31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) left Australia on 13 September 1980 to attend trade discussions with the European Economic Community in Brussels. The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Sinclair) will act as Minister for Trade and Resources until Mr Anthony returns to Australia on 23 September 1980.
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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the Women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian Women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Bonner and Senator Carrick. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Mason and Senator Puplick. Petitions received.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, has indicated to the Government a definite date for his retirement. Have consultations taken place with State Attorneys-General with regard to the selection of a replacement as required by the High Court of Australia Act? Is the Minister in a position to dispel rumours which have been circulated on radio programs in the last few days to the effect that in the event of the re-election of the Fraser Government a present Minister, Mr R. J. Ellicott, will be appointed to that position?
– The answer to Senator Button’s question is no, the Chief Justice has not indicated a date for his retirement. He has applied for and has been granted leave for three months from 1 September this year. That is the only matter I have had from the Chief Justice in regard to his attendance in his usual place in the Court. In that event, the other matters raised in the question do not arise.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. It relates to the problems at Loy Yang in Victoria. Has the Minister seen the report that Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd has decided to cut its losses and not tender for future projects at the Latrobe Valley’s newest power station, Loy Yang, due to sustained losses caused by industrial disputes which have stopped work for over four months, and that after four months of having capital equipment lying idle five other companies also are suffering substantial losses? Does this disputation not clearly indicate how irresponsible action of a minority of militant unionists can deny employment to the vast majority of responsible employees and force companies into bankruptcy? Is this not an indication of the fallacy of the so-called social contract between the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Is this disputation not reflected in the number of–
– I raise a point of order. The honourable senator is obviously using a shallow device to make a statement during Question Time. I think he ought to be called to order.
– There is no point of order.
– Is this disputation not reflected in the number of unemployed people in the Latrobe Valley, not only on site but also in the many supporting industries in the area?
– It is certainly true that the matters raised by Senator Lewis are of great importance and are in fact a grave threat to the development of the necessary power resources that this nation, and Victoria in particular, will require. I will refer the detailed matters of concern to the Minister for Industrial Relations who is the Minister responsible for these matters. He may like to add to the answer that I have given.
– Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had discussions with his colleague the Minister for Education in the Northern Territory concerning the closure of Dhupuma College? Since the majority of communities involved are refusing to allow their children to attend Kormilda, I ask: What arrangements have been made or are being considered to cater for the educational needs of these young people?
– I have not had a conversation with the Minister for Education. The Minister for Education was on leave at the time I tried to contact him. I made a number of attempts to contact him, but he was on leave when I caught up with his office. I had a talk to the leader of the Government in the Northern Territory, Mr Paul Everingham, about the matter. He was Acting Minister for Education at the time. He outlined to me the substantial financial reasons why the college closure was necessary.
I will not attempt to reproduce from memory the figures which were mentioned in the telephone conversation, but they involved an extremely high cost per student, a cost which he said was simply beyond the Government to continue. He assured me that alternative places were available for children in similar institutions - not of course in the same town, but in either Darwin or Alice Springs. I think they are the other two centres. He undertook to provide further information to me on the matter, making it quite clear that the Government’s view was that the college could not be reopened. I have received further material from him which I have not yet had a chance to examine in detail. That is the state of things since the matter was last raised in the Senate.
- Mr President, I direct a question to you. Have you seen a letter in today’s Canberra Times which is a despicable attack on the 140 members of the staff of the Senate? I say despicable’ not only because it is slanderous and inaccurate but also because it is anonymous. What action can be taken on this matter? Will you make it clear that the criticism is not only intemperate but also grossly inaccurate?
– Yes, I have seen the letter to which you refer, Senator Knight. I disassociate myself entirely from its contents, as I am sure do all honourable senators.
Honourable senators - Hear, hear!
– It is written from a stance of ignorance of the conduct of this place, of the role of the Presiding Officers, and of the staff, whom I regard, as do all honourable senators, as most loyal and dedicated officers.
– Hear, hear!
– As to what can be done in respect of the letter, Senator Knight and honourable senators, I shall go into that, I agree that it is a despicable attack on men and women who do us great service in this place.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. It relates to the case in Sydney in which 21 people have been charged with an alleged conspiracy to defraud the Department of Social Security and which has lasted two years and cost many millions of dollars. Is it a fact that one of the 21 people who were originally charged has recently had the charge against him dropped, has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and has been given a bond in another court? As this man is shortly to give evidence in the case, is this an arrangement for the prosecution to continue the case? How many other people who have been charged have been asked at this later date to plead guilty to a lesser charge and therefore receive effective immunity against a more serious charge?
– I have not heard of the matter to which Senator Grimes referred. I do not know whether one of the present batch of 21 defendants in the case has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. I will have to make inquiries from the Crown Solicitor in regard to the matter before I can answer the question further.
– I ask a supplementary question. I asked: Have any other people who have been charged been approached to take a similar course? Can the Minister obtain information about that?
– I will make the same inquiries.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the recently announced Government decision that a new requirement to license imports of certain work trucks and stacking machines is to apply from 1 April 1980 to 31 March 1981 and that the value of these goods will be limited to $3m. Is the Minister aware of the considerable concern amongst importers of this equipment that they may not now be able to meet their obligations to customers who have ordered goods from them? Can the Minister indicate the reasons for the Government’s decision?
– I have a brief from the Department of Industry and Commerce on this matter. It indicates that a reference was sent to the Temporary Assistance Authority on 7 May 1980 asking whether short term assistance should be provided for the local industry producing battery electric fork lift trucks, stackers and pallet trucks and manually operated stackers. The Authority found that, because of a decline in the market, imports had increased their market share at the expense of local production, and that there was a continuing and significant threat of disruption to the local industry because of substantia] stock levels held by importers. That suggests that there should be no problem for would-be customers for these goods.
The Authority reported that it was necessary that urgent action be taken to assist the industry and that short term assistance could best be provided by import licensing. The Government announced on 9 September that it had decided to accept the Authority recommendation that all goods under reference be subject to import licensing for 12 months. Import licences will be limited to a total value of $3m for all goods from 1 April 1980 to 31 March 1981. I think that adequately answers the question asked by the honourable senator, but I have additional and more detailed information which I will make available to him. He can let me know if he has any further inquiries.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the winning tender for the sale of 12 Royal Australan Air Force Hercules transport planes has collapsed, not because the winning tenderer, Parmax Incorporated and Global Jet of Forth Worth, Texas, lacks the funds, as has been claimed, but because the United States Government has vetoed the sale as the planes were to be diverted to Libya in defiance of a ban on sales of military equipment to that country arising from its support for terrorism? Can the Minister give the Senate any details on this matter?
– I will seek out the information.
– Has the Minister for National Development and Energy seen further statements by Mr Keating of the Australian Labor Party that the Labor Party would freeze the price of petrol for 12 months and then adjust it moderately in accordance with the consumer price index? What effect would this have on the overall Australian crude oil situation, particularly when related to the Labor Party’s policy for a resource tax?
– I have seen a series of statements by Mr Keating and I have seen a series of contradictory statements by other Labor members.
- Senator Walsh will be delighted to know, by Mr Hurford. I will tell him what Mr Hurford said. Mr Hurford is reported as saying in answer to a question that the cost of freezing the price of petrol would be a cost in terms of imported oil, which would have risen in price over a period, and that would need a subsidy. The cost of a subsidy for imported oil to overcome the freeze would be a little matter of an additional amount of about $250m a year! So it goes. There have been a couple of hundred promises so far - involving up to $2,000m. So the cost is added to more and more.
– Where was that reported?
– If, by interjection, there is a denial that there will be a subsidy on the imported oil, let us have it. That would only add further to the confusion. The Labor Party’s policy on oil prices is a hoax. If we create an artificial freeze on the price of oil, we stop conservation, we encourage its use, we run out of oil faster in Australia, we are more in peril in depending upon the overseas scene and there is a slowing down of conversion. Spokesmen for those ventures which are already engaged in or contemplating synthetic oil production are emphatic that unless import parity pricing prevails they cannot function. Therefore the price of having no import parity is having no synthetic fuel and therefore having no fuel in the long term for Australia.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, by saying that last week I referred to the theft of jewellery from an Australian by officers of the Bureau of Customs. I read the reply of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Mr J. E. Richardson, that in his investigation he found defective administration in the Bureau of Customs. I ask the Minister: What was the defective administration that the Ombudsman found and what has been done to rectify it?
– I shall refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. How many charges have been laid and how many convictions have been recorded for false claims under the Export Market Development Grants Act and the Export Expansion Grants Act since the commencement of these Acts? Are all claims checked for authenticity? Is the checking procedure considered adequate?
– What about Chrysotile? How much did Sinclair get?
– I think I heard the interjection: ‘How much did Sinclair get?’
– From the Chrysotile grant.
– It was: ‘How much did Sinclair get?’ I take objection to that, Mr President.
– Order! Objection is taken. Withdraw, Senator Walsh.
– If he finds it offensive I will withdraw it, Mr President.
– Without nitpicking, it is not a question of whether I find a matter offensive; it is a question of whether it is offensive under the Standing Orders.
– The interjection was unparliamentary and offensive. It has to be withdrawn.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. Under what Standing Order is it offensive to ask what payment was made to someone? It may be that no payment was made. Then the Minister may reply to that effect. But surely that is not offensive.
– I refer to Standing Order 418. Any imputation or inference is not allowed under that Standing Order. There was an inference, an imputation, in the interjection. I have ruled on the matter.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. It has become a practice in this chamber for honourable senators to take objection to a half-muttered interjection and then for us to proceed to have a series of points of order with half the Senate not knowing what the matter is all about.
– I repeated it.
– Then repeat it.
– I did repeat it.
– It was not repeated clearly enough, as far as I am concerned. It appears that Senator Walsh, by interjection, made some sort of statement and it was picked up by some honourable senators. Such statements should be made known to all honourable senators so that they can have a chance to put a view.
– This place will operate much more effectively and expeditiously if each one of us is determined to conform to the spirit of this place and to the Standing orders and to use parliamentary language at all times.
– On both sides.
– Yes, right across the whole gamut of the Parliament. That is the point. All of us are here, pro tern, as custodians of a magnificent system. It behoves us all to do our utmost to ensure that we transmit our democratic way of life and government in a good and acceptable manner. I ask every honourable senator to realise at all times that nobody is here more than as a pro tern custodian of a system.
– Senator Archer asked me how many charges had been laid under the Export Market Development Grants Act. I am able to say that three charges have been laid under section 39; one conviction has been recorded and two charges have yet to be resolved. One charge has been laid under section 1 8 of the Export Expansion grants Act and is yet to be resolved. All claims are checked for authenticity and the procedures developed by the Export Development Grants Board for ensuring that all claims are genuine are considered to be adequate.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. The Government has refused to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to allow wives of servicemen who are living abroad with their husbands to vote in the election on 18 October. Will the Government reconsider its stand and place urgent legislation before the Parliament to allow Service wives living in such places as Malaysia and the United States of America to vote and elect the next Federal government?
– I think it is quite obvious to all honourable senators that the Government is not likely to introduce fresh legislation at this stage of the parliamentary sitting. The answer is no.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Bearing in mind the number of authorities, including air charter, quarantine, Customs et cetera, participating in various ways in the surveillance of Australia’s northern coast, is it the intention of the Government to review the overall operation to ensure the utmost efficiency in this work? In view of the complexities of carrying out northern security, has the Government considered establishing one authority to perform those duties which are beyond the responsibility of the defence forces but which presently overlap State and Federal government activities? Has consideration been given to minimising any possible restriction brought about in this area by the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act?
– The Senate’s new left winger.
– I never thought I would hear Senator McAuliffe laugh at a man’s affliction in that way.
– I said that he is a left winger.
– I thought it was a very good joke. We will do something to his right arm afterwards. Civil coastal surveillance was upgraded by the Commonwealth in June 1978. At that time it was the Government’s intention to achieve maximum utilisation of existing resources and also to compile a data base upon which a review of coastal surveillance could be carried out. The standing interdepartmental committee on coastal surveillance will report to Cabinet during mid- 1981. The Government will, at that time, review the overall operation. Senator Kilgariff asks about the possibility of a single authority performing the duties which are beyond the responsibility of the defence forces but overlap other government activities. The establishment of an organisation capable of co-ordinating the tasks involved is one of the many options available to the Government. It is one of the options that will be examined by government in the middle of next year.
The Aboriginal land rights situation has not posed a problem in the area of coastal surveillance. My advice is that there have been negotiations involving the Department of Transport and my own Department, which has acted as the contact point for the Aboriginal land councils involved, and that there has been a high degree of co-operation. The Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are well aware of the benefits to them, as to other Australians, from effective surveillance. Although they are concerned to restrict access to areas of their land, there has not been a problem with respect to surveillance and there has been no indication that they want to hinder the activities of government in this regard. The matter raised by the honourable senator is of considerable importance to all Australians, not only those who live in the north. I welcome his question. I can assure him that the Government will proceed with the review in the middle of next year and we look forward to parliamentary attention to the matter again at that time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and follows a question asked in this place yesterday by Senator Button. Did the Prime Minister sign a document conjointly with an Aboriginal spokesman in Warrnambool last Friday relative to an Aboriginal land claim at Framlingham? What was the content of the document, its purpose and its value? Will the Minister make a copy of the document available to the Parliament?
– I have not seen any document signed by the Prime Minister and Mr
Clarke. If it does exist I will get a copy of it and I am sure there would be no problem about making it available to the Parliament. I think all honourable senators would welcome the possibility of an amiable solution to this problem which has been around for some months. Since Senator Button asked his question I have caught up with the fact that the Opposition in Victoria is also anxious to see a solution to the matter. I am hopeful that in this case the Government of Victoria, the Opposition in Victoria, the Aboriginals at Framlingham and the Federal Government will all be pleased with the result.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Education to a report in the Australian newspaper that the Council of the University of Adelaide will on Thursday hold a rally concerning the Federal Government’s funding of tertiary education. For the University of Adelaide in 1981, has there been any cut in the whole area of recurrent funding? For the University of Adelaide in 1981, what are the other types of funding? In these areas what are the levels of funding that the Government has decided upon? Finally, with regard to major capital projects at the University of Adelaide, what projects have been funded in recent years and at what cost?
– As honourable senators will know, under the fixed triennial funding arrangements for universities re-introduced by this Government, there have been no reductions in recurrent funding during the 1979-81 triennium. In fact, recurrent funding is the same in real terms irrespective of whether there is a decrease or otherwise in enrolments. In the case of the University of Adelaide about which Senator Teague asks, its operating grant for 1981 amounts to $44.75m which includes general recurrent, equipment, special research, teaching hospitals and student residences costs. The grant is marginally below the grant for 1980 which was $44.94m in real terms but effectively the same. With regard to major capital projects, no new major building projects will commence at the university in 1981. However, a major building project, the medical sciences building, was recently completed at a total cost of $7.4m. For minor building projects the university will receive $300,000 in 1981 compared with $269,000 in 1980 in real terms.
– I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the statement made by the Prime Minister in his 1977 election campaign when he predicted a 2 per cent fall in interest rates. He said:
This is a target that can and will be achieved.
I ask the Leader of the Government: As this was in 1977 a target that the Prime Minister was prepared to state categorically could and would be achieved, why has the Government since decided that it would renege on its promise?
– The Government has not decided to renege on its promise. The Government is wholly committed to the defeat of inflation in Australia so that Australia’s inflation rate and interest rates can be competitive with the world at large. The fact is that over a period, following upon that promise, there was a significant fall in interest rates, of the order of H or 1 i per cent. It so happens that in the intervening period in the areas of the free world with which we trade - particularly the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Europe - interest rates soared to the ceiling, to the order of IS, 16 and 17 per cent, and that caused pressure on our interest rates. At the moment the thrust of our antiinflation policies is to have a depressed effect upon interest rates and, in the longer term, to subdue them.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate state once again the Government’s policy on compulsory national service? I ask this question because Senator Ryan, while in Hobart just a few days ago, stated that following the election the Government intended to introduce compulsory military service. I feel that the situation must once again be clarified.
– My understanding is that the new Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, bereft of anything else to say, has claimed that compulsory national service will be reintroduced. I can understand his desperation because he is on record as saying:
I think we can forget the prospect of a national Labor Government for these two elections, say for six or seven years.
Against that background one would expect him to say desperate things. He has stated not only a desperate thing but also a totally inaccurate thing. Yesterday the Prime Minister made it abundantly clear that compulsory national service will not be introduced.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for National Development and Energy: Did the Prime Minister make a specific electoral undertaking in 1977 that the Fraser Government would lower country retail pertrol prices to within a cent per litre of the normal city retail price without any resultant increase in city prices? 1 ask whether the Minister’s attention has been drawn to this statement attributed to the Deputy Prime Minister last Friday:
I am afraid that cannot be done and I certainly have never said that because I understand the problem. The problem is one where we have not got the constitutional power to be able to do it.
Has the Minister for National Development and Energy received any such advice that the undertaking made by the Prime Minister in 1 977 is in fact unconstitutional? If so, when was that advice received, who gave it and is the Minister prepared to table a copy of that advice in the Senate?
– The Prime Minister, in his 1977 policy speech, undertook to introduce a freight equalisation scheme which would have the effect of equalising petrol prices between city and country areas within their own margins. That is a fact. The Government set about equalising the wholesale prices and indeed has succeeded in a scheme which, in terms of the wholesale price, has produced an even narrower margin. The wholesale price has been equalised and the taxpayers of Australia are paying something like $123m a year for that equalisation scheme. Within the legislation it is competent for any State government to act on the margin of retail prices, the wholesale prices having been established. It is fully within the competence of any State government to take from that base and to make retail price arrangements which would in fact give a true equalisation. We have acted within our capacity.
I am bound to say that the Labor Party has made a promise on retail prices but it has not said how it can carry it out. It says it will equalise. Dependent upon the nature of country sales - whether it is the total sales of motor spirit or sales through retail outlets - the additional cost to the taxpayer will be between $220m and $475m. The Commonwealth Government has taken the steps necessary for the equalisation of prices. The fact is that in country areas - in some areas there is an absence of discounting and in others the retail mark-up is higher through lack of competition and for a number of other reasons - the matter is one for State governments, and they are perfectly competent to act. If Senator McClelland has any doubts about the constitutional responsibility I refer him to Mr Einfield, who accepted that country retail prices in New South Wales are a State constitutional matter and set about acting accordingly.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question flowing from his answer. Is he now dishonouring the 1977 election undertaking of the Prime Minister? I specifically asked not whether Mr Einfeld had given any advice but whether the Minister had in fact received any advice that the undertaking was unconstitutional.
– Rather than dishonouring the promise, we have wholly fulfilled the promise to the tune of the $123m that has been committed. I have not seen a constitutional opinion. It is accepted by the States that they have the constitutional power over retail prices. The New South Wales Government has accepted and has announced that and has taken steps to act upon it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Does the appointment by the Labor Party Caucus yesterday of a new shadow Minister for Industrial Relations entitle this person to a salary as shadow Minister with all the staff and financial emoluments that a shadow ministry entails?
– The honourable senator must so couch his questions as to make it relate to the responsibilities of the Minister.
– I am. I am directing the question to Senator Chaney as Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Was the appointment, which is probably unprecedented in Australian parliamentary history and literally quite extraordinary, forced on the Parliamentary Labor Party by the inadequacies of its present members?
- Mr President, I take a point of order. This matter does not come within the ministerial responsibility of the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services in this place. In fact, there was no meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party Caucus yesterday. There is no way in which a nonmember of parliament can possibly have the resources available to either members of parliament or shadow Ministers. The position is laid down strictly within the Remuneration Tribunal decisions on the Parliament. It is not within the province of a Minister to comment upon such conjecture.
– There is no point of order.
– I congratulate the honourable senator for the very nearly accurate answer he gave to the question I have been asked.
I can only assume that there has been collusion and that he had notice of the question. My understanding is that the emoluments and various privileges that apply to being a member of the shadow Ministry would apply only to a member of parliament. On the other hand, I think it is possible for a person who is not a member of the Parliament to be appointed as a Minister for at least a limited time, and no doubt such a person would be entitled to get the emoluments which go with that office. The positions of Opposition spokesmen, 1 should have thought, are positions which depend on membership of the Parliament. I will check that, but I should have thought that the provisions of the Remuneration and Allowances Act would apply only to the colleagues of Mr Hawke who are already members of this Parliament. As far as the question of the appointment is concerned, I do not believe that it is within my ministerial responsibility to comment on the quality of the Opposition. I think the quality of the Opposition members speaks for itself.
– My supplementary question to the Minister is: Will Mr Michael Young resign and lose his entitlements, in view of this appointment?
– I will have to take that question on notice. I have no doubt that the Opposition Leader will notify the appropriate authorities as to the status of Mr Young, and that Mr Young’s emoluments will be determined accordingly. I would not want there to be anything churlish in this question. I believe that all honourable senators will welcome Mr Hawke to the position of an Opposition spokesman and hope that he retains that position for a lengthy time.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government and it refers to interest rates. The most recent month for which the Reserve Bank has published the market interest yield for long term government bonds is July 1980. The figure for July 1980 is 11.78 per cent. In July 1975 the figure was 10 per cent. How does the Government reconcile those facts with its boast about controlling and reducing interest rates?
– I pointed out that the battle to control both inflation and interest rates is a battle which this Government has accepted as the vital battle to maintain the economy and indeed the stability of the living standards of the Australian people. We have done very well compared with the world outside. In terms of inflation we now have a figure some 3 per cent or 4 per cent below the average of our trading partners. We had hoped to be able to ease interest rates as such, but the external pressures from both America and Britain - whose figures ran well into 1 5 per cent to 1 6 per cent over periods - of course, had effect and caused a heating. Those who genuinely want interest rates to fall want to work towards the success of the economic policies of the Government because they are designed to bring down inflation and, therefore, to take the heat off interest rates.
– I ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister concede that the present all-time record yield on long term government bonds reveals upward market pressures on interest rates? Is this the reason the Government called the election to be held six weeks before it would normally be due?
– I can understand the anxiety of Senator Walsh and his party at the Government’s calling an election. I can understand that in its disarray it would hope that the election would be postponed indefinitely. From time to time there are pressures on interest rates. I will not forecast the movement in interest rates. The whole thrust of the Government’s economic policies will be towards reducing inflation and, subsequently therefore, putting a depression upon interest rates.
– Is the Minister for National Development and Energy aware that the uranium enrichment specialist advisory committee established by the Dunstan Government presented three progress reports to the previous Labor Government in South Australia recommending that a uranium enrichment plant should be established in that State? Has the Minister been informed that the Port Pirie City Council unanimously supports this concept and is anxious that a plant be constructed in that city? ls the Minister aware also that the previous Labor Government in South Australia authorised the construction of a bridge across the gulf at Port Pirie leading to an area that it is rumored was reserved for such a plant? Does the Minister know that the local people at Port Pirie now refer to this bridge as ‘the bridge to nowhere’? As the present Tonkin Government is anxious to proceed with the initiatives taken by the previous Government in respect of this important industrial development, can the Minister explain the change in attitude of the ALP Opposition in that State to the establishment of an industry which will provide tremendous job opportunities in that area of South Australia?
– During the period of the previous State Labor Government in South Australia there was an extraordinarily ambivalent attitude towards any kind of mining or enrichment of uranium. On the one hand, it was mouthed loudly that Labor would support the general policy of opposition to any uranium development. On the other hand, there was evidence that the Government of the day was making all sorts of investigations into the possibility of setting up both mining and enrichment processes. Indeed, leases were being let outside Adelaide for uranium development. There was a great deal of ambivalence. The real situation was that in the end there was total inactivity on the part of the Dunstan Labor Government. Rightly, that inactivity over the whole industrial field led to its downfall.
I am aware of the interests of the Port Pirie City Council in the development of such an industry. I was not aware of the story of the alleged bridge across the gulf, but then that would be just one of the hundreds of promises that Labor made and did not keep. I know that the present Tonkin Government is very keen to bring industries of all kinds, particularly labour intensive industries, to South Australia. I know of the interests of the Tonkin Government in uranium enrichment. It is closely working with the Uranium Enrichment Group of Australia. In the months ahead 1 hope that the Group will be able to report.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. I refer to the mean-minded decision of the Government to prevent teachers from making a free Xerox copy of a work or article to help in the preparation and planning of classes. The Government, as the Minister knows, now requires teachers to pay remuneration to the author or publisher of material used. I ask: What teacher organisations, whether within the public or private sector, were consulted before the Government decision was reached? If those organisations were consulted, what was their response? Where any teachers, as opposed to State department bureaucracies, consulted as to the detrimental effect that this Government decision will have on this common way of organising basic material for a class?
– Because I have no information with me on this matter I ask the honourable senator to place his question on the Notice Paper.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Following my previous comments regarding the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s ability to perform certain tasks, I ask the Minister whether he has noted a report in today’s Australian Financial Review alleging that a committee of review of the ABC is planning to conduct a major qualitative research study into the kinds of people who watch and listen to ABC programs and to find out why approximatley 85 per cent of the taxpayers do not tune in to the stations which their money provides. Further, is this survey being conducted on the premise that the ABC seems to have lost contact with the people it is meant to serve?
– I have not seen the report in the Australian Financial Review to which the honourable senator referred. I was not familiar with the fact that research of this kind was to be done. As a somewhat inveterate watcher of Australian Broadcasting Commission television when time permits, I regret that I might be in a 15 per cent minority. I will make some inquiries about the matters raised by the honourable senator and see what conclusions should be drawn from them by the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It concerns Australia’s Irish connection, a connection which was developed in various memorable ways by the Whitlam Government, but which the Fraser Government now appears prepared to allow to lapse. I refer in particular to the university chair in Australian history at Dublin, which was the subject of a $60,000 grant or endowment for five years by the Whitlam Government and which is apparently about to lapse with no further action being announced to renew it by this Government. Does the Minister acknowledge the utility and significance of this chair in Australian-Irish relations? Will he concede the miserable quality of the present endowment, particularly when compared with the Sim given to the Australian chair at Harvard, and the $160,000 which the Prime Minister announced for the centre for Australian studies in London last month? Will he promise that the chair will continue to be endowed at an appropriate level?
– I must say I find it intriguing that there is an alleged empathy between the Whitlam Government and the Irish, except for the old Irish jokes. 1 noticed today the old story of the Irish execution squad which formed itself into a circle. In fact nothing could be more typical of the Opposition here. I do not know the circumstances concerning the endowment of the chair in Dublin.
– One-third of Australians are of Irish descent. You want to be careful.
– The last thing I would do would be to think other than kindly and warmly of the Irish, including the Ryans, but with some tolerance in that regard. The fact is that I do not know the background concerning the chair at Dublin. 1 will seek the information and see whether any statement can be made.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the controversy which has arisen, particularly in Victoria, in regard to the legislation known as the Act of Settlement 1700 which provides that no aliens and those born outside Britain or its dominions, whether naturalised or not, can hold public offices of trust, and to the question which has arisen as to whether Victorian public servants and even members of parliament might be affected by this antique piece of legislation. Will the AttorneyGeneral make available to members of parliament the opinion which I understand the SolicitorGeneral has given in connection with this matter? Have there been discussions about whether legislation is necessary by the Commonwealth to achieve the determination of this situation or whether the Commonwealth proposes to take some action to remove this and other outdated pieces of legislation which are still on the statute books?
– There seems to have been a difference of legal opinion. The Victorian legal advisers had indicated that the Act of Settlement applied to those who were appointed to positions of public trust in Victoria. The matter was raised with me by the Victorian Attorney-General, Mr Storey, one day last week. He conveyed to me some concern about the situation, which was quite justified. I asked Mr Byers, the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, to look at it. He took the contrary view and gave me a very short opinion to that effect. It is not normal to table opinions of the Solicitor-General, but I will take into consideration that request from Senator Missen.
The position is that I have had some discussions with Mr Storey as to ways and means by which the immediate problem in Victoria could be overcome. I have not had any response from Mr Storey within the last day or two. From my reading of the Press this morning, I rather fancy that the Victorians may have solved the problem themselves for the time being. I think we could have taken immediate action in this Parliament to overcome the problem if we had had time to exercise our powers with respect to aliens and naturalisation.
This difficulty has revealed another example of a broader problem, and that is what we call residual links, other than links with the Crown, between States and the British Parliament. That is under consideration at the moment by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General at the request and direction of the Premiers Conference. That was decided at the Premiers Conference before last and was the subject of further consideration at the last Premiers Conference. We hope that by the next Premiers Conference a settlement of all these problems will be recommended to the Premiers and that Commonwealth and State legislation will be introduced to overcome them. It is a question of determining how many of these residual links demand legislative attention. Others may require other attention. But I am sure the matter will be resolved in the not too distant future.
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Development and Energy although it has both mineral and environmental overtones. By way of preface I refer to the accepted principle in the Senate that adherence to the second Fox report regarding environmental policy in the Northern Territory is a litmus test of the Government’s credibility. How does the Government reconcile the accepted principle of the Fox report that any uranium mining should be confined to the East Alligator catchment region with the announcement by the Treasurer on Sunday that the green lignt had been given for the Koongarra project, which is in the South Alligator region, in direct defiance of the Fox directive? Further, does he not believe that these ad hoc decisions will mean that the whole of the Kakadu National Park will be pockmarked with mining projects? In comparison, as reported in the London Economist, the Carter Government has put 106 million acres of Alaska permanently off limits for mining. How does the Minister compare the two policies?
– I will need to refresh my mind on what the Treasurer’s statement on Sunday was about. I do not think it was about a decision to proceed with uranium mining. I think it was about the internal structure of the corporation taking over the project. I do not think therefore that there is a need to reconcile the one or other action with the Fox report. Nevertheless I will have the matter examined. The Government has kept faith and has proceeded to make Kakadu one of the great national parks of the world. It will ensure that it is unspoiled.
– Because of the possible importance of the alternative government’s programs to the Australian economy and future investment, will the Minister representing the Treasurer provide for the Senate costings of the Labor Opposition’s promises? Will he also comment on their potential significance for the economy?
– Do you have them before you?
- Senator Georges asks whether I have before me information on the cost of the Labor Party’s promises. The answer is yes.
– Mr President, I take a point of order. It must be obvious that the question has nothing to do with the ministerial responsibilities of Senator Carrick. If the question is allowed we will be in for a merry time for the next couple of days, I assure you.
– Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. As I understand it, the question asked what impact the Labor party’s policies would have upon the economy of Australia. The question is of direct relevance to a number of my representative portfolios and my own portfolio.
- Mr President, speaking to the point of order, do I take it that the Minister is in a position to answer the question? I recall asking him to provide costings of Labor Party promises. I think that it is within his competence as Minister representing the Treasurer to do that.
– It is within his competence but he is not honest enough to answer.
– Order! Senator Grimes, again you have used unparliamentary words. You have said that the Minister is ‘not honest enough’. That implies that he is a dishonest person. Withdraw. You know you should not use those words in this place.
– With due respect, Mr President, I merely pointed out that it is within the Minister’s competence to give costings for Labor Party programs, but that he was competent to do so only if he was honest enough to give honest estimates. No one on this side of the chamber believes for a minute that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is capable of giving honest estimates of Labor Party programs, any more than he is capable of giving other accurate figures in this place.
– It was an attack on the Minister’s character, Senator Grimes. Withdraw.
– Mr President, I just cannot see that that is an attack on the character of the Leader of the Government.
- Senator Grimes, when you say ‘not honest enough’ that surely charges the Minister with being a dishonest person. That is not allowed under the Standing Orders.
– Mr President, let us be frank about this matter. It arises in the context of a Dorothy Dix question from a Liberal politician to the Minister on the costing of Labor Party programs, which is not within the Minister’s responsibility. In that context, which is clearly a highly political context, it is quite proper for an honourable senator to query whether the answer will be an honest one. That does not mean that Senator Carrick’s honesty as to whether he steals money or things of that kind is being impugned. It goes to the question of intellectual honesty in terms of his capacity to have that information, lt is quite proper for an honourable senator to allege dishonesty in that context in this chamber. It is a question of intellectual honesty, not honesty in the normal sense.
– There are political reasonings or backgrounds at times. Remarks which are political and remarks which are offensive to individuals are quite different. Senator Grimes, I must ask you to withdraw.
– Mr President, I am afraid that I must withdraw under extreme protest. I realise that members of the Liberal Party in this chamber would like to see me sent out of this place. I withdraw under those conditions and those conditions only.
– You are qualifying your withdrawal, Senator Grimes. I trust that I am being honest, fair and impartial. You are qualifying your withdrawal. That is most undesirable and is unacceptable. I ask you just to withdraw. You made a direct inference of dishonesty, which is a grave reflection on anybody.
– I am well aware that the reports of the Estimates committees are to be debated this afternoon; therefore, I withdraw.
– Mr President, I wish to raise a point with you. What is happening in this place? Someone muttered something. 1 am always muttering things concerning various members of the Government parties. I mutter things about the Government Whip from time to time. It seems to me that we have reached a ridiculous stage when you pick up a muttered interjection and make a confrontation from it. Surely someone other than you will have to take offence in such cases.
– Is this a point of order or have you sought leave?
– I will seek leave. The honourable senator may deny it if he wishes. I have already said what I wanted to say. I wish to make the point that from time to time we get a little fretful in this place. We could call - justly so - the Leader of the Government dishonest in what he says politically. I think the point has already been made by Senator Button. I just say that muttered interjections are no reason for these confrontations which may lead to someone being suspended from this House.
– I have to maintain order in this place, without which we would have no operative Parliament. I call the Minister.
– Mr President, are you allowing the question on which I originally took the point of order?
– This question goes very close to the responsibilities of the Treasurer, whom the Leader of the Government represents in this chamber. The Leader of the Government is asked to consider, from all angles, what in the estimation of the Treasurer is in the best interests of the country. There is therefore some relevance in the question; but the reply should not be political. The reply should not go beyond the Treasurer’s view on economic management.
– I raise a point of order. I have seen figures given by various Ministers on various aspects of Labor’s projected program for the 1 980 election. Those figures differ from Minister to Minister. For example, one Minister has said that something like $20,000m worth of development is in the pipeline, whereas the Prime Minister says there is $29,000m worth.
– Do not debate the matter. Senator Gietzelt - Ministers have said in respect of various programs of the–
– Order! Do not debate the matter. The question is whether the matter is within the responsibility and parameters of the Minister.
– That is the point I want to come to. Senator Grimes is being asked to withdraw a statement about dishonest figures because–
– That has been determined.
– Mr Eric Robinson has given figures which are in conflict with the figures given by Mr Howard. Similarly, the Prime Minister has given estimates from his Department which vary from estimates given by Mr Howard and Mr Robinson. What sort of figures will we get from Senator Carrick? We, on this side of the House, take the view that it is impossible for an objective analysis to be given because different interpretations are given by different Ministers. Will we get the figures of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or the Minister for Finance, all of whom are represented by Senator Carrick in this place?
- Senator Carrick should give us the factual information.
– Mr President, is it not about time that Senator Lewis, Senator MacGibbon and Senator Rocher were given some schooling about asking questions in this place? While they have been members of the Senate they have regularly transgressed Standing Orders by asking questions–
– Order! Do not debate the matter now.
– Which do not fall within the province of ministerial responsibility.
– I call the Minister.
– I was asked a question regarding the cost and effect upon the economy of extravagant promises and high expenditure. I shall use only Mr Hayden’s figures and, therefore, they will be acceptable to honourable senators opposite. Mr Hayden, when in government, indicated that if one were to spend more one would cause inflation. He said: it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
On Tuesday, 26 August, during his reply to the Budget, Mr Hayden said that the cost of his programs had been hidden from no one. He announced that five of the Labor programs and a tax cut in the one year would cost no less than $ 1,435m on his own costings. Subsequently, on radio a few mornings ago he announced that the cost of the programs would be $835m. If there is a misuse or a wrong use of figures it is occurring not on our side but on Labor’s side. The fact of the matter is that these figures are astronomic in any terms. Whether we use Mr Hayden’s higher or lower figure, grave inflation would be caused.
– Under Standing Order 363 I ask that the document quoted from by the Minister be tabled.
– Certainly; I would be happy to do so. By the way, it is a speech by the Prime Minister on Thursday, 28 August, on the Budget.
– You said they were Mr Hayden’s figures. You quoted Mr Hayden. You have misled the Senate.
– I quoted the Prime Minister’s statement of what Mr Hayden had said. Since I have been challenged, I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– The Senate can judge why the Opposition does not want the document incorporated in Hansard. I now table it.
– You lied and we will not let you get away with it. If you want to do anything about it, come and do it. You are a clown and you know it.
– Would you repeat those words?
– I said that we refused the right for you to incorporate the document because you lied.
– Mr President, I draw your attention to those words.
– Mr President, I point out that I spoke those words at the clear request of Senator Carrick. If he was offended by those words it is on his own head.
– Senator Grimes repeated them only at my request. He spoke them of his own spontaneous will.
– I repeated them at your request. No one heard them until you asked me to repeat them. If you are sensitive and if the cap fits, wear it.
– Order! Withdraw, Senator Grimes.
– I withdraw for exactly the same reason as I withdrew before. I am waiting for the Estimates committee reports.
– Order! Withdraw, and that is all.
– Some days ago Senator Archer asked a question about the boundary line between Tasmania and Victoria. I answered a question on 12 September concerning the use of latitude 39 degrees 12 south as a fisheries boundary between Victoria and Tasmania. The following additional information is provided: I am advised that in December 1979 representatives of Tasmania, Victoria and the Commonwealth met to discuss a decision taken by the Australian Fisheries Council that 39 degrees 30 south rather than 39 degrees 12 south should be the boundary for squid feasibility fishing studies in Bass Strait. The discussions concluded that any future proposal to depart from 39 degrees 12 south as a dividing line between Victoria and Tasmanian spheres of interest in respect of fisheries should be the subject of prior consultations.
The Minister for Primary Industry subsequently assured his Victorian counterpart that where it may be necessary for fisheries management purposes to adopt lines dividing proclaimed waters adjacent to Tasmania, he will consult with the Tasmanian Minister responsible for fisheries matters. At the same time the Minister indicated that where the potential interest of another State is capable of being affected by such lines, he will also consult that State. Tasmania’s desire to have a clear understanding of its position for planning purposes is appreciated. However, there are no State boundaries in waters covered by the Commonwealth Fisheries Act. Consequently no legal issues are involved in the use of either degree of latitude.
– Yesterday Senator Mulvihill asked me a question concerning the booby bird on Christmas Island. The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following information: Following the representation from His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh about the need to conserve Abbott’s booby on Christmas Island, the British Phosphate Commission has extended the moratorium on clearing the forest areas where the birds nest. The Prime Minister has instructed Professor J. D. Ovington, the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, to convene an expert panel to appraise a detailed survey of the size, distribution and viability of the population of Abbott’s booby. The panel is to report its finding on 31 January 1981.
– On 11 September 1980 Senator Mulvihill asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question on democratic rights in Chile. I have received a two page answer. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
While the Government believes that in general the promotion of human rights in Chile can best be served through multilateral actions, there will clearly be occasions from time to time when a direct approach to the Chilean Government may be justified.
Australia has consistently expressed its concern at human rights violations in Chile to the Chilean Government and in international fora. Most recently Australia supported a draft resolution at the 36th Session of the UNCHR in May this year which condemned the Chilean Government for breach of fundamental human rights. The resolution called on the Chilean Government to restore democratic institutions, full freedom of expression, freedom of movement and trade union rights and the prevention of torture. The Government believes that international action on Chile in forums such as the United Nations should continue to reflect an appreciation of the situation on the ground in Chile.
The Australian Government notes with extreme concern recent reports of growing human rights abuses in Chile and the increasing political violence particularly in the run up to the recent plebiscite on Chile’s political future. The use of torture is to be condemned wherever it occurs. This Government earnestly hopes that the Chilean authorities will ensure that human rights are properly safeguarded.
Every opportunity is taken to remind the Chilean Government of the need to allow free trade unions, legalise political parties and to hold free elections. During the recent visit of Parliamentarians to Chile these principals were repeated to Chilean Ministers and leaders.
The Australian Government notes with regret that the new constitutional arrangements in Chile voted on in the recent plebiscite do not represent a meaningful step towards the return of democratic rule in Chile. The new constitution institutionalises the present regime’s rule until elections in 1989, when the government retains the right to nominate the presidential candidate. The recent plebiscite was conducted in an atmosphere of government intimidation and opponents were not able freely to express their views publicly. We regret that the Chilean people were not given the opportunity to vote on a meaningful plan for the restoration of democracy in Chile.
Australia has accepted a number of refugees from Chile since the Pinochet regime took power and granted them citizenship. We will continue to assist Chilean refugees in this way. The Australian Government has established priorities for aid which because of other commitments, does not accord a high place to Latin America. Whilst the Government sympathises with the needs of worthy organisations in many countries its priorities are established to maximise the use of available resources and increased aid to Chile is not anticipated.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter dated 16 September 1 980, from Senator Tate:
Pursuant to Sessional Order, I give notice that today I shall move -
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The inequities of the taxation system caused by the failure of the Government to effectively control tax avoidance.
M.C.TATE A.L.P. Senator for Tasmania
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places -
– I move:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The inequities of the taxation system caused by the failure of the Government to effectively control tax avoidance.
I have moved this urgency motion because the Opposition firmly believes that Australians and Australian families, in particular, are beginning to realise that the manner in which the Federal coffers are filled is not only a burden in the normal sense, and an ever-increasing burden, but also an unfair burden - one which is harder to bear because it is borne by ordinary wage and salary earners while other groups in the community pay little or no tax at all. The contributions to revenue by ordinary wage and salary earners is quite disproportionate to the money available to Australians within the economy.
Let me explain how the ordinary Australian household has seen its purchasing power decline while the Fraser Government has gobbled up the money coming into that household. It has declined mainly because indirect taxation has risen so astronomically. It is indirect taxation, which is particularly vicious and particularly regressive, that the Fraser Government has chosen to inflict on Australian households. It is indirect taxation, which is unavoidable as one goes about one’s daily tasks - such as getting out a motor car and going to work- which has risen very markedly and has destroyed the purchasing power of households for ordinary household items, pleasures and so on that the head of a household might wish to provide for his family.
I shall quote from figures provided to me earlier today by the Parliamentary Library, from which it is clear that indirect taxes, as a proportion of receipts from taxation, have increased from some 16 per cent to 31.7 per cent. In other words, whereas previously in 1975-76 Australians were paying about one-sixth of their taxes by way of indirect taxation, we are now in a situation in which up to one-third of the taxes paid by Australians is paid by way of indirect taxation - as I said, the unavoidable taxation which has to be paid when we purchase an item of goods or a service which we need and cannot do without. At the same time, whilst it is true that income tax receipts have fallen proportionately from some 84 per cent to 68 per cent of receipts from taxation, it is the unavoidable indirect taxation which has gobbled up household income. As we know, the most vicious and socially regressive tax ever to hit the average Australian has been the increase in tax on petrol and fuel generally. We are now in a situation in which each household is paying an average of $900 a year by way of fuel tax to the Government. That is just under $3 a day.
– How did you calculate that?
– I have calculated it by taking the amount paid to the Government by way of tax on fuel and dividing it by the number of households in Australia. There is nothing wrong with that method of assessment because the expenditure–
– You’re being dishonest.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I am not as thin skinned as the Minister for National Development and Energy, Senator Carrick. I do not mind the gibe that I am being dishonest because I can justify that method of assessment. Even the expenditure by industry on fuel tax eventually has to be borne by the householder as he purchases goods and services. That is elementary economics which I would have thought a public accountant would be quite capable of understanding. The fact is that each household in Australia is paying an average of $900 a year by way of this vicious and regressive tax. It was vicious in its accelerated impact–
– Mr President, I take a point of order. When $250 is clearly the publicly acknowledged figure, I ask the honourable senator to withdraw.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell) - There is no point of order. Senator Tate is making his speech. He can make it in his own way.
– An obvious attempt is being made by Government senators to prevent the truth from coming out. I will continue undeterred on behalf of the ordinary Australian householder. That tax is socially regressive in its impact on the family man receiving, say, below average weekly earnings who has to drive exactly the same distance to work as a company director or even a senator. It is the impact on people in such circumstances which we are concerned about.
– What a lot of rubbish.
– That is so obvious I do not need to repeat it. As we know, every petrol pump has become a branch of the Australian Taxation Office for the Government. The Government has collected so much tax by this method that it is the equivalent of a 30 per cent increase in payasyouearn income tax receipts. The person receiving average weekly earnings knows that he is paying through the petrol pump the equivalent of an increase of some 30 per cent in his income tax. Who is the Government favouring in this policy? Where is the discrimination, and in favour of whom? An interdepartmental report which became available in the last couple of weeks makes it very clear where the favouritism lies in the Government’s taxation policy. Where is the inequity; where is the unfairness? I shall read the conclusion reached by representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Finance, the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of National Development and Energy, the Department of Trade and Resources, the Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia as indicated in their report of 2 June 1 980. On page 6 the report states:
Existing concessions . . .
That is, within the taxation system and not speculative or future concessions - can be expected progressively to lead to a growing tax burden on other taxpayers and to slower growth in taxation revenues as the resource-based industries expand as a proportion of the economy.
There is a clear indication from the departments and the expertise available to them that as this Government favours resource-based industries - the exploiters of our natural wealth - and the people engaged in the bringing to fruition of projects in our mineral and energy sector- and as concession to those developments are made available there will be a growing tax burden on other taxpayers. Those other taxpayers are the ordinary wage and salary earners of Australia. This is well borne out by the figures -
– It is just the opposite.
- Senator Watson says, ‘It is just the opposite’. The figures for 1975-76 show that pay-as-you-earn taxpayers paid 59.3 per cent of income tax receipts whereas company taxation accounted for only 21.3 per cent. In 1980-81 PAYE taxpayers will pay 63.6 per cent of net income tax receipts as opposed to 59.3 per cent when we were in office. Company tax contributions have declined to 20.7 per cent. It is quite clear where the unfairness, the inequity, the favouritism and the discrimination have occurred. The figures will have to be grappled with by Senator Jessop and I am looking forward to his doing so.
It is the failure to act decisively and comprehensively in the area of tax avoidance which is the greatest sin of omission by this Government. The tax bludgers in our community have not been comprehensively tackled. As I have pointed out in this chamber time and time again, these are the real subversives within our society. They are subversive in two senses. Firstly, they are not making their contributions to government revenues, to a government elected by democratic process and entitled by revenues to carry out its programs. These people are undermining democratic government whilst living within the benefits of a society conducted in this way. Secondly, they are subversive, of course, in a more subtle and destructive sense in that these tax avoiders, these tax bludgers, are creating a sense of inequity amongst Australians. Those who over the last few weeks and months have been filling in their tax forms honestly know in their heart of hearts that they are mugs. The tax avoiders get away with making little or no contribution to revenue- so much so that, as we know, the payments of tax by the wealthy in this country have become discretionary. These people will make a contribution to Federal coffers if it suits them. In other words, if government policies are in line with their particular preferences or for the amelioration of their greed for the moment.
There can be no excuse for the Government, after five years in office, still refusing to bring into this Parliament a Bill which would enable us as the elected representatives of the community to say with clarity that any artificial scheme entered into for the dominant purpose of avoiding tax, whilst being legal and standing effectively in the commercial field where purportedly it is meant to operate, is utterly ineffective and utterly null and void against the Commissioner of Taxation, who can nullify such an artificial device when assessing the taxpayer for his contribution towards a fair share of the revenue of the nation. There has to be a mea culpa on our side. We did not deal with the Curran scheme as expeditiously as we ought. To be fair, we did not ever have a full term in office and therefore our control of the Treasury and taxation system was, at best, short and fragmented.
This Government has had five years in which to come up with a suitable expression of the view of this Parliament to put to the High Court of Australia. It requires a firm, clear directive from the Parliament to the non-elected bench of justices because it is acting in an irresponsible manner, if I may use that language in reference to the High Court. I believe that it is language which is justified by the constant stream of decisions by the Court when it has been gripped by a legalism. These decisions have enabled taxpayers to manipulate the present taxation legislation to their advantage rather than enabling the Government to serve, as it ought, the interests of the community by deriving in a fair way from right across the range of taxable entities in Australia enough revenue for its programs. The Government has failed because it continues to adopt a piecemeal approach of knocking off one tax avoidance scheme after another, as it becomes aware of it. It is doomed because these tax avoidance schemes are hydra-headed; one no sooner cuts one down than eight spring up in its place. It is doomed because it contributes to this contest atmosphere, the sporting contest between the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Taxation on the one hand and the tax avoiders and their lawyers and accountants on the other. It is this sort of atmosphere which needs to be cut through once and for all by a decisive, clear, renewed section 260.
Speaking of the lawyers and the accountants involved in succouring these greedy tax avoiders, these subversives within our system, I simply say that whilst they may be offering professional advice, it is a national scandal- it is a cause for shame to Australians- that such legal and accounting talent should be diverted or even perverted to serve the greedy and selfish interests of the wealthy few. The other vice in this piecemeal approach is, of course, that the Government has decided to knock out only the scheme for the future, or at least as from the date at which the scheme is publicly condemned by the Treasurer. The Australian Labor Party takes the view that a different, more robust approach is required. We need to have retrospective operation in the dismantling of these tax avoidance schemes.
– Is that party policy?
– In the sense, and with due deference to the fact that this is outside the normal current of regard for the civil liberties of subjects where retrospective legislation is generally abhorred, and that we follow the tradition established by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and by the Commonwealth Law Courts since the 1950s, we are not suggesting that there should be retrospective operation of the penalty provisions of the taxation legislation. I want to make that very clear. In that I think we go a long way toward meeting the sorts of concerns to which Senator Baume quite rightly gives voice. But what we say is that the scheme, once identified, should have no operation or effect, should be null and void altogether, against the Commissioner of Taxation from the date of its inception, or at the very least from the earliest day of the financial year in which it is identified. In this way the taxation provisions, in their retrospectivity, could be accepted and I believe would be accepted and supported by the Australian people. As I have said, there should be no retrospectivity for the penal provisions, but certainly there should be for the dismantling and the discrediting of the tax avoidance scheme itself.
We are speaking of highly artificial paper contrivances which have the effect of converting profits into losses and of diverting revenue which ought to be going to the Treasury into the pockets of greedy entrepreneurs. In other words, there has been a failure by the Government to act in a decisive manner. As a result, there has been a shift in tax payments from the tax avoiding classes to ordinary wage and salary earners. This results simply from the timid approach of the Government to this question. Payment of tax by the wealthy has become discretionary. Tax rates, of course, remain high in order to make up for losses. Rates could be reduced if the Government insisted that all persons and business enterprises paid their fair due. The payers of those high tax rates are, as I have said before, those within the PA YE system.
I challenge Senator Jessop to deal with facts. Let him, in reply, produce the figures, table the proportion of total tax receipts paid by PAYE taxpayers and let him deny that the proportion has increased dramatically and unfairly. Ordinary wage and salary earners, as they have filled in their forms over the last few months, have become conscious, through constant bombardment by the media, of the inequity under which they suffer. We see not only a subversive industry operating within Australia, but also we see the publication within our daily Press of advertisements calling upon people to become participants in that subversive industry. I regard those advertisements as being a symptom of the deterioration of general morals within the public life of this community.
– The Peter Clyne syndrome.
– We have the Peter Clynes of this world telling people that it is their duty to the nation to avoid paying as much tax as possible. This is the sort of person who parades himself on television and within the Press until, as I said, earlier, a state of mind is created within the ordinary household that those who pay are mugs. As I have mentioned before in this Senate, I recall when I was a child my father sitting at the kitchen table battling with the taxation forms and deciding whether to put down £6 or £ 7 as the amount he would claim as a deduction for chemists’ expenses during the previous year. It was that sort of honest, some would say pedantic, approach to filling in tax forms which is now being put in question throughout the community. I know that many of those people who are listening in the Gallery would have had similar experiences. It is on behalf of the average Australian wage and salary earner who is bearing this unfair burden of taxation, while the tax avoiders get away with paying little or nothing in revenue, that the Opposition moves this urgency motion. I hope the chamber supports it.
– I listened with interest to Senator Tate’s expressions of concern about tax avoidance in Australia. I heard him accuse the Government of doing nothing about it or of taking no interest in it. Yet since 1978 the Fraser Government has amended over 25 sections of the Income Tax Assessment Act to stop tax avoidance schemes. The Government has initiated a redrafting of section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act which relates to a general prohibition on tax avoidance. Certainly, what Senator Tate has said is quite true. There is an element within his own profession that I believe is acting scurrilously as far as the law is concerned. That would apply to some unscrupulous accountants who do their best to adopt practices which could be considered to be illegal. The majority of the responsible lawyers and accountants - I hope I can classify Senator Tate as one of those - have a responsibility to their–
- Senator Evans, too.
– Of course, Senator Evans. He is an academic. I do not know whether he knows much about practical law. I am talking about practising lawyers and accountants who have a responsibility to their clients to minimise their incomes and to do their best within the law to ensure that they pay as little tax as possible in a legitimate sense.
– That is easy for me.
– I think that is a responsibility that even Senator Georges’ lawyer or accountant would have to adopt on his behalf. I am sure that he would want to minimise his extraordinarily generous salary that everyone tells us about. I do not have very much to show for mine, but perhaps Senator Georges has a better lawyer and a better accountant than I have. I believe the responsibility lies firmly and clearly in the realms of practice of the majority of lawyers and accountants who are responsible to ensure that their clients’ tax is minimised within the spirit of the law.
The Government is very concerned about tax avoidance. It is necessary that we be alerted to these tax avoidance schemes. As soon as we are alerted to them the Government is prepared to seal up these loopholes. As has been properly pointed out, there are some irresponsible lawyers and accountants, but they are in a minority in this country. As soon as such an exercise is carried out by the Government those people find ways and means of opening up another loophole. It is a very difficult area and one which is of concern to the Government.
– But we should not back date these things.
– We demonstrated our opposition to retrospectivity on an occasion.
– In this area?
– No. That is a different argument. The people who embark upon tax avoidance schemes on the advice of their lawyers or accountants do so firmly believing that the advice being given is quite legal. I believe those people, innocently in many cases, have been dragged into this sort of situation. I think in those circumstances retrospectivity should not apply. I oppose that concept, and I have done so. Nevertheless, because I say that does not mean that I support tax avoidance schemes. I am totally opposed to them . I think everyone in this Parliament should recognise that we are doing exactly what Senator Tate is calling for. We have looked at the tax system. We have amended 25 sections of the Income Tax Assessment Act, precisely in the interests of doing what Senator Tate is talking about today.
– Why did not the Labor Party do it?
– I was just coming to that. Last night I noted with a certain amount of interest that Senator Evans read his speech. I asked a question about it and Senator Evans answered. The Australian Labor Party did nothing about the matter. If it was so concerned about Curran schemes and tax avoidance one would have thought it would have done something about amending the Act. The then Labor Government would have received the cooperation of the Opposition at the time. The Labor Government was a very lethargic type of government and one which was not interested in the fine detail of revenue gathering. In fact, on the contrary; Labor is known as a big spender. It even wanted to borrow from overseas $4 billion in a way which I regard to be very suspect. In my view, it may well have hinged on illegality. The Labor Party is known as a big spender. It will give back $25 to each family if it is successful in deluding the electorate into believing its promises. That is just typical of the Labor Party. We always ask: Where will it get the $2 billion to pay for the promises that it has scattered around Australia with the hope of enticing people to vote for it through the hip-pocket nerve?
The Government is concerned about the hippocket nerve but not in the short term. We do not want to buy votes as the Labor Party does. We do not want to encourage over-spending in Australia. We do not want to be faced with the problems of foreign exchange and so on as the Labor Party was. We believe in responsibility. I was absolutely amazed at Senator Tate when he started talking about the cost effect of the Government’s crude oil levy on the average family motorist. In a number of recent statements, ALP spokesmen have made wildly inaccurate and excessive costings of the Governmetn’s crude oil levy as it affects the average family motorists. A number of these so-called costings - I would be interested to know what extraordinary economic advice the Labor Party has achieved - are find:.ig their way into Labor Party election pamphlets and no doubt they will be used in Labor’s campaign advertising. For example, in the House of Representatives on 26 August this year Mr Keating said:
Then it– that is, the Government- implemented this tax by stealth at the petrol pump which cost the average family $95(3 each year–
That is $18.27 a week- in petrol taxes.
In the Senate on 27 August this year Senator Walsh alleged:
A figure of $13.50 a week has been used in some pamphlets. I refer to a reply given to Senator Lewis on 10 September 1980 by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator
Carrick). This reply sets out the true figures - between $3.70 and $4.80 per week for the average family - and how these figures are devised. Honourable senators may read this information if I do not have time to elucidate further, although I will try to do so. It will be noted that Labor’s costings are not only three or four times the real figure but also they are internally inconsistent. It is also worth noting that wild promises–
– Mr President I raise a point of order. We are all familiar with Senator Jessop’s congenital incapacity to keep to the point, but I suggest that he is overdoing it, that the remarks that he is presently offering to the Senate bear no resemblance whatsoever to the subject matter of the urgency motion presently before us.
– I will be listening to the debate. I call upon you to continue, Senator Jessop.
– I am merely replying and trying to point out the stupidity of what Senator Tate has been trying to poke down our necks this afternoon. It is also worth noting the wild promises of the Labor Party so far as fuel prices are concerned. In the Labor Party’s rural policy, launched by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, and Senator Walsh on 29 August, the promise was made in respect of country and city retail prices–
– Mr President I repeat my point of order. The honourable senator is straying far from the topic, which is the subject of taxation and tax avoidance and the Government’s inability to control it effectively. Mr President, I ask you to rule that any further consideration of these matters, however incapably the honourable senator is putting them to this chamber, is of no assistance to the chamber in resolving the subject matter of this motion.
– There is no point of order. Senator Jessop, you will relate your speech to taxation.
– Certainly, Mr President. I am merely referring to matters raised earlier in the debate by Senator Tate. I believe, if I am out of order, we might have been able to suggest that Senator Tate was out of order. I will continue in that vein simply because I want to point out that Senator Tate was way off the track. As the Labor Party regards the oil levy as a taxation measure, I think I ought to be permitted to proceed. I should like to remind the Opposition of what its policy is with respect to rural matters. This policy was launched by Mr Hayden and Senator Walsh - what an unholy alliance - on 29 August. The promise was made with respect to country and city retail petrol prices. It was said that a Labor government would ensure that the present price differential was abolished. How they will do that I do not know, because retail taxing pricing, if we like to talk about it in the terms that the Opposition usually uses, is not within the realms of the Federal Government. Total country sales of motor spirit in the last year were 6,786,434 kilolitres. If we take the average price differential between city and country retail prices as being approximately 7c a litre - they are Labor’s own figures used in its rural policy- the cost of this one new policy alone would be $475m. This assumes that a Labor government could fix a common retail petrol price Australia-wide, which would require the agreement and co-operation of all the State governments. This wild promise, in addition to other promises, incuding an Australian hydrocarbons corporation to explore for oil, a national energy and fuel commission, an independent authority to regulate the oil industry, including petrol retailing, is a typical, expensive and very unnecessary way of ripping tax off the people of Australia. I would like to get back to the subject from which Senator Tate strayed.
– Order! I must point out that, under the sessional order in which urgency motions and matters of public importance are discussed in this place, it is stated quite clearly that every senator speaking shall confine himself to the stated subject of the matter of public importance or the terms of the motion to debate a matter of urgency. I was not here when Senator Tate was speaking. Just bear that in mind. I will not disturb you for any longer. Please carry on, Senator Jessop.
– I am sorry you were not here, Mr President, to hear the extraordinary way in which Senator Tate strayed from the debate. I think if you had been here you would have been more sympathetic to me. I appreciate what you have said and I will stick to the subject matter. In conclusion I will say that I believe the Labor Party is hypocritical and the people who raised this question, last night Senator Evans and today Senator Tate, are hypocritical in the extreme because they have accused us of not doing anything about it.
– We have both frankly acknowledged that we should have done something.
– The honourable senator has a guilty conscience and he is justified in having a guilty conscience because the Opposition is too lazy, too inept and too inattentive to the problem that is before the Senate. It took no action at all in this regard. I think is should be condemned for that. I accuse and condemn the Labor Party for daring to accuse us, who recognise that tax avoiders are costing the taxpayer money. We are prepared to seal these loopholes which have been created by dishonest, scurrilous lawyers and accountants, the majority of whom are working within the legitimate Parts of the Act in the interests of their clients. I think the Labor Party stands condemned. I am surprised that it has had the confounded impertinence to bring this matter before the Senate today. I move:
– By leave - I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Jessop. Senator Jessop, among the number of wild statements he made, because he did not have sufficient subject matter to maintain some continuity on the subject itself, made the claim that I used accountants and lawyers ostensibly to avoid the payment of tax.
– I did not say that.
– He implied that, and I inferred it. I now feel affronted by it all, and I want make a few remarks to clear the record. If any Government member wants to make statements like that, we can easily resolve the matter. I would suggest that we go back over the past 1 0, 1 1 or 12 years that I have been a member of this Parliament and table our tax returns. I challenge Senator Jessop to table his tax returns, I will table mine and then we will be able to clear up this imputation. It is fairly obvious, if I might say so - I am not trying to debate the subject–
– There is a motion before the Chair. There is no debate. This is a personal explanation. When it is completed, we will proceed with the motion. Adhere strictly to the aspect where you have been misrepresented.
– Yes, of course. I thought I was doing quite well without your assistance, Mr President.
– No, you were not.
– I have lost my train of thought. I will have to start again. Senator Jessop implied that I used lawyers to avoid the payment of taxation. I strongly object to that implication. He implied it not only in relation to me but also in relation to several others. I do not know whether they wish to take up the point, but I certainly do. He has no right, even in that wild and erratic way, to make charges of that sort. I put it fairly clearly to everyone here. Let us sort it out. Each year let us all table our tax returns. We will then see who is guilty of tax avoidance.
Senator JESSOP (South Australia)- by leave - 1 claim to have been misrepresented. I wish to make a personal explanation. I would never want Senator Georges to think that in any way I was suggesting that he avoided tax. As a result of his interjection - he is very prone to interject and excite senators on this side of the chamber- I wanted to say how much I respect the honourable senator and his business acumen in that he probably employs an accountant. I was merely paying him a compliment. I believe it is very important that he should engage an accountant to conduct his affairs, within the bounds of law, of course. I did not suggest in any way that he was avoiding tax. 1 would never wish to suggest that. I apologise if I have given him the wrong impression.
– by leave- I claim to have been misrepresented. I wish to make a personal explanation. In the course of Senator Jessop’s remarks, inconsequential and incoherent as they for the most part were, he cast a general slur on the legal profession and said that it, along with the accountancy profession, was responsible for the proliferation of tax avoidance schemes. As a member of the legal profession I make it absolutely clear that that slur has no application whatsoever to me or to the great majority of my fellow members in that profession. I have made it absolutely clear- it is on the public record - what I think of those members of the profession who are prostituting the finest traditions of that profession by engaging in aid and comfort to schemes of this kind. I would not wish it to be thought that a slur of that kind could be made against me, Senator Tate or Senator Button without a reply of this kind being made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– Papers are presented in accordance with the list circulated to honourable senators. I seek leave to incorporate the list in Hansard.
The list read as follows -
Law Reform Commission - Report on Insurance Agents and Brokers - pursuant to section 37 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973.
– by leave - The report of the Law Reform Commission recommends changes which would have significant effect on the activities of insurance intermediaries, particularly insurance brokers. These are matters primarily within the province of my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Howard). On 15 May 1980 the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) informed honourable senators that, when tabling a report of the Law Reform Commission, the Government will indicate the arrangements proposed for handling the Government’s consideration of the report. The Attorney is informed by the Treasurer that, as a first step in the Government’s consideration of the present report, he proposes to seek the views of insurance industry organisations and other interested parties. He also proposes consultation with State governments and with other departments of the Commonwealth Government on certain aspects of the report. The Treasurer expects, in due course, to present options to the Government on the matter of regulating insurance intermediaries so that the Government may come to a conclusion on the recommendations in the report.
– by leave - I move:
The report of the Law Reform Commission on insurance agents and brokers is both an interesting and important one which should not slip through without comment in the Senate. A long time has been taken for any government action whatsoever on this matter. The proposal by the Government to refer the Law Reform Commission’s report to the insurance industry and others means a further delay in the possibility of any action in relation to insurance brokers. In Australia almost anyone is free to set up as an insurance broker without any qualifications, without restriction and with no funds to indemnify clients. That constitutes a flaw in our insurance system which the Government ought to rectify.
I feel confident in raising this matter because in the period from 1972 to 1975 a Bill providing for government supervision of the insurance profession was drafted. That Bill was not proceeded with by the present Government, largely for reasons of alleged cost. We waited another five years for an agency of government, the Law Reform Commission, to comment on the serious defects in the law relating to insurance brokers and suggest that action of a very comprehensive kind should be taken about them. Even though the Law Reform Commission consulted with the insurance industry at great length in the preparation of its report, the Government has now taken it upon itself to refer the matter to the insurance industry again. The Government is saying: ‘We are a soft cop insofar as you insurance brokers in Australia are concerned. The Law Reform Commission, which has examined the situation and reported to us, probably was not so kind to you as we are prepared to be. Give us your views, and we will consider the matter further if we are reelected to government at some stage in the distant future’.
Insurance brokerage is not a small time operation carried out by a few brokers. It is a business involving millions of dollars annually to which the public entrusts large sums of money through numerous brokers who, as I said before, are not required to have any qualifications, who operate without restriction and in respect of whom there is no legislative requirement for keeping appropriate funds to indemnify clients.
In the past few years in this country members of the public, many of them not very wealthy, and insurance companies themselves have suffered severe losses through the collapse of brokerage firms. The most recent examples were the three broking firms in Western Australia which left debts of about $3m behind them. There is no Commonwealth legislative prescription to regulate the activities of these firms, as a result of which thousands of people have suffered financial loss. I again draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that this is not the first time the matter has been before the Government. Action was taken between 1972 and 1975. In 1977 a formal submission was put to the present Government by the Insurance Brokers Association of Australia requesting government action and legislation similar to that introduced in the United Kingdom in the same year. It is true that the United Kingdom legislation did not overcome all the anomalies which existed but it was a conscientious attempt to do so.
The real problem, of course, is that the lack of any restriction over the uses to which premium moneys may be put while in a broker’s hands leave him free in what he does. Premiums received on behalf of insurers are sometimes placed in a broker’s office account, where they form part of the funds used for paying the administrative and other expenses of the business. In some cases brokers use premiums for the purpose of real or personal property unconnected with the business or to establish investment portfolios of their own, particularly in the short term money market. When a broker uses clients’ funds for his own investment purposes he has to rely on funds from new business to pay the premiums represented by the investment. Unlike solicitors and real estate agents, who are bound by strict accounting procedures, no such compulsory trust arrangements or audit requirements are imposed on the way in which insurance brokers deal with clients’ funds. It is a shockingly anomalous situation in a so-called relatively sophisticated economy for insurance brokers to operate in this totally unregulated way.
The Government’s decision and the way in which it has dealt with this report are again classic examples of the Fraser Government’s style of economic management. The issue was first adverted to as a matter needing Commonwealth Government legislative attention in 1974. In 1977 there was a request from the Insurance Council of Australia that something be done about it. In 1980 the Law Reform Commission, a respected body, reported on it. In 1980 again the Fraser Government says: ‘We will return this matter again to the insurance industry for further consideration’. So the whole dismal process lumbers on. While that has happened thousands of Australian investors have had their fingers burnt - in Western Aus tralia, as I said, to the extent of $3m quite recently. There are no regulations and no controls over the operations of insurance brokers. This is a sad situation, an unfortunate situation, which is illustrative of incompetence and inertia in the proper functionings of government. It is a matter of great regret that it is to be treated in this way. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
I wish to make a couple of comments concerning the visit to the United States of America by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am not complaining so much about the visit to India but about the visit to the United States for the purpose of receiving a medal. I do not question that purpose but I question the method by which the Prime Minister travelled to the United States. I question the extensive use of the VIP aircraft for such a long journey at such a costly rate. I also question the cavalier fashion in which the aircraft was used to go to Newport to buzz the Australian contender for the Americas Cup. Incidentally, all that he did was to encourage France to win the event the next day. I do not doubt that all his efforts might lead to our being seriously embarrassed in the contest against the United States. Those matters will no doubt be subject to comment during the Estimates debate when it is revealed just how great the expenditure on such a flight was.
I come to the more serious aspect of this statement. I do not think we have a copy of the communique. We will not get a copy, nor will we have sufficient time to debate it at length. I refer to the final communique of the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government of the Asian and Pacific Region in New Delhi. I do not doubt that in that communique there is sufficient material on which honourable senators ought to be able to comment. I do not doubt that the Government will support blindly the position that the Prime Minister has taken. Honourable senators on the
Opposition side would like to examine the position which Mr Fraser continues to take in regard to the Pol Pot regime. The statement is important for a variety of reasons. It should be examined by the Senate. We will not have the opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, in the short time that remains to us it should be placed upon the Notice Paper. What will happen to it thereafter is in the hands of the people. I do not doubt that the people will determine that there will be a change of government. After a change of government, of course, there will be a new Notice Paper and such matters may become irrelevant. If, however, there is no change of government it is possible that we shall place the matter back on the Notice Paper and debate it at length. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the Dried Fruits Research Committee- Annual Report 1979-80.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the Australian Wine Board - Annual Report 1979-80.
I wish just to say that it is unfortunate that the Senate does not have this report before it. The wine industry is one of the major industries in the Riverland of South Australia. It is unfortunate that we are not able to look at that report to see how the industry is progressing in South Australia in particular. Now we will have to wait until the sittings of the new Parliament to be able to make some remarks about it. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I table further additional information received by Estimates Committee B. I seek leave to have it incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
– by leave - I table further additional information received by Estimates Committee D. I seek leave to have it incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
– by leave - I table further additional information received by Estimates Committee F. I seek leave to have it incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
– On behalf of Senator Knight and on behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I present a report on the Proposals for Variation to the Plan of Layout on the City of Canberra and its Environs, 72nd Series, together with extracts from the minutes of proceedings of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to have a statement relating to the report incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
This is the fourth report on variations to the plan of Canberra to be presented by the Joint Committee this year. It is the third to be presented during the present period of sittings of the Parliament. The Committee has made a special effort to ensure the presentation of this report today because it considers one of the variations, that which deletes roads on Capital Hill, to be of particular importance. Removal of the roads from the city plan will enable the commencement of site works for the new and permanent Parliament House. This variation is therefore, in its way, of some historic significance to this Parliament and the nation which it represents. The Committee has approved the proposed changes to allow this work to begin.
I take the opportunity to suggest that there may be a need to co-ordinate the roles of various agencies in the planning stages of the new and permanent Parliament House. For example, at present this Committee and the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament
House have terms of reference covering different aspects of the project. In addition certain provisions of the Parliament Act may be relevant. It will be important that these be co-ordinated and that any problems be resolved promptly if the project is to go ahead as scheduled and be completed for the Bicentenary. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory will want to maintain careful scrutiny of all aspects of road planning and has made it clear that all such proposals should be dealt with by the Committee before they proceed. The Committee has been informed that this will be done.
The Committee also considered a proposal to provide a lease frontage and access to the Repertory Society’s ‘Theatre 3’ in Civic. There is, however, some concern about the provision of parking facilities at the theatre. The Committee has requested further details on the parking arrangement for the theatre and other facilities adjacent to it. Nevertheless, the proposal has been approved. It was not possible for the Committee to consider the third item in this series of variations, the extension of William Hovell Drive from Coulter Drive to Kingsford Smith Drive. This proposal aroused considerable public interest and 12 representations were received by the Committee. There was not time for the Committee to give the variation the attention it required so it has been suggested that it be included in the next series of variations, which the Committee also suggests should be early in the first period of sittings of the new Parliament.
Senator KILGARIFF (Northern Territory)In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Aircraft corrosion control facility. Royal Australian Air Force Base, Richmond, New South Wales; and Lavarack Barracks Stage 2 Development, Townsville, Queensland.
– I present the one hundred and eighty-first report from the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- The Committee’s one hundred and eighty-first report refers to an inquiry into the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. Our findings were that the
Authority had deliberately disregarded provisions of its ordinance. Firstly, it failed to seek the approval of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for investment in bank bills. Even after being formally advised of the need for approval it delayed for a further two months. Secondly, it misrepresented the nature of over-subscriptions on a $ 10m public loan, and acted contrary to the public interest and Loan Council practice. Thirdly, it deliberately contravened section 17 of its ordinance by not seeking the Public Service Board’s approval to the terms and conditions of employment. Fourthly, it failed to observe section 22 (1) (c) by making payments that were not in accordance with its ordinance. Fifthly, it failed to publish its 1978-79 annual statement because, in the belief of the Committee, it wishes to capitalise all expenditure net of income for the period 1 July to 9 November 1978. The Public Accounts Committee has demanded that the authority publish its statement in the form approved by the Minister for Finance forthwith.
While the Committee is conscious of the need of a trading authority with some independence from political control, it nevertheless recommends that the permanent head of the Departmen of the Capital Territory, or his departmental nominee, should be appointed to the Board of the Authority. The Committee is so dissatisfied with the past administration of the Authority that it recommends that at the conclusion of the current period of office of members of the CCDA the Minister for the Capital Territory should consider restructuring the Authority and those who are subject to criticism in the Committee’s report not be reappointed. We believe the Authority has left itself open to accusations of patronage in selecting its employees and recommend it adopt a policy of advertising for each staff position.
There was evidence that conditions for security of tenders were inadequate during the period of the Mall’s construction. The Committee recommends the Attorney-General initiate a full inquiry into this matter. The Committee shares the concern of the Parliamentary Public Works Committee that statutory bodies should be subject to examination by that Committee. We recommend that the Public Works Committee Act be amended to bring all statutory authorities within its ambit.
As pointed out in the Committee of Privileges report tabled on 1 1 September, the Public Accounts Committee Act is one of the few acts where Parliament has declared its privileges. Notwithstanding the powers contained in section 1 8 of the Public Accounts Committee Act - there is a penalty of five years imprisonment for wilfully giving false evidence - the capacity of Parliament to institute proceedings under section 21 (4) of the Act depends upon the consent of the Attorney-General.
The Committee believes that provisions of this type actually limit the powers of Parliament to protect its rights of privileges and appears to be inconsistent with traditional division of powers between the Executive and legislature. The Committee believes that the Parliament should be served by its own legal counsel responsible for advising on the rights and obligations of Parliament. We understand that this is the case in Canada. Mr President, I commend the report to honourable senators.
– by leave - I move:
I have not been a member of the Public Accounts Committee for very long. Prior to my membership of the Public Accounts Committee I considered it to be one of the most important committees of the Parliament. My short period on this Committee has re-emphasised and strengthened that position. This report before the Senate should be examined paragraph by paragraph. Every paragraph is a damning indictment of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority and should be taken as such. It seems to me to be extraordinary that the Public Accounts Committee can bring forward reports of this sort and 12 months later find that nothing effective has been done to carry out its advice or recommendations. Surely the criticisms that have been outlined here will not go unnoticed. Surely the Government will take some action, whichever party may be in power, to bring to account those people who are responsible for the errors outlined here.
The Public Accounts Committee also raises a matter of privilege of how to deal with those people who come before the Committee and give incorrect - one could almost use the word false’ - information. What action will the Committee take? The action that it can take is spelt out under the Act. Some difficulties have to be faced up to. There is some hesitancy. Yet it seems to me, from reading this report, that there should be no hesitancy whatsoever. The report of the Public Accounts Committee should be considered carefully at the earliest opportunity, and the recommendations should be acted upon. The powers of the Public Accounts Committee should be examined in order to reinforce the rights not only of this Committee but also of other committees of the Parliament. For far too long the Parliament has been ignored. For far too long the Executive has intervened. For far too long, perhaps, the Executive has rendered itself immune from the actions of the Parliament.
Perhaps I am going too far when I speak of the Executive. For the time being I will concern myself only with the Authority itself. There is no doubt that this report is very serious. It makes serious criticisms and offers certain recommendations. I trust the Senate and the Parliament will be concerned. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– In accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 23 August 1979 I inform the Senate that Government statements on certain committee reports have not been presented within six months of the tabling of such reports. A list of the reports of the current session of Parliament to which the Government has not responded within the prescribed time has been circulated to honourable senators.
– by leave- I respond on behalf of Senator Carrick. I have had the current status of outstanding government responses to Senate committee reports examined. The situation is as outlined in a schedule which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows:
COMMITTEE REPORTS TO WHICH THE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT RESPONDED WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF DATE OF TABLING
Finance and Government Operations - Senate Standing Committee
Australian National Gallery Annual Report for 1975-76- Tabled 16 March 1978. Response in the form of a letter by the Minister for Home Affairs 23 November 1978
Report on ‘Advance to the Minister for Finance’ - Tabled 1 1 October 1 979. Response will be tabled this week
Statutory Authorities of the Commonwealth:
First report, December 1978- Tabled 20 February 1979 Second report - Tabled 15 November 1979 Third report- Tabled 19 February 1980. May be possible to table response this week
Use of consultants- Report concluded that present Government practice is satisfactory. No response required.
Foreign Affairs and Defence - Senate Standing Committee
The new international economic order - implications for Australia- Tabled 19 February 1980. Response will be tabled this week.
Foreign Affairs and Defence - Joint Committee
Australia, Antarctica and the law of the sea - Tabled 1 June 1 978. Response will be tabled after final report prepared
Australian defence procurement- Tabled 22 November 1979. Response under consideration
Human Rights in the Soviet Union- Tabled 8 November 1979. Statement to be made this week.
Regulations and Ordinances - Senate Standing Committee 66th Report: Disallowance of a repealing instrument; onus of proof in criminal cases; legislation considered 1978-79 - Response under consideration 68th: Powers of the Committee statutory provisions for disallowance, notification of rights and duties, alteration of entitlements by Regulations, consideration of draft legislation Evidence Act, judicial view of administrative- Response under consideration.
Science and the Environment - Senate Standing Committee
Industrial research and development in Australia - Tabled 6 J une 1 979. Response will be made next sittings.
Social Welfare - Senate Standing Committee
Report on Annual Report referred to the Committee, November 1979- Tabled 15 November 1979. Response will be made next sittings.
– The schedule shows that three of the reports listed will be responded to this week and one other may make that deadline. A response to another two reports was not considered necessary because of the nature of the recommendations or action already taken. Action is incomplete in relation to a further seven reports, but it is expected that responses to two of those reports will be available in the next sittings.
– by leave- Mr President, I wish to speak briefly to the list which you have presented and which shows the Committees whose reports have not yet been responded to by the Government. I realise that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) says that a number of these Government responses will be presented this week but that, of course, will not affect the situation as it is at the moment. As I calculate from the schedule, the average time that these reports have been waiting for an answer - and I trust that my figures are correct - is a little short of 1 4 months. That seems to me to be a fairly long period when we consider that an undertaking of six months was given. Of course, this is not the first time you, Mr President, have made a report on this matter and there has been some debate on it.
I appreciate that in the case of some reports quite considerable inquiries necessarily have to be made. I appreciate also that party committees are asked to make their comments on documents and it is desirable that that sort of examination take place. Therefore, one could expect that the six months period would not always be complied with. But it seems to me that when the period in which a Government response to these reports has not been made draws out to nearly 14 months on average, one reaches the situation in which reports from committees of the Parliament and, in particular, committees of the Senate are received and not replied to in the same parliament. If they were replied to in six or seven months one could expect action - completion of legislation and so forth - during the same parliament in which they were brought down. If, in fact, there are delays of something near to 14 months one can expect that matters will be held over into the next parliament. Therefore, the delay in action is really even longer for that reason. We know that in the time just before an election and just after an election not very much is done in the way of enacting legislation.
I just wanted to raise my concern - I believe it is a concern of other honourable senators, chairmen and other members of committees of the Parliament - that this rather tardy result shows a weakening of the committee system of the Parliament. It is not good for the success which we expect from the committee system. I think the committee system is at something of a turning point. Either it will go on, produce well thoughtout reports and expect some action or it will have its reports accumulating and not being dealt with. In that case one would expect enthusiasm to fall away; one would expect people who give evidence before committees not to have that enthusiasm; one would also expect them to lose sight of what has gone on in regard to the problem on which they have given evidence some considerable time before and to think that Parliament was doing nothing about their problems. I hope we can do better in the next parliament and that we can have a quicker response given to reports than is demonstrated in this statement, which I think is not good enough.
– by leave - I have received the report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on the claim known as the Anmatjirra and Alyawarra land claim to Utopia pastoral lease. I propose to table the report when it is printed, but I shall make known the Commissioner’s recommendation now, together with my decision, in order to avoid unnecessary delay.
On 20 November 1978 the Central Land Council lodged an application under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act on behalf of Aboriginals claiming to have a traditional attachment to Utopia station, a pastoral lease of 1 ,963 square kilometres lying some 200 kilometres north east of Alice Springs. Included in the claim was a small area - 4.26 square kilometres - of adjoining unalienated Crown land which was originally surrendered from the Utopia lease with the intention of its becoming a community area for the Utopia Aboriginal people. The claim was later amended to also include part of the Sandover stock route which runs through the lease. This land claim was the sixth to be concluded by the Commissioner and the first where Aboriginals have claimed traditional ownership of alienated Crown land which is held by or on behalf of Aboriginals. Utopia Station was bought by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission in March 1976.
At the beginning of the hearings the Northern Territory Government raised the question whether the land claim fell within the jurisdiction of the Land Commissioner. It argued that the pastoral lease was held neither by nor on behalf of Aboriginals and therefore the Commissioner could not deal with the claim. The Commissioner did not accept this view and proceeded with the hearing. The Northern Territory Government then sought in the High Court of Australia an order prohibiting the further hearing of this claim. The application was heard by the Full Bench of the High Court on 18 and 19 November. On 6 February 1980 judgment was given upholding the Commissioner’s jurisdiction to hear the claim and further hearings were held in Alice Springs on 25 to 29 February and 1 to 3 March 1980.
The Commissioner has found that the Utopia pastoral lease is alienated Crown land in which all estates and interests not held by the Crown are held on behalf of Aboriginals, in this case by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission. He has also found that the remainder of the claim is unalienated Crown land, that there are traditional Aboriginal owners of all that land, and that these traditional owners are entitled to use or occupy the whole of the land claimed. The Commissioner has recommended that the land claimed be granted to a land trust.
He found that traditional attachment to the land is ‘strong and vital’. This was demonstrated by the attention and reverence given to sacred sites, by the existence of sacred objects and by the performance of ceremonies and the display of sacred objects. It was also borne out by the movement of people to their own country within the station in recent years. The painting and dancing of the women of Utopia during the hearings also vividly illustrated the importance of ceremonial life and the significance their country holds for them.
In making his recommendation the Land Commissioner is required by the Act to comment on the number of Aboriginals who would be disadvantaged by the land grant, the nature and extent of that advantage, whether detriment might result to any person or community as a result of the grant and the effect which the grant would have on existing or proposed patterns of land use. The Commissioner found that not less than 500 Aboriginals with traditional attachment to the land would benefit from the granting of the claim. He considered that the advantage of a grant of land under the Act lies in the assurance of security of title and in the acknowledgement that this land, although a pastoral lease and capable of carrying cattle, is seen by the claimants as a home for several communities. In his view a grant of freehold title ‘more truly accords with the situation than a pastoral lease’.
The Commissioner found also that no detriment to persons or communities, Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, is likely to result from a grant of this land. Some concern was expressed by the Northern Territory cattle council that convenor of the lease to freehold may lead to problems of access to the land and difficulties in regard to supervision of the use of the land for cattle raising. However, conversion of the lease is not expected to result in any detriment to the operation of the station as a cattle enterprise. Management of the property, the ability of the Northern Territory Government to control stock diseases, and the applicability of Northern Territory Acts which regulate cattle operations are all unlikely to be affected by the granting of this land.
Passing through the Utopia lease in a north easterly direction is the Sandover stock route. It does not form part of the lease; it is unalienated Crown land. It has never been dedicated or reserved as a stock route and exists only by usage. According to evidence given before the Commissioner, the last time the route was used for moving cattle on foot was in 1966. The future movement of stock along this route is considered by the Northern Territory Department of Primary Production to be ‘a possibility but not a likelihood’. With regard to roads across the land claimed, there are three roads over which the public has a right of way.
As is my normal practice I have considered the views of the Northern Territory Government on the Commissioner’s report. The Northern Territory Chief Minister has raised no objection to the granting of this land. He has advised me, however, that his Government is examining the legal rights of neighbouring pastoralists who may require entry to Aboriginal land for mustering or fencing purposes. 1 have decided that the land claimed should be granted, with the exception of three public roads - the access road to Utopia, Waite River Station and the site known as Three Bores; the Sandover Highway; and the McDonald Downs road. I shall establish a Land Trust and will recommend to the Governor-General that a grant of an estate in fee simple in the land be made to the trust.
As printed copies of the Commissioner’s report will not be available for some weeks, a limited number of photocopies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and the Records Office. 1 present the following paper:
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 - Aboriginal Land Claim to Utopia Pastoral Lease - Report of Aboriginal Land Commissioner - Ministerial Statement, 16 September 1980.
– by leave- I move:
This is the sixth land claim hearing conducted by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. I will call it the Utopia claim in case my pronunciation of the words differs from that of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). It is pleasing to see that the Minister has accepted the Commissioner’s recommendations and granted the claim. I am sure the Aboriginal people and the Central Land Council will welcome the Minister’s statement. There is no doubt that what has been granted is exactly what was asked for by the group at Utopia. This is an interesting claim because I understand that it is the first pastoral lease purchased by the Government which has been con- verted in this way. I believe that is a credit to the people who established Utopia after the change was made and the property was purchased by the Government.
In the main the people who did that had grown up on pastoral properties. The families of many of them had lived on pastoral properties for several generations. The people established Utopia for two reasons: Firstly, as a place to live; secondly, as a pastoral property. I think it is important that we keep in mind the two roles the area will serve. Five groups of people are settled on the property, living in separate communities but working together to develop the pastoral property. The traditional life style - that which was noted favourably by the Commissioner- is very strong and an attempt is being made by the people there to adapt that traditional life style to meet the needs of the pastoral property enterprise.
At present Utopia is selling a large number of cattle and I understand they are disease free. It must be admitted - I think it would be admitted by people involved in the property - that some elements of property management and husbandry are still being developed on the property and perhaps have not reached the level that might be desired. I put it to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) that the support and assistance given in the past need to be continued. The granting of the claim is a wonderful step forward, but it goes only part of the way. As I indicated, on-going support will be needed during this transition period when the people at Utopia are attempting to establish a viable enterprise. I call on the Minister to give that support and I am confident that it will be given. I make no comment on the actions of the Northern Territory in going to the High Court; I think sufficient was said about that at the time. We note in the report that the Chief Minister later raised no objection to the land claim being granted. I commend the Minister and the Government, for their action and seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Is Notice of Motion No. 38, standing in the name of Senator McLaren, relating to unemployment in South Australia, formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
– Not formal. Is Notice of Motion No. 39, standing in the name of Senator McLaren, relating to a telephone service for the previous Governor-General, formal or not formal?
– Formal, Mr President.
– Not formal.
- Mr President, I seek your indulgence. I rose to my feet to say that the notice of motion was formal. Senator Baume did not rise in his place. I would like your guidance on the Standing Orders. Can a senator declare a notice of motion not formal when he has not risen in his place?
– It is always required in this place that when a senator speaks that senator is on his or her feet.
– Not formal, Mr President.
– Mr President, I now ask you: In view of the fact that I was on my feet first, how can Senator Baume now rise to his feet and declare the notice of motion not formal? I thought that the call from the Chair was to be made from one side to the other.
– When a notice of motion is declared not formal the motion is not to be moved at that time. If there is one objection to a notice of motion being declared formal that motion is deferred.
– Can a senator from a sitting position declare a notice of motion not formal?
- Mr President, I submit that as any senator is entitled to declare a notice of motion not formal any indication from any senator that he wished to declare a notice of motion not formal would need to be acknowledged by the Chair; otherwise the Standing Orders would be unworkable.
– That is so.
– Mr President, would you at the next meeting of the Standing Orders Committee have a look at that issue and have clarified whether, under the Standing Orders, a senator can declare a notice of motion not formal while remaining seated and while another senator wants to declare the notice of motion formal and does so while on his feet?
– It is long-established practice that a senator rises to his or her feet to speak in this place.
Assent to the following Bills reported: Loan Bill 1980.
Australian Industry Development Corporation Amendment Bill 1980.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1980-81 In Committee (Quorum formed).
Motion by (Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That clauses 1 to 10 and Schedule No. 1 be postponed till after the consideration of Schedule No. 2.
That, unless otherwise ordered, the votes in the Schedule be considered in the same groupings and order as the departmental estimates referred to Estimates Committees A, B, C, D, E, and F, respectively, as follows:
- Senator McLaren, it is a matter for the Committee to determine. Is it the wish of the Committee that the estimates in Group A be taken as a whole?
– Speaking to that, Mr Chairman, who is the Minister in charge of these estimates?
– For the time being I will be here, so debate on Group A should proceed.
– Then, Mr Chairman, is the Minister who has just spoken the Minister responsible for that section of the Estimates?
– No, Mr Chairman, I am not. Senator Carrick will resume duty in the chamber shortly. Of course, he is here at the moment, but he will be leaving for a few moments and then will return.
– I do not wish to make a great issue of this, but previously when we debated the Estimates the precedent was established of the Minister on duty in the chamber taking responsibility for the departmental estimates then being considered rather than the Minister charged with the responsibility for those estimates doing so. 1 put it to you, Mr Chairman, that that procedure ought to be discontinued. If arrangements have been made to do otherwise this afternoon, well and good, but in future I think it would be wise for the Minister who is charged with the responsibility for the departmental estimates being debated to be present in the chamber. Departmental advisers associated with those estimates ought always to be present when they are being debated. I think they are here now. Irrespective of the fact that the Estimates might already have been considered at length in Estimates committee hearings, I think it is wise not to diminish in any way the role we play in this chamber.
– The Government will endeavour to keep to the pattern which the honourable senator has suggested. There may be some difficulties because, as honourable senators are aware, the committees involve a number of Ministers and it may be difficult always to ensure that the appropriate Minister is in the chair for the appropriated part of the Estimates but we will endeavour to do so.
– We will now deal with Group A. The question is:
That the votes contained in Group A be now passed without requests.
Parliament Proposed expenditure, $20,246,000
Department of National Development and Energy
Proposed expenditure, $75,772,000
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $60,252,000
Department of Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $298,593,000
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $479,105,000
– During the hearing of Estimates Committee A further concern was expressed about the provision of staff for the Senate. We have before us now in the documents provided a breakdown of Senate staff. In attachment B there is an establishment of 1 53. Information was given during the Committee hearings that the staff ceiling is 1 4 1 . In the answer now provided the number of staff presently employed is 1 33, which is eight below the staff ceiling. Concern was expressed during the hearings that the staff ceiling was too low. I expressed my concern that we do not even have enough staff on strength to fulfil the staff ceiling allocated. That matter concerns me. Perhaps the Senate can be given an answer as to why the staff position is as it is.
I am also concerned that during the hearings of Estimates Committee A, which dealt with Parliament, Mr President had to take the brunt of complaints that we were not provided with sufficient staff. During the hearings it appeared to me that the fault probably lay with the Presiding Officer. However further on during other hearings Senator Carrick admitted that in fact it is the Government which sets the staff ceilings or notifies the Public Service Board of the number of staff members to be allowed for each department. I am concerned about the Department of the Senate. Rather than now blaming the President for the low staff ceiling and not having sufficient staff to carry out the work of the Parliament we must sheet the blame home to the Government. As was admitted by Senator Carrick, that is where the blame should lay. I am concerned that the Senate is eight below the staff ceiling allocated to it.
I understand that by way of question this afternoon Senator Knight referred to a letter in the
Canberra Times today written by somebody who did not have the courage to sign his name to it. From my reading of the letter it appeared to me that the person who wrote it may have been employed here - or may still be employed here - and may have missed out on some promotion or some benefit to which he thought he was entitled. This person saw fit to write to the paper castigating other staff members of the Senate. I would like to place on record that during my nine years in this place I have had no complaints against the staff of the Senate. I have always found that they go out of their way to be helpful and that no request is ever refused whether I am here in person in the Parliament or whether I make a phone call from my office in South Australia. Any request of mine has been quickly and speedily compiled with. I think the person who wrote the letter should now have the courage to let us know who he or she is so that some action can be taken against him or her. I have no objection to people writing to newspapers; I think it is a good thing. I also say that people ought to have the courage to sign their names to complaints aired through the newspapers.
I wish to mention one other thing before I sit down and wait for an answer as to why staff numbers are eight below the ceiling. During the hearings of the Estimates Committee I again raised the matter of overtime for staff. As recorded on page 1 3 of the Hansard of 29 August 1980 for Estimates Committee A; I said to the President: . . may recall that in May 1978 this Comittee raised the question of an overtime allowance for staff. That matter was subject to investigation. Could you inform the Committee at what stage you have reached?
Mr President replied:
The question of overtime as against extra leave is a very vexed question.
Mr Bradshaw then said:
A document was given to me at the beginning of this week. At this stage I have not studied it. I need to study the report and make a recommendation on it to the President.
I then asked:
Could we expect any reaction to the document before the rising of the Parliament?
The President said the he could not promise that. I notice that in replies we have received to questions in the Committee there has been no reaction of any kind from the President. Perhaps he may be good enough to let us know how far consideration of the vexed question of an overtime allowance for staff has progressed. Another matter I raise concerning the Parliament is in relation to the Parliamentary Library. As recorded on page 19 of the Senate Hansard for the same day I asked about the removal of certain segments of the Parliamentary Library to the Hotel Kurrajong. 1 wish to have the President’s answer in the record of our debate today. In reply to the major part of my question the President said that he could understand my concern. I went on to say:
It is not only my concern. I have expressed it on behalf of many other people.
The President said:
No major determinations on locations will be made before the Parliament reassembles.
Can we take it that when the Parliament resumes no services will have been removed from the Library which are there at present?
The President replied:
That will be my expectation.
I would like to congratulate the President for having made those remarks. I look forward when we come back after the election to seeing that no segment of the Parliamentary Library at all has been removed. I take note of the undertaking given by the President and I hope that by some manner of means he will not be overruled by the Speaker in the other place. I have great faith in our President. In view of the remarks made by Mr Speaker about the Library when he appeared before the Estimates Committee of the other place 1 cannot say that I have a great deal of faith in Mr Speaker ensuring that no segments of the Library are removed. I know that many people in the Library are very concerned at the remarks made by Mr Speaker and by his refusal to answer many questions put to him. On the other hand Mr President was prepared to answer every question. I thank him for that. I await the answers to the questions I have posed to the President.
Senator Sir CONDOR LAUCKE (South Australia) (5.4) - Senator McLaren referred to the staff ceiling of 141 for the Department of the Senate and the actual complement of 1 33. Staff numbers were allowed to drop by eight purposely to enable us to appoint four research officers for Estimates committees and one senior procedural officer and have three vacancies left for stenographers and attendants. It was done to assist our endeavours to appoint staff to meet the most urgent requirements. We have been able to do that. We approached the Public Service Board and the positions we wanted were okayed. That is the situation. When these positions are filled we will be back again to our full staff of 1 41 .
The overtime matter to which the honourable senator referres is very close to a decision. I hope in the next couple of days, after further discussions with Mr Clerk and his officers, to have something final. In regard to the final matter to which you referred, my statement in respect of removal of services and so on, I indicated that Mr Speaker and I intend to have a bipartisan committee set up to look at the matter of accommodation. I have to make a statement before the Senate rises tomorrow in respect of that matter. I think honourable senators will find that our attitude, which is one of consultation and discussion, will lead to a satisfactory solution to our accommodation problems. Are there any other questions that I have not replied to?
– No. I think that was all, Mr President.
– I appreciated greatly Senator McLaren’s reference to his respect and admiration for the staff. I know that this is a general feeling within the Senate about the work that is done by staff through the whole gamut of provision of services to us. It is good to hear this because so often loyal and dedicated officers and members of staff do not receive the pat on the back to which they are entitled. I always appreciate hearing a good word on the very excellent services given us. I thank the honourable senator for mentioning this matter.
– During the Estimates Committee’s deliberations there was much time spent on the matter of staffing and accommodation. Senator McLaren and Mr President have already mentioned those matters this afternoon. I wish to make a couple of points about staffing and accommodation in this place. The Senate simply cannot operate as it is supposed to operate and it cannot function well unless we have the staff that we need. When we were deliberating this matter in the Committee it became quite evident to us that Mr President had done a great deal to try to get the staff level to that which we need so that the Senate can operate well.
When the discussions within the Committee came to the matter of accommodation it became clear that Mr President had also done a great deal behind the scenes to try to make sure that we have sufficient accommodation in which to house our staff and in which to allow our committees to function, and all of the things that we require for the Senate whilst we still occupy this building. I suppose that when we have our new and permanent Parliament House, if some of use are still here, we will ahve the type of accommodation that we really need within the Parliament. But I should like to place on record at this stage that the Committee supports to the hilt the efforts that Mr
President has made in relation to staffing and accommodation. I think that it is important that we note that - I am sure that those honourable senators who were not on the Committee would give similar support - because it is important that the Government understands that we are behind the efforts that Mr President is making.
- Mr Chairman, I wish to say something in regard to the estimates for the Parliament. The remarks that I make relate to the ministerial statement that was made by Senator Chaney this afternoon concerning action that the Government has taken on Senate committee reports. Whilst I heard Senator Chaney’s ministerial statement and I heard some response on the part of Senator Missen, 1 think the Government has to face up to its responsibilities to the Parliament. Again, as we have been saying here in this sessional period, the Government has given a number of undertakings to the Australian people and has not honoured them. In respect of reports to the Parliament, the Government gave a specific undertaking to the Parliament and obviously has not carried it out. It was in May 1978 that Senator Withers, the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, made a statement in the Parliament on behalf of the Government and gave an undertaking that the Senate would receive a report from the Government on the attitude that the Government took to specific recommendations of committees within six months of the report being tabled in the Parliament. He also said that if the six-month period expired during the course of a parliamentary session, the report of the Government would be tendered at the earliest opportunity in the next sessional period. In the last week of this Parliament Senator Chaney presented details of a number of reports to which the Government has not responded within six months of the date of tabling. The first report is that of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government operations on the Australian National Gallery annual report for 1975-76, which I notice was tabled in the Senate on 16 March 1978, about three months before the Government gave its undertaking to report within a six-month period. Still we await a report from the Government on its attitude to that report. A report on the Advance to the Minister for Finance was tabled on 1 1 October 1979. 1 mention the details in particular because they were circulated only for the benefit of honourable senators, and not incorporated in Hansard. They are from statutory authorities of the Commonwealth. The first report relates to 1978, and was tabled on 20 February 1 979. The second report was tabled–
– They were incorporated, by the way.
– 1 am sorry. I thank the Minister for the correction. I indicate merely that this is not good enough, from the Government. It is certainly most unsatisfactory to the members of the Senate and the staff of the Senate. Frankly, in regard to the great number of reports that have been tendered to the Senate by Senate standing committees and select committees, I have heard very little criticism by newspaper editors, by members of the public or by the experts involved in connection with the particular reports, of the recommendations that have been brought down by the committees. All of the reports that have been tendered, I think, have received a great deal of consideration after senators have given a lot of their time to listening to the evidence, considering the submissions and drawing up the reports. If the Parliament is to be worth its salt and if notice is to be taken of the Parliament, as members of the Senate we must insist that the Government have a better performance on this matter than its track record shows to date.
Frankly, I consider that if this attitude on the part of the Government is to continue - assuming that by some mischance it is re-elected to office on 18 October - we all ought to have another very serious look at the future of these committees. I would not want to waste my time, as it appears I have been doing on the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. Already about six reports tendered by it between March 1978 and February 1980 have not received the light of day so far as the Government is concerned.
I instance two other matters. First, there is the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence relating to Australia, Antarctica and the Law of the Sea Conference, which was tabled in the Senate, apparently, on 1 June 1978. Only this week, members of the Senate - I think Senator Puplick representing the Government and Senator Sibraa representing the Opposition - attended the signing of a treaty relating to Antarctica. I should have thought - I do not know what was included in the Senate Committee’s recommendations on Antarctica in that regard - that at least the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) could have reported the outcome of that matter in relation to the Senate Committee’s recommendations. I wonder not only what members of the Ministry and the Executive are doing, but also what those in the departments are doing so far as the consideration of Senate committee reports is concerned. A report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Australian defence procurement was tabled on 22 November 1979. 1 do not know what specific recommendations are contained in that report.
In the last couple of weeks a Bill has been brought into this Parliament which emphasises Australian priority in regard to defence purchases. That Bill probably arose out of that Committee’s recommendations. Again there has been no response by the Government on that report. I think it is quite scandalous and is, at the very least, a discourtesy to the Senate on the part of the Government and those who are highly paid to give advice to the Government that these reports are tendered to the Parliament and are obviously pigeon-holed, and that very few people, if any, take cognisance of them. Certainly, when we return to government after the next election we will be giving close consideration to these reports, as we did when we were last in government. As the Minister for the Media in the Labor Government, I took great interest in seeing that many of the recommendations of committees were implemented. The report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television - the Vincent Committee - was implemented by way of legislation. As a result of that legislation we have the benefit of the Australian Film Commission today. I mention that only to indicate that the Labor Government did take cognisance of Senate committee reports. I dare say that I could mention others. As I have mentioned, this is just not good enough. I urge the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who is at the table, to pass my comments on to those who are, for the time being, in the executive positions in this nation.
– I have taken note of the comments made by Senator Douglas McClelland. As I indicated on a previous occasion when the Senate was debating this matter, since May 1978 the Government has put itself in a position which no other Government has done in Australia’s history- that is, to make a positive commitment not simply to have these reports of parliamentary committees received and ignored, but to respond to them. As the honourable senator has pointed out, the commitment given in May 1978 was to respond to reports within six months. I can only say that having now had some short experience of having to respond to these committee reports, the difficulty often is that a very substantial number of recommendations have to be considered and the delay is often occasioned simply by the complexity of what is involved.
I think that the Senate should acknowledge that for the first time when a report is made from a Senate committee or any parliamentary committee it becomes obligatory upon the Executive Government- that means not merely the political but also the administrative arm of government - to consider the report and to respond to it. That very considerable advance is one which ought not be masked by the fact that the Government has not in all cases been able to meet the deadline which it laid down. We are now in the second year of that commitment. The Government could after that period examine the commitment in the light of its own experience and in the light of comments of the sort made by Senator McClelland. Certainly 1 indicate the Government’s continuing concern to ensure that the benefits of parliamentary inquiry are not lost to Australia.
– I wish to raise a further matter while we are dealing with the Parliament. The President will recall that I asked him whether he would be prepared to have discussions with the Speaker of the House of Representatives as to the possibility of circulating minutes of the Joint House Committee and the Library Committee. In my request I used words to the effect ‘to all members of parliament’. Perhaps I could amend my wording and ask whether the minutes could be circulated to all interested members of Parliament on request. I ask the President whether he has had those discussions with the Speaker.
Senator Sir CONDOR LAUCKE (South Australia) (5.18) - In response to the honourable senator, I regret that I have not as yet had an opportunity to have a full discussion on this matter. I will inform the honourable senator of the details of the discussion at a later stage.
– In relation to the proposed expenditure of $75,722,000 for the Department of National Development and Energy, on 29 August 1980 I sought some information under division 436. I asked several questions to which I have received replies. I asked the following question:
Can the Department also estimate the total expenditure on these activities by any other departments which may have an involvement in these matters dealing with uranium.
The reply which I received is as follows:
The Department is not able to estimate the expenditure by other departments on these activities.
When we have an expenditure of $29,532,000 it seems to me to be very strange that the Australian
Atomic Energy Commission is not able to ascertain from other departments what their expenditure might be regarding their involvement in matters dealing with uranium. It seems to me to be a very strange answer to be given. I ask again: Can 1 be provided, or can the Senate be provided, with that information?
– That information is not within the knowledge of the particular Department to which the request was addressed. To answer it, I understand, would require making inquiries of all relevant departments. In the time scale available that has not been done.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) whether, in the event that he is still a Minister after 18 October, he will ask the officers to endeavour to find that information for us. A day never goes by in Australia now during which there is not some discussion or some question asked about the safe use of uranium or its byproducts. Along with many other people, I am very concerned about what is being done by government departments and how much of the taxpayers’ money is being expended on these matters. Surely we should be able to be provided with that information. I ask the Minister to take it on board, as I have said, in the event that he is still a Minister after the election.
– I agree with the request of the honourable senator. I will put it into the system in order to obtain a reply.
– I wish to raise a further question dealing with the Department of National Development and Energy. On page 44 of the Hansard report the Estimates committee meeting dated 29 August 1980 I asked for information on approaches made by the previous government of South Australia for a review of the Monarto growth centre funding arrangements. I received the following reply:
A review of the provisions of the agreements between the Commonwealth and South Australia relating to the Monarto Growth Centre was proposed by the then South Australian Premier in September 1978. The proposed review was agreed by the Commonwealth and, following discussions between Commonwealth and State officers, the Commonwealth’s examination of the South Australian proposals was proceeding at the time of the change of Government in South Australia in 1979. In January, 1980, new proposals were submitted by South Australia.
I would now like to ask the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick): In what way did the proposals submitted by Mr
Dunstan, the then South Australian Premier, differ from the proposals of Mr Tonkin, the present South Australian Premier?
– I do not know what Mr Dunstan’s specific proposals were during his final days in government. I do know that the Tonkin Government decided to resolve the matter of the Monarto growth centre. An offer was made, as Senator McLaren will know, to the tune of $5. 2m. This was the Tonkin Government’s offer to the Commonwealth. That offer was accepted.
– The Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) in his reply referred to the latter stages of Mr Dunstan’s Government. I would like to say that in the answer which I was given it was stated that the proposals were made by the then Premier of South Australia in September 1978. That was just 1 2 months prior to the Government going out of office, certainly with a new Premier. Those proposals were with the Commonwealth Government. What disturbs me is that when this arrangement was made between Mr Tonkin and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), it was inferred in South Australia that it was Mr Tonkin who initiated the discussions with the Federal Government for some financial arrangements to be entered into or some agreement to be reached between the two governments in respect of Monarto.
I am endeavouring to ascertain how these proposals differ. I am unable to obtain the information from South Australia now because there has been a change of government. I have not made the request to Mr Tonkin, but no doubt he would not give it to me as a member of the Opposition. I suppose I am in order in asking in what way the proposals differ. In the area where I live many people are concerned that this Monarto complex will now be sold off. Many hundreds of acres have been planted with trees. People are concerned that if this land is sold back to farmers at a very low cost, all that reafforestation work will be undone; the trees will be ripped out; and there will be a public outcry. That is why I am trying to ascertain whether there is any difference between the proposals made to the Commonwealth Government by Mr Dunstan and Mr Tonkin. No decision could be reached in 12 months on Mr Dunstan’s proposals. Yet three or four months after Mr Tonkin comes to office the Government is able to make a very quick decision on his proposals. I want to ascertain whether the answer that Mr Tonkin got was an agreement to the proposal made by Mr Dunstan and not to the new proposals submitted by Mr Tonkin.
– I will have the matter investigated. To the extent that it is possible in due course I will provide an answer for Senator McLaren.
– I have two questions concerning the Department of National Development and Energy. The first one deals with division 431, Division of National Mapping. Perhaps the Minister could clarify this matter for me. The grand total is over $7m. I take it we get supplementary aid through the use of naval vessels which would be debited to the Department of Defence. Does that include the provisions of charts as distinct from maps? I could also raise this question with respect to the Royal Australian Air Force. Are any of its operations in relation to mapping part of that $7m, or would that be charged to the Defence vote?
I refer also to division 436, Australian Atomic Energy Commission. I raise this matter in the hope of continued good industrial relations. The Minister is aware that a number of unions in the Queensland Railway Department - for instance, the Australian Railways Union and the Railway Salaried Officers Union - have from time to time expressed reservations about adequate security in relation to the conveyance of yellowcake. I know the Minister gave an answer in regard to this matter in the Senate recently. With all due respect, I do not know that the unions would have read his answer in Hansard. Can the Minister tell us what has been done in regard to continued good industrial relations with the transport unions in relation to this matter?
– As to the honourable senator’s first question, that is whether the work done in the Department of Defence sector is included in, is supplementary or is additional to these estimates, I am advised that it is additional. As to the question about the railways, it so happened that prior to my being acquainted with some expression of concern by the railway people in Queensland - let me say this, I would react sympathetically if a real concern were demonstrated by them - the officer in charge of the Australian Safeguards Office had, of his own initiative, and in consultation with me, had discussions with Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd about the whole of the security within Australia on this question of handling uranium, its going through the drying mills and being put into containers. We did not know at that time that some drums had been missing from several years before.
Equally, the Australian Safeguards Office reviewed the question of the transport of yellowcake under guard. That quite fortuitously was in progress ahead of our discovery that drums were missing and some mention of anxiety. I was advised by the Australian Safeguards Office that the security that was then being practised was deemed to be the kind of security that was necessary in those situations, that is, a police guard was travelling with the uranium on its journeys. Let us bear in mind that the main thing is its physical security. Yellowcake in drums is not of itself radioactive in any way. It is highly toxic. The main thing is to account for the number of drums from beginning to end. I have been assured that the guarding is adequate. If there is any evidence that Senator Mulvihill can provide to me - I know his connection with that union - I will certainly puruse it and endeavour to strengthen the security.
– Dealing with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, I relate my remarks to the operations of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. With all the best intentions in the world I might draw a parallel between cases before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission relating to trade union disputes in which certain people have been regarded as vexatious litigants - they are usually individuals who have pursued a vendetta against a union for pointless reasons and who ultimately suffer a punishment - and the operations of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The appropriation is a pretty sizable sum. When a person writes to the Ombudsman does he vet that person’s mental stability? I ask that quite sincerely. Every member of parliament at times is approached by a person whose mental fabric is cracking. We feel sorry for him, but we know that he is beating his head against a wall. These people might send their documents to the Ombudsman with the best intentions in the world. Does the Ombudsman have a look at their track record to see whether they are right in what they allege, or does he start another motion and compound the cost? These people might be quite sane. I am thinking of one particular person in one trade union. He was quite sane, but his vendetta was going to cost everybody a lot of money. How are these things screened?
– I think all honourable members of parliament are in their own way ombudsmen. They receive documents and assess them in their own way, and they generally invite the person concerned in to make a mental judgment. My understanding is, but I would need to check it, that officers of the Commonwealth Ombudsman indulge in exactly that practice. They assess the document, they interview the person and they make just such a judgment. If there is anything further to add to that, I will ascertain it and let Senator Mulvihill know.
– Assuming that such an evaluation has been done and a request has gone to a Minister, is there a time limit before they expect the Minister to respond with his version of the alleged injustice?
– My own experience of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in my former portfolio was that if the Minister did not respond fairly quickly, the Ombudsman was quick to chivvy him along, if I may use the colloquialism. One of the jobs of the Ombudsman is to ensure some promptitude in dealing with the matter.
– I raised some matters during Estimates Committee A’s hearings. The Committee, in its report, referred to the inability of many committees, not only our own, to ascertain the total costs of the Prime Minister’s visits overseas. I want to have this recorded in Hansard, so I will read it out. I read from the report of Estimates Committee A, clause (b), page 2, under the heading ‘Identification and Expenditure on Specific Programs and Projects’:
The Committee again encountered a number of instances where it is not possible to identify the total expenditure on specific projects or programs as the expenditure involved is spread over a number of departmental appropriations. A case in point being the overall cost of the CHOGM conference next year. Another example relates to the overall costs in connection with overseas visits by the Prime Minister. The Committee recommends that the Department with the prime responsibility for a program or project provide a summary of the overall cost with cross-referencing to any other Department involved in the explanatory notes.
The replies received by the Committee were tabled in the Senate yesterday. I had asked a question during the discussion on division 500, subdivision 2, item 01 relating to travelling and subsistence. The reply stated: . . Senator McLaren sought details of officers travelling to CHOGRM India and the total cost.
I will not refer to the number of people who went or the departments they came from. The answer states:
The cost of the visit will not be known until all accounts have been received.
Again, we run into the problem of passing appropriations and not knowing how the money will be spent nor being able to ascertain what it costs to send the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) overseas. I have said this many times in the Parliament since I became a member, particularly since 1972 when Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister. He was attacked by the then Opposition every day about the enormous costs incurred by him in overseas visits. It was revealed in, I think, the weekend Press - no member of the Government has disputed the fact - that in the five years this Government has been in office the taxpayer has had to find in excess of $ 12m to send the Prime Minister and his Ministers overseas. The article said that that was comparable with or even in excess of the taxpayers’ money that Whitlam spent. The then Opposition used a specious argument for political purposes to denigrate the former Prime Minister. The present Prime Minister made a statement that Australians did not want a tourist for a Prime Minister. He promised in the 1975 election campaign that that would never occur again. The figure of $1 2m referred to in the weekend Press did not include the cost which has been incurred in recent weeks. It probably did not include the cost of the last visit from which the Prime Minister has just returned. In my view in the five years that he has been Prime Minister he has vastly exceeded the costs of the previous Prime Minister. To talk about Whitlam being an extravagant Prime Minister is not valid.
I am also concerned about the costs incurred to run the Prime Minister’s Lodge. Whenever I raise this matter I am told that it has been the practice of all governments not to divulge the costs of the official establishments. Again this year I asked about the cost of official establishments. An answer came back, no doubt from the Prime Minister’s Department. Again, it was stated that the traditional principle is not to supply cost figures for individual establishments.
– Unless Fraser thinks he can get some electoral mileage out of it.
– That is what I intended to say. I have said it before. The answer to my question reads:
On 4 November 1975 the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, in answering a Parliamentary Question on Notice (House of Representatives Hansard, 4 November 1975, page 2776) declined to give running cost figures individually for Kirribilli House and the Lodge, and said, inter alia:
For many years successive Governments have followed the principle that costs of the four official establishments, Government House, Admiralty House, Kirribilli House and the Prime Minister’s Lodge- should be regarded as a total charge against the annual Budget appropriation.’
Until that time that was the norm. Nobody had broken that precedent. The answer continues:
On 8 April 1976 the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, said in answering a Parliamentary Question on Notice (House of Representatives Hansard, 8 April 1976, page 1 S63):
I refer the honourable member to the answer given by the former Prime Minister last year (Hansard, 4 November 1975, page 2776) in which he referred to the principle of many years standing that the costs of operating the four official establishments - Government House, Admiralty House, Kirribilli House and the Prime Minister’s Lodge - be regarded as a total charge against the annual Budget appropriation. I do not propose to depart from that principle.’
On page 2 of the reply we find that in answer to a question on notice on 24 March 1976 the Prime Minister said: . . I have already given some information about the costs of running the Lodge and Kirribilli House. I did so in support of my belief that a Prime Minister should have only one official residence. Because of the expense involved, I had Kirribilli House revert to its original purpose of providing accommodation for important visitors.
I cannot understand why the answer referred to the Hansard of 4 November 1 975, then skipped to 8 April 1976 before coming back to 24 March 1976. Why was the answer of 24 March not referred to between the other two references? People reading page 2 of the answer could be under the false impression that the present Prime Minister has never divulged costs, as Mr Whitlam refused to do. In fact, he has. He had those costs at his fingertips on 24 March 1976. The answer given to the Senate Estimates Committee is not as full as the answer which appears in the House of Representatives Hansard. A Dorothy Dix question was addressed to the Prime Minister on 24 March 1976 by Mr Porter, the Liberal member for Barker. It was headed ‘Official Residences of the Prime Minister’. It stated:
My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can he inform the House of the cost last year of running the Lodge and Kirribilli House?
If Mr Fraser had not wanted to score a cheap political point he would have used the answer referred to in the document provided to the Senate Estimates Committee. That is the answer which Mr Whitlam gave on 4 November 1975 and which Mr Fraser gave on 8 April 1976 quoting Mr Whitlam. But he did not deign to do that. What did he do? He said:
I do not have the figures for the whole of last year but have them for the last part of the year for both places. In the last six months of last year the Lodge cost the Autralian taxpayer $64,941.
He went on to talk about the cost of Kirribilli House. Mr Innes interjected and said:
Tell us about Manila. Tell us about Singapore.
We all know what that interjection referred to.
– It is Question No. 3381 on the 1975 Notice Paper.
– We cannot get an answer to that; yet we can get an off-the-cuff answer about the cost of running the Lodge and Kirribilli House when Mr Whitlam was the occupant. After the interjection Mr Fraser said:
Honourable gentlemen opposite do not like the facts of life about their leader. That is why they keep on trying to hide them. But I think that a few people have a right to know and a few people have a right to be able to understand.
In view of the fact that the cost of running the Lodge has been completely separated from the cost of running the other three establishments it should be no problem at all for the Prime Minister to reveal to the Parliament and the public at large what he is costing the Australian taxpayer to occupy that residence. He should have no problem in seeking out that information. Questions are asked repeatedly in the Parliament. Repeatedly the Prime Minister refers to an answer given by Mr Whitlam. If Mr Whitlam had wanted to be as vindictive as Mr Fraser he could have referred to the costs of running the Lodge when it was occupied by previous incumbents such as Mr Gorton, Mr McMahon and Mr Menzies. He did not deign to do that. He saw fit to keep up the convention and not reveal those costs. Not so Mr Fraser. He sought to score a cheap political point. Of course, he repudiated his own answer when he said:
Honourable gentlemen opposite do not like the facts of life about their leader. That is why they keep trying to hide them. But I think that a few people have a right to know and a few people have a right to be able to understand.
If that was good enough for the Prime Minister to say on 24 March 1 976 it is equally good for him to say it in answer to my questions in the Parliament in 1980. Why can he not live up to the principle that he set down on 24 March 1976? Why does he run away from that principle now? What does he have to hide about what it is costing the taxpayer to keep him in residence at the Lodge?
– They won’t be keeping him there much longer.
– I hope he will not be there much longer. He, and the honourable members who sit behind him, made a lot of other statements about some of the refreshments that were stored in the Lodge at that time, not for the benefit of Mr Whitlam but for the benefit of the staff of this Parliament. Both Christmases when Labor was in government, Mr Whitlam saw fit to throw open the Lodge and to entertain all of the staff of the Parliament in recognition of the fine work that they did in serving the Parliament, whether for the government of the day or for members of the Opposition. That has not happened under this Prime Minister and it did not happen under other Prime Ministers. I have spoken to many public servants who have been in the Public Service since they left school and started work. None of them had seen inside the gates of the Lodge until Mr Whitlam became Prime Minister. It is a public place. It is funded by the taxpayers of this country and the people have every right to be able to go there. Mr Whitlam saw fit to give some recognition to the staff of the Parliament. That is why the refreshments were there, despite what Senator Carrick said in answer to a question that I posed. He said that we should not talk about the wine that was stored there. That is another example of what the people opposite will set out to do to denigrate people who are trying to do something proper for the people who serve the Parliament.
I say again that we have in office today a Prime Minister who likes to hide all these things. I refer again to the way in which he hides the costs of his overseas trips. He was the first person on his feet to criticise Mr Whitlam when he chartered a plane from Qantas Airways Ltd to make his overseas trips. Of course, we could see all of the costs of Mr Whitlam ‘s trips because everybody who went with Mr Whitlam travelled in the one plane. All the costs were set out for the public to see. Now, as officers from various departments admit, the costs are charged against the various departments. It is impossible for honourable senators to attend all the Estimates committees hearings to ascertain the costs as I tried to do in the case of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting. We are told that we cannot ascertain the costs for some time. That is the problem that we have with this Prime Minister. He is always prepared to criticise unfairly what members of the Labor Party, when they were in office, were costing the taxpayer. When we seek information from him we find that he has all of his costs buried. He has them buried in the costs of the people who travel overseas with him in the private luxury hotel in which he flies around the world.
Also, he will not reveal the costs of running the Lodge. He no longer has any excuse. If he does not want to divulge the costs of running Kirribilli House that is fair enough. He says that he believes that the Prime Minister of the day should have only one official residence. I take it from that statement that he does not stay at Kirribilli House. I take his word that he does not stay there on any occasion. He accused the previous Prime Minister of staying there when he had to be there on official occasions. I say only this: It would certainly not have cost the taxpayer as much for Gough Whitlam, as Prime Minister, to be in residence at Kirribilli House as it is costing the taxpayer of Australia today for Mr Fraser to fly by VIP aircraft to his property, Nareen, in Victoria, I say again that if we could obtain the two costs and make a comparison Mr Whitlam would be seen as a babe in the wood as far as expending the Australian taxpayer’s money goes. When the Labor Party gets into office and we can ferret out these figures, we will find that Mr Fraser has been the most extravagant Prime Minister Australia has ever had.
– Senator McLaren has raised three matters. He raised the cost of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, presumably CHOGM 1981. A little reflection would give the answer that it is quite impossible to make other than an estimation of what that cost may be. Events and demands may change as the months and the planning go by. CHOGM, of course, is a matter of enormous significance. It has been a quite significant initiative on the part of the Australian Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It is a vital function. To the best of our ability the figures have been made available. As to the travel by the Prime Minister, I gave an answer some months ago in very great detail - it is recorded in Hansard - about, the costs and the times of the trips of, I think, virtually all Ministers, but certainly of the Prime Minister of the previous Government and of this Prime Minister, over a period. Those costs were carefully analysed. They are available for Senator McLaren to see.
I wish to take away the rhetoric. The fact is that whether one charters an aircraft from Qantas Airways Ltd or whether one charters, as one does, an aircraft from the transport wing of the Royal Australian Air Force, the same costs are involved. In fact, when the Prime Minister uses his 707 aircraft he uses it at charter costs. Senator McLaren finds it good to talk about luxury hotels. In fact, as anyone who has been close to the 707 aircraft would know, mostly their configuration is used either, as has been done repeatedly, to transport refugees, including boat people, or to transport Service people from Butterworth to Australia. I spent a whole six-day trip between Sydney and London for Lord Mountbatten’s funeral in a 707 aircraft in what were the most austere conditions. I do not cavil at that at all. I simply say that this talk of a luxury hotel is nonsense. 1 slept on the floor of the aircraft with a blanket wrapped around me. I was glad to do so. The fact of the matter is that the 707 aircraft is part of the transport wing of the RAAF. Everybody knows that. The RAAF needs that transport. In the past it had to charter aircraft at very considerable cost. If, indeed, further figures are necessary to show the comparisons between the previous Government and this Government, Senator McLaren need only ask and we will obtain them. I draw his attention to the very extensive and detailed answer which is recorded in Hansard and which was given some months ago.
I am puzzled about his third question, which related to the official establishments. I would have taken it that the Labor Party still has a bipartisan policy, as Mr Whitlam had, that there should be no disclosure of individual costs of each establishment. If that policy has changed, I would invite–
– Mr Fraser changed it.
– No, Mr Fraser did not change the Labor Party’s policy. The Labor Party can speak for itself. I would be very happy to know whether in fact the Labor Party is preserving the convention. The fact of the matter is, except for the questions that are involved, over the whole of the history of Federal governments of whatever persuasion there has been the convention that the total costs of the four establishments be grouped together and not be separated. I take it that the Labor Party intends to preserve this convention. 1 have not heard otherwise. We intend that it be preserved in the future. Therefore, in the Estimates committees hearings we gave the ordinary, conventional response, which 1 take it is also Labor Party policy.
– Anyone listening to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) would certainly not have been impressed. He talked about his Government being bipartisan and speculated about whether the Labor Party would break the convention. Who broke the convention? We did not break it. Mr Fraser broke it. I want to know why, in reply to my question, the officers did not print in the answer the full text of Mr Fraser’s answer of 24 March. Was it at his direction or did somebody in the department make the decision not to quote the full text of the answer? Why quote part of it?
The other matter is that the Minister did not convince me one iota when he talked about all of those costs being recorded in Hansard. I have read them. They were given in answer to a question by Senator Keeffe. We have been given only the costs for the Ministers. When Gough Whitlam went overseas all of the staff from all of the departments travelled in the chartered aircraft. We were given the total costs. But now, as the officers have admitted in answers to questions by me in the Estimates committee hearings - they are on the record - all of the costs of the people from various departments who accompanied the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), some of them are listed here for CHOGRM, are charged to the various departments. How can one ascertain the total cost of the travel overseas of the Prime Minister? One could ascertain the cost of Mr Whitlam’s travel overseas because he chartered aircraft. Let me repeat how the Labor Party was criticised when the then Prime Minister said that a chartered aircraft was needed for security reasons. We were ridiculed. What does the present Prime Minister do? He buys two planes. The Minister says that the configuration of the aircraft are such that they can be used for transporting refugees and troops.
Yesterday, during a debate on a matter of public importance, my colleague, Senator Sibraa, questioned the need to train cabin staff. What is the need? No doubt, in view of what the Minister has said, Senator Sibraa will refer to that aspect at some length when he speaks in relation to Estimates Committee F. No matter what the Minister has said, he has confused the issue more by trying to get away from what Mr Fraser has done. Mr Fraser is the culprit for breaking convention. Senator Carrick should be the last person to mention the breaking of convention. The only Federal government which saw fit to break conventions of any type was supported by those who sit opposite. We saw it happen in 1974 and 1975. We saw it happen on 24 March 1976 when Mr Fraser had the costs of the Lodge at his fingertips. He broke the convention; now there is no excuse.
Senator Carrick says that it has always been convention that the costs of the four official establishments are not separated. On the Prime Minister’s own admission the costs are no longer lumped together. The costs for Kirribilli House and the Lodge have been separated. So, there must be two different costs - one for Kirribilli House and one for the Lodge. I have not asked for the costs of running Kirribilli House; I have asked for the costs of running the Lodge. We cannot get the figures. The Minister repeatedly falls back on the old argument that it has been the practice in the past not to divulge the figures. How many more times do I have to point out that Mr Fraser released the previous figures for cheap political purposes? He was trying to ridicule Mr Whitlam. That is not the only thing he has done. He should stand on his record. Is he prepared to ferret out those costs? Of course, the question was a Dorothy Dixer. He could not have given those figures in answer to a question without notice.
Recently in Parliament certain things happened when we called for the tabling of a document. The top of the document bore the heading: Suggested answer to proposed question. I think the question was asked by Senator Walters. Question Time is all cooked up. It is aborted, wasted and abused by these so-called questions without notice. The questions are not asked without notice. Ministers read from documents which bear the typed heading ‘suggested answer’. Senator Carrick does not have a typewriter at his desk to enable him to type these suggested answers to proposed questions from members of his own Party. Honourable senators come in to the chamber with prepared questions and answers. No doubt Mr Fraser came in with his prepared answer. If somebody had been shrewd enough that day and had asked for the document from which the Primer Minister was quoting to be tabled we would, no doubt, have seen the suggested answer to the proposed question from Mr Porter, the honourable member for Barker, on the costs of running the Lodge. That is what I am complaining about. I will continue to complain. A Labor government will have no worries at all if it is asked a question about what it costs Bill Hayden to run the Lodge for six or 12 months. We will reveal that to the public at large. We will not reveal the costs in the snide way Mr Fraser did. He revealed some costs for six months and then refused to reveal others.
– Why do you limit it to six months?
– I did not limit it to six months; Mr Fraser did. Senator Rae was not in the chamber earlier, so I will read the answer to him. I am pleased that Senator Rae has asked that question. Mr Fraser’s answer reads:
I do not have the figures for the whole of last year but I have them for the last part of the year for both places. In the last 6 months of last year the Lodge cost the Australian taxpayer $64,941 . . .
I did not coin the phrase ‘six months’ or even mention why the figures for six months should be given. Senator Rae’s leader gave the figures for six months, not me. He is on record as doing so many times. I query the matter every time Estimates committees meet. All I want is an answer. My question is: What does it cost to run the Lodge? Surely we can have that information.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was endeavouring to obtain from the Government the cost of running the Prime Minister’s Lodge. I had hoped that these costs would be obtained during the suspension of the sitting. I have nothing further to say. I think I have completed my remarks. I hope that now Senator Carrick, who is the Minister at the table, will be able to reveal to the Committee what is the actual cost of running the Prime Minister’s Lodge.
– I have nothing further to add.
– My final remark is that I am very disappointed that whilst the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had at his fingertips the cost of running the Lodge while Mr Whitlam was its occupant he has refused again to divulge what it costs the Australian taxpayer for his occupancy. I am sure that when the election takes place on 1 8 October many people will take cognisance of the fact that the Prime Minister is a man of double standards.
– Among the estimates for the Department of the Treasury are those for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This evening I would like to make some comments in relation to that Bureau. I am becoming more and more concerned about the growing octopus of bureaucracy in the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I have received many complaints from householders about householders surveys and how the Australian Bureau of Statistics notifies householders that they will be part of a survey for some time. When they are notified originally they are told that they have been selected at random. They are told that they will be part of the household survey not just for one month; the Australian Bureau of Statistics officers come back month after month. The officers probably do not think that they are prying into personal information but according to the people who have contacted me they seem to be doing just that.
In one case I was told about the person concerned was quite upset because of the personal information she had to supply in the household survey. From what has been said to me there seems to be no recognition that residents may be living alone and may want to have their privacy valued. There seems to be no recognition that people who are contacted may be the sole family support and value the time they have with their family. If the Australian Bureau of Statistics includes these people in its household surveys, it takes up the valuable time of these people month after month. As I said, these people might be in a survey not just for one month but for up to 10 months. I am concerned about the heavy-handed approach of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to people to see whether they will take part in a household survey. I put that wrongly. The ABS does not really approach people to see whether they will take part in a survey; it approaches people and tells them that they must take part.
I would like to recount some incidents in a recent event which was brought to my notice. The person contacted was a widow. She was told that she would be in a survey for 10 months. She objected and when she did she was told curtly that she would be fined if she did not give the information required. She said that she would not give the information until she had contacted a member of parliament and got his advice. She contacted me and I could tell her only that if she did not supply the information she was liable to be fined. Page 167 of the Hansard record of Estimates Committee A recounts how I asked one of the officers of the Bureau of Statistics whether people would be fined under a particular provision of the Act if they did not give the information required. In summary, I was told that it is most unlikely that people would be fined but that there is provision for that to be done. Indeed, there is such provision. Section 17 (1) of the Census and Statistics Act states:
For the purpose of enabling the statistics referred to in this Part to be collected, the Statistician may require a person to fill up and supply, in accordance with the instructions contained in or accompanying a form supplied to that person by the Statistician the particulars specified in that form, and that person shall, to the best of his knowledge, comply with the requirement.
Penalty: Twenty dollars.
The section goes on to state:
A prosecution for a contravention of this section shall not be instituted without the consent of the Minister.
It seems to me that a person who has been chosen to take part in a household survey and told that he or she would be in that survey for 10 months could have some reasonable grounds for objecting to the fact that his or her privacy would be invaded once a month for 10 months. I expect that if the person did not supply the information it is most unlikely that the person would be fined. If the prosecution cannot be instituted without the consent of the Minister, it would be a very severe Minister who would institute such a prosecution. The person to whom I referred a moment ago was told quite curtly that she would be fined if she did not supply the information requested.
Earlier this year I had another example of a person who objected to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ methods in selecting her to give some information. This woman was the owner of a small business. She told me that the survey form she was required to complete was so complex that she could not complete it herself. That meant that she had to take it to her accountant if, indeed, she wanted to comply with the request, or perhaps the demand, of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. She would have had to take the form to her accountant because her accountant had all of the information that was required and only he would be able to complete it for her. She told me that she would pay the fine instead of taking the form to her accountant because this would be less expensive than paying the accountant to carry out the duties for her.
If the Australian Bureau of Statistics is more intent on building an empire than evaluating critically the social advantages or disadvantage of the statistics it is gathering, it should be having a look at its methods to see whether, in fact, they are the right ones. We all know that certain statistics must be gathered for the proper running of the Government, for the proper running of business and for our economy to run well. On the other hand we must ensure that in gathering those statistics we are not invading the privacy of individual members of society too much and that we are not putting too much of a burden on people who have small businesses. We must make sure that those people’s interests are looked after as well.
I would just like to outline the funding for the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the last two years. Last year the Australian Bureau of Statistics incurred expenditure totalling $49m for salaries and allowances and overtime took another $336,000. An amount of $49m is no mean sum. The appropriation for the Bureau for that purpose had been increased quite considerably this year. The appropriation for salaries and allowances has been increased to $55. 5m, with another almost half a million dollars for overtime. That brings us to a total appropriation of $55.9m for salaries and paymen s in the nature of salaries this year. If the Australian Bureau of Statistics is doing its job properly, I suppose appropriating that $55.9m will be worth while. The point I make is that we must make sure that that organisation is not creating an empire for itself. We must make sure that it does not unnecessarily harass people in the community in gathering its statistics.
– I hope I am not out of order in referring back to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
– I understand that we have finished consideration of the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, if that is what you are referring to.
– We are still dealing with the estimates considered by Estimates Committee A, are we not?
– We are on Treasury now.
– Aren’t we taking them department by department, Mr Chairman?
– No, we are taking group A as a whole, as a matter of fact. We are trying to expedite consideration by working through each department.
– I will not take long on this matter. I appreciate the fact that we are trying to consider the Estimates department by department, but events overtook me. Has the Commonwealth Ombudsman as yet taken cognisance of the matter I raised concerning his inquiry into the Ralkon agricultural company? During the hearing of Estimates Committee A I asked whether the Ombudsman could find a section of the Ombudsman Act under which he was authorised to make available a repaort on the inquiry into that company which had taken place. Mr Blick said in reply:
Perhaps I could take the question on notice. The Ombudsman may like to write to Senator McLaren later and tell him what the position is.
To this point in time I have had no letter from the Ombudsman on the matter. I am not so much concerned to have the Ombudsman write to me; I would sooner that he wrote either to the Chairman of Estimates Committee A, Senator Baume - his Committee referred the matter to the Ombudsman - or to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, if it is possible for the Ombudsman to do so under the Act. If it is not possible for him to do so under the Act, can he inform me of a way in which we can obtain that information under the Act. That information is available and is just waiting to be delivered either to the Committee or to the Minister.
Another matter I refer to relates to the Department of the Treasury; that is, the matter I raised in the Committee hearings concerning the advertising of Commonwealth bonds. An answer to my question has been provided in the document which has been tabled in the Parliament. In it we find that $711,782 was expended on advertising Australian savings bonds in the period 1 April 1980 to 31 July 1980. My complaint is that no advertisements for the bonds are being placed in small country newspapers. I hope the Treasury officials have taken on board the remarks I made during the hearings of Estimates Committee A and that in future such advertisements will be placed in small country newspapers, which are the lifeblood of country communities. I feel that the people in the country areas ought to be entitled to share in some of this massive expenditure engaged in by the Government to encourage people by buy savings bonds. If it is good enough to spend massive amounts of money on television advertising and even advertising in the Australian Women’s Weekly, in my view it is good enough to expend some money on advertising in small country newspapers.
Another matter 1 raise concerning the estimates for the Department of the Treasury is the amount of money spent at the behest of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on advertising the reduction in income tax when the Government saw fit to relieve the Australian community of the H per cent surcharge which it imposed in 1978. It did that after running an election campaign which included publishing full page advertisements, which will be well known to every taxpayer, depicting a fistful of five-dollar notes and claiming that if the Fraser Government were returned everyone would be so much better off. In fact, as soon as we came back into the Parliament early in 1978 an extra burden of a 1 1 per cent surcharge was imposed upon the taxpayer. When the surcharge was lifted the Government engaged in a massive advertising campaign to advise people that it was reducing taxation. From inquiries I made during the hearings of Senate Estimates Committee A and from the answers I received I discovered that no such advertising had been engaged in to inform the people that the Government was repudiating an election promise and was in fact imposing that 1 i per cent surcharge. If by some misfortune the coalition parties are returned to office again this year after the election I hope we will not see a repeat of that. The Government has again made promises in its policies. It has already announced that it is a government of low taxation and that the Australian community would be much better off under a Fraser government. I hope it will not be returned to office on its promises concerning taxation. That is my concern and I hope the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) in his reply to me will give an assurance that the Government will not engage in the expenditure of taxpayers’ money for political purposes.
– We will now move on to consider the estimates for the Department of Education.
– I wonder what the consideration of the
Estimates in the Committee of the Whole is all about. We put questions to the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) and he sits silently. We cannot get an undertaking from him that the Government will not use taxpayers’ money for political purposes. In view of his silence and the fact that he refuses to answer the question I must take it that the Government does intend to engage in those exercises in the future.
– I draw attention to the fact that during the sittings of the Estimates committees Senator McLaren asked precisely the same questions of me as the Minister responsible and indeed the appropriate responses were given to him then. I direct his attention to the Hansard record of those committee hearings.
– I did ask those questions. I asked how much had been expended for that purpose. I now have the answers to those questions and that is my reason for pursuing the matter. I did not ask the Minister during the hearings of Estimates committees to give an undertaking that the Government would not engage in this kind of expenditure in the future. He can peruse the Hansard record as he has advised me to do and he will see that I did not ask him to give that undertaking. But I do ask that now.
– We will now move on to consider the estimates for the Department of Education.
– I wish to make a small comment in relation to education. During the hearings of Estimates Committee A I asked whether the Committee could be given a copy of the regulations in relation to corporal punishment in schools in the Australian Capital Territory. I notice that those regulations have been incorporated in the transcript of the hearings and I thank the officers responsible for providing that information. I notice that the regulations are much less stringent than the ones applying in the State that I represent and for that also I am grateful. I should like to mention one part of the regulations. I think it is a part that parents should be aware of. I imagine that many parents in the Australian Capital Territory are not aware of this part of the regulations. The document entitled ‘ACT Schools AuthorityCorporal Punishment and Detention Guidelines’ under the heading ‘Corporal Punishment’ includes the following:
It is very seldom that in this chamber we get down to the nitty gritty of the administration of schools. We have something to do with financing education through the States grants system but in the Senate we are vitally interested in the administration of Australian Capital Territory schools. Therefore it gives me an opportunity to look at the guidelines set down. It is important that parents within the Australian Capital Territory realise that they may request in writing that their child not be caned. In fact, a number of parents throughout Australia have been sending notes to principals to indicate that they do not want corporal punishment inflicted on their children. I believe that in New South Wales there operates a situation similar to the one that operates here. However I say to parents in the Australian Capital Territory that if they send a note to their school principal requesting that their children not be subjected to corporal punishment they should be aware of the remainder of clause G, which reads:
However, the parent should be given to understand that the child is not exempt from school discipline, but remains subject to other forms of punishment in the event of serious misbehaviour.
It might be worth while for parents, if they notify the school in relation to corporal punishment, to find out what these other forms of punishment may be. I notice that detention is mentioned in the guidelines. Those other forms of punishment might mean detention but they could, I presume, mean something else. It might be worth while for parents to pursue this matter to find out what the other forms of punishment are.
– I want to deal with one or two matters arising from the estimates for the Department of Education. The first deals with the Education Program for Unemployed Youth scheme dealt with on page 92 of Estimates Committee A report. I ask the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) whether he can make available information on the EPUY scheme for some period in 1980 as distinct from the figures provided for the 1979 calendar year. I appreciate that may be a request which is impossible to meet at this stage. It would be interesting for comparative purposes.
In regard to the transition from school to work program dealt with on page 94, the departmental answer estimates the number of persons engaged in technical and further education under that program as at 30 June 1980 at 2,100. The number expected for the whole of 1980 is in excess of 5,000. 1 wonder whether the Department has any projections further into the future than that and whether those projections would in any sense be affected by the failure of the States to contribute, as presently advised for 1981, towards the cost of the school to work transition program.
I further ask whether the guidelines to the school to work transition program which appear on page 96 are the guidelines - if I do not use too strong a word - currently in dispute with the States? When I say ‘in dispute with the States’ 1 mean, for example, that the Premier of Victoria in May this year wrote a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in which he strongly objected to the guidelines. Are those guidelines still the ones to which the Premier of Victoria objected in May of this year or as a result of those objections have the guidelines now changed and are those before the Estimates Committee up to date? 1 also ask whether the answer given on page 99 has been affected by the decision of the State Ministers at the recent Australian Education Council meeting and whether any alteration to the answer will be necessary as a result of that decision?
The other matters I want to discuss relating to education are primarily those dealing with student assistance. A number of questions were asked by honourable senators. Some of the replies were very enlightening. I will make one or two comments about the cost of student assistance programs particularly the costs as they are revealed in an answer to Senator Colston which appears on page 72 of the report. He asked for the cost of increasing the maximum Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme living allowance to $54 a week. There was also an earlier question about the cost of student assistance programs, but let me deal particularly with the question and answer which appears on page 72. One of the estimates made about the cost of increasing TEAS was made by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in a memorandum to the Prime Minister. It was that the cost of increasing the TEAS allowance - that is the primary allowance referred to in the answer on page 72 - by 20 per cent would be $85m. In the House of Representatives the other day the Minister for Finance (Mr Robinson), of all people, suggested that the cost of increasing the tertiary basic allowance of $45.15, as it was before the Budget, to $54 would be $38m. The Department of Education has estimated the cost of increasing the allowance by 1 0 per cent. Its estimate appears on page 72.
I ask the Minister to clarify first of all whether it is the responsibility of public servants in the Prime Minister’s Department to provide costings in respect of education matters such as the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance. I also ask whether the Minister for Finance before he made his speech on the Budget in the House of Representatives had his Department do a costing on increasing the basic allowance by 20 per cent and whether the Department is now fully satisfied with the cost it gives for increasing the allowance by 10 per cent in view of the fact, that in spite of all its expertise, it has the financial wizards of the other two departments aligned against it. I have absolute confidence in the Education Department’s costing on this matter. Is there any explanation possible other than a desire by Government Ministers to exaggerate the Labor Party’s costings for the costings given by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance in the House of Representatives? Is there any conceivable explanation which could be given by the Department of Education, other than the one I have suggested, for the bizarre costings made? I refer in particular to the figures provided by the Minister for Finance, as I pointed out, in his Budget speech the night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) delivered his reply to the Budget. They appear in Hansard on page 745. He specifically identified the cost of the Labor Party’s proposals as $38m and the extraordinary contrast with the Education Department’s costings.
There are two or three other matters relating to student allowances which I would ask the Minister to give his further attention to. There was reference in the Estimates Committee to a recent survey done by the Department on student costs and expenditure. I ask the Minister: Is it the Government’s intention to release that survey, and if so, when? I ask again whether the Budget Estimates took that survey into account. I notice that in the Estimates Committee the Minister said that that is a policy matter. Of course it is a policy matter to decide that one will not increase the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance. That is a legitimate decision but it is not, with respect, a policy matter. It is not the appropriate answer to a question as to whether those surveys were taken into account. That is not a policy matter. It is a matter of fact. Were the surveys taken into account in determining policy?
The Minister gave that answer as recorded in Hansard of 1 September at page 1 97 of the Estimates Committee proceedings. With the greatest respect, it is not an adequate answer just glibly to say that it is a matter of policy whether one takes some information into account. It is a matter of policy as to what decision one makes on the basis of information. I should like to know whether the survey which the Department has conducted, presumably at some expense and certainly with a fair degree of advertising amongst students, was taken into account when the Fraser Government reached its decision as to the amount of increase in the allowance that would be provided for in the Budget estimates. It seems to me to be quite ludicrous that after the Government conducts a survey nobody is entitled to know whether the survey was taken into account in any subsequent action. I should be grateful if the Minister could enlighten us on that particular matter.
I turn now to post-graduate awards. I ask the Minister to confirm that, to restore the purchasing power of the post-graduate award to what it was in 1977, would require an increase in the value of the post-graduate award to approximately $6,500 a year. I ask the Minister whether that information was taken into account in arriving at the Budget estimates as to how much the value of the post-graduate award should be increased by the Government in the Budget. They are the main matters which I wish to pursue at this stage. I would be helped if the Minister could give us some preliminary assistance on those questions.
– Senator Button has asked a series of questions. He asked first about the Education Program for Unemployed Youth and the projection for 1980 and, I think, 1981. 1 do not have the actual figure for the calendar year 1980 in front of me, but the figure for the financial year 1979-80 was 4,181 students. It is projected that for 1981 EPUY will have a 50 per cent increase, approximately 6,000 students altogether. The technical and further education transition courses will have approximately 3,000 additions; that is, in prevocational, pre-apprenticeship and preemployment. Not all transition activities consist of courses in which numbers can be readily defined. I will not elaborate on that. I was asked by Senator Button about whether the guidelines are the same. The answer is no. The guidelines are being modified, and dialogue is taking place on that matter. Senator Button asked a series of questions about costings, I do not have the precise figures here to say whether the costings are correct, but I will ask that they be sorted out as early as possible.
– Clearly, they cannot all be correct.
– The honourable senator asked a series of questions. We need to get those answers. On the question of the survey report, it is not yet complete but will be released when it is complete. As to the post-graduate awards, there were some figures given. I do not think they directly answer Senator Button, and we may have to get the additional figures for him. Senator McLaren asked questions, for example, about what would be the cost of increasing the stipend from $4,200 to $5,800 and to $6,500. The estimation was, in the first place, $3.2m; and in the second place, $4. 5m. These amounts would be partially offset by taxation. If there is further information required on statistical matters - the honourable senator will appreciate that we do not always have it in refined form - we will be happy to get it.
– Insofar as the guidelines for the school to work transition program are concerned, do I understand Senator Carrick to say that the guidelines which appear in the Estimates document are altered from the guidelines which were applicable in May of this year? Are they amended? Have they been amended since May? Secondly, I asked the Minister about the question of the survey of student needs and whether that had been taken into account in the Government’s assessment of the appropriate level of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance provided for in the Budget. The Minister answered that the survey was not yet complete, and had not been released for that reason. I ask him whether preliminary information was available which assisted the Government in reaching a decision about fixing the level of a tertiary education allowance in the recent Budget. I ask that question particularly in view of the fact that numerous other surveys have been done not only by student organisations but also by bodies with a slightly less vested interest such as Melbourne University.
Senator CARRICK (New South Wales- Minister for National Development and Energy (8.38)- I shall answer the last question first. I am advised that the first phase of that was taken into account. As to the guidelines, I understand that all the guidelines are used currently, but they are being revised for the year ahead. One can see that there is a revision going on now.
– These are the May guidelines, is that right? These are the ones Mr Hamer objected to?
– I am advised that the ones that Mr Hamer objected to were the ones for 1980 and we are revising them for 1980-81 .
– Let us get it straight. These are guidelines that Mr Hamer objected to, are they not? What you are saying, Minister, as I understand it, is that they are to be revised for next year. Is that the correct position.
– I am sorry, I am acting in a placental relationship at the moment. I am advised that they must be the guidelines and the 1981 guidelines are not finalised yet.
– I want to raise a matter relating to taxation under Division 677. 1 can either raise it now or do it when we deal with the Department of Social Security. The matter I wish to raise is the anomaly that exists for people living in a de facto relationship. When a claim for unemployment benefits is made, the Department of Social Security recognises a de facto wife as a dependant and pays social security benefits at the married rate. When a person fills in his or her taxation return he or she will find that for some reason or other the Taxation Office will not recognise the spouse as a dependant. This is causing great concern to many people.
– It will not recognise the de facto.
– Yes, that is what I am saying. I will not recognise the spouse as a dependant living in a de facto relationship. Therefore, the person who fills in the income tax return - that is, the male - cannot claim his de facto wife as a dependant. Yet under the regulations of the Department of Social Security a de facto is recognised as a dependant and, therefore, is paid at the married rate. By not paying on the basis of the two single rates the Government is able to save money. In relation to the Taxation Office we find that for some reason or other people cannot claim as a dependant a wife who is living within a de facto relationship. That is causing some concern. Further than that, once the male, the breadwinner, receives some employment, his de facto spouse is unable to receive the unemployment benefit because she is recognised as his legal wife under the rules of the Department of Social Security. That anomaly exists.
I ask the Minister whether the Government has any plans to rectify this problem or whether there is any way that a person filling in his taxation form can claim a de facto as a dependant legally and not be penalised in two ways: Firstly, in that the person concerned is unemployed and is paid the unemployment benefit at the married rate; and, secondly, in that a person who gets a job, say, for three months or six months of the year, whatever it is, and then goes back on to the unemployment benefit, is unable at the end of the year when he fills out an income tax return to claim his spouse as a dependant when, in fact, she is a dependant.
– You can claim her as a housekeeper.
– I am not aware of the anomalies that apply between the two Acts. I will refer the comments of Senator McLaren to the appropriate Ministers.
– Senator Watson interjected: ‘You can claim her as a housekeeper’. My understanding, as a result of the inquiries I have made, is that this applies only if children are involved. The only time the breadwinner can claim his spouse as a housekeeper is if he has children. He is then entitled to claim $800 a year under the Income Tax Assessment Act. If no children are involved that person is penalised.
– I wish to make a few comments in relation to this matter. I raised this question when I spoke on the immigration legislation last October. There is no alternative but for the Taxation Office to do what it is doing at present. The fault of the matter lies with the Parliament. Honourable senators will remember that when I spoke on the social security legislation dealing with the elimination of the invalid pension, I argued that the Department should consider the decision of the Parliament. The Parliament is supreme and, therefore, it makes the decisions. The Income Tax Assessment Act was introduced at a time when we accepted there was one relationship only- that is, the sanctity of marriage. In the Act the term spouse’ is used. Both the legal definition and the dictionary definition of ‘spouse’, which is a legal married partner, have been omitted by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle).
The Income Tax Assessment Act permits an allowance to be paid for a spouse. It does not matter whether the spouse is male or female but he or she must be legally married. The payment of the social security benefit is so prevalent that it has been extended to more and more people. In the period of our life the sanctity of marriage has changed from what it was when the Income Tax Act was introduced. It is more common today - in fact, it is very common- for two people to live together and to have children without going through a marriage ceremony. The Department of Social Security accepts that. If the woman is in a marriage relationship she is acknowledged for the purpose of determining the amount of the social security benefit. We have not altered the Income Tax Assesment Act. An alteration to the Income Tax Assessment Act is necessary in this regard. Until that is done I do not see how we can rectify the problem.
At the present we may have a position where a man and a woman are living together, possibly have children, and for all intents and purposes are living as man and wife. Perhaps because of some legal difficulty it is not possible for them to marry. Therefore, they are living in a state of marriage, but the man cannot get recognition for that woman. He would be entitled to claim for her as a housekeeper but there is a restriction that she must be attending the family and be solely dependent upon the breadwinner. This provision extends to regarding the spouse as a housekeeper only under special circumstances. Today we are catering as a reward in taxation for those who perform the legal act of marriage but not those who are just as sincere in their partnership without the marriage ceremony. The Act needs to be altered. I support Senator McLaren’s claim that urgent attention be given to this matter. The Acts of past generations should be revised to try to bring them up to present day thinking.
– I wish to raise two matters in relation to the Department of Education. A few minutes ago the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) informed me that it was estimated that under the Education Program for Unemployed Youth there would be an additional 50 per cent increase in the number of students in 1980-81. What I am concerned about is that while a 50 per cent increase in students is projected, in the Budget Papers an increase of only 10 per cent is projected in the estimates for the EPUY program - an increase from $3. 7m to $4m, which is an increase of $0.3m. I ask whether that figure is correct or whether there has been some supplementary amendment to that figure in the light of the estimate in relation to students.
I ask the same question in realtion to the transition from school to work program. I concede that the program has not yet got going fully but, as I understand it, the amount which the Commonwealth has appropriated for the transition from school to work program is a fixed sum. Added to that fixed sum to be appropriated by the Commonwealth there were to be sums appropriated by the State governments in 1981. If there are to be an additional 3,000 beneficiaries of the transitional program in technical and further education courses, I ask: What financial arrangements have been made for that accommodation to take place in view of the fact that the estimated total sum to be spent on that program in 1981 will decline as a result of the absence of the State contribution?
– I am advised that the additional amount for the Education Program for Unemployed Youth will come out of the transition from school to work program. Indeed, a part of the total amount of $25m for the transition from school to work program will be used for EPUY funding. I am advised also that an amount of up to $21m has been earmarked so far. The work of the transition program cannot have money or numbers put on it because much of it is done within the high schools and schools themselves. The work involves basically identifying the students and giving them special courses. That comes within the general program. As to the specific question, the extra money is found by a transfer from the other fund.
– With respect, I appreciate the answer. But there is a limit to which even this Government can shuffle the biscuits around from one tin to another and produce the same result. If 50 per cent of the increase in the Education Program for Unemployed Youth is to come from the transition from school to work program money, then I renew the question about what is to happen to that program. The answer given to me was not about kids in schools, it was about kids in the technical and further education sector. I was told that there are 3,000 extra in the TAFE sector. One assumes that there must be provision of some funds to TAFE specifically for that purpose. It does seem to me that these estimates are really very vague.
At the same time I ask the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) whether any further consideration has been given by the Government to the question raised by Mr Hamer in November last year and again in May this year, in regard to the payment of allowances to the transition from school to work program people who are in the TAFE sector and whether that matter has been considered any further. That is a problem which very much affects the numbers who are prepared to take part in TAFE courses.
– My advice is that when the announcement on the transition from school to work program was made, it was clearly indicated that a relatively small part of it would be an additional appropriation for the Education Program for Unemployed Youth. That has been known all along.
EPUY has fairly modest funding as such, and a relatively few million dollars can take up quite a few students. It is not a question of further erosion, lt has always been part of that situation. The funding of the transition from school to work program is a funding that applies both at the school level and at the TAFE and EPUY level, so it is funded across that border. I understand that the question raised by Mr Hamer about allowances is under consideration.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– The question now is:
That the votes contained in Group B be now passed without requests.
Proposed expenditure, $102,965,000
Department of Industrial Relations
Proposed expenditure, $19,675,000
Department of Employment and Youth Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $245,059,000
Department of Business and Consumer Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $1 30,369,000
– I have two questions I should like to ask regarding the Department of Industrial Relations. I will preface them by advising the Minister that if we had retained the traditional idea of having only two Estimates committees, I would have attended the second one and would not have had to ask these questions. But that is water under the bridge. Over a number of years I have agitated for a much more comprehensive publication of awards in three or four non-English languages. It is well known that the judgment of Mr Justice Robinson in the celebrated Ford Motor Co. of Australia industrial dispute was published in two or three languages. I was told that in subsequent years, and I am skipping this year, we were trying to overtake the normal publication of awards and decisions in English and then the Government would look at the question of printing them in other languages. Perhaps I could have an updated version of the state of play in this matter. I may appear to be speaking in a critical vein. On the other hand I should like to give an award to the Department. I pay tribute to the staff in the Melbourne office. I do find that when I ring Melbourne several days after one or two momentous decisions by conciliation commissioners and judges, I seem to get the decisions very quickly. Nothwithstanding that, we cannot live on past performances. I am wondering where we are at this stage and whether it is possible for us to have more awards and decisions published in different languages after they are made. I am talking about industries where there are a multiplicity of ethnic components in the trade union membership. What are we doing in that field?
– I wish to raise one matter in respect of the estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department. It concerns the estimate for the Human Rights Bureau to be established under the direction of Mr Peter Bailey, pending the possible future establishment of a Human Rights Commission by legislative means, if and when the Senate and the House of Representatives can ever resolve their disagreement on what is essentially the irrelevant question of abortion. More particularly I refer to what is to be the foundation for the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Bureau within the Attorney-General’s Department, that is, the ratification by this Government on 1 3 August of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a ratification which has long been sought by everyone in this country who is interested in civil liberties.
I simply take this opportunity to let the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and the Government know that they are by no means off the hook in respect of their behaviour on this matter of the ratification, even though, with pressure of other events and other electoral preoccupations, this matter has not so far received any parliamentary attention. I refer to the terms in which the Australian Government has accomplished its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In particular I refer to the extremely limited way in which Australia has become a party to that treaty by virtue of the inordinate range of declarations or reservations limiting Australia’s obligations under that covenant which Australia has insisted upon as a condition of its ratification. The most important single such declaration or reservation relates to the operation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the States as compared with at the Commonwealth level. Article 50 of the International Covenant is in the following terms:
The provisions of the present Covenant shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.
In other words, all the various civil rights and liberties which are the subject of the very detailed prescription in this very important international instrument are described as extending to the constituent units of federations irrespective of the possible internal constitutional arrangements which might be thought to make it difficult for the covenant to extend in this way.
When the covenant was originally established in 1 966, thee was an argument from federal states such as Australia, Canada and the United States that there ought to be a federal clause in the covenant limiting its application to federal states so that national governments would not be embarrassed by the dereliction of duties in civil rights areas of their constituent states. That was overruled, and this covenant, unlike many other treaties, does explicitly extend and require countries becoming a party to it to extend its operation to the States. Notwithstanding all that, the Australian Government has insisted upon, as a condition of its ratification, that clause not being operative in Australia. On this occasion I will not go into all the detail that is appropriate to this topic. That will have to be left to another parliamentary occasion. I simply say that Australia has advised that in its idiosyncratic reading of the covenant it refuses to regard itself as being bound in any obvious way by Article 50 and that it will in fact regard the terms of the international covenant as being applicable only to the Commonwealth level and the States will be allowed, and this is Australia’s construction of it, to go on doing their own civil rights destructive thing, as has been the case obviously for so long, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland, without any feeling of commitment or obligation by the Commonwealth Government to use its own constitutional powers derived by virtue of our participation in this covenant to override their bad behaviour in this respect.
That is not all, Mr Chairman. Apart from that general reservation which colours and affects the whole covenant, there are something like 1 6 other clauses in a covenant which is only 53 clauses long, in respect of which the Australian Government has made declarations or reservations claiming in effect that it will not be bound or it will not regard itself as being under any obligation to take any further action in respect of those clauses simply because it would find it difficult, for one reason or another, to do do. I will give a particular illustration to indicate the sort of thing I am talking about. In respect of Article 25 the reservation is in the following terms:
The reference in paragraph (b) of Article 25 to ‘universal and equal suffrage’ is accepted without prejudice to laws which provide that factors such as regional interests may be taken into account in defining electoral divisions, or which establish franchises for municipal and other local government elections related to the sources of revenue and the functions of such government.
In other words, one of the key provisions of this international instrument guaranteeing on its face universal and equal suffrage is being construed by the Australian Government as allowing us to persist if we so choose with a system of manifestly unequal suffrage with electoral boundaries based on considerations other than population. This kind of attitude flavours the whole text of Australia’s reservation to this Covenant. It makes nonsense of the kind of role that is envisaged and provided for in the estimates for the Human Rights Bureau. It is very difficult to see that such Bureau will have any legitimate or useful function to perform given the very limited nature of Australia’s obligations under this Covenant in relation to which that Bureau is expected to play a watchdog role.
It is an interesting question of international law, which again I will not canvass in the time presently available, as to whether Australia is entitled to make those reservations and declarations in the way it has purported to do. The law of treaties is such that probably, provided Australia can find one other like-minded country prepared to accept the terms of those reservations for the sake of having another ratifier of the Covenant, those reservations and declarations will be able as a matter of international law to stand. I simply make the point that as a matter of international morality and certainly national morality the text of Australia’s supposed ratification of the Covenant is a very shoddy document. It does no credit to the Government which has been prepared, as it so often is, to sell out on civil liberties matters because of its commitment to the values of so-called federalism and its unwillingness to move into the areas of State breaches of civil rights and liberties to ensure that civilised standards prevail in these areas.
I make these points because they have so far gone completely unnoticed both in the Parliament and in the media. I assure the Attorney that they will be the subject of considerable pursuit by me in the future. I assure the Attorney further that in the event, which is now becoming increasingly certain, of a Labor Government returning to power after the election, Australia can be expected to adopt a much more satisfactory and moral stance in its attitude to these fundamental questions. We hope that as a result of this the Human Rights Bureau and the Human Rights Commission will end up with something positive and useful to do rather than being the absurd rump represented at the moment by that body for which these estimates provide.
– I raise with the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) a matter about the involvement of Commonwealth instrumentalities or statutory authorities in litigation and the role of the Attorney-General in relation to decisions made about such matters. I will pursue particularly the High Court case of Hardiman v. News Limited in which the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal appeared and was represented by counsel. 1 think it is a fair summation of the High Court judgment to say that it gave a fair caning to the Broadcasting Tribunal for being there at all. In effect, it said that it was no business of the Broadcasting Tribunal to appear in proceedings in which, by way of prerogative writ, its decisions were being challenged. In the judgment an analogy was drawn with the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission appearing in High Court proceedings arising from decisions of that Commission.
In the light of that judgment, first of all I ask the Attorney-General whether he or officers of his Department gave any advice to the members of the Broadcasting Tribunal about appearing in the High Court. If so, what advice was given? Secondly, did he or officers of his Department give advice to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) in such a manner that he may have become a conduit, as it were, to the Broadcasting Tribunal? Was any advice given to anyone in addition to those two bodies, the Broadcasting Tribunal and the Minister, in relation to the decision to appear before the High Court? On 16 or 17 April or thereabouts was there a meeting between the Attorney-General or a senior officer of his Department, the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in which a decision was reached about this matter? Was there any change in that decision subsequently? Was any further change made in that decision? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether the Acting Chairman of the Tribunal was informed, two or three days after that meeting, that the Tribunal was expected to appear and whether he was informed by the Attorney or, to his knowledge, by the other Minister? Finally, when the Tribunal appeared did it seek legal advice for counsel to be instructed from the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney or did it approach the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor and the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra about the matter?
– I will deal with Senator Evans’s remarks. I do not know whether I should be shivering in my shoes at the fear that he will pursue me further about these matters. It is interesting that he should assume that he will be pursuing me. I think he is quite right in expecting that we will be in the same relative positions in the next Parliament. No doubt, he will continue to pursue this and other matters. The remarks of Senator Evans are probably better left to the next Parliament when we will pursue them in greater time and detail and when we a”, might be fully briefed in a debate on the matter. 1 look forward to it. Senator Evans’s views emphasise the total unreality of his understanding of the federal system of government in Australia. He believes that the external affairs powers should be used in such a way as to overturn that Federal compact completely. The whole basis of the comments he has made tonight underline that factor. If he and his party were to pursue the views that he has expressed there would very soon be an end to the Federation. Goodness knows what the final result would be.
Australia has very modest reservations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights except for the first one, which emphasises the fact that we are a federal system and that in ratifying the Covenant we are reminding the United Nations of that fundamental fact. We were prepared to ratify only after we had had exhaustive discussions with the States to ensure that they were prepared to accept the ratification on those terms and to participate in Australia’s accepting those responsibilities. That is what that exercise was all about. We are continuing to discuss with the States problems in relation to the Covenant, if and when they arise. We will, of course, endeavour to solve them in the same spirit of co-operative federalism that we engaged in in the exercise leading to ratification.
– But you have not solved anything at all.
– I know that Senator Georges has one blinkered concern which relates to some street march laws that he is continually flouting. Everyone has his own obsessions, I suppose. The fact of the matter is that the application of the Covenant to large areas of legal responsibility in Australia is within the powers of the States, as I have said. I come back to the point that Senator Evans, presumably Senator Georges and the Labor Party as a whole, despite some of the lip-service that they pay to the federal system of Government, want to be rid of it. That is the basic view that they hold. That is what the argument is all about. I do not think that the Estimates debate affords an appropriate time to carry on that controversy. But there will be an appropriate time, as Senator Evans has foreshadowed. That will be after the next election when both sides are in the same position as they are today. It will be an interesting debate.
asked some questions arising out of the fact that the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor acted for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal in some proceedings in the High Court in which the High Court indicated its view, I think - I have not looked at the judgment for some time - that it would have been preferable if the Tribunal had simply submitted itself to the judgment of the court. That is the view of the High Court. It is entitled to express its view. That does not necessarily mean that we have to accept that view any more than the Opposition seems to accept the views of the High Court in a number of decisions, particularly in the tax area. However, unlike the Opposition I pay some respect to the views of the High Court. 1 have noted those views. Naturally, if similar circumstances arose again those views would be drawn to the attention of the Tribunal should it wish to be represented. However, the view that my Department and I take is that the crown Solicitor is there to provide legal services to the Government, to statutory authorities and to others in accordance with the Judiciary Act. We have a professional responsibility. If a client department wishes to be represented and there is any justification for it, then it is entitled to representation.
Discussions have taken place about the question of representation and the briefing of counsel on this matter. I do not propose to say what advice was given because, again, we regard the relationship as a professional one. We do not disclose the nature of advice that has been given. Discussions took place, probably on 16 and 17 April if I remember rightly. The only reason that I remember those dates, frankly, is that I left Australia on 18 April and I had some discussions a day or two before I went away. The Acting Attorney-General apparently had some further discussions after I went away. In the end the Crown Solicitor appeared and briefed counsel for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
Senator Button raised the question of whether the decision was taken by the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney or by the Crown Solicitor in Canberra. I am not in a position to say who made the final decision. The Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney has to make a number of decisions and is entitled to make a number of decisions. It would not come as any great surprise to me to know that he had made the decision. 1 do not know whether he did or did not. I do not think it is very relevant. I will have a closer look at the list of interrogatories that have been delivered by Senator Button in this Estimates debate to see whether there is anything further that I can say. I certainly do not intend to disclose what advice was given by the Crown Solicitor or by me to the Minister or to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
– When the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is again determining what is relevant and what is not relevant he might apply his mind to the question of whether he made a decision on the matter one way or another. I do not want to know what the decision was. That would be taking the question too far, obviously, but I would be interested to know whether the Attorney-General’s Department made a decision about that matter. Perhaps that could be added to the list of interrogatories, as he calls them.
– I formed a view about the matter in the course of the discussions that took place. As I said, I do not propose to disclose what the view was.
– I had thought that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) might reply to my questions earlier. I refer to the Industrial Relations Bureau. I have two questions. Considering the amount of money that is expended, I want to know what modus operandi is applied in relation to visiting the various workshops and factories to determine award observance. It is obvious that whilst the Bureau might say that a multiplicity of industries, workshops and factories are covered by the federal metal trades awards, it would well know where the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union, the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and the Australasian Society of Engineers operate, but about others it would have doubts. I wish to know the Bureau’s priorities. How often would the Bureau visit the light engineering establishments in Rhodes or Ryde in the Sydney metropolitan area? Would it be once every 12 months? How long would it take the Bureau to check up on those establishments?
In relation to the second matter, perhaps I ought to remind the Attorney-General that when he and I served on a high-powered Senate committee dealing with migrant matters, we found that officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation used to read all the left wing publications but they would not read Spremnost, the Croatian newspaper, which was of the far Right. I read Tribune, News Weekly and Direct Action. I wonder whether the IRB officers read those newspapers? When I wrote to the Department about a couple of industrial matters in one case I was told to take up the matter with the antidiscrimination committee because the fellow about whom I wrote did not like Jews, Catholics or Asians and there was a question about whether he would employ them. That was the brush-off that I got.
The other matter goes far deeper. It concerns the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia and the car industry in South Australia, with which Senator Cavanagh would be familiar. After every issue of Direct Action there are claims of victimisation. Do officers of the Bureau read that newspaper and, with all due respect to the unions, do they go and see for themselves some of these employers and the goon squads they employ as security guards? Does the IRB really look into those matters and does it ever give a report to the Minister for Industrial Relations?
– The questions asked by Senator Mulvihill refer to the Industrial Relations Bureau. There is not a representative of that body here this evening. Representatives were, of course, in attendance at the Estimates committee hearing that dealt with the IRB.
– I could not get to all the hearings because you put three on the one day.
– I am sorry that the honourable senator was not there. I am explaining that I cannot answer the questions now because no officer of the Bureau is present. All I can do is pass the questions to the Bureau and ask the Director to provide an answer which I will give to Senator Mulvihill in writing. I hope that can be done before too long.
asked earlier about awards being translated into other languages. I am informed that this depends upon a request of the deputy president who is in charge of the panel under which the award is made. He apparently determines whether in his opinion there is a need for the award to be issued in languages other than English. That is the policy. It is a matter of regret that there are still delays in making decisions available. Apparently the Attorney-General’s Department has made representations to the Public Service Board in favour of obtaining more staff to cope with these problems. That is the best that can be done in the circumstances. As I said, I regret that there are delays.
– I do not want to labour this point. I think the officers have missed the thrust of my argument. I take it that Senator Durack was talking about the attitude of the President, the Deputy Presidents and the commissioners of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to awards being printed in a given language. Let us take it beyond that. At a given time - I am sure the Industrial Relations Bureau would be well aware of this example - I could put my finger on a certain industry which has an influx of Portuguese, Spanish or Latin American women and another industry which employs predominantly Lebanese women. These people may enter an industry for which an award has been in operation for 12 months, lt may be three years before another log of claims is submitted. Surely these people do not have to wait until the case goes before a tribunal. There should be communication between the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Department of Productivity which has some interest in safety, and the IRB to ensure that this does not occur. I say that for this reason: The metal trades would be fairly strong on shop floor discipline, control and activity. I am thinking of the small industries, even the canning industry, where the resources of the unions are such that a paid organiser is not always present. Sometimes shop stewards are absent from the floor. I am sure the IRB has enough know how of what awards are policed on the workshop floor by paid officials of the union. Other unions have a union secretary and one organiser and their resources are spread thinly. That is the point I am trying to get at.
– I cannot do anything other than refer the comments to the Industrial Relations Bureau and ask it to provide an answer.
– I raise some questions with the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) concerning the report of Estimates Committee B that has been tendered to the Senate. I refer to the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations. It appears that whilst the Attorney-General’s Department might want to wash its hands of this responsibility, Estimates Committee B has tendered a report to the Senate which, I think, the Senate cannot overlook. In paragraph 3 the Committee drew the attention of the Senate to matters arising from its consideration of the estimates and expenditure of the Attorney-General’s Department. Because of the importance of the matter I will read it into the record. The report states:
The Committee sought advice concerning any financial contribution the Department may be making to the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations, in view of the Department’s considerable involvement in various Commonwealth-State relationship matters.
I emphasise that phrase. The report continues:
While it appears that the Department has no direct involvement, the Committee was led to examine the report by the Auditor-General of Tasmania on the Advisory Council’s accounts for the year ending 30 August 1 979. The audit report was expressed in damning terms which included the statement that:
In view of the apparent absence of legislative authority for many of the financial arrangements and operations which have been undertaken by your Council … I consider it would be quite meaningless for me to certify the financial statements.
That is a very serious statement to be made by an auditor-general concerning a government statutory body - the Advisory Council for Intergovernment Relations - which I assume from this report is under the aegis of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The report continues:
The Committee notes that the report, which was inexplicably late in being presented to the Senate, has been referred by the Senate to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation, but considers that this particular aspect of the Auditor’s report should be immediately brought to the attention of the Senate as a whole.
Our colleagues in this chamber, sitting as an Estimates Committee, have reported their concern about the statement by the Auditor-General of Tasmania on the operation of the Advisory Council’s accounts for the year ended 30 August 1979. The Auditor-General has said that he considers it would be quite meaningless for him to certify the financial statements. Apart from the fact that the matter has been referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, of which Senator Rae from Tasmania is Chairman and which I as a member of the Opposition for the time being am a member, the Auditor-General considers that this aspect of the Auditor’s report should immediately be brought to the attention of the Senate as a whole.
– I will shortly be moving a motion as Chairman of that Estimates Committee suggesting that that matter be referred to in a particular way. I just wanted to indicate that.
– I am delighted to know that Senator Rae will be moving that that aspect of the matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for report. If he so chose to move, I would think that the Opposition would unanimously support him in that recommendation. Because of the seriousness of the matter, because the Auditor-General of Tasmania refused to give any certification of the way in which the accounts of the Advisory Council for Intergovernment Relations have been operating and because it comes obviously within the purview of the operations of the Attorney-General’s Department I suggest that the Attorney-General himself, being briefed by a number of officers immediately available to him, should have some observations to make to the Committee of the Whole on the subject.
Having made that observation, I merely want to make some remarks in further amplification of the matters that were put to the AttorneyGeneral by Senator Button concerning the attitude of the Attorney-General and the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to the appearance of the
Australian Broadcasting Tribunal before the High Court of Australia. Whilst Senator Button puts certain interrogatories to the AttorneyGeneral - it appeared to me that the AttorneyGeneral said that he had expressed an opinion on these matters privately but was not prepared to express an opinion to the chamber on the matters raised by Senator Button - I say frankly as a member of the Senate that I deeply regret the, Attorney-General’s attitude on the matter. I would have thought that the Attorney-General would be prepared to state his case and the Government’s case on that matter in this Parliament in view of the drubbing that the High Court gave the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
For many years when we were in government our erstwhile colleague, Senator Murphy, now His Honour Mr Justice Murphy of the High Court, stood in this Parliament and was the subject of cross-examination at Question Time and interrogatories on many occasions concerning the legal opinion he had expressed and the attitude that he had adopted on many given matters. Whether one liked or did not like the opinion Senator Murphy gave, at least he had the courage and the political stomach in this chamber to stand by the words that he expressed or the opinion that he endorsed. Not so the present AttorneyGeneral. I think it is very sad for the AttorneyGeneral himself, for the legal system, for the Attorney-General as the chief law officer of the Commonwealth, for the Executive Government of this country and, indeed, for the Parliament, that the Attorney-General of this nation should be so arrogant and so indifferent to the opinions of this Parliament and to the public at large that he can say: ‘Well, I gave a certain opinion to those who might advise the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. I am not going to say whether the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal or the legal advisers to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal decided to agree or disagree with that opinion’.
Nonetheless, we know that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal went to the High Court of Australia and adopted a very partisan attitude on a very litigious matter of great importance to the Australian people, and was rubbished by the High Court in that Court’s judgment. The AttorneyGeneral sits in his chamber with his arms folded and with an attitude of indifference towards the matter. I think this attitude is very sad for the Parliament and, frankly, I think it is a disgrace to the Government and to the Attorney-General.
– I do not propose to make any further comment upon the last matter Senator McClelland mentioned. He obviously did not hear or understand what I said. The position is that Senator Murphy and all Attorneys-General of this Commonwealth have adopted the view that they do not give publicly the opinions that they give in their professional capacities to their clients. I would have thought that that was a fundamental attitude of lawyers. If Senator McClelland knew anything about the subject he would understand it better.
The other matter of complete misunderstanding by Senator McClelland - I regret to say that apparently questions were asked in a Senate Estimates committee along these lines as well - was that the Advisory Council for Intergovernment Relations does not come under the Attorney-General’s Department. I have no responsibility whatsoever for the administration of that Council. It is entirely misguided to direct any criticism at me or my Department about this matter. The fact is that it comes under the administration of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Questions in relation to that matter should have been asked when we were dealing with the estimates of that Department.
– I commence by saying that in no way did Estimates Committee B suggest that the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations was the responsibility of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) but inquired whether there was any funding for it through any aspect of the operation of the Attorney-General’s Department. The report did not criticise the Attorney-General or his Department. There is no need, as far as the Committee is concerned, for the Attorney to get upset about the matter. I seek leave to move a motion which is consequent upon the report of Estimates Committee B. In my capacity as Chairman of that Committee I seek leave to move a motion which arises from the recommendations made by that Committee in its report to the Senate.
– Is leave granted?
– Does this conclude consideration of the departments under Estimates Committee B? I wanted to ask some questions about the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs.
– Leave has been sought to move a motion. If leave is granted I think we will hear the content of that motion and Senator Cavanagh ‘s question may be answered at that time.
– I was going to move this motion towards the end of the consideration of this group of estimates but as Senator McClelland has raised one matter contained in the report of Estimates Committee B, I thought other people may wish to know what was contained in the motion so that they could have that in mind during any further debate that took place. That is the only reason I have sought leave to move the motion at this stage. The motion I will be moving reads:
That the Committee, having considered the report of Estimates Committee B -
Is of the opinion that legislative authority should be sought, as a matter of urgency, for the financial arrangements and operations of the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations, so that proper auditing of the Council’s financial statements may be undertaken; and
That the Auditor-General be requested to investigate further the estimating and administrative practices of the Department of Industrial Relations and the Industrial Relations Bureau:
That the principle, espoused by the Senate in 1971 and 1974, that there are no areas of expenditure of public funds where statutory authorities have a discretion to withhold details or explanations from Parliament or its committees unless the Parliament has expressly provided otherwise, be re-affirmed;
The re-affirmation, in accordance with this principle, that the right to privacy of individual counsel accepting a brief on behalf of the Commonwealth for which money is appropriated by Parliament is supervened by such acceptance, subject to the reasons for the information being clearly defined and to the proviso that injudicious or unwarranted invasion of privacy is not the intention of the Parliament or its committees; and
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration as part of its inquiry into the modification of the operation of Estimates committees: The transferral of any ongoing Estimates examination and program evaluation functions of Estimates committees to the Senate standing committees, as an alternative to expanding these functions of Estimates committees.
I understand that one of the members of Estimates Committee B, Senator Evans, and possibly other members will be speaking to this motion. I will therefore not take long to elaborate. The reasons behind the Committee’s desire to move this motion are set out in the Committee’s report to the Senate. The first matter dealt with in paragraph (A) relating to the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations, has already been referred to by Senator McClelland. He observed the problem that has existed with regard to auditing. I do not think it matters whether that observation arose incidentally in a particular committee. It is a concern of the Senate that the Auditor-General of
Tasmania, as the auditor asked under the FederalState relations agreement to audit the accounts, should make such a surprising audit report.
I turn to the second point. Again the Committee’s report referred to the extraordinary and miraculous coincidence in both the Department of Industrial Relations and the Industrial Relations Bureau between their estimated expenditure and their actual expenditure. This gave rise to a suggestion on the part of the Committee that the matter of their estimating and administrative practices could bear further investigation to see how that situation could arise.
The next point relates to the principle which was espoused in 1971 and 1974 in this chamber, to overcome an attitude which was put forward originally by the Australian Broadcasting Commission when it argued that it did not have to answer questions of an Estimates committee because it believed that it was entitled to withhold information from an Estimates committee and from the Senate. As a result of that Committee’s report to the Senate, the Senate resolved unanimously that there are no areas of expenditure of public funds in relation to which statutory authorities are entitled to withhold information. That decision was re-affirmed in 1974. As a reminder of the situation which arose incidentally during Senate Estimates Committee B’s recent proceedings it was suggested that the resolution be put forward again.
The question of the right of privacy of individual counsel was raised during the Committee’s proceedings. I think Senator Evans may like to make some comment about the right of privacy of counsel and the extent to which information should be made available. However, it was the unanimous view of the Committee that the recommendation be made in the terms of the motion which I have foreshadowed that I will move. I leave it to Senator Evans to elaborate on that.
Finally, the Committee suggested that the Senate Standing Orders Committee, as part of its already existing consideration of the future operation of Estimates committees, should consider, as an alternative to the permanent staffing of a separate Estimates committee function, including the Estimates committee function as one of the three aspects of a system of legislative, general purpose and Estimates standing committees. That is one matter which the Committee felt ought to be considered by the Standing Orders Committee when it considers and eventually reports to the Senate upon the future role of Estimates committees. Having moved the motion, I would like it left until the conclusion of the consideration of the departmental estimates in Group B before the question is put and a vote is taken on the motion.
– I had not intended to speak on this matter, but I will succumb to Senator Rae’s blandishments to the extent necessary at least to demonstrate that within the Estimates Committee B there is bipartisan support for the motion which he foreshadowed. Perhaps one or two paragraphs of the proposed motion do need slightly more elucidation. I refer firstly to the matter concerning counsel’s fees and the claim of privacy in respect of that which was uttered on their behalf by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), admittedly somewhat haltingly and without any great conviction. I think it does need to be said that, by and large, committees of this kind will not unnecessarily seek to pry, out of considerations of sheer curiosity, into the current rates of payment or of income for particular members of the Bar. When there are in issue matters of the kind and significance of the social security conspiracy case in Sydney, which now has been running for a very long period - it is now well into its second year - when one finds a counsel such as Mr Rofe, Q.C., now with an accumulated income of $214,710 from that case and his offsider, Mr Arden, with an accumulated income of even more, $244,500, with both of them earning something like $150,000 in the last 1 2 months, it does not seem to be an unreasonable exercise of the investigative role of this Committee to seek to elucidate precisely the basis upon which payments of that kind are made and to secure a breakup of those payments of the kind that was forthcoming in the hearings of Estimates Committee B. That breakup indicated that, for example, Mr Rofe’s fees are of the order of $590 a day, notwithstanding that in the social se’curity fraud case he is enjoying a permanent brief, I presume to the exclusion of all other briefs. That fee, together with the reading and preparation fees–
– Is it the casual rate?
– I think that by any standard it would be triple time. Mr Rofe’s basic rate for a day in court of more than three hours - if he goes three hours and 10 minutes he chalks this up- is $590. In addition to that, there are very substantial hourly rates for other reading and preparation, but I am glad to see that the Commonwealth sets a limit of $1 ,000 a day in respect of Mr Rofe as he bears manfully the task of pursuing that prosecution into its second year. So matters of public interest are involved in considerations of this kind. That is the partial justification for moving a motion such as the one foreshadowed by Senator Rae.
Another justification for this paragraph is when it becomes necessary to explore more closely counsel’s fees as part of an exercise in determining the legitimacy of the overall estimates of a particular department or structure within that department. In this respect I refer in particular to paragraph (B), which is a request to the AuditorGeneral to investigate further the estimating and administrative practices of the Department of Industrial Relations and the Industrial Relations Bureau. In that Department, and more particularly in its shonky little off-shoot, the Industrial Relations Bureau, we found an absolutely extraordinary congruence in numerous items, one after the other, between the original estimate of expenditure and the actual expenditure for the financial year in question. For example, the estimated expenditure for freight and carriage was $34,000 and the actual expenditure was $33,929. In the case of the postage and telegram account of the Industrial Relations Bureau, the estimated expenditure, the appropriation, was $172,500 and the actual expenditure was $172,494. The other estimates for this Department continued in the same vein, with the variation between the amounts of the estimates and the actual expenditures often in single dollar figures. With extraordinary foresight, the estimate of expenditure and appropriation for travel and subsistence for the Industrial Relations Bureau was $225,000; the actual expenditure for that year was $224,999 - a difference of just one dollar.
– Good estimating.
– Good estimating, miraculous coincidence or something else was at work. The possibility of there having been something else at work is what justifies, in our view, the Auditor-General’s looking further into these estimates. A matter which perhaps more than any other aroused the attention of the Committee was the actual estimate in respect of legal payments to counsel. The estimate by the Department under this heading was $35,000 and the actual expenditure upon legal counsel for the year in question was $34,9 1 8. That is a difference of less than $ 1 00 in respect of an item which, in anybody’s view, must be regarded as thoroughly notional in prospect. Indeed, it was conceded to be so by the officers of that Department. When it was queried by members of the Committee the officer concerned of the Industrial Relations Bureau could explain it as none other than a coincidence. In fact, he said when pressed on the point that there was no carry-over expenditure to the following financial year; it just happened to work out that there was less than $100 difference between the estimate of $35,000 and the actual expenditure on legal counsel.
It was matters such as those which inspired the Committee to seek very detailed accounts in respect of the expenditure on legal counsel and the fees payable to particular counsel in that financial year as part of its investigation of the overall accounting practices of that Department and in an effort to determine whether a genuine coincidence or brilliant estimating was at work or whether rather something a little bit more suspicious was at work. I indicate support for the investigation proposed by the Auditor-General of the accounts of the Industrial Relations Bureau and of the whole Department of Industrial Relations. I further indicate specifically my support for that part of the motion which refers to the individual accounts of barristers because at least in one respect those two paragraphs in the motion are inter-linked, but in another respect there are public interest reasons for accounts of this kind being very closely scrutinised by the Senate. Accordingly, I commend to the Committee of the Whole the motion foreshadowed by Senator Rae.
– As Senator Rae’s foreshadowed motion undoubtedly will be fresh in the mind of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), I wish to ask some further questions about the alleged social security conspiracy case and the legal costs demonstrated in the estimates. I note that the legal costs of the prosecution lawyers in this case were $995,000-odd. I notice from the estimates that legal costs for the defence under the legal aid system so far have been almost $1 million - $970,000-odd - so roughly $2m is to be spent on those gentlemen involved in the case. Can we in any way determine what would be the total cost of conducting this case?
I ask the Attorney-General whether, after two years of the case, he has, through the people prosecuting the case, any estimate yet of just how much was alleged to have been involved in this fraud case. For interest’s sake - for my sake and everybody else’s sake - may I, as a member of a profession which sometimes is justifiably criticised for its fees, ask how the Commonwealth comes to the conclusion that an upper daily limit of $1,000 a day for a Queen’s Counsel, be it Mr Rofe or anybody else, is estimated as a fair figure? What guidelines are used in the estimation of fees such as those?
– I must confess that I am somewhat at a loss as to where we are with the Estimates. Senator Cavanagh was wanting to ask a question about the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and we have a motion dealing with the whole of the Estimates. I do not quite know what I am supposed to be speaking to. Senator Grimes asked how long the social security fraud case is estimated to last.
– I did not ask that at all.
– You did, actually. That question was asked of the Crown Solicitor during the Estimates Committee hearing. He gave an answer. I think it would be preferable if I referred Senator Grimes to that.
– I did not ask that question.
– If the honourable senator is not interested in the answer we will forget about it, thank you.
– Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. I take offence at the remark of the Attorney-General that I am not interested in the answer. In fact, I did not ask that question.
– I simply said that if he is not interested in how long it lasts, I will not pursue it.
– Get fair dinkum. You do not know.
– I have some general conception of the matter. The Crown Solicitor has given a very careful estimate of it and did so at the Estimates Committee hearings. If the honourable senator is interested in it I suggest that he read what the Crown Solicitor said. As far as the level of fees is concerned it is simply a question of the market for counsel fees. When one is engaging counsel one is in the market and has to meet the market price. It is as simple as that.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) whether there is an estimate anywhere or in his Department’s accounts concerning the activities of his Department or others in the prosecution of people in Greece. I have asked about this for some weeks and I have yet to receive an answer. In view of the Attorney-General’s attitude tonight I am unlikely to receive an answer until after the election.
– I have indicated to Senator Grimes that the matter has been taken up through the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). I am not yet in a position to provide the full answer to him. I hope to be able to do so as soon as possible.
– I wish to make the comment that the court case has been going on for two years at considerable cost to the taxpayer of this country and is causing considerable distress to a section of the Australian community. After two years we find that in the last week or so one person involved has had the charge against him dropped and he has had a lesser charge made against him so that he can appear and give evidence next week not as someone who is charged in the case. Throughout the conduct of the case both the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) have avoided answering questions. Every question raised by me and others in the first two weeks of this case has been shown to have a basis of fact. Yet the Attorney-General in his cavalier manner does not seem to be at all concerned about the conduct of officers of his Department or officers of the Commonwealth Police or anyone else in this case. I merely place on record my concern that he, even as the first law officer of this land, has no concern that justice will at least be seen to be done in this country.
– I hope to get a better response than that received by Senator Grimes. I am complaining about the lack of response from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) on the two occasions I have brought up in the Senate the question of theft of jewellery from a citizen by officers of the Bureau of Customs. I have had no reply. When I brought the case up the first time in March this year I substantiated my remarks with documentary evidence including documents from the Bureau of Customs and replies from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland). I think the replies can be taken as an admission that there was a theft. I would have thought that the Minister could have replied with information as to why he is permitting the crookedness that exists in the Bureau of Customs to continue and appears to be condoning it. I recognise that the Minister does not have a clean record on law abidance. But I think that when we are asked in the appropriations to pay $1 30.369m for this Bureau we have a responsibility to see that we are not paying the money for the purpose of continuing a Bureau full of crooked people. We want answers to clear this up before we assist these criminal activities by permitting the Bureau to continue.
I read the report of the investigation of the Commonwealth Ombudsman into the Bureau of Customs. He said that he found administrative deficiencies which he was going to take up with the Bureau. I think that before we appropriate money to the Bureau we should know whether it is an appropriation to continue administrative deficiency. I asked a question this morning of the Attorney-General, who understandably did not know the answer and who referred it to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Before we vote to continue this administrative deficiency we should at least know what is being done to rectify it; otherwise we cannot justify the appropriation we are making. Therefore I think the question I asked this morning as to what was the administrative deficiency that the Ombudsman found in the Bureau and what is being done to rectify it should be answered before we pass the appropriation.
The story is told that certain officers of the Bureau inspected the jewellery and said: ‘This will do for my wife’. It is said that he took it home after threatening the owner that if he reported it he would be in serious trouble. Therefore we need some further explanation than a statement that the Custom officer was found guilty by the Public Service Tribunal and handed an official reprimand. The jewellery was found in the officer’s home after a raid by Customs inspectors. I am told that an official reprimand is a mark placed upon his work record. The man who so blatantly boasts of his power to steal before the owner’s eyes and who says ‘Shut up or you will be in trouble’ gets an official reprimand. Today he is still employed searching passengers’ luggage for contraband. We found that he has this power because a fuss was made and a search was made. Another $7,000 worth of jewellery which was retained was either lost or held by Customs officials after they had given receipts for it. Now they say that they do not have it. It has put a man out of business.
Mr Wacyk, the individual concerned, has taken the matter as far as he can and is now advised by the Ombudsman to take legal action, but has not the finance to do so. The Minister should in all the circumstances at least provide him with legal aid in order to take the case to a court of law to have returned the $7,000 worth of jewellery that has been stolen from him. I still think that officers who sign receipts to say that they have retained jewellery and then deny that they have retained it should not be responsible officers of the Bureau. All I am asking for is some reply. Officers stole jewellery in front of the owners and admitted it - boasted about it - and the Public Service Board decided that an official reprimand was sufficient punishment. I say that the facts that the Minister, the Bureau and I know, were not put before the Public Service Board and it would not have made such a light decision if the full facts had been known.
Therefore, I asked: What was the information given to that tribunal of the Public Service Board when it was dealing with the case? The Minister replied that in the interests of privacy it is not general practice to supply the information. But on this occasion there is a suspicion that there is protection of criminals by higher officers in the Customs Bureau. I am suspicious of their honesty and of their motivation in reporting to the Parliament. Whilst it is not general practice to give the information, it is not prohibited to give the information. If it is only to exonerate the officers, I want to know whether the full facts, as I have reported them on two occasions to the Senate, were given. The time of the consideration of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) is a time when the Minister cannot avoid a reply to the serious accusation that I have made and have supported by documentation which I have tabled in the Senate.
– In relation to the matter that Senator Cavanagh raised with me today, I have some information from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland). As far as 1 understand, the Ombudsman advised the Department on 17 July 1980 that he had decided to investigate the following two matters: Whether the Department had followed proper procedures in its receipting and custody of goods which were allegedly in Mr Wacyk’s possession; and whether the investigation carried out into his claims was undertaken in a proper manner. As I understand it, those matters are being investigated by the Ombudsman.
– Last week, in relation to this case, I read the reply of the Ombudsman who said that he will not investigate a case in which it is reasonable to take court action. In this case it was reasonable, therefore he was not prepared to proceed further with the investigation. But he found administrative deficiencies in the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and said that he would explore them with the Department. So the Ombudsman has finished with the investigation now. That is why I am appealing to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). The only redress left to the wronged individual is court action, and I am asking for assistance to allow him to prove his case before the court with legal aid.
– I am sorry, it appears that the information which I have is not the latest information in regard to the matter. As I said in answer to the question this morning, I will refer it to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) to obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– But can you get the Minister to reply?
– The question was asked only a few hours ago, and it is rather unreasonable to expect to have a reply by now. That is as far as I can take the matter at this stage.
– There is one matter in relation to the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs which I want briefly to raise. It is a question which I asked of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) as recorded at page 563 of the relevant Hansard. It concerns the National Youth Advisory Group, a rather extraordinary little group of 12 people, the chairman of whom is a former Young Liberal president and whose members include representatives of the Australian Council of Rural Youth, Miss Knowles, a sales manager from Western Australia - so described - someone from the Rural Youth Movement of Tasmania and someone else from the Apex movement in Queensland. It is a group which I described as perhaps being more appropriately described as the Young Liberals travel grants scheme. I am delighted to see that in Hansard that description is capitalised.
I asked in respect of this group and its activities how precisely its existence and the estimate associated with it was justified, what evaluation had been made of the operation of this group so far, in particular what reports, if any, had it ever submitted to the Government on policy or on any other matters as a result of its numerous meetings held in various parts of Australia over the last 1 2 months. This is one of the very few matters in respect of which no reply has yet been forthcoming from the Minister or directly from the Department. It is clearly one of the sorts of operations which the Department, and more particularly the Minister and the Government, would undoubtedly like to keep hidden. I ask the Minister now to give me a reply to the questions which I sought as to the nature of the operation and the justification for the existence, in terms of its output so far, of this particular odd little group.
– I understand that the National Youth Advisory Group reports to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs from time to time. There are no reports of an official kind to the Government by the Group. I do not know that there is anything further that can be said in answer to Senator Evans’ question. Mr
Chairman, if I may make a comment on the motion that has been foreshadowed by Senator Rae, which he read out earlier and spoke tothere were some further remarks made by Senator Evans in relation to it- the Government is not opposed to the motion moved by Senator Rae and is prepared to agree to the suggestions that are contained in it. I have already indicated - I think he agrees- that the matter of the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations does not come under the responsibility of any of the departments that were the subject of the committee’s investigation. I agree that the senator should express a view even though it does not arise from this Committee’s own specific inquiries. But it arises, no doubt, indirectly.
The matter that I wished to comment on was in relation to item (d) of the motion; that is, the right of the Senate Estimates committees to be given the details of payments made to counsel accepting briefs on behalf of the Commonwealth and for which moneys were appropriated. I rose to speak on the matter only because Senator Evans suggested that I make some half-hearted objection to it. I made it quite clear that I believe that only in exceptional circumstances would it be justified for any Senate Estimates committee to require to be provided the details of the actual payments made to counsel.
I believe it is quite proper for a Senate Estimates committee or the Senate to inquire into and to be told the total costs of a case and to inquire into the level of counsel fees that the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth negotiates with counsel. Great detail about these matters has been provided from time to time at Estimates committee hearings. I accept the broad principle that is stated, namely, that of course the Parliament has the right to know. The Parliament seems to know a great deal about matters occurring in government. We accept that. I accept the statement that information should be given subject to reasons for the information being clearly defined and subject to the proviso that injudicious or unwarranted invasion of privacy is not the intention of parliament. I sincerely hope that that is the case. With such a notable civil libertarian as Senator Evans, I am sure that it would always be the case which governed his interest in any of these matters.
I cannot help noting that there was a great deal of interest in what was being paid to individual counsel for the prosecution in this case. I am not aware that any questions were asked as to what individual payments were made or as to the fees negotiated with counsel for the defence. It did seem to me that there was a somewhat selective interest in payments to counsel in this case. 1 mention this because I believe the most judicious care should be exercised by Senate Estimates committees in inquiring into matters which relate to private arrangements between professional people and those who are instructing them. I am not confining my remarks simply to lawyers. That would apply to many other professional people who enter into arrangements with government. 1 hope that the Senate and the Estimates committees will observe the principles that are stated in the motion moved by Senator Rae.
– I wish to comment on this matter because it has involved not only this year but also last year the estimates of the Department of Social Security and in fact, the estimates of almost every department. I think the key word in the mind of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and in the minds of many people in this place is the word ‘professional’. There always is an objection in this place to senators asking just what professional people are paid, be they lawyers, doctors or, in the case of the Department of Social Security, a certain well-known professor in this community. Yet every year in every Estimates committee hearing people are asked how much certain people get for cleaning contracts. Everyone in the community knows what every senator in this place is paid. Everyone in the community knows what the heads of various departments are paid because they are paid public money and the community has every right to know just where public money goes.
I wish to express my personal view that just because someone is a professional and just because someone gets $1 ,000 a day it does not mean he or she should be excused from having his or her fees publicly exposed - fees are paid for out of the public purse - when there is never any complaint in this place about asking how much people are paid for cleaning contracts or what the award rate is for various fitters and turners or anyone else who is being paid by the Commonwealth. As an individual senator, I make no bones about it. I have no hesitation in asking just what such distinguished professional people, such as Mr Rofe, Q.C., and his $1,000 a day people get. I believe the public should have knowledge of the extraordinary fees that are paid to people such as these. I will not be shy in the future about asking for the information.
– If Mr Rofe, Mr Arden and all the rest of the prosecution counsel would be made to feel better by there being a disclosure on the public record that defence counsel are also receiving sums of up to $1,000 a day, 1 would be only too delighted to request the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to put that information on the public record so that it can be made available. I suspect, however, that he will find that sums of that magnitude are in no way relevant to the kinds of moneys that are being paid to the few defence counsel in respect of whom legal aid has been authorised.
There is one other matter on which I wish to pursue the Attorney-General, whether or not he trembles in his boots. The matter relates to the National Youth Advisory Group. We have not received a sufficient explanation of what this group is up to. I think I ought to put it on public record, or draw it to the Senate’s attention, that what we are talking about here is not some trivial marginal expenditure. This year a sum of $40,000 has been allocated for the activities of the National Youth Advisory Group. Something like $29,000 of that amount is allocated to travel. Another $5,500 is allocated to the sitting fees for this group. Unless we can have some explanation on precisely what this group is up to and the nature and extent of the reports that are submitted by the group to the responsible Minister, it is obviously impossible for the Senate to accept as being legitimate this kind of expenditure, involving the patronage that it does in an obviously selective way for a particular group of people around Australia. I press the point with the Attorney-General that this information was promised in the course of the Estimate committee hearing. The Attorney-General did say that a reference would be made to the Minister. I urge him most strenuously to follow it up with the Minister and give the Senate the information which it is entitled to have on this matter.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave - agreed to:
That the Committee, having considered the report of Estimates Committee B -
Is the of the opinion that legislative authority should be sought, as a matter of urgency, for the financial arrangements and operations of the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations, so that proper auditing of the Council’s financial statements may be undertaken; and
That the Auditor-General be requested to investigate further the estimating and administrative practices of the Department of the Industrial Relations and the Industrial Relations Bureau:
That the principle, espoused by the Senate in 1971 and 1974, that there are no areas of expenditure of public funds where statutory authorities have a discretion to withhold details or explanations from Parliament or its committees unless the Parliament has expressly provided otherwise, be re-affirmed;
The re-affirmation, in accordance with this principle, that the right to privacy of individual counsel accepting a brief on behalf of the Commonwealth for which money is appropriated by Parliament is supervened by such acceptance, subject to the reasons for the information being clearly defined and to the proviso that injudicious or unwarranted invasion of privacy is not the intention of the Parliament or its committees; and
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration as part of its inquiry into the modification of the operation of Estimates Committees: The transferral of any ongoing Estimates examination and program evaluation functions of Estimates committees to the Senate standing committees, as an alternative to expanding these functions of Estimates committees.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– The question now is:
That the votes contained in Group C be now passed without requests.
Department of Social Security Proposed expenditure, $346,562,000.
Department of Finance
Proposed expenditure, $38,566,000
Advance to the Minister for Finance
Proposed expenditure, $125,000,000
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 ,699,83 1 ,000
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $441 ,522,000
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $88,330,000
– As was the case in relation to the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, I would like to have some questions answered on a matter which I brought up in the Senate last week. It concerns the cancellation of invalid pensions and the power under which the Department of Social Security is acting. Firstly, I ask: Does not the Social Service Act itself establish that a pension be given only to a person with an 85 per cent incapacity which must be permanent? How can the Department grant an invalid pension for a pension incapacity subject to review? How can it permit a review to be made unless such provision is found in the Act? When the Act states that a review may be held when the Director-General has sufficient reasons to cause a review to be held and in view of the fact that an appeal can be lodged against the decision of the review with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, how can someone successfully conduct an appeal before those bodies unless that person can contest that he or she should have had a review examination? If, on a review which was unlawfully held or ordered, or a review which was ordered with powers not possessed by the Director-General, it was found that the person concerned was entitled to an invalid pension, should an appeal tribunal take any notice of that review? As a sufficient reason is needed before a review of a pension can be ordered, I am asking that when a review is ordered the DirectorGeneral give to the particular pensioner the facts relating to the sufficient reason that permitted him to order the review. That is what the Act says, and I want to know why it is not done.
I expect answers to the letters that I have sent both to the Minister and her department through the Adelaide office relating to particular cases and the reasons for their review. Again I stress that it is not proper to vote some $346m to a department which is acting willy nilly, as it likes, and not in accordance with the Act that appoints the Department. 1 await the Minister’s reply.
– I wish to raise a matter similar to that raised by Senator Cavanagh initially, that is, the matter of invalid pensions and how they are assessed in the appeals process which has existed in the past and which, we understand, will exist in the future with the announcement of the new arrangements by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle). I preface my remarks, because if I do not the Minister will in her answer, by saying that we on this side of the chamber are well aware that the Act has not been changed since 1947, and to receive an invalid pension one must be found to be 85 per cent disabled, and, as Senator Cavanagh said, likely to be permanently disabled. In the past that has not created much difficulty. The main reason is that since 1947 we have had relatively full employment in this country, and many of the disabled were able to get work. What has happened in the last few years is that we have had increasing unemployment in the community, and with this increasing unemployment, at an almost similar rate, the rate of applications for the invalid pension has increased. This seems to have created some degree of anxiety in the mind of the Government, and particularly in the mind of the Director-General of Social Services, who has expressed some concern about this matter. I suggest that it should not create much concern. As unemployment increases and the able are unable to get work, then it is to be expected that similarly the number of disabled who are unable to get work will increase.
In the past, because of the manner in which this Act has been administered, because of the manner in which the Department of Social Security and the Commonwealth medical officers of the Department of Health have treated this aspect of 85 per cent disability, there has been very little difficulty. There has not been the sort of problem which has arisen in the last few months. What started the problem, of course, was the concern of the Director-General of Social Services, the extraordinary legal opinion he obtained, the toughening up of the regulations and the instructions which were sent out to the Commonwealth medical officers. It is not clear from the answers which were given in Estimates Committee C’s hearings, both from the Department of Social Security and the Department of Health, just who formulated these new guidelines. The guidelines went out under the heading of the Department of Social Security. The officers of the Department of Social Security seem to imply that they came from the Department of Health. The officers of the Department of Health said that they were drawn up by the Department of Social Security and the Department of Health in combination.
The difficulty that first arises is that a Commonwealth medical officer, either a full time medical officer or, in places where they do not exist, a practitioner who is also a part time Commonwealth medical officer, examines a patient and decides on medical grounds whether that patient is 85 per cent disabled. The first decision is made there. That decision then goes to an officer of the Department of Health who, without ever seeing the patient, can decide whether that patient is in fact 85 per cent disabled. According to Dr Travers, in evidence given to Estimates Committee C on 1 September this year, the senior Commonwealth medical officers in the Department would not have allowed 47 per cent of the people who were approved by the Commonwealth medical officers who first examined the patients. This is done without their examining the patient, without their ever necessarily setting eyes on the patient. This is an extraordinary situation, for a start. In the past we had the situation - we still do - that the patient, the person who has received a decision against him in this manner, can then appeal to the Department of Health for a medical appeal. That appeal can be performed by the same doctor who rejected the patient before, again without ever setting eyes on the patient, or it can be done by another medical officer. Senator Robertson will be interested to know that in the Northern Territory and in Tasmania it is apparently considered very difficult to get a second doctor, so that frequently in those places the appeal is looked at by the same doctor, even though the papers could be sent to Melbourne or Sydney by mail, thus enabling a second doctor to have a look at them.
I repeat what I said in the Estimates committee. Firstly, it is almost impossible to gauge just what an 85 per cent disability is, even when one examines a patient. Secondly, I am absolutely certain it is impossible to determine whether a patient is 85 per cent disabled when the patient has not been examined and one is looking only at bits of papers. As I said, in the past, because of low unemployment, because of the relatively low number of invalid pensioners, there was not any real difficulty. I do not think any of us as members of parliament had many approaches on this subject until the recent changes.
– It is because of the generous interpretation.
– Now because of the general crackdown we are all suddenly getting these approaches. The Minister has since announced a new appeals system. This is where Senator Cavanagh’s point comes in. Under the new appeals system, an invalid pensioner will be allowed to go to a Social Security Appeals Tribunal. If it rejects the pensioner, or if it accepts the pensioner and the Director-General rejects the pensioner, the pensioner can then go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Nowhere in answer to me or anyone else has it been clear whether the pensioner can take to those appeals his own doctor or another doctor, an independent doctor, to give his view on what is 85 per cent disabled or what is not. If they cannot, as Senator Cavanagh says, in part question, this is a ludicrous situation. No medical officer in this country can sit down and tell us what 85 per cent disabled is. If a patient, having gone through the rigmarole of seeing the Commonwealth medical officer - some will have seen him or her and some will have not - then goes to appeal and connot take independent medical evidence and medical officers along, I suggest he will be wasting his time. It is a matter of judgment. As the good doctors from the Department of Health said, it is a matter of experience. There are no real guidelines. We have not any real idea just what 85 per cent disabled is or what it is not.
If the people who are applying for invalid pensions, the people who are assisting them, their doctors, the specialists in the hospitals in a couple of the cases I have had, are confronted with the situation in which they believe someone is 85 per cent disabled and they believe someone is likely to be permanently disabled and is not able to be rehabilitated, and then they are overruled by some doctor in the Commonwealth Department of Health who never sees the patient but merely looks at a bit of paper, then we have a situation in which people think they are not receiving justice. In fact they may well not be receiving justice. We have a situation which I suggest this Parliament and this Government should not allow to continue. As the Minister has said over and over again, the Act has not changed since 1947. What has changed is the attitude of her DirectorGeneral, and the Government. (Quorum formed). I ask the Minister, as she was asked in the Estimates Committee, whether she has considered the proper nature of the new appeals system that she has set up and the very real difficulties arising in relation to invalid pensions.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under Sessional Order I put the question:
That I do leave the chair and report to the Senate. The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator C. R. Maunsell)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I refer to the ludicrous situation that Senator Grimes has already outlined concerning invalid pensioners. The condition is exacerbated when a private doctor adjudicates or when a pensioner has transferred interstate. For some unknown reason - with all the inquiries I have made I have not been able to determine why - a person’s medical records are held by the Department of Social Security so that when he goes to the Commonwealth medical officer that officer has absolutely no history of the patient that he is interviewing. He may have to spend a large portion of the time interviewing to discover what the actual complaint is. As I said, I have made a number of inquiries with the Department in Western Australia to find out why that is so. No one seems to be able to tell me anything except that when the Department gets a report it zealously holds on to it. There is no way it can be extracted from the Department of Social Security even for the use of the Commonwealth medical officer, who is employed by a Department of Health.
I feel that there must be some way in which we can streamline the process so that if there is a request that a person be reviewed by the Commonwealth medical officer that officer is provided with the persons’s file, as one would expect to be the natural thing. If that is not being done, it is a very short-sighted view that is being taken by the Department. If it is being done, and the CMOs say that they are not getting the files, they are obviously being held somewhere in the Department of Health. I checked with the Department of Health in Western Australia. Departmental officers informed me that when there has been a review of an 85 per cent pension disability allowance to a particular person, they have never been able to obtain the file from the Department of Social Security. Perhaps the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) in her reply will be able to advise us why these files are held by the Department of Social Security but the review is being conducted by a CMO employed by the Department of Health.
– I wish to speak on the matter that has been raised by my colleagues Senator Grimes and Senator Coleman. The matter that Senator Grimes in particular raised is of great concern to me as it affects people in New South Wales. I have received a great number of complaints from citizens of New South Wales about the way in which their applications for invalid pension have been treated by the Department of Social Security and afterwards by the Department of Health and from citizens who have been in receipt of invalid pensions and who suddenly, overnight, as a result of some arbitrary situation by a medical officer have been taken off the pension.
My colleague Senator Grimes knows of one case I discussed with him concerning a person in Inverell who had been an invalid pensioner for quite a number of years. If I remember the statement of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) - she may correct me if I am wrong - she said that only those people who had been told that their invalid pensions were subject to review would in fact be the subject of review. I am assured by my constituent in Inverell that he first received the invalid pension some four or five years ago, that he had never been told that he would be the subject of a review and that overnight, out of the blue, he received a letter saying that his invalid pension was to be cancelled as from 28 August 1980 and thereafter he would be able to apply for sickness benefit. He had never been seen by anyone other than the original doctor who said that he was entitled to an invalid pension because he was 85 per cent incapacitated.
Another case - I mention the name - is that of Mr Brian Hopley of Bradbury, New South Wales, reference No. 8941 393 J. He was referred to me by a parish priest from Tweed Heads who advised me that Mr Hopley had seen two medical doctors, both of whom had certified him as being 85 per cent incapacitated. Suddenly the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Department of Health. A Commonwealth medical officer, not having seen Mr Hopley, said that he was not 85 per cent incapacitated. I can assure Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle that this situation is having a great psychological effect on many very genuine citizens. I can tell her also of a gentleman who lives close to me, a man whom I know but will not name, who was afflicted by meningitis during the Second World War and who decided not to claim anything from the Repatriation Department when he was discharged, in order to get a discharge. He is now a very seriously ill person. He applied for an invalid pension and was certified by a medical officer as being 85 per cent incapacitated for work. His file, not the person himself, was sent to a Commonwealth medical officer of the Department of Health. On perusal of that file the Commonwealth medical officer said that in his opinion that very genuine Australian person was not entitled to an invalid pension. From a perusal of the file the Commonwealth medical officer said that in his opinion the person was not 85 per cent incapacitated.
I have seen bureaucracy working. I saw bureaucracy working when I was a Minister. I have never seen such stupid bureaucracy as that which is in existence in New South Wales today. I ask the Minister: Will she produce to the Senate a list of those invalid pensioners on the North Shore of Sydney whose pensions have been subject to review compared with a list of those who live in the western suburbs of Sydney so we may see how many have been the subject of review? I can tell the Minister that I saw some figures for a review by a doctor in Bankstown who had certified 90 people as being 85 per cent incapacitated. Of those 90 people the Commonwealth medical officer said that 54 were not 85 per cent incapacitated. That was an arbitrary decision arrived at from a mere perusal of the files. Ordinary people are not getting a fair go under this system. I know that the Minister has said that people are now entitled to lodge an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. These people are sick, handicapped and concerned. They do not know the problems they have to go through and the forms they have to fill in if they go to an Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I plead with the Minister to investigate the matters in New South Wales to see that some form of justice is brought about for these people.
(10.47) - A number of honourable senators have spoken on the matter of invalid pensions. 1 am aware of the concern that they express with regard to those who have made representations about them. I am also aware that they have read many statements in the Press in recent weeks. Many of these statements have been inaccurate and have alarmed a number of sick and disabled people who receive invalid pensions. I want to make the Government’s position on this matter clear, as 1 have attempted to do in the discussions we have had in the debate in the Senate Estimates committees and in other places. The Government is paying invalid pensions in accordance with the Social Services Act. As Senator Grimes has said, this Act is quite specific and is unchanged. It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that people receive pensions in accordance with the law and that we facilitate the payment of pensions and benefits to all those who are entitled to receive them. We have had discussions on procedures with regard to the medical evidence that is given by the Department of Health Commonwealth medical officers or by the patient’s own doctor. I think it has been clearly stated how the system operates.
In addition to that we have recently announced the access to Social Security appeals. I have announced that access to those appeals will be enlarged by the appointment of a doctor who will be able to assist in the appeal outside the Department where people have had an adverse decision given to them on their claim or review. If the Social Security Appeals Tribunal does not uphold the appeal there is still access to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. That access is there whether or not the Social Security Appeals Tribunal makes a recommendation in favour of it. I expect that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will be announcing the procedures that will relate to the administration of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for pensions and benefits from the Social Security Department.
Senator Grimes specifically asked whether medical representation or evidence would be able to be taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Attorney-General, in a discussion I had with him on this matter, said that the functions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is to hear evidence that may be given either personally by a doctor or in whatever form the patient desires. The Tribunal hears appeals, finds facts and makes judgments. Without anticipating what form of words the Attorney-General will use for the operation of that Administrative Appeals Tribunal, I state that my conversation with him was that medical evidence would be able to be presented to that Tribunal. It would also be able to be presented to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
Senator McClelland asked me whether I would present statistics on different districts in Sydney. I am not aware of how accessible they are in the Department. Of course, I could present only total numbers; I could not in any way talk about individual cases by name or anything of that sort. But if there is some information in the Department that relates to the North Shore area of Sydney in contrast with the western suburbs of Sydney. I am sure the Department could extract it and make it available to the honourable senator.
Senator Coleman raised the matter of files relating to applicants for pensions or people who were in receipt of pensions. I am advised that where a review is carried out all the prime medical evidence held by the Department of Social Security is forwarded to the Commonwealth Medical Officer. This is the normal practice. If something has occurred that has meant that it has not happened, I would like to have information about it and we will see that it does happen. My officers say that the usual practice is that prime medical evidence is forwarded to the CMO at the time of a review.
We have heard a lot with regard to New South Wales and the difficulties of those who are in receipt of pensions or who are seeking pensions. Again I say to any people who have these matters referred to them by their constituents that if they refer them to my Department we will do whatever we are able to do to facilitate the payment of pensions. Some honourable senators have mentioned people by name. I have had representations made to me by Federal members on relatively few occasions. A very small number of cases were referred from one welfare organisation and are in the appeal system. Unless we have the information relating to individual claims which are not upheld it is very difficult to be able to do something that will allay the alarm that is caused by the statements that are made in such a general way. The requirement of the Social Services Act since 1947 has been that to be eligible for an invalid pension a person must have a very great degree of incapacity of a permanent nature and an inability to work.
Senator Grimes has raised the point that perhaps we ought to have some entirely new basis on which we determine that payment of an invalid pension be made. That might be something for the future, but we are working under the specific requirements of the Act. I think they have been talked about enough for me not to need to re-state them at this hour of the night. The other matter that was mentioned in this context by Senator Grimes was whether in conjunction with the Department of Health some firm guidelines can be laid down for the Commonwealth medical officers who are in the field and who are making recommendations to the Department of Social Security on medical grounds.
I have said before that my Department is guided by the medical evidence provided for invalid pensions and for a number of other payments that are made through the Department of Social Security. Some members of the profession say that they are unable to determine, with that residual capacity that is required under the Act, whether a person is 85 per cent incapacitated or totally incapacitated. Perhaps that is something the medical profession should deal with. I will certainly refer the matters that have been raised by honourable senators tonight, in particular Senator Grimes’ comments with regard to firm guidelines for the guidance of Commonwealth medical officers, to see whether the Department of Health wishes to add anything to the procedures which are presently used to determine eligibility for invalid pensions. I hope that with the effective access to the appeals system difficulties will be able to be resolved under appeal. Where difficulties are known to members of parliament and are able to be referred to my Department, I will be pleased to hear about them so that we can see whether any incidence or problem requires some additional assistance.
The number of people receiving invalid pensions increases year by year. A large number of people in Australia are in the category of almost total permanent incapacity for work. The figure is close to 230,000. If one adds to those the people who are paid by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and all those on sickness benefit and all the other things, one has to understand that large numbers of people are in receipt of this type of pension in this country.
A lot of people have talked about the availability of work and whether it is impossible for someone to make a judgment without taking into account the availability of work. I pose the question whether people are seriously suggesting that availability of work ought to be the determining factor and whether, when there is a freer availability of work, invalid pensions ought to be reviewed because work is available; in other words, should a work test be added to the eligibility criteria for an invalid pension? It seems to me that under the Act we are talking about an incapacity for work. When a doctor is deciding that a person has an incapacity for work he ought to be taking into account a number of factors that would lead him to make that medical judgment. The availability of work adds a work test to the invalid pension that was never intended under the Act. I caution that it ought not to be a desirable addition. However, the matters that have been raised will be referred to my Department in conjunction with the Department of Health. I give an assurance that any matters requiring attention will be given attention.
– I wish to comment on two matters raised by the Minister for’ Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle). She has raised them before. I must refute some of the things she says at all times. I firstly repeat that everyone on this side of the chamber knows that the Social Services Act as it applies to invalid pensioners has not changed. What has changed is the Department’s interpretation of and guidelines on the application of that legislation. Tonight I am pleased that the Minister, unlike the time when the kerfuffle was in the Press in recent times, did not try to pretend that that had, in fact, happened. Her Director-General was disturbed with the increase in the number of people on invalid pensions. I suggest that this was at least partly related to the employment situation in this country.
The Minister then went on to warn against any consideration of the state of the work situation in the community in determining whether someone should get an invalid pension. She cautioned against looking at the availability of suitable work and the ability of the person to take part in that work.This is one of the problems which have arisen. In the past doctors have always taken that into consideration, at least partly. I commend to the Minister the evidence of Dr Travers in Estimates Committee C which she attended as the Minister. He, in fact, admitted that this was so and that it was essential that this be taken into account. As I pointed out at the time, if I lose both my legs I remain as competent or as incompetent as a politician as I am now. That does not apply to someone who is a labourer and it does not apply to someone–
– It would increase your vote.
– We can have smart-Alick comments from Senator Baume but his disability is cerebral. The problem is that we are talking about a serious matter- the matter of the 220,000 people in this community who are disabled. These people are regarded in such a manner that when the question of their invalid pensions arises and when we request evidence from the Minister of the numbers of medical examinations which are conducted for invalid pensions, we are told in answers to questions in this House that such figures are not available. Members of the Australian Council of Social Service then appeared in the Minister’s office and were given figures by the Minister and her New South Wales Director which partly convinced them - only for a day or so - that in fact there was not an increase in the number of medical reviews. In the Estimates Committee I asked whether we could have the number of medical reviews which are conducted under the Act and we received from the Department the reply that this task cannot be completed. We cannot even find out how many medical examinations are performed by the Department of Health each week or each month under this legislation.
How can anyone in this place or in the community make a judgment when the Department does not even know? lt does not even need a computer. It just needs to look up the lists of medical examinations that have been done. Of course the Department knows. It knows but it is told not to give the information to this place because the information will demonstrate, as the Minister knows, that there has been a large increase in the reviews of invalid pensions in the last few months and that there have actually been increased numbers of medical officers put on in the Department in the last few months. As I said in this House the other day, the Director-General of Social Services has asked the Department of Health to get rid of Commonwealth medical officers in private practice who will not toe his line. That is the situation which has arisen in respect of the treatment of the disabled in this community. Senator Baume may think it is amusing; they do not.
– I wish to speak again because I received no answers to the questions I asked the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle). Some honourable senators who contributed to the debate were more fortunate than I. I thought there was justification for receiving an answer to the questions I asked. I commence, as I did the other night, by referring to section 7 of the Social Services Act. It states that the DirectorGeneral of Social Services shall administer the Act subject to directions of the Minister.
What has happened to pensions? When a closer family life existed it was always recognised that the family looked after its members through age and sickness, and there was no pension. In 1904, for the first time in Australia the Government of
New South Wales introduced a pension scheme. It paid an age pension of 10s a week, but only those exceptional citizens were given some reward in their old age. A few years later the Commonwealth introduced a pension scheme to cover the whole of Australia, which wiped out the New South Wales Act. Under that scheme the Commonwealth paid 10s 6d a week but the proviso still existed. Until last year or the year before to qualify for a pension under the Act an applicant had to be of good character; he had to be deserving of a pension; he had to have not left his wife or neglected his children for the previous six months of making his application. Therefore, pensions went to only a few. However, because of society’s development and its acceptance of the responsibility to take the burden off the family and pay the benefit, the benefit has been extended. But it has not been extended by changing the Act. It has been extended simply by changing its interpretation. It has always been accepted that anyone who is unable to work through sickness or disability, and if such sickness or disability in a medical opinion is permanent, then that person is entitled to a pension. It was paid until the time to which Senator Grimes referred, when the new guidelines came out. Now there is a check on it. I do not accept that pension applications have increased because of the slackness of employment opportunities. I think we are living in a society which creates more stress and more incapacity, so there will be further increases in the number of pensioners. But society has not complained about paying the invalid pension. There has been no clamour in society to reduce the number of people receiving pensions. Therefore, we could have continued with the interpretation that pensions be extended to everyone who is incapable of working because of permanent illness or disability. Obviously, because of the inability to trust particular governments at present, it is necessary to change the Act for the purpose of tightening it up to provide who should get pensions.
I raise the matter to which I referred yesterday of a person who a doctor finds is 80 per cent disabled. One would not expect a person who is 80 per cent incapacitated to have to work. If it is permanent he does not qualify for an invalid pension under the current direction of the Department; he does not qualify for sickness benefit because sickness benefit is only for temporary illnesses or disablement; and he cannot qualify for unemployment benefit as he must be able and willing to work. He is not able to work, so there is a class of person under this classification who is not covered by any benefits at all, but who is deserving of them. The other matter I wish to raise - this is where I say the policy is not administered in accordance with the Act - relates to the fact that the Act gives no right of review to someone with a permanent disability unless, in the DirectorGeneral’s mind, there are sufficient reasons. Therefore something must be brought to his attention. When a pension has been granted for an 85 per cent disablement, and on medical advice it is permanent, any review is a review of the previous medical officer’s decision. If the disability is permanent it cannot alter - or at any rate it cannot get better - so the legislation necessitates that there be sufficient reason for a review.
I ask the Minister whether she will supply the Senate or the applicants who have been subject to a review, with information on what is sufficient reason for the Director-General to act in accordance with the Act and send a person for a review? I ask for information to be supplied to me in regard to the cases about which I have asked the Department, and particularly what was the sufficient reason to send for review Jayne Turner, of Adelaide who is 23 years of age. She has brain damage. She has been receiving medical care for the whole of her life. She commenced receiving the invalid pension at 1 6 years of age. She was certified as being beyond 80 per cent incapacitated. But in a review it was decided to cancel her pension. She now has appealed against that decision.
A week before her pension was cancelled she was dismissed or was unable to continue in employment at a Bedford Park sheltered workshop for disabled workers, which is subsidised by the Federal Government. The occupation of those disabled workers consists mostly of packing goods or wrapping goods in paper. But it was considered that she did not have the capacity to work in a sheltered workshop, so she was placed in an annexe run by the same organisation, where the employees spend most of their time picnicking and going to the beach and the hills. That is the state of that girl, yet her case has been sent for review. Her doctor says that there is no possibility that she will ever work.
I ask: Why was her case reviewed? What was the ‘sufficient reason’ for the Director-General to send that girl’s case for review? If an appeal is to be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, those are the things which anyone conducting the appeal, either the applicant or an agent of the applicant, is entitled to know. Such a person is entitled to know what reasons prompted the Director-General to submit an application to a review. I ask the Minister for Social Security in all sincerity whether she will make available to the people whose cases are reviewed the reasons for that being done.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria - Minister for Social Security) (1 1.11) - I am sorry that Senator Cavanagh feels that I ignored the matters he raised. At the end of his comments he did state that he was waiting for a response from me. I understood that he had written letters on these matters. I am aware that he raised these matters when we were debating the social services legislation. I referred the matters he raised to the Department of Social Security for comment. He mentioned a particular case. I think he raised other matters which he said were the subject of representations made to him. I will see that a response is given to him as soon as possible.
I will ask for a considered reply to be given to the matter of sufficient reason for review, which he raised. But I point out that some pensions are granted on medical grounds subject to a review at a particular time. 1 do not know whether the case Senator Cavanagh mentioned falls within that category - whether it was granted for a particular time subject to review. Although the social security legislation states ‘permanently incapacitated’ a certain percentage of pensions are granted subject to review in 1 2 months, two years or some other time. Through computer operations at the time stipulated a medical review is undertaken of the pensions which have been granted subject to a medical review. However, I will see that a considered reply is given to the matters raised by Senator Cavanagh.
– If a pension is granted subject to a medical review, that indicates that the pensioner concerned might not be entitled to receive a pension at the time stipulated for review, by it in two years’ time or whatever. If that is so, how can the Director-General of Social Services be satisfied at the time of granting a pension that a person has a disability of 85 per cent incapacity and that disability is permanent? Should such people receive a pension in the first place if the Director-General is not satisfied that he is complying with the requirements of the social services legislation in granting an invalid pension? Therefore, if a person has established that he or she has the necessary qualifications for receiving an invalid pension, why is that pension subject to review when one of the qualifications for eligibility is the permanency of the injury concerned?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria - Minister for Social Security) (11.14) - Senator Cavanagh has raised the reverse side of the problem which everyone else is raising. He questioned whether a person should be granted a pension if there is a belief at the time of granting the pension that that person will recover to a degree which later would render him ineligible to receive an invalid pension. I think something like 4 per cent of pensions- that is subject to a check, but certainly a percentage of pensions granted - are granted, subject to review at a particular time, by the medical officer. As a result of rehabilitation or recovery from surgery or injury, the person’s very severe disability at the time the pension was granted might improve. If the condition improves the person no longer is in that permanently and totally incapacitated state. 1 should say, perhaps in view of what Senator Cavanagh has said, that in the granting of those pensions, the weight of probability of permanent incapacity is given in favour of the claimant, whereas the doctor has in his mind the possibility that there could be recovery and that at some other time the claimant ought to be reviewed and tested for eligibility under the Act.
I certainly support the pensions that are given, subject to review. I do not think we would wish to state that we consider we are paying pensions of that kind contrary to the Act. They are paid on receipt of a medical certificate of incapacity. I think the balance that is in favour of the claimant in that case is one that could be regarded as being in accordance with the intention of the Social Services Act for invalid pensions. The Act refers to permanent incapacity. For that reason, I will see what the option is in the Department with regard to the matter raise by Senator Cavanagh- that is, that where a pension is granted on those grounds perhaps it is not paid in accordance with the Act.
– I raise another matter concerning the estimates of the Department of Social Security. It arose during a discussion in Senate Estimates Committee C on the administrative expenses of sheltered workshops. I asked whether the Department or the Government had a policy of giving preference in tendering to sheltered workshops. There was some doubt about this. I quote from page 63 of the Hansard record of Senate Estimates Committee C, for 29 August 1980. The Chairman, my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Walters, said: 1 believe that there is a percentage advantage given to sheltered workshops in tendering, which is quite considerable.
Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle replied:
Yes, that is right in tendering. There is a policy, but I do not know to what level of success it has been implemented.
Since that time I have tried to find out just what this policy is. It seems to me, from inquiries I have made, that there is no such policy. In fact, the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled noted these remarks during the hearing of the Estimates Committee. The Council wrote me a letter stating:
Dear Senator Grimes,
Re: ‘Contracts to Sheltered Workshops’
I was interested to read in Senate Estimate Committee ‘C, 29 August 1980, page 63, the comments on preferential tendering by sheltered workshops.
Despite the Chairman’s comments, no preference whatsoever is given to sheltered workshops in tendering. ACROD has approached the Department of Administrative Services on a number of occasions on this subject, but with little joy.
We would be very interested in talking further with you about this, as ACROD believes that some preference can be I think that this is a matter which should be cleared up. I would not like the sheltered workshops to be under the impression that they were getting an advantage when they were not.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria- Minister for Social Security) (11.19) - I have had the matter referred to me. I will have it checked in the Department. I understood that there was some policy through the Department of Administrative Services that where we had the opportunity in Commonwealth contracts to direct work to sheltered workshops, this should be done. There were certainly discussions about that at some time. I will check to see what has been achieved. As I said, there is a policy; I do not know to what level of success it has been implemented. I will check those remarks and see what information I can give. I will also respond to the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled in view of the letter that it has written to Senator Grimes on this matter.
I think there ought to be a policy in respect of Commonwealth contracts that would give this assistance to sheltered workshops, particularly where they are able to do some of the work. I know that in Victoria in printing and in a whole lot of other things sheltered workshops are able to perform most effective work. I hope that we are able to direct Commonwealth contracts, State government contracts or anything that is of assistance to the workshops to enable them to have a greater diversity of work and greater volume of work. They can perform some of these tasks in a quite remarkable way. However, I will check as to whether there is an effective policy and to what level of success this has been implemented.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) about a male person living with a female person in what the Department of Social Security claims to be a de facto relationship and receiving the married rate of unemployment benefit. If he can produce to her Department a letter from the Taxation Office saying that he cannot claim the female as a dependant will the Department see fit to pay the people living in a de facto relationship a single rate pension each? That is, will the Department recognise the determination of the Taxation Office that in fact the female is not a dependant of the male and therefore deprives him of claiming the taxation rebate for a spouse? Will the Minister look at this matter so that justice can be done to the people I have mentioned?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria - Minister for Social Security) (11.21)- I will be happy to look at the situation mentioned by Senator McLaren. Of course, if they were to be paid a single rate of pension each the female also would have to be tested for unemployment benefits. She would have to be willing to accept work offered to her and would have to be able to undertake work. The payment of a single rate of unemployment benefit to any person requires the implementation of procedures under the Social Services Act whereby a person is work tested and can show that he or she is able to undertake work that is available or offered. So if people were seeking the single rate of unemployment benefit they would have to be willing to be work tested under the Act.
If a person is paid a married rate because he has a de facto spouse that de facto spouse, of course, is not tested for unemployment benefit. That would be the difference. If people wish to apply for single rate benefits they will be tested and their entitlement will be determined in each instance.
– On 29 August during consideration of the Department of Social Security by the Estimates Committee we eventually got around to discussing that subject that is complex to all of us- the matter of funding of children’s services. We discussed the breakdown of childhood services and associated services. This is recorded in the Hansard for the Estimates Committee on pages 78 to 82. In the process of the discussion I tried to elucidate how the services are broken down into childhood and associated services. At the end of a fairly lengthy answer from Mrs Coleman on the matter it was suggested that the brokendown could be put into a table which could be made available to the Senate Estimates Committee. The Chairman, Senator Walters, ever helpful, asked whether we could have the table incorporated. The Minister said yes and that if there was any more detail required she would be happy to provide it. There is no incorporation in the Hansard and there is no further evidence in the figures produced by the Department to the Estimates Committee. I would like to know what has happened to that table, whether it was tabled and the Hansard staff lost it, whether it can be made available and why it has not been made available yet.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria- Minister for Social Security) (11 . 23) - My understanding is that the document was tabled but for some reason was not printed. It certainly can be made available. In fact we will have it incorporated in Hansard tomorrow.
– I refer to the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I want the Committee to take on board matters that have developed since the consideration of the Estimates by Estimate Committee C. It will be noted that when I spoke to Mr Volker at that hearing about Australia’s refugee intake in the current year he said that about 23,500 persons including those under the Special Displaced Persons Program would enter this country. I relate that statement to an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 12 September which implied that Australia may settle some Afghans.
When Estimates Committee C was dealing with this topic I made the strong plea to Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, who was representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee), that the Latin American countries are the forgotten group. In subsequent days, Senator Chipp, in a very eloquent address, fortified what I said about tin-pot dictators in countries like Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. He mentioned a couple of others. I, as Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle would know, have stressed the dilemma which has occurred in Bolivia. In Bolivia, which is ruled by a military dictator, vicious persecutions of people active in trade unions and church activities are taking place. These refugees have a narrow corridor through which to get to Peru. If they go to other countries in South America, they jump from the frying pan into the fire.
Because of the program to which we are committed, if the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that Australia must do something about the problem of the people of Afghanistan - I am not passing judgment on that issue - we must do something about those people. But I do repeat that Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle gave me a promise that the Government would have a close look at the people in Latin American countries in order to convince the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees of their plight. As a matter of fact, with all due respect to that article appearing in the Age there are a few people in Australia who have come from
Latin American countries and who are taxpayers and members of trade unions and church groups. They are looking for some positive action.
On Friday morning a Pan American World Airways Inc. flight will arrive in Sydney at 9.15. Mrs Maria Gutteriez and her four year old son will arrive on that flight to join her husband. It is four years since he crossed the border to come here. Six hundred men at the power station where he works went to bat for him so that he could get permanent residency in Australia. I pay tribute to the Minister, Mr Macphee, for the sympathetic approach he has taken to this case. However, I draw a comparison between his wife and her child who will join her husband in Australia and the many people in other areas of the world who are designated as political refugees. I say again to the Minister that I hope that with the promise she gave me we will try to get a more effective formula in our overall intake. Even if we take people from Afghanistan - we are committed to South East Asia - I want a better mix so that Latin Americans and people of other countries that Senator Chipp and I have mentioned will get a better ratio. I think that that matter should not be overlooked.
Another matter I want to deal with - again it is a matter that has flowed since we met as a Committee - relates to the implementation of the Australian Citizenship Act 1973. 1 noticed that in Time magazine of 8 September there was a report of a case of a Romanian who went to the United States 20-odd years ago. After persistent action by Jewish groups about some of the awful things that were committed by the Nazis and their auxiliaries, this man has been finally exposed and has surrendered his United States citizenship. That is a preface to what I am about to say. The Weekend Australian of 13-14 September has an article headed War criminal may be in Australia, says Nazi hunter’. 1 think that the Australian Citizenship Act used to provide - there have been revisions - that if somebody who sought Australian citizenship withheld information of activities of a criminal or a Nazi nature or of other extreme political activities by which he was virtually a war criminal, we could subsequently revoke citizenship. Over this period, surely we have culled out a few people. I was particularly fortified on this matter by the dialogue a while ago when we dealt with a man named Urbanchich, who was a cross that the Government and the Liberal Party in New South Wales had to bear. I do not even go the whole hog, but at least one could say he was renowned in Australia for his anti-semitic utterances. But what upset me was that Senator Carrick said: ‘Well, he came here when your party was in power’.
I do not know whether he arrived in the period 1948-49. Even if he did, I would like to believe that if, in later years, a Jewish group or some antifascist group discovered such a man here, even if he were well into his 70s, we would ask that person to justify the false information that he gave. It was good enough for the United States, after 23 years, to expose a Nazi war criminal. I should like to know, in the Urbanchich case or in relation to this Nazi hunter who is here from a reputable Jewish group, whether any approach has been made to the Australian Government. Do we have a statute of limitations which requires that we should have exposed such a person when he arrived here 10 to 20 years ago? Or do we simply say: ‘No dice. We are not in it’.
I want to be fair about this matter. I can remember the famous Vicks case. Vicks was a Lithuanian. I suppose if one had been a teenager in Finland in World War II when the Red Army came in from one direction and the Nazis came in from the other, it would have been very difficult to define one’s political posture. But having said that, I am quite definite that some mistakes must have been made. I would like to believe that we try to correct them. If representatives of Jewish groups come here - they have culled people out of Latin America who have committed extremely vicious Nazi atrocities - how do we handle these cases. Have these groups asked for co-operation? Do we give it to them? Never mind whether the people who have come here were screened by the Chifley Governent, when Arthur Calwell was a Minister or under subsequent Liberal Ministers, or even under the three Labor Ministers responsible for immigration, I would like to believe that if someone makes out a case and proves that crimes were committed in horror camps and that people perpetrated terrible tortures on people, we do not say: ‘Well, you are 70. We wish you well and forgive it all’. That is not how I believe justice should operate. I would like to know what the Department does when it encounters those cases.
Again I refer to that extremely competent ethnic reporter, in Sydney, Susan Molloy, of the Sydney Morning Herald, who referred to the statements about a permanent 14,000 Asian refugee intake. If the Government is committed to stabilising some of the countries in South East Asia- I am not taking an ideological posture for one moment - I would like it to remember while doing so that, as far as I can see, at least five Latin American countries will go through turmoil in the next 10 years; and I do not see an end to it. So, I just want that balance.
I have noticed that in the United Kingdom there has been talk about making the immigration laws there a lot tougher. I am wondering what the position will be with respect to Australian citizenship. People from Rhodesia on tourist visas have come to see me. They have produced British passports of which I have been a little suspicious because they have been outdated. There was a period when Ian Smith was going it alone and thumbing his nose at various British governments, whether they were Labour or Conservative. When people from Rhodesia apply for citizenship, do we draw any distinction between those who have a British passport and those who were issued a passport during the period of independence before the new nation was created? I refer the Minister also to a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald recently about immigrants from Zimbabwe. I will be candid with the Committee. If white people with a superior complex migrated here they would probably get into altercations with people who do not have a white skin; and I do not think they will be of much value to us. To take the matter a bit further, the letter says that under the new Government of Zimbabwe people can leave the country with only very little cash. The writer complained that when he was subjected to a Numerical Multifactor Assessment System test - I suppose that he would have to go to Pretoria for that - he felt that Australia was not over keen about whether he had very much cash. I have told people that the NUMAS test covers trade skills and other things and is not necessarily concerned with money.
All these matters have come up since the Estimates committees met. I refer now to the migration of what I call the small businessman, the middle class employee, whether he be in electronics or a merchant from Hong Kong who wants to go into the manufacturing of plastic bags. When the Department assesses whether the industry to which such a person will go is overfull, does it seek help from the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, the Department of Trade and Resources or the Department of Industry and Commerce? When Sir Robert Cotton was the responsible minister I often found I could get his officers to give me off-the-cuff advice. In recent times - I am not blaming the Minister directly - I have telephoned the same officers in those departments and have been given the cold shoulder. I am just curious how we operate in this respect.
I have in my possession a United Kingdom newsletter of 8 August about the British nationality Act. I know that Britain has problems about Asians going to Britain from African republics, but if the position is as Mrs Thatcher and her Home Secretary have indicated and the United Kingdom is to get tougher with Australians and
New Zealanders who are already in an inferior position because of Britain’s membership of the European Common Market, has our High Commission in London had talks with the British Government about this?
Last but by no means least, I refer to the campaign by the New South Wales Teachers Federation about the expansion of adult migrant education. As the Minister would know, we had a secondary problem about industrial relations, primarily with the Cubans. I assume that that has been solved. I would like a response in that regard, but I would also like to know the position with respect to the New South Wales Teachers Federation. I understand that members of that Federation are coming to Canberra tomorrow. No doubt they will see Mr Macphee, Mr Ellicott, some of my people and possibly Senator Chipp. Can the Minister give us a round-up on that matter?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria - Minister for Social Security) (11.39) - Senator Mulvihill has raised a number of matters, some of which require detailed answers. I will need to ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) for advice on the Latin Americans, the war criminals and things of that sort. I will see whether a reply can be supplied rather urgently to the last matter that the honourable senator raised. I am now informed that the officers will be able to give Senator Mulvihill an early reply. Indeed, if he would like to consult with them before he leaves the Senate this evening they will be able to help him in regard to his early meetings. On the other matters raised, I will see that Senator Mulvihill is advised.
Proposed expenditures agreed to. Progress reported.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the Committee be given leave to sit again.
– I agree with the action which has been taken, but I want some assurance that the Senate Estimates committee reports will not be brought on at a later hour this day or, for that matter, the next day, which would bring us into the early hours of the morning. I take it we will resume our consideration of these Estimates committee reports some time tomorrow. I would like some indication that that is the case.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE (Victoria- Minister for Social Security) (1 1.42) - lt is our plan that the Estimates committees reports be considered again some time tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives. (Quorum formed).
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the operation of the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy scheme for a further calendar year until 31 December 1981, at the current rate of subsidy of $20 per tonne of nitrogen content.
The proposed extension of the operation of this scheme was announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget Speech to the Parliament on 19 August 1980.
The subsidy was first introduced in 1966, with the aim of reducing costs to the existing users of the fertiliser, and to encourage the use of the fertiliser in new applications. Nitrogenous fertilisers have continued to be used extensively by sugar and grain producers in Australia.
In 1975, the Industries Assistance Commission recommended that the subsidy on this fertiliser be phased out over three years. The Government accepted this recommendation in principle, but decided to extend the phase-out period following consideration of the views of user industries and the need for budgetary restraint. With these considerations in mind, the level of subsidy has been progressively reduced from $78.74 per tonne to the current rate of $20 per tonne.
In view of the reliance placed on nitrogenous fertilisers by an increasing number of producers, particularly those producing wheat and sugar for export, the Government has decided that continuation of the subsidy for this further period will provide some relief from the escalating pressure of input costs which farmers are experiencing. Next year the Government will examine the question of the continuation of the subsidy beyond 31 December 1981.
The cost to the Government of this subsidy for the further period is estimated to be $5. 5m.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
This Bill is a machinery Bill to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952, which imposes charges on aircraft for use of aerodromes, airways facilities, meteorological services, and search and rescue services provided, operated and maintained by the Commonwealth. The purpose of the Bills is:
to include in the Act zone factors for international operations to and from:
Honourable senators will be aware that in 1961 the then Government announced a policy of full recovery of costs attributable to the aviation industry for the provision and maintenance of the aviation infrastructure. All governments since that time have subscribed to this policy. This policy objective was first achieved in the international sector of the industry in 1975-76. Since that time the international sector has continued to be over recovered. In the 1979-80 Budget, it was announced that 100 per cent recovery was to be achieved in the domestic trunk sector by 1981-82. However, it has now been decided to reach that target in 1980-81.
In accordance with this decision, the Bill makes provision for a 15 per cent increase in the rate of air navigation charges for the domestic trunk airline sector from 1 December 1980. Such an increase will mean that this sector of the industry will achieve 100 per cent recovery in 1980-81 on the basis of the attributable costs allocated to it under revised allocation principles. I should add that these principles have still to be agreed by Government. This proposed increase is expected to have a minimal effect on fares. At present, air navigation charges represent about 5 per cent of the airlines’ total costs. Thus the increase in air navigation charges of 15 per cent could be expected to only increase the airline’s costs by less than one per cent.
Honourable senators will recall, however, that the airlines agreements limit the rate of increase in air navigation charges for the two major airlines to 10 per cent in any 12-month period. As in the past two years, the airlines have been asked to waive their rights under the airlines agreements in respect of the limitation placed on such increases. The question of this limitation, of course, is one of the matters which are the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and the airlines in respect of a new airlines agreement. No increase is proposed at this stage in the rate of air navigation charges for the international airlines, rural airlines and general aviation sectors. The position for the rural airline and general aviation sectors will be reviewed when the result of the general aviation study is considered by the Government.
I am unable to give honourable senators details of the overall cost recovery results for 1979-80. However, honourable senators will be interested in the cost recovery position in 1978-79, that is, the latest year’s figures available, based on the revised allocation principles. In respect of international operations there was an over recovery of some $1 1.4m at a recovery rate of 127.7 per cent; for the domestic trunk sector there was a deficit of $6.2m at a recovery rate of 92 per cent; for the regional airlines the deficit was $20. 8m at a recovery rate of 30.2 per cent and for general aviation including commuters the deficit was $82.7m at 14.5 per cent. The overall recovery rate was 59.9 per cent giving an overall deficit of $98. 3m.
Whilst the Government has decided not to vary the rate of charges for the international sector in 1980-81, it has agreed that some action should be taken in respect of the other recoveries. Accordingly, it is proposed that any over recovery in the international sector in 1980-81 will be credited to the cost recovery program and applied to the development of the aviation infrastructure. The details of this proposal have still to be decided. To achieve the increase in air navigation charges for the domestic trunk sector, it has been necessary to divide the Table of Flights for Flights Between Certain Places in Australia in Schedule 1 of the Act into two parts:
In addition the opportunity has been taken to make some administrative changes to the Table to take account of changed circumstances. Some routes have been added to the Table to take account of new routes being operated by the domestic airlines and some routes have been deleted. The deletions are in respect of operations to and from Mangalore, which was previously an alternate and training airport for the domestic airlines. This airport is now used mainly for general aviation operations.
Honourable senators will also note that a route factor has been included for flights commencing and ending in Australia and which overfly Antarctica. At the present time these flights attract a route factor of one which, in my view, does not reflect the use they make of the infrastructure. Additional zone factors have been included into the proposed Part III of the Table of Flights in Schedule 1. These factors make allowance for the Government’s decisions to permit international operations to and from Hobart and Townsville. Further, Norfolk Island at present attracts a charge of eight times the unit charge because a zone factor has not been specified for the international services to the Island. The Bill rectifies this deficiency. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of Government Business, Order of the Day No. 1 1 , the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1980, and
Orders of the Day Nos 4 to 8 relating to the honey industry Bills.
– I believe that it is a most outrageous action of the Government to bring on such a complicated Bill at 1 3 minutes to 12 o’clock. The Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill did not appear on the business sheet. It is way down today’s Notice Paper. I do not know about the Australian Labor Party but I was given absolutely no notice by anybody on the Government side that this legislation was to be debated tonight until 10 minutes ago when the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) was good enough to inform me. I was trying to ascertain when several complicated amendments were introduced into this House. I am informed by the Journals, Records and Bills Office that those complicated measures were introduced into this chamber only this evening. Now the Senate will debate a Bill in which millions of Australians are interested. The Government will force it through tonight. Some of the most complex issues affecting people of ethnic origin–
– It will not affect those at all. I explained that.
– I know. I thank Senator Chaney for explaining to me 10 minutes ago how it will not affect people of ethnic origin. I understand that the amendments propose to delete from the Bill all those provisions affecting the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation. I take it that that is so. If that is not affecting millions of people of ethnic origin I do not know what is because it was a promise of the Government. I commend the Government for trying to honour that promise. As I understand it the Senate has not yet debated the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. The Senate resolved that this Bill be referred to the Senate Standing Committee in May. Since the Senate resumed in the middle of August no attempt has been made by the Government to allow debate on this very controversial Bill.
As I understand it the amendments proposed make no allowance for extra funds for the Special Broadcasting Service which, I understand, will carry the burden until the Bill is passed. The Bill makes absolutely no extra funds available to public broadcasters who could go to the wall in the interim. I deplore the action of the Government at this stage. It is gross discourtesy. The Government is treating this chamber as a farce. At least we on this side of the House could have been paid the courtesy of being informed that this Bill was to be debated at this very late hour. I believe the Bill is a sell-out of the ethnic community. Let the honourable senators who seek to interject answer this question at the hustings, because that is how the ethnic community will see it. I raise my voice in strong protest that the courtesies of informing us when something not on the order of business is to be debated are not being followed. We should not be asked to contemplate such complex amendments in such a short time and at such a late hour without any notice.
– I have a view which I should like to express. This motion has been moved. It would seem that some of us on this side have been caught flatfooted. But it is fairly obvious also that many honourable senators on the other side have been caught flatfooted in this matter. There is an inordinate haste which prevents some of us from clearly understanding the provision. It seems that the Government has accepted that the name of the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation should be changed to the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Service. I think the Senate expressed a very firm view on this matter. I think honourable senators on both sides might like to express a further view in relation to these amendments.
What I am really saying is that I object to the fact that the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill is suddenly to be debated. The Opposition’s view will not doubt be expressed by its spokesman, Senator Ryan. I put it to the Senate that it would have been a good idea if this matter had come before us in our party room. We possibly would have endorsed these amendments, but they have not even come into the party room for discussion. I think that signifies a breakdown in communications, and I say that fairly clearly. That has been caused by the haste to have this Bill debated.
It seems to me that we are also going to debate the honey Bills tonight. We are doing these things for the convenience of the House of Representatives so that it may rise early, but we can stay here until the early hours of Friday morning. Somehow or other I think we will have to say to the House of Representatives that it will have to stick around a while longer to allow us to consider properly these propositions which are coming before us. Why should we sit through now until one or half past one tomorrow morning debating the honey Bills in preference to debating the items which are before us, to satisfy the convenience of the other place, as it is sometimes called?
I hope the Government is not establishing a precedent. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) is smiling. It would appear that he feels that as everyone will agree with the Government, why cannot we proceed? An important principle is involved, which I think he will accept, and I place it on record. Let us look at this matter from a minority party point of view. Supposing the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Chipp, had not been here tonight. He might not have been here tonight. He has a strong view on this matter. It might be said that I have no responsibility towards the minority party. I do have a responsibility to those who oppose the Government, and the Australian Democrats have consistently opposed the Government on very important issues. I think I benefit from that stand and indirectly the Opposition will also benefit, and the Government will be at a disadvantage. In any case I think the Australian Democrats are entitled to be properly informed. The Opposition is entitled to be properly informed. Some of us were informed. The Australian Democrats obviously were not informed at all.
– I say immediately that I regret any discourtesy both real and apparent with respect to the Australian Democrats. I did, as Senator Chipp acknowledged, see him a little time ago. I am afraid that that reminded me of my obligations. I regret the late notice. I can assure him that what is proposed is not complicated, as I will explain when this motion has been disposed of. It is consistent with the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts which were received recently by the Senate and which, as I will also be explaining, are still being considered by the Government.
I remind the Senate of the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland in this place on Monday in which he directed the Senate’s attention to the serious disadvantages which would be suffered if certain technical amendments which were contained in this legislation were not passed. He referred to the particular problems of, I think, the people of Bathurst and Orange. Those problems were of concern to the Government. I remind the Senate that I acknowledged a genuine problem had been raised by Senator McClelland in his question. I undertook to take the matter up with Mr Staley, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In conformity with that undertaking, I had discussions with him. The Government determined that since these technical matters were ones which were in no way in dispute within the Parliament, they should be dealt with so that the disadvantages which could flow to certain country and remote communities if the legislation were not passed now, would not flow to them.
There is no attempt tonight to deal with or to prejudge the important question on which there are very strong views around this chamber- that is, the question of the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation. That will be put aside for treatment or to be dealt with in a more leisurely way by the Parliament when we return. I think that is consistent with what the Senate would require in light of its own Committee’s report on the Bill. Therefore, I would like to make it quite clear that I certainly intended no discourtesy to the Democrats. The matter was not one which I saw as being of substance, except to those Australians who would be incommoded by a failure to pass the balance of the legislation which does not relate to the IMBC.
I do not wish to say anything further at this stage except to point out that the Government is responding to the same concerns as activated Senator Douglas McClelland in his question on Monday. I hope that honourable senators will see the sense in dealing with these technical matters so that the Australians whom we are supposed to be here to represent do not suffer as they would if those amendments were not passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 22 May.
– Before proceeding with the debate, I would like to inform the Committee of the background of the Bill and the Government’s intention with respect to its further passage through the Parliament. I think most honourable senators would recall that this Bill was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on 22 May 1980. The Committee reported on 19 August and its principal recommendation was:
That the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1980 insofar as it relates to the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation be not further proceeded with.
I emphasise the words: ‘insofar as it relates to the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation be not further proceeded with’.
I now wish to inform honourable senators of the Government’s interim response to the Committee’s report. At the outset I would like to make it clear that the Government remains firmly committed to the concept of multicultural broadcasting. Additionally, the Government continues to see the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation as the most appropriate means of implementing this Government policy. The Senate Committee report does, however, raise a number of fundamental questions and its recommendations deserve thorough consideration. The Government has commenced this assessment but has not as yet completed this task. It will be pursued with a view to settling final administrative and legislative arrangements in the autumn session of 1981. In the meantime the parliamentary session has only a short time to run and the Government is keen to achieve passage of those non-controversial provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1980 which were included in the Bill for convenience but which are unrelated to the establishment of the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation.
The Senate Committee itself recommended against the passage of the Bill only insofar as it related to the IMBC. Further, it is my understanding that members of the Opposition would support the passage of these provisions. Therefore the amendments I propose to the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1980 will achieve the passage of those desirable amendments to the legislation while the IMBC provisions await our further consideration.
The provisions that we will seek to have passed were detailed in the second reading speech. I do not propose to deal with them at this late hour unless they are raised in the Committee debate. I seek leave to move amendments (1) to (13), as circulated to honourable senators, together.
– I move:
– I will clarify the Opposition’s response to the amendments which have been moved by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). It is the case that the Opposition will not oppose any of the amendments. Indeed they reflect the view put by the Opposition in a previous debate on this legislation that the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation should not be proceeded with at this stage. The amendments are only to that effect and therefore we have no opposition to them.
I welcome too, on behalf of the Opposition, the decision of the Government to proceed with those provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill which will facilitate the provision of new commercial television translators throughout Australia and improved television reception via these translators for many parts of Australia. In particular, we are happy to see the provision of translators for public broadcasting stations. In fact, as Senator Chaney has acknowledged, the Opposition has made representations to the Government that these matters be proceeded with. My colleague Senator Douglas McClelland has been acknowledged as having made such representations. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, was also very concerned that these matters be proceeded with. I have had representations from public broadcasters to that effect.
We have no argument with the Government’s decision to proceed with these technical provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill. However 1 make it very clear, on behalf of the Federal Opposition, that I take issue with the Minister’s claim that the amendments before us represent an adequate response by the Government to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts.
– They are consistent with the report. We have yet to respond properly.
– Senator Chaney suggests that he has not made such a claim. Insofar as the IMBC is not being proceeded with at this stage there is a consistency with the report of the Senate Standing Committee. However at this stage I register the strongest protest that the Government has not yet responded adequately to the Committee’s report. In particular, we have heard nothing from the Government about the major recommendation of that report, which was that the provision of multicultural television services should be referred for consideration to the Dix Committee of Review of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This was not a recommendation which we expected the Government to take months to mull over and consider. It was an urgent recommendation. Being a member of that Committee, Mr Deputy Chairman, you are aware of the urgency that it felt about the matter receiving consideration.
Speaking on behalf of the Federal Opposition I must state, as I have stated many times in this place, that it is the view of the Labor Party that ethnic and multicultural broadcasting services are desirable, and indeed necessary, in our community. Our argument with the IMBC legislation was not with its objective - that is, the provision of multicultural television and ethnic radio - it was with the corporate machinery that was proposed, with the appointment of Mr Bruce Gyngell as the General Manager of the Corporation designate, with the lack of participation of ethnic communities in the whole formulation of the concept, and with the stunning and quite disgraceful lack of hard research data on which multicultural broadcasting services could be developed. We have never at any stage offered any criticism of the objective of multiculturalism in broadcasting, television or any other area.
I make it quite clear on behalf of the Federal Opposition that, consistent with the action we took when in Government to initiate ethnic radio and to introduce the concept of multiculturalism into our community in a positive and constructive way, we persist in our support for the provision of ethnic and multicultural broadcasting services. But we are determined that those services be provided properly, that they be successful services, that they reflect the properly ascertained needs of our multicultural community, that they not be set up in a rushed and tokenistic way to provide a vehicle for political patronage by the government of the day, but rather that they be developed on the basis of adequate research. We in the Australian Labor Party are determined that ethnic and multicultural services will be developed on the basis of proper research into the needs of ethnic communities, proper consultation with a wide range of ethnic communities and not just with a few people that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) happens to be looking kindly upon at this stage, that such services be integrated with a coherent broadcasting policy so that we do not have this ad hoc, fragmented, knee-jerk reaction to satisfy a particular demand and to facilitate the gaining of votes in the forthcoming election. We are committed to providing proper services.
It is also the view of the Australian Labor Party, often stated in this place and in other forums, that the ABC as Australia’s only national broadcasting service ought to provide services for all Australians, be they Aboriginal, migrant, or English-speaking Australian-born Australians. I have to make that clear because of the misrepresentation of the Federal Opposition’s view in this matter. There is no doubt about our commitment to proper services. There is no doubt either that we want those services to be proceeded with in an orderly, coherent and rational way which will ultimately be successful and not the disaster that would have ensued had this Corporation been proceeded with.
Whilst not opposing the amendments and whilst welcoming the improved television facilities which will flow from these amendments, I must be critical in the strongest possible terms. Although it is some time now - indeed, it was on the first day of this session of the Parliament - since the Senate Standing Committee, as requested by the Senate, made an urgent report on how to proceed with the question of the provision of multicultural broadcasting services, we have heard nothing from the Government as to its intentions regarding our major recommendation, namely, the reference of the matter to the Dix Committee of Review into the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I believe that that failure to respond, that ignoring of the Senate Committee’s report, shows an absolute contempt by the Government for the Senate and is an absolute derogation of its responsibility as a participant in the parliamentary system. What is the use of our bipartisan Senate committees working at an enormous pace on matters referred to them by the Senate on behalf of the Parliament when the Government turns around and ignores those recommendations? lt is an urgent matter. Expectations have been raised throughout the ethnic communities in Australia that the service will be justifiably proceeded with, yet we have nothing from the Government with respect to our major recommendation.
I acknowledge that the Senate Committee somewhat reluctantly agreed that experimental broadcasting could continue under the old Special Broadcasting Service legislation. Indeed the amendments being dealt with tonight facilitate that. But 1 must stress that we agreed to them reluctantly because we knew of the expectations that had been raised and of the taxpayers’ money that had been spent by Mr Bruce Gyngell on programs for this service. So rather than bring the whole thing to a halt we agreed that the experimental broadcast could continue under the SBS legislation while the Dix Committee investigated the other matters. But that is not to say that we in any way agree that the SBS is an appropriate body for a permanent multicultural service. It is not.
I will not at this late hour rehearse the criticisms of the services provided up to now by the SBS. They are all in the Senate Standing Committee report for people to read. We recognise and acknowledge all those criticisms of the SBS. In fact, we endorse them. Our recommendation that experimental broadcasting continue under the SBS is in no way an endorsement of the SBS and is in no way to be taken as an expression of the view that the SBS is suitable for a permanent service. It is not suitable for a permanent service. A permanent service is desirable but our recommendation is that the matter ought to be considered by the Dix Committee. I hope that I have for the purposes of this chamber and, indeed, for the purposes of the wider community, clarified the view of the Federal Opposition at this stage. I simply say in conclusion that when Labor is returned to government on 1 8 October it will give the highest priority to proceeding with the development of a properly researched, properly established multicultural service.
– I must say that I do not agree with the views of the Federal Opposition on this question, nor do I agree with the views expressed by the Government. The Australian Democrats - I have made this clear before - do not agree with the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. I believe that Senator Ryan ought to be persuaded, on the eloquence–
– It is a unanimous report.
– It does not concern me at all whether the report was unanimous. 1 suggest that Senator Davidson, his Liberal colleague and his National Country Party colleagues were persuaded by Senator Ryan’s eloquence–
– That is absolute nonsense. I resent it. It is a stupid remark. You are reflecting on the intelligence of intelligent senators - Senator Teague, Senator Collard and me.
– If Senator Davidson wants me to spell it out, 1 am reflecting on his intelligence and the intelligence of the other Government senators on the Committee. What we have finished up with is the worst of all worlds. As Senator Ryan has just admitted, the Committee only very reluctantly allowed the Special Broadcasting Service to continue with this service on the understanding that the Government would accept at least the recommendation of the Committee that the matter be referred to the Dix Committee. When I objected about this to one of the Government senators on the Committee he told me: Don’t worry. There will not be much delay. The Dix Committee is a good committee. It will contemplate our recommendations. It is due to report anyway in February or March’. Senator Davidson apparently has not been listening to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). There was nothing in what the Minister said tonight to suggest that the Government has decided even to recommend this–
– Your party is divided on it.
– Well, Senator Davidson has me totally confused. He first assumes that the matter has been referred to the Dix Committee and now, when I tell him that it has not, he says that is right too. I would like the Minister, in his response, to indicate whether Senator Ryan’s conclusion is correct - that is, that the Government has not yet referred the matter to the Dix Committee as recommended by the Senate Standing Committee. I would like the Minister to give me an indication whether in the few days left before the Parliament is prorogued, the Government will contemplate referring this matter to the Dix Committee for consideration. Otherwise, as Senator Ryan has suggested, there will be a hiatus with the fate of ethnic broadcasting or independent and multicultural broadcasting left with the Special Broadcasting Service which, I think everybody in this chamber agrees, has shown that it is not capable of handling and which, in the past, has shown a singular disinterest in multicultural broadcasting. It will be left with it, with no provision for additional funds. As I said before, there is no undertaking for the public broadcasters to carry on in the interim. I am confident, after speaking to many organisations based on nonEnglish speaking origin, that a great majority of them wanted the Bill to go through as it was. That was the proposition that the Australian Democrats would support. 1 am not going to call for a division as far as the deletion of the Independent and Mulitcultural Broadcasting Corporation is concerned because apparently the result of that would be on party lines; the whole of the chamber, except for me, would be voting on one side. There seems to be unanimity on the matter. But I am very strongly of the opinion that a vote ought to be taken separately on that part of the amendments. I have not had time to look at which one. I believe it is the first one. If there were a proposal before the Committee that the IMBC be proceeded with and not be taken out of this Bill, 1 would certainly vote for it. I register the fact that that part of the amendments moved by the Minister will be passed with my dissentient voice but not by dividing on it.
I feel very strongly about this matter as I believe that many people of non-English speaking origin feel that way as well. It seems inevitable and it is the Labor Party’s view - it barely conceals it - and it is a respectable view, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should finally wind up with responsibility for the IMBC. I think that would be an absolute disaster for ethnic broadcasting. I very strongly believe that that is the way–
– Do you want another qango.
– Senator Townley interjects another qango. Yes, it would be another qango but it would be a qango which would serve about one in five of all Australians. If there is justification for a qango, 1 would think that such a massive proportion of the population should be represented by one. For years, the ABC has shown a singular disinterest in anything regarding ethnic broadcasting. The ABC has treated it with disdain. It has treated ethnic broadcasting almost with contempt, lt is pathetic to see this Committee that Senator Davidson chaired was conned by representations from the ABC. Now that there is a little bit of lolly around for ethnic broadcasting, the ABC suddenly becomes alive with interest to control ethnic broadcasting. It says: ‘We are the ones to do it’. This self-styled, intelligent chairman of the Committee tells me that this is the best possible solution. If Senator Davidson and his Government senators were not persuaded by Senator Ryan’s eloquence about the ABC, they have certainly been misled about the lack of action of the Government in referring this matter to the Dix Committee.
Senator Chaney came into this chamber tonight and in all good faith said: ‘Don’t worry; at the next session it will all be fixed up’. But who will fix it up? Will it be the Dix Committee? Who will consider the recommendations of the Committee which sat and deliberated on this matter? Will it be the Dix Committee? Will it be the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Will it be the Minister’s Department? We are not told that tonight. We are asked tonight to pass a blank cheque which gives the worst of all possible worlds to over one in five Australian residents.
– I speak in defence of Senator Davidson who 1 thought brought in a very commendable report. It is one of several reports that he is renowned for in this country. He has brought in very good reports. He certainly knows much more about this matter than obviously Senator Chipp or any of his party. One has to add them up and divide by two to work out what is really wanted. When Senator Chipp says that one person in five would be affected by this legislation I do not think he knows what he is talking about. If I were to go into any area of Australia and try to find one person in five- I guess this is what the honourable senator means - who speaks a foreign language rather than English, I think I would really be stretching it unless I were to go into one little restaurant in Carlton which I can think of.
– Come on, Senator.
- Senator Georges might know some very good areas of different nationalities. I will not mention them now. The point that should be made is that most of the people who one would think would be supporting this kind of legislation are, in fact, against it. Not one person from anywhere else - I do not like the word ethnic; I am referring to those people who are new Australians or who have come from another country or however one wants to describe them - including an honourable senator on my left, which does not mean he is a left winger for a moment; in fact, I regard him as a right winger-
– He resents being called a new Australian also.
– I did not call him a new Australian, you called him a new Australian.
– Order! Senator Townley, will you address your remarks through the Chair?
– Most of the people who come from somewhere else in the world do not want this Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation.
– It still makes me an ethnic.
- Senator Georges, you are disrupting the speaker.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I am very grateful to you, but I can look after myself.
- Senator Townley, can we come back to the Bill in hand?
– Yes. We are talking about the amendments to the Bill. When one sees the money that is being thrown away by the Special Broadcasting Service, one realises what could have been spent had the IMBC been set up. In fact, the SBS may have spent just under a third of a million dollars on soccer. It offered over $50,000 for one night’s performance by, not a migrant or somebody who has come from somewhere else, but somebody who worked in Melbourne in television.
– The honourable senator can find that out for himself. His source of information is pretty good on certain occasions. He can do that for himself. The point is that the Special Broadcasting Service is throwing money around like a drunken sailor. Let me tell you a few more things it is doing. It is paying the technicians $2,000 to $3,000 more than either the ABC or the private sector.
– What is that? Say that again.
– An advertisement appeared in a broadcasting and television magazine showing that television technicians are being paid between $1 5,000 and $1 8,000 a year which is $2,000 to $3,000 more than they are being paid in the ABC or private enterprise. I ask: How ethnic or how migrant orientated is soccer? The Service is paying huge amounts for French movies. Only 1 7,000 French people are in Australia. The whole idea of having an IMBC television network is crazy. It is time that the Government got it right out of its head.
– I seek clarification from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) with respect to the provisions for funding to facilitate the public broadcasters mentioned in that part of the legislation that is being excised by these amendments. The Minister, in his remarks this evening, did not refer to recommendation No. 5 in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, which recommends that while these matters are being resolved the function of supporting and encouraging the provision and development of public broadcasting and public television services should continue under the existing Australian Film Commission arrangements. I recognise that implementation of that recommendation probably would not require any legislative amendment, but I would like the Minister to clarify that it is the intention of the Government to continue under those arrangements.
– I would like to congratulate the Government for bringing forward these amendments in this way and to wish the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill a speedy passage through the Committee stage.
– It is my view that this chamber should have risen at 10.30 and I moved accordingly. Senator MacGibbon, an honourable senator from Queensland, has just wished the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill a speedy passage. He has indicated his very strong bias against the ethnic community on a variety of occasions and he has done so once again. That is not the motive of the Opposition in opposing the establishment of an Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation. There are some doubts in my mind and there are doubts in the minds of other honourable senators as to whether it is correct to place so much reliance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I know of the problems which will emerge. The Australian Labor Party has taken the view that there has been a need for a second ABC channel for many years. That second channel will be disadvantaged considerably by the establishment of this Corporation. That is a valid point of view to take. If the ABC can satisfy both requirements, then by all means it should do so.
I put it to those honourable senators who object to the establishment of this Corporation that it would have been able at least to get some commercial support. I must admit that I would be a little bit horrified if, for instance, this Corporation were to enter the market-place in the way in which other commercial stations have entered the market-place. We would be getting in 40 different languages all the rubbish that we get on the commercial stations. That thought repels me. But that is not the concept. It is not the concept because the ethnic communities, with their cultural backgrounds, would give to Australia a program that would be worth watching and listening to. Honourable senators have been overlooking that factor. I entered this debate because I know that many honourable senators have taken their position purely because they believe that the ethnic community - one-fifth of the whole community - should fall in line with the rest of the community. In the last 20 years our society has changed dramatically. Our society would gain as much from this service as it has gained from any other services provided by these ethnic groups. When a decision is to be reached at a later stage, I hope both Senator MacGibbon and Senator Townley will have a broader outlook. Perhaps I could include two or three other honourable senators on the opposite side of the chamber and a couple of honourable senators on this side of the chamber. I have not entered previously into this debate. Perhaps I should have done so. Perhaps I should have taken a more positive stand in the party room. It is possible that I did not understand properly what was at stake, but I do now.
– I understood it. I read the Bill.
– As I say, I did not read the Bill. I must admit that 1 was negligent. What stirred me into regretting the negligence was the statement Senator Townley made tonight. Obviously he does not understand just what the need is and he does not understand what the advantages can be.
– There are no disadvantages.
– There are certain definite advantages and the honourable senator does not understand them. In any case, this proposition is before us in the Committee stage. What puzzles me is that the Government is removing the word ‘Corporation’, in order to carry out the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, but it is substituting something called a ‘Service’. What the devil is the service that the Government is talking about? ls it that the Government–
– You still haven’t read the Bill.
– Obviously; I do not have the Bill in front of me at the moment. All that finished up on the table in front of me were the darned amendments. We did not have time even to search out the Bill to find out what was going on, so we have to probe and grope around at half past twelve.
– Are you a prober or a groper?
– I am both. Having said that, I wish the Bill a speedy passage so that we can get on to the honey Bills which will take us another two hours to debate.
– I thank honourable senators for their support of the Bill and the amendments. I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that at a later time we will have an opportunity to debate the larger matters of principle of what will be known as Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Service. The election will intervene but almost all of us will be back after that election because of the operation of the Australian Constitution. No honourable senator who has shown a present interest in the matter will be deprived of the opportunity. I wish to respond very quickly to the matters which have been raised. The statement I made in opening the Committee debate made it clear I think that the Government remains firmly committed to the concept of multicultural broadcasting. lt continues to see the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation as the most appropriate means of implementing this government policy.
The Government, having received a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts as recently as, I think, 19 August, is still in the process of assessing the various recommendations which have been made. As I said before, it has not yet completed that assessment but it will be pursued with a view to settling final administrative and legislative arrangements in the autumn session of 1 98 1 .
Senator Chipp raised the matter of the financing of multicultural television, pointing out that there was no provision in this Bill - indeed there never was any provision in this Bill - for financing. He will find provision for financing in the Appropriation Bills which are also before the chamber and in which I understand there is a provision of some $ 1 5m for the Special Broadcasting Service for that purpose. Of course, it may be that further moneys will be advanced from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. I do not predict that. I am saying that is an available area should the need arise.
I shall touch on the other points which were raised. Senator Ryan made a specific inquiry about public broadcasting. She answered her question correctly. The matter of public broadcasting will remain a matter for the Australian Film Commission and for the Special Broadcasting Service insofar as it relates to ethnic public broadcasting, but there will be a continuance of the existing situation until the final position is sorted out at a later time. Senator Georges commented about the use of the word ‘Service’. That wording merely picks up the fact that the Special Broadcasting Service will be carrying on on an interim basis. As I said earlier, that is consistent with the Senate Committee’s recommendation. I think it is not a matter which is causing any problem for the Opposition.
The last point 1 want to make is that Senator Chipp made it clear that the Australian Democrats do not agree with the Committee report. I suppose it is implicit in what I have said that neither is the Government happy with certain of the recommendations, but it still has them under consideration. 1 would have thought that, bearing in mind the sorts of comments one hears in this place from the Democrats and, indeed, from other honourable senators, having had a Senate committee consider this matter and it having made recommendations, the Committee, whilst wanting the Government to respond reasonably quickly, would expect the Government to give those matters serious consideration. I have noted the concern expressed by a number of honourable senators that an early decision should be made on the fundamental recommendations, lt is the wish of the Government that that sort of decision should be made early and I will convey the sentiments that were expressed to Mr Staley. I thank honourable senators for their contributions.
– If Senator Chaney thinks I have been ungenerous to the Government in the sense that it has pursued this track notwithstanding the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, I assure him that I think the Government has shown a great deal of courage - particularly so in the face of its back benchers such as Senator Townley - to have pursued this course notwithstanding the opposition of the Senate Committee. I congratulate the Government on that.
– Fair go! You are misrepresenting me. I agree with the Senate Committee. Don’t you put words in my mouth that are wrong.
- Senator Townley did not hear what I said. I said that I congratulated the Government for proceeding as far as it has, notwithstanding the report of the Senate Committee. I would assume from Senator Townley’s remarks that he would totally agree with the Committee’s report and would not agree that the Government should have proceeded any further. I think I am right in interpreting his views. 1 am grateful that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has answered the questions asked by Senator Ryan and myself about public broadcasters. Can he give me any indication that the public broadcasters appropriation this year in real terms will be about the same as last year? If the Minister cannot give me that information now, at a later stage would do. Also, do I understand that the Minister does not know of any intention of the Government to refer this matter to the Dix Committee within the next few days before Parliament is prorogued, or has the Government made an overt decision not to refer it to the Dix Committee until after the election?
– Senator Chipp has raise a couple of points. With respect to the first, my advice is that the amount available for public broadcasters is an increase over last year. Without any disrespect to my adviser, I will not rely on the figure because I would prefer to do what the honourable senator suggests and give it to him at a later time. In regard to the other point, obviously I have not made myself clear. The position is that the Government has not made a decision on the matter about which the honourable senator has asked. That major recommendation is still receiving consideration. I cannot be absolutely firm in that but I would not expect that decision to be made this week, bearing in mind the commitments for the balance of the week.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 1 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– We are debating the motion that this Bill, the Honey Export Charge Amendment Bill 1980 be read a first time. Therefore, I am permitted to speak on matters not related to the Bill. However, I point out that the first reading debate on this Bill was adjourned on 31 March 1980. That was the day on which the Bill was introduced in the Senate. I repeat, that was on 31 March 1980; yet now, at twenty minutes to one in the morning, we are at the first reading stage of this Bill which has been with us for five months or so.
– Well, hurry up.
– I have no intention of hurrying up. This Bill was introduced on 31 March 1980 and now, at twenty minutes to one in the morning we are starting the first reading debate. I have one hour in which to speak and I will speak for one hour if I wish to do so; nobody will hurry me up. I make the point that it is an absolute disgrace that a Bill should have been on the Notice Paper for so long and then should be brought on for debate at this time in the morning. Although the hour is late, I intend to use the time at my disposal because many people in Queensland, many of my friends in the trade union movement, expect me to bring a matter before the Senate and I intend to do so before the Senate adjourns on Thursday. This is my opportunity to raise the matter. (Quorum formed). 1 thank Senator Georges for drawing attention to the state of the House. If this Bill is to be brought before the Senate at this hour of the night, I think we should have a full Senate listening to what honourable senators have to say.
Recently many honourable senators have raised in this chamber the subject of the broken promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). One promise Mr Fraser made in his 1975 election speech was to be generous to people who wanted to work but were unable to do so. This evening I intend to raise in the Senate a series of events in which I was closely involved - a series of events which makes a mockery of that promise by the Prime Minister. This is an incredible story of events which dragged on for three years, lt is an account of a battle to obtain justice for some 97 men who were shabbily treated by the Department of Social Security. This shabby treatment was adopted merely to save the Government a few dollars as these men would have been entitled to no more than one week’s unemployment benefit. The amount involved would not have meant much to the Government but it did mean a lot to the people who were trying to support a family when they suddenly found themselves without their regular income.
I will outline the sequence of events. To do so, 1 have to go back to 7 October 1977. On that date a bulletin was placed on the notice board of General Motors-Holden’s Ltd plant at the Brisbane suburb of Acacia Ridge. The bulletin advised that because of a lack of component parts resulting from the Victorian power dispute at that time it was necessary to stand down employees from the finish of work that afternoon. The bulletin on the notice board further stated that 100 workers would be required for employment in various service areas. These people were to be notified by their supervisors. A meeting of the Vehicles Builders Employees Federation decided that if some members were stood down all would cease work. Workers were not advised whether work was available for them as stated on the bulletin. Work subsequently ceased at the plant on that afternoon.
On 12 October 1977 the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) reaffirmed the existing policy in relation to the payment of unemployment benefits, that is, workers who were stood down because of a shortage of parts due to the Victorian power dispute would qualify for unemployment benefits. However, the 100 workers for whom work was available would not qualify. Three days later on 15 October 1977–
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I suggest that the honourable senator is reading his speech. That is in contravention of Standing Order 406 which states:
No Senator shall read his speech.
Therefore, I ask either that the honourable senator does not read the speech or that he have it incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order. I call Senator Colston.
– Mr Deputy President, I seek to have the documents that the honourable senator is reading from tabled following his speech so that we can compare them with Hansard.
– I would like to speak to the point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order. Senator Colston, continue with your speech. I have ruled that there is no point of order.
– On 15 October 1977 some members of the work force resumed work at General Motors-Holden’s Ltd. On 21 October 1977 there was a full scale resumption of work. During the period that they were stood down, many of the workers registered for work and applied for unemployment benefit. The response the men received for their claim for benefit could best be described as a deafening silence. On 24 October 1 977 I forwarded a telegram to the then Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and to the Minister for Social Security after being told that the Department of Social Security was waiting for information from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. I will now read the text of the telegram that I sent to Mr Street on 24 October 1 977. The telegram stated:
The Vehicle Builders Union in Queensland and I feel that we are being treated in a cavalier fashion with relation to unemployment benefits for workers who were laid off at GMH Acacia Ridge. Latest information I have received is that the Department of Social Security is still awaiting information from your Department. Unless I receive definite advice that some decision has been reached by tomorrow morning, I shall make the matter public that the Government is being deliberately tardy.
I sent a similar letter to the Minister for Social Security. One sentence was different. The text of the telegram that 1 sent to the Minister for Social Security is as follows:
The Vehicle Builders Union in Queensland and 1 feel we are being treated in a cavalier fashion with relation to unemployment benefits for workers who were laid off at GMH Acacia Ridge. Latest information I have received is that your Department is awaiting information from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Unless I receive definite advice that some decision has been reached by tomorrow morning, I shall make the matter public that the Government is being deliberately tardy.
I sent a telegram to both Ministers because we have the peculiar situation in Australia that when unemployment benefits are applied for two departments are involved. It was necessary for me therefore to contact both Ministers. On 31 October I received a reply from the Minister for Industrial Relations saying that the matter had nothing to do with him. His telegram of seven days later read as follows:
In reply to your telegram of 24 October regarding payment of unemployment benefit to GMH employees at Acacia Ridge. I am informed that Senator Guilfoyle is replying to similar representations you have made to her. As this matter comes within her portfolio there is nothing further I can add.
I could debate whether the Minister was putting the case correctly at that stage but that is not pertinent to my argument so I will leave that for the moment. On 28 October 1 977 the Department of Social Security sent a letter to each applicant rejecting his claim for unemployment benefit. Applicants were told that the reason for their rejection was that there was work available. A typical letter received by the applicants read as follows:
Your application for Unemployment Benefit has been carefully examined but approval cannot be given for the following reason: Because there was work available for you it is considered your unemployment was due to your voluntary act. In these circumstances the date of the commencement of your benefit has been postponed under section–
– If we are to sit these idiotic hours in the morning I think the Government has some responsibility to keep the attendance in this place up. I therefore draw attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed).
– I was reading a letter that was sent to members of the union who had applied for unemployment benefit. It stated:
Your application for Unemployment Benefit has been carefully examined but approval cannot be given for the following reason:
Because there was work available for you it is considered your unemployment was due to your voluntary act. In these circumstances the date of commencement of your benefit has been postponed under Section 120 (A) of the Social Services Act for the duration of the ‘dispute’.
As you have now resumed work no benefit is payable on your claim.
That letter was sent to the men on 28 October 1977. On 4 November 1977, I received a brief reply from the Minister for Social Security stating that as previously announced, ‘existing policy with regard to payment of unemployment benefit will be applied’. On the same date, I received a detailed reply from the Director-General of Social Services, Mr Lanigan. That letter contained several inaccuracies. On 15 November 1977, I forwarded a letter to the Minister for Social Security pointing out the inaccuracies in Mr Lanigan’s letter. For example, one inaccuracy was that the company did not advise the workers that work was available. I will quote part of that letter. In part the Director-General’s reply stated:
Information given to me suggests that the statement is incorrect as the company did not advise these members that work was available.
Further it was stated in paragraph 3 of the Director-General’s letter that: all members . . . with the exception of about 20 who were retained by GM-H for essential maintenance work, remained out of work until a full resumption took place on 21 October, I have been advised that this is not correct as some members resumed on 1 S October.
As well the Director-General’s letter held that the bulletin placed on the notice board at Acacia Ridge ‘stated that about !00 workers would, however, be required for employment in various service departments’. I have sighted a copy of the bulletin and this is definitely not so. The Director-General’s statement is completely erroneous. The bulletin did state that those who would be required to work would be individually advised by their supervisor. As far as I am aware this did not occur.
In view of the incorrect statements which appear in the Director-General’s letter I would be grateful if you could have this matter investigated once again to see whether unemployment benefit can be paid to those whose applications were not successful because they allegedly ‘withdrew their labour in pursuance of the union’s policy’. The facts do not appear to support the allegations.
In October and November some of the men whose applications where rejected appealed to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. On 6 February 1978, 1 received a reply from the Minister for Social Security to me letter of 15 November. That letter admitted that those 100 men had not been informed that work was available but it confirmed that no unemployment benefit would be payable. On 21 April 1978, I received a letter from the Chairman of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in Brisbane. I would like to read part of that letter, lt stated:
As a result of such investigation the Tribunal members unanimously recommend that payment of Unemployment Benefit be made to all the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation members. A submission on those lines was made to the Director-General on 20 January 1978. The Director-General advised the Tribunal on 1 3 April 1978 that he is not prepared to grant benefit in those cases. He also forwarded a copy of a letter that the Minister had sent to you on 2 February concerning the matter. In view of the above decision the Tribunal is now unable to take any further action.
In other words, what the Social Security Appeals Tribunal is saying in its judgment is that it found that these members should have received unemployment benefit. It made the recommendation to the Director-General, but the Director-General declined to pay it. On 24 April, three days later, I forwarded a letter to Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle pointing out the recommendations of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. I requested her to ask the Director-General to investigate the matter once again. On 25 May 1978 the Minister responded to my letter of 24 April and stated that the Director-General had confirmed his decision in relation to 97 men. In part, that letter stated:
The Director-General of Social Services has confirmed his decision that 97 men who declined available work at the plant while others were stood down were not eligible for unemployment benefit for the period they did not work.
On 2 June 1978 the original applicants, an official of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia and I were convinced that further representations to the Minister would be worthless. Therefore, I referred the matter to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. That was on 2 June 1978. I now have to go forward, incredibly, before anything further occurred, to 16 May 1979. On that date I received a report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The report outlined questions he had put to the Department and answers which he had received. In his letter, Professor Richardson concluded:
My examination of the various issues led me to the view that the decision of the Director General to accept without individual inquiry that 97 employees were voluntarily unemployed was unjust and unreasonable.
The Department of Social Security re-examined its stance following correspondence from the Ombudsman and agreed for each case to be examined individually and for fresh determinations to be made accordingly. On 2 1 May 1 979 I wrote to the Minister for Social Security asking her advice on the fresh determinations which were mentioned in the Ombudsman’s letter. It is worth noting that this questionnaire was sent on 5 July to all applicants. At the top it states:
This questionnaire is related to your claim for unemployment benefit during the stand down at GMH Acacia Ridge from 7 October to 20 November 1977.
Again, that was on 5 July 1979 and it was dealing with something that happened in October 1977. Almost two years later certain members were asked to answer questions. Those questions read:
Let us look at that last request and see how ludicrous it is. That questionnaire was sent to those men on 5 July 1979 and in it they were asked for the full names and addresses of all employers contacted by them in their search for work between 7 October 1977 and 20 October 1977. It shows how ridiculous the whole issue was becoming by that stage than men were asked, about two years later, about what happened in one week and had to complete a form like that for the Department of Social Security.
Government senators interjecting-
– I said earlier that, if necessary, I would use a full hour for this explanation. Now honourable senators on the Government side are carrying on as if this whole matter is a joke. This matter went on for three years when men were trying to obtain their just dues. The men were denied their benefits at a time when they were out of work and were trying to support their families, and they were out of work through no fault of their own. Yet some hooligans on that side of the chamber think the whole matter is a joke. If they were in the shoes of the people at General Motors-Holden’s they would not think it so much of a joke. I intend to continue because I think this matter should be brought before the Parliament. At least honourable senators on this side of the chamber are interested. Honourable senators on that side cannot even keep up the numbers in the chamber - we have to call continually for quorums- just because it is 10 past one in the morning.
I move now from 5 July to 14 December 1979. On that date I received a letter from the Minister for Social Security. Her advice, in summary, was as follows: Thirty-one people responded to the questionnaire. Six were paid unemployment benefit. Two were not eligible for benefit because of the income of their spouse. Fourteen were considered not to have taken reasonable steps to obtain employment and thus were not paid unemployment benefit. Two were considered to be direct participants in the strike. Five were rejected because they returned to work before the date benefits were due to have commenced and two failed to lodge the first income statements.
Several of the applicants appealed against those new determinations. On 1 8 February of this year a letter was forwarded to one of the applicants by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. That letter stated that the Tribunal had unanimously recommended that that person be paid the unemployment benefit, but the Director-General had refused. The letter from the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in part stated:
After examining all the evidence in your case the Tribunal unanimously recommended that Unemployment Benefit be granted. The Director-General of Social Security has however refused to accept the Tribunals recommendation and has advised that he is not prepared to approve grant of benefit.
The Director-General is the final authority under the Social Services Act and the Tribunal is unable to take any further action.
Another appellant was advised similarly. I wrote to the Minister for Social Security asking that the
Director-General reconsider his rejection of the Appeals Tribunal recommendations. In June 1980 the Minister advised that the DirectorGeneral had reaffirmed his decision on both men. In relation to both of those cases, had the Director-General made the decision after 1 April 1 980 I believe I could have taken the matter to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and indeed I would have done so.
Several points should be raised in relation to this matter. (Quorum formed). The Department’s reasons for rejecting the applications of most of the men who responded to questionnaires were rather dubious. That is, they were considered not to have taken reasonable steps to obtain work. We should note that the men were stood down temporarily because of an industrial dispute in another State. It is unreasonable to expect them to seek out full time employment when they were expecting to go back to their normal employment at any time. It was unreasonable to expect them to remember any steps they did take to gain employment when questionnaires were forwarded some two years after the standdown. Ninety-seven men were singled out for unfair treatment. They were unaware that their names were forwarded by General MotorsHolden’s Ltd to the Department of Social Security as being the men who were supposed to have been offered work. The Director-General acted in a dictatorial fashion in ignoring unanimous recommendations by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal that the men should be paid unemployment benefit. He thumbed his nose at the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Ombudsman. I conclude with two questions which the men at Acacia Ridge are asking: Why is there such a person at the head of the Department of Social Security? Is this the way the Government is being generous to those who want to work but are unable to do so?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Export Charge Act 1973 so as to implement an export charge, to be used for the purposes of honey research, on exports of honey from Australia. When the Bill was introduced in the last sitting it was proposed that the research export charge would be imposed from 1 July 1980. In the Committee Stage I will be moving an amendment to the Bill to provide for the research export charge to be implemented from a date to be fixed by Proclamation. The Bill is part of the cognate legislation referred to in the second reading speech on the Honey Research Bill.
The maximum charge for honey research under this legislation will be 0.5 cents per kg. Initially the operative rate will be 0.25 cents per kg. This may be varied by regulation, up to the maximum. The research charge will be additional to the existing export charge - 1.0 cents per kg maximum, 0.5 cents per kg operative - which provides part of the funds required for the operation of the Australian Honey Board. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
HONEY LEVY (No. 1) AMENDMENT BILL 1980 First Reading
Debate resumed from 31 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I did not propose to speak tonight but the Government is idiotic enough to keep the Senate sitting into the small hours of the morning–
Government senators interjecting -
– The situation is that the Government has an election campaign coming up. The Government has tried to avoid dealing with the Bills concerning the honey industry. The reason the Government has brought them on tonight is so that it will not be heard to be castigated on air tomorrow. The first reading of this Bill gives honourable senators on this side of the House the opportunity to speak about subjects which ought to be spoken about - things that the Government has tried to suppress for months and months. If / want some lessons in cooking apple strudel Senator Walters, who is trying to interject, can write out the instructions and send them to me during the campaign because a lot of the honourable senators on the Government side will not be back here next year.
Some months ago I wrote a private letter to the Australian Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) regarding the use of depo provera on some young lasses in the Tennant Creek area. It was a confidential letter to the Minister for Health. I had hoped that I would get a confidential reply. The Minister wrote to me and advised that he was referring the matter to his equivalent in the Northern Territory Government, a gentleman by the name of Tuxworth. That gentleman has seen fit to reply in the most scathing terms. He has also made that letter available to half the members on the Government side of the House and to a number of my colleagues on this side of the House. So it is no longer a confidential document. That to me is reprehensible in the extreme. If letters are exchanged between Ministers and back bench members who want to obtain details via a question in a confidential letter then it ought to be treated in that manner.
This is fairly consistent with the attitude of this Government. It is determined to misuse information that is requested of it in a confidential manner. I refer now to the letter from Ian Tuxworth. Obviously he is one of those more prominent Ministers in the Northern Territory Administration because previously I have read his name in a couple of scandal stories but nowhere else. The letter is dated 6 August. I am not sure whether he knew it was Hiroshima Day. He stated:
I refer to your letter of 2 June . . .
In other words, it took more than two months for a Minister, who allegedly had some responsibility in this matter, to reply to a genuine question contained in a confidential letter. The letter continues: concerning the alleged experimental use of ‘D P.’ injection on Aboriginal women in Tennant Creek.
My department and I are equally concerned at the constant barrage of ill-informed criticism emanating from Canberrabased politicians, of which your letter is yet another example.
In other words, he does not differentiate. He is equally upset about letters coming to him from members of the other side of the House. So he is critical of the members of the Liberal Party. I suppose that the current attitude of the CountryLiberal Party, or whatever it is called in the Northern Territory, is such that this is another good opportunity for him to indulge in Canberra bashing. He continues:
Depo provera has been used around the world for nearly 1 5 years and is by no means in the experimental stage. However, the allegation that it has been prescribed by the doctors in Tennant Creek for anyone, let alone aboriginals, is absolutely false.
He provides no evidence at all, and he is not prepared to provide the evidence. This again is significant to the banana republic attitude of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory.
He then made reference to a letter which I had received from Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, who, 1 might mention, was at that time the Acting Minister for Health. In that letter, which was a quite reasonable letter, she pointed out the manner in which the drug could be used and the fact that it was a restricted prescription, et cetera. Mr Tuxworth, in the last paragraph of his letter, said:
I might add that Aboriginals are treated by the Northern Territory Government Service in exactly the same way as any other patients . . .
That is one of the racist statements of Mr Tuxworth, who is one of the racists of the Northern Territory. He was a racist before his election to the Parliament and has remained a racist since. He takes this opportunity to be quite vindictive to anyone who is less white than he is. The letter continues: . . and your allegations are as equally unfounded as those circulated some years ago to the effect that Aboriginals in the Northern Territory were being subjected, against their wishes to sterilisation and abortion, when in fact such operations on Aboriginals are very rare events.
I resent the way in which this letter was circulated. In future I would not trust any member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly who belongs to the CLP. It is the same sort of attitude that has been adopted not only by Mr Tuxworth but also by Mr Everingham and most of the Ministers in that Administration. They wonder why they are described as racists. It is because they set up the whole situation for themselves. That letter is one of the worst examples that I have ever seen. Mr Tuxworth has deliberately set out not only to inflame any racist problems in the Northern Territory, but also he wants to encourage them.
Now we have this Government going to an election. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) received a medal. It cost this country thousands and thousands of dollars for his flight to America to get a medal which was supposed to show the world how consistent he is in his views in relation to humanity generally and in opposition to apartheid. That was one of the greatest embarrassments the country has ever seen. Then people like this character back up in their own indirect way the same sorts of sentiments that the Prime Minister expresses in relation to Australia.
Noonkanbah is a prime example. We know that the Framlingham forest problem has been met by the Prime Minister by discussion. If this country is unfortunate enough to have to wear the current Prime Minister after 18 October, Framlingham will be abolished in the same way as the Prime Minister has repudiated all the promises he made in 1975 and 1977. I am suggesting that the Government ought to take some action and clip Mr Tuxworth’s wings and the wings of all the people in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly who think as he does. (Quorum formed) .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill 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 amend the Honey Levy Act (No. 1 ) 1 962 so as to implement a levy, for the purposes of honey research, on honey produced and sold in Australia. When the Bill was introduced in the last sitting it was proposed that the research levy would be imposed from 1 July 1980. In the Committee stage I will be moving an amendment to the Bill to provide for the research levy to be implemented from a date to be fixed by proclamation.
The Bill is part of the cognate legislation referred to in the second reading speech on the Honey Research Bill. The maximum levy for honey research under this legislation will be 0.5c per kg. Initially the operative rate will be 0.25c per kg. This may be varied by regulation, up to the maximum. The research levy will be additional to the existing levy - 2.2c per kg maximum, 1.8c per kg operative - which provides part of the funds required for the operation of the Australian Honey Board. Opportunity is taken to make formal amendments to the existing legislation in accordance with current drafting practice. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
HONEY LEVY (No. 2) AMENDMENT BILL 1980 First Reading
Debate resumed from 31 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I wish to make a few comments at the first reading stage of this Bill. I take it that it is unnecessary for us to proceed much further. We now have passed three Bills. We have passed the
Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill and we have passed the Estimates. I feel sorry for the adviser who has been brought in here after all this time. He has waited for six months. But now he is here, we are debating everything but the Bill itself. I do not think he would mind being present at a later hour this day. We could then continue this debate. However, if the Government wishes to persist I have nothing further to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted?
– The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Levy Act (No. 2) 1962 so as to implement a levy, for the purposes of honey research, on honey produced in Australia and used in the manufacture of other goods. When the Bill was introduced in the last sitting it was proposed that the research levy would be imposed from 1 July 1980. In the Committee stage I will be moving an amendment to the Bill to provide for the research levy to be implemented from a date to be fixed by proclamation. The Bill is similar in other respects to the Honey Levy (No. 1 ) Amendment Bill 1 980. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 1 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We now have the five honey Bills at the second reading stage. They are all designed to implement the one scheme. I suggest that we have a cognate debate in relation to them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is it the wish of the Senate that that course be followed? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– I do not intend to speak very long on these Bills. I draw attention to the fact that the Bills which have been on the Notice Paper since 31
March - almost six months - have suddenly become so urgent that they have to be debated at 1.30 a.m., three hours after the Senate should have adjourned. I draw attention to why this extraordinary procedure is being followed. The reason, of course, is that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has decided that he has to have an election before the lid blows off interest rates. Anyone who has been following the money market will know that the long term bond rate is almost 2 per cent above the overdraft rate.
- Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. This is the second reading debate on the Honey Bills. I ask what the bond rate has to do with this debate. I suggest the honourable senator address his remarks to the Honey Bills.
– It has everything to do with the fact that the Bills are being debated three hours after the Senate should have adjourned. The Bills have been sitting on the Notice Paper for six months. For six months they have been lying around. Suddenly, at 1 .30 a.m. they become so urgent that they have to be debated. The reason, of course, is that the Government failed to pass the Bills in the autumn session. It was so eager to get the Parliament up in order to end the exposure to criticism to which parliamentary sittings always render it liable. It did not realise that the Honey Bills needed to be passed before the end of the last financial year in order to become operative. Of course, the apiarists around Australia were more than a little annoyed - justifiably so - when they realised that so eager was this Government to end the autumn session to minimise its exposure to parliamentary criticism that it failed in its most fundamental duty to complete its legislative program before gagging the Parliament for the autumn session and guillotining the debate on about 25 Bills in one day. No wonder the country is in a mess when the Government cannot even manage its own legislative program and when it cannot pass the Honey Bills, which have been on the Notice Paper–
– Senator Murphy put through 26 Bills in half an hour.
- Senator Sim is flapping away. Perhaps he will tell us about the No. 3 member of the Liberal Party Senate ticket in Western Australia in the forthcoming election. I understand that he has a lot to say about it outside the Senate. Perhaps he will tell us inside the Senate a little about what he thinks of it. While I am on the subject I mention that the No. 3 Liberal
Party candidate, that crook Noel CrichtonBrowne, will get one vote from six Western Australian Liberal Party senators.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I take a point of order. Will you apply Standing Order 4 1 9 to the honourable senator?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am just about to do that. Senator Walsh will confine his remarks to the Bills before the Senate.
– lt is all sweet. It has to do with honey.
– Honey is sweet but the Liberal Party in Western Australia is not so sweet, especially concerning the Senate ticket for the coming election.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator will confine his remarks to the Honey Bills.
– This is a package of legislation. Therefore it is appropriate that we should debate the Bills cognately. They provide for a levy on honey at various points of sale and for the payment of the levy into a trust fund for research purposes. As is the custom with many other agricultural products, the money that is paid out of the trust fund for research expenditure will be matched on a dollar for dollar basis by the Government. On those grounds the Opposition is not opposing the Bills. I note the comment by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that in respect of the Honey Levy Amendment Bills he will be moving at the appropriate stage an amendment to change the clause which provides that the Bill shall become operative from 1 July to provide that it shall become operative on a date to be proclaimed or words to that effect. I want to place on record the reason for that amendment. The reason, of course, is that when the Government first introduced these Bills it was planned that they would be passed before the end of the last financial year. Due to the Government’s inability to manage even its own legislative program, let alone the government of the country, the Bills were not passed in the autumn session of Parliament. Therefore it became necessary for Senator Durack to move an amendment to change the clause which said that the Bill shall be proclaimed on I July. As a result, we are now debating at 1 .36 a.m. a package of Bills which has been on the Notice Paper even of the Senate since 31 March - almost six months. Of course, the reason for this is that Malcolm Fraser is desperate to close up the Parliament this week before the lid blows right off his artificial constraints on interest rates, where the long term bond rate is running at almost 2 per cent above the overdraft rate–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh. Confine your remarks to the Bills.
– It cannot be contained for very much longer, and the overdraft rate and housing rates will blow out by two per cent after the election if this Government is returned. I want to express my disgust on behalf of the Labor Party that this outrageous procedure–
– Sit down, you fool.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order!
– Here we have the Phil Lynch of Tasmania–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh, sit down while I am standing. The Senate will come to order. Address your remarks to the Chair, Senator Walsh, and confine them to the Bills.
– The Phil Lynch of Tasmania.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! You will direct your remarks to the Chair, Senator Walsh, and confine them to the Bills.
– I am addressing them to you, Mr Deputy President. I am just drawing attention to the Phil Lynch of Tasmania over there, the sleazy land–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! You know the Standing Orders, Senator Walsh. Confine your remarks to the Bills.
– I just want to express the disgust of the Opposition that the Government should resort to this abuse of the so-called House of review. We have something like 30-odd toadies sitting over there.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh, you will confine your remarks to the Bills before the House.
– I just want to draw attention to the farce that is being played out tonight in the Senate, when the majority of those people who voted against the adjournment of the Senate promptly ducked ofT to the bar–
– Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I object to that remark.
– You have not been here all night. Where have you been?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh, you will resume your seat.
– Mr Deputy President, 1 take personal offence at that remark, having been nowhere near the bar all evening. I object–
– Where have you been then?
– Good Lord, I do not answer questions like that from such persons.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Missen, are you asking for a withdrawal?
– I want a withdrawal, certainly, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Will you withdraw, Senator Walsh?
– Yes, I will withdraw, because I do not know for sure that they were in the bar. Certainly most of them were not here.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh, confine your remarks to the Bills, otherwise I will sit you down.
– I want to express the Opposition’s disgust that these people who voted against adjourning the Senate at the time it should have been adjourned in the main were not here. We had to keep calling quorums to maintain the minimum number of senators required for the chamber, which after all is only a third of the total number of senators. Most of them still persist with the humbuggery that this is a House of review when they sit here at 1.40 a.m. - more than three hours after the House should have adjourned - to pass Bills which have been on the Notice Paper for six months.
– I support the remarks made by Senator Walsh. When I came into this chamber tonight I did not intend to speak on the first reading of these Bills because of the lateness of the hour. But as the Government has proved itself to be totally politically idiotic by trying to bulldoze through legislation at this hour of the morning I think it ought to be told a few home truths. I propose to do precisely that. The beekeeping industry is one of the most important aspects of primary industry in Australia. It is an export earning industry. As Senator Walsh, the Labor Party’s official spokesman on primary industry, has said, the Government has changed from having consideration of this legislation in the last part of this session of this Parliament. It is not prepared to bring it on tomorrow because it is scared stiff that a speech in the first reading stage would expose a number of scandals in this Government and it does not want that to be heard on air. That is why it is bringing on the debate at this hour of the morning, lt knows that the members of the Press have put their newspapers to bed and that the proceedings are not being broadcast. That is the reason that the first reading of these honey Bills have been brought on tonight. If the Government could have done it and got away with it it would have brought them on next Sunday morning when the Parliament was not in session. That is the sort of fascist like operation that is going on in this country today.
– Mr Deputy President, I am not referring to any particular honourable senator on the other side of this chamber as a fascist. They are all fascists.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator knows the Standing Orders.
– That is the way in which I think this Parliament is operating. We have a Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who collaborates with some of the lower types of political animals around the world.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order, Senator Keeffe!
– Well, he does. Let us be quite frank about what is going on in this country. There is underhand work going on on the other side of the Parliament with the money that the Government accepts from the uranium developers to run its campaign. It is getting millions of dollars from them. It hopes that it can get away with it. When two tonnes of yellowcake disappeared from the Mary Kathleen mine it did not know it was gone. The Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) ought to have more sense and more brains. Quite frankly, I do not know why the Government put him in charge of that portfolio. He did not make much of a job of primary education in his education portfolio. After grade one and grade two he was hopeless but apart from that he was okay.
– He can tell sulphur from yellowcake.
– Senator Lewis, you were probably part of the operation sneaking out the yellowcake. It is consistent with your dishonest nature which is expressed in this House. You have not made one intelligent speech while you have been a member of this Parliament.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Keeffe, address the Chair.
– I believe that an attempt to bring on these Bills, which are important to primary industries, ought not to be made under these circumstances. I have just about had a gutful of what the people on the other side of the House have been doing in their corrupt activities. It is all right for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) to look rather sad. He cannot even handle his own portfolio. He has to be told what he can do by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has become a racist. So if he is prepared to suppress–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order, Senator Keeffe!
– He is prepared to suppress the Aborigines of this country in their attempt to find the limelight.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Keeffe, you will withdraw that remark.
– Which one?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The remark that the Prime Minister is a racist.
– I will not withdraw that remark because I stated a total fact. Why should 1 withdraw it? He has proved himself to be a racist by spending thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money on going to the United States of America to get his award.’
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Keeffe, you will withdraw that remark. You know that it is unparliamentary. Senator Keeffe, I ask you to withdraw that remark.
– I thought you were going to take me to supper.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! You will not reflect on the Chair. Senator Keeffe, I ask you to withdraw that remark. It is unparliamentary.
- Mr Deputy President, if you give a ruling that he is not a racist, I will withdraw the remark.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call the Minister.
– I am still speaking. I have not finished. It is obvious from your remarks, Deputy President, that you want me to tone my speech down a little.
– Mr Deputy President, Senator Keeffe has not withdrawn. He said that if you will do certain things he will withdraw his remark. He did not withdraw it. lt is a reflection on a member of the other House of Parliament, the Prime Minister.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- 1 understood that he did withdraw.
– I did withdraw. Thank you, Mr Deputy. 1 did withdraw. I want to refer back to a few of these things because this is the sort of Bill which your Government, with very great respect, Mr Deputy President, has a habit of bringing on when it cannot be exposed to public view. Quite frankly, that is not good enough. I know that Government senators have their political backs to the wall, regardless of the honey Bills and that their chances of being re-elected are virtually nil.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Keeffe. You will confine your remarks to the Bill before the House.
– I am doing so, Mr Deputy President. The people in the beekeeping industry are worried because they feel the same way as a lot of us who have to stick up for the little people in the community. Government senators should ask any member of the beekeeping industry, any apiarist, why these Bills are being held up. They are all disgusted about it. They know that the Government will ultimately use them as some sort of subterranean method of getting some of its legislation through, so that the Bills will not be seen. They are an important part of primary industry and if the Government does not think they are it should ask some of the people involved in the industry, people whose honey production is now suffering as the result of the drought in this country. I suggest, Mr Deputy President, that, if your Government ever had any honesty at all, it would be prepared to bring its legislation out in the open; it would be prepared to expose it to the public view. But it will not do that at all. While it has private arrangements with people like Pol Pot, one of the worst types in the communist world- and one would never have thought that the great conservative Liberal Party would be party to the killing of some 3 million to 4 million people and be overjoyed about it, quite happy about it–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Keeffe, you will return to the Bills before the House.
– But, Mr Deputy President, 1 am just telling you about the dishonesty of your Government. It is not good enough. I suggest that, if there is to be further discussion on these Bills, this Government ought to have enough political intestinal fortitude to allow the Bills to be debated later today when the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast.
– As has been pointed out already, these Bills have been available for six months. Indeed, that was the complaint of Senator Walsh which was rather contradicted by Senator Keeffe’s contribution. But the fact is that the Opposition appears to be supporting the Bills and I trust they will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– The amendments that I am about to move on behalf of the Government are designed simply to give effect to the report of the Bowen Committee on Public Duty and Private Interest in the form in which other Bills have been amended recently.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise on the third reading of this Bill just to point out that this all night exhibition shows the folly of sitting such late hours or sitting until such early hours into the morning. I can say that I spent the evening in the bar and that Senator Missen was not there. So I exonerate him in regard to any accusation of his being there. We were prepared to sit on Friday but now the House intends to adjourn on Thursday. The House will sit into the early hours of each morning when everyone is exhausted, tired and irritated.
– And cranky.
– And cranky. We are getting nowhere. Senator McLaren keeps calling quorums to keep us here. We are achieving nothing. On the honey Bills everything is sweet but this Parliament. The Government seems determined to set itself on a course to irritate all honourable senators. Government senators are opposed to such a course when they are awoken from their sleep at night to have to attend the chamber for a quorum. I think the Government should review the wisdom of late sittings and let us, like the bees, go home at sunset to rest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 31 March on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– by leave - I move:
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Amendment Bill and the Honey Levy (No. 2) Amendment Bill are yet to be debated. I understand a similar request will be made with respect to each. Perhaps the three Bills could be taken together.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- If that course is acceptable, the three Bills will be taken together.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– by leave - I move:
These requests are simply to substitute a date for the commencement of the Bills, as I explained in relation to the previous Bill.
– These requests show up the inability of the Government to handle its business. We have to send these Bills back to the House of Representatives to have them made retrospective. As the
Government has among its members Senator Baume, who is always interfering with the running of the chamber, I would have expected that, for the sake of expediency and good management, the Government would have had these Bills passed through this chamber before the winter recess of Parliament. The time has now come when we need on the opposite side of the House people who have some ability in running a parliament. The sooner thai comes about the better it will be.
– I would like to reply to the remarks of Senator McLaren. One of the reasons why this legislation was delayed is that the Australian Honey Board had not got round to reporting before it wanted its legislation altered to enable the Board to do things which the Board had asked that it be able to do and with which the Government had agreed. As far as I am concerned and a large number of other people in this chamber are concerned, if a statutory authority wants some changes to be made by the Parliament it ought to get round to accepting, acknowledging and implementing the accountability responsibilities which it has. Any delay can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the Honey Board, not at the feet of the Government, which reasonably accepted that until such time as the accountability requirements had been complied with the legislation could not be reasonably put before this chamber.
– We are now in the strange situation of a back bench member of the Government having to explain to the chamber why this legislation was delayed. I do not know why the responsible Minister could not have done that when this legislation came on for debate tonight. Once again we see incompetency. I agree with what Senator Rae has said. If it is the fault of the Australian Honey Board it deserves to be criticised. I fail to see why it should be left to a back bencher like Senator Rae to explain to us why the Bills were delayed. Why did the Minister in charge of this legislation not explain that earlier tonight?
Requests agreed to.
Bills agreed to with requests.
Bills reported with requests; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 1.58 a.m. (Wednesday)
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 269.
Apple and Pear Stabilization Act- Regulation - Statutory Rules 1980 No. 266.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 268.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Ordinances 1980-
No. 28 - Workmen’s Compensation Supplementation Fund.
No. 29- Workmen’s Compensation (Amendment).
No. 30- Sewerage Rates (Amendment) (No. 2).
Wheat Marketing Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 267.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 16 May 1980:
What are the names, dates and terms of appointment and salaries of all persons appointed to the boards and commissions of statutory authorities under the jurisdiction oft he Minister for Administrative Services.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Office holders who might come within the scope of the question are as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 21 May 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Except in special circumstances, unemployment benefit is paid direct to beneficiaries (including Aboriginals).
Currently there are 24 predominantly Aboriginal communities where most unemployment benefits are paid, by arrangement, other than to the beneficiaries. These communities and the numbers involved as at 30 J une 1 980 are:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 May 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
30.6.79- 1,850 31.12.79-1,900
In these cases, payment may be made subject to lodgment of the fortnightly or four weekly form at a later date.
It is estimated that some 1 ,325 beneficiaries in the Northern Territory are paid under this arrangement.
Interdepartmental Committee on the Industries Assistance Commission: Members’ Holding of Shares (Question No. 2961)
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: (1), (2) and (3). All public servants are required to declare to a designated officer or, in the case of Permanent Heads, to their Minister, private interests which could conflict with their public duty. This is in accordance with recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry concerning Public Duty and Private Interest that were accepted by the Government (refer statement by the Deputy Prime Minister on 22 November 1979, Hansard, pp. 3374-8). The Public Service Board subsequently issued a Circular and Guidelines dealing with the revised arrangements to apply to public servants (refer statement by the Leader of the House on 21 May 1980, Hansard, pp. 3026-9). The procedures that have been adopted provide for the recording of a declaration of interest and either for the public servant in question to be authorised to proceed or for other arrangements to be made.
Members of the Ministry: Shares in Textile, Clothing or Footwear Manufacturer (Question No. 2962)
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:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an article in the Victorian journal News Weekly which states that the original Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) evaluation of security standards operating in the Office of National Assessments had been heavily diluted; if so,
has ASIO been empowered to question the editor of that journal on his access to national security information that is denied to members of the Commonwealth Parliament; and
what has been the result of such investigations.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the statement I made in the House of Representatives on 1 9 August 1980.
Complementary Legislation to the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Grants) Act (Question No. 3016)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 20 August 1 980:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 20 August, 1 980:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Applications are registered provided they give an undertaking in writing that any gas sold for eligible use will be sold at a price that gives the purchasers the benefit of any payment received under the scheme. The applicant must also undertake not to make a claim unless the subsidy is passed on to the purchaser. Once registered distributors may then lodge claims for the payment of the subsidy.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
Does the Prime Minister’s Lodge consititute subsidised housing as defined by the Taxation Department in respect of income tax.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. Since the Lodge is not the Prime Minister’s principal place of residence it does not constitute subsidised housing as defined for income tax purposes. The income tax law imposes tax on the value of the recipient of a benefit received in the form of subsidised accommodation. As the Prime Minister’s principal place of residence is elsewhere, there is no valuable benefit to him, in terms of the income tax law, in the provision of temporary accommodation at an official residence at a time when, in the course of his duty, he is required to be in Canberra.
Ministers and all other Members of Parliament are entitled to be paid an allowance to cover their additional expenses during times when they are temporarily in Canberra unless their home base is in this city. Unlike other Members of Parliament the Prime Minister does not receive the allowance while on duty in this city where an official residence is provided for him.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
Where an overpayment of a social security benefit has occurred as a result of false or misleading information being supplied by the recipient to the Department of Social Security, (a) is the recipient always advised of the overpayment before court action is initiated; or (b) is the recipient always given the opportunity to repay the overpayment before court action is initiated.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Where a recipient of a social security payment makes a a false or misleading statement it is the normal practice to interview the person concerned. At the interview it would also be normal practice to notify the person concerned if an overpayment had occurred even if at that time the actual amount of the overpayment had not be calculated. A person who has been overpaid a pension allowance or other benefit may repay the amount at any time. However, making a refund or offer of refund does not automatically mean that prosecution action will be waived.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 9 September 1 980:
Has the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, since its establishment acted as a consultant for the building of dams for the Commonwealth Government, State governments or local authorities; if so, what are the details.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since its establishment the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has not acted as consultant for dams for the Commonwealth Government but has carried out work for State and Local Governments as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 9 September 1 980.
Was the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation consulted in the building of the Ross River Dam; if so, what are the details.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Corporation was not a consultant during the design/ construction phases of the Ross River Dam but was commissioned by the Queensland Water Resources Commission to make an independent assessment of the work then being undertaken by the Commission to investigate the seepage problems at the dam and to determine appropriate remedial measures. The work was completed with the submission in February 1 980 of a report to the Commission.
asked the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 9 September 1980:
Does the Commonwealth Government make regular inspections of its investment in the Ross River Dam; if so, (a) when was the last inspection made; and (b) is it considered that the construction of the dam is sound.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 9 September 1980:
How much has: (a) the Commonwealth Government;
Are any further payments to be made by the Common wealth Government, the Queensland Government or the Townsville City Council; if so, what are the details.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
1 ) Approximate total expenditures to date have been as follows-
There has been no recent re-estimate of the cost of outstanding work on Stage 2 of the dam, but information from Queensland suggests that this may be of the order of $11 million. A proposal for the completion of Stage 2 has been submitted for Commonwealth assistance under the National Water Resources Program, lt is understood that the State Government and the Townsville City Council would share equally in the balance of the cost to complete the project.
Appointments of Special Constables by Queensland Government
– On 31 March 1980 (Hansard, page 1 188) Senator Colston asked me the following question, without notice:
Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the Police Act Amendment Bill which is currently before the Queensland Parliament and which, amongst other things, permits certain Commonwealth officers to be appointed as special constables by the Queensland Government? Also, has the Minister been referred to reports in the Courier-Mail of 26 March 1980 which suggest that Federal Government postal investigators and Telecom investigation staff in Queensland may be appointed as special constables? Can the Minister advise whether the Queensland Government has consulted the Federal Government on this matter and whether some Federal Government employees are likely to be appointed as special constables under Queensland law?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Queensland Police Act Amendment Act 1 980, which received the Royal assent on 12 May 1980, amends the Queensland Police Act to, amongst other things, specifically permit the appointment of Commonwealth officers as special constables of the Queensland Police Force.
The article in the Courier-Mail of 26 March 1980 referred to by the honourable member has been brought to my attention. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the Commonwealth Government was not consulted by the Queensland Government before the Act was introduced into the Queensland Parliament and I am unaware of the reason why the reference was made in the legislation to Commonwealth officers.
So far as I am aware, there has been no approach from or to the State Government for the appointment of specific Commonwealth officers as State special constables. Before the Commonwealth Government agreed to make an appointment, it would need to carefully consider the reasons advanced for the appointment.
Appointment of Special Constables
– On 15 April 1980 (Hansard, page 1438) Senator Missen asked me the following question, without notice:
I refer to the Police Act Amendment Bill 1980 recently passed by the Queensland Parliament, a copy of which I have drawn to the attention of the Attorney-General. Is the Minister aware that under clause 4 of the Bill, the Queensland Government may appoint persons employed by the Commonwealth as special constables and that they will have the power to exercise the full rights of ordinary police officers? Is the Minister also aware that under section 69C of the amending legislation, information may be disclosed to Commonwealth Government departments that may well either violate the privacy of individuals whose personal details are included in police files, or be libellous in its content? ls it correct that the Queensland Bar Association, the Queensland Law Society and civil liberties bodies have strongly criticised the legislation? Will the Minister comment on these provisions and, in particular, the implications which they have for the rights and civil liberties of citizens living in Queensland? Will the Attorney-General assure the Senate that Commonwealth employees will not be permitted to exercise such powers that could defeat the privacy and liberty of the individual citizen?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The honourable senator has referred me to the Queensland Police Act Amendment Act 1980 which received the Royal assent on 1 2 May 1 980. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the Commonwealth Government was not consulted on any aspect of this legislation before it was introduced into the Queensland Parliament and I am unaware of the reason why the reference was made in the legislation to Commonwealth officers.
So far as I am aware, there has been no approach from or to the State Government for the appointment of specific Commonwealth officers as State special constables. Before the Commonwealth Government agreed to make an appointment, it would need to carefully consider the reasons advanced for the appointment. The honourable senator also refers to the provisions of the Queensland Act permitting the Commissioner of the Queensland Police to authorise a scheme to facilitate the supply of information in the possession of a member of the police force concerning any person, incident or other thing to any department or authority of the Government of a State or the Commonwealth or Territory of the Commonwealth. The provision also permits the Commissioner to facilitate the provision of information concerning the loss, theft or damage to property or any allegation thereof to any person whose property has been involved or to any insurer or other person having a bona fide interest in the property.
In so far as the legislation deals with the provision of information by the State Police Force, this would seem a matter of concern to the State not the Commonwealth which did not, so far as I am aware, request the enactment of legislation in these terms. However, in relation to information received by the Commonwealth Government from a State Police Force, or indeed from any source, the Commonwealth Government is concerned that the privacy of individuals is respected. On 7 November 1979 the Minister for Administrative Services tabled in Parliament a general direction to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police that members of that force in the exercise of their duties take all reasonable steps to protect the privacy of individuals.
Appointment of Special Constables
– On 16 May 1980 (Hansard, page 2372) Senator Evans asked me the following question, without notice:
I refer the Attorney-General to the Queensland Police Act Amendment Act which was passed in circumstances of some controversy early in April. Was the Commonwealth Government consulted on any aspect of that legislation before it was passed? Does the Commonwealth Government approve those provisions of the Act which allow Commonwealth employees to be made special State constables with full police powers? To whom does the Commonwealth Government regard such employees as accountable when they are exercising such powers? Does the Commonwealth accept with equanimity or approval those provisions of the Queensland Act which allow police files violating individual privacy to be handed over not only to any State authority or instrumentality but also to the Commonwealth at the whim of the Queensland Police Commissioner? Will the Commonwealth Government request the Queensland Government to review and. it is to be hoped, repeal those offensive provisions?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The honourable senator has referred me to the Queensland Police Act Amendment Act 1980 which received the Royal assent on 1 2 May 1980.
As far as I have been able to ascertain, the Commonwealth Government was not consulted on any aspect of this legislation before it was introduced into the Queensland Parliament and I am unaware of the reason why the reference was made in the legislation to Commonwealth officers.
So far as I am aware there has been no approach from, or to, the State Government for the appointment of specific Commonwealth officers as State special constables. Before the Commonwealth Government agreed to any such appointment, it would need to carefully consider the reasons advanced for the appointment.
The honourable senator, also refers to the provisions of the Queensland Act permitting the Commissioner of the Queensland Police to authorise a scheme to facilitate the supply of information in the possession of a member of the police force concerning any person, incident or other thing to any Department or authority of the Government of a State or the Commonwealth or Territory of the Commonwealth. The provision also permits the Commissioner to facilitate the provision of information concerning the loss, theft or damage to property or any allegation thereof to any person whose property has been involved or to any insurer or other person having a bona fide interest in the property.
In so far as the legislation deals with the provision of information by the State Police Force, this would seem a matter of concern to the State not the Commonwealth which did not, so far as I am aware request the enactment of legislation in these terms. However, in relation to information received by the Commonwealth Government from a State Police Force, or indeed from any source, the Commonwealth Government is concerned that the privacy of individuals is respected. On 7 November 1979 the Minister for Administrative Services tabled in Parliament a general direction to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police that members of that Force in the exercise of their duties take all reasonable steps to protect the privacy of individuals.
Purchase of Aircraft by Trans-Australia Airlines
– On 20 August 1980 (Hansard, page 1 28) Senator Bishop asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Transport, a question without notice concerning ordering of aircraft by TAA and Ansett Transport Industries.
The Minister for Transport has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
With regard to equal treatment of the airlines’ proposed acquisition of aircraft, the Government has followed the same procedures for both TAA and Ansett. In each case. Government approval was conditional upon the aircraft manufacturers confirming satisfactory offset arrangements for Australian industry. The Minister for Productivity has recently advised me that most satisfactory offset negotiations have now been concluded with Boeing in relation to Ansett’s purchase of 21 aircraft, thus allowing Ansett to proceed with its contracted arrangements with Boeing.
Purchase of Airbus Aircraft
– On 21 August 1980 (Hansard, page 212) Senator Townley asked me a question, without notice, concerning the TAA order for Airbus A300 aircraft.
The Minister for Transport has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is considering the matter of TAA’s Airbus aircraft in the light of the EEC’s protective agricultural policies, which are viewed by the Government as being sufficiently serious as to force it to consider a range of retaliatory measures against EEC imports.
The purchase of aircraft is only one item involved in the Government’s considerations.
Transfer of Air Operations Control
– On 27 August 1980 (Hansard, page 428) Senator Watson asked me a question, without notice, concerning the transfer of operational control from the Launceston Operational Control Centre (OCC) to the Melbourne Operational Control Centre (OCC)
The Minister for Transport has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Prior to its closure, the Launceston OCC experienced a gradual transition from a unit of operational necessity to one whose functions could be assumed by the Melbourne OCC This resulted from a number of factors, including changes in the types of airline aircraft operating to and from Tasmania, changes in airways operations procedures, improved en route and airport navigation facilities and vastly improved communications facilities.
The decision to close the OCC was not taken lightly and all relevant factors including search and rescue capabilities were taken into account. In fact, implementation of the graduated closure was commenced in October 1977 without operational difficulties being experienced.
The Melbourne OCC progressively took over the functions previously performed by the Launceston OCC and this was achieved with no disruption to the overall pattern of operations.
The honourable senator is assured that there will not be any reduction of safety standards or search and rescue capabilities affecting Tasmania brought about by the closure of the Launceston OCC. It is not the Government’s intention to centralise the operation of Australia-wide air traffic services from Canberra.
Approval for TAA and Ansett Flights
– On 10 September 1980 (Hansard, page 681) Senator Townley asked me a question without notice concerning the proposed air services between Hobart and Christchurch to be operated by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia under Qantas flight numbers.
I expect to receive final details from the two domestic airlines, which I hope will enable a formal approach to be made to the New Zealand authorities by the end of this week.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 September 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800916_senate_31_s86/>.