian situation. I know that at times one can cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face but the general concensus of opinion in the Bolivian community in Sydney - it is not a large one compared with other Latin-American communities - is that Australia should be in the vanguard at the United Nations and in its local area in exposing corrupt governments.
Honourable senators might also look at the New York Times of Sunday, 17 August, which was equally damning about what is happening in Bolivia. The message I am trying to get through is that several years ago people used to say: ‘Oh well, it is a small group of Trotskyites raising something in Latin America’. But there is a genuine acrosstheboard concern about the complete suppression of civil liberties on the Latin-American continent. I know that my Victorian colleague, Senator Evans, from his association with Amnesty International, has already raised the matter very strongly in relation to Uruguay. The great tragedy is that some Latin-American countries for a brief time had very successful parliamentary democracy. Once upon a time I think that Uruguay used to be the show piece of Latin America. But I simply group them all in my remarks tonight. I repeat that I will have more to say during the Estimates committee meeting about why we cannot improve our ability to take a quota of Latin American refugees on the same basis as we take eastern European refugees and South East Asian refugees. But I do have an inner feeling of regret that we have to do everything for the people who are trying to escape from living under that government of the far left. I have often had doubts about whether the motives of many people who disappear over a border are sincere.
Leaving that aside, I believe that we can play a much more vigorous role at the United Nations in relation to the countries that I have mentioned. Bolivia is only a small country. Honourable senators who have looked at the current issue of the London Times in the Parliamentary Library will see some of the atrocities that have been committed. I suppose that apart from the shootings that have taken place, the atrocities include the raping of miners’ wives in towns in the Andes mountains. I suppose that many honourable senators also saw an earlier Four Corners program about the shocking conditions under which those people work. Safety conditions and industrial conditions are non-existent. When one considers the abnormally high incidence of silicosis and respiratory diseases one can understand what they are fighting for.
I conclude my remarks by pointing out that there are increasing numbers of people in the various Latin American communities in Australia. They are extremely politically motivated. As Australians, we owe it to them to be even-handed in our complaints about the suppression of civil liberties. I would like the Minister to take these comments on board and to give to me, not necessarily tonight, an indication of what policies have been followed by our representatives at the
United Nations in relation to the incidents that have occurred in the four nations I have mentioned. I have taken the trouble to write twice to the new Ambassador for the Argentine about Miss Mohadad and make complaints about Bolivia and other countries I have mentioned. I believe that we are entitled to get some sort of answer to find out whether we ever chastise these countries and, to go even further, suggest to them that we do not believe any good purpose is served by maintaining diplomatic relations with them. I leave those thoughts with the Minister.
– I speak tonight on behalf of James Mange who is a 24- year-old black nationalist now lying in a South African gaol under sentence of death. Mange was not found guilty of taking any life or of causing any personal injury, or even of causing any damage to property. No weapons were found in his possession at the time of his arrest. Nor was there any proof given at his trial of his ever having used weapons or explosives in South Africa. His offence was solely that of receiving guerrilla training and reconnoitring possible targets. For this he was charged and convicted of high treason. He will shortly hang unless some international pressure of the kind to which the South African Government will listen can be brought to bear. This is no ordinary case even by South African standards. A very large proportion of the trial which was conducted in Pietermaritzburg in November last year was carried out in camera despite an appeal made at the time by the European Parliament and personally sent by the European President Madame Simone Veil on behalf of all the parliamentary groupings in that Parliament that the trial be conducted in public with international legal observers.
The other really extraordinary feature of the trial of Mange along with his fellow 11 African National Congress defendants was the really quite incredible disparity between the sentences which were imposed on Mange compared to his fellow defendants. Mange was the only one of the 1 2 to be sentenced to death although the facts in all the cases were reasonably similar. Indeed, one other defendant who by comparison was sentenced to 1 8 years’ goal was actually found guilty of throwing a grenade at a policeman. The most likely explanation that has emerged for the disparity in sentencing seems to have been the hostile personal attitude adopted by the judge to Mange’s leadership of a number of demonstrations that were carried out in the court room protesting against the illegitimate character of this trial being carried out in camera.
There have been responses in a number of countries around the world to James Mange’s plight. It was the subject of a statement by the Chairman of the United Nations special committee against apartheid. It is an issue that has been raised by the Indian Government in the General Assembly at the United Nations. There have been protests by West German members of Parliament and demonstrations in England. So far, however, this whole issue appears not to have been the subject of any Press comment or public action of any kind within Australia.
I believe this is a matter on which Australia’s voice should be heard. I have made available to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carrick, all the information I have on the Mange case in the hope that it can be taken up by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and an appropriate diplomatic protest made. I would welcome an assurance by the Minister that the Australian Government’s commitment to human rights is not one of abstract principle only but does extend to cases of manifest individual injustice of the kind in issue here.
– Tonight I intend to bring to the Senate’s attention five years of procrastination in relation to the provision of a basic facility for an area in central Queensland. That facility is a television translator to service the Airlie Beach-Cannonvale area. The Airlie Beach-Cannonvale area is about 25 kilometres from Proserpine. It is a major tourist area with almost unlimited potential for further tourist development. Tourism, of course, is of immense importance to Queensland. It is the State’s fourth largest industry and is responsible for the employment of thousands of people. However, the full realisation of the tourist potential of this area is being hampered by several problems. The Whitsunday Coast Regional Tourist Authority has outlined these problems as poor roads, rising fuel prices, inadequate airport facilities and a lack of television facilities. Whilst all of these factors are of utmost importance to the Authority and to the residents it is the lack of adequate television facilities about which I intend to speak this evening.
Residents of Australia’s capital cities take it for granted that they can turn from one channel to another to view a program of their choice. Instead of having three or four channels, residents of the Airlie Beach-Cannonvale area can view one channel only, and then only with a good deal of luck. 1 was recently asked to visit the area to look at this problem. My visit revealed a long story of inactivity and seeming incompetence. My information is that the saga began in August 1975 when the Australian Government resumed a site at
Shingley Hill, close to Airlie Beach. A television translator was to be constructed on that site. Following the resumption of the Shingley Hill site equipment was apparently purchased for the television translator. That equipment was put in storage at Mackay.
Unfortunately, the installation of the translator seems to be no closer than it was when the Australian Government resumed the site in 1975. It appears that the Government and the owners of the land surrounding the site at Shingley Hill are unable to reach agreement on access to the site. My information is that the owner of the land surrounding the site is a company called Two World Holidays Pty Ltd. According to the Whitsunday Coast Regional Tourist Authority, a stalemate has developed because the Government and the company cannot agree on whether access is to be by way of a simple road directly up the hillside or a road leading to the site by way of an S-bend route. The Authority claims that the land owners preferred the S-bend route and agreed verbally to make minimal compensation claims if this route were used. It seems that the land owners were to give confirmation of this in writing, but they never did so. The Federal Government’s version of the reason for the delay was passed on to me by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) in May in answer to a question I asked in this chamber. The Minister agreed that the delay had been caused by problems with the owners over access to the site. He said that the owners required the construction of a higher grade road than that proposed by the Federal Government.
Whatever the precise reasons, the fact remains that five years after the land was resumed the site is lying idle, the equipment is lying in store at Mackay, possibly rusting away, and the residents are still lucky if they can tune into one television channel. It appears that the stubborn attitude of the landowners on the question of an access road relates to some future subdivision planned for the land in which the route of the access road will play a major part. Thus it would appear that the Federal Government, and therefore the people of Airlie Beach and Cannonvale, are being held to ransom by an insignificant minor company. This company wants to maximise its future profits by threatening to have an important public project shelved. If it takes the Federal Government more than five years to come to an agreement with a small company over the construction of a minor road, heaven help us when the Government has some vitally important international deal to negotiate. What chance do we have of ever launching a communications satellite when it has taken five years to get nowhere in providing Airlie Beach and Cannonvale residents with a television service?
When residents approached me they had already made representations to the State Minister for Maritime Services and Tourism, the then State Minister for Mines, Energy and Police, the Federal member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite), and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). Some of those people may be political heavyweights, but all have failed to deliver the goods to the residents of the area. During my recent visit I had the opportunity to make a thorough inspection of the Shingley Hill site. I could see no reason why the Commonwealth should not use its extensive powers if agreement cannot be reached with the landowner to whom 1 have referred. Local residents and tourist operators who accompanied me were unanimous in their disgust that the project had not proceeded. They and their fellow residents are the losers in this petty squabble between the Federal Government and the company.
Over two months ago I wrote to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the Hon. A. A. Staley, about this sorry matter. I pointed out to him the matters to which I have referred so far this evening. On 20 August, which is not too long ago, I received a reply from the Minister to the personal representations I had made. The reply I received is quite unsatisfactory. It is far too vague. The reply from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications reads as follows:
I refer to your personal representations concerning the delay which has occurred in commencing the construction of an approved national television translator station to serve the Airlie Beach area of Queensland. I apologise for the delay in responding to your letter.
As you are aware, a site for the translator has been acquired by the Commonwealth and construction is scheduled to commence during the current financial year with completion in the following year.
The main point of contention threatening adherence to this schedule has been in reaching agreement with the former owners of the acquired land on the matter of a suitable access road.
My Department has advised me that a recent development relating to negotiations being conducted by the Department of Administrative Services on behalf of the Commonwealth indicates that an early resolution to the problem of the access road may now be possible.
You may be assured that I am most anxious for construction of this station to proceed on schedule and I have requested my Department to make every effort to ensure agreement is reached on the site access as soon as possible.
The letter acknowledges that there has been a problem in reaching agreement with the former owners of the acquired land. But what hope does the Minister provide for the Airlie BeachCannonvale residents that they will soon have a television translator? He holds out no such hope. He said:
So far so good. But then he qualified that by saying:
He said: ‘May be possible’. He does not say that it will actually happen. The last paragraph reads:
I have requested my Department to make every effort to ensure agreement is reached on the site access as soon as possible.
So we have reached the stage that agreement has not even been reached on the site access although construction is scheduled to commence this financial year with completion the following year. Five years have gone by and the Minister requests his Department to see that agreement is reached! With all respect, I suggest that the Minister should instruct his Department to have the television translator constructed forthwith.
This evening I had delivered to my office a circular letter from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications which outlines the capital works program to be undertaken in Queensland by his Department this year. I should imagine that all honourable senators had forwarded to them a similar letter in respect of their own States. I found in this document that in respect of the electorate of Dawson, where this particular translator is to be established, there is the heading: ‘Television Shingle Beach Translator’. I think it is supposed to be ‘Shingley Hill Translator’ or ‘Airlie Beach Translator’. Under the heading ‘Shingle Beach Translator’ an estimated sum of $ 1 3 1 ,000 is set aside and the estimated year of completion set out in this document is 1 98 1 -82.
As I had known that this translator had been planned since 1975, 1 attempted to find out in the short time available to me this evening after 1 received this document whether funds had been set aside similarly in previous years and whether the estimated year of completion had always been 1 98 1 -82. 1 was not able to find that out in the time available but I shall be trying to find out subsequently whether a similar amount had been set aside for that project. The fact that it has been set aside and that it is stated that the estimated year of completion is 1981-82 does not really mean that it will be completed then. I certainly hope that it will be started this year and that, if the Minister says it will be completed in early 1982, it will be completed then.
I repeat: The whole project has been proceeding for far too long. If it had been started in 1975, one would have expected that a few years after that the residents of this area would have adequate television beamed to them just as it is being beamed to the nearby town of Proserpine and to the tourist islands just off the Airlie Beach area. They receive television from a different translator and have had decent television reception for a long time. 1 urge the Government to do everything it possibly can to get this project under way this year so that next year the people of the Airlie Beach and Cannonvale area will have the television they so rightly deserve and so that the area will be able to promote itself as a tourist area in a much better way than it is able to promote itself now. The residents of this area have reached the stage at which they will not stand any longer for the procrastination which has plagued this project. I ask on their behalf that everything posible be done and that the Minister’s Department be instructed to get on and have this television translator actually installed on that hill.
– Today in the Senate I tabled petitions signed by the citizens of the Northern Territory calling for the extension to Darwin of the railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. I will be continuing to table petitions of this kind in the Senate. Honourable senators will note that I have been tabling these petitions since May 1979. These petitions are indicative of the feelings of the people of the Northern Territory.
The Territory is now akin to a slumbering giant. With the transfer of powers, the giant is awakening. As I have said on numerous occasions, tremendous development is taking place in the north of Australia. The people of the north of Australia have felt the taste of war. They have felt the lack of development. They have felt the lack of assistance from governments in Australia and from the people of the south. They now feel that times are changing and that at last people from other parts of Australia are with them. These petitions which are continuing to come in contain some thousands of signatures. They come in from little towns and big towns and from many settlements in the Northern Territory. The people themselves are aflame with the desire that this railway line be constructed to lower transport costs, boost tourism, improve defence, increase transport reliability and generally assist northern development. Quite a lot has been said about this matter by the Northern Territory Government and by other people particularly over the last few weeks. 1 seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter that has been circulated by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Government to the people of the Territory and to other people in Australia. The letter sets out the case for the construction of the north-south transcontinental railway.
The letter read as follows -
Chief Minister Northern Territory Government Darwin
NORTH-SOUTH TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY
I would like to bring you up to date with progress on the proposal to finally complete the transcontinental railway from Adelaide to Darwin.
As you may be aware, construction of this railway began in 1878, but by 1929 the southern link extended only as far as Alice Springs, and the northern link went 450 kilometres from Darwin to Larrimah, leaving a gap of 900 kilometres in the middle of the northern half of our continent.
And that is where construction stopped.
The Federal Government closed the Darwin-Larrimah section of the line in 1976, a closure which must be’ counted as a loss to the Northern Territory and the entire nation.
This is despite a clause in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910 which states that on transfer of the Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth, the Federal Government would . . . “construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the Northern boundary of South Australia proper”.
In a statement issued almost 70 years ago, in March 1913, the Department of External Affairs said . . . “The Government is confident of an immediate commencement with the construction of this important developmental and strategic national work”.
That statement still holds true today. In fact, if that work of national importance had been carried out 70 years ago, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory would be a lot better off today. People and development have historically followed railway lines. In South Australia’s case, the extension of the railway from Alice Springs to Darwin would create thousands of jobs and inject tens of millions of dollars into the State’s economy. A conservative estimate has put the trading loss to South Australia caused by the lack of adequate transport links to the Northern Territory at $70 million a year. A railway feeding locally manufactured goods all the way to Darwin and returning cargo originating from South East Asia and landed across Darwin wharf would turn that figure from a straight loss to a substantially higher trading figure.
Initial surveys for the completion of the Transcontinental Railway have now been carried out, the project has been costed at approximately S380 million, and its cargo connection with the vast markets of Asia, the land-backed wharf in Darwin Harbour, is under construction. This Federal Government seems to be prepared to honour the promise of 1910.
Last year, Mr Keith Smith, the Chairman of Australian National Railways, said the undertaking of the biggest railway development in this country in more than 60 years made sense, but it would need: “A national act of faith”.
I seek your support at this time, when that act of faith can at last turn the century-old dream of Northern development into practical reality.
– 1 also commend the national papers in Australia. I believe now that the media is behind this project. The editorial in the Australian of 25 August entitled ‘The railway must go through to Darwin’ indicates very strongly the reasons why this line should be constructed. The last paragraph of the editorial reads:
For our own protection, we can no longer ignore the urgency of the need to open up the North. The Alice Springs-Darwin rail link will be a giant step toward that opening up. Australia must take it.
I seek leave for the editorial entitled ‘The railway must go through to Darwin’ to be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
The interest demonstrated by the Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Hunt, in the construction of a railway between Alice Springs and Darwin is well placed. In our story today he says he hopes to put to Cabinet within a month a recommendation arising from the findings of the joint Northern Territory-Commonwealth study group which reported in June, after lengthy investigations which established that construction of a railway was desirable for a number of reasons. Mr Hunt’s sense of urgency is justified: the new railway line from the south to Alice Springs is almost completed; the construction team and equipment which have done such an efficient job on that line are still together and available; thus it would be an indefensible waste of money and knowhow if that organisation were allowed to drift away, with all the problems and delays involved in trying to get together a similar organisation to press ahead with the line to Darwin.
No substantial argument, other than cost against likely returns, can be mounted against building the rail link through Darwin. And the cost/returns case is not particularly strong. The value of such a link in our defensive planning is, by itself, enough to justify the expense. But, as the study group’s report showed and as Mr Hunt says today, the rail link will play an important role in Australia’s economic development, starting virtually as soon as it is completed. Apart from considerable quantities of minerals and other materials which it can be expected to carry out of the Northern Territory, it could also carry perhaps 1 .3 million tonnes of South Australian coal a year to Darwin for power generation. This would have three major and far-reaching effcts; it would give a great boost to SA coal mining; it would open up enormous prospects for Darwin and the Northern Territory, long hamstrung by lack of power in bulk; and it would make the Darwin railway immediately viable.
The cost of the line’s construction is not as daunting as might be imagined, lt will not, of course, be cheap: current estimates run well in excess of $400m. But this amount must be put into perspective: it is equal to about four High Court buildings, two new Federal Parliament Houses, two Sydney Eastern Suburbs railways and one Melbourne city rail loop.
I f we can accept these sorts of charges to house our judges, and politicians and to make big cities more efficient and their citizens better serviced, can we possibly refute the merits of a railway line which will reach into and open up the neglected top half of our continent - with its enormous area, its vast riches and its exciting potential for development?
It is interesting (even if not entirely logical) to note that the Sydney and Melbourne rail constructions mentioned above cover between them only a few kilometres. The Alice Springs Darwin link, for much less than that spent on the big-city rail developments, would stretch 1530km. Together with the virtually-completed Tarcoola-Alice Springs line, which stuck close to budget at around $150m, the north-south transcontinental railway would stretch nearly 2400km - a vision splendid across the sunlit plains extended, indeed . . . and one which Banjo Paterson, as a nationalist and a passionate Australian, would have entirely approved.
The idea of a north-south rail link has been discussed for nearly 100 years and has been vaguely the policy of successive Federal Governments since 1910. It is time, for Australia’s sake, it was done. And done quickly. It is not a subject on which the Government can ‘do a Burdekin’ as Mr Hawke suggested recently might happen - that the railway might become another triennial election promise, like the dam of Queensland’s Burdekin, raised as a vote-catcher at election time and left as no more than plans to gather dust in between polls.
For our own protection, we can no longer ignore the urgency of the need to open up the North. The Alice SpringsDarwin rail link will be a giant step toward that opening up. Australia must take it.
– As I have indicated, many submissions have been made on this matter particularly over the last few months. The Northern Territory Government considers the construction of this line from Alice Springs to Darwin as its most important project for the development of the Northern Territory. It says that the project has been the subject of several studies, reports and investigations, and that it has top priority. It is an essential feature of the Government’s approach to the development of the Territory. The Northern Territory Government states that its approach places emphasis on providing State-type infrastructure to support the growth and development of business ventures, that it is vital to the cohesion and integrity of the Territory, and that it will affect the well-being of all Territorians more than any other single project.
The Northern Territory Government says that it is in the interests of all Australians to support the railway as it is a project of the highest national security importance both for defence and energy reasons; that opening up of the development potential of the Territory would provide new market outlets for the manufactured products of South Australia and new export opportunities for the nation as a whole in agriculture, pastoral activity and mining, and that the railway would open up new avenues for promoting two-way trade with South East Asia and would be a catalyst for the closer settlement of Australia’s north. The overwhelming case for the railway can be appreciated only if a truly national perspective is taken. It is a project for all Australians. The loss to the nation up to the present in terms of development opportunities forgone because of the failure to build the line is enormous. In the Australian of 25 August, under the heading Approval expected soon for Darwin rail link’, it is stated:
The Federal Government is seriously considering the development of a $41 5m rail link between Alice Springs and Darwin.
It continues to state the case for a standard gauge railway not only from Adelaide to Alice Springs but also from Alice Springs to Darwin. This Government and the previous Government are to be commended for the work that has been carried out on the rail link to Alice Springs. The survey of the project was commenced in 1 970 and eventually Acts were passed by this place as well as by the South Australian Parliament which brought about the commencement of construction. That was some 831 kilometres of line from Tarcoola, on the east-west line, to Alice Springs, at a total cost of, I think, some $143m. This line is almost complete. October will see the finish of this project.
It is to the credit of the Australian National Railways that, despite increased costs over the last four to five years, it has remained within its budget. I think that it is indicative of the efficiency of the Australian National Railways that it has acquired not only the financial expertise to control its expenditure on such a magnificent project, which I think is the biggest rail project in Australia this century, but also the ability and technique to bring about a new type of rail construction which has proved most efficient and which has brought about the completion of the construction of this line almost a year before planned. Because of the efficiency of the Australian National Railways, the Government increased the funding to allow the line to be completed. The earlier completion has meant a saving of funds.
This expertise in financial control and construction has been brought to bear on the line to Alice Springs, lt has been indicated in the other place that a further project is to commence. I refer to the construction of a standard gauge line from Crystal Brook in South Australia to Adelaide. I will speak on this matter later. This is an essential part of the standard gauge project and will bring about the existence of a standard gauge line from Adelaide to Alice Springs. The new project will mean the linking of some 1,530 kilometres. The present cost is estimated at some $380m. I suggest that in the years to come, if this line is gradually extended from Alice Springs to Darwin, it will not only have economic worth for the country in which it passes through but also assist development.
I hope that the Government will see fit in the weeks to come to give confirmation to all the work that has been done to bring this project about. It is a project that is in the interest of all Australians and a project which will assist South Australia and other States, lt will mean markets for South Australia through the Darwin port where a land-backed wharf has been built, lt was suggested that it should be constructed in about 1 890. This will bring about a new market in South East Asia. It will provide facilities for mining, cattle and tourism. All in all this project will enhance the development of the north which surely must be one of the best means of defence of the north of Australia.
I must also correct some of the things said by Senator McLaren who is a most unusual person. On many occasions he has criticised the northern railway system. It seems to me that despite the benefits that the system brings to South Australia he always appears to be deriding the situation. I draw to his attention the fact that the survey work which was commenced in 1970 could have been hastened if the South Australian Government had not fooled around for some 4i years. The paper Australian Transport of July 1 977 slates:
Some unnecessary political dickering held back the project for 41 years.
– What project?
– This is the rail link from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. The article continued:
The South Australian Labor Party, when it came to power in 1970. said it would not sanction the plan unless all industry was served with spur lines. This left an immense question mark as to just how many spur lines would be involved. Otherwise, it did not make a great deal of sense because of the high cost of construction and maintenance of spur lines. lt is not me who is saying these things; this is the official transport paper which is very critical of the actions of the South Australian Government. The paper continues:
Again, it seemed to have overlooked the trend these days for factories to have their products forwarded to common freight yards by forwarding agents for loading at such yards. In South Australia’s case, where there are broad, standard and narrow gauge lines making up the State’s network the problems would be manifold, the costs out of all proportion.
– Which railway are you talking about?
– This is the line which would provide a standard gauge rail link to Alice Springs. I wish to raise one other matter because Senator McLaren has had much to say over the last year about how the railway line from Darwin to Pine Creek, Katherine and Birdum ceased to exist. I refer honourable senators to the Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government - that is, the Coombs report which was initiated for the previous Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, Q.C. One of the recommendations that were made to Mr Whitlam by Dr Coombs related to the petroleum products subsidy scheme. What the Coombs report had to say on page 226 is worth noting, lt was suggested that the petroleum products subsidy scheme should be taken away from the people of the outback, and this did happen. It shows the hide of the Labor Government at that time, that it would bring about a situation which would ignore the people of the outback. The recommendation stated:
Moreover, there is little economic logic in providing a subsidy which encourages people to remain in remote locations such that the greatest encouragement goes to those most remote.
This is the Labor Party, referring to the people of the remoter areas of the outback of Australia. The recommendation continues:
Distance involves a real cost to the community and any subsidy considered necessary would be better paid directly rather than in the blanket fashion involved in a price equalisation scheme.
The Labor Government then took the petroleum subsidy scheme away from the people of the outback and the Northern Trerritory. The first thing to happen was that the narrow gauge railway line from Darwin to Katherine and to Birdum was closed. At this time the Frances Creek mining company was the North Australia Railways’ main client. Taking the petrol subsidy scheme away from North Australia Railways increased the cost of fuel with the result that the railway then had to increase its freight rates. That increased cost was then passed on to the Frances Creek company and the rates became such that it made that company uneconomic. Frances Creek mining company could not pay its rail bill and because of that North Australia Railways became uneconomic, lt had lost its main customer because the Labor Party took away the fuel subsidy scheme. Then, Mr Charles Jones - who was then the Minister for Transport in the Labor Government - initiated a review of the situation which ultimately brought about the cessation of the rail line from Darwin to Birdum.
– Who closed the line?
– The closure was brought about because the Labor Government saw fit to knock the people of the outback. The only interest the Labor Party has is to look after the massive population centres, the industrial people, and it could not care a damn about the small number of people in the outback. If people wish to question what I have said, I suggest that rather than listen to Senator McLaren they read the Coombs report on the Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government - that was a Liberal-National Country Party Government.
The way in which the Labor Party cancelled the various schemes that assisted development, and the people of the outback, will make interesting reading.
– Once again Senator Kilgariff has come into this chamber, blowing a lot of hot air about the railways in the Northern Territory. It is something that he is never concerned about unless there is an election in the offing. In his maiden speech or shortly afterwards he stood in this chamber and supported the closure of the Larrimah-Darwin link. He is on record in Hansard.
– I will quote it to the honourable senator later. He should not get so excited. I want to correct one misstatement uttered by Senator Kilgariff tonight. He said that 1 have never ceased to criticise the Northern Territory railway system. If one peruses the Hansards of this Parliament one will see that I have not criticised the system. I have criticised the Government of which Senator Kilgariff is a member for closing the railway line. He did not even read my speech of last Thursday on the Australian National Railways report. He could have spoken on that, but he saw fit not to do so. I gave great credit to the Australian National Railways and to the people who work in the railways for constructing the Tarcoola-Alice Springs link 12 months ahead of schedule. If the honourable senator reads my speech he will see that 1 gave credit where credit was due. He goes on to bolster his argument tonight by quoting recommendations from the Coombs report. He did not mention anything about the railway. He got away on another tangent and talked about the freight subsidy and the creation of all the ills in the Northern Territory.
What did the freight subsidy mean in money terms? It meant 4c a gallon on petrol. How much has the price of petrol increased since Senator Kilgariff’s people came to Government? How much has it increased in the last couple of years? It has more than doubled. The only increase then was 4c a gallon and there his argument falls to the ground. Before he packs up his tent and leaves, I want to quote what he said as recorded in the Senate Hansard when he was talking about fuel prices on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) on 25 May 1976. He was talking about fuel prices then. Senator Kilgariff had this to say about the railways:
In the last 2 days we saw that the Northern Australia Railway is going to be closed because it can no longer be an economic proposition.
Did we see him coming in here then with any petitions, with these thousands of names that he now talks about, petitioning his own Government. He stood up to defend the closure of the railway line as strongly as he possibly could. It is recorded in the Hansard. He gave us the reason that it was no longer economic. He comes in here today and quotes chapter and verse the bible of the Liberal Party, Mr Murdoch’s newspaper, the Australian. He has it incorporated in Hansard that the Government wants to build another railway. He makes no mention of the fact that that might be un-economic too. Suddenly the fairy godmother has waved her wand and if we construct a line it will be a paying proposition.
Senator Kilgariff then goes off at a tangent and quotes some publication called Transport. He accuses the South Australian Labor Government in 1970 of holding up the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs rail link because it was not satisfied that spur lines would be constructed. It was quite obvious to everybody listening and everybody who reads the Hansard will know that Senator Kilgariff was out of his depth. Where would one run spur lines to manufacturing industry and factories between Tarcoola and Alice Springs? There is no such thing there. Senator Kilgariff is completely at sea.
– He didn’t understand.
– He didn’t understand. 1 doubt whether he has ever been there and he does not know that there are no manufacturing industries there. The only industry between Tarcoola and Alice Springs is the opal mining industry, which one could call a manufacturing industry. Some people in the industry manufacture rings, brooches and gemstones from the mines. Senator Kilgariff goes off using the example to bolster his argument tonight, quoting from some publication called Transport. He says that they are not his words, they are the person’s who wrote them. I say that the person who wrote them, like Senator Kilgariff, did not have any idea at all what he was writing. There is no way that the South Australian Labor Government would hold up the construction of that line. As a matter of fact, it was an Australian Labor Government–
– What did he say about the Stuart Highway?
– I can quote that too. I referred to his words last Thursday when I spoke on the Australian National Railways Commission. 1 spoke about the Stuart Highway when I said that the people in the Northern Territory and northern South Australia will not be fooled by any pious promises made by either Mr Hunt or Mr Fraser that they will make money available to construct a link from Alice Springs to Darwin because the people have very long memories and they recall that during the campaign for the 1977 election Mr Sinclair went to Alice Springs and is on public record as saying that he would support the Government in setting up a special fund to build the Stuart Highway to give the people some improved communication. What happened in this chamber? When we debated the Appropriation Bills in relation to transport my colleague, Senator Bishop, moved an amendment that a special fund be set up to construct the Stuart Highway. When it came to a vote, what happened? We saw Senator Kilgariff and Senator Jessop, who was very vocal on the Stuart Highway, walk out of the chamber and refuse to vote. They would not support something on which their own Minister made a solemn promise in Alice Springs during the election campaign. They turned their back on it. They might say now that funds have been made available to construct the Stuart Highway. Where are the funds coming from? They are taken out of the road funds which would normally be used to construct other roads in South Australia. No special fund has been made available out of the grant which the State gets to construct its other roads; so there again we have a dishonoured promise. Senator Kilgariff quoted at length from the Australian but he did not quote one part - an article by Warrick Costin and Jane Brumfield on the front page of that newspaper. That report states in part:
Mr Everingham has already set out to make the railway an election issue in the Northern Territory.
Senator Kilgariff has spoken in the Adjournment debate tonight to make this an election issue, to try to fool the people in the Northern Territory that he is the great white saviour of railway lines in the Northern Territory when in fact he is on record - he gave us the reasons in this Parliament in 1976 - stating why the Government of which he is a member and which he supports wanted the closure of the only railway line in the Northern Territory.
As I said in this chamber last Thursday, Mr Wallis, the member for Grey, the shadow Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Walsh, Mr
Stewart West and I were in Port Lincoln last week. What did we see there? We saw people trying to repair rolling stock which had been taken out of the Northern Territory and put on the Eyre Peninsula railway. That is where the Northern Territory rolling stock has gone to. Senator Kilgariff fully supported taking all the rolling stock out of the Northern Territory. Now he comes into this chamber day after day with petitions, no doubt organised by himself, to try to fool the people in the Northern Territory into believing that suddenly he supports the construction of a railway line in the Northern Territory, when his whole history, his whole track record, proves that he has shown no concern at all for the people in the Northern Territory so far as railway transport is concerned.
He has the hide to say that I have been very critical of the railways in the Northern Territory. I have done no such thing. I have always said that I support a railway system not only in the Northern Territory but throughout the length and breadth of Australia. If honourable senators care to peruse some of my speeches, they will see that time and again I have advocated that we construct a dual railway track from east to west and from north to south so that we can service the transport needs of this country.
I want to refer now to the editorial in the Liberal bible, that is, the daily Australian newspaper edited by Mr Murdoch, which Senator Kilgariff had incorporated in Hansard. I will quote the pertinent parts. In the opening paragraph of the editorial it is stated:
The interest demonstrated by the Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Hunt, in the construction of a railway between Alice Springs and Darwin is well placed. In our story today he says he hopes to put to Cabinet within a month a recommendation arising from the findings of the Joint Northern Territory-Commonwealth study group which reported in June . . .
That just shows how these people have not got their facts right. On the front page of the newspaper there is this statement:
The talks resulted from a Commonwealth-State report which in July gave the railway qualified support.
On the front page of the newspaper there is reference to a report in July, yet in the editorial there is reference to a report in June. So those people who wrote the article, in company with Senator Kilgariff, do not have their facts right. They do not know where they are. The editorial goes on to state:
The idea of a north-south rail link has been discussed for nearly 100 years and has been vaguely the policy of successive Federal Governments since 1910. lt is time, for Australia’s sake, it was done. And done quickly. It is not a subject on which the Government can ‘do a Burdekin’ as Mr Hawke suggested recently might happen - that the railway might become another triennial election promise, like the dam on Queensland’s Burdekin, raised as a vote-catcher at election and left as no more than plans to gather dust in between polls.
That is the very thing we find pointed out in the article on the front page of the paper; that this is an election year and Mr Everingham has already set out to make the railway an election issue. Of course, his colleague here in the Senate is doing his very best to back him up to make it an election issue.
On Thursday I quoted another newspaper article by a political writer concerning the Alice Springs to Darwin link. There is no need for me to quote the article again because it is set out in Hansard. I pointed out that the reason for the present Government’s interest in the rail link was that it was afraid the Labor Party would win two Senate seats in the Northern Territory. No doubt that is why Senator Kilgariff rose to speak tonight and why he rises every day to present petitions on this subject. He wants to try to encourage people in the Northern Territory to believe that he is a great supporter of constructing a railway in the Northern Territory when in fact he is a member of a government which tore up the only track we had in the Northern Territory and sent all the rolling stock out of the State.
I do not think I need to say much more, except to put on record again the fact that I have always supported the construction of a railway line in the Northern Territory and the maintenance of it despite the fact that Senator Kilgariff tonight tried to mislead people by saying that I have been very critical of the Northern Territory railway system. Nothing of the sort has ever been said by me either in this Parliament or out of it. Senator Kilgariff, in the course of his remarks, commended the media for now being behind the construction of the Alice Springs-Darwin railway. I leave it to people to make their own judgments as to what is behind Mr Murdoch suddenly surfacing, as did Mr Everingham, and finding voice to support the construction of a railway line in the Northern Territory. When this Government closed the line I never heard any comments from Mr Everingham in criticism of the closure of the line. I did not hear one word from him.
Senator Kilgariff probably tonight ; if not tonight, on other occasions- referred to the fact that the Northern Territory has awoken; it is a sleeping giant come to life. Senator Kilgariff ought to be reminded that it was a Labor government that gave the Northern Territory its first parliamentary-type institution. It was in 1947 under the Chifley Government that the Northern Territory got its first chance to allow the people of the Northern Territory to have a voice in the running of their country even though quite a few of the members were appointed, not elected. It was a Labor government not so many years ago that gave the Northern Territory an elected body, something that the Country-Liberal Party people would never do. Yet Senator Kilgariff is laying all the blame at the feet of the Labor Party because the Northern Territory is not developing. The Labor Party is the only party that has done anything to develop the Northern Territory and to give the residents of the Northern Territory a say in the running of their Territory.
I happened to have the privilege of being a member of the joint parliamentary committee which brought out a recommendation to give the Northern Territory constitutional reform. Senator Kilgariff would well know that because he gave evidence before that committee. I have often said to Senator Kilgariff by way of interjection that if he cared to read the transcript of evidence given to that committee he would see where I repeatedly drew the attention of witnesses to the fact that the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910 laid down by statute that an all-weather railway system from Darwin to Port Augusta ought to be built. I am on record many times as saying that. Yet Senator Kilgariff said tonight that I have been critical of the railway system in the Northern Territory. I have made no such criticism. I have always backed the railway system and 1 always will because it is a great employer of people.
People who work for the railway system do so on a proper basis. They work proper hours. They get proper working conditions and proper rates of pay, unlike those people who work on transports, who drive day and night at the risk of other people on the roads and who cause great accidents. They can be seconded by Mr Court in Western Australia to do something illegal against the Aboriginal community. I support the railway system. The drills and equipment would not have been transported to Noonkanbah by a rail system in Western Australia because the genuine people working in the railways would never have allowed that to happen. The Western Australian Government had to rely on scabs to drive the trucks to get the drilling rig to that place.
Once again I say that Senator Kilgariff ought to be genuine when he speaks in this Parliament about the railways. He ought to get his facts right. He ought nol to be making statements in this Parliament that it was a State Labor government that held up the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway link because it was not satisfied that there were enough spur lines to run off that link to service industry in that area. That shows how much he knows about the centre of Australia. I hope that is the last time we hear Senator Kilgariff in this Parliament criticising the Labor Party for what he says it did not do when I have put on record all the good things it has done.
I also put on record last Thursday the fact that if it had not been for the Curtin Government during the War we would never have had an allweather road system in the Northern Territory linking Alice Springs and Darwin because the party to which Senator Kilgariff belongs had so many years to do these things and never saw fit to do them. It only comes out with these propositions when an election is in the offing. If the people in the Northern Territory have any sense they will show their disgust at the ballot box, whenever the election may be.
– The hour is late. I do not intend to keep the Senate for too long. But I want to make a couple of points which I think are very important at this stage as we are leading up to an election. I suppose over the years the community in Australia has been accustomed to leaks prior to the Budget being introduced in the Parliament. On a number of occasions, kites have been flown by members of the Press corps that certain things were going to happen in the Budget and these have proved to be speculation in the extreme and a conditioning of our society. When the Budget came down, those things were not quite as bad as society had been conditioned to expect. They were accepted with a much better grace. On Monday of last week, a report was published in a newspaper of details that had been telecast on the previous night by one of the leading political reporters containing accurate and very comprehensive descriptions of the contents of the Budget Papers. Today we are in a situation where we have seen yet another leak. A story was published in the Australian this morning about a report which was not to be presented in this House until late this afternoon. This story raises the question in my mind - 1 am sure it raises the question in the minds of people in the community - as to who does the leaking and why documents are being leaked at this time. Perhaps one might question whether information is not being leaked by members of the Government in an endeavour to distract attention from that material when it is presented in the Parliament. For instance, one questions how Mr Oakes’s report last week could have been so accurate. I think he said that he had missed two very minor points in his report. Not having had the advantage that Mr Russell Schneider the author of today’s story had, I do not know how accurate this report in the Australian is in comparison with the report that was presented in the Parliament this afternoon. Suffice it to say that I am very concerned that this has happened in the way that it has happened. I think all honourable senators should be expressing their concern. Indeed, earlier this evening, I believed that concern had been expressed when a motion that a matter be brought on for debate today was passed. Immediately the hour arrived when the Government received the Bills that it required, debate was stifled by moving for its adjournment. lt is not good enough for honourable senators to come into this chamber and to receive a document which has already received some publicity in the morning’s Press. It is not good enough for us not to be able to rise and to debate that issue on the day of its importance. It was important enough yesterday to be published in today’s Australian. It is important enough today for it to be debated in this chamber. But debate on that matter was stifled by action of the Government to ensure that honourable senators did not speak on that matter.
I am vitally concerned about this matter because it is an area of interest that I have had for many moons, long before 1 became a member of this Parliament. It deals with a very important issue in our society and indicates, of course, that there has been a certain amount of neglect on the part of the Government. This is perhaps the major reason it did not want the matter debated today or at any other time. It comes at a time when there are moves by sections of the Aboriginal community in Australia to take their case before the United Nations Committee on Racial Discrimination in Geneva, and it comes at a time when we have a slight disagreement among members of the Press corps. For instance, the Australian this morning reports ‘Accord after Eight Hours Talks: Cabinet makes a Noonkanbah deal’ whilst today’s West Australian reports Fraser talks on drilling break down’. One questions whether in fact a deal has been made or whether those talks did break down. But the report that was presented to this chamber this afternoon is critical of the Government and its administration of Aboriginal concern.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. The honourable senator has been addressing the chamber on matters of principle on which I think she is perfectly free to address the chamber. I think that if she moves on to the line she is now pursuing she will be in breach of Standing Order 419, the motion that the Senate take note of the report to which she is referring being a matter for discussion appearing on the Notice Paper. I merely draw the honourable senator’s attention to that provision in the Standing Orders, Mr President, and seek your guidance.
– What Senator Chaney has said is so, Senator Coleman. Standing Order 419 decrees that there should be no anticipation of a subject which is listed on the Notice Paper.
– Thank you for your guidance on that, Mr President. I will return to the matter of Noonkanbah and simply state that I am concerned about that area. As I have expressed many times and as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) is well aware, I am concerned about the most recent events affecting Noonkanbah. 1 am concerned also that the Aborigines in Australia are not being properly represented in this place or in any other house of parliament. It is therefore incumbent on white people to endeavour to put across the points of view which Aboriginals would be putting if they in fact had proper representation in the houses of parliament.
The other night during the adjournment debate I raised a number of issues in relation to Noonkanbah, one of which was the failure of the Commissioner of Police to guide properly the police cadets at their most recent graduation ceremony, when he spoke about the real enemy in our society being the activists, the environmentalists, those people who wanted to protest against what governments were doing. At that time I said that I felt he would have been better advised to alert them to the fact that Western Australia has one of the highest rates of unsolved crime. Indeed, that statement of mine proved to be correct. When I arrived home on Friday I noted that the West Australian of that day reported that the annual report of the Commissioner of Police indicated that I think some 72,000 crimes had been committed in Western Australia and in actual fact only 1 9,000 of them had been solved. What had happened to the other 52,000 crimes he did not venture to comment on, but one would only suppose that they have gone into the too hard basket and now are awaiting a time when he will be able to bring back the policemen who now are fully occupied at Noonkanbah as an alert troop, I suppose, guarding the site which is being mined by the Amax organisation - under protest by Amax, I might say - and those large numbers of police officers who are being denied the right to their weekend leave and days off whenever a demonstration is held in Perth and they are required to be on duty.
Another interesting event at the weekend was that a member of the other place, Mr Dawkins, who represents the Federal seat of Fremantle, notified the Commissioner of Police that it was his intention to hold a public meeting with his constituents in a park in Fremantle. The Commissioner of Police replied, sending him a copy of an application for a permit to hold a public meeting. Mr Dawkins did not complete and did not return that application to the Commissioner of Police. He did advise the Fremantle City Council that it was his intention to hold a meeting. At the time of the meeting members of the police force were on hand. They made no move to prevent Mr Dawkins from speaking to his constituents. They made no attempt to arrest him for having contravened section 54B of the Police Act. At a later stage the Commissioner of Police said that it was out of his hands really because Fremantle comes under the jurisidiction of the Fremantle City Council. I suggest that section 54B of the Western Australia Police Act is so difficult to determine that it is only when the Commissioner of Police decides that he will take action that he does so.
The situation in Fremantle was no different from a situation I experienced on 19 July, when I was in Forrest Place, standing on Commonwealth property - that is, on the steps of the Post Office - addressing a number of my constituents on matters that I considered to be in the public interest. I believe that the same expression was used by Mr Dawkins when he notified the Police Commissioner of his intention to hold such a public meeting last Friday. The difference at that time was purely and simply that I indicated to the Perth City Council and the Commissioner of Police that it was my intention so to meet. Apparently the Perth City Council raised an objection, although it did not raise it with me. It would have had to raise it with the Police Commissioner, otherwise no action could have been taken, if we are to accept the statements made by the Commissioner of Police on Friday.
Members of the Aboriginal community in Western Australia are trying to express their concern. As I said before, they are not properly represented in this or any other parliament and it is therefore up to white people to present their points of view. The ridiculous situation is that by expressing these points of view for them people such as me can be subjected to the indignity of being arrested.
– Off to the barricades in your chauffeured car.
– I am sorry, I did not go in a chauffeured car; I went in a paddy wagon, along wilh the common people, which was my place. I am simply making the point that this repressive legislation of Western Australia is discriminatory. I presume that if I want to talk on those matters of public interest, including Noonkanbah, 1 can safely do so in Fremantle but I cannot safely do so in Perth. 1 question the constitutionality of section 54B. I understand that these matters have been raised on a number of occasions through other organisations. Whether in actual fact the Governor of Western Australia was properly advised at the time the amendments to section 54B went through is a matter that I will be taking up not only in this place but also in another place in the very near future.
When I commenced my speech I expressed concern about the leaks that are now appearing in our Press, immediately prior to the election. I questioned then, as I question now, whether this is being done quite deliberately so that certain matters can be got out of the way before the Government moves towards setting an election date. I think we are all aware of the election date. 1 think the Government has made that quite clear by forcing us into a situation in which the Estimates committees are to meet at an earlier time than normal. I think most of the voting community is aware of the date of the election. It is only the Government that is not yet quite sure whether it will be 1 8 October or 25 October.
The only other matter I wish to raise in this Adjournment debate - I will be brief as the hour is late - is the double standards that apply with this Government. There have been any number of occasions over the last few years that this Government has been in office when strikes have been held in Australia for better working conditions or pay conditions for workers in particular industries and the Government has always been critical of those strikes. It was interesting to note last week that the Government came out in favour of the strikers in Poland who are also striking for better wages and better living conditions. One questions the double standards in both of those matters. I will at a later stage, prior to the election, again raise the ugly head of Noonkanbah.
– A number of honourable senators have spoken on a variety of topics tonight. In deference to those who are still in the Senate building I will try to be brief in my response. Senator Mulvihill, who spoke first in this debate, raised concerns about the infringement of civil liberties and associated matters in a number of latin American countries.
He indicated to the Government that he was concerned about these matters and this concern of course, is well known to the Government from his past contributions. Senator Mulvihill gave notice of particular areas of concern. 1 do have prepared notes. Rather than read them at this rather late stage, 1 seek leave to incorporate them in Hansard. They represent a substantial response to the points made by Senator Mulvihill.
The document read as follows -
The Australian Government is aware of serious human rights violations in Argentina in recent years and has expressed its concern to the Argentinian Government at a senior level.
Through our membership of the UN Commission on Human Rights we are seeking to encourage the acceptance of human rights in all countries. lt should be noted that in recent months some improvement in the human rights situation in Argentina has been reported.
Australia has consistently expressed its concern at human rights violations in Chile to the Chilean Government and in international fora. For the seventh consecutive year, Chile was condemned at the latest (1980) Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Australia supported this move which called on the Chilean Government to restore democratic institutions, full freedom of expression, freedom of movement and trade union rights and the prevention of torture.
The Australian Government welcomes recent indications that the human rights situation in Chile is improving but is concerned that the recently announced plebiscite to approve a new Constitution will not lead to a restoration of full democratic rights before 1997.
The Chilean Government recently made public the text of a proposed constitution, which will be put to a plebiscite on 1 1 September this year. The Australian Government would welcome any serious attempt on the part of the Chilean Government to normalise the country’s constitutional situation and return to democratic rule.
In the case of the proposed new Constitution of Chile, however, the Australian Government is concerned that it outlines a political plan which confirms the rule by decree of the present regime until 1989. Only then can the nation vote for a presidential candidate, but one to be nominated by the ruling regime and this could prolong the rule of the regime until 1 997.
It is very much regretted that the present regime cannot see a way open to democratic government in Chile before that time.
Peaceful and properly-conducted elections had just been held in Bolivia when the military stepped in and took power on 1 7 July. Their takeover is a completely unjustified interruption of the democratic process and I hope it will be short-lived.
We have no resident representative in La Paz and, even in normal times, we have few contacts with Bolivia. So there has been no pressure on us to accord recognition to the military regime as the Government of that country and we have not done so. As far as the future is concerned, we will be watching closely the attitudes of a number of other countries to the question of recognition, particularly the democratic regimes in South America, and it is against that background that I would expect to make any decision about Australian attitudes in the future.
There have been reports since the coup of serious violations of human rights in Bolivia by the new regime and these have caused us concern.
Bolivia’s Catholic Bishops have estimated that some 2,000 people have been jailed since the coup. Immediately following the coup political prisoners were being held in a local football stadium and there were reports of summary executions. Ex-President Gueiler has taken asylum in the Papal Nunciature.
More recently it has been reported that the military government has indefinitely closed the country’s universities and instituted a purge to rid the nation’s educational system of alleged Marxists. Trade Unions have been suspended and union headquarters are reportedly to be abolished to build a car park.
No recent approaches have been made to the Australian Government by UNHCR for possible refugee resettlement in Australia. Since the coup against President Allende in Chile in 1973 there have been over 1 ,000 Chilean refugees resettled in Australia, however in the last year there were only 7. Other Latin American refugees in the last year were 5 Argentinians, 1 Peruvian, 49 Cubans, 2 Uruguayans and 1 Paraguayan.
It is clear from the foregoing that the Government takes a deep interest in human rights questions as they arise in Latin America and, indeed, anywhere in the world, lt should however also be noted that human rights policies are woven into a broader foreign policy fabric and that we necessarily treat each case on its own special merits. We have many other interests in Latin America and 1 do not want to give the impression that human rights matters are the only points of contact we have with the countries concerned.
We will therefore continue to watch events in all these countries closely, bearing in mind the need to maintain a correct balance between human rights concerns and our many other foreign policy objectives.
The Government is aware of allegations that the Uruguayan authorities plan to kill a number of detainees during a staged breakout from the Libertad prison near Montevideo. The Minister for Foreign Affairs received a delegation from the Uruguayan Solidarity Committee on 21 August, which presented details of an alleged plan named “Plan Trelew”. Because any such action would give us great concern the Australian Ambassador in Buenos Aires, who is accredited to Uruguay, was asked to investigate the reports. A senior member of his staff went immediately to Montevideo to take up the matter officially. The Ambassador has now reported that there appears to be no evidence to substantiate these allegations and that Uruguayan authorities have flatly denied the existence of such plans as ‘Plan Trelew’.
– Senator Evans raised another matter relating to questions of civil liberties. The notes which I have just had incorporated in Hansard reflect the Government’s concern for human rights issues around the world. In the same spirit I will refer information which was put before the Senate by Senator Evans to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) for appropriate consideration and action.
Senator Colston raised the matter of the Shingley Hill transmitter, a matter on which he was not quite able to ask a question on 23 May and in relation to which I had incorporated in Hansard a response to his then query. I am not in a position to respond in detail to the matters which he has raised tonight, which may be of great relief to you, Mr President. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), lt may be that the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) is also involved. In any event, I will seek a response for Senator Colston on the matter that he has raised.
Senator Kilgariff made a speech about a matter which is of great public concern in the Northern Territory, and that is the proposal that there be an extension to the railway line from Alice Springs to Darwin. I can say no more in response to him than two things: Firstly, that the Government is aware of the great public interests to which he referred and, secondly, that we have the report of the Commonwealth-Northern Territory study team which has concluded that there was no economic justification for an early start to construction in existing circumstances. It went on to say that such considerations as defence and firm commitments to proceed with certain development projects could affect the viability of the railway. The Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) hopes to bring the matter before Cabinet in the near future. I am able to assure the Senate that the Government will give full consideration to all relevant aspects of the proposal before any decision is taken. The matters considered will include the remarks made by Senator Kilgariff tonight.
Senator Coleman made a speech which touched on matters which are relevant to the administration of my own portfolio. She referred to the possibility of deliberate leaks of the report which was tabled in the Senate today. I make a couple of comments on that. The report is not of a nature that it could not be released anywhere; it is a report to the Government by an independent body, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. In fact there is no statutory duty to do anything with it at all. 1 could choose to publish it in a newspaper, 1 could choose to fly it from the flagpole of Parliament House, or I could table it in the Senate. The Government, in fact, has undertaken to table these reports for the information of honourable senators and members.
Any suggestion that it is a deliberate leak would be answered by looking at what was published in the Australian. The article by Mr Schneider concentrated on what seemed to be one of the problem areas, namely, the administration of moneys which were received under the Ranger agreement. lt seemed to me that a remarkable thing about the article is that it contained none of the positive information that was contained in the report. I can surmise only that either Mr Schneider and the Australian were not interested in positive information or that only part of the document was leaked. In any event, quite clearly, what were ignored were the steps which have been taken to provide appropriate mechanisms to handle the financial problems. What was ignored was that the major problem relating to the Oenpelli road has been settled to the satisfaction of the Oenpelli people.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. Are we now not getting into a situation in which the Minister himself is debating a matter that is on the Notice Paper?
– I am happy to speak to the point of order. I am responding very squarely to the point made that this was a leak. However, I do not intend to pursue the point at any length, Mr President, for the reasons I have already outlined. I want to refer to one further point raised by Senator Coleman, and that is with respect to the confusion about last night’s meeting with the National Aboriginal Conference. I shared her slight sense of bewilderment when I read the Australian and the Age, and it was very hard to marry the accounts contained in the two newspapers and, in particular, the headlines. Senator Coleman mentioned also the West Australian.
I refer honourable senators to the Press release which I issued at the conclusion of the meeting last night and the release which was issued by the National Aboriginal Conference this morning. In those Press releases I think the areas of agreement and disagreement are clearly spelt out. I say no more than that I think the experience of senior
Government Ministers sitting down with members of the NAC executive on an issue of some sensitivity and having the sort of exchange we had last night is one which 1 think has been of great value both to the Government and to the NAC. It is an experience which will be repeated, as far as the Government is concerned, lt accepts the idea that there should be meetings on a regular basis of a similar nature, but we hope, of course, not about crisis situations. 1 believe it is a further step in the development of representative Aboriginal institutions in Australia. It is one of the good things which has come out of an otherwise difficult situation. I will endeavour to ensure that all matters raised in the debate this evening by honourable senators are drawn to the attention of appropriate Ministers where the need is there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Airlines Agreement Act - Financial Statements by Ansett Transport Industries Limited Group in respect of that part of the business of the Company and its subsidiaries relating to the operation of air services, for year ended 30 June 1979.
Australian National Airlines Act - Australian National Airlines Commission (Trans-Australia Airlines) - Annual Report (Thirty-fourth), together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report thereon, for year 1978-79.
Defence Act - Royal Military College of Australia - Annual Report, for period 1 February 1979 to 31 January 1980.
Education Research Act - Education Research and Development Committee - Annual Report (Ninth), for year
Export Market Development Grants Act- Export Development Grants Board- Annual Report (Fifth), for year
Life Insurance Act - Life Insurance Commissioner - Annual Report (Thirty-fourth), for 1979.
Parliament Act - Proposed Works in the Parliamentary Zone, together with a site plan - Department of Foreign Affairs, Administrative Building - Erection of official entrance, together with design sketches (three). National Library- Erection of additional lighting at steps, together with design sketches (two) .
Remuneration Tribunals Act - Remuneration Tribunal - 1 980 Review - Determinations - 1980/4- Allowances payable to Ministers of State, dated 4 J une 1980. 1980/5 - Additional Salaries and Allowances of Office Holders of the Parliament, dated 4 June 1 980. 1980/6 - Salaries and Allowances of Members of the Parliament, dated 4 June 1 980. 1980/7- Travelling Allowances within AustraliaMinisters, Office Holders and Members of the Parliament, dated 4 June 1 980. 1980/8 - Entitlements of Members of the Parliament, dated 4 June 1980. 1980/9 - Remuneration payable to Holders of Offices in the First Division of the Australian Public Service and Holders of Public Offices, dated 4 June 1 980. Reports - 1980/1 - Salaries payable to Ministers of State, dated 4 June 1980. 1980/2- Remuneration payable to Judges, dated 4 June 1980. Statement.
Repatriation Act - Repatriation Review Tribunal - Annual Report (First), together with a financial statement, for year 1978-79.
Schools Commission Act - Schools Commission -
Triennium 1979-81: Report for 1981, dated 1980. Services Trust Funds Act -
Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund - Annual Report (Thirty-third) by the Trustees, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report thereon, for 1979.
Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund - Annual Report (Thirty-second) by the Trustees, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s Report thereon, for 1979.
Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund - Annual Report by the Trustees, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report thereon, for 1979.
Superannuation ActCommissioner for Superannuation - Annual Report, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s Report thereon, for year 1977-78. Superannuation Fund Investment Trust - Annual Report, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report thereon, for year 1 977-78.
Tertiary Education Commission Act- Tertiary Education Commission - Report for 1979-81 Triennium, Volume 4: Recommendations for 1 98 1 . dated July 1 980.
Customs Tariff Act- Order 1980- Declared Preference Countries - No. 1. Developing Countries- Nos 2, 3.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Employment and Youth Affairs - G. E. Rose.
Telecommunications Act - By-laws - Telecommunications (Charging Zones and Charging
Districts) Amendment No. 1. Telecommunications (Community Calls) Amendment
Senate adjourned at 1 a.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 February 1980:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 18 March 1980:
What is the amount of Australian exports of dairy products to Malta on an annual basis.
– The Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian exports of dairy products to Malta were valued at SA851.000 in 1978-79 and were preliminarily valued at $A 799,000 for 1979-80. The individual product breakdown was as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 2 April 1980:
Has the Western Australian Government applied for funds from the Australian Government for water resource and flood control projects, ranked according to the Western Australian Government’s priorities; if so: (a) was the Agaton Project on the list; and (b) where was it ranked?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 23 May 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In addition to the above meetings of the Committee (as a whole) there have been monthly meetings of the Committee Executive (generally attended by 6 members) since early 1 978 and approximately monthly meetings of the Committee’s four Standing Groups since the Committee’s inception.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
What undertaking did the Prime Minister give in a speech to miners in Queensland in June last year when strike action was contemplated because of attempts by the Taxation Department to tax their housing subsidies.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Prime Minister at a meeting with coal miners in Central Queensland in June 1979 undertook that no action would be taken to apply Section 26 (e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act to the miners until the legislation had been amended following the review that had commenced in 1978. The Act has since been amended so as to discount explicitly certain adverse factors attaching to accommodation provided to employees. The Commissioner of Taxation is explicitly required to allow for such factors as isolation, lack of choice, quality of accommodation and whether any onerous conditions of occupancy are imposed on the occupant concerned.
The Government has clearly honoured the undertaking given to the miners by the Prime Minister at that time. These significant concessions to the miners did not alter their responsibilities as tax payers but do provide that their special circumstances are discounted in assessing further taxation liability.
Department of Primary Industry: Statutory Authorities (Question No. 2861)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 16 May 1980:
What are the names, dates and terms of appointment and salaries of all persons appointed to the boards and commissions of statutory authorities under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Primary Industry?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following details are those applicable at 1 July 1980, except for the Live-stock Producers’1 Consultative Group where the appointments did not become effective until 2 July 1980.
– On 28 April 1980 (Hansard, page 1811) Senator Townley asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Transport, a question without notice concerning air fares charged by Qantas on the Darwin-Singapore route. arrangements with other countries. While the Australian Government is not in a position to unilaterally vary the terms of these arrangements, I can assure you that the Government will continue to press in our bilateral negotiations for improvements to existing fares and conditions.
The Minister for Transport has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Qantas return air fares from Darwin to Singapore are $1 1 50 for a first class ticket and $808 for an economy class ticket. While it is true that these particular on demand fares are higher than they would be if they were based on the domestic formulae (the first class international fare being 60 per cent higher and the economy class international fare being 55 per cent higher) it is important to remember that the international promotional fares which are designed for price sensitive travellers are significantly lower than the comparable domestic fares. For example, in August the international off-peak APEX fare from Darwin to Singapore is $318, while the comparable APEX fare based on the domestic formulae would be $418. I am advised that passengers on international promotional fares account for a large proportion, often more than 50 percent, of passengers travelling on these flights.
Not only are the international promotional fares lower and readily available, but they involve international standards of seating and in-flight service. Given that the international carriers offer a comprehensive range of fare types, it is important in making comparisons of fare types that not only the appropriate range of fare types be compared, but that they availability and in-flight service factors be also taken into account.
Finally, I wish to remind honourable senators that regular international air services to and from Australia operate in accordance with a series of bilateral air service agreements and
Qantas Airways Ltd: Cabin Staff
– On 1 May 1980 (Hansard, page 2020) Senator Harradine asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Transport, a question without notice concerning matters related to in-flight violence by alcohol-affected passengers.
The Minister for Transport has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The management of Qantas are concerned at any reports of in-flight violence, and the Company has met with the Flight Steward’s Association to discuss the subject.
Measures have been introduced to attempt to reduce the incidence of these occurrences. Action taken, particularly to alleviate the problems with alcohol, appears to have had some measure of success. Between 1 April and 20 July 1980 only 21 reports of misconduct by alcohol-affected passengers were reported. During the same period, just over 600,000 passengers were carried by Qantas. Qantas management are continuing to identify and introduce practical measures that are aimed at further reducing these incidents.
The former Chairman of Qantas, Sir Lennox Hewitt, was aware of the concern held by both the Qantas management and the cabin crews about the behaviour of some of the passengers on board Qantas aircraft. He was kept advised of the efforts being made to ensure the best possible environment on board the aircraft for both passengers and crews.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 August 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800826_senate_31_s86/>.