31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is expected to return to Australia from India tomorrow and that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is Acting Prime Minister during his absence. I also inform the Senate that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) left Australia on 30 August to visit Europe for talks on migration matters. The Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) will act as Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs until Mr Macphee returns to Australia on 1 4 September.
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 Carrick.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
That currently discrimination in provision of work, in appointment to jobs and in promotion exists in Australia on particular grounds including, inter alia, grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status, pregnancy, sex and/or sexual preference; and
That currently discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits is exercised against particular groups of individuals - in particular, against married women.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of individuals under federal awards, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-government organisations, and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits to all persons without regard to sex and/or marital status.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Carrick and Senator Ryan.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Family Allowances have not been increased over the last 4 years when food prices have risen by 60 per cent in Australia and consumer prices generally by over 50 per cent throughout Australia.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled should ensure that the Government takes immediate action to restore the lost value of Family Allowances, to index them to cover future price rises and to provide additional support for homemakers and one income families.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Carrick.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia 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 Carrick and Senator Ryan.
To the Honourable the President and Members of Parliament assembled in the Senate, Canberra the humble petition of the undersigned members or organisations listed below and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the thorough nationwide investigations by the Working Party highlighted the need to establish the National Women’s Advisory Council.
That we believe the Council consistently and democratically demonstrates its wide representation of the interests of all Australian women, as shown by the Draft Plan of Action for the 1 980 National Conference to be held in Canberra in preparation for Australia’s participation in the United Nations Decade for Women World Conference in Denmark, July 1980.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament will continue its support of the National Women’s Advisory Council and its recommendations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Ryan.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on the 10th December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares that, ‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration . . . ‘ (Article 2) that ‘Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives . . . The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or equivalent free voting procedures’. (Article 21 (l)and(3).)
Elections for Senators meet all requirements except one. Senators are elected periodically, by secret ballot, with universal franchise, and the quota-preferential method of proportional representations ensures that the vote values within states are equal as nearly as can be.
However the provision of the Electoral Act that compels voters to show preferences for ALL candidates on the ballot paper interferes with the free expression of the will of the voters, and is unjust.
Australia, as a Member State of the United Nations, is pledged to achieve observance of Human Rights and Freedoms.
We, the undersigned citizens of Australia, therefore humbly pray that the Senate will fulfil the pledge of a Member State of the United Nations and take steps to remove the compulsion from the Electoral Act in order to allow freedom of expression for everyone who has the right to vote for Senators.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Ryan.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth, do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
1 ) Note that legislation establishing plant breeders’ rights in other countries has had serious adverse effects, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Puplick.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to vest in the electors power to propose laws and to approve or disapprove such proposed laws.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate deplores the continued persecution of religious minorities in Iran, particularly the large communities of Baha’is, and urges that this total abuse of the right to religious tolerance be brought to the attention of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Was the Treasurer correctly reported last week when he admitted that total taxation receipts as a proportion of Australia’s national income are now higher than under the previous Government? If this statement is correct, and in view of the claims of this Government of being a tax-reducing government, can the Minister explain the reason for the increase?
– I did not see the report. I will refer the question to the Treasurer and seek his response.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Education to reports today that the State governments have expressed dissatisfaction with the school to work transition program to the extent of indicating a refusal of funding. Are these reports correct? Further, are any negotiations in hand to review the guidelines and procedures relating to this program? Will the Government confer with the States to regain their overall commitment to the five-year plan? Finally, will the Government review the stated position that there will be no transition initiatives next year?
– The Commonwealth Government will continue its commitment to the school to work transition program in 1981 despite any reluctance of any State government to provide a combined contribution of $9m on a pro rata basis as requested by the Commonwealth. This decision, I understand, follows a meeting on 22 August of this year of the Australian Education Council at which details of the transition program’s funding beyond 1980 were discussed. The five-year program was launched by the Commonwealth this year to assist young people in improving their employability both before and after leaving school.
The Commonwealth is totally funding the program in 1980, having allocated $25m out of a total of $150m in real terms - that is, at December 1979 prices - which it will make available over the full five years. In 1981 the Commonwealth’s contribution will be about $28m. It is hoped that this will be supplemented by the States to the extent of about $9m, rising in succeeding years to a dollar for dollar contribution. The Australian Education Council meeting sought a reconsideration by the Commonwealth of its requirement that the States make a matching contribution. However, the States requested that their existing efforts in this area be regarded as a matching contribution. The Commonwealth will pursue this matter to seek amicable agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs agree that the rate of bankruptcy is considered to be an important measure of the level of economic health as it was in 1975? Is it a fact that there has been a large increase in bankruptcies in each year of the Fraser Government’s term of office, including a 29 per cent increase in the financial year just completed, making a 162 per cent increase since this Government took office? Taken with record unemployment and accelerating inflation, does this increase in bankruptcy represent the greatest bankruptcy of all, which is the economic management of the Fraser Government? Can the Minister tell the Senate how much longer we have to wait for unemployment to fall, inflation to cease accelerating and the economy to improve, all of which have been promised for the last five years?
– I have very great suspicion as to whether Senator Button, by the tone of his question, is really interested in the increases in bankruptcies and what their causes may have been. It appears to me to have been a totally politically directed question but I will refer to what I hope was a specific desire to have some information about bankruptcies. The causes of bankruptcy are many and various. Major amendments to the Bankruptcy Act were debated at length in the Senate some time ago. Statements were made about the causes of bankruptcy. I refer Senator Button to that debate, if he is truly interested in the subject. As to the actual statistics relating to bankruptcies over recent years, I will refer that part of the question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and ask him to get a detailed answer for Senator Button.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs confirm that allowances payable to veterans using their own vehicles when seeking medical treatment were last increased on 5 December 1979? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether a further review has been or will be undertaken and, if so, when she expects to be in a position to advise whether increases are warranted and when they will be authorised?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEIn 1979 the Government directed that the rates of subsistence and travelling expenses payable to veterans required to attend for medical treatment or for other departmental reasons would be the same as those for Third Division officers of the Public Service. That was announced in the 1979-80 Budget. Senator Rocher is correct in saying that the vehicle rates were last increased with effect from 5 December 1979. 1 can only state that any further increase will depend on when the Public Service Board increases rates for public servants. I will draw the matter to the attention of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs to see whether he has any further information to offer to Senator Rocher.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question about Noonkanbah. My question does not relate to the issues as I concede that they are very complex and complicated. It relates to the way in which the situation was resolved by Sir Charles Court and the subsequent exposure before the United Nations of his provocative acts and shameful use of force in dealing with such a delicate situation. Is the Minister aware of the shocking world-wide publicity which this incident has caused? Will he use this Parliament as a forum to condemn the aggressive acts of the Western Australian Premier? I commend the Minister for his strong statements over the weekend. I further ask: Will the Minister give this Parliament an undertaking that on the next occasion that such a crisis arises at places such as Aurukun, Mornington Island and Noonkanbah the Federal Government will use the powers given to it overwhelmingly by the people at the 1967 referendum and resolve the dispute itself rather than allow headstrong, ruthless State Premiers to bring further disgrace to Australia?
– I may not be able to answer that question in as short a time as the Senate might wish because it is not possible to deal with the series of questions raised by Senator Chipp without some reference to the actual facts of the matter. It is fairly hard to relate some of his remarks to the facts. I say for a start that the Commonwealth Government’s attitude on this matter is and has been clear. We have always said that it is a fact that Noonkanbah is a pastoral lease, that it is open to mining, that our concern is that in that process there should be protection of sacred sites and of the community, and that there should be adequate rules to ensure that. What we have had at Noonkanbah is an argument about drilling in what is described in the museum report as an area of influence. That is a matter which on all the advice I have been able to receive, including advice from such an eminent anthropologist as Professor Berndt, could and should be settled by negotiations between the parties. It is something which ought to have been solved.
A series of questions were asked by Senator Chipp which relate to the broad set of facts which I have tried to describe very briefly. I think it is worth noting that the complaints about the involvement of police have been complaints related to the fact of police involvement and not to the manner of the police or what they did once they were involved. I have not had a single complaint about any form of police misbehaviour. In other words, it appears to me that the way in which the police conducted themselves has been recognised as being very good in the circumstances in which they found themselves. That is fairly important to note. In other words, we are not looking at a complaint about the way in which the police have behaved; we are looking at a complaint about the fact of police involvement. Unlike most honourable senators, indeed unlike any other senator, I have made a number of trips to Noonkanbah in an attempt to achieve a reconciliation and to achieve some agreement. On my last visit, which I think was on a Thursday or a Friday just prior to some drilling for water on the disputed site, I sought from the community a clear undertaking that there would not be illegal behaviour. I sought that because I was concerned that there should not be police involvement, which I understood would escalate the confrontation and would present the issue in a way which would be to Australia’s disadvantage. I sought a clear statement from the community so that I could, in turn, say to the State Government and to the police: ‘I have this assurance from the community that there will not be illegal behaviour; therefore the police should not be involved’. Unfortunately I was unable to get that clear statement. I was unable to get a clear statement from the community that it would obey the law. That put me in a very difficult position to suggest that it was out of order for police to be involved when there were clear threats of illegal behaviour.
Returning to the questions asked by Senator Chipp, I am certainly aware of the world-wide publicity which this matter has received. Frankly, I think it is faintly ludicrous. I noticed in a report of the proceedings in Geneva on the weekend that one of the Human Rights Commission people passed the comment: ‘Well, of course, we do have to go on and consider the killings’. Was that in Bolivia? In the scale of offences against human rights what happens in Australia is minuscule. It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest, as the World Council of Churches is suggesting, that we are in some way in the forefront of oppressing human rights. I think it is absolute nonsense and I will not have a bar of it as an Australian.
I believe it has been very clearly stated by the Federal Government that it does not want to see a repeat of the situation at Noonkanbah. We could not have made that clearer. We have already had discussions with the National Aboriginal Conference and with representatives of the mining and petroleum industry. We believe that it will be possible to ensure that Noonkanbah remains what it is today: An exceptional situation where there was a failure to achieve the agreement which has been achieved in mining areas around Australia. I regard it as most unfortunate that I can only describe my own attempts to reach agreement as failures. I accept my share of responsibility for that. I think the whole of this matter has been blown up to the extent where it has become a symbol. When we get back to the actual reality - here we have a dispute about a drilling on an area of influence - it can be seen that the reality is something less than what has been portrayed both abroad and in the media.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Has the Queensland Government approached the Federal Government for funds to complete the Bundaberg irrigation scheme? If so, what is the Government’s response? As the dam was completed many years ago and as the area has experienced two years of drought, will the Minister do what he can to rectify an absurd situation where stored water is not reaching many of the people for whom it was intended, with a consequent loss of income for the people concerned and for the nation?
– I am very well aware of Senator Maunsell’s keen interest in the Bundaberg irrigation scheme and, indeed, of the importance of that scheme to a significant part of his State of Queensland. The fact is that the Queensland Government asked successive Commonwealth governments in years gone by for firm commitments to complete the Bundaberg irrigation project. The commitments were not then forthcoming. However, under the National Water Resources Program which the Government introduced in the 1978-79 Budget year, Queensland received an allocation of $2. 5m last year for the Bundaberg project - the largest allocation for a rural water supply project. This year a similar allocation - $2. 5m - has been made, bringing the Commonwealth grant assistance to Queensland for the Bundaberg project to date to $24.65m. As the Commonwealth’s contribution requires matching dollar for dollar expenditure by the State, considerable progress is now being made in reticulating water from the Monduran Dam.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Following the question asked by Senator Chipp on 21 August regarding Kim Dae Jung, I ask the Minister: Will the Government make a statement of concern about the current trial of Mr Kim? Also, can the Minister inform me of the veracity of the report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 13 August 1980 that five of the 16 South Korean Supreme Court judges had handed in their resignations for unexplained reasons?
– In recent times I have made a number of statements on this matter. I made a statement on the Government’s concern in the Senate on 21 August in reply to a question without notice. In that statement I noted that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was acutely aware of the concern expressed by church members and other Australian citizens about the situation of Mr Kim Dae Jung and others, including a number of clergymen who had been detained in South Korea. A number of people have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has replied, indicating the Government’s concern about developments in the Republic of Korea.
I had earlier, in May, set out our concern about the general situation in South Korea, again in reply to a question without notice. As regards Mr Kim Dae Jung, Reverend Moon Ik Hwan, Reverend Cho Hwa Soon, Reverend In Myong Jin and others about whom there have been expressions of concern, the Government’s concern that they receive fair trials was made known by our Ambassador in Seoul to the South Korean Foreign Minister as early as June. The Reverend Cho Hwa Soon has since been released. Otherwise, our concern remains.
Mr Kim Dae Jung was brought to trial last month. Hearings began in Seoul on 1 4 August and were suspended on 6 September. Mr Kim in the past has been a strong candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Korea and recently resumed his role as an important opposition leader. Following civil unrest in May he was arrested and charged with sedition and violation of laws relating to national security and foreign exchange control as well as violation of martial law decrees. The embassy in Seoul has observed the trial. The public expression of concern by the Government in the Senate on 21 August has been drawn to the attention of the Republic of Korea Government.
The ROK has been going through a difficult period of political development. This causes us all great concern. We naturally want to see developments in the ROK follow a democratic path in the interests of the people of Korea because ours is a democratic country and because we think that course is the most likely to bring about lasting stability. I emphasise that we value our growing relations with that Republic. Nevertheless, we continue our concern with the events that I have outlined.
– I refer the AttorneyGeneral to his comments during an address in Alice Springs on 9 July in respect of the handbook which is being prepared and which sets out the established terms and conditions applicable to Federal judges. The Attorney-General then stated: 1 am considering whether the document should be tabled in the Parliament so that the Parliament and the people as well as the judges will know exactly what is made available to judges in the same way as they are entitled to know the terms and conditions of other holders of public office.
Does the Attorney-General agree that it is better for the facts to be known and that, for the judiciary to command the respect of the people, there must be an element of public accountability? If so, will he assure the Senate that the Government will give urgent consideration to tabling the handbook once it is completed?
– I am very glad that Senator Missen has read the speech that I made in Alice Springs. Actually, it was a speech in which I gave a good deal of consideration to the relationship between the judiciary, the Parliament and the Executive. The point that Senator Missen raised arises out of one of the more important aspects of that relationship and that is that the terms and conditions of judicial service ought to be known. Of course, a major principle is enshrined in the Constitution, namely, that judicial salaries should not be reduced at any stage. Although there is not any constitutional requirement about it, I think that probably should apply generally to judicial conditions of service.
I have been engaged for some time in the preparation of a handbook relating to these matters. It is not yet finalised. I agree that it is really desirable that these matters should be known publicly. Indeed, I would expect that a Senate Estimates committee would be inquiring about them if I had not tabled a document on the matter. My own very strong inclination is to table that document once it has been completed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that Dr Peter Ucko has resigned as principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies? If so, will the Minister indicate to the Senate the reasons given by Dr Ucko for this unexpected resignation? Will the Minister agree that this resignation is not in the best interests of the Institute?
– It is a fact that Dr Peter Ucko has submitted his resignation to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. As 1 understand it, he gave a couple of reasons. One was that he had had the job for eight years. He thought that that was a long period to hold such a position. Secondly, he felt that the Institute was entering a new phase and that a change in principal could be to the Institute’s advantage. I have had the chance to speak only fairly briefly by telephone to Dr Ucko since he submitted his resignation. I respect the reasons that he has given for his resignation. 1 always found him an excellent principal of the Institute. He was of great personal assistance to me on many occasions, particularly in assisting me to get access to Aboriginal communities and providing me with contacts who had the ability to communicate with communities. In that sense I will certainly miss him when he leaves the Institute.
Probably it is true that the Institute has gone through a period of change. It is more heavily involved in practical as against purely academic matters. I think it probably is time for the Institute to look at its own situation and to decide on the emphasis for its future. That is a matter for the Institute itself at this stage. I have not taken any action, except to have a relatively brief discussion with the chairman of the council of the Institute. I hope that the Institute will engage in some self-examination in the process of seeking a new principal.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, follows on from an earlier question by Senator Chipp. Did the Minister hear an Australian Broadcasting Commission news report from Moscow quoting a Pravda article criticising human rights in Australia? Did the article adversely compare the human rights of Australian Aborigines with those of the people of the Soviet empire? Is this article which was published in Pravda part of a Soviet campaign attacking human rights in Western democracies? Is there any validity in the comparisons it seeks to make with Australia or is it designed to divert attention from the Soviet Union’s deplorable record in human rights?
– I did not hear the broadcast to which the honourable senator refers, but my Department drew my attention to it at lunchtime. I was interested in it because of the recent international comment on Aboriginal matters. The commentator, according to the transcript which my Department made available to me, suggested that the campaign - presumably that is the Soviet campaign - is designed to defuse attacks on the Soviet Union’s record in this field at the review conference on the Helsinki Agreement which is scheduled to be held in Madrid in November. I have little doubt that the commentator’s remarks are accurate; the article has to be seen as something of a smokescreen by the Soviet Union. ! repeat, if not the exact words, some words in the spirit of what I said in answer to an earlier question: I think that to compare the situation of Australian Aboriginals with the human rights situation in the Soviet Union is such an exaggeration that one would doubt the bona fides of such a comparison.
I remind honourable senators of the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which sets out in chapter and verse the extensive repression of Soviet citizens by the Soviet Government. That includes such charming habits as the use of psychiatry to subdue dissidents. There is the chronicling of the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of people and the refusal to do anything to remedy their position some 30 or 40 years after the event.
Opposition senators interjecting -
– 1 am a little puzzled as to why members of the Australian Labor Party are so anxious to defend the Soviet Union as against Australia’s own record. I note that some members of the Labor Party are extremely active in doing so. I am sorry that Senator Wheeldon is not here because his views on this matter are well known. I am sure he could entertain the Senate with yet another speech on the balance of human rights around the world. As 1 said in answer to an earlier question, human rights around the world involve situations in which people are being slaughtered without trial, in which people are being imprisoned and where due process of law is not applied. There is a whole series of things which make any of the relatively minor problems in Australia pale into insignificance. I do not want to be heard as saying that there are no problems in Australia.
– That is what you are trying to say.
– What the Opposition might try to make it appear I am saying is not what I am saying. This Government has supported and will continue to support legal aid, the Aboriginal Legal Service and other measures which are designed to ensure that the difficulties of the past are overcome. It will continue to spend moneys such as the $70m which will go into Aboriginal housing this year. I find it offensive that members of the Opposition will join with foreign people who denigrate our human rights record as against other countries with a much worse record.
– I ask the Minister for National Development and Energy: When will he answer my question of 20 August in which 1 asked why the producer’s price for Australian crude oil, which was supposed to have been tied to the consumer price index since December 1 978, went up by 14.8 per cent when the CPI went up by only 1 2.4 per cent? Can he explain why the Government has secretly repudiated its own policy? Is the difference between 14.8 per cent and 12.4 per cent 25c a barrel, or $ 1 8m a year, to Esso-BHP?
– I am sorry that an answer has not been given to Senator Walsh. I will seek to give him the answer as soon as I can. There is no repudiation of the Australian Government’s policy. Day by day, its acceptance strengthens with the Australian community.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she is able to reveal any further information about plans to extend the rights of appeal available to social security claimants, as she foreshadowed before Senate Estimates Committee C.
– 1 did mention this matter before Estimates Committee C. I am able to say that it is proposed that the existing system be varied so that there will be an ultimate right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in all cases in which a person claiming a pension, benefit or allowance under the Social Services Act is dissatisfied with the departmental decision on his or her claim. Under the system which came into operation in 1975, claimants who disagree with decisions of the DirectorGeneral or his delegates, not related to medical matters, may have their cases reviewed by a social security appeals tribunal. This is an independent body which advises the Director-General. This tribunal conducts its inquiries in an informal manner and its recommendations are not binding on the Director-General, although they are accepted in the great majority of cases. Earlier this year, a new right of appeal was granted under which appellants may have their cases further reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if the social security appeals tribunal reports in their favour but the recommendation is not accepted by the Director-General, lt has now been decided that this right of appeal should be extended so that any person whose case has been reviewed by the social security appeals tribunal will have a further right of access to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in all cases in which the claim is not upheld by the Department, that is, whether the recommendation of the social security appeals tribunal was favourable or unfavourable. It is intended to recommend to the Governor-General in Council that the existing regulations be amended accordingly. I would understand that these would take effect from today.
When the social security appeals tribunals were set up in 1975, they were not authorised to hear appeals relating to medical assessments. Where a claimant is dissatisfied with a medical determination which is relevant to a claim for a social security pension, benefit or allowance, the present practice is for the Department of Health to appoint an independent medical practitioner or a panel of doctors, usually consultants, to make an independent review of the case. This practice will continue; but, where the decision on this review is unfavourable to the applicant, he will in future have the right, which has hitherto been available only for non-medical issues, to have the matter in dispute examined by a social security appeals tribunal. It will follow from this that there will be a further right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if the matter is not decided in the claimant’s favour after the review by the social security appeals tribunal. An appropriately qualified medical officer will be appointed to sit as a member of the social security appeals tribunal when it reviews cases involving medical issues.
It is recognised that there will be some cases in which it is obvious that the matter is of such importance that it ought to proceed ultimately to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and that no useful purpose would be served by a prior review by the social security appeals tribunal. To cover these cases, it is proposed that there be provision for an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal without a preceding social security appeals tribunal review where the applicant so requests and the Director-General, being satisfied that special circumstances exist, certifies that there should be a direct appeal. I think that what I have been able to say today will give a more satisfactory appeals system and procedure for claimants under the Social Services Act.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and follows the question of Senator Walters. I ask: In providing an appeal on medical grounds to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, will the Government provide for that Tribunal a definition of the 85 per cent disability which is required under the Act? If it will not do so, will the appellant be able to produce his own doctor before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to refute the evidence of the government medical officers as to what is 85 per cent disability? If the appellant will not be able to do that, what will be the use of the appeal?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLESome of the matters raised would be more appropriately answered by the Attorney-General as they relate to the procedure of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I will give consideration to the matters raised in detail by Senator Grimes and see that a response is given to him that clarifies those matters.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral yet received a copy of the final conclusions reached by the Melbourne coroner in his inquest into the murders of Douglas and Isabel Wilson? Did the coroner make a clear call for the establishment of a major Federal investigation of drug related crime in Australia and suggest a royal commission for this purpose? In evidence before the coroner did the Victorian police express a view that the laws as they currently stand make it all but impossible for the community to be adequately protected from organised crime of this nature? Did the coroner draw attention to the fact that his inquiries were hampered because he did not have access to certain taxation records and because he was unable to compel certain witnesses to give evidence? Will the AttorneyGeneral now take steps to have a Federal royal commission appointed to investigate organised crime in Australia with special reference to its links with the drug trade? Will he seek to amend laws such as the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Evidence Act so that such a royal commission would not find its endeavours frustrated, as did the Melbourne coroner?
– I have received a report on the findings of the Victorian coroner in relation to the deaths of Douglas and Isabel Wilson. Senator Puplick asked a number of questions arising out of that. I should also say that I have read the evidence given to the coroner by Assistant Commissioner Hall of the Victorian police. It was largely to matters raised by Mr Hall that the coroner directed his attention. I think it is worth while quoting what the coroner said in his findings in relation to the matter that Senator Puplick has raised. He said:
I propose to forward a copy of the whole of the evidence presented at these Inquests to the Honourable the AttorneyGeneral for Victoria with a request that he give consideration as to whether copies of the evidence should be transmitted to the Attorney-Generals for the Commonwealth of Australia, the State of New South Wales and the State of Queensland with a view to either having the whole of the evidence investigated by commission or otherwise investigated so that as many offenders as possible be brought to justice.
In this day and age if State sovereign boundaries provide a fictitious boundary for illegal activity and are the means of crime on such an organised basis, proceeding unchecked, then it could well bc that the appropriate action is one jointly by the States or by the Commonwealth itself.
I think it is important to understand that the question raised here of organised crime across State boundaries is one which involves joint Commonwealth-State action, whether it be at the police level or at a level of investigation by a commission of one sort or another. I have had some discussions with the Victorian Attorney-General who, unfortunately, was on leave last week and has only just returned to his office. He assures me that he is looking into the matters that the coroner has raised, and we will be having further discussions in the near future. The matter of investigation of such serious crime is one which gives the Commonwealth great concern. I want to emphasise that action has already been taken. For instance, Assistant Commissioner Hall is the leader of a joint police task force which was set up in June 1979 to consider certain allegations made by a then senior unnamed and unspecified officer of the Narcotics Bureau. It was really that investigation and the experiences that Mr Hall had as leader of that investigation which formed the basis of a great deal of the evidence and views expressed by him before the coroner.
We have also, as a result of recommendations of the Williams and Woodward royal commissions, set up a joint police task force between the Commonwealth and New South Wales. I am advised that that body has also been successfully investigating a number of these matters. The week before last the Prime Minister announced that the Commonwealth had invited the New South Wales Government to agree to an extension of the terms of reference of that joint CommonwealthNew South Wales task force to consider matters arising out of the Nugan Hand question. Obviously, steps have been taken. At the moment, I am giving very close consideration to whether any further steps should be taken. That would, of course, include the question of whether a royal commission should be established.
I have had discussions not only, as I said, with Mr Storey, the Victorian Attorney-General, but also with Mr Hall, senior Commonwealth police officers, officers of the Department of Administrative Services and officers of my own Department in regard to these matters which are under very close consideration at the present time. At the moment I am not in a position to add anything further.
– Did the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs meet the South Australian Aboriginal Housing Board in January 1979? Did he express the view that he was impressed with the achievements of that Board? Did he note that the program had managed to avoid many of the problems encountered by other State housing commission programs, primarily because of the high level of activity and effective Aboriginal management and decision making? Despite this fact, did he then express the belief that he was unable to promise to provide the level of funding needed for that authority to do its job effectively? What is the reason the funding cannot be provided for a most efficient Board to do its job effectively, in view of the fact that in 1975-76 the Commonwealth could supply sufficient moneys to that Board to build 90 Aboriginal houses, in 1976-77 it was able to build 86 houses, and last year the Commonwealth could provide money for only 38 houses? If there is such an efficient Board with which the Minister is impressed, why can he not help it when it needs assistance, as there is a fiveyear wait for an Aboriginal family in Adelaide, after application, to be allocated such a home?
– I may not have quite as clear a recollection of the meeting as Senator Cavanagh, but I certainly visited South Australia in January 1979 and met with the South Australian Aboriginal Housing Board. It is my consistent impression that the Board is a particularly successful operation. It is regarded as a model for other States. Representatives of the housing authorities in both Western Australia and Victoria visited South Australia to inspect the Board’s operations before setting up their own similar housing boards which are still in a very infant state and which have not yet reached the level of operation of the South Australian Aboriginal Housing Board. At any time I would be very glad to express great enthusiasm about the South Australian Aboriginal Housing Board which has a very impressive record in the selection of tenants, the collection of rental, the maintenance of housing and so on.
The honourable senator questions why more funds are not going into Aboriginal housing. He has cited figures which I will have to accept. I do not have the figures with me. I think honourable senators will find that those figures relate only to housing which has been provided for Aboriginals in South Australia through Department of Aboriginal Affairs funding to the South Australian
Housing Trust. As most honourable senators would be aware, there are several other sources of housing finance for Aboriginals. Starting in the last financial year and continuing in this year funds have been earmarked out of the general welfare housing funds which have been distributed around Australia pro-rata according to the Aboriginal population. I do not remember offhand the amount for South Australia, but it would be I think about $1 .5m to $2m additional to the funds that Senator Cavanagh has referred to. Those figures are easily procurable. The overall figure this year is slightly more than $22m. The South Australian share would represent the proportion of the Aboriginal population of South Australia to the total Aboriginal population of Australia.
The third area of housing funds is the new Aboriginal Development Commission. Those honourable senators who attended the Estimates committee discussion of the estimates of my Department would have heard officers give evidence that an additional $10m will be available from that fund for housing around Australia. This represents a considerable increase over the amount expended last year. I discussed this matter with the Chairman of the Aboriginal Development Commission, Mr Charles Perkins. He expressed considerable optimism that the Commission would be able to make some impression into the long waiting list which has existed for some years. I will obtain the detail of overall housing fund allocation for South Australia and make it available to the honourable senator and to the Senate. I think honourable senators will find that the figures are rather more encouraging than the figures set out in the Aboriginal Housing Board report.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. It may help the Minister to provide the information. I will quote from the South Australian Aboriginal Housing Board annual report for 1978-79. The figures I cited related to the money which was made available for the Board. The report states:
In all, Commonwealth funding for Aboriginal housing provided only 44 new housing units in the State.
In 1 975-76, 90 new housing units were built. Some 38 units were provided by the Board in 1978-79. Commonwealth funding provided 44 units for Aboriginals in the State. Can the Minister justify the reduction in finance for such an efficient board?
– I will have to get further figures because I find the figures which the honourable senator gives me very hard to square with the figures that I am aware of for other States. For example, in the space of one financial year the waiting list for New South Wales Housing Commission houses has dropped from 1 ,900 to 1 ,400. In other words there has been a drop of 500 in one year due to the various programs I have referred to - the earmarked welfare housing funds, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs grants to the State and, of course, the direct grants to Aboriginal organisations. I would be happy to get the overall figures for South Australia. I would be surprised if the total figures quoted by the honourable senator were correct, but I am not in a position to give him the firm figures. Therefore, I will not dispute them until I can.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Transport advise the Senate of the number of seamen employed by the Australian National Line who are aged over 65 years? Will he analyse this figure to segregate the number employed into separation periods of five years each?
– I would dearly love to be able to stand up, say ‘148’ and sit down; but I have to confess that I do not have that figure in my mind or in the notes before me. I will have to seek it from the Minister.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Did the South Australian Premier, Mr Tonkin, have the approval of the Treasurer before announcing recently that all unsecured trade creditors of the Riverland Fruit Products Cannery at Berri in South Australia prior to 25 June of this year would be requested to accept an arrangement whereby they would receive an amount of 50c in the dollar as immediate payment? Further, in view of the desperate financial situation of many fruit growers and the uncertainty of employment for cannery employees in the Riverland, has the Government yet made any decision on my requests of 3 November 1 976, 22 February 1 977 and 29 March 1977 to introduce amending legislation to convert its half share of the $540,000 loan to the cannery to a grant as did the Dunstan Labor Government in 1976?
– I will bring that question to the attention of the Treasurer.
– The Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory will recall that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory some time ago proposed a land use tribunal for the Territory and that this has been the subject of further discussions and questions from me in this chamber. Can he now indicate what progress has been made towards establishing the proposed land use tribunal in Canberra so that citizens will have a more effective avenue of appeal on matters of land use and changes that affect them?
– The Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Ellicott, announced on 21 November last year that the concept of appeals in relation to land use was supported in principle and that it was proposed to provide a right of appeal from the land use and development control decisions which are the subject of the Committee’s recommendations. The most important question which remains to be considered is what form the tribunal to hear these appeals should take.
On 1 2 February this year I referred to the Administrative Review Council the question whether the Administrative Appeals Tribunal would be a suitable body to exercise the proposed jurisdiction. In the meantime, I have been advised that the Department of the Capital Territory has prepared a paper canvassing the issues, which has been forwarded to the National Capital Development Commission for comment. It is then proposed that the paper be referred by the Minister for the Capital Territory to the Administrative Review Council to assist the Council in its consideration of the matter. The Minister for the Capital Territory has asked that the matter be dealt with urgently.
– Has the Minister for Social Security noted reports that the Hobart Technical College had to abandon a transition from school to work training scheme because the 1 0 girls who would have been involved over a 1 2-week period were unable to undertake the training as they would have had to give up unemployment benefit for the duration of the course? Is it a fact that unemployment benefit is not available to such transitional trainees? If so, will the Government urgently review the situation so that the Commonwealth withdrawal of benefit does not discourage young people from participating in such schemes?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEThere are requirements for the payment of unemployment benefit which relate to availability for work. Special provisions are made with regard to short term training arrangements. I will need to look at the program to which Senator Tate has referred to see where it lies in the area of eligibility for unemployment benefit. I will see what information I am able to provide on it.
– That is what the scheme is about - taking kids off the unemployment figures.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEThat is so. Whether the scheme itself provides an alternative benefit I am unable to say because it is not within my own Department’s responsibility. However, I will look at the matter that has been raised by Senator Tate to see what is able to be done to assist.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. As I have received strenuous representations from members of the pig meat industries concerning alleged massive dumping in this country of canned ham from Romania and Yugoslavia, can the Minister ascertain and advise whether a dumping claim has been lodged with the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, whether the claim appears to be justified and what action is proposed and when?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– 1 direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and speak to him as a fellow New South Welshman. Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate share my pride at the spearheading of a campaign to introduce lead-free petrol by the Wran Labor Government, in view of the announcement made last week by the Australian Environment Council that it backed unequivocally the stand taken by the New South Wales Government?
– I share the desire of all Australians that pollution, particularly toxic lead pollution, should be removed from vehicle emission. Various ways have been suggested for this to be done by either fitting emission control devices to vehicles or, of course, altering the catalytic processes at refineries. In, I think, early February of next year - in a few months - the Australian Transport Advisory Council will meet. At that meeting State and Commonwealth Ministers will look at this overall problem. They will have before them that report and also, by that time, the report of the Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions. They will be able to put those two reports side by side. It is necessary to get an understanding between all the States and the Commonwealth as to the best way of achieving pollution free air. I do not intend to foreshadow what they will do, but they are people of responsibility and good intention and I have no doubt that they will tackle the problem thoroughly.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Whilst appreciating the sincerity of the Minister’s reply, I ask: Does the Minister have any fears that senior National Country Party Ministers, such as Mr Nixon, who has ridiculed Mr Wran’s attitude, will try to bludgeon him into taking a different attitude?
– All Ministers and members of the Fraser Government have a uniform desire to ensure that the air that people breathe in Australia shall be pollution-free. There may be arguments as to methodology, as to the best way of achieving it. They are authentic and acceptable arguments because there is no one simple solution. The ATAC Ministers will meet with goodwill to try to find a solution. That will cross political boundaries because they will come from the various political parties.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the anticlimactic exercise over the weekend by the Opposition’s spokesman on employment and youth affairs? Can the Minister confirm that the socalled survey which formed the basis of that leaked report was limited to a sample of only 21 1 people?
– Only 211?
– I am advised that the number was only 211. To promote more prominent and detailed media coverage of Government programs, will the Minister consider calling future media handouts Press leaks rather than Press releases?
– I have consistently taken the view that documents which are not authorised documents do not really deserve comment. By chasing after leaked documents, Opposition members simply show the poverty of their arguments and their need to delve in the dustbins to get the skerrick of an argument. I understand that the Premier of Victoria has put this matter into perspective. The document was not an official document; it was, I understand, the first draft of an officer’s document. As Senator MacGibbon said, it was imperfect in its sample, imperfect in its conclusions and therefore, like all the attempts by the Opposition to drum up arguments, fallacious in its basis.
Senator MacGibbon addressing a supplementary question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate -
– Order! That is not a question.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that on or about 20 August the New South Wales Branch of the Liberal Party held a $100-a-plate fund-raising dinner and that the chairman and a senior executive officer of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation attended? Is it a fact that their dinner was paid for out of revenues allocated by that Corporation? In view of the allegations about the improper use of public funds in respect of the Australian Dairy Corporation, and as this appears to be a gross misuse of public funds for party political purposes, I ask: Does the Government propose to insist on guidelines for public spending by public authorities?
– This is the first time that I have ever heard any such suggestion. I will look into the matter. If Senator Gietzelt can give me any other information I will be happy to receive it.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Transport been made aware of the problems now being experienced by the Royal Tasmanian Society for the Blind and Deaf, because of the withdrawal by Ansett Airlines of Australia of concessional charges to the Society’s executive director? Has the withdrawal of these concessions been a result of Government policy or was the decision taken purely by the management of Ansett Airlines? If the withdrawal of the discount was a result of Government policy, will the Minister restore the discount by changing Government policy?
– I am not personally aware of the problems referred to by the honourable senator. Honourable senators may remember that I gave a fairly lengthy answer to a question on this general subject which was asked last week by Senator Thomas. I will not try to canvass that again. It is in Hansard. It indicates that it was not a Government decision that caused the discounts to be removed and that, in fact, following the removal of the discount the Minister took action to ensure that some arrangements were made by the airlines which ensured that organisations had access to discounted fares. The original action arose out of a complaint by one of the airlines about discounting by the other airline. The Minister asked the airlines to go away and look at the matter. They did so and acted without reference back to the Minister, as apparently had been arranged. In any event, it was not a matter of Government policy. As I indicated on 27 August, interim arrangements will be available to sporting and charitable organisations. In the meantime the whole issue has been referred to the Independent Public Inquiry into Domestic Air Fares which is being headed by Mr Warwick Holcroft. I understand that the airlines are agreed that the overall concessions that they have introduced in response to the Minister’s representations are to be maintained until the report of that inquiry has been received and considered by the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Press reports indicate that the Japanese Government intends to proceed to dump nuclear waste in the Pacific. Has the Australian Government been consulted on this matter? What attitude does the Government take to this intention to dump by the Japanese Government?
– I am aware of the Press reports. I am not aware of the specific action taken by the Government in response to the intention of the Japanese Government. I know that the Government has expressed its rejection - I have expressed it in the Senate - of any thought that action should be taken to dispose of nuclear waste which could have any effect at all upon the environment. I will look up the specifics of the matter and get an answer for Senator Melzer.
– May I explain that the statement listed on the Notice Paper is not available yet. I hope to have it later in the week.
– by leave - The papers relating to this Convention were tabled on 26 August 1980. The papers comprise the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, which was adopted on 10 April 1980 at a Diplomatic Conference held in Vienna; a Protocol amending the Convention on the Limitation
Period in the International Sale of Goods, which was also adopted at Vienna on 10 April 1980; and an explanatory memorandum prepared by my Department relating to the Convention. The Vienna Conference was attended by sixty-two states, including Australia, an observer from another state and representatives from eight inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations.
The Convention represents the culmination of some ten years work by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, commonly known as UNCITRAL. UNCITRAL was established in 1966 with the principal aim of furthering the progressive harmonisation and unification of international trade law, and Australia has been one of its active members. In furtherance of that aim, the present Convention has been formulated as a uniform law to govern the formation and operation of international sales of goods. The Protocol harmonises the Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods with the Convention adopted at Vienna. The Convention and Protocol are now open for accession. With a view to determining whether Australia should accede, the Government will be consulting with relevant business interests and with the State governments. I invite interested persons or organisations to convey to me or my Department their views on whether Australia should become a party to the Convention.
Motion (by Senator Missen) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs: The desirability of prohibiting or limiting the use of statutory provisions, including delegated legislation, imposing a burden of proof upon defendants.
– by leave - I have made available to honourable senators a draft program indicating the legislation that the Government wishes to have completed during this week. Honourable senators will be aware that although it is a reasonably full program, it is nevertheless a program that is readily attainable provided that consistent and steady progress is made. Incidentally, I think that it is shown in the draft that the Senate would sit at 10.30 a.m. on Friday; it should be 10 a.m.
It may be necessary for the Senate to sit on Monday, 15 September and /or Friday, 19 September in order to ensure adequate debating time.
Honourable senators are advised, therefore, to keep those dates free of other commitments. In this regard, I will endeavour to advise the Senate as early as possible of the legislation that the Government considers essential for passage during the present sittings so that we may all be aware of the demands that are to be made on our time.
– by leave - I do not think the opportunity should go past without my making some comment on the manner in which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) from time to time decides to alter the sessional orders. The Leader of the Government has taken it upon himself to indicate that we may sit extra days. My view - I think it is the view of honourable senators on both sides of the House- is that unless it is particularly urgent the Leader of the Government should not intrude upon our program, which is set down at the beginning of the parliamentary session, and ask us to sit extra days. The Leader of the Government can justify doing so at this time only if the Government intends to take some decision on the date of the Federal election. If the Minister were prepared to come into this House and say that the election is to take place on 18 October, 25 October or in the early weeks of November, he would be justified in putting forward such a proposition. Since he has not done so, I think it is an affront to the Senate to suggest - we are having to sit on Friday of this week - that we should set aside our own programs in our electorates in order to sit on Monday, 15 September and Friday, 19 September.
Is the Leader of the Government seeking to take this course in order to force us to abbreviate our debate on the important legislation which will be before the House this week? Is he engaging in the now familiar practice of intimidating the Opposition to abbreviate discussion? Is that his purpose? If that is not his purpose I suggest to him that he should not pursue his proposition at this stage. He should allow the debates to take their full time. We should sit on the days that are set down under the sessional orders. The Minister should not impose these restrictions upon us. He is saying that as we may sit on Monday and Friday we should do nothing else.
– Tell us why.
– The Minister should give us his reasons. The suggestion is impossible. The whole of the recess week was taken up with Estimates committees. We finished our considerations of the Estimates committees during the recess week; the Government has gained in effect a whole week of its program. I think it is asking far too much of us to sit on the Monday and Friday of next week unless the Government intends to hold an early election. I impress upon the Leader of the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that it is my belief that as soon as the Prime Minister determines when there will be an election there will not be any frustration by the Opposition of honourable senators getting back to the electorate. Everything that is done and said at this time takes on an irrelevancy. No matter how we vote here the people will decide. The Opposition is keen to get back to the electorate. Honourable senators opposite may not think so. There may be some hesitancy on the part of the Government. Perhaps the Government has reached the position now that it is not so certain of itself. Nevertheless, until the Government determines when there is to be an election I do not think extra sitting days should be forced upon us.
– by leave - On behalf of the Australian Democrats, I also raise strong objections to this proposed program. In doing so, I have absolute sympathy for the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and I do not attach to him any blame whatever for this statement that of necessity he has had to make. I just put the point that the situation in which the Senate now finds itself is intolerable. If I may be personal, it is an intolerable situation for me representing, as I do, a small party in this place.
This statement does not say that it will be necessary for the Senate to sit on Monday, 1 5 September. It says that it may be necessary for the Senate to sit on Monday, 15 September. If 1 am right, today is 9 September, only six days before the proposed sitting day, and the Government still cannot tell us whether we will be required to sit next Monday.
– The Prime Minister is away.
– I thank the honourable senator for one of his few sensible interjections. He says the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is away. We are sitting here as a House of Parliament awaiting the whim of a political leader who will determine when an election will be held. If that honourable senator is prepared to put up with that situation, I am not. I do not believe that it is proper to have 64 senators given six days notice, not knowing today whether they will sit next Monday. I have seven appointments on that day, some of them very important ones. I am absolutely certain that many other senators have similar engagements, some of them out of their home States. What are we to do? When will we know? Will we know tomorrow night? How will we know tomorrow night? Will there be an announcement of an election? There is no certainty of that. This matter might just drag on. Once again I register the very strong view of the Australian Democrats that Federal elections in Australia should be held at a fixed time. This principle applies in the United States of America and also to local government elections in this country. It is insufferable that the date of an election should be determined by a political leader on the basis of when it suits him and when it suits his convenience and the convenience of his political party. I would have thought that the old fashioned view might prevail that elections are for voters and should suit the convenience of the voters, not the whims or the convenience of a particular party leader.
Whilst I have sympathy for Senator Carrick, I would be grateful to get an indication from him now as to when we might be told whether we will be sitting next Monday. Will tomorrow pass with the return of the great man and no announcement? Are we to assume that if he has not announced it then we should all go on holding our breath until the next day, still not knowing whether we should cancel our appointments for Monday? Do we let the matter go on until Friday? This is not a meeting of some obscure country town social club. This is the national parliament. I believe that it is being held to ridicule by these tactics and, on behalf of my party, I strongly object.
– by leave - I express my opposition to the proposal from the Government. Prior to Parliament rising for the winter recess, we received from the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, a proposed program for the spring session. That was subsequently confirmed. Before the ink was dry on the paper we were then subjected, for the purpose of hearings by Senate Estimates committees, to what amounted to a sitting of the Senate during the week when we were supposed to be up. Honourable senators were then put in the position of having to decide between priorities that they had set for matters during the week when they had expected to be free of their commitments to this Parliament. Honourable senators were placed in an invidious position not only in relation to their political commitments but also in relation to their public life and personal commitments which I believe were placed in conflict unnecessarily. The Government should give sufficient notification of and sufficient reasons for any change proposed to the legislative program.
I know that Senator Carrick will say: ‘You will be given a copy of the draft program’. That is true. But draft programs tend to be regarded by the Senate as a whole as propositions that operate under normal circumstances. In addition, we are being required, again without due notice, to sit on Fridays. For what purpose? We are not told about that. A satisfactory answer is not provided for honourable senators. Maybe it is related to the Government’s desire to get the Parliament to rise for an election. At the moment the Prime Minister is out of the country and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) is scheduled to leave this country this weekend. Several other Ministers are also out of the country or are projected to leave the country this week. A great degree of uncertainty is prevalent. Newspaper editorial writers have been suggesting that this uncertainty is not conducive to any degree of confidence within the Australian community. Certainly there is no confidence within the Houses of Parliament themselves.
If the Government has a program of sittings and a schedule that requires the co-operation of the Senate, why can we not be told about that? Why has that to be kept a semi-secret in the way in which the Leader of the Government operates? Is he acting on behalf of the Senate, the Executive or the absentee Prime Minister? These matters place the independence of this place in jeopardy. One is entitled to say that the Executive makes a decision and the Senate meekly follows along. We have an obligation to raise our objections at every opportunity. Are we to meet next Monday? Are we to meet on Friday week? Is the Parliament to rise next week? What is the reason for all this indecision or all these changes to the schedule? One can only say that this Government does not know where it is going. In fact, that is clearly becoming the express view of ever-larger numbers of people in the Australian community. Certainly we in this place do not know where we stand from week to week. It is rapidly getting to the stage where we do not know where we stand from day to day. I think it is about time that the Leader of the Government in the Senate took the Senate into his confidence and told honourable senators what the program will be, putting an end to the indecision.
– With great respect to the Leader, he doesn’t know.
– Let him get up and say so and not defend the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister is in fact putting him in an embarrassing position, let him say so. After all, are we in such a state of mind that one is not entitled to reflect upon a colleague? Heavens above, we were not afraid to have a slice of the decisions and actions that were taken from time to time when we were in government. When we felt the decisions that were being taken were not in the best interests of the community we had the courage to get up in this place and express contrary views and to debate the issues properly. This Government is placing not only the Leader of the Government in the Senate but also the Senate in an invidious position. If in fact the Government’s wishes have to be obeyed - I suppose that is the situation temporarily - surely we can be told why. This is creating havoc not only in respect of the operations of the Parliament itself but also among the political parties and candidates. The only man who knows what to do in respect of electioneering is the Prime Minister, the absentee dictator who does not seem to care about the concern of political parties and the community about what will happen.
I do not believe we should be placed in this position whereby we do not know what we are doing from day to day, from week to week, or from month to month. We can only hope that the Leader of the Government in the Senate will insist on Thursday morning when the Prime Minister returns to this country, that he make a decision. If he wants to keep the date of the election up his sleeve and keep that as something that he believes might give him some political advantage, let him not treat the Parliament with the sort of contempt with which it is being treated. Let him say that the Parliament is to sit for the next three weeks, and then at an appropriate stage he will announce the date of the election. Then we will know where we are. We will know whether to accept commitments. We will know our party requirements. After all, candidates for the election have certain responsibilities to their own party, to themselves, to their own futures and to their own families, as well as to the nation.
– Some have to resign their jobs.
– That is right. If people, for example, are in the Public Service or in other arms of government such as in the State parliamentary area, they are required by law to resign in due course so that they do not find themselves in conflict with Commonwealth legislation. None of these matters are being taken into consideration by the Government. I think it just makes a mockery of the whole parliamentary process. It makes parliamentary democracy, in both theory and practice, the whim of one man, a man who has all of Australia poised to know the date of the election, but who finds time to gallavant all around the world to seek a medal, to attend a conference, and to find himself in conflict with other heads of state in other countries in our region. I think it ill becomes Senator Carrick to come into this place and in a peremptory fashion seek to use the numbers that he obviously can marshal for the purpose of making a political decision without regard to the wishes and requirements of the Senate.
– by leave - I join with the other three speakers in protesting against the attitude of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). I will not agree with the remarks of some other honourable senators and say that Senator Carrick can be let off the hook by blaming the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I think Senator Carrick, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, has to take full responsibility for any decision that he brings in here. I objected when he made the decision that the Estimates committees would sit on Friday of the week before last and every day of last week after we had been given a program of the sittings of the Parliament. Every senator, I am sure, had made arrangements to coincide with that program.
Of course, at the last minute, we had to break a lot of arrangements we had made with various organisations to take up matters on their behalf and to be present at some of their meetings. I did not make any excuses for Senator Carrick when I advised these organisations why V could not attend. I told them, either by phone or by letter, that it was because the Government did not know where it was going and that, because we were faced with this situation at very short notice, we had to alter our arrangements. I did not want these people to be deluded into thinking that this was the usual practice. I pointed out to them that for the first time since the Estimates committees have operated, they were called back at such short notice to deliberate on the Budget.
Honourable senators who have spoken prior to me have laid all the blame at the feet of the Prime Minister. I go a little further and say that the Prime Minister is being held out on the hook by the Premier of Queensland. That is where the real argument is at present. Who is to go first, Mr Petersen or Mr Fraser? Of course, the Senate is now put into a position of not knowing when it is to sit or whether it will sit on Monday of next week, until some decision can be made by BjelkePeterson as to when he is to hold his State election. Because of the arguments that are going on in Queensland with the Liberals contesting National Country Party seats and National Country Party members contesting Liberal seats, a longstanding arrangement has been broken. Open warfare is going on in Queensland between the two parties. Of course, as Mr Petersen is quoted as saying in the newspaper this morning, that warfare will not be confined to Queensland but it will overflow into other States. That is the reason we are being asked by the Leader of the Government in the Senate to hold ourselves in readiness to sit on Monday and Friday of next week.
So much for the House of review. As I have often said in this place, the Senate has never been a House of review. While a Liberal government is in office the Senate is used as a rubber stamp for the Government. When a Labor government is in office the Senate is used as a House of frustration - it frustrates all the legislation a Labor government brings into the Parliament. When the Labor Party was in power it could not get legislation passed. It had to resort to taking it to a joint sitting of both Houses. The then Opposition was not even satisfied with that. It appealed to the High Court of Australia to upset the Labor Government’s legislation. On every occasion bar one - I think there was a dispute of only one day - that legislation was upheld by the High Court. So it goes without saying that the people who sit opposite in this Parliament will stop at nothing to get their way. They think they are the chosen people and that they are born to rule. That is borne out more and more every day by the attitude of Mr Fraser and by Senator Carrick who comes into this chamber and treats the Senate as though its members are just a lot of schoolboys and schoolgirls who should act at the whim of the Government.
If Senator Carrick persists with the proposition he has put to the Senate that we sit on the Monday and the Friday, he should remember that it is his responsibility to keep his members in this chamber to keep a quorum for the Parliament. I will not sit here and then read in the newspapers that Government Ministers and Government back benchers in the Senate are out on the hustings campaigning as hard as they can while the Government keeps members of the Opposition penned up in this chamber. I say to Senator Carrick now that it will be his responsibility to keep a quorum in the Senate. Every time the numbers fall below 22 I will be calling upon him to bring his members into the House to form a quorum. I give him fair warning now. He had a dose of it during the autumn session; I give him fair warning now that he will get a dose of it again this session if he persists with this attitude of not taking the Senate into his confidence. He did not tell us why the Estimates committees had to sit when they did. He does not tell us why he wants the Senate to sit on these extra days. Senator Carrick must know the reasons. If he does not know, all that can be said is that the Prime Minister has no confidence in him whatever as the leader of this chamber.
I agree with members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party who sit behind Senator Carrick. The sooner they are allowed to elect their leader in the Senate the better it will be for the working of this Parliament. While Senator Carrick is the lackey of the Prime Minister and carries out every whim that the Prime Minister puts to him we will be in this situation. After an election is held the people who now sit on this side of the chamber will sit in their rightful places on the Government benches.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) - by leave - proposed:
That Senator Scott be granted leave of absence for one month, on account of ill health.
– We support the motion, of course. It gives me the opportunity to raise a problem which the Senate faces - the reduction in the number of Ministers in this place. There have been some reported mutterings about Government senators being strongly opposed to the reduction of representation in this House. I raise the matter because I think the Opposition ought to put its point of view. Without having consulted any of my colleagues on this matter, 1 feel that a precedent may be created that in this place we will be represented by only four Ministers. When Senator Scott was in the Ministry he served this place very well. I think we all accept that. For that reason we do not begrudge him leave of absence. However, it raises the point: Is the Ministry to be extended? Are we going into an election with a representation of only four Ministers in this place? Is that likely to be the situation after a new government is elected?
– We will decide that.
– I know that. Let me finish making the point. Is the Government now setting a precedent which a Labor government will follow and which we will object to? Of course, we are outnumbered in the party rooms. It is quite possible that it will now be accepted that four Ministers are enough in the Senate.
– But we don’t have to unload National Country Party Ministers because of a row.
– Of course it is realised that the Senate has to make a decision. It should have either no Ministers or, if it is to have Ministers, at least six or possibly seven. It should have at least a third of the Ministry. I make the point at this time that some debate is taking place in the Parliament on the level of representation in the Senate. I ask the Government, in the short time that it has left, to look at an increased representation in the Senate. That representation ought not to be allowed to fall to this low level of only four Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The following message has been received from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following resolution which was agreed to by the House of Representatives on 28 August 1980:
That, for the purposes of sub-section 8 (2) of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the House of Representatives- fa) authorises the commencement of work on the following declared stage in the design of Parliament House, namely, the preparation of a detailed design of Parliament House (including specifications and tender of documents); and
authorises the commencement of work on the following declared stage in the construction of Parliament House, namely, the preparation and excavation of the site of Parliament House.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to approve the agreement which has been concluded with South Australia for the construction of a standard gauge railway line between Adelaide and Crystal Brook.
The Bill repeals the Adelaide to Crystal Brook Railway Act 1974, and provides for reimbursement to South Australia of payments made by that State under the earlier agreement. The Bill also empowers the Australian National Railways Commission to construct and operate the new standard gauge railway. This project represents a milestone in Australian railway history in that, on its completion, all mainland State capital cities will be linked to the national standard gauge rail network.
The new line will provide important benefits to South Australia, the nation and the railways. Substantial reductions in freight transit times will result, mainly through the elimination of bogie exchanging, with average transit times falling by about 27 hours on the Adelaide-Perth and Adelaide-Sydney routes. The completion of the project will result in considerable operational cost savings to ANR and is expected to lead to significant increases in rail traffic. It will make a substantial contribution towards reducing ANR operating losses in future years. The project will contribute to the development of mineral resources, agriculture and industry in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Proposed mineral development projects such as oil at Mereenie, and copper and uranium at Roxby Downs will have access to this railway for reliable and economic freight movement. The livestock industry will benefit as reduced transit times and elimination of transfer will avoid spelling, reduce bruising and permit the movement of greater stock numbers through increased wagon turnaround.
The project will involve the conversion of the existing broad gauge line between Salisbury and Merriton to standard gauge. New standard gauge connections will be constructed for Merriton to Crystal Brook and from Salisbury to Keswick. Connections will also be provided to Port Adelaide and Pooraka. New passenger facilities will be established at Keswick. Present scheduling of the project envisages commencement of some standard gauge services by mid 1982, with all works being completed by mid 1 984.
The agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia, signed on 1 1 August 1980, is incorporated as a schedule to the Bill. This agreement terminates the previous Adelaide to Crystal Brook agreement of 1 974 and as far as practicable restores the parties to their ‘original positions’ by adjustments of property and finance. The agreement also specifies the terms and conditions for the construction and operation of the new railway by ANR. The project described in the new agreement differs significantly from the much more costly works defined in the 1974 agreement. The project now to be carried out was developed by ANR after detailed analysis of the financial and commercial prospects for the line. Completion of the project will make a substantial contribution towards improving the profitability of ANR operations.
Accordingly, funds for the project will be raised on the commercial market under the infrastructure borrowing program. The bulk of the funds required will be raised through the sale of public securities by ANR. In June 1980 the Loan Council approved a total indicative program for the project of $62m at September 1979 prices, including $22m to be borrowed during 1980-81. Finally, I should also point out that provision has been made in the agreement to cover the possible construction of a standard gauge connection to the container terminal at Outer Harbor in Adelaide, subject to such a proposal being approved by the Commonwealth and South Australian Transport Ministers. 1 would now like to turn to some specific provisions of the Bill. Certain metropolitan land required for railway works is to be transferred from South Australia to ANR. Clause 6 of the Bill provides for the details of survey and delineation of such land to be incorporated into a certificate, which when signed by Commonwealth and State Transport Ministers vests the land in ANR. The Bill also provides for liabilities and obligations arising under the previous agreement to transfer from South Australia to ANR.
In accordance with established practice capital expenditure limits for the project have been specified. Clause 7 of the Bill provides for a maximum cost of $82m and if the scope of the project is later extended to allow construction of the Outer Harbor connection, the maximum cost is set at $92m. These figures include allowances for escalation and contingency factors. The Bill provides for reimbursement to South Australia for payments made by that State under the 1974 agreement. This will involve a payment of $862,577 in 1980-81. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 12 September 1980.
That the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at S p.m. on that day.
– I moved previously that Senator Carrick’s motion be not formal because I was uncertain of the matter before the House. The motion before the House reads:
That, unless otherwise ordered, on Friday, 12 September 1 980, the Senate meet at 1 0 a.m.
I do not think there is any disagreement about the Senate’s meeting at that time on the Friday. The motion continues:
That the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at S p.m.
I take it that it is firm and clear that the Senate will adjourn at 5 p.m. and that we will not be sitting on Friday night. If that is the case I do not think there will be any opposition. I make the point that, if we are to sit on Fridays, it will be unfair to senators to sit on Friday evenings. Whatever decision we make in the future about sitting on Fridays, I hope it will be clear that the Senate will adjourn at 5 p.m. There has been no discussion or agreement on this matter. I am just putting my point of view at this stage, having given myself the opportunity to do so.
– I rise to oppose the motion. The Opposition Whip said that there has been no agreement on the matter. I also voice my opposition to the announcement that we may sit for two extra days next week. After the Senate commenced the session to carry out a program that had been circulated by the Government, a notice of motion was given that the Senate would sit on Friday of this week. It was also announced that the Estimates committees would meet last week. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) should have some urgent reason for changing the program of which we were advised before the commencement of the session as, accordingly, we have made arrangements for the sessional period. The sitting on Friday of this week is an imposition to many senators. It will necessitate cancelling many engagements - some cannot be cancelled - and this will appear to indicate a lack of faith with a number of constituents who have previously been unable to get to a senator’s office in a particular locality and who have made arrangements to see him on that day.
I have always agreed that the Senate sits too infrequently and that it should sit for a longer period to discuss General Business. I am not opposed to extra sittings but I am opposed to sittings to suit the Government on particular occasions. It has been said, we have a justification for knowing the reason why the Senate has to sit on Friday. The Minister should say that it is desirable for the Senate to conclude on such and such a date. I do not ask him to name the date of the election but he should be able to say that it is in accordance with the Government’s desire and policy that the Senate should complete its legislative program by a certain date and that the Opposition’s co-operation would help to achieve that. We have heard nothing. Originally the program was set down to run from the middle of August to the end of November. The sitting days had been arranged. The indications are that we will not sit on those days but no one knows when the Senate will rise. We are unable to rearrange our programs. We cannot carry on business in this manner. I formally oppose this motion. We should continue the program which the Government arranged and which we were prepared to accept.
- Mr Deputy President, I associate myself with the remarks just made by Senator Cavanagh. I think he has outlined the situation very well. All honourable senators have made constituency appointments based upon the program that was given to us by the Government prior to the commencement of the session. I believe that the Government owes it not only to honourable senators but also to their constituents to explain why it seeks to alter the draft program with which it had provided us. Why is it necessary for this to be done? Let us not kid ourselves. The proposed alteration to the draft program is necessary because we are waiting until the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) returns from overseas before he can announce in his own good time when the election will take place. I believe that this is an insult not only to the Senate but also to those constituents with whom we have made appointments on Friday of next week. It is also an insult to the Tasmanian Chamber of Industries to which I will now have to send an apology for my inability to attend its dinner on Friday. If the Government desires to insult these sorts of people without providing any reasonable explanation for wanting to sit on Friday, it will have to suffer the consequences.
I consider that it is high time that an understanding was reached amongst parties and States that there be an amendment to the Constitution to enable elections to take place on specified dates or at specified times at three-yearly intervals so that everybody would know where he was. I am concerned that this type of action by the Government will do precisely what Senator Cavanagh said it will do. It will cause hardship to those constituents who have made arrangements and for whom we have made arrangements on that particular day. I believe the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) owes it to us at least to explain why we should have to put off those arrangements on Friday so that we can tell our constituents. I ask him to do so now.
– I join with my colleague Senator Cavanagh and again voice my disapproval of the way the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) is handling the sitting program. The motion before the Chair relates only to Friday of this week. We discussed about 20 minutes ago the proposal that the Senate may sit for two extra days next week. The motion before the Chair is that we agree to sit on Friday of this week. I have previously pointed out the great inconvenience that has been placed upon many senators, particularly those who have to make long journeys into the country to carry out engagements. If the Senate rises at 5 p.m. on Friday - Senator Georges has sought an undertaking that it will - many senators, apart from those living in Western Australia and Queensland, will be able to get home to fulfil engagements on Friday night. They may be an hour or two late in getting there but they will be able to fulfil them. But those of us who have to travel long distances to country areas to endeavour to fulfil engagements to which we are already committed will have to cancel those arrangements. That will cause many people great inconvenience. I wish to have my objection to this motion recorded alongside Senator Cavanagh ‘s objection. There will not be a vote on the motion, but I want it recorded that I do not agree with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy President–
– Highly organised!
– If the honourable senator is criticising the organisation of this place I point out that we were expecting the income tax Bills which appeared on the business sheet to come before the Senate at this stage. Nevertheless, we are not to proceed with those Bills and we have moved to the first Order of the Day which is the Loan Bill 1980. I advise my colleagues that they can do just as well by speaking on the Loan Bill as they would have done by speaking on the first readings of the income tax Bills. Not much is lost to those people who wished to take the opportunity today to speak on the first readings. I ask the Government - I intended to do so had it brought the income tax Bills before us - whether, rather than taking the income tax Bills together, we can deal with them separately when they come forward.
– The Senate has before it the Loan Bill which, as most of us who have been members of the Senate for some years are aware, is a formal piece of legislation, a machinery Bill. As we know, the Constitution provides that the Consolidated Revenue Fund must not go into deficit. It has become a normal accounting method of all governments to pass this type of legislation through the Parliament to enable a transfer to be made to meet the requirements of the Constitution.
It is interesting to note that until 1975 loan Bills went through the Parliament every year at about this time to facilitate this necessary transfer of Commonwealth funds. It was not until 1975 that loan Bills became Bills of some significance. In that year, for the first time, the normal procedures were interfered with by the then Opposition, the Liberal-Country Party Opposition, which refused to pass the Loan Bill then before the Parliament. That was done even though former Senator Cotton, who at that time was the shadow Treasurer, conceded, as had been done in the past, that that legislation, dull and dry as it might have appeared to be, was legislation which nevertheless had to go through the Parliament to enable the constitutional requirements to be met. In 1975 the then Opposition refused to pass that legislation. As a consequence, moneys which should have been debited to the Loan Fund continued to be debited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That made it very difficult for the government of the day to continue its normal accounting procedures. In 1976 a loan Bill was presented and such a Bill has been presented each year since then. Those occasions have given us an opportunity to talk generally about the manner in which the Government has performed during the previous 12 months.
The second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) on the Bill before the Senate was extremely brief and the Bill is very brief. It is interesting to note that the Loan Bill has only five clauses. In 1975 the size of the Loan Bill was a subject of great debate in the Parliament. It was claimed by the Liberal and Country parties that a Bill of such importance should be spelled out in much more detail. Yet ever since that time, when they have been in office, they have presented loan Bills to the Parliament in terms almost identical to those of the 1975 Bill. Of course, even if the Opposition had the numbers in this chamber to delay the passage of this legislation, it would not do so because it would not adopt the attitude of total irresponsibility which prevailed here in 1975. I am quite sure that no honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber wants even to talk about those events because now, in the context of this type of legislation, not one honourable senator would have the courage to defend the actions of the Opposition at that time.
Ever since this Government came to office it has had an obsession with the deficit, despite the fact that in the first three years of this Government the deficit always exceeded the deficit of the three years of the Labor Government. The Labor Government was alleged to have got the economy into difficulties and to have allowed a deficit higher than was good for the country’s economic health. Yet ever since then this Government has found itself in an equally difficult position. But that, of course, is not the central issue. The central issue is that the present Governent, with its mania to reduce the deficit, has adopted certain practices and policies which have been of great detriment to our economy. I will mention a couple of them in a moment.
One of the arguments was that if we were to force the deficit down, as this Government has done over the past five years, we would in fact get the inflation rate down. We all know that that has not occurred. The inflation rate has gone up as a result of the direct policies of this Government. Even though in the Budget Papers for this year it is claimed that the inflation rate will be of the order of only 10 or 1 1 per cent, the financial world is telling us that it could well be 1 3 per cent late this year or early next year. Whichever way one looks at it, these government policies have not had the success which the Government originally claimed they would have.
One of the methods used has been to remove from the Budget certain borrowings by statutory authorities, the Australian Telecommunications Commission and Australian National Railways being examples. A much more significant area has been that of the changed policy towards the States in the introduction of infrastructure borrowings; that is, moneys which previously were made available out of the Budget for capital works programs have been greatly reduced and the States have been authorised to borrow their moneys either on the Australian market or on the overseas market. This has enabled the Government to give a picture, an impression, that it has been able to stabilise the financial position of this nation and to allege that we are better off than we were, say, five years ago. It is quite obvious that we are not. Even if one were to argue that these policies have been correct, we all know that no policy can possibly be described as correct if the unemployment rate is running at 7 per cent, as it is in this country, and the inflation rate, as 1 have mentioned, is on the way up. They are things which have resulted from those policies. Of most interest to us in our consideration of this Bill is the debt position of the Commonwealth. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) claimed that because, as is alleged, the domestic deficit has been wiped off in this year’s Budget, in some way this Government has paid off the Labor Government’s debts. That must be the most idiotic statement that anyone could make. If we look at page 29 of the Budget Paper No. 6 we can see the true position of the total Commonwealth debt. We find that total securities on issue by the Commonwealth - we obtain that figure by totalling both the securities domiciled in Australia and those overseas- was $5.9 billion in 1975. That was the total debt figure of the Commonwealth in that year. In the first year of the Fraser Government it rose to $9 billion; in the second year to $1 1.2 billion; in the third year to $14 billion; in the fourth year, that is 1979, to $1 7.4 billion; and this year it has risen to $18.5 billion. The total Commonwealth debt has gone up 200 per cent since the Fraser Government has been in office.
From figures which have been supplied to us over the last few months we know that Australia’s overseas borrowings total in excess of $5 billion. Those borrowings have been made just for the purpose of shoring up the dollar. No government in the history of this country has engaged in as massive a borrowing campaign as that of the Fraser Government. Of course, those figures were not referred to in the Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). He will not tell the Australian people about these things. We have to ferret out this information from a mass of material in the Budget Papers. This matter has already been made public. I think most of us would be aware of it. But the Government has made no attempt whatsoever to explain the situation. It simply accepts that as part of the policy it has adopted. There is now this massive debt which will have to be repaid by the Australian taxpayers in the years ahead. Even the borrowings which have been made to meet currency requirements in accordance with Government policy require repayments of up to $ 1 billion in one financial year. In the year 1983-84 we will be repaying a total of $1 billion for these loans. None of it is being used or is intended to be used for the development of Australia’s resources. In the meantime we have spent overseas capital and have encouraged and allowed it to come in at an enormous rate in the last four or five years for doing things that we ourselves could be doing.
The Government, of course, is fearful of announcing the date of the election, hence the procedures which we are witnessing in the Senate this afternoon and the comments that have been made over the last half hour. The Government is fearful of the outcome. It is frightened to tell this Parliament and the Australian people when the Prime Minister is prepared to allow the Australian people to make a judgment on the record of the Fraser Government. We feel quite confident that the outcome will be quite clear. The Australian people will make a judgment putting those people who are now on the Government side into Opposition where they deserve to be. Then there will be some chance for the Australian people to see a recovery taking place in the economy and to see a little initiative and, indeed, some compassion in government policies which have been lacking for the past five years.
– 1 rise firstly to congratulate the Government on its very significant success in respect of the Budget in ensuring that the domestic deficit has been reduced from about $800m last year to a surplus for the first time in something like seven years. That figure is of the order of $39m. The significance of the domestic deficit, of course, has entirely escaped members of the Opposition as, quite clearly, they have not learned anything since their days in office back in 1975. It is that situation which I would like to draw to the attention of the Senate. It is, frankly, those difficulties from which this country still suffers. It was that Government - that Whitlam Labor Government - which created the problems in the period 1972-75 with which this Government is still landed.
We heard Senator Wriedt earlier discussing the question of how we have somehow allowed a deficit to continue to increase in total volume since 1975. As everybody knows, when the Fraser Government came to power in 1975 it looked as though the domestic deficit was going to be of the order of $5,000m. In fact, the out-turn for the 1975-76 year, after the coming to power of the Fraser Government in the middle of 1 975, was of the order of $3,500m. There was a very significant fall in the total deficit at that time. Since then, in respective years an increasing pressure has been brought about by this Government’s policies in reducing the deficit and controlling wasteful government expenditure, but at the same time by ensuring that resources were sent in the directions that most needed them- that is, to the welfare of the most needy in our community - rather than to squander literally billions of dollars in directions that caused only inflation and, of course, consequent upon that, unemployment. Rather, this Government’s policies have been directed in the right directions to ensure that the needy get the most benefit rather than those who do not need it.
I turn now to a few of the facts which I think ought to be made clear to members of the Opposition since they apparently are unable to understand the Budget Papers. I turn to page 30 of Budget Paper No. 1 . 1 wish to record the following details about the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product since 1974. Following years of either surplus or out-of-balance budgetary outcomes, we found that in 1974-75 as a result of the Whitlam Government’s policies the deficit was 5.7 per cent of the gross domestic product. In 1975-76 - the famous year of the Hayden Budget- it rose to 6.5 per cent. In the next year, the year of the first Fraser Government, 1976-77, it fell back to 5.3 per cent. In the year 1977-78 it was 5.7 per cent; in 1978-79 it was 5.6 per cent; in 1979-80 it was 4 per cent; and in 1980-81 it is 3.4 per cent. I stress that they are the total deficit figures and not the domestic deficit figures. Clearly, that shows that as a proportion of the gross domestic product the involvement of the Commonwealth and the States in the economy as a whole has gradually reduced. That has had very significant benefits for the private sector. We are now seeing the benefits of that through a steady level of unemployment and of inflation and, consequently, on world standards, very steady interest rates across the community. We can see that the policies which have been conducted over the last five years have been extremely successful and are leading to what appear to be very good results for the 1980s in terms of resource development and so on for the future.
– And unemployment.
– Those are the facts. I recommend to Senator Georges that he turn to the Budget Papers rather than to his own prejudices. He should read them occasionally and ensure that he understands what is going on. The preparation of government involvement in the total economy is, as I have said, becoming smaller. Obviously it is creating opportunities for businesses to develop, to get going and to employ more people. We have seen that happening very significantly in the last 12 months. In the last year 215,000 jobs were created in Australia. Most of them have come from the non-government sector. Of course, the Labor Opposition when in government was the creator of unemployment and in fact disemployed something like that same number - 21 5,000- in one year, the year 1974-75.
This Government is doing positive things about controlling the finances of this country and so engendering confidence in the private sector in such a way as to create jobs.
We hear of policies from the Opposition and in particular from its erstwhile spokesman on unemployment or employment, Mick Young. We are not quite sure what his job is; we understand Mr Hawke will be taking over his job should he be elected to the Parliament in the election to be held very soon. Consequently Mr Mick Young’s views in this area are very doubtful, very dubious. Nevertheless, he says that he Will create jobs by spending another $ 1,000m on job creation programs. He has not explained to us how he is going to pay for this. Clearly, there is only one way in which to pay for it, if he is going to adopt the same policies.
– Increase taxes, which is what you have done.
– Of course. Senator Gietzelt has answered the question. Labor policies mean increased taxation. It is as simple as that. If Labor is not to increase taxation the only other way of achieving what it says it will achieve is by spending more and increasing the deficit, thereby putting more and more pressure on the money supply, increasing the interest rates available to the private sector and squeezing the private sector in exactly the same way as the Labor Government did from 1972 to 1975. If those are the sorts of nonsensical economic policies that this Labor Opposition can put forward, I am sure that the public of Australia will not be fooled again. They will not believe what the members of the Labor Opposition are putting forward, simply because those policies have been seen to have failed from 1974-75 and will not succeed in any circumstances.
I will refer to one other matter and that is the reference by Senator Wriedt to borrowings overseas. He totted up some figures that made it seem that there was something like $5,000m to be repaid from overseas borrowings. We know why those borrowings were undertaken by the Government in 1977 and 1978 and also some in 1979. I believe they probably do total about $5,000m. The point about this, of course, is that at that time a decision was taken quite consciously to ensure that the value of the Australian dollar remained strong on the world markets. Again that policy was a success. Indeed, that is evident from the fact that we were so easily able to borrow that sort of money on the world markets where the credit rating of the Australian Government is very high. That demonstrates that the overseas banks and suppliers of finance have faith in the policies of the Fraser Government. It makes one wonder why it was that the Labor Government, when in power, did not try to go through legitimate means to raise the $4,000m which they talked of for socalled temporary purposes back in 1 974.
– So that we could buy back the farm, instead of having it owned by foreigners.
– If the Labor Party had approached it in a proper way it might have been successful in doing it. This Government has the confidence of lenders from overseas. Consequently it has been able to attract sums of that order in order to assist the development of Australia and to continue its progress into the next decade. Those things are of vital importance to the electors of Australia. In an election atmosphere people want to know the differences between the Labor Opposition’s economic policies and those of this Government, which have demonstrated success. Jobs have been created at an ever-increasing rate in the last few years, inflation has stabilised and, relative to the rest of the world, we are showing success in the control of inflation and interest rates. I believe that so long as those policies are continued we will continue to have success in terms of the development of jobs in Australia so that the 1980s will become truly a decade of prosperity for all Australians.
– In the debate on the Loan Bill 1980 we have just listened to one of the most remarkable speeches ever heard in this place. Senator Messner was trying to hoodwink the people into believing that the Government of which he is so proud to be a member has created jobs. We have the highest unemployment rate in this country since the Depression of the 1930s yet he has the cheek to stand up here and say that the Fraser Government has created jobs. He must go round with his eyes shut. He could not even tell us where those jobs were created. He sought to criticise Mr Mick Young. Mr Mick Young would be far more aware of the problems being experienced by unemployed people than Senator Messner would ever be. I am sure that when we are in Government, when our policies are put into operation, we will set about creating jobs. One of the promises made by Senator Messner on the hustings during the 1977 election campaign - in collusion with his leader - was that the Liberal-National Country Party Government would create a job for every person who wanted a job.
Senator Messner went on to talk about the deficit. He said that the Liberal-National Country Party Government has got the deficit down. The second reading speech on the Loan Bill 1 980 was delivered by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) for the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick). The Minister said:
In outlining to the Senate the Budget proposals of the Government I said that the prospective overall Budget deficit for 1980-81 is estimated to be $1 ,566m.
Neither the Minister nor Senator Messner went on to say that the amount would have been nearer $5,000m if the Government had not been ripping money off the motorists by the petrol tax. That is why the Government is able to have a small deficit. It is raking in income by collecting unseen tax, or the Government hopes it will be unseen. Every person who buys a litre of petrol in Australia today knows well where the Government is getting money from to try to lower the deficit. It is ripping it off the motorist, ripping it off the very people who can ill afford to pay. We were prepared to raise money from the wealthy section of the community and to try to assist the people in need. This is where Senator Messner criticised the Whitlam Government for spending money as it had never been spent before. We had to spend that money because we had just come out of an era of 23 years of a Liberal-Country Party Government when people were suffering, education was suffering, hospitals were suffering and, wherever we looked, people were suffering because the Liberal-Country Party Government would not spend the money.
Honourable senators have only to look at the pensioners to see how much we had to inject into social security expenditure when we became a government in order to do something to uplift the living standards of pensioners. We even saw this Government come in not so many years ago through its Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, and try to take the $40 funeral benefit away from the poor old pensioners. That is how the Government raises its money. It takes away from the people in need and gives to the wealthy section of the community which funds its election campaigns.
That is not the reason that I rose to speak on this Bill. I rose to deal with another matter which causes me great concern at the present time. When another Loan Bill went through this House in 1978 I expressed very grave concern that this Government was putting in hock the Australian taxpayer to the tune of $4. 5m by way of a loan to the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd through the Loan Guarantee Act 1978. I expressed concern, as did Senator Wriedt, when that Bill went through, that there were no safeguards in it.
– I raise a point of order. This is not a first reading debate. I appreciate that the Bill to which the honourable senator is referring has an element of loan in it but he is not speaking to the Loan Bill which is before the Senate. I would like to get a ruling on whether the discussion two years ago on a loan to a company falls within the ambit of the Loan Bill which is to authorise borrowing for defence purposes.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It does not refer to that. Senator McLaren, I suggest that you return to the Bill.
– With due respect to you, Mr Deputy President, and not to Senator Baume, I have not departed from the Bill. I will quote from the Minister’s second reading speech. This opening remark was:
The purpose of this Bill–
This is the Loan Bill 1980 which we are now debating - is to provide legislative authority needed to meet the prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1 980-8 1 .
That is what I am expressing my concern about. An amount of $4. 5m appears to have gone down the drain because this Government put through the legislation at which I expressed concern. Senator Wriedt at the time expressed concern and even moved an amendment to the Bill. That $4.5m has to be found from somewhere. Of course, it comes out of what the Minister said in his second reading speech. In expressing my concern I wish to refer to a Press statement of yesterday. It stated:
Meatworks to be sold
The Co-operative Farmers and Graziers’ Direct Meat Supply Limited has put its Brooklyn meatworks up for sale by tender to repay loans of $9m to Barclays Bank.
Where is Barclays Bank? It is an overseas bank. I am concerned about what this company is doing to liquidate its assets to repay the $4. 5m to the Federal Government and another $4.5m to the Victorian Government. An amount of $9m of taxpayers’ money will eventually come out of this Bill which we are now asked to pass in this Parliament. That is $9m of taxpayers’ money and not a word is said about it. Yet we hear the people on the other side stand up and say: ‘We’re good business managers. Trust the finances of the country to us and everything will be nice and rosy’. But it is not. We know - it was mentioned in the debate in the Parliament - that that loan was a political ploy by Mr Smith. He admitted it to a Liberal Party meeting in Melbourne. It was a political ploy to win votes because there was a Victorian State election. We find that this meatworks company is put up for sale. It is advertised in the weekend Press for sale. The reason given is that it wants to sell it to find some finance to repay a loan of $9m to Barclays Bank. I am not concerned about Barclays Bank; I am concerned about the taxpayers of this country. When this Bill is passed the taxpayers of this country will have to pay some of the $9m to reimburse Barclays Bank.
– Where is Barclays Bank?
– Barclays Bank is in America. The honourable senator knows that. Probably he has had dealings with it. Is the honourable senator saying that it is in England?
– Yes. Well done.
– It probably has a subsidiary in England. As I said, I am not concerned about repaying Barclays Bank, whether it is in Switzerland, England, Norfolk Island or wherever. I am concerned about the $9m of taxpayers money which this Government has seen fit to squander. I would like to refer honourable senators to what I had to say when the Bill went through the Senate. I expressed my concern on page 1221 of Hansard on 12 April 1978. 1 stated:
What I am concerned about is the protection of the shareholders of the nation. They are going to become shareholders in this company to the tune of $4.5m . . .
That is only the Federal Government’s share. There was also a State government share of a similar amount. I went on to say:
The taxpayers are the people for whom I am expressing concern. Now that we have on the record from various speakers that this Bill is not as tight as we would like it to be, if the company is not a success in the years to come we can come back to this place, turn up the record and remind the Government of the problems that were associated with the Bill . . .
Today I remind the Government of the problem that was associated with the Bill. Speakers on the Government side of the House also complained about the looseness of the Bill. The Opposition was so concerned that it moved several amendments to safeguard the taxpayers of this country. Senator Walsh moved the following amendment. . . the articles of the Society are amended to provide for representation of the Commonwealth on the Board of Directors until the amount borrowed is fully repaid.
Of course, the Government voted against that amendment. Senator Wriedt moved a further amendment which stated:
After paragraph (c), insert the following paragraph: (ca) the State of Victoria appoints a full-scale inquiry into the operations of the Society in order to ascertain the precise reasons for its current financial difficulties . . .
What happened to that amendment? We had a division on it and it was defeated by the Government. Despite the pleas of the members of the Opposition to safeguard the taxpayers’ interests in this company, the Opposition was defeated. Now we find that the meatworks company has been advertised for sale. The reason given is that it wants to repay to Barclays Bank the $9m which it borrowed. 1 want to obtain from the AttorneyGeneral before this week is out some statement as to how the taxpayers’ money, particularly that paid to the Federal Government, has been safeguarded. I want to know whether the Federal Government has first call on any money that is derived from the sale of the meatworks at Brooklyn. I think the taxpayers of this country will be very interested to know whether the Government is prepared to protect the interests of the ordinary taxpayer. The Labor Party was not prepared to accept the legislation unless certain safeguards were built into it to protect the interests of taxpayers. The Government was not prepared to accept those amendments. I would like to know what safeguards the Government has taken to ensure that the taxpayers will not lose $4.5m.
I now refer to a question which I raised in the Parliament earlier today at Question Time. I made a plea to the Government to convert a loan of some $270,000 to the Riverland Fruit Products Cannery in Berri, South Australia to a direct grant. If the Government intends to foot the bill for the $4. 5m which has been guaranteed to the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd of Brooklyn, surely to goodness in the interests of the fruit growers and the employees in the Riverland of South Australia the Government will - as did the South Australian Government - convert its share of the loan to a direct grant. The South Australian Government, under Mr Dunstan, saw fit to do so in connection with a loan of $540,000. Mr Dunstan converted the State portion, which was $270,000, to a direct grant. I have made a plea in this Parliament on no fewer than three occasions for the Government to do likewise and to assist the fruit growers in the Riverland of South Australia. I hope that the Attorney-General will take note of that and give due consideration to making available the $270,000 by way of a direct grant instead of a loan. The amount of $4.5m looks like going down the drain to liquidate a debt to Barclays Bank. I do not care whether Barclays Bank is in England, as Senator Baume says, America or Norfolk Island. I think our prime concern is to safeguard the shareholders of this nation and not the shareholders of Barclays Bank no matter where it may be.
– I do not think that the matters raised by Senator McLaren in relation to the Loan Bill 1980 require any answer on my part. They are quite distant from the purpose of the Bill. The Senate appears to be in support of the Bill. I hope it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time. (Quorum formed).
– The main purpose of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Amendment Bill 1980 is to give the Australian Industry Development Corporation authority to change the ratio of its borrowings to its capital from five to one to eight to one. As such, the Opposition does not oppose the legislation. As a party we have always supported the concept of the AIDC. We all recall, of course, that this was a statutory body formed by a former Liberal Government when Mr John Gorton was Prime Minister of Australia. His initiative was the result of his view that Australia should have a greater equity in the development of its resources, and that we should not become beholden to overseas interests and overseas capital in particular. It was with that thought in mind that the Corporation was formed, I think back in the late 1 960s.
During the term of the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 we endeavoured to amend the legislation concerning the AIDC. Our principal purpose then was to widen the scope of the Corporation and at the same time to introduce what was known as the National Investment Fund. Those of us who were here at the time will recall that that amending legislation was rejected by this chamber. That statement perhaps is not strictly correct. The National Investment Fund Bill 1973 was rejected and the amendments to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill were referred to a Senate committee. The amendments were not passed by the Parliament prior to the overthrow of the Whitlam Government in November 1975. Since then, this Government has done virtually nothing to stimulate the activity of the AIDC, although it is apparent to all of us that here we have, if it is properly utilised and is given the authority and the power, a body which could be a tremendous asset to the Australian people in enabling us to increase our equity in the development of this country. This Government appears to be quite content to allow the present position to continue with only minor amendments to the effectiveness of the Corporation.
I was hoping to speak during the Committee stages of the previous Bill, but was prevented from so doing because of the limitations on time. During that debate, Senator Messner made reference to borrowings being undertaken by the Australian Government in 1975 and, of course, today. I think it should be placed on record that in 1974-75 - in fact during the whole term of the Labor Government - Australia had a triple A rating on the international money markets. At no time did it ever vary, and the implication that our creditworthiness on international markets was in any way tarnished in those three years is completely false. In the course of this debate - 1 think it is pertinent to this legislation - I will be asking the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) whether he can tell us what is the current position in respect of Australia’s credit rating on the money markets.
Recently I obtained from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) information concerning the remittances of profits overseas by investors in this country. This information of course is pertinent to this legislation because, if we did take the AIDC seriously and give it the wherewithal to do the things which should be done, we would not need these very large sums of capital being brought into Australia by private interests. Here we are at the beginning of the 1980s and we find ourselves facing a situation similar to that which gave rise to the overseas investment arguments of the late 1960s, when massive chunks of Australian industry and resources were being bought up by overseas capital. We are going through the same process now. I am sure that, before this Parliament rises, we will be having a detailed debate on that issue.
Recently I asked the Treasurer precisely what had been the total of remittances of dividends overseas for each year from 1974 to 1979 by foreign owned corporations operating in Australia. The figures that he gave me are interesting. They cover the years 1973-74 to 1978-79. We find that dividends payable abroad on direct foreign investment in enterprises in Australia were: In the financial year 1973-74, $208m; for 1974-75, $204m; for 1975-76, $248m; for 1976-77, $250m; for 1977-78, $296m; and, for 1978-79, $280m. The total was $ 1,700m or thereabouts.
I also asked the Treasurer this question:
What have been the total loan repayments by foreign owned companies operating in Australia to overseas parent companies or financial institutions?
The answer indicated that for those six financial years from 1973-74 to 1978-79 the following were the figures of the repayments of foreign borrowings by foreign direct investment enterprises, namely $504m, $612m, $766m, $714m, $857m, $845m. From all this information, the enormous activity in this country by overseas investors and the extent to which they are gaining control of not only so much of our resources but also a great deal of our manufacturing industry are evident. We have a supine government which stands by and watches this happen, just the same as it stood by in the 1960s and watched it happen. It was not until John Gorton - someone who had enough backbone and enough foresight to introduce this concept in the form of the AIDC - became Prime Minister that any action was taken at all. When the Labor Government tried to strengthen that legislation to enable us to have a greater equity, to have a statutory authority which could be utilised for the benefit of Australians in conjunction with Australian private capital, even that legislation was not allowed to be passed through this Senate by the people who sit on that side of the chamber today, and who bring forward these amendments which are almost irelevant and certainly of small significance to the Corporation’s charter. In the meantime we see a repetition of this inflow of capital. The annual report of the Foreign Investment Review Board for last year showed, as I recollect, that there were about 1,400 applications for overseas investment in Australia and only six were refused.
– That makes it farcical.
– It does. It is not a review at all. It is the policy of the 1960s all over again: Let them come in as much as they like and we will virtually give them an open cheque. I know there are other members in the chamber who have a particular interest in this matter also. They can possibly provide more details of what has been happening in Australia as a result of this activity in the last two or three years. The fact is that the trend is very strong. Once again the Government is opting out, as it always opts out of anything that is involved with the national good of this country. It is again opting out of its responsibility to the Australian people by taking the easy way out and letting somebody else do the development. We do not oppose the Bill. But let me make it quite clear that after the next election, when there will be a new government in this country, we will see the AIDC given the sort of mandate that it should be given for the benefit of our community.
– I thank the Senate for its support of this measure. I have noted Senator Wriedt’s comments that he is in support of this legislation. The purpose of the measure is to enable the AIDC to perform its role more effectively but not at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. I take it from the tenor of Senator Wriedt’s remarks that he would regard taxing people at higher rates or reverting to the deficits of the Labor Government’s day as a preferable method of achieving the purpose that this Bill seeks to achieve by the use of more sensible economic methods which will not be a cost to the Australian taxpayer. As to the question of Australia’s present international rating for borrowing purposes, I am not in a position to give a specific answer. I believe that the proper thing to do in that regard is to make sure of the absolute accuracy of any answer given. I will refer the matter to the Treasurer (Mr Howard).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to follow up briefly the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). 1 ask him whether, in referring the question of Australia’s creditworthiness on the triple A ratings, he will ask the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to table before the Parliament rises details of Australia’s credit rating on the international markets for each year since 1972.
– I will take note of that question.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will be opposing the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980. The Bill seeks to divest the Commonwealth of its interests in the Ranger uranium mining project. Those interests are being acquired by PekoWallsend for a consideration of $ 125m. I want to make two comments about that. Firstly, I recall very clearly members of the present Government being bitterly critical in this House and in the House of Representatives in 1975 of the then Labor Government’s participation in that venture on the grounds that far too much was being paid for it. The general drift of the allegation against the then Minister was that he was a mug who was being sucked in, that he was wasting taxpayers’ money in securing an equity in this project. I note for the record and quite independently of one’s views about the desirability or the morality of mining uranium per se that, assessed by the standards of this Government, that decision was commercially a very sound one and one which in fact has allowed this Government to capitalise upon the investment made at that time by the Australian Labor Party. Again independently of its relevance to the issue of uranium mining proper, this measure represents yet another attempt by the Fraser Government to solve its current liquidity problem, which is largely a problem that it has made for itself by the absurd posturing of Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in 1975 about deficits, and to reduce the deficit by liquidating capital - in this instance liquidating capital to the extent of $125m. That, coupled with other fraudulent accountancy measures which this Government has pressed into service, has achieved a substantial reduction in the deficit. Such fraudulent accountancy measures include shifting Telecom borrowings outside the Commonwealth Budget Papers, forcing State borrowings substantially outside the area that is recorded as Commonwealth expenditure and pushing out the so-called infrastructure borrowing by the States which, in the past, would have been recorded as Commonwealth expenditure and added to the stated Commonwealth Budget deficit. If all those things were included, the deficit this year would be in the vicinity of $2,400m or $2,500m, instead of the $1,566 billion deficit which has been recorded. The deficit has been cosmetically reduced by almost $1 billion this year by the use of this and other fraudulent accountancy practices.
We are opposing the Bill because, primarily, we are opposed at this stage to uranium mining. A secondary reason for opposing it is that this represents the eighth attempt by the Government in three years to make the Atomic Energy Act 1953 a vehicle capable of carrying uranium mining commercially. From the very outset the Government was told by the Labor Party that the Atomic Energy Act was an inappropriate vehicle to carry uranium mining commercially. Our judgment has been more than vindicated by subsequent events. The Act was amended three times in 1978 and it was amended twice in 1979. This is the second amendment this year. This is the eighth attempt in just a little over two years to patch up an unsatisfactory Act and make it do a job for which it was never designed. Only the Income Tax Assessment Act has been more unstable than this Act under this Government. The Income Tax Assessment Act is constantly being amended to accommodate the off the top of the head pork-barrelling proposals which the Prime Minister dreams up from time to time and in a fruitless attempt to close the loopholes opened up by the successive outrageous judgients of the High Court. The Commonwealth refuses to take simultaneously the one simple action which everybody knows would kill tax avoidance stone dead - the credible threat of retrospectivity.
I will not speak for very long. I want to make a couple of comments about the issue of uranium mining per se. I will not go over all the arguments which have been rehashed here and in the House of Representatives many times in the past, but I will comment on a couple of more recent developments. If there was ever any doubt that the socalled safeguards laid down by this Government were farcical, that doubt was removed when the Government was forced to acknowledge that the uranium it plans to sell to Finland will be processed in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union whose recent action Mr Fraser tells us constitutes the greatest threat to world peace since World War II and the Soviet Union which Mr Fraser tells us will start World War III within three years will be physically in control of Australian uranium. If Idi Amin had not been ousted from Uganda by the Tanzanian army one wonders whether the Fraser Government would consider selling uranium to him. I rather suspect that if it was desperate enough to make a sale it would.
The second point on which I wish to comment is the recent revelation that the Japanese propose to dump radioactive waste of unknown intensity, unknown toxicity, in the South Pacific. It is highly significant that the Japanese are dumping it in the South Pacific instead of the North Pacific. Some years ago the Prime Minister of, I think, Fiji made a pertinent comment with respect to a proposed French nuclear test in the South Pacific which the French assured everybody who lived in the South
Pacific posed no dangers to the people in the area as it was a completely safe and clean bomb. He asked: ‘If it is such a nice, clean bomb, why do they not let if off in Corsica?’ Of course the same thing goes for the radioactive waste which the Japanese propose to dump in the South Pacific. If it is so harmless, why is it not dumped in the North Pacific? The obvious answer is that the Japanese are happy to get it as far away from Japan as they possibly can.
That leads me to the final point I want to make. If the Government believed its own propaganda, if it really believed that we have now a technology which is capable of safely servicing a nuclear industry through all its processes, including the disposal or storage of dangerous waste material, why does it not insist that the radioactive wastes produced from Australian uranium come back to Australia for storage? Four or five government senators are in the chamber at the moment. If we really do have a safe technology and safe methods of storage, as the Government insists we do, why does it not allow the radioactive waste to be stored in Australia after our customers are finished with it? I notice there is complete silence on the other side of the chamber because nobody in the Government has the courage to stand up before the Australian electorate and say: ‘We will store the radioactive waste in Australia’. There are two possible conclusions which can be drawn from those facts. Either the Government itself knows that it is not safe and /or it believes that the electorate does not believe it is safe, and of course there would be severe electoral repercussions if it were to propose storing the waste in Australia.
The economic arguments advanced in favour of uranium mining would be significantly enhanced if the waste were returned to Australia and stored here. As well as having people employed mining the stuff, concentrating it, maybe even enriching it, we would have other people employed digging the holes in which to bury it and subsequently guarding it. The level of security would be significantly increased and improved if we insisted that the waste be returned to Australia because it would be within our physical possession at all times except when the rods were actually in a reactor or when they were being enriched or transported backwards and forwards from Australia to the customer country. Nothing that has happened in the last couple of years, either within the control of the Government or outside the control of the Government, has done anything at all to boost its credibility on this issue or to inspire any confidence that it actually knows what it is doing or that its approach to this question is considered sincere. Again I invite the half dozen
Government senators who are in the House to explain to us why, if nuclear technology is as safe as they insist it is, the Government does not insist that the radioactive waste from spent Australian uranium be returned to Australia for storage.
– I have pleasure in speaking on the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act. Before I make my brief contribution I should like to answer a few points that I heard Senator Walsh make. I am at a loss to understand why the Australian Labor Party is complaining about amendments to the Act. I should have thought that if its members had read the second reading speech of the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) they would have seen that a review was foreshadowed, and that there was to be quite a comprehensive review of the Act. The quibble about the amendments we have made to the Act in recent years as being evidence of legislative incompetence similarly bemuses me. I should have thought it was good evidence of a sensitive government responding to needs within the community which it was looking after. The question of Finland sending its nuclear material to the Soviet Union for processing is rather an irrelevance because the Soviet Union has no need to acquire uranium oxide from any other source. It has sufficient sources of uranium oxide within its own geographical boundaries and within its own territories and possessions not to have to go stealing–
– The Prime Minister sees the Soviet Union as our enemy.
– That is a point of view, and it may well be a valid strategic assessment of the Soviet Union. I do not know why a country which has such low social standards and so much poverty within its community is consistently spending in excess of 1 3 per cent of its gross domestic product on armaments when no other country in the world is spending anything like that. I think the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has very good reasons to be concerned at the ultimate objectives of the Soviet Union, but that is an irrelevance. It has enough uranium oxide to build all the nuclear weapons that it wants without stealing a few short tonnes from Finland or from any other crowd that sends it to it for processing. As regards the dumping of Japanese nuclear waste in the Pacific, I deplore that. It is something that does not sit well with me at all. I think the Japanese should be compelled to look after their waste themselves. I believe that the reason is not one of fear of storage of these materials but an economic argument of trying to seek the cheapest way out of getting rid of their waste products. When Senator Walsh argues- I presume this must be the Australian Labor Party policy - that Australia should become the world dumping ground for nuclear waste, I am lost. The only justification seems to be that somehow or other security will be preserved because this waste uranium product will not be capable of being recycled to weapons grade material or something like that. I do not see why Australia should be the garbage dump of the world. I do not see why Australia should be faced with the cost of storing this material.
– You misunderstood what Senator Walsh said.
– I did not interrupt Senator Walsh. If the honourable senator wants to speak in this debate, he may speak later. There is plenty of time. So the argument is utterly irresponsible from an economic point of view. I am rather glad that with an election coming up the Australian Labor Party is advocating that Australia should be the world dumping ground for nuclear wastes. The purpose of the amendments to the Act–
– Come off it. What is up with you?
– If the honourable senator had been in the chamber and listened to what Senator Walsh had said, he would realise that I was accurately repeating the words of Senator Walsh.
– You had better check on that.
– We will have a Senate Hansard tomorrow and we will find out who is right and who is wrong on this issue. The purpose of this Bill is to place beyond doubt whether mining operations at Ranger, after assignment of the Commonwealth interest, will be on behalf of the Commonwealth within section 41 of the Act. Secondly, clauses 3 and 4 involve the granting of wider borrowing powers for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to enable the issuing of commercial paper, promissory notes and bills of exchange in respect of the borrowings that the AEC is making to continue its share of the program until assignment to the new venturers.
On 18 December last year the Minister announced that the Commonwealth of Australia was to divest its interest in the Ranger project and that it was accepting an offer by Peko-Wallsend Ltd which was to take place through the vehicle of a new company called Energy Resources of
Australia. Later, the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd joined as a partner with PekoWallsend Ltd in the new company. This accords very well with the policy of the Government. We certainly do not believe that the Government has a place in the market-place running industries that can be well run by private industry. There is no argument at all for the Government to continue as the owner or the principal operator in a mining venture of this nature. It is a simple straight foward commercial venture.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed).
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was saying that the move by the Commonwealth Government to sell its interest in Ranger was consistent with Government policy of avoiding commercial involvement in ventures which can be well done by private enterprise.
– That is rubbish; you know that, don’t you?
– The honourable senator might know that. The legislation covering the transfer to Energy Resources of Australia has three points that are worth emphasising. Firstly, it maintains the arrangements made in relation to Aboriginal rights; secondly, it maintains the environmental standards; and, thirdly, it maintains Australian equity in the venture.
– What about security?
– Yes, the legislation maintains Australian security. The arrangements that have been entered into by the Commonwealth of Australia with the Northern Land Council under section 44 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act will be maintained intact. There will be no change to those arrangements because there are no transfer obligations on ERA. The responsibility remains with the Commonwealth as the principal signatory to that agreement. The environmental matters are transferred, under the same terms and conditions, to ERA to maintain the agreements that have been reached. 1 visited Jabiru last year. I was very impressed with the spirit of co-operation that was evident in these companies. They are very impressive. They are conscientiously respecting the spirit of those environmental requirements which were laid down by the Commonwealth when the Ranger project started. The companies have gone to the very limits of the technology available. They have spared no expense at all. It really is an eye-opener to go to the Northern Territory and to see what has been achieved by the three companies operating in uranium mining in the Northern Territory at present.
I will go off on a bit of a tangent now. I am sure someone will talk about the dangers of uranium mining later. The Ranger operation will be very safe. It will be an open-cut mine. Very stringent requirements will be placed on the maintenance of public health for the work force, as was the case with the Nabarlek operation which went off in a copybook manner and experienced no problems at all for the health of the work force. I would expect that the Ranger operation will be an improvement on that. Now I come to the point of Australian equity which concerns Senator Georges. I think it is very important that Australian equity be maintained. This Government brought in a policy of 75 per cent Australian equity in any uranium venture in this country. Under this agreement, Peko and EZ will have 61 per cent. They are, of course, public companies in Australia. The Australian public will be invited to subscribe to a further 14 per cent shareholding in the venture. A total of 75 per cent will be in Australian hands. Overseas interests will be permitted to take up to a maximum of 25 per cent of holdings. ERA has paid $1 25m for this venture. This is a good reimbursement for what has been involved. ERA will also reimburse the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for all the expenses it has put in so far and maintain any other financial obligations that have already been entered into. I cannot stress heavily enough the value of Australian equity. We have to maintain control of the resources of this country within our own hands. I think all governments in the past have been loth to mobilise the capital that exists in Australia. Maybe it was true years ago, decades ago, that we did not have the capital resources to go for the large developmental programs that came along at the time. But now a great deal more money is available in this country. The cheapest form of capital we can get is the capital within the shores of Australia. What is required is for a government to recognise that this capital wants to be mobilised through private industry for the benefit of the Australian people.
I do not want to talk for very long about this matter; I could talk for a few hours. One of the simple things that are needed is a change in the income tax laws. One cannot expect people to subscribe to mining ventures or any sort of industrial venture if companies have to pay company tax on the profits. When the profits come as dividends to the shareholders they are taxed again, usually at a marginal rate. If we are sincere about holding the Australian companies in Australian hands we will eliminate taxing dividends to shareholders. It is the first step in increasing Australian control of our resources.
Honourable senators opposite can go on with their socialist dogmas as much as they like. They will not help while the small individual is being taxed and driven out of the share markets of Australia. We have had a radical change in shareholding in Australia in the last decade. As the small individual shareholders have been driven out, the institutions have come in and the companies in Australia are now answerable to very few people. They are principally answerable to the managers of superannuation funds. I do not find that thought comforting in the long term. I want to see the average Australians again controlling, influencing and benefiting from Australian resources. The way of doing so is by not taxing them on the dividends they get from their shareholdings.
That was a very interesting diversion. I would like to get back to discussing the Ranger mining operations in the Northern Territory. It is interesting that forward contracts have been written to the extent of 34,000 short tons of uranium oxide to West German and Japanese principals. This order will be fulfilled over 15 years. It will start in 1982 and end in 1996. It is estimated that the value of these contracts will be in excess of $2,000m and that is good money in anyone’s language. It will lead to good employment and good technology in Australia. It is very much to be applauded. Those sales can be made only in accord with the Government’s policy of bilateral safeguards.
One of the inferences Senator Walsh made before the suspension of the sitting for dinner - he was talking about the sales to Finland- was that in some way there had been a watering down of the safeguards agreements on the sale of uranium by the Australian Government. That is not so at all. The toll processing in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of Finnish ore was not precluded in the agreement that was entered into on 24 March 1 978 when Nabarlek ore was sold to Finland. The provisions of the toll processing agreement are that all the ore that goes in must come out. Canada for years has been selling uranium oxide to Finland and getting it out.
This industry will provide stable benefits to Australia for some decades. The world needs nuclear power however much some people - I respect their sincere beliefs- might object to it. We no longer face a future where nuclear power will provide 100 per cent of the electrical power provided in the world. It will be for the foreseeable future an essential supplemental form of power for some countries. France has programs to go to 75 per cent generation of all its electrical power in the near future. I think it is rather a tragedy for the human race that the Three Mile Island disaster happened last year. It is a tragedy because it has put back probably 10 or 1 5 years the introduction of nuclear power to those countries that need power generated from nuclear sources. The cycle will come again. There will be an upsurge in the building of nuclear power stations because it is the only sort of power some countries can get. The hesitation in the development of nuclear power is something for which I believe the human race will pay a high price. 1 get quite alarmed when I hear that, in the next decade, the consumption of coal will go up by three times the present amount. There is a measurably large death toll from mining coal. There is a very large amount of atmospheric pollution both in the short term with visible pollutants and trace elements- I have spoken on this in the chamber before - and in the long term in the build up in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. We cannot scientifically project at the moment what the consequences will be. I have very much pleasure now in supporting this Bill and commending it to the Senate.
– The Opposition opposes the Bill to amend the Atomic Energy Act 1 953. The remarks passed by Senator MacGibbon give strength to our opposition. What his speech amounted to was a simple reassertion of the ideological basis for this Bill before the chamber, that is, to destroy the equity holding of the general Australian public in the Ranger uranium project.
– Hear, hear!
– It was stated to be such and Senator Sheil has indicated his strong support. I understand that that is the position of the coalition parties. It is good to have it so openly pronounced.
Senator MacGibbon made the point that it is almost impossible, given our present stock exchange situation, for ordinary Australians to get a share in such massive energy development projects. Where the huge resources that have to be marshalled require an injection of such funds, the shareholding that is attracted comes, as he said, from major institutional sources. Whilst it is true that in a secondary or tertiary sense many ordinary people are involved in superannuation funds or whatever, Senator MacGibbon was concerned to achieve a situation in which the profits from an equity participation in such projects by ordinary Australians benefited those ordinary Australians.
I would have thought that equity participation by the Australian Government, rather than simply using taxation mechanisms, would be a way of ensuring that the moneys generated - some $2 billion in these contracts alone, according to Senator MacGibbon - could ameliorate the taxation burden of ordinary Australians. The money would go into the Federal Treasury. The dividends that would be paid to the Australian Government would to that extent negate some of the tax burden placed on the Australian community. More than that, it would give a tangible, perhaps a symbolic - here is the ideological conflict between us, no doubt - expression to the feeling widespread throughout the community that ordinary Australians ought to have, have a right to have and it is just that a mechanism be found for them to have, a real equity share, in the ownership of the great energy or mineral resources with which we have been blessed.
This Bill quite blatantly proposed that the Australian people’s share in this project, held for them by the Government, ought to be made available to those who can marshal private capital. In doing so, of course, the Government has ignored and gone against the advice of the Uranium Advisory Council, which is certainly not a radical body. It is chaired by Sir Laurence Mclntyre, formerly Ambassador to the United Nations. It has on it such people as, to take two or three examples, the Reverend William Daniel, S.J., Professor of Moral Theology at the Jesuit Theological College, Melbourne; Dr Goff Letts, former Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly; and Mr Stewart, the General Manager of Western Mining Corporation Ltd. These are not people who come from the radical left of Australian politics. Yet the advice of that Council to the Government in September 1979, as written in a letter tabled by Mr Anthony on 13 September 1979, was very clear. The view of the Council was that the Government should continue to retain a substantial interest in Ranger and that it should not contemplate selling any of its share. It pointed out that, whilst a political decision by the Government may be involved on which it would not wish to comment - that is the ideological point put by Senator MacGibbon - if, as we in the Opposition believe, a major cause for the Government’s haste in dismantling Australian ownership was to get revenue. The Council pointed out that such pressure of budgetary constraints should not force it into such a short sighted short term consideration of getting revenue, which it has managed to achieve by the sale of these assets, which does not take into account what the Council called longer term considerations. The Bill before this chamber expresses a purely philosophical hatred on the part of the coalition parties for any direct participation by the Australian public in the exploitation of the great energy and mineral resources we have in Australia through government ownership and equity on behalf of the Australian people.
I now turn to the actual manner in which the Government carried out the sale of these assets. Honestly, it was a saga which bordered on the absurd. As honourable senators will recall, tenders were called. It was a long time before tenders were received. In the course of the Government’s consideration of tenders, a short list of 14 was produced from 17 original tenders. The Government, having the tenders in, announced conditions as to Australian equity, conditions with which I do not disagree. Those conditions effectively wiped out 10 of the 14 tenderers. In other words, because 10 of the 14 tenderers were substantially owned by foreign organisations the Government, in detailing new considerations, wiped out 10 of them. This was a situation in which the Government had determined, in my view, who the successful tenderer ought to be. Having conned the international market into thinking that tenders would be judged on their merits and on the revenue to the Federal Treasury, the Government, bowing to political considerations, which can be understood, announced a new set of considerations which virtually left only certain tenderers in the field. We have in tonight’s Bill the response to the requirements of those tenderers’ bankers that certain assurances be received as to the exact lines of authority under the Atomic Energy Act.
That reminds me of another point which Senator MacGibbon made. Of course, he has left the chamber having made his remarks. He said that the Government had brought about a situation in which Australian capital was being marshalled in order to complete the exploitation of the Ranger uranium project. I question that. I want to know where the finance is coming from. Australian listed companies might be involved in the project, but where are they raising their finance? I will bet $10 that they are raising their finance in the usual manner on the international money market. It is not a matter of Australian capital being marshalled by those companies; it is a matter of finance being marshalled by those Australian companies.
– It is Australian equity. You should distinguish between the two.
– My point was simply to refute the claim by Senator MacGibbon that involved in the project was a tapping of the hitherto untapped capital resources within Australia. I do not believe that has occurred. One might also point out that the simple fact that companies are listed on the Australian stock exchanges does not mean that their shareholders are Australians. Of course, Senator MacGibbon glossed over that point altogether.
My fundamental point of objection to this legislation is that which was mentioned by Senator Walsh. For about the sixth time since I became a member of the Parliament - a period of only two years - the Government is attempting to use the Atomic Energy Act as the vehicle for entrepreneurial activities to do with the peaceful exploitation of uranium for commercial profit. Time and again, every parliamentary session, the Government seeks to amend an Act which was designed in the Cold War era specifically to allow the exploitation of Rum Jungle deposits in the early 1950s to supply nuclear weapons materials for our allies - in other words, legislation conceived in totally different circumstances - and to apply it to circumstances which prevail today.
That Act is still being amended piecemeal by the Government as it responds to one or another commercial or entrepreneurial requirement. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the Fox Inquiry, pointed out specifically the dangers involved in continuing to use the Atomic Energy Act. It recommended strongly that that Act not be used, not least because, as I have said, having been conceived in a Cold War atmosphere and in order to provide nuclear weapons materials for our allies, it contains many provisions which are at variance with the usual understandings of civil liberties in this country. For example, as I have pointed out in the Senate before, the Act permits the police to search, to detain and to carry out activities with absolute impunity. They cannot be taken to court should they carry out a search or detain somebody without what is normally regarded as lawful authority. That is only one example; there are many others.
I notice that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) said in his second reading speech that a wholesale inquiry into the operation of the Act is to take place. Perhaps it is under way already. But it certainly is not clear to the Australian public or to the Opposition parties - I include the Australian Democrats - how one is to make any impact on that inquiry. While details of some terms of reference have been made available - I believe they are included in the Minister’s second reading speech, a copy of which I have before me now - the fact is that no indication was given in the Minister’s speech of whether that inquiry would be merely an interdepartmental committee inquiry, which would seek views within the bureaucracy but would not go out and seek the views of the wider Australian public or political organisations, such as the Australian Democrats or the Australian Labor Party, which have pondered over the propriety of the use of the Atomic Energy Act for those sorts of activities. There is no indication of how we are to make our views known to that committee, whatever its composition may be. The terms of reference include such broad matters as the appropriateness of the present legislative basis for the exercise of Commonwealth responsibilities in relation to the commercial development of an Australian uranium industry and related industries and the implications for national defence and security.
The Australian public is concerned anew about the whole issue of the mining and exploitation of uranium within this country. It is true that the Fox Inquiry concluded that the actual mining of uranium and the operation of nuclear reactors was not the danger; rather it was in the disposal of waste and the movement internationally of products which might fall into the hands of terrorists. Those are matters which we in the Labor Party believe have not yet been resolved satisfactorily.
As I have said, the Australian community is worried anew, not merely because of the incident at Harrisburg which Senator MacGibbon said, was a disaster for mankind because it might impede the growth of this industry. The community is worried also because only a matter of weeks ago, despite the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars which have gone into the Australian Safeguards Office of the Department of National Development and Energy, which is under Senator Carrick’s jurisdiction, and despite the fact that in a reply to Senator Keeffe only a matter of a couple of months ago Senator Carrick assured Senator Keeffe that the arrangements for the security of mining operations in Australia of uranium were adequate, proper and up to international standards, we had the disclosure that a case would come before the Queensland criminal courts of a process worker who, I think, has been charged with stealing two tonnes of yellowcake, uranium oxide.
How is it that, despite all the assurances that have been given to this Parliament and to the nation year after year as the Government has tried to reassure, quieten down and dampen down opposition to uranium exploitation in this country, the mining company involved at Mary
Kathleen had such lax and haphazard security arrangements that an employee was able to siphon off two tonnes - not a matter of some kilograms - of yellowcake over a period? The General Manager of the mine remarked that the company would now be looking at providing fencing, cameras and card-operated locks and, if necessary, personal searches of employees would take place. That was stated by Mr Colin Smith, the General Manager of the Mary Kathleen mine in Queensland, on 1 1 August 1980. In other words, the Government failed to ensure that the one mine which has been in operation for some time had sufficient security safeguards.
One could question, therefore, whether the Australian Safeguards Office, a government body charged with responsibility to ensure security of these resources, has been absolutely, almost criminally, negligent in the discharge of its responsibilities to this nation. As I have said, despite the fact that Senator Carrick fairly quickly quietened down the general reaction to that incident, he has been left in a situation in which he needs to bear some political responsibility, I believe, for the blasting wide open of the much vaunted promises of safeguards existing in the exploitation of this industry in Australia.
At the conclusion of this debate, 1 would like to hear a Government speaker give an assurance that the Australian Democrats, the Australian Labor Party, other organisations within Australia and indeed members of the general public will be able to have some sort of input into the inquiry which the Government says will be completed within four months. By providing for entrepreneurial activities, research, particularly medical and industrial research, safeguards operations and security matters, finally we might have a legislative framework which is not appropriate to Cold War mining of materials for nuclear weapons, as is the case with the present Act, but is appropriate, to the exploitation of Australia’s uranium resources for peaceful purposes and commercial profit.
– The Australian Democrats also oppose vigorously the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 2). In passing I compliment Senator Tate on what I believe was a fine speech, particularly in his reference to the broader issues of the Atomic Energy Act. I must say that I am still reeling from the effects of Senator MacGibbon’s original statement which I think hit us all like a bombshell. He said that dividends in Australia should not be taxed. The mind boggles at the economic and social implications of that philosophy. But after having said that, 1 must say that, although I disagreed with about 90 per cent of what Senator MacGibbon said, I found his speech quite stimulating. It was certainly original in many ways and it put a view diametrically opposed to the view which Senator Tate and I would put. I think sometimes it is healthy to listen to an absolutely opposite point of view.
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act so as to clarify the rights of the newly-formed company, Energy Resources of Australia, to mine uranium at the Ranger site. The clarification is necessary as a result of the Government’s decision regarding the divestment of its own share in the previous Ranger consortium. This amendment therefore ensures that mining undertaken by the new company, ERA, will be deemed to be ‘carried on on behalf of the Commonwealth’, even though the Commonwealth Government is no longer a partner. We oppose the Bill because it facilitates uranium mining. As Senator Tate said, that is enough for us, until, as we have stated time and time again, the qualifications concerning the safety of the wastes and of the international safeguards are met.
We oppose uranium mining whether it is carried on by the Government, by Peko-Wallsend, by the new ERA consortium or by anybody else, for the reasons we have stated. The reasons for our long standing opposition are well known. They relate to waste disposal, contamination of the environment, nuclear arms proliferation, nuclear terrorism, sabotage, human rights violations, public health, public safety and so on. The list is almost endless. I do not intend to go over all those reasons again, but I wish to refer to a few recent events. Last week a rather interesting meeting of the leaders of the nuclear power industry took place at the Uranium Institute in London. The meeting called for a ‘world wide campaign to reassure the public on dangers of nuclear power.’ That is not the best of English. I am reading from the Australian Financial Review of 4 September. The miners called this international meeting to allay the fears of the general public about the dangers of nuclear power. They added:
With that I concur. I believe that those gentlemen correctly diagnosed the trouble which they have, namely, dwindling public confidence. But the remedy which they propose - another costly propaganda campaign - is totally cynical and is doomed to failure because the awkward facts will continually come to light to contradict their reassurance. I was very interested to listen to Senator MacGibbon who described the Three Mile Island incident as a tragedy to humanity or a disaster to humanity, or something to that effect.
– That is so.
– Senator Young agrees. It is fascinating to get such a diametrically opposed view. I would have said that the Three Mile Island incident was an absolute blessing to humanity, almost a divine warning to humanity. Now only history will prove those on this side of the House right or Senator Young and Senator McGibbon right. But it is fascinating in some of these debates to note the different angles at which members of this chamber stand on philosophical issues. I sincerely believe that the Three Mile Island incident was a warning to the human race and one for which we might forever be grateful. Security, safety and health standards at nuclear sites, ranging from mines to reactors, are inadequate. I will mention only two of the most recent cases. Senator Tate mentioned that in Australia large quantities of yellowcake have allegedly been stolen over a number of years, stored and freighted across the country. How many more thefts have not yet been discovered? Will we ever know?
I ask Senator Young, through you, Mr President, to answer a question I shall put to him. There is no question that yellowcake is a dangerous substance. I do not think anybody disputes that. We were assured in good faith by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) in this chamber time and time again that adequate safeguards were being provided for the transportation and care of yellowcake at the Mary Kathleen mine. Categorical assurances are recorded in Hansard and have been given by word of mouth. I am sure that the Minister was quite sincere in giving those assurances. Can Senator Young describe to me how in the name of fortune it is possible, under tight security measures, to steal two tonnes of yellowcake from a mine in Queensland if there is adequate security there? It is not like stealing a few diamonds out of a diamond mine; it is not like strapping a few wrist watches to one’s arm and jumping off a ship. Two tonnes of yellowcake were stolen from a place where security measures were adequate, according to the assurances of the Ministers. This is the point that concerns me. I do not believe that adequate security can be applied to these establishments now, even with Government surveillance. I do not know what happened to the public servants who were responsible for this laxity. I agree with Senator Tate that if any public servants in this country are guilty of criminal negligence it is those public servants. But it seems as though we have not heard any more about it, nor will we hear any more about it.
If it is difficult to guarantee safeguards now, I wonder what measure of safeguards will apply after a nuclear reactor or a mine has been exploited by private enterprise which has gone on to another place. Will the same measure of security still apply if private enterprise is organising it? Did those measures of security apply at Wittenoom in Western Australia when the company, after making its profits, got out of the place and just left it without making any provision for the environment. Does anybody here really believe that if a nuclear reactor or a uranium mine is left 20 or 30 years from now, a private enterprise company will maintain guards, barbed wire fences and the proper security measures to make it safe for 100,000 years? Does Senator Young really believe that it is in the nature of private enterprise to do that over that sort of period?
I and the Australian Democrats say that anybody who says that adequate safeguards are assured now and in the future is talking rubbish. In Britain the British Broadcasting Corporation has just revealed on television the disappearance of plutonium fuel rods, exposure of workers to excessive radiation, the occurence of a large explosion, fortunately not involving nuclear materials, and a deaf and dumb driver being sent to search for missing plutonium without protective clothing. I invite my friend, Senator Young, to respond to that. Is that the kind of safeguard, the kind of security that he would believe necessary and essential to surround such a dangerous industry? All this happened at the Dounreay Experimental Reactor in Scotland. Ironically this reactor is supposed to be the most advanced model and a leader in the field. I refer honourable senators opposite to the Age of 9 September 1980 for the story documenting that incident. The waste disposal problem has not yet been solved, contrary to what the nuclear lobby would have us believe.
I come to a serious matter. In recent weeks we have heard of Japanese envoys touring the Pacific region trying to flog off the monstrous notion that they might dump some of their wastes in the Pacific area. They are trying to pacify the resentment of Pacific nations to their dumping of nuclear wastes in the Pacific Ocean. As I understand it, Japan is now going ahead anyway dumping drums of nuclear waste near the Marianas Islands in a well known earthquake area. Most Pacific nations have protested. Has Australia protested? I know that Senator Carrick cannot be appraised of all that is happening in the 27 ministries of the present Government, but when Senator Melzer today asked him a question about the Australian attitude towards that dumping Senator Carrick said: ‘I don’t know. There has been no pronouncement’. I take him at his word. I have no doubt that the last thing he was doing was trying to mislead the Senate. The fact is that he did not have a brief from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Whom am I to believe? Is it the Department which gives Senator Carrick no brief on such a vexed question? Am I to believe Senator Carrick or am I to believe an article in the Australian of 8 September, only two days ago, which stated:
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that Australia did not express approval or disapproval.
I would have thought that the Leader of the Government in this House would be possessed of that information when he came into the House at Question Time today, knowing it to be odds on he would get a question on that subject. I would have thought that the Department of Foreign Affairs would brief him on that or would have known about it. But the answer is no. I ask the Minister who will respond - I do it tongue in cheek because of the farce which this place is - when the rest of the speakers have spoken in the second reading debate to give me and the Senate an answer from the Department of Foreign Affairs whether the Department did or did not make the statement: Australia does not express approval or disapproval about the dumping of Japanese wastes in the Pacific Ocean’.
If this were half a Parliament when a democratically elected senator asks a question one would expect the civil servants who sit by the Minister at least to pay the courtesy to that senator and to this chamber of making a phone call to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Minister’s office or whatever. 1 will be fascinated to know whether the civil service also is treating this chamber with the contempt that Ministers and the Executive treat it. To see whether we can get an answer to this question, which I think is a reasonable question on a vitally important matter, one asks: If that is the attitude of the Department of Foreign Affairs, why is it adopting this fence sitting attitude while other Pacific nations are protesting? Is it because the new uranium consortium ERA, which is the subject of this Bill now before us, has just signed a contract to sell uranium to Japan and wants to sell more? Am I being paranoid in believing that Australia does not want to upset Japan at the moment because of the diminishing markets Australia is finding for its uranium and because it does not want to upset one of its best customers? Would that be too cynical a reason to put? If it is anywhere near the truth I would have thought it a shameful exercise in logic for an Australian Government, or even an Australian civil servant, to contemplate such a cause of action. Again, it seems that the morality of the heroin pedlar comes into our negotiations in selling uranium wherever there is a dollar. Once we sell uranium to a nation we have no moral authority to object to what that nation may do with the waste or the yellowcake.
I think one of the most confounding answers I have ever received in this place was from Senator Carrick. It was an answer to a question on notice. I referred to the proposed sales of our uranium to the Philippines and pointed out the corrupt history of the Philippine leaders, plus the fact that it had been established before a United States Senate committee that the nuclear reactor being built by the corrupt Marcos Government in the Philippines was being built with faulty cement on a geophysical fault only a few kilometres away from an active volcano. That, I think, has been an established fact and has not been challenged. When I asked Senator Carrick, as the Minister, whether we did not have a responsibility to the citizens of the Philippines who live within an area of that nuclear reactor the reply simply said: Once we have sold our uranium to the Philippines our responsibility ends there’. What a nation does with its uranium is then the responsibility and the prerogative of the purchasing nation. I register my disgust if Senator Carrick properly portrayed the attitude of this Government to the country to which we sell our uranium and the attitude that we then do not give a damn what those corrupt rotten governments do with it or the kind of innocent people they imperil when they build their nuclear reactors.
In conclusion, I see this as one more example of the Government’s unscrupulous attitude to uranium sales. Australia is willing to sell to almost anyone - to Finland, which sends uranium to the Soviet Union to be processed; to South Korea, which is in turmoil and full of corruption with massive violations of civil rights and which is crushing the last vestige of civil liberties and Press freedom; and to the Philippines which is building a reactor next to three volcanoes. We were negotiating with the Shah of Iran before he fell from power. One wonders whether the number of legitimate’ clients diminishes as nuclear power becomes less and less popular because it is pricing itself out of the market. I wonder to what extent we will lower our standards in selling our uranium to anyone. The Australian Democrats vigorously oppose this Bill.
– I do not want to speak at length but I want to make a number of pertinent observations in relation to this Bill. I do not propose to go over the technical side of it. That has been adequately covered by my colleague Senator Tate. I want to quote a number of paragraphs from a statement which I made to the Herbert Labor Women’s Organising Committee at Magnetic Island on Sunday, 7 September. I want to quote from a number of telegrams which 1 have been forwarded from my office and have received from members of this Government. I want to make a couple of brief remarks about the attitudes that Senator Chipp has expressed. 1 said last Sunday:
There are tremendous pressures on the community to support the mining of Uranium in all parts of Australia, but the community, which is becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of nuclear material, is commencing to resist the development of Uranium projects.
I want to add a few words to that paragraph. No national opinion poll has been conducted for a very long time on the attitude of Australians to the use of uranium. The reason that no opinion poll has been commissioned is that - I think I am perfectly correct in my assessment - the great majority of the Australian public is opposed to the mining of uranium.
This is borne out by polls that were conducted over the last few months in the Thuringowa Shire which adjoins the Townsville City Council area. The first poll which was initiated indicated that approximately 60 per cent of the local population did not want a uranium enrichment plant in the area and something slightly less than that did not want the development of the Minatome uranium mining project. I am told by reliable sources that the National Party conducted a poll some weeks later. The National Party came up with similar findings. It was at that point that the Premier of Queensland lost all interest in the development of the Burdekin Dam. When he realised that people were prepared to develop an enrichment plant in North Queensland, he decided that we would need the water. He then gave tremendous support to the development of the Burdekin Dam. When the National Party conducted an opinion poll the Premier stated that development should be carried out in some remote area, not necessarily Townsville. He certainly said that it was never to be done in the Kingaroy area because that was not particularly remote. In my statement I went on to say:
This has particular relevance for Townville where a French owned mining company. Minatome Australia Pty Ltd, has applied for and has been granted a lease to mine uranium at Ben Lomond, which is only SO to 60 klms from the city.
The company is also reported to have applied for another exploration lease in the area.
An extensive uranium find has been located in the Charters Towers area. A number of smaller finds have been located in other areas, so it is quite possible that the Press statement which was made that Minatome had applied for the second lease in this area is completely accurate. I went on in my statement to say that both France and Japan were reported to be interested in the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in Queensland. 1 said:
Obviously the 5,000 tonnes of yellowcake which Minatome expects to process from Ben Lomond ore would not be sufficient to establish an enrichment plant.
The Maureen uranium field near Georgetown is also not expected to produce more than 5,000 tonnes of yellow cake.
The production of those two mines, together with the balance that has to be taken into account at the Mary Kathleen mine, would not be sufficient to establish an economically viable enrichment plant. My statement continues:
It becomes perfectly clear that if an enrichment plant is established anywhere near Townsville that production from the uranium provinces of the Northern Territory would have to be relied on to make the plant a viable economic venture.
Some months ago, together with a group of local people, I inspected the Minatome mine. The then Australian manager, Xavier Nosten, told me that he expected the mine would have no trouble in getting rid of the yellowcake because it expected to sell it to France, the country that owns the company. If that is so and if this Government and the Queensland Government approve of it, then both are recreant to the trust that has been placed in them by the Australian people. France is one of the few countries that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. France has a rather unstable political system. I went on in my statement:
France, a country which behaved badly in World War II, and was one of the first middle rating Powers to endeavour to produce the atom bomb in postwar years, has a long record of dangerous atmospheric testing in the Pacific.
Of course, France succeeded in producing the atom bomb. I continued:
Public protest caused the cessation of atmospheric testing, and France over the past few years has indulged in underground testing in the same area and on almost the same site.
Scientific records indicate that the heaviest fall-out in Australia from the atmospheric tests was in the salad and milk bowl of North Queensland, the Atherton Tableland.
It is significant that Professor Ernest Titterton repudiated, and has since repudiated as a knight of the realm, the statement which I made in 1966. The doctors who were also critical of my statement at the time have come round to the other side of the coin and have decided that one of the chief suspects for the malformations in births, the stillbirths and the various other problems associated with children in North Queensland is the fallout from the atmospheric tests. I again refer to my statement which reads:
Long term effects of underground testing on the tiny Pacific Mururoa Atoll have yet to be assessed but it is certain that leakages and accidents will have a damaging effect, in the long term, on the marine environment.
We do not know what will happen as a result of the underground testing, but we do know that France had one mishap when one of its bombs got stuck halfway down one of the cores or boreholes that the bomb is put into. The bomb exploded prematurely. My statement continued:
The development of Ben Lomond constitutes a dangerous precedent for North Queenslanders and local residents in particular.
That statement was made despite what was said by Mr Carter of the Minatome group. I continued:
I have always said and I repeat again that nuclear energy is a mere ‘stop gap’ remedy in the so called energy crisis and if an enrichment plant is established in the vicinity of Townsville it will make the city a prime target should we be unfortunate enough to experience war in which nuclear weapons are used.
The Australian Government allegedly have rigid guidelines associated with nuclear safety but the recent removal of more than 2 tonnes of yellowcake from Mary Kathleen is a clear indication that neither the Federal Government nor the mining company is very worried about safety.
There are stories circulating– 1 believe they have a considerable amount of substance - that the loss of yellow cake from Mary Kathleen is even greater, but apparently book-keeping has been so lax that no one is sure of the amount of yellow cake that is missing.
The lack of security arrangements at Mary Kathleen has been drawn to my attention on more than one occasion. Some two years ago the ponding system broke down. We do not know what caused the leakages in the artesian water system, but we do not know that a type of impervious clay was imported in an effort to plug up the ponding system. On 24 July 1980 1 forwarded a telegram to the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick). The telegram stated:
I have been informed by reliable sources that large quantities of yellow cake are being stored in the open at Mary Kathleen uranium mine. I understand that the project has only minimum security and is not guarded in any way. I respectfully suggest that this matter should be examined by officers of your Department and proper security established as soon as possible.
I have had the opportunity oh two or three occasions in the Mary Kathleen area to see that no security is carried out in relation to the yellowcake which is stored in drums in an area which has easy access. Several days later, on 30 July 1980, 1 received the following telegram from the Minister for National Development and Energy:
I refer to your telegram of 24 July concerning security of yellowcake stored at Mary Kathleen uranium mine. I am advised by the Australian Safeguards Office that the management of Mary Kathleen uranium has confirmed that yellowcake at the mine is stored in accordance with internationally recognised levels of physical protection for nuclear materials.
During that time I was also contacted by a member of the Australian Safeguards Office. I explained to him in quite clear detail the worries that I had. He said: ‘When we transport the yellowcake we have a guard’. That is true. There is a guard on board the train which transports yellowcake from Mary Kathleen. The responsibility of that armed guard is not to protect the yellowcake; it is to shoot any of the demonstrators who decide to attack the train or get involved in some other way.
As far as I am concerned, this Government does not care what happens. When the yellowcake disappeared the Minister made the remarkable statement that it appeared that it may have come from Mary Kathleen. Mary Kathleen is the only mine in Australia at the moment which processes uranium ore to the yellowcake stage. There is nowhere else it could have come from. On 1 1 August 1980, 1 forwarded this telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser):
I forwarded a telegram to the Minister for National Development and Energy on 24 July 1980 pointing out lack of safeguards at Mary Kathleen with uranium yellowcake.
Received reply from Minister that all safeguards were being observed. Now draw your attention to theft of 2 tonnes of yellowcake. Request royal commission or other public inquiry into all uranium mining in Australia including lack of safeguards at Mary Kathleen.
A few days later I received a typed note from the Prime Minister saying that he was looking into the matter and that he would do something about writing to me at length at a later date. Today is 9 September. Although I forwarded that telegram on 11 August, to date I have not received that detailed reply.
On 3 August, I decided that I would have a look at the situation for myself. On a hot Sunday afternoon, with four witnesses, I moved into the Mary Kathleen area. We saw a very large articulated vehicle bringing processed yellowcake from one section of the Mary Kathleen area to the storage area. It was uncovered; dust was blowing off it into the living area. If we had wanted to hijack that vehicle, we would have had no difficulty at all. We could have hijacked it and taken it to any of the dozen roads that surround the spinefex country around Mary Kathleen. We could have tied up the driver for a couple of days. Nothing would have happened to him, because we would have ensured that he had water and food. There would have been several more tonnes of yellowcake for the international black market which is where it was proposed that that two tonnes go. It was only a few years ago that we lost 200 tonnes of yellowcake on the high seas. Nobody knows where it went to, and nobody knows what it is being used for. If somebody wants to know whether the vehicle had a numberplate, it did. It was a Queensland numberplate ‘675-NS’; the last letter was dirty, but it looked like an T. It was hidden in the centre and not on the back of the vehicle. Even at that stage there was some sort of secrecy as to who was delegated the job of carrying the yellowcake.
We followed it right through. I had four people with me, three of whom occupy senior public service positions. We were able to get a photograph of the vehicle. That photograph has not yet been developed, but I hope it comes out okay. We watched it go into the area where the vehicles are weighed. There was nothing within half a mile or so of where that vehicle moved out to stop anybody knocking off a hundred weight of yellowcake. That situation could have been in existence for years.
There are contracts which the Labor Government has declared it will honour as a government. Mary Kathleen is one of them. There is not sufficient ore, apparently, to fulfill the contracts that were negotiated before we made that statement as a responsible political party. So it is possible that, when we become the government in a few weeks time, there will be a considerable number of contracts that will not be able to be met because - and I am making this accusation in public now - there are people associated with Mary Kathleen who have entered into a deal. I am not talking about the one guy who they have put up before the courts and who will be the fall guy in the whole process. It is like the heroin traffic, the cocaine traffic, and the hard drug traffic in general in this country. There are people associated with the Mary Kathleen organisation who are prepared to sell yellowcake on the black market. I am not saying it is the chairman of directors. I am not saying it is the board of directors. But there are people there who are prepared to do that. That is the way in which we handle yellowcake in this country. We have no security system. This Government does not care. The Minister does not know. I am sure that he is not dishonest about it. I am sure that he does not have the brains to be able to work it out.
What will happen to the uranium provinces in the Northern Territory? When the Government is defeated on 25 October or 13 December - whatever date it may be - arrangements will have been made to shift ore out of that area, probably to Indonesia or to some other close country. These contracts will have been entered into beforehand, because it is known that the party to which I belong has no intention of honouring the dishonest promises which have been made to other countries by the current Government.
asked a question about the dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific by the Japanese and the Minister could not answer his question. I inform Senator Chipp that the Minister could not answer the question because this Government approves of what Japan is about to do. It does not have the intestinal political fortitude to stand up to the dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific. It does not want to have an argument about anything. I think today’s Press carried a statement that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had gone down under the attack of Lee Kuan Yew, so he has tried to soft-soap him by bringing him back to Singapore in his VIP jet. The Philippines, also mentioned by Senator Chipp, is one of the disasters. This Government has entered into a contract to supply yellowcake to the Philippines. The reactor will be built in an area which is totally unstable, and my information from friends in the Philippines is that the peasants in the area who are able to eke out a very precarious living have now been reduced to the ranks of the starving because of dictator Marcos’ attitude towards establishing a reactor in the area.
The Third World is not ready to use sophisticated nuclear reactors, neither is the Western world. It is not ready, despite what Sir Charles Court said about having a nuclear reactor in Western Australia, in spite of the sympathetic hearing that the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, is giving to the establishment of the same type of reactor in Victoria, and in spite of the fact that that very close personal friend of mine, the husband of the champion pumpkin scone maker of Australia, holy Joh, wants one in Queensland. Now that he has found out that there is a political reaction to even the establishment of an enrichment plant, he has lost all interest in a reactor - temporarily at least.
I submit that the arguments put up by speakers from my side of the Senate on the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act are phoney, a hoax and a continuation of the dishonest practice of this Government in relation to atomic energy as one of the great power savers of the world.
– I wish to add a slightly different dimension in this debate, although I will touch on some aspects that other senators have raised. I am interested in the cost factors of and the alternatives available in the world to nuclear power. I have a feeling that, if indeed the public servants of the Minister for
National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) are backing nuclear power to the extent that they appear to be doing, they are not doing their homework very well. They are back in the past. Perhaps he ought to get a new lot- some who really know what is going on in the world. Alternatively, if he has public servants who know what is going on, he is not listening to them, and he has probably his own reason for not listening to them as the Government has its own reason for not listening to them. That reason probably, as always, is money. The point of the matter is that we have to look at whether Energy Resources of Australia and such companies in the future will be of much benefit to this country in terms of the money coming to us. We have to look at what income we might get judged in light of the alternatives which are now being developed by science, to see whether this will be worth the cost in other ways. Later on I will speak about some of those costs.
Some eminent people in Australia are very interested in experiments which are being carried out in Israel in the use of saline ponds. Let me mention what saline ponds are. It is a fact that when there is a situation in which the salinity of water is allowed to develop by normal evaporation–
– Senator Young, you are speaking next in the debate. If you would just let me continue my thought, I perhaps–
– I was merely endeavouring to say that the locals call them solar ponds.
– Do they? In fact they are saline ponds. They use the principle of extreme salinity. That is the basic point about them. They are solar, certainly, but simply by being solar they do not work. They work by being saline. It is a fact that the salinity has to be rather higher than that of ordinary sea water before the ponds will work. Salt water is made more saline by a simple process of evaporation. That is why it should be of some relevance to this country. The situation is that when salinity reaches a certain level the normal convection currents in the water do not apply. Therefore there are enormous temperatures generated at the bottom of that pond. The construction and cost are relatively simple. The degree of pollution is negligible. One has a machine which, in effect, produces power perpetually and continuously from solar energy at no cost and there is no pollution. Israel already has ISO kilowatt experimental plants doing that. The Government does not have to accept my view on this matter; far from it. I am no expert. I just try to listen to people who are. If Senator Carrick’s Department were to go along to somebody fairly eminent in the energy field in Australia - maybe it ought to talk to Sir Mark Oliphant about this matter - the Department might find out something that is worth knowing. That is an enormous area of potential power in the world and it is nonpollutant. It is far greater in its potential than nuclear power ever could be, it would be available at a relatively low cost and there would be no pollution.
The second area of importance is the work going on in America on photo-electric effects, particularly the use of plastic films, which can now produce photo-electric effects. Eminent researchers in a number of institutes in the United States have said as a result of massive research that it is now a goer, that within five to 10 years we will be able to produce continuous amounts of electric power through the photo-electric effect, especially in a country like Australia, at no cost whatever other than the installation cost. Senator Carrick should check out the costs being quoted. If his Department does its homework it will check this figure. It is said that within 10 years the cost will be 50c a peak watt. Compare that with the present American price of 70c a peak watt for fossil or nuclear power. I know that the Government has no ethical view on nuclear power. It does not give a damn whether we pollute the world of the generations to come; it does not give a damn whether it causes minor nuclear wars around the world. All the Government is interested in doing is in flogging off nuclear power for money and I am treating it at that level. I am lowering myself to the Government’s level in this regard and saying: ‘If you look at it you might find that there are other ways of getting energy cheaper and better, that the world really does not want nuclear power, that it is a thing of the past already, and that it is a very bad thing for a political party or a government to be tagging behind the bows and arrows boys’. It should be up there right at the knife edge of science. That is not too hard. If the Government takes heed of some of the suggestions I have mentioned today, it might find things of interest.
– If you were a trained scientist we might listen to you.
– I have suggested that the Government should talk to a particular trained scientist.
– There are some in the Senate.
– Yes, I know. I am speaking of somebody of considerably more eminence in science than any honourable senator. That is not said with disrespect. I am merely saying that we should acknowledge expertise where we find it and not think that we know all the answers. The views I am putting to Senator Baume are not my views, they are the views of people who know far better than I do. I think that is of some relevance.
– That is not the Government.
– No, certainly not, but we have hopes. Let us look at it from another aspect completely. If it will not be of much benefit to us from a cost point of view, is the risk really justified? I ask the Government senators who follow me in this debate to come out and say that they do not believe that a Pakistani bomb is being made, that they do not believe that a bomb is being at least researched in South Africa, and that they do not believe that the nuclear reactors in Argentina and Chile are being used in this way. In view of the evidence now, it would be a brave man who would come out and say that. This, then, is what we are contributing to. These people do not want power; they want bombs. They do not want fission weapons; they do not have the technology for that. They want old-fashioned, dirty A-bombs like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki ones, the ones that one can make with a Candu reactor. One can take the plutonium out of it. It is the best possible vehicle for making one. Why are the Pakistanis working so hard at it? Where are the power plants to provide their people with power? They do not exist. The Pakistanis want bombs. Looking at it at the lowest possible level, we in Australia can say: They can go ahead and blow themselves up with these bombs; it is not our responsibility. We only supplied the uranium’. What will happen if there are limited regional wars in the Middle East, Africa and South America? They are the places where it will happen soon if things go on as they are. There is no security of plutonium. There has been no security of plutonium for years. An entire cargo of Scheersberg A went missing and the European Atomic Energy Community - the body with which the Government is now negotiating an agreement - would not admit for 10 years that it had lost it. Where did that end up? The buzz says that it ended up at Dimona, the Israeli nuclear reactor that nobody is allowed to go near or see, and that it has been used already to manufacture nuclear weapons. I would say, in spite of Israeli denials, that that is probably the case. In a way, I would not blame the Israelis for doing it. They live in a world in which the Government is contributing to a future for our own children and grandchildren which will be an absolute nightmare, a hell on earth, a place where there will be gradual proliferation of small nuclear weapons and where every time they are used fallout will increase.
The people who believe in expediency, such as the members of this Government, will allow that to happen. Year by year, generation by generation, the fallout level will increase. The Government will find people who will justify that. It will find scientists who will come along and say that it is okay and that a certain number of deformed children and a certain number of deaths are acceptable. The same argument is used in relation to the lead level in petrol. A certain number of hyperactive children and children with learning disabilities is acceptable in the Government’s terms. It has told us that. The Government will not accept the social responsibilities of what it has done. As I have said, the places where the wars will start are the Middle East, Africa and South America. When those wars start we will not see the weapons going off, except on our television screens, but the fallout will be there. One cannot smell it, one cannot sense it, but there is nothing one can do about it. It will circle the globe and it will be there for 24,400 years - longer than we can look back into history. Its effect will be only halved in that time. In another 24,000 years it will be halved again. By that time, any shreds of the society that our forefathers tried to build so painfully on this planet will have gone. They would have been destroyed by the one type of pollution which it has been proven mankind cannot control. It does not matter that 100 years ago people died in London because of coal and smog. At least that could be cleaned up. What one has to understand is that here we have something with a completely different dimension. It is something that we cannot control and something that we cannot clean up-
Let us look at the morality of this matter a little further. I will draw an analogy; I think it is a valid one. I have heard honourable senators say in this place that if we do not provide uranium to the world others will and that therefore we should do it. The analogy is this: I worked for a while in Thailand as an adviser to the Government there. Advising government is a rather complex situation, especially advising in Thailand. I think I could probably find in Thailand financiers who would be prepared to come to Australia and set up a flourishing opium industry. We have good hilly country that would grow opium poppies very well and there is money in it, more money than there is in uranium. Here is the analogy: If it is good enough for us to say that we will sell uranium knowing full well the consequences of that and knowing full well that we are selling it to dictatorships and that military police will impose it on the populations which do not want it, why is it not good enough for us to say: ‘Let us have an opium industry. Let us make that hell drug and impose it on the world as well’?
– I rise briefly to join others on this side of the chamber in opposing the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980. We do so for a wide range of reasons. My colleagues and other speakers have indicated some of these reasons. Let me refer briefly to them. One is the need for completely new legislation which was dealt with by Senator Tate, Others have dealt with the inadequacies of the principal Act and the fact that this Bill does nothing to overcome these inadequacies as we see them. We on this side of the House have questioned the proposed inquiry mentioned by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) in his second reading speech and have asked for more details of it. We have asked for some indication as to who is to carry out this inquiry and whether it is to be done by an interdepartmental committee or is to be something that is more public and open. We have asked that such a committee, preferably a public one, be given more time than the four months that the Minister has indicated.
That has been done already by previous speakers. My role is briefly to examine the effect of the legislation on the Northern Territory. This is completely appropriate since the Bill deals with the Ranger uranium project in the Northern Territory. In the debate we seem to have wandered a little from the Bill itself, so perhaps I should read the purpose of the Bill. The Parliamentary notes state that the purpose of the Bill is:
To extend the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s (AAEC) borrowing powers and to remove any doubts as to the authority of the companies involved in the Ranger uranium project to carry on mining operations after the Commonwealth assigns its interest in the project.
Of course, associated with the Bill is the setting up of the company Energy Resources of Australia and the sale of 15,000 tonnes of yellowcake to Japan, details of which we heard yesterday. Let us look briefly at the company, Energy Resources of Australia. The purpose of the company is to handle the sale of uranium. The Government’s share in Ranger, or as I thought Senator Tate so succinctly put it, the Australian people’s share in Ranger, is to be sold to Peko- Wallsend Ltd and to the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd. The report of the Foreign Investment Review Board had this to say:
The Foreign Investment Review Board is currently examining foreign equity participation in ERA. The companies propose that Peko and EZ will hold 61 per cent of the issued share capital of ERA and a further 14 per cent being offered to the Australian public.
That is excellent. On the surface, 75 per cent of the ownership will be in Australian hands. If this is so, then I commend the Government for it because it reaches the criterion set by my own party. No doubt, some of the cynics in this party and some of the cynics in the community will have a look at Peko-Wallsend and at the Electrolytic Zinc Co. to find out how much of the parent company is owned by Australians. Obviously, this will have some effect on our considerations of the situation. But if 75 per cent is owned by Australians, and therefore one assumes that they will have control, one still has to question this matter of control when we learn that Japan is to lend $140m to develop Ranger. We must question what effect this loan will have on the control of the resources. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber will not have to be reminded that the Japanese are very astute businessmen. They have had no difficulty at all in dealing with the Queensland and Western Australian governments to their own advantage. We are very worried in the Northern Territory that the same might happen there. We certainly do not want any railways running to holes in the ground. What safeguards has the Government got on this matter of control?
The deal with Japan, like most other deals that have been rushed into lately by the Government, involves an unseemly haste. One cannot help being reminded of the old frightened fawn approach that we used to have many years ago. But now there is the haste to sell and to develop, the haste to try to grab any overseas money, regardless of what adverse effects there might be. I will look at some of these adverse effects a little later on. On the surface of the deal itself, because the price is just over $30 a tonne and was $40 a tonne 1 2 months ago we ask: ‘Is this the best price that could be negotiated? We have to ask whether our advisers have been careful enough to make sure that there is an escalation clause and that in 15 years time we will not have the situation which developed with coal in a certain State in Australia whereby the Japanese once again were getting coal at much below world prices. We would seek assurances from the Government and its comments that this is being dealt with. We have to ask also on this deal whether the safeguards called for and agreed to by the Government are being satisfied - safeguards in the area of waste disposal and of nuclear proliferation. I should like to read a brief extract from the comments of my colleague, Mr Paul Keating, in the other place, on these two issues. Firstly, on the matter of waste disposal, in the Hansard of 27 August, Mr Keating said: /The recently completed two-year International Fuel Cycle Evaluation study has made it clear that vitrification of high level waste is not in commercial operation and that waste disposal has not been tried. No repositories for the storage of the disposal of solidified high level liquid wastes have yet been developed. Even the Government’s own Australian lonisation Radiation Advisory Council, in November last year, stated:
On the matter of nuclear proliferation, Mr Keating said:
Little progress has been made in the area of nuclear nonproliferation, the most disturbing attendant problem of the nuclear industry. The INFCE report found that technical measures have had only a limited effect on reducing the risk of weapon proliferation. The onus must fall on governments to safeguard against the diversion of nuclear fuels. But the safeguards agreements this Government is pursuing are far from adequate. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has demonstrated in his answers to questions his incompetence and inability to handle or even to understand the issues involved in safeguards agreements.
Not only thinking about the matter of waste disposal, but also on a more parochial issue, I might simply refer to the storage of associated material. I refer to a situation which has developed in Darwin in the last few weeks in which large quantities of sulphur are being stored close to Darwin in proximity to Bee’s Creek. There has been tremendous community reaction against this because of the dangers involved. Those honourable senators who saw the situation at Rum Jungle will know what will happen if this sort of material leaches into a water system. It is rather interesting that my letter of complaint on this matter came from one of the prominent members of the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory, and no doubt his own members would have received it, too. Government action on this Bill, and other action that it is taking, is speeding up the mining of uranium in the Northern Territory. I should like to refer briefly to the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies entitled The Social Impact of Uranium Mining on the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory’. In the final paragraph this comment was made:
For all these reasons, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies believes that no new developments should proceed in the Alligator Rivers region until the Aboriginal people of the region have had time to adjust to the enormous innovations to which they have recently been subjected - and of which mining is but one.
One has to ask why would that body, set up by the Government to advise it and which has caused some concern at the present time to the Minister, make these sorts of recommendations. Let me suggest that the Institute in its report drew attention to a previous report of the Institute. It stated:
That is a nice way of saying that there has been no Government action on the recommendations made by the Institute. The report drew attention to yet another report, that of the research fellow associated with the project and made the comment that although this report was confidential there were some issues which might be mentioned. Without going into any great detail, let me just draw attention to them. Firstly, let us look at the matter of mining revenue. The Ranger beneficiaries have no understanding of their entitlements. There are problems with the Aboriginal people’s appreciation of whether the beneficiaries are traditional owners or affected communities. They have little understanding of the reasons behind the decisions which have been made in this area of deciding whether they are traditional owners or affected communities. The second major problem was that of consultation. The report talks of having serious disquiet about the nature of the consultative process. There are certain questions which I have with the Minister at the present time to which I hope to receive an answer in the near future about some of the officers of the Northern Land Council and their involvement in this consultative process.
The road issue was another matter which was referred to by the report, drawing attention to the problems faced by the Aboriginal people in deciding who was to control the roads. I think the problem was particularly well exhibited in regard to the Oenpelli Road. I do not want to go into a great deal more detail, but let me refer to some of the findings of the social impact report which were particularly relevant to what we are talking about tonight. The report states:
The report notes that the Aboriginal population of the Alligator Rivers region currently exhibits signs of hostility to outsiders and a tendency to withdraw in the face of pressures. These signs are not unique to this region; alienation, frustration, the withdrawal from public engagement, and finally the threat, or even the actual use, of violence form a chain reaction which social scientists have identified from many parts of the world. There is evidence that the Aborigingal people of the Alligator Rivers region are becoming increasingly mistrustful of those people and agencies - especially those which lie outside the region - who make decisions affecting their lives . . .
The distrust identified above is exacerbated both by the proliferation of outside agencies and by the right to enter onto Aboriginal land and into Aboriginal lives without- from an Aboriginal point of view - prior screening by them.
To the Aboriginal people affected, it is not only a problem of trying to understand why the number of governmenal agencies concerned with their lives has at least doubled in number (that is, Commonwealth and Northern Territory organisations);
The people are trying to understand why the organisations impinge on their lifestyles. The report continues:
The crucial question at this time is the matter of control. It concerns not only control over roads as discussed earlier; it also involves the wider issue that Aborigines, while having been granted land title, do not have any secure sense that such land is indeed theirs or believe that they can make effective decisions about what happens or is done to the land vested in their name. These Aboriginal anxieties are real and must be understood and accorded respect if there is to be sensitivity to the impact that mining and related activities are having and will have on their lives.
In the final part of the report the following comment was made:
The Institute wishes to stress that Aborigines in the Alligator Rivers region, like people everywhere, need time to react and to adjust to changed conditions. To date Aborigines are still struggling to come to terms with existing mining activities - activities which themselves change significantly as they proceed from one phase to another.
We on this side of the chamber oppose the Bill for the reasons enumerated by previous speakers. We deplore the haste with which the Government is pressing ahead with mining despite the advice given by the Institute, despite the fact that there are no real safeguards on waste or nuclear proliferation and despite the unanswered questions on the control of our resources - questions to which we have sought answers for some time. Australia has suffered before because of what I have indicated to be the frightened fawn approach. Certainly I do not claim to have invented the term. It has been with us for many years. I refer to the grabbing of markets or finance under almost any circumstances. I make the plea that we should not get caught again. The Northern Territory is not without alternative resources. Let us put the same energy into exploiting and developing those resources as the Government would have us put into exploiting the nuclear industry of the Northern Territory. I urge the Senate to reject the Bill.
– The Senate will recall that last year we debated legislation dealing with the Government’s divesting itself of its interests in the Ranger uranium project. Tonight we are dealing with another Bill related to the same divestment of the Government. The two previous partners, PekoWallsend Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co., have established a new company known as Energy Resources of Australia. Tonight I was interested in the comments of the Opposition. It was pointed out that Energy Resources of Australia is 61 per cent owned by Peko and EZ. Another 14 per cent will be offered to the Australian public and the rest will be given out to overseas investors.
The point that interested me and which I want to mention before I deal with the mechanics of the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 2) is the attitude of the Opposition to the 14 per cent. I will never understand the attitude of the Opposition to Australian involvement in Australian industry. The Government has set down guidelines which were originated by the Australian Labor Party when it was in government. I refer to the 75 per cent equity in industries such as this. Today the Government is offering 1 4 per cent of the equity in that company to the Australian investor through the Australian stock exchange. Yet we have queries and criticisms tonight with regard to this 14 per cent. I am surprised. I do not know why the Opposition seems to be so opposed to anybody having any investment in any Australian industry. Quite frankly, this attitude flounders me.
Dealing with the Bill, I refer again to the Government’s divestment of its interests in the Ranger project. The Bill has two major factors. I wish to quote part of the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). He said:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 which relates to the mining of prescribed substances on behalf of or in association with the Commonwealth; and to amend the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s borrowing powers under section 30 of the Act.
In practical terms this really means that ERA can mine in the name of the Commonwealth Government of this country. That is the first major point I wish to make about the proposed legislation being debated tonight. The other point relates to the borrowing powers which, of course, will enable the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to raise funds in order to meet its commitments until such time as the Commission - in other words the Government - divests itself of its interests in the Ranger project. Whilst there has been no criticism by the Opposition of this aspect tonight, I want to hasten to add that Energy Resources of Australia will reimburse all of the expenditure that has been contributed to the Ranger project by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. There will also be a return to the Government of a valuation of its assets of some $125m.
Two other factors must be made clear to the Senate and to the general public tonight. One relates to the protection of the Aborigines in the area. The Senate will recall that the Government entered into an agreement under section 44 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory)
Act. This agreement will still stand with the Federal Government. The Government has not walked away from this agreement, lt still stands by this agreement; it regards itself as the principal. Therefore, full protection will stand as previously. The Federal Government will accept its responsibilities under the agreement with the Northern Land Council. Environmental aspects have also been raised tonight in the debate in the chamber. Again it has been made perfectly clear by the Minister and in the legislation that ERA will have to accept all of the environmental conditions as were laid down previously. Those two major factors, which may have been of some concern to some people, will be in full effect as they were previously. It will be as though there has been no change in the arrangement that existed in the past when the Atomic Energy Commission was involved with the Ranger consortium.
One could go on and refer to the criticism of the Opposition tonight about the involvement of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission with the whole Ranger situation. I remind the Senate again that this arrangement was initiated by the Whitlam Government. All honourable senators are perfectly aware, as is the general community, that the memorandum of agreement was drawn up between the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the two partners in the Ranger consortium - Peko-Wallsend and EZ. There has merely been a progression. The Government has been working through the Atomic Energy Act, in other words, the Atomic Energy Commission.
I was challenged tonight by Senator Chipp and a couple of other speakers about what will happen to the Government’s review of the Atomic Energy Act. As I understand it, there will be an interdepartmental committee of review. There is no doubt that if any individual or any group of people wish to put a submission to the Minister the submission will find its way to that committee for consideration. If I am wrong there is no doubt that the Minister will correct me later tonight when he responds to the debate.
Tonight the chamber is dealing with what has been in the past and still is a very sensitive and emotional issue. Whilst not agreeing with all the speakers on the other side, I must say that I respect their points of view and the way in which this matter has been debated this evening. The two sides disagree but all of us have shown some respect for each other’s point of view. I hope that something constructive will come out of this. I will now answer - I hope not with blatant criticism - some of the challenges given to me on one or two points, particularly by Senator Chipp. One matter was the two tonnes of yellowcake that were stolen. The comment was made that there was a weakness in security. I would have to admit that there was a weakness in security when that amount of yellowcake was stolen. But I make it perfectly clear that yellowcake is not a dangerous substance to the individual.
– It is a raw material.
– It is a raw material. It is the second stage of the process. Whilst two tonnes of yellowcake was stolen, no speaker on the other side of the chamber has admitted tonight that it was recovered. It has not fallen into any foreign or strange hands. That should have been admitted tonight. It was taken in bits and pieces but the individual who took it has been caught. I hope that the net has now been tightened. The major factor was to make sure that the yellowcake did not leave Australia. It has not left Australia and all of it has been recovered.
I refer briefly to plutonium, an issue that has been taken up by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom and which was referred to on A M this morning. The report referred to a half ounce and a one ounce piece of plutonium. Honourable senators who listened to AM this morning will know that one scientist stated that a person could swallow the stuff and it would not hurt him. I have heard that said before. People have said that they have held it in their hands. It is only in the form of a fine dust that the substance is highly dangerous. People have said that it can be swallowed. I am not saying that I would do it. It was said on AM this morning. The danger is the plutonium itself because it is the material for bombs. This country and other countries should not try to withhold uranium from a world which has turned nuclear. Australia has told no country that it must have nuclear reactors to fill its energy gap. Other countries have made their own decisions to turn nuclear. They are looking for uranium for a nuclear fuel. If they are unable to obtain it they will move into fast breeders, so named because they breed plutonium which is the feedstock for bombs.
Those senators and people outside the Senate who are opposed to Australia’s meeting its international obligations to a world that has turned nuclear are encouraging the world to turn to fast breeder reactors that do not require much uranium. Those reactors will breed fission material for bombs because they breed plutonium. That is the alternative we face. I repeat that we have not told the world to turn nuclear. It has made up its own mind. It is looking for the supply of material for nuclear reactors. If countries do not get the nuclear material they need they will hasten to the use of fast breeder reactors. Even though Russia is not co-operating in so many ways with regard to disarmament - I could refer to Pakistan and other countries but I will leave them aside - it is so concerned about the development of fast breeders and what will come from them that it wants to co-operate with countries in Europe to establish an international plutonium bank to make sure that plutonium will be held in safe international hands. That is the concern of a country such as Russia which is not prepared to co-operate in so many things. That country is frightened of the fast breeder world and the resultant plutonium world. It is going ahead with more and more nuclear reactors and enriching uranium for other countries to use. It is doing its best to make sure that fast breeders will not become a reality or be in general use in the world.
Opposition senators should think very seriously about this. They have put up two alternatives. They have said that when safeguards have been worked out they will mine uranium. The other alternative is that they will not supply uranium. There is a third alternative. It is the alternative of fast breeders. Honourable senators opposite should have a good look at what they would be forcing some countries to turn to if their policies were put into practice. A fast breeder world would be far more dangerous than nuclear reactors with all the problems of waste disposal that are rapidly being overcome.
– I agree with that.
– 1 appreciate the spirit of co-operation with regard to some of the arguments put forward tonight. Mention has been made tonight - I express the same concern - of Japan’s dumping nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean. I was very interested to hear a man whom I regard as a most responsible Australian, although I have not always agreed with his political comments, a man for whom I have the highest regard and a man of integrity who eventually had the honour to be the Governor of my own State of South Australia - I refer to Sir Mark Oliphant - being interviewed on AM this morning. I have the transcript of the interview before me. He was questioned about the dumping of nuclear waste. The interviewer said:
Some scientists are concerned that there could be a serious leakage from these drums in the Pacific and this could eventually be very dangerous. Do you share that concern?
Sir Mark Oliphant said:
No, I don’t. I don’t think that it could possibly have very serious consequences. … All countries that produce these horrible things should get rid of them on their own soil.
In other words he was saying that they should bury them in their own backyards. He continued:
It’s like other contaminants–
I emphasise the word ‘contaminants’ - that we have no right to contaminate other people’s land or sea with our own debris.
They are not the strong words one might expect from a brillant scientist like Sir Mark Oliphant. That is exactly what he thinks. He went to the crux of the matter and said that a country should be reponsible for looking after its own waste. Tonight I noted with interest that both the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats still hold the view with regard to the mining of uranium which they have held in the past. There has been no change whatsoever. I say with great respect that, as far as I as a South Australian am concerned, what they are saying is virtually that they would still oppose the mining of any ore whatsoever at Roxby Downs. Whilst it is not physically impossible, from a practical point of view it is nearly impossible in a mining process to separate uranium from copper and gold. If uranium is separated it is so expensive to stockpile that uranium, to protect it from an environmental point of view and from a security point of view, that, as the company concerned has said in the past, it would be non-economic to do so.
With great respect to honourable senators on the other side of the chamber who have spoken in this debate, what they really are saying is that they will continue to oppose mining at Roxby Downs in South Australia. It is already regarded as one of the biggest mines in the world today, a mine which would have a great economic impact upon my State of South Australia. That is what honourable senators opposite will oppose. I hope that the people in my State will remember what Labor Party and Australian Democrat senators have said tonight.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this and two associated Bills I shall introduce shortly is to give effect to all but two of the income tax proposals announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his Budget Speech on 19 August 1980. One of the proposals not covered by this Bill will provide some relief from Australian tax on income earned by Australian residents from a foreign source by providing services overseas, where the income is not taxed in the country of source. This matter is explained in Statement No. 4 attached to the Treasurer’s Budget Speech and the necessary legislation will be brought forward at an early date. The other proposal not included in the Bills that I am now introducing is the provision of deductions for gifts to voluntary overseas aid organisations. As the Treasurer indicated in the Budget Speech, the organisations that are to qualify for this concession will be determined hy him after consultation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). When that has been done, a further announcement will be made about this proposal.
Superannuation for certain self-employed and employed persons
A very significant Budget proposal dealt with in the Bill concerns superannuation arrangements for people who are self-employed or employees and do not participate in superannuation benefits funded by an employer. As the Treasurer indicated in the Budget Speech, the new deduction of up to SI, 200 per annum is a significant incentive to encourage people who do not have the support of an independently funded superannuation scheme to make better provision for their retirement.
The measure will also provide such people with a taxation benefit that is broadly comparable with that enjoyed where an employer contributes to a superannuation scheme for employees. Such contributions are, of course, deductible in determining an employer’s taxable income.
The major feature of the new arrangements is a special deduction of up to SI, 200 a year for amounts contributed to superannuation funds which qualify under section 23 (ja) or section 79 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. These are the types of funds to which self-employed people and employees not covered by an employer-sponsored scheme at present contribute. They are in fact designed for such people. A section 23 (ja) fund is one that has at least 20 members and provides benefits for self-employed persons. The income from such a fund is exempt from income tax where relevant terms and conditions of the fund have been approved by the Commissioner of Taxation. A section 79 fund is a superannuation fund that provides benefits for either self-employed people or employees. Such a fund is entitled to a special tax deduction equal to 5 per cent of the cost of specified assets provided its terms and conditions are approved by the commissioner on the basis of rules set out in the section.
Contributions made after Budget Day - 19 August 1980 - to a fund in either category will qualify for the new deduction but - reflecting its concessional nature - the deduction will not be capable of giving rise to a loss that may be carried forward for deduction in a later year. Contributions in excess of the deduction of $1,200 per annum will continue to be treated as rebatable expenditure, up to the existing limit of $1,200 for life insurance premiums and superannuation contributions, in the same way that contributions by employees to an employer-sponsored fund are rebatable.
As part of the new arrangements it is also proposed that 5 per cent of lump sums received after 19 August 1980 from a section 23(ja) fund or a section 79 fund will be treated as assessable income, but only to the extent that the amounts are attributable to contributions made after that day and earnings derived from such contributions. This will, of course, accord with the treatment under the present law of lump sums received on retirement by employees from employersponsored funds. The 5 per cent basis will apply only where a person receives a lump sum in accordance with the terms and conditions applicable to the fund at the time of payment, and only where the recipient has been allowed a deduction under the new legislation. Associated with this, and as a safeguard against exploitation of the new rules to obtain unintended tax benefits, it is proposed by another provision that, where a person receives or obtains a benefit from a section 23 (ja) or section 79 fund after 19 August 1980 and the approved terms and conditions of the fund, the full amount of the benefit will be treated as assessable income.
Accelerated depreciation of plant and equipment
Another Budget proposal implemented in the Bill is the 20 per cent loading to existing depreciation rates applying to plant and equipment used in the production of assessable income. As the Treasurer mentioned in his Budget Speech the Government has in recent years received representations to the effect that the present depreciation provisions do not recognise the rapid technological changes that are occurring in many industries. Because these changes vary and because they may in many cases be unpredictable, the Government has decided that the most appropriate way to give recognition to the problem is to provide a general 20 per cent loading on existing plant depreciation rates. It believes that this will encourage businesses to keep their plant and equipment up to date.
The 20 per cent loading will apply in respect of both new and secondhand plant ordered after 19 August 1980, with the exception of motor vehicles of the type now excluded from the investment allowance and plant for which special statutory rates are already available. In the latter category are certain employees’ amenities and scientific research plant that qualify for a prime cost rate of 33i per cent. Another example is structural improvement for on-farm storage of grain, hay and fodder. These already qualify for a special statutory rate of 20 per cent per annum.
Certain stockyards and subdivisional fences
The Bill provides that primary producers are to be allowed an immediate deduction for expenditure on stockyards and subdivisional fencing where the Secretary to the Department of Primary Industry certifies that it is desirable for these facilities to be constructed so as to assist in the control or eradication of brucellosis or tuberculosis in cattle. It is hoped that this incentive will give further encouragement to steps designed to stamp out these diseases. Certificates by the Secretary to the Department of Primary Industry are to be given in relation to particular properties and may be revoked once the Secretary is no longer satisfied that construction of stockyards and fences is necessary for the purpose. This deduction will apply until the end of the 1983-84 year.
Proceeds from the Death or Compulsory Destruction of Live Stock Due to Disease
The Bill also provides a further measure of benefit to primary producers confronted with problems of disease in livestock. Under the existing law, a primary producer may elect to have any profit derived on a forced sale of livestock due to fire, drought or flood excluded from assessable income of the year in which it is derived, and applied instead to reduce the cost for income tax purposes of replacement stock acquired during that year or any of the five succeeding years. The Bill proposes to extend these provisions so that they will cover cases in which stock die or have to be destroyed because of a disease, the existence of which makes the stock subject to compulsory destruction. This amendment will apply in respect of stock that die or are destroyed on or after 1 July 1980.
The Bill contains amendments to give effect to the statement in the Budget Speech that deductions are to be allowed for gifts made after 19 August 1980 to institutions certified by the Minister for Education (Mr Fife) as technical and further education institutions within the meaning of the Tertiary Education Commission Act 1977, or to the Marcus Oldham Farm Management College. Deductions will be limited to gifts made for certified purposes of, or the provision of certified facilities for, the bodies concerned. Certified purposes and certified facilities are those that relate to education at the tertiary level. The Bill also authorises a deduction for gifts to a prescribed Commonwealth institution as defined in the Tertiary Education Commission Act 1977 and to a residential educational institution affiliated with such a prescribed institution. At present, the only prescribed Commonwealth institution is the Australian Maritime College. The opportunity is being taken to remove from the gift provisions the new unnecessary requirement that gifts to colleges of advanced education are deductible only if made for certified purposes or facilities, that is, in practice, for purposes of tertiary education. The position is that all facilities and purposes of these colleges are now related to tertiary education and it is thus convenient to delete the certification procedures.
Provisional tax is the part of the payasyouearn system designed to collect tax on income other than salary or wages within the year in which it is derived. Provisional tax arrangements seek to achieve reasonable consistency between the treatment of salary and wage earners and people whose income is from a business or from property. In the absence of provisions to the contrary, 1980-81 provisional tax would be calculated by applying 1979-80 rates of tax to 1979-80 taxable income, and taking into account rebates at their 1979-80 levels. However, incomes for 1980-81 will generally be higher than for 1979-80 and, on the other hand, 1980-81 rates of tax are lower than 1979-80 rates. Moreover, dependant rebates for 1980-81 are higher than those for 1979-80.
In these circumstances, it is appropriate that a varied basis be applied for calculating provisional tax payments for 1980-81 where taxpayers do not exercise their right to have provisional tax for the year calculated on the basis of their estimate of taxable income for 1980-81. In essence, the Bill provides that provisional tax for 1980-81 will be calculated on the basis of taxable income for 1979- 80 as increased by 7.5 per cent and applying to that adjusted income the lower rate scale applicable for 1980-81. Dependant rebates will be allowed in provisional tax calculations at the higher values set for 1980-81. The notional increase of 7.5 per cent is a conservative estimate of the average rise between the two years in taxable incomes of people subject to provisional tax. Taxpayers who consider that their taxable income for 1980- 81 will not increase by that much will, of course, have the option of ‘self-assessing’ and having their provisional tax for 1980-81 recalculated on the basis of their estimate of their income for that year. A memorandum has been prepared to explain the detailed provisions of the Bill, and is being circulated to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
This Bill will provide legislative authority for the entry into force of a revised comprehensive double taxation agreement with Canada. The agreement that it replaces was concluded in 1957. The new treaty was signed earlier this year, but cannot enter into force until all necessary constitutional processes are completed by Australia and Canada. For Australia, this Bill will, when assented to, complete the processes required of us.
Revision of the 1957 agreement became necessary because of changes in the tax laws of both countries, particularly in Canada, where major reforms of the tax system came into effect in 1976. When it enters into force the new agreement will replace the previous agreement, with effect in Australia from 1 July 1975 and in Canada from 1 January 1976. The revised agreement covers in a more detailed way than did the old treaty, all forms of income flowing between Australia and Canada. It corresponds closely with other modern double taxation agreements Australia has concluded.
Under this agreement, Australia will continue to limit to 1 5 per cent its tax on dividends flowing to Canada. Canada will similarly limit its tax on dividends flowing to Australia. Whilst there was, as I have just indicated, an article dealing with dividends in the old agreement, there was not one for interest, and only a very limited coverage of royalties. Comprehensive articles covering these forms of income are a feature of the new agreement.
A limit of 15 per cent on each country’s tax on interest flowing to the other is specified in the new agreement. For Australia, this will mean no reduction in our interest withholding tax, which is charged at a rate of 10 per cent. On the Canadian side, the reciprocal 15 per cent limit contrasts with the rate of 25 per cent fixed by Canadian domestic law. For royalties flowing to Canada, our tax will be limited to 10 per cent of gross payments, instead of tax at general rates on net royalties. Instead of being able to charge the 25 per cent fixed by its own law Canada too will limit to 10 per cent its tax on royalties coming in this direction.
Apart from other changes that bring the arrangements with Canada into line with Australia’s modern agreements, the agreement provides for limited taxation rights for the country of source in respect of pensions paid to residents of the other country. There is also some relaxation of the rules under which residents of one country working for short periods in the other are free from tax in the country being visited. Reflecting the difficulties that Canada has experienced with such articles, the agreement does not include a provision specifically covering the remuneration of professors and teachers of one country who are visiting the other. The agreement contains measures for the formal relief of double taxation of income that may be taxed by both countries. As is customary, the country of residence of the taxpayer is obliged to provide the necessary relief.
So far as Australian residents are concerned, the combined effect of the agreement and of amendments to Australian tax law proposed by the Bill will be that dividends received by individuals, and interest and royalties on which Canadian tax is limited by the agreement, will be taxed here but with credit being allowed for the Canadian tax. Because of the general rebate on inter-company distributions there is effectively no tax on dividends received from Canada by Australian companies. Other items of income that an Australian resident derives from Canada will continue to be tax-free in Australia if taxed in Canada.
There will be transitional measures associated with the rules I have just outlined and with the fact that in some areas the old agreement gave greater relief from tax of one of the countries than does the new agreement. These will ensure that there is no retrospective increase in tax liability. For example, where there is a provision of the previous agreement that gives greater relief from the tax of either country than the new agreement does, the former will apply in Australia for (he 1 979-80 and any earlier income year. 1 recall here that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced this rule on 21 May last, when the agreement was signed. An explanatory memorandum containing more detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill and of the arrangements with Canada is being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
Thai the Bill be now read a first time.
– As the Income Tax (Individuals) Bill is a money Bill, honourable senators are permitted to speak on various matters on the motion for the first reading of the Bill. I take the opportunity to speak on a matter 1 have wanted to speak on since the honey legislation was introduced last session. It looks like we have no favouritism for honey and a honey Bill will not be introduced this session. To my mind, the matter I raise is important. What I have to say follows what Senator Puplick said when he indicated his concern about crime in Australia and stated that it was time that someone did something about the matter.
Senator Puplick raised the matter again today, which shows his concern about it. But when he spoke on the matter previously in an adjournment debate he seemed to get some satisfaction from claiming that all the big crime in Australia was concentrated in certain committees operating in the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales. I agree with him that if crime has penetrated the sub-branches of the Labor Party in New South Wales we should do everything possible to clean it up. It is not something of which the Labor Party is proud. As we have seen from the action which has been taken in New South Wales, the Labor Party will do anything possible to clean up the problem.
But the problem is not isolated to a particular political party; it has greater ramifications. My deep concern is that crime seems to percolate throughout government departments with the sanctity of those departments. I suggest that insufficient action is taken even by people as high as the responsible Ministers. There seems to be approval of certain things which are happening in some departments. I refer specifically to the Bureau of Customs. The Sydney Morning Herald of 24 April, referring to evidence given in the inquiry into the death of the Wilsons in Victoria, stated:
The head of an international drugs syndicate, Terrence John Clark, had paid $20,000 a year retainer to an officer of the Australian Federal Narcotics Bureau, a British policeman told the Melbourne coroner’s court yesterday.
Clark is in custody in England at present on a charge of murder. On 19 August I asked the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) a question concerning the allegations by the New South Wales Customs Officers Association of corruption and vice existing in the Bureau of Customs in the searching of luggage in Sydney. The AttorneyGeneral replied that he did not have specific information on the matters I raised and that he would get the information required. He said also that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) had informed him that his inquiries had revealed that the New South Wales Customs Officers Association had made no direct accusations and would give no specific information to the Customs officials or the Minister for the purpose of investigation; therefore, in the absence of evidence from the Customs Officers Association, the Minister did not take seriously the allegations of that Association.
In a speech in this chamber jan 31 March this year, which is recorded in Hansard, I brought up the case of Mr Wacyk who had jewellery to the value of $7,000 taken from his luggage by Customs officials. This is not an allegation made by an individual without supporting evidence. The man is prepared to swear on oath that it happened. In order to obtain proof I directed a series of questions to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) and the former Minister for Special Trade Representations. The answers to those questions seem to verify the facts which I stated in the Senate. But no one is concerned about the matter. No one is doing anything about it. The action was so blatant that no one believes that it could have happened. Sworn evidence has been given by the person who lost the jewellery that it happened at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
There were some inaccuracies or a lack of detail in the speech which I made on 31 March. I shall repeat the story briefly for the purpose of correcting that situation. Mr Wacyk has been in Australia for 32 years, not as I said on 31 March, for 24 years. During that time he has become an Australian citizen. He is well respected in the best circles in Adelaide. He has Polish, Russian and Australian nationalities. He is associated with the Russian Embassy and engages in many activities in Australia for the various Embassy officials. He has been to Canberra on several occasions to attend Embassy functions. In June last year he was invited to attend a trade conference at Poznan in Poland. Mr Wacyk in his 32 years in Australia has battled the hard way. He acquired sufficient wealth to put all his children through tertiary education. He has one daughter who is now a successful practising lawyer in Adelaide. He had some interest in a jade mine in the Northern Territory and he built up a wholesale jewellery business. He was doing all right in Adelaide.
When he left to attend the conference in Poland he took with him much of his jewellery and some jewellery owned by one of his colleagues, Mr Karoly Farkas, for the purpose of displaying it in Europe in the hope of establishing some export trade in jewellery through the European Common Market. He obtained a clearance to take the jewellery out of Australia. When he returned to Australia in July of last year he was searched by the Customs officials at Sydney Airport. While searching through the jewellery, although Mr Wacyk produced documentation to prove that he had taken it out of Australia, the two Customs officials picked up portions of the jewellery, put it in their pockets and said: ‘This will do for my wife’. This situation is unbelievable. In my speech on 31 March I said that it could only be assumed that anyone who could have done that so blatantly was of the belief that the jewellery was the subject of illicit entry into Australia and that he could stand over the individual. When Mr Wacyk complained about the Customs officers taking his jewellery they said: ‘If you open your mouth about this you will be sorry’. He did open his mouth. Now he is sorry that he did so because his loss became greater.
I said that this action must have been an indication that illicit entry of jewellery into Australia is allowed as long as the searching officers get some hand-out. This inference seems to be incorrect. The evidence we now have shows that those searching officers have the power to rob and steal with immunity, and that no-one, including the head of the Department or the Minister, can take appropriate action against them. After the two pieces of jewellery were taken by the officers, Mr VVacyk booked his luggage with Ansett Airlines of Australia to catch that night’s plane from Sydney to Melbourne. Being a stranger in a strange land and not knowing what to do, he rang up the New South Wales Ombudsman and made an appointment to see him that afternoon. When he arrived at the Ombudsman’s office two Customs officers were there. The New South Wales Ombudsman said: ‘It has nothing to do with me. It is a matter for Commonwealth action. The two Customs officers will sort it out’.
The two Customs officers took Mr Wacyk to Ansett, picked up the luggage that he had booked in for the night flight, took him back to the airport and went through his luggage. They said: ‘We will search the homes of the two officers about whom you are complaining and we will keep some jewellery for the purpose of comparing it to see that we make the correct identifications’. When they were looking through the luggage they said: You may as well leave the lot here. We will return it to you in Adelaide within two days’. Mr Wacyk was quite happy with that arrangement. The officers wrote him receipts for the jewellery and had a photographer photograph all the jewellery they retained for Customs purposes. Instead of the jewellery being returned J within two days, it was some two weeks before two officers from Customs arrived at Mr Wacyk’s home to return the jewellery. There was a period of two weeks in which Mr Wacyk had no jewellery to display for the purpose of carrying on his business. The officers came to his home to return the jewellery. His daughter, who as I have said is a well-respected member of the legal profession in South Australia, and Mr Farkas, who owned some of the jewellery, were present. The two officers produced the jewellery.
When checking the receipts it was claimed that jewellery to the wholesale value of $7,000 was not included in the returned jewellery. When Mr Wacyk questioned this - this is where I made some mistake on the previous occasion on which I spoke of this matter - the officers admitted that the two pieces of jewellery that the officers had stolen were not there because Customs needed them to take action or because they had not found them at that stage. They said: ‘We left them in an unlocked room in the hotel last night and it is possible that they went from there’. This statement has been verified by the three witnesses. I asked whether the officials left the jewellery in an unlocked room in a hotel in Sydney. I immediately received a reply from the Minister that they had not stayed in a hotel in Sydney and that therefore 1 did not know what I was talking about. They stayed at a hotel in Hindley Street in Adelaide the night before they brought the jewellery out to Mr Wacyk’s home. The two articles of jewellery which the officers had taken and placed in their pockets in Sydney were not there. Their homes had not been searched. When asked about the jewellery the officers said: ‘Well, we are a bit afraid. One man is powerful in the union. We will make a search there tonight. I hope we find them because if we don’t he will make a lot of trouble for us.’ I do not know whether unions carry on this crookedness, but a man thought his position in the union was such that he had the right to steal other people’s property and no one could do anything about it.
That night on returning to Sydney the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs officers rang Mr Wacyk and told him that they had made a search of the homes of the two officers. They had found the jewellery. In order to show that there was a common interest, let me say that the wife of one of the officers was very abusive to the searchers. She chain-smoked all the time. Nevertheless, the jewellery was found in the home.
Mr Wacyk’s daughter asked the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs for some redress for the loss of the jewellery. I read out on 31 March 1 980 the reply which she received from Mr Besley, Secretary to the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. The letter said two things. The two officers who had stolen the jewellery at the airport were taken before the Public Service Board. They received an official reprimand. Concerning the jewellery worth $7,000 at wholesale valuation, Mr Besley stated:
I am satisfied that, while those items formed part of Mr Wacyk’s baggage at the time he was interviewed by Messrs McShane and Smith on 6 July 1979, they were not retained by the Department. I am further satisfied that there is no evidence to indicate that they were retained by any officer of the Department.
We have the officers of the Department giving a receipt, saying that they retained the jewellery and taking photographs which they retained. Afterwards they said that they did not retain them. The excuse was given that whilst they made out a receipt they were concerned with getting Mr Wacyk on the Ansett Airlines of Australia plane that night. Is Mr Wacyk prepared to swear that he did not get the jewellery that was retained by the Bureau of Customs? I produced the receipts signed by Mr J. G. McShane of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs stating that he had retained those goods at the Sydney airport. I tabled those documents the last time I spoke on this matter. They are in public evidence.
If two officers can blatantly go through a persons ‘s luggage, take jewellery and say ‘I want this’, is an official reprimand sufficient? I had never heard the term before. I asked a series of questions in the Senate on 19 August this year. I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Senator Carrick replied that there was no supporting proof of some allegations. In Question on Notice No. 2639 1 asked:
What is meant by a verdict of ‘Official Reprimand’ which was made under section 55 of the Public Service Act 1922 against the two customs officials who at Sydney Airport on 6 July 1 979 stole jewellery to the approximate value of $200 from the luggage of a Mr Wacyk.
The answer to that question stated:
Two Customs officers in Sydney, upon advice from the Deputy Cown Solicitor, were charged under the disciplinary provisions of the Public Service Act on 5 October 1979 with improper conduct in that they obtained during the course of their duties a quantity of jewellery, the property of Mr A. Wacyk of Adelaide. The advice of the Deputy Crown Solicitor was that the evidence would not support a charge of stealing. The Chief Officer of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs in Sydney found the offences proven and officially reprimanded the officers on 12 December 1979 under the provisions of section 55 (2) of the Public Service Act. The offence of guilty of improper conduct and the reprimands are recorded in the personal records of the officers.
That is the officers’ punishment. It is noted on their personal records that they have been found guilty. That is an admission of the truthfulness of the allegation that they took the articles. I asked:
Are such officers still inspecting passenger luggage?
If officers will blatantly do this it is frightening to see that they are still inspecting luggage. The Minister replied to my question:
Yes, in that such work constitutes a major part of the normal duties of such officers.
They are still inspecting luggage today, a year after the theft. I asked:
What action, if any. has been taken against Mr G. McShane, Customs Inspector, who signed and issued receipts for goods retained and who now claims that such goods were never retained?
The answer is:
Receipts were issued to Mr VVacyk by a departmental officer on 6 July 1979 for the retention of a quantity of jewellery by the Department. Subsequent enquiries established that the receipts were in error. Whilst the jewellery listed on the receipts was in Mr Wacyk’s possession on 6 July 1979, it was not all retained by the Department. The error arose because officers were endeavouring to avoid inconveniences to Mr Wacyk by expediting his connection with an interstate flight from Sydney to Adelaide. In the circumstances, the officers unfortunately did not have an adequate opportunity to physically check the goods retained against the receipts given. As there is no evidence which suggests malpractice on the officers’ part, no action is proposed other than to counsel the officers concerned on the need for more care in the preparation of official receipts.
We have an inspector of the Bureau of Customs being told to take more care in the future. He had signed the document, having retained jewellery. Such retention allows for a claim upon the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. Afterwards, he said: ‘Well, I never retained it’. The officers had said: ‘You will be sorry if you open your mouth about this’. The two officers who returned the jewellery said: ‘He is a powerful fellow in the union’. That showed he has power, lt is true enough that Mr Wacyk is sorry because where he had lost $200 worth of jewellery he has now lost $7,000 worth of jewellery. We see from the prognostications of the officers that they knew what they were talking about. I also asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs:
What action, if any, has been taken against two customs officials who were entrusted to deliver jewellery worth many thousands of dollars to the owner in Adelaide and left them in an unlocked, and at times unattended, room in a Sydney hotel.
Honourable senators will notice that at that stage I left myself open to a complete denial. The reply stated:
The officers entrusted to deliver the jewellery to Mr Wacyk did not stay overnight in Sydney. The jewellery was handed to the officers making the delivery in a sealed envelope which remained intact until opened in the presence of Mr VVacyk in Adelaide.
Mr Wacyk did not know whether the envelope was sealed. It was opened in his home in the presence of his daughter and another wholesale jeweller. He does not dispute the fact that the envelope was sealed. If the envelope were sealed when handed to the delivery officers, the theft of the jewellery could have taken place previously. However, the officers stated that they could account for the jewellery taken out of the hotel room. I also asked the following question:
What compensation, if any, will the Government pay Mr VVacyk for gems with a wholesale value of approximately $7,000 which were either lost or stolen by customs officials.
What compensation, if any, will the Government pay Mr Wacyk for the loss of a profitable wholesale jewellery business which was forced to close because of the non-availability of selling samples, which were either lost or stolen by customs officials.
The reply to those two questions was as follows:
The Ombudsman is investigating a complaint from Mr VVacyk that the Department has failed to return, or compensate him for the loss of certain items of jewellery said to be in the Department’s possession.
Before I deal with the Ombudsman’s investigation, I must say that two things occur to me. The main point is that I do not accept in the circumstances of a person being prepared to swear on oath that an officer or someone took jewellery from him - that the jewellery was found in the officer’s home - that a deputy crown solicitor or any legal person would say there was insufficient evidence for a case of theft or unlawful possession to be made out. I then asked:
Was advice given to the Deputy Crown Solicitor, relating to the incident of two customs officers who retained jewellery from a passenger’s luggage … to the effect that a witness was available who was prepared to testify that he saw and heard both officers during the search pick up and examine expensive jewellery from the luggage and while putting some article in their respective pockets say ‘this will do for my wife’.
Senator Durack answered that question, No. 2706, as follows:
The papers which were referred to the office of the Deputy Crown Solicitor, Sydney contained a copy of a record of interview with a Mr VVacyk dated 6 July 1979, a copy of a subsequent statement made by Mr Wacyk dated 25 July 1979 and a copy of a report dated 24 August 1979 from Mr R. A. Wilson, Internal Affairs Section, Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. It is in his statement dated 25 July 1979 that Mr Wacyk makes the allegation referred to in this question. The report of Mr R. A. Wilson indicates that Mr Wacyk is prepared to testify on the basis of the allegation which he makes.
I cannot understand how a legal man can make such a decision. I then asked:
Was the Deputy Crown Solicitor advised that some of the articles of jewellery were found at the homes of each officer.
The reply stated:
It appears from the report of Mr R. A. Wilson that certain property was recovered from the home of one of the Customs officers. It also appears from that report that a search was made of the other Customs officer’s home, his vehicle and his locker but no jewellery was found.
The jewellery was found only in the home of one officer and yet both officers were found guilty under the Public Service Act and received an official reprimand. There is more to this case than what we know at present. I raise another question. If evidence of such a definite knowledge of theft were presented before the Public Service Board, as was presented in this case, would the Board be satisfied to impose only a penalty of a notation on someone’s record that he had been found guilty and had been officially reprimanded? I therefore asked the Minister the following question No. 2724:
Will the Minister make available the submissions and evidence given to the Public Service inquiry into the charge of misconduct under Section 55 (2) of the Public Service Act 1922, against two Customs officials who were charged on 5 October 1979 with ‘improper conduct’ as a result of having in their possession articles of jewellery taken from a passenger’s luggage while such officer were making a search of such luggage.
Will the Minister disclose the two officers’ accounts of how they obtained the articles.
Naturally I thought that the full facts had not been presented before the Public Service Board. The Minister, through Senator Durack, replied as follows:
Under section 55 of the Public Service Act, the Chief Officer has the power to deal with offences. In this case normal procedures were followed. A full investigation was carried out and on the basis of legal advice received, disciplinary action was taken under Section 55 (2) of the Public Service Act.
For reasons of personal privacy, details of disciplinary proceedings against employees are not generally disclosed.
Therefore, we have no knowledge of the evidence which was presented to the Public Service Board. It is not generally disclosed. I do not say that it would not be disclosed. Charges of crookedness and theft were condoned right up to the time the case went before the Public Service Board. The submissions that the Public Service Board received to let the thief off the hook by imposing an official reprimand should be made public. I ask the Minister whether he will convey to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs my remarks. I feel that information should be made available in order to see how this Government works. In conclusion, I would like to say that the Ombudsman has completed his investigation. Part of his reply to Mr Waugh stated:
As I mentioned in my letter of 1 8 March 1 980, the Ombudsman Act 1976 requires me not to investigate a complaint where I am of the opinion that the complainant has a right to cause the action to which the complaint relates to be reviewed by a court unless I form the opinion that, in all the circumstances of the case, the failure to exercise the right is not unreasonable. It is my opinion that, in all the circumstances, it would be reasonable to expect you to have recourse to legal redress. Accordingly I have decided that I should not continue to investigate you complaint.
Therefore he has no redress from the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman states further:
My investigation has revealed indications of defective administration on the part of the Department -
Defective administration on the part of the Department and I intend to look further into this matter acting on my own initiative. I do not believe that the outcome will directly affect your position but since my enquiries stem from your complaint I expect that I may need to be in touch with you again.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I think that concludes that aspect of the matter. I ask: Do honourable senators think that a man who claims that he has lost $7,000 worth of jewellery and which he alleges was stolen by Customs officers, should be snubbed in this way? Is this matter not deserving of a complete and public investigation? I am not trying to submit something that has not been thoroughly inquired into. There are three people in Adelaide who are prepared to testify about what the Customs officers said when they returned the jewellery. Mr Wacyk is prepared to swear on oath, supported by the receipts from Mr McShane from Customs in Sydney, that he has received the two items of jewellery which were taken. Therefore I join with Senator Puplick in his statement that there should be a special inquiry into these matters. Mr Wacyk’s claim relates not only to the theft of jewellery, but also to the loss of a wholesale business through the loss of $7,000 worth of samples. He now has no business to carry on as a wholesale jeweller, and he is trying to do business as a land agent. Is this justice? Is there not justification for compensation for the $7,000 worth of jewellery that he has lost? Is there not justification for compensation for the business he has lost as the result of, firstly, the retention for a fortnight of some of the jewellery and, secondly, the theft of $7,000 worth of jewellery. Should not this matter be investigated? Mr Wacyk has no alternative than to take the Commonwealth to court. He does not have the financial resources to do that. I ask: Has not the Minister in all decency a responsibility to confer to see whether a solution cannot be found to this problem. If no solution can be found, and he wants the court to decide the matter, should he not engage a top level solicitor for Mr Wacyk for the purpose of conducting the proceedings which Mr VVacyk feels sure will return to him what has been taken from him by an unjust act by Customs officials?
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– I think it has been agreed with the Opposition, although I am not sure, that we should proceed to bring on one further message, even though it is after 10.30 p.m.
– No, we do not agree.
– No. It is a breach of Standing Orders and you should not permit it, Mr President.
– If it is not agreed, we will return to the item which was adjourned to a later hour this day.
– The Opposition makes no apology for opposing the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980. Whilst the Opposition has been criticised by two of the Government speakers, it is perhaps worth while drawing the attention of the Senate to the fact that, when the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) replies to this debate, we will have had 1 0 speakers on this Bill, and that the Government has seen fit to supply three speakers only in the debate. We have been criticised by Senator Young because we have been consistently opposed to the mining of uranium in Australia and to the many attempts that this Government has made to amend the Atomic Energy Act. This is the second occasion this year, and it is the seventh occasion in the past two years, that the Act has been amended. I think it is significant that that criticism extends not only to the Opposition but also to the Australian Democrats. I think that indicates that there is a consistency in our approach to the matter of Australia’s uranium mining, its enrichment, its sale, and all the associated factors, and that that represents the majority opinion in terms of public support in this country.
Senator MacGibbon expressed an attitude different from that expressed on previous occasions by Government members. So indeed did Senator Young. They now seem to share some of the concern which has been expressed by the Australian Democrats, by the Australian Labor Party, by environment groups in Australia and by other civil libertarians about the problem of the uranium industry and about the safety and the disposal of the waste products resulting from the development of the uranium industry. We are on good ground for having that consistent attitude. We have said in all the debates about the Atomic Energy Act that it should not be the vehicle for mining uranium in the Northern Territory. That puts us in a position parallel with the Fox Royal Commission’s principal recommendation when it was concerned with the Ranger environmental inquiry conducted several years ago. Those members of the Government who have spoken have failed to address themselves to the fundamental inadequacies of the Act and the inadequacies that have been pointed out by the seven speakers on this side of the House. When the original legislation was introduced into the Parliament in 1953, that is 17 years ago–
– Twenty-seven years ago.
– It has to be conceded that it was in the Cold War period. I am referring to the original Act. It was conceded in the debates that it was designed to enable the Government of the day, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, to control the exploitation of uranium for the specific purpose of defence. Now that Act is being used to cover a whole range of new and diverse areas such as the commercial exploitation of uranium, which this particular amendment seeks to cover, and all of the activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission including nuclear research and development, defence and security issues, safeguards and most other aspects of uranium mining and nuclear energy - in short, the promotion, the regulation and the control of uranium mining in all of its aspects.
We have said before and we repeat that the Opposition believes that the legislation should be repealed and replaced with legislation to deal specifically with these matters, matters which also include questions involving the civil liberties of those who have been associated or are to be associated with the mining and the promotion of uranium. The Bill specifically seeks to grant the right to mine in the name of the Commonwealth to a company known as Energy Resources of Australia. That was previously enjoyed by the Commonwealth in its own right. The Australian Labor Party opposed the original proposition and it has consistently opposed it since then. We will divide on this issue because this Bill seeks to transfer that right from the Commonwealth as its own agent to the private interests that are now associated with the Ranger uranium project.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said in his second reading speech that there would be a review of the Act and related legislation. Five other pieces of legislation are associated in some way or other with this piece of legislation. As to the type of review planned in the period mentioned, the Minister has given us no details as to what the inquiry will determine, who will conduct the inquiry or how it will be conducted. Is it to be just another interdepartmental committee, a government committee in which secrecy shall be the watchword, which will meet behind closed doors, shrouded in secrecy, making considerations on the very vexed issue of uranium and its exploitation subject to no public scrutiny or investigation? The Minister has said that this review will take approximately four months. The Opposition can only say in respect of that that this is a ridiculous state of affairs for a task of the magnitude of a review of all aspects of the legislation.
Surely it is conceded by the Government that this is an issue which has divided the Australian community, an issue which has divided the scientific community throughout the world and an issue which has raised a number of doubts in every country in which there has been any degree of public debate. Yet we are told by the Government that this inquiry will be conducted in a very short period - four months. We find this unacceptable from the point of view of meeting our responsibilities to the Parliament and to the Australian people. We cannot leave the problems associated with the nuclear industry and uranium mining in the area of considerable doubt about the efficacy of the Government’s approach to the subject and its failure properly to debate the issues in the Australian Parliament. The Government is continuing the same risky policy, the same carefree attitude, that it has adopted towards the sale of uranium. It has failed to examine properly the complaints and the concern that have been expressed in parliamentary debates and elsewhere about the sale of uranium in whatever form.
At one stage Iran was considered to be a reliable customer. We know that the events there have changed. What was considered to be a safe commercial arrangement was shown very quickly not to be so. Similarly, we cannot be sure that a stable situation exists in the Philippines and in South Korea. We cannot even be sure that we are dealing with a stable country when we are dealing with Japan. The untimely death of the Prime Minister of that country created a period of uncertainty there. We cannot accept the assurances of the Government that all the problems and concerns about the commercial exploitation of uranium by this country are being properly faced up to by the Government. We find it rather difficult to comprehend the apparent ease with which the Government has accepted the sale of uranium to Finland for enrichment in the Soviet Union, given the paranoic way in which the Government generally approaches matters associated with the Soviet Union. Senator Young presented an argument about the fast breeder reactors and the concern of the Soviet Union about that. Nevertheless, when one looks at it in the context of this Government’s relationship with the Soviet Union, one finds it difficult to understand the way in which the Government is prepared to allow the commercial sale to Finland to proceed.
The Opposition and the Australian Democrats believe that they have taken a very responsible attitude in the views they have expressed about these matters from time to time. It is pleasing to note that some progress has been made and there is concern in the minds of some Government members about the problems of waste disposal. I suppose that can be put down to the development of some understanding of the problem as a result of debates in the Parliament. At one time it was regarded as alarmist thinking to be concerned about safeguards and waste disposal. At least that point is now recognised by two of the Government senators. It matters not that Senator MacGibbon, in trying to interpret what Senator Walsh had to say when he led for the Opposition, tried to distort what Senator Walsh said. Senator Walsh was saying that if the Government is really satisfied that there are no problems about waste disposal, as distinct from the fears shown by a couple of its speakers in this debate, we should have no qualms about disposing of the product in Australia. Fortunately, there is sufficient concern in Australia and the world to say that we should not countenance the disposal of waste products in Australia or in the South Pacific. Even Senator Young conceded that if there was to be disposal, the disposal should be the responsibility of the government of the country where the uranium enrichment is taking place. To that extent, one can perhaps be pleased that there has been some evolution in the thinking processes as a result of the various debates that have taken place in the Parliament.
My colleague Senator Robertson drew attention to the recommendations of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council in November of last year. It stated quite clearly that safe storage or disposal of solidified high level wastes is not possible anywhere on earth and that no progress in this area is foreseeable for ten years. We cannot in all conscience take the shortsighted view that the Government has taken that there is still not a problem with waste disposal. More recently, the United States National Academy of Science drew attention to the problems of waste disposal, as have scientists in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. It is interesting to note that the Academy of Science reported about the problem of even low levels of radiation arising out of the nuclear reactors in the United States itself. It has drawn the attention of the American public to the fact that nuclear reactors in that country will cause 2,000 cancer-related deaths by the year 2000. That, of course, is not drawing completely upon the experiences of the accident at Three Mile Island. More recently we have had some indication of concern in the United Kingdom and some evidence that there may have been nuclear accidents even within the Soviet Union itself.
In conclusion, I refer to the state of the industry and draw the attention of the Senate to the malaise that exists in the whole nuclear industry. There is a grim economic and political future for the nuclear industry. In the United States, over the last two years eight orders for nuclear reactors have been cancelled and nine orders have been deferred. There is a reluctance in many parts of Europe now to proceed with the nuclear program. What strikes me as somewhat ironic is that so much emphasis should be placed by government speakers on the nuclear industry in the belief that the nuclear industry solves the problems of energy as far as the world is concerned. We all know that even if we are to move quickly into a complete development of the nuclear industry, then we are probably talking of nothing more than about 30 year’s energy requirements. In no way does the nuclear industry offer the alternative to the problems of waste disposal. Even to shore up for a short period of 30 years to meet our energy requirements is surely shortsighted. I think it is the realisation of the economics and the problems of safeguards, of proliferation of nuclear weapons, and of waste disposal that concern growing numbers of people who have some conscience about the right of one generation to take steps that might impinge upon the future of generations yet to come, that helps to create the climate that emboldens us to believe that the decisions that we took some years ago with respect to the uranium industry still can bear scrutiny, still have force, and still ought to be taken into consideration. These and various other reasons, for which time does not permit a full and adequate debate, have been adequately covered by other speakers on this side of the House. We will oppose the proposed amendments submitted by the Government on this occasion.
– in reply - The Senate has had, as Senator Gietzelt pointed out, 10 speakers on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 2) of whom seven were non-government speakers, and he placed some weight on the fact. The Bill has been used as a vehicle to go over a lot of ground, including the contents of the Bill itself, and the debate from the other side of the chamber has reflected the generally anti-uranium view which has been adopted by the Opposition and by the Australian Democrats. The need for another four or five government speakers to restate the debate which has already been heard so often in this chamber escapes me and, I am sure, other government senators. I acknowledge and thank the government senators who spoke for their relatively brief cogent contributions to the debate and for their support of the legislation.
The actual legislation is not very complex. It has been required because the interests of the present joint venturers in the Ranger uranium project are to be acquired by a new company. That includes, of course, the interest which was until now held by the Commonwealth. Some doubts have been raised about the application of section 41 of the Act, given the assignment of rights and obligations to the new company, and the legislation simply ensures that those doubts are removed. But the debate has related less to the particulars of the legislation than to the general principles which exercise the minds of honourable senators on the matter of uraium mining. I think it needs to be said that the legislation and the settlement between Energy Resources of Australia, the new company, and the Commonwealth do not compromise in any way the Government’s responsibilities to the Aboriginal people and to the environment established under the initial arrangements. The main thrust of the the Opposition’s concern about the Bill seemed to relate, quite apart from its general opposition to the mining of uranium, to what it sees as the unsatisfactory nature of this legislation and for the work that it has been required to do in respect of the development of Australia’s uranium resources.
The second reading speech, I think, really deals with that point quite adequately, and I do not wish to go over the same ground which is dealt with in the speech, but I refer honourable senators, and Opposition senators in particular, to the second reading speech in which it is indicated that concern has been expressed by State Premiers and others about the Atomic Energy Act and the Government’s announcement that a review will be undertaken in consultation with the State and Northern Territory governments. It will be a review of the functions and purposes of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 and other Commonwealth legislation relevant to nuclear issues. The review will assess the Act and other relevant Commonwealth legislation as an appropriate legislative basis for the promotion, regulation and control of nuclear activities and the development of an Australian nuclear industry. In other words, the concerns which were expressed by Senator Walsh, Senator Tate and other Opposition senators about the legislation, are being taken up by the Government and are therefore receiving appropriate attention. I do not wish to go over the terms of reference which were incorporated in Hansard at the time the second reading speech was given except to refer briefly to paragraph 3 (b) which states:
Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the review will take into account:
the appropriateness of the present legislative basis for the exercise of Commonwealth responsibilities in relation to the commercial development of an Australian uranium industry and related industries.
A number of queries were raised in the debate about the nature of the review. 1 advise the Senate that the review will be conducted by an interdepartmental committee which is to provide an initial report to the Government by 31 December 1980. A number of honourable senators asked whether it was possible for the public to contribute to the review. 1 am advised that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) has already asked the Uranium Advisory Council for its views in connection with the review, and that Council, of course, has its role as the body charged with representing the community interest to the Government. It is open to the Council to seek submissions from interested groups or individuals. Quite apart from that, however, the States and the Northern Territory are to be consulted on the review, and any submissions which are received by Ministers will be passed on to the interdepartmental committee so that those people who wish to put views can use either the Uranium Advisory Council or the normal process of representation by Ministers to ensure that those views are before the interdepartmental group.
I suppose one of the oddities of the debate was the alteration between the pleas that the industry should be restricted or prevented by government, and the very strong suggestions that the industry has no future anyway. A number of honourable senators made the point very strongly that there was no future market for uranium because the industry was in decline. I suppose there is an element of wishful thinking in some of those prophecies of doom. They sit very oddly with the fact that the new company, Energy Resources of Australia, has already been able to enter into contracts which at this stage are still conditional on certain safeguard agreements being entered into, but are contracts for the sale of uranium over a future period to a value of about $2,000m. That does not suggest that there is no market for uranium. Rather it suggests that there is a market which is being met. I simply point out to the Senate that those honourable senators who put those two arguments are really putting inconsistent arguments. The developments of the last few days show that, there is a market for Australian uranium.
A very specific request was made by Senator Chipp during his contribution to the debate that there should be some response from the Government on the report in the Australian newspaper which apparently suggested that the Government had no opinion one way or the other on the dumping of uranium waste in the Pacific. 1 think that was the problem as it was posed by Senator Chipp. I have not seen the article to which he referred but I have sought, as he requested, some advice on the matter. That advice is that a Japanese technical mission which is visiting the South Pacific countries to explain Japan’s proposed trial dumping operations of low-level nuclear waste in the north Pacific held discussions with Australian officials in Canberra on 19 August. The Australian side explained that Australia is opposed to the Pacific region becoming a dumping ground for the indiscriminate and uncontrolled disposal of nuclear waste. Australia’s view was that the disposal of nuclear waste in any environment and, in particular, in the Pacific Ocean, should be undertaken only in compliance with the strictest safety measures and with the relevant international agreements, namely, the London Dumping Convention and the guidelines laid down by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on multilateral consultation surveillance mechanism for the sea dumping of radioactive wastes. These agreements provide for stringent standards of containerisation, site selection and monitoring.
Australia drew to the attention of the Japanese team the strong feelings engendered amongst South Pacific countries in regard to nuclear testing and waste issues. Whilst Australia recognised Japan’s problems with nuclear waste disposal, it had to take full account of the views and interests of South Pacific countries. The Japanese team provided detailed technical information on the trial dumping operation. The site is 900 kilometres south-east of Tokyo and 550 kilometres from the nearest island, which is a Japanese possession. Contrary to Press reports the site is not located on or near a chain of undersea volcanoes or the Marianas Trench. The depth is 6,000 metres. The material from Japanese nuclear reactors will be contained in steel drums and encased in concrete. The impact of dumping waste in the area will be barely above natural radioactivity levels. The levels of radioactivity will be only a fraction of those involved in the dumping of waste by west European countries in the North Atlantic.
International agreements will be strictly observed. I am further advised that dumping on a permanent basis - the former comments apply to a trial - would depend on monitoring and analysis of the trial operation and the development of an internal consensus in Japan.
Opposition senators interjecting -
– It is typical of the Senate that one gets a serious request for a response and then gets nothing but a lot of heckling and haranguing when the request is being met. Quite frankly, it underlines the basically political approach to these matters. I think if honourable senators showed a little more sincerity in the matter the public might be a little more impressed. Let me complete the information I am providing at the request of Senator Chipp. The final piece of advice 1 have obtained is that regional countries would continue to be informed and consulted.
– So you approve of everything they are doing. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– Senator Keeffe, as usual, is totally incapable of understanding matters which are put before him. I suggest that he take the trouble tomorrow to study in Hansard what I have said and the views which Australia put to the meeting. Those views are quite inconsistent with the interjections he is making in his usual raucous manner. Various other matters have been raised in the debate. I am less certain than I was when I started that honourable senators are interested in receiving a response from the Government.
– If you are going to throw insults across this chamber, you will not get your Bill.
– It seems to me that those who interject and cause trouble have remarkably thin skins when there is any response.
Opposition senators interjecting -
– That concludes the remarks I intend to make on the Bill.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) for the part explanation he gave to my question. 1 register, without getting myself into a flap as he did, that I resent as one of the cheapest of jibes he has made in my hearing his remark that it is clear to him that people on this side of the House who oppose uranium mining do so for political purposes. I think that remark was totally unnecessary and I for one resent it.
We are indebted to the explanation given by the Minister that certain Government departments objected to the Japanese proposal on 19 August that Japan dump nuclear waste in the Pacific. That was information that I was not aware of previously. I did not know that there was a delegation. The last time a question was addressed to Senator Carrick or a Minister in this place he was not aware of any approaches by the Japanese to the Australian Government on this matter. I am grateful to know that the Department of Foreign Affairs objected strenuously to the proposition and that we are opposed to dumping on a permanent basis. I understand now that dumping will take place somewhere in the Pacific on a temporary basis. I will be fascinated to know how uranium waste can be dumped in the Pacific Ocean on a temporary basis.
I did not ask what the Department’s view expressed to the Japanese delegation was. I specifically asked the Minister to ask the public servants present in the gallery or, if they did not have the authority, to check with the Department of Foreign Affairs as to the accuracy of a report in the Australian on 8 September in which a spokesman for that Department is quoted as saying that the Australian Government did not express approval or disapproval at the prospect of Japan’s dumping waste in the Pacific Ocean. I specifically asked in my speech for the civil servants who service the Minister and the Government in this chamber to find out from the Foreign Affairs Department whether that statement was accurately ascribed to a spokesman of the Department. Does the Foreign Affairs Department have that view? Did the civil servants advising the Minister request any information from the Foreign Affairs Department? If not, why not? I have an oldfashioned view that civil servants are not in their positions just to service Ministers. They are there to service the Parliament and every senator and member in it. If no request to the Foreign Affairs Department was made, I will be grateful for an answer from the Minister giving the reason why.
– I am disturbed at the way the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) got his knickers in a knot when he was replying to opposition from this side of the chamber. I am disturbed that he made no reference at all to the safety factors, particularly the fairly lengthy details I gave regarding the disappearance of yellowcake from Mary Kathleen. I hoped that the Minister would give an explanation of what is happening. I understand that the National Standards Commission is carrying out certain investigations. If these things are classified I would like the Minister to say why. If he does not know, I think the onus is on him to find out. I am disturbed that by inference he said that Australia approved of the dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific. Like Senator Chipp, I refer to the Minister’s comment that it would be only on a temporary basis. Some of the elements that will be dumped have a half life of at least 25,000 years. If the Minister is not worried about posterity we can put him in the same category as the Premier of Queensland who said: ‘To hell with posterity. Let us look after today’. If the Minister has investments in some of the uranium companies I do not think he ought to be able to reply to the debate in this place. I have objected to this before.
– Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. The last comments of the honourable senator clearly are out of order. Quite frankly, that is about the level of contribution that was made before by Senator Keeffe. I ask that there be a clear withdrawal.
– There has been a request for a withdrawal, Senator Keeffe.
– I asked the Minister whether he had investments in the uranium companies and whether that was why he was approaching the matter from this angle. That is all I was doing. Either the Minister will be honest or he will be dishonest, one or the other.
– Order! The honourable senator will withdraw.
– I do not know what I have to withdraw.
– There has been an imputation that the Minister has shares in uranium mining. Senator Keeffe will withdraw that imputation immediately or I will name him.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, will you please ask the Minister what he wants me to withdraw?
– The implication that he has shares–
– I am not asking for information from the back blocks. I am asking the Temporary Chairman. He is in charge of this chamber.
– I am seeking the withdrawal of any suggestion that I have shares in a uranium company and that that is affecting my dealing with this matter.
– I merely asked whether the Minister had shares. If he is not prepared to answer that question, obviously he has something to hide. If he is offended by it, I will withdraw.
– That is hardly an unqualified withdrawal. Senator Keeffe, have you anything else to say?
– I do not know what else you want me to say.
– It has been my practice in the chamber to try to respond to matters raised in debate. I responded less than I would have to the second reading debate for the reason 1 outlined; that was that the amount of interjection was such that there seemed little point in proceeding. The extent of the interjection is borne out by the further queries raised by Senator Chipp which showed that he was not able to hear the information Iread to the Senate in response to his request that I seek information from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which I did. I was reading from a minute prepared by that Department. Although it did not specifically refer to the correctness or otherwise of the newspaper article to which Senator Chipp referred it set out facts which it appears to me are inconsistent with that report. I am not in a position to confirm or deny that a statement was made in the terms he outlined by somebody claiming to speak on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I am not able this evening to answer in the terms he had asked.
– Why aren’t you? We are debating the Bill.
– What I have done is to read a statement which covers the relevant facts. I read from a statement as to those facts from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Clearly it is inconsistent with the report to which the honourable senator referred. So the honourable senator’s question has been answered in substance. The point at which obviously he could not have been able to hear what I said was when I said that no reference was made in that statement to temporary dumping. I agree with him that the idea of temporary dumping probably is a logical absurdity. The expression was ‘trial dumping’. That expression was used twice in the statement I read to the Senate.
– It is fairly obvious that the Minister who is responsible for this legislation in this chamber should be the Minister taking this legislation through its stages in this chamber. It seems to me that we have now drifted into a practice whereby the Ministers of the Government share among themselves the responsibility of being in this place. Very often the time that a Minister spends in this place does not coincide with the time that legislation for which that Minister is responsible is before honourable Senators. If we had in the chamber now the Minister representing the Minister in the other place who is in charge of this Bill, we might be able to get some answers. I am surprised that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), who is in charge of the passage of this Bill through this chamber tonight, should be so testy. It is unusual for him to be so testy. He was testy to the point of insult. Normally he just deflects interjections, but the insult he passed was that we on this side of the chamber were playing politics. That is a serious accusation. The next thing he said was that we were insincere.
– Quite right.
– I inform Senator MacGibbon that if those sorts of comments are made the debate is extended. I do not want to read a lesson to the Minister, but the lesson that needs to be read is this: The Minister is here to get the legislation through the Parliament and not to provoke the Opposition. If this is the way the Government wants to proceed in handling Bills - if it will not have the Minister in charge of a Bill present in the chamber when that Bill is being debated - the Minister in the chamber will have all sorts of questions directed to him during debate. If the Minister handling the Bill is not able to answer those questions the Opposition will demand answers.
– Despite the fact that I have strong opinions about the mining of uranium, I have not previously entered into the debate on this Bill. But the statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) causes me a lot of concern. He corrected the statement that temporary dumping in the South Pacific was being undertaken by the Japanese and said that it was trial dumping. What is the trial for? I suppose it is to find out whether it is safe to dump there. If the trial proves that it is not safe to dump there, what damage will we have done by the time that is determined?
What is meant by ‘trial dumping’ and what is the purpose of having a trial? I can only see that it means that the trial will determine whether the dumping which is being carried out meets all the requirements of dumping. But if the trial proves that to dump there is not a satisfactory ecological proposition, what damage will we have done by the time that is determined? To my mind, if it is trial dumping that is being undertaken, we should be protesting even more than we would if it were temporary dumping. If it were temporary dumping, the material could be retrieved and put somewhere else.
– I express my concern also at the fact that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) stated in his reply - I was surprised he said this - that the Opposition opposed this Bill only for political reasons. If anyone is engaged in playing politics on the issue of uranium mining in this country, it is all the members of the Government. They continually say to people in the community that if we mine uranium we will create massive employment opportunities. Every sane person knows that uranium mining does not create employment opportunities. After a mine is prefabricated, hardly any employees are needed. That is one of the political claims used by honourable senators opposite. It is not used on this side of the chamber. Another reason why the Opposition continually opposes the mining of uranium is that we are vitally concerned about the health of the residents of Australia. The Government has not yet been able to satisfy us that it has the necessary safeguards against a health risk to this nation. All the Government is concerned about is getting the mighty dollar. It will not even get it for Australians; it will go to overseas companies.
The Minister in his reply talked about trial dumping of uranium waste in the Pacific Ocean by the Japanese, but he made no mention of the fact that the same Japanese people were in Australia just recently - I saw some of them sitting in the President’s Gallery when they were here - trying to find an inland dumping ground in Australia for 250,000 tonnes of uranium waste. No mention has been made of that. Where will it be dumped? It will be dumped in my State of South Australia. Once it is dumped there, look out for pollution of the underground water supplies of the people who live in South Australia. We are the ones who will suffer just so that the people who sit opposite can get the mighty dollar for their friends who go out of their way to finance the election campaigns of those people who sit opposite.
We on this side of the chamber continually oppose the mining of uranium in this country and we will continue to do so until we are satisfied that the Government has the necessary safeguards for the disposal of nuclear waste. The Minister has not yet been able to convince me that those necessary safeguards have been found. All he does every time he is asked about that matter is to refer to a statement put down by the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, about three years ago. Nothing new has been added to that statement. That statement does not satisfy concerned people and it will not satisfy the concern of mothers of young children about the fate of their children in years to come if nuclear waste is dumped in Australia.
I am very concerned that if the Government enters into contracts to sell uranium to overseas companies it will also enter into an agreement with those companies to take back the nuclear waste and find a home for it in Australia. I think it is an utter disgrace that we are debating a Bill such as this in this Parliament and the Minister cannot provide answers and give an absolute assurance that under no circumstances whatsoever will this Government or any other government receive back into this country any nuclear or uranium waste for disposal within the shores of this country. Until such time as the Government can give conclusive proof that it will not allow that to happen, it will not get my support for mining uranium on the fictitious argument it has put up that to do so will provide employment opportunities and solve many of our financial problems.
– The only thing I wish to do is to commend to honourable senators opposite a reading of the Hansard record, if in fact the Hansard reporters were able to hear above the noise that was heard from the other side of the chamber what I said in response to matters raised in the second reading debate. I commend it to their reading because obviously they did not understand or hear what I said. They might read also the section which relates to my comments about political purposes, to which they have objected. My comments related to the heckling that was occurring in the chamber at that time. That was the matter on which I made some rather disparaging comments.
Senator McLaren seems to have produced some information out of his head. The Government’s position on the placing of wastes in Australia, as I understand it, is quite clearly expressed as follows: The responsibility for the disposal of waste is something which has to be assumed by the user country. The honourable senator also dealt with the claim that we were promoting an industry in which all the profits would go overseas, yet I note that one or two Opposition speakers - I think Senator Robertson was one - commended the fact that 75 per cent of the company which is undertaking this project will be Australian owned.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Aboriginal Rights in Queensland
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I hope that in view of the spat that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and I have had he might now take cognisance of what I am about to say, whether or not he believes that the documents in relation to the misuse of Commonwealth funds have been leaked. To me this situation borders on a scandal. I wish to refer to statements that were made by one of the Australian Labor Party’s State candidates, Mr Brian Dobinson. He is the Labor Party candidate for the seat of Townsville, which is represented at the moment by a member of the Liberal Party. An article in the Townsville Daily Bulletin of Thursday 14 August reads:
A public inquiry into the administrative practices of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Townsville, has been called for by Townsville ALP candidate, Mr Brian Dobinson
Mr Dobinson has accused the Minister, Mr Charles Porter–
He is another great upholder of Liberal traditions–
Of failing to exercise reasonable control over his Department in the light of alleged actions at the Townsville office.
He said yesterday: ‘The whole operation here is a shambles and is contributing to a deterioriation in race relations’.
I wish now to refer to another recent incident that took place also in the Townsville region. The Minister will remember that I wrote to him asking for a Departmental inquiry but he declined this request in view of the fact that the police were inquiring into the matter. I hope that when the report of that inquiry comes to light the Minister will make sure that it gets a public airing. An article in the Townsville Daily Bulletin of 31 July states:
An inquiry will be held into a police raid yesterday on Aborigines camped near Dean Park.
Clothing, thongs and a blanket were alleged to have been burnt and some Aborigines say they were roughly handled during the pre-dawn swoop.
Townsville district’s police chief, Supt. Charles Bopf, said a senior officer would prepare a report on the matter to the Commissioner, Mr Terry Lewis.
He said two detectives and two uniformed police were sent to the camp site under the disused bridge.
This followed a complaint by a man who said he and an off-duty police officer had been assaulted.
It is significant that the name of the off-duty police officer has been suppressed in the same way as the under-cover officer, as he is called, who murdered a person allegedly associated with the drug market in Kuranda in North Queensland, has also been suppressed. That happened in Queensland, of course. I wish to refer next to other statements that have been provided for me. They concern these matters. One such statement reads:
At present there are great difficulties being experienced by a number of Aboriginals in Townsville. This flared into violence late last week after a train of various incidents. The newspaper coverage gives one aspect to the story. The Legal Aid and Race Relations committee has a very different version. They allege that the two whites–
They are the two to whom I referred a while ago; one was a hotel bouncer and the other was an off-duty policeman -
Were quite drunk when they arrived at the camp site at 3.30 a.m. in the morning soliciting the Aboriginal women. When their advances were rejected they commenced hurling obscenities at the women. Some of the older men attempted to intervene but were assaulted, whereupon the younger men became involved and were quite destructive.
One white, an off-duty police officer went and sought assistance from his mates in the CIB. They raided the camp site at 5.30 a.m. with rifles and batons. 9 Aboriginals were arrested and taken to the watch house. A quantity of blankets and possessions were subsequently burnt.
Further news coverage highlights the difficulty of housing in this area.
The problem is being compounded in a number of ways, chiefly by the ineptitude of the DAIA.
I say at this point that there is no complaint about the manager of the DAIA at Townsville, who has at all times done his best to assist. The people we are complaining about are the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, the Premier and the senior departmental head and those minions of the Department, of the Minister and of the Premier who do not carry out the provisions of the legislation which has been implemented but distort it in every way they can. The statement continues: . . Public Servants occupying government houses are required by the Public Service Board to pay rentals at fixed rates and DAIA policy is that staff members are not entitled to occupy housing which has been purchased for welfare purposes.
I shall name the two people, whose names have been given to me on reliable authority. They are occupying these houses at the welfare rental. One is Mr John Murison. He is occupying a house with his wife, who incidentally is a nurse, so there are two incomes in the family. They are paying $22.50 in rent. The second is a Mr Lloyd Schreiber. A further departmental officer is occupying space at the Aitkenvale Hostel for the princely sum of $5 per day, and I am told that his laundry is included in that price. As the Minister would know, the Aitkenvale Hostel has about a 10 per cent occupancy rate and the only reasonable job it has ever done was when the Salvation Army took over part of it as an alcoholics’ clinic. The Salvation Army has done a tremendous job, but the DAIA which was in charge of a number of huts in the area before the building of the new hostel, has not carried out the job and has not used the hostel for the purpose for which it was constructed.
I want to give some additional background information and ask the Minister to investigate certain matters involving Commonwealth money. It does not matter whether the money is laundered by the State Department or not. There is information on jobs for which no tenders were called. I will name a number of jobs for which tenders have not been called. They include a house at 109 Mcllwraith Street, Ingham. This house is in a state of disrepair but painting has been carried out on it. Other houses are at 3 Davidson Street, Ingham; 7 Macrossan Street, Ingham; 24 Clay Street, Ingham; 35 Dutton Street, Ingham; 17 Fisher Street, Ingham; 1 1 Miles Street, Ingham; 23 Dickson Street, Ingham; 2 Cockrell Street and 4 Cockrell Street, Ingham. In addition there are strong rumours, which I think are backed up by circumstantial evidence, that there are many other houses owned by the DAIA on which repairs are being carried out or on which painting has been done without tenders having been called. All of the work was done by a firm known as the Ball Brothers of Brisbane, which apparently has friends at court. It has been alleged that the Balls came to town with a letter of commendation from a Mr Grensill, who is the DAIA’s chief housing officer for Queensland. This is clearly in breach of Public Service impartiality and a breach of the DAIA’s own regulations. Their painting was substandard. They used flat plastic paint instead of the heavy duty paint which was required by specification. I am further informed that items such as roof painting were charged to the Department as extras. Again that is a clear breach of the regulations. There is a feeling that some arrangement existed to provide as much work as possible for these contractors.
Houses which had permanent water under them and which required raising were left to remain and the money was allocated to painting. Repairs to a house at 1 7 McOwen Street, Rosslea, Townsville, which amounted to $1,000, were done without tender. The DAIA supplied all materials and the price charged of $1,200 was regarded as a gift even by the contractors, as they were alleged to have openly bragged about their stroke of good fortune. That $1,200 covered only 1 2 days of labour and I am told that that was carried out by a bloke named Mr K. Guy, who is a local builder. It was obviously a well-heeled arrangement. A house at 149 Ross River Road, Townsville, was similarly repaired without tender.
DAIA officers, earning in excess of $460 a fortnight, are paying $22.50 a week for homes provided under a special Commonwealth grant for destitute Aboriginals. That again involves Commonwealth money and I have already referred to the names of people. One of these is white with an Aboriginal wife, but departmental provisions are to assess major income and to determine housing allocation. Deserted mothers are paying more than this for the same type of house. An officer of the DAIA who attempted to ensure that specifications were adhered to was relieved of his position and an attempt was made to transfer him to Mount Isa. I will not name the officer because he has already suffered enough as a result of trying to carry out an honest job. Medical certification prevented this from occurring as facilities for treating him adequately did not exist in Mount Isa.
A whole lot of other things are tied in with this misuse of Commonwealth funds by the Queensland Government. I hope that the Minister carries out a thorough inquiry. I believe that it virtually needs a royal commission. The cover-ups that are going on and have been going on for years in Queensland are totally disgraceful.
When the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was established in the late 1960s all State departments were told that they had to keep up the same amount of funding for Aboriginal affairs as they had prior to its establishment. Queensland was virtually the only State that did not do so. It has been protected by conservative governments ever since. The only time any action was taken against Queensland was in the days of the Labor Government, and particularly under Jim Cavanagh who for a period was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He cracked down on Queensland and its misuse of Commonwealth funds. I hope that Senator Chaney will take more notice of my protestations about the misuse of Commonwealth funds than he did of the Bill we debated previously.
– Senator Keeffe has raised a number of matters on which I have no immediate information. Some representations were made relating to part of what he has raised tonight but I do not have full recollection of them. 1 will, of course, put the matters he has raised under examination. I am a little concerned at the way they have been raised here tonight. Senator Keeffe is one of my most frequent correspondents. I acknowledge that. He raises many matters of detail with me in correspondence arising out of his visits around Queensland. I have commended him for his interest and enthusiasm. A couple of times I have suggested that he put matters directly to my departmental officers because they could be handled locally. 1 merely mention that point to put in context my general remark about the adjournment debate tonight.
I think it is a bit unfortunate that individuals are named and serious allegations are made about a commercial firm before there has been an opportunity to examine the matters which the honourable senator has raised. The unfortunate aspect is that the allegation has now been made publicly under privilege. If it is proved to be an allegation without substance in fact, of course, the people concerned will have been damaged without any recourse. I commend to Senator Keeffe his more usual practice of raising these matters in correspondence, purely because, I think, it enables us to safeguard any possible injustice being done to the people concerned.
Senator KEEFFE (Queensland)- Mr President, I claim to have been misrepresented. I seek leave to make a short statement.
– I appreciate what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has said. I never raise anything in this chamber unless I have documentary or other reliable evidence. I have endeavoured to raise matters through local officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Further than that, in two instances in recent times - once with a senior member of the Minister’s staff and once with the Minister personally - I have raised points. Nothing has been done about them. I sometimes feel that I have to make public statements. If anybody is ever damaged as a result of what I say I will publicly apologise. But I am assured on the best possible evidence that nothing that I have stated tonight cannot be backed up by documentary or sworn evidence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.43 p.m.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Air Force Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 246.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 247.
Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 243.
Australian National Railways Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 264.
Australian National University Act - StatutesNo. 141 - Fees Amendment No. 1. No. 142 - Student Organizations (Amenities and Services).
Commonwealth Banks Act - Appointments - W. H. Evans, S. A. Martini and C. J. Parsons. Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 265.
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 241.
Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 254.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 255.
Defence Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 Nos 244,245.
Defence Amendment Act - Interim Determinations - Statutory Rules 1 980 Nos 249, 250, 25 1 , 252.
Explosives Act - Order, by the Minister, under Regulation 67 of the Explosive Regulations, dated 2 September 1980.
Grain (Export Inspection Charge) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 Nos 259, 260.
Homes Savings Grant Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 258.
Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 262.
Navigation Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 248.
Northern Territory Representation Act and Commonwealth Electoral Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 240.
Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 261.
Seamen’s Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 253.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations 1980- No. 13 - (Health Commission Ordinance). Variation of the Plan of Layout of the City of Canberra and its Environs (Seventy-first Series), dated 9 September 1980.
Senate (Representation of Territories) Act - Regulation - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 242.
Superannuation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 257.
Tertiary Education Commission Act - RegulationStatutory Rules 1980 No. 256.
Trade Commissioners Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 263.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 6 March 1980:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) The North West Shelf natural gas project has not yet commenced production.
Estimates of the construction workforce for the North West Shelf project have recently been revised. The revised construction workforce projections are:
1981-606; 1982-1,456; 1983-4,400; 1984-2,648; 1985-274.
Preliminary siteworks for a module construction and loadout facility at Jervoise Bay have commenced, but the timing of commencement of other work on the project in the current year remains uncertain at this stage.
Pollution of the Atmosphere (Question No. 2699)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 17 April 1980:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The importance of the health aspects in the development of vehicle emissions policy is demonstrated by the fact that my Department has representation on the ATAC Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions (COMVE), and that this Committee has included a summary of the NH & MRC recommendations on air quality objectives for ozone and lead in its report which stated that:
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH & MRC) has been engaged in the formation of air quality objectives for ozone and for lead. In October/ November 1979, NH & MRC recommended that, with respect to ozone, the long-term goal should be 0. 1 2 ppm (days with maximum hourly average not to exceed one per year) with an alert at 0.25 ppm. For lead, NH & MRC believes that a 30 ug/100 ml blood level constitutes a level of concern. It has recommended a population mean level of 15 ug/ 1 00 ml to ensure the former level is rarely exceeded. To limit the contribution from the air, a maximum 3 monthly average air lead level of 1 . 5 ug/m3 is proposed by NH & MRC as a goal’.
I understand that ATAC did consider a report on the first stage of the long-term strategy at its meeting in February 1980, and approved publication of this report, noting that this did not constitute any commitment at this stage to the final outcome of the strategy. I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Transport, to make a copy available to you.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 30 April 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Aircraft: Ice on Airframes (Question No. 2773)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 May 1980:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 13 May 1980:
Does any medical evidence exist to confirm the assertion made by Adidas Sportswear spokesman, Mr Tony Steele (vide the Sydney Morning Herald, dated 3 May 1980) that a reversion to the earlier style in high ankle protection football boots would result in a higher incidence of knee injuries to players in football matches.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand that there appears to be no firm scientific evidence that would either support or refute the statement that a reversion to the earlier style of high ankle protection football boots would result in a higher incidence of knee injuries to players in football matches. The incidence of knee or indeed any other type of injury at any point in time would be affected by many external factors, including changes in general level of fitness, style and speed of the game, the degree of training of the player and the conditions under which specific games are played.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 6 March 1 980:
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 Treasurer.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 16 May 1980:
What are the names, dates and terms of appointment and salaries of all persons appointed to boards and commissions of statutory authorities under the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General.
– The attached schedule shows as at 22 August 1980, for each statutory body within my portfolio, the names of appointees, the date of their first appointment, their current term of appointment and the salary or fee received by virtue of their holding the appointment. No salary or fee is paid where the office holder is a judge, holds another full-time public office, or is employed full-time by the Commonwealth, or where no fees have been determined.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 23 May 1980:
How many paraplegics and quadraplegic are employed in: (a) the Head Office; and (b) State offices of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are no paraplegics and quadraplegic employed in Head Office or State offices of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 May 1980:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Our involvement in Indian Ocean operations will be essentially an independent, national effort. But we will also be supporting the operations of our United States ally by co-ordinating our operations with theirs.’
Well, there are a number of joint facilities in Australia. Your assumption would be correct.’
I then went on to say that I had always regarded the joint defence facilities in Australia as of great and fundamental importance.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
Under what circumstances did British national Mr John Western, charged in Bangkok with narcotics offences (vide the Sydney Morning Herald, dated 12 July 1980) reside in Australia for the last six years.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr John Western was admitted to Australia as a visitor on 4 April 1974. He was granted resident status on 31 October 1974.
Mr Western is recorded as having made two short visits overseas in 1974 and he departed again in June 1980. At that time he indicated that he was going for a holiday and would be away one month.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 20 August 1980:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Horsemeat intended for purposes other than human consumption may be exported without restriction.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 21 August 1980:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd
– On 13 May 1980 (Hansard, page 21 15) Senator McLaren asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd. The Treasurer has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Government is a joint guarantor, together with the Victorian Government, for repayments of a loan of $9 million to Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd (CF & G) by Barclays Australia Ltd, which is the principal creditor. The Commonwealth Government has taken a number of steps to protect its guarantee, including prohibiting any further borrowings by CF & G without the Government’s approval and ensuring that no moneys can be paid out under the guarantee unless and until Barclays has exercised all normal commercial steps to recover its moneys. However, the Commonwealth Government has not lent any money to CF & G and the question of the Commonwealth making a claim on the proceeds from any sale of the company or its assets prior to any payment to Barclays is therefore not relevant.
National Road Construction: Private Contractors
– On 27 August 1980 (Hansard, page 424) Senator Harradine asked me a question without notice regarding Government policy on the use of private contractors for the construction of national roads.
The Minister for Transport has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In my second reading speech on the Roads Grants Bill 1980, I indicated that the Government will be seeking to ensure that the maximum use is made of private contractors in the construction of national roads. I have since written to State and Territory Transport Ministers informing them of the Government’s objective.
National roads programs are eligible for full Commonwealth funding and comprise a substantial component of major projects. The Government is concerned to ensure that the best value for the dollar is being obtained from the substantial amount of taxpayers’ money being directed to constructing national roads, and is convinced that this can best be achieved by allowing free market forces in the roads industry to operate. For this reason, it intends to pursue this policy vigorously, and does not accept that it is a matter that should be left to the States to decide. The Government’s policy however does not preclude State and Territory road constructing authorities tendering for roadworks on the same basis as private contractors.
At this stage, there is no legislative requirement for the States to use private contractors on national roads construction. The Government however is working on the basis that when the present roads legislation is amended, this is one area which may need to be altered to give effect to its intentions. In the meantime, Transport Ministers will be having further discussions on the implementation of this policy at the Special Australian Transport Advisory Council Meeting in October to consider the present roads arrangements. No doubt these discussions will include the likely effects the policy may have on employment in the roads industry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 27 March 1980:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Detective Chief Inspector Thomas visited Greece during June and July 1978 and again in January/February 1979 as part of police investigations into alleged frauds against the Commonwealth in the Social Security area.
Detective Inspector Thomas was assisted by a Detective Inspector of the then Commonwealth Police brought from London.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 22 May 1980:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Employment on New Projects (Question No. 2960)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 1 3 May 1980:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 May 1980:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 May 1980:
I ) What types of aircraft and currently engaged on third level airline operations and what are the names of the companies operating these services.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) The following tables answer question 1 , 2 and 3. The company listing is current as of February 1 980 and performance figures are those specified in Flight and Operations Manuals for the aircraft concerned. The single engine climb performance of an aeroplane varies with weight and with atmospheric pressure and temperature. For convenience the following performance figures are given for the maximum take-off weight and sea level standard atmospheric conditions. The maximum take-off weight of an aeroplane is independent of atmospheric conditions.
There are a number of different models within several of the type groupings. In these cases a typical model has been identified and data supplied for that particular model.
THIRD LEVEL OPERATORS
Bush Pilots Airways Ltd
Butler Airlines Pty Ltd
Henebery Aviation Company
Island Air Pty Ltd
Noosa Air (Whitaker Pty Ltd)
Norfolk Island Airlines Ltd
Rundle Air Service Pty Ltd
Thorpes Transport Pty Ltd
Advance Aviation Pty Ltd
Aeropelican Intercity Commuter Air Services Pty Ltd
Clubair Pty Ltd
East Coast Commuter Airlines Ltd
Falcon & Sopac Transport Pty Ltd
Hazelton Air Services Pty Ltd
Masling Commuter Services Pty Ltd
Oxley Airlines Pty Ltd
Davey Air Services Pty Ltd
Southern Cross Air Services Pty Ltd
Navair Pty Ltd
Kendall Airlines (Premiair Aviation Pty Ltd)
Air Great Lakes
Bixjets Pty Ltd
Executive Airlines (Tasmania) Pty Ltd
Gawne Aviation Pty Ltd
Jet Charterers Nominees Pty Ltd
Murray Valley Airlines
South Coast Airlines
Sovereign Airlines (Matthews Transport Pty Ltd)
Omni Aviation Pty Ltd
North West Skyways Pty Ltd
Albatross Air Charters
Tennantair Pty Ltd
Comodore Aviation Pty Ltd
Emu Air Charter Pty Ltd
Opal Air Pty Ltd
Pagas Pty Ltd
Radford Silver City Airlines
Rossair Pty Ltd
Williams Aviation Pty Ltd
Skywest Jet Charter Pty Ltd
Avior Pty Ltd
Trans West Airlines Pty Ltd
Stillwell Airlines Pty Ltd
Ord Air Charter Pty Ltd
For turbo-jet driven aircraft and aircraft heavier than 5,700 kg, two or more pilots are required.
The minimum flight crew requirements for particular aircraft are established as part of the type certification process. Criteria for establishing a minimum crew is applied which takes into account aircraft performance, complexity, instrument and systems layout and aircraft operating environment.
Practically all propeller driven aircraft imported into Australia having a maximum take-off weight not exceeding 5,700 kg are specifically designed for single pilot operation and are certificated on that basis. Consequently, when such aircraft are employed on commuter services, single pilot operation is permissible.
Butler Airlines Pty Ltd
Henebery Aviation Company
Island Air Pty Ltd
Masling Commuter Services Pty Ltd
Omni Aviation Pty Ltd
Albatross Air Charters
Pagas Pty Ltd
Avior Pty Ltd
Ord Air Charter Pty Ltd
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 May 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 20 August 1980:
Will a Federal Grant be made to the Victorian Government for the purpose of acquiring land necessary to preserve the habitat of the big-footed potaroo in the east Gippsland forest regions?
– The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The exact distribution of the big-footed potoroo is uncertain because it was only recently discovered. Its four known locations are widely scattered and three of these are on public land, namely, National Park, Forest Reserve and unoccupied Crown Land. Consequently the Victorian wildlife authorities have indicated they do not believe that land acquisition is a priority for the conservation of this species.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 20 August 1980:
Are senators and members entitled to have push button telephones in their electorate offices; if not, why is this so, in view of the fact that senators and members have push button telephones in their Parliament House offices.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. While push button dialling telephones are no doubt more convenient to use, I am not persuaded that the substantial costs of installation and rental can be justified at this time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Statistical information concerning delays to actual flights is not maintained by the Department.
Details of retrictions and closures during 1980 are as follows:
January-April - nil.
May - one closure between 1 1 p.m. and 6. 1 5 a.m., restricted service on one occasion.
June - restricted service on eight occasions.
July - one closure between 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m., restricted service on ten occasions.
August - four closures, three between 1 1 p.m. and 6.15 a.m., and one between midnight and 6.15 a.m., restricted service on one occasion.
Most of the restricted service periods were during the 2.30 p.m. to 4. 1 5 p.m. period when traffic was light. Some delays were experienced by aircraft during these times.
The matter of staffing arrangements for air traffic controllers is currently under review within the Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 26 August 1980:
1 ) How much money has been allocated under the:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The answer to Part (a) is detailed in Table 1 .
The answer to Part (b) is detailed in Table 2.
The answer to Part (c) is detailed in Table 3.
Oil Tanker Disasters
– On 19 August 1980 (Hansard, page 20) Senator Mulvihill in a question without notice sought information whether the Government has studied the findings of the Irish tribunal of inquiry into the explosion and loss of the tanker Betelguese at Bantry Bay on 8 January 1979 and whether a blitz could be imposed on certain tankers to prevent a repetition of the Bantry Bay disaster.
The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has made arrangements to obtain a copy of the Irish Royal Commission’s Report and will be examining the Report to see if any measures in addition to those mentioned below ought to be applied in Australia.
The Commonwealth Department of Transport is responsible for oversighting the safety standards on all ships engaged in overseas or interstate trades. Generally this involves ensuring that international convention standards are maintained in regard to the hull, machinery and equipment including lifesaving appliances, fire appliances and radio installations. State port authorities are responsible for ensuring that cargo operations are carried out safely within their ports and that adequate emergency services are available.
Following a number of major tanker fires and explosions in the ports of other countries which caused loss of life and considerable property damage, a tanker surveillance program was instituted in Australia on1 August 1977. The program is designed so that as far as possible every foreign registered tanker visiting Australia is inspected by a marine surveyor on each voyage, and every tanker engaged in the interstate trade is inspected at three monthly intervals.
The surveillance program was instituted with the full cooperation of the oil industry, and a Tanker Safety Advisory Group consisting of departmental officers and representatives of the Australian Chamber of Shipping regularly meets to review the surveillance reports and ensure that the procedures adopted keep pace with changes in technology and methods of cargo transfer. In this regard the introduction of inert gas blanketing and crude oil washing exemplify the continuing development of hazard and pollution prevention techniques.
The honourable senator will be aware from the Australian Transport Annual Report 1978-79 at page 105 that the implications of the Betelguese disaster have already been noted by the Department in reviewing the surveillance procedures.
As to the safety of tanker operations at Australian terminals, my predecessor and I have raised this matter with our State counterparts at recent meetings of the Marine and Ports Council of Australia. At the June 1980 meeting of the Council, Ministers requested officials to undertake a comprehensive Commonwealth/State examination of this matter and that examination is proceeding as a matter of high priority.
The honourable senator can rest assured that the Government is very conscious of the hazards in the transfer of crude oil at port installations and has taken, and will continue to take, prompt measures to ensure the safety of personnel, property and the environment.
Victorian Transport System: Funding
– On 20 August 1980 (Hansard, page 129) Senator Wriedt asked me a question without notice concerning payments made to Victoria for urban public transport and transport planning and research.
The Minister for Trnasport has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Commonwealth grants to Victoria for urban public transport in 1980-81 will total $1 3.5m. This compares with an amount of $12. 196m for which provision was made in the 1975-76 Budget. It is therefore incorrect to state that Victoria this year will receive $2.3m less for urban public transport than it received in the last year of the previous Government.
The allocation determined by the previous Government for payment to Victoria for transport planning and research for 1975-76 was $2.733m. In total, therefore, the previous Government made provision for amounts totalling $ 1 4.929m to be made available to Victoria in 1975-76 for urban public transport and transport planning and research. Indexed forward using the consumer price index, this amount is equivalent to$24. 721m (in June 1980 prices).
The comparable allocations for Victoria in the 1980-81 Budget total $15. 1 68m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 September 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800909_senate_31_s86/>.