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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2291


Senator TOWNLEY(11.01) —I would like, shortly, to add to some of Senator Lewis's comments, which he put so well, particularly those about the deficit we are facing. I intend to show, with some quotations, what a financial mess this country is getting into. Before doing that, however, I shall deal with a couple of other matters. As the Senate will be rising today, this is now my only opportunity.

First, I shall speak very briefly about the Australian Institute of Sport. That organisation has my full support. I believe that any expenditure on capital works at the Institute of Sport is very worth while, as also is expenditure on sporting facilities in the States. It is something which all governments should support. I have visited the Institute of Sport on several occasions, and walking into it after leaving Parliament House one cannot help but be impressed by the change of atmosphere. The enthusiasm that surrounds one there is quite noticeable. I am pleased to see also that the Institute of Sport is not reserved only for the sports people there. It is also used by the community in many ways.

Having had the opportunity to see some of the coaches working in their vocation , I can certainly say that they are very hard workers. Those I have seen are an example to the students or the athletes. Of course, the students have to work very hard in their chosen sports. Living areas are being prepared at the moment which will make life a little easier next year for the athletes. One matter the Government should consider is that just because athletes have very good sporting abilities, that does not mean that their parents have enough money to keep them at such a place. Admittedly, all their accommodation costs are paid by the organisation, but I believe there is some need, as I have said in this House before, to give the students at the Institute some small sum under a scholarship to help them with their day to day needs. I am pleased that the Institute will not be continuing to deal with athletes only in Canberra; I am told that very soon coaching will be extended to other areas. Of course, the Institute has already held coaching clinics in most sports. I give members of the Institute my very good wishes for the future.

I turn now to the forestry industry in Tasmania. I draw the Senate's attention to an important matter which has potentially serious implications for Tasmania's future. I refer to what I see as the abuse of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975. I think most of us would support the aim of that legislation and the concept that as a nation we should identify those aspects of our natural and cultural environment that deserve special consideration, but the way in which the legislation is now operating is giving me considerable cause for concern. It has always been easy to nominate areas for the Register of the National Estate. Documentation and proof of an area's uniqueness and value are not required. What is required is a nomination. Nominations are considered in the first instance by a local panel of experts who are appointed by the Australian Heritage Commission . Nearly all of those appointed are active or committed conservationists. Once accepted by the panel, an area is given the full protection of the Act.

The legislation provides for objections to be lodged, but the Commission will consider only the objections which seek to prove that the area in question is not worthy of inclusion on the Register. Arguments as to the alternative use of the site or its value to local people are not entertained. In any case, the Commission has an enormous backlog of nominated areas in Tasmania against which objections have not even been invited and it may take some years before the areas already nominated can be subjected to the full procedures of the Act.

One of the major concerns is that whilst interested people have had some nine years in which to bring to the Commission's attention any area that they believe is worthy of consideration, over recent months there has been a spate of new nominations following the announcement that there would be an environmental impact statement into the export wood chip industry in Tasmania. Areas which were not worth thinking about before suddenly appear very important and must be saved at all costs. The forest based industries believe that the system is being blatantly abused by the conservation movement. A national heritage nomination has become a standard part of strategic efforts to stop an area being used, and it is not being done in which could be called a thoughtful way. I believe there is a strong argument for putting a clear time limit on such nominations rather than welcoming a welter of newly nominated treasures whenever a certain development in an area is proposed.

The group which is putting together the draft environmental impact statement on the Tasmanian export wood chip industry is required to pay special attention to national heritage areas. Any changes to licence conditions concerning such areas will take effect from 1986 rather than merely affect post-1988 export wood chip licences. Since the beginning of this year it has been apparent that there has been an orchestrated nomination of large areas of forest and it is impossible for the environmental impact statement group to keep pace. The Australian Heritage Commission apparently also is finding difficulty with the rush and has been unable to provide information required to consider the areas properly. The last time the Commission gave notice of its intention to list places in Tasmania was on 27 March this year. Since then at least 128,000 hectares have been nominated, the vast majority of which is in productive forests.

We should expose what I think is a blatant example of abuse of the Australian Heritage Commission Act. I understand that the Government is currently considering a review of the operation of the Act. The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania has developed a policy of the kinds of changes that it feels are required and has forwarded a copy of its policy to the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment, the Hon. Barry Cohen, which I support. I seek leave to have the few pages incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

FOREST INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION OF TASMANIA

AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE COMMISSION ACT

INDUSTRY POLICY

Introduction

1. FIAT supports the aim of the Legislation. We believe it is desirable to identify those places which have ''aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance or other special value for future generations as well as for the present community'' and to consider such values when making government decisions .

2. Notwithstanding this general support, there are some aspects of the operation of the Act which might be improved and, after some nine years, it is appropriate that the Act should be reviewed.

The ''Values'' Protected by the Act

3. One of the major flaws in the Act is that it does not require the Commission to state the values which, in its opinion, make a place worthy of inclusion on the Register of the National Estate. This gives rise to a number of practical problems:

(a) persons wishing to object to the inclusion of a place on the register have no opportunity to question the values which the Commission accepted as justifying interim listing. Given that, in effect, the only valid grounds for objection are that the place is unworthy of listing, the failure to state the grounds for interim listing effectively negates the objection process;

(b) once a place is entered on the National Estate, people proposing development in the area are given no idea as to the values sought to be protected by the listing. This may prevent them from developing management plans which take those values into account;

(c) specification of the values protected by the listing of each place on the Register should assist the Commission to ensure that there is a balance of places listed.

Right of ''Appeal''

4. The Act establishes the Heritage Commission as the sole arbiter of the '' aesthetic, historic, scientific and social significance and other values'' of places suggested for inclusion on the Register of the National Estate. Beyond requiring that ''due consideration'' be given to objections, the legislation does not require that the Commission's decisions be based on the evidence or that it act reasonably in all the circumstances or that it should give reasons for its decisions.

5. Given that National Estate Listings can have economic ramifications, particularly at the local level, we believe that the Commission should be required to act in accordance with the principles of administrative law.

6. These deficiencies would be overcome by the insertion of a new section in Part IV along the lines that:

''In exercising its powers under this Part, the Commission shall

(a) take all reasonable steps to acquaint itself with the facts;

(b) act reasonably in all the circumstances; and

(c) prepare a statement of the reasons for decisions taken under Sections 23 and 24 which will be available for public inspection upon request.''

7. These changes would facilitate a right of appeal or review by an independent body which should include local people who would have a deeper understanding of the values of the nominated area.

Abuse of the Act

8. FIAT is most concerned that some groups in the community are seeking to use the Act for their own purposes. There are many areas of Tasmania which could have been nominated over the past nine years but which have only been considered in recent times when a development proposal is publicised. Our information suggests that over 128,000 hectares, mostly commercial forest, has been nominated to the Commission since the Environmental Impact Statement on the export woodchip industry was announced!

9. It is submitted that all the natural places of significance have already been brought to the Commission's attention and that there ought to be a ' deadline', that is, a date after which ministerial approval is required to enable the Commission to enter a place on the Register.

10. This would mean that the Commission would be able to complete its task of compiling the Register in an orderly manner and will not be drawn into local disputes over places which were not previously considered worthy of consideration under the Act. It would also allow new discoveries (of caves for example) to be considered.

Grading of Places on the Register of the National Estate

11. At present all places listed on the Register have apparently equal value. This is obviously not the case in practice and leads to uncertainty in the minds of potential developers.

12. If all places on the Register were reassessed, the values they represent specified and a priority order given this would be of assistance both to Federal Ministers making decisions, to other authorities such as State and Local Government and private concerns. The grading system should run from 'to be preserved at all costs' to 'preservation desirable' and would be similar to the system used by the National Trust in some States.

13. The gradings, complete with a statement of the 'values' of each place on the register should be subject to the objection process.

Land Use Advice by the Commission

14. Under existing arrangements, the Commission does not entertain arguments relating to land use.

15. It is submitted that the Commission, in addition to noting the 'values' being preserved by the listing, should also state which existing or potential land use it considers would be inconsistent with those values. This would further reduce the uncertainty surrounding National Estate listings and make the system work more smoothly.

16. This should be done in respect of each new listing and, as part of the reassessment mentioned in paragraph 8 above.

Summary of Recommendations

17. FIAT recommends that the National Heritage Commission Act should be reviewed and the following suggestions considered:

(a) that a notice inviting objections under Section 23 (2) (a) should state the values which convinced the Commissioner that the place concerned should be on the Register (paragraph 3a);

(b) that Section 23 (4) should be amended to require the Commission to state in its notice of entry and in the Register itself, the 'values' which it considers renders the place worthy of listing on the Register (paragraph 3b);

(c) that a new section be inserted in the Act requiring the Commission to acquaint itself with the facts, to act reasonably, to prepare a statement of its reasons for any decision taken under Sections 23 and 24, and to permit a right of appeal or review to an independent body including representatives of the local community (paragraphs 6-7);

(d) that Section 26 be amended to require Ministerial approval for the Commission to consider a place which is not on the list as at the tenth anniversary of the commencement of the Act (paragraphs 8-10);

(e) that Section 22 be amended to provide that the Register be divided into categories indicating the relative importance of preserving the places listed thereon (paragraphs 11-13);

(f) that the Act be amended to require the Commission to reassess those places already entered on the Register to:

(i) determine the 'grading' of the listing,

(ii) specify the 'values' preserved by the listing, and

(iii) specify the existing or potential land uses which the Commission believes are incompatible with those values,

and that the results of the reassessed be subject to the notice and objection provisions of Section 23 (paragraphs 11-13);

(g) that Section 22 (3) be amended to require that entries on the Register specify the values for which the place is registered and the land uses which the Commission considers incompatible with those values (paragraphs 14-16).


Senator TOWNLEY —Forestry is a very important industry in Tasmania. A great number of people are employed by it. I believe we have to be very careful that we do not let people-whilst many of them are very genuine, others can be very radical-destroy that industry in my home State.

One other matter I would like to deal with before moving to discuss the deficit concerns the referendums that are coming up on 1 December. Many people do not seem to recognise that, along with the election that is to be held on 1 December , two referendum cases will also be put. I noted an article on page 9 of this morning's Australian headed 'Referendum not necessarily the end to early polls'. People should keep in mind that a Yes vote for the first referendum will not necessarily end early polls that the Prime Minister may try to hold. If after this election the Government is returned without a majority in the Senate, although it may have won, just for argument's sake, a majority in the House of Representatives, it may try to call an early election so that it can get control of the Senate. I am sure that some of the honourable senators sitting here today would recognise that as very true. The article in the Australian states:

It does not guarantee future governments will see out their three-year terms- just that the Government will take half of the Senate to the polls at whatever time it chooses to take the lower House.

Under the heading, 'NO CASE', the article states:

The No case says the legislation would result in more, not less elections because the Government (which is formed by a majority in the House of Representatives) would have the power to dissolve half the Senate whenever it wished to have an early election.

If the House of Representatives was to run its full term then the Senate and the House of Representatives elections would always be held together, the No case says.

Also, the Prime Minister already has the power to call a double dissolution, forcing both Houses to an election, when the Senate twice fails to pass the Bill .

Senators' fixed terms give the Senate independence.

We must remember that point when this referendum comes up. Fixed terms give the Senate the independence it has always had. Giving the Government power to shorten those terms would threaten the independence and the rights of the States , particularly, I must say, as I come from Tasmania, the less populous and smaller States; although Western Australia is a large State it is certainly less populous. I agree with what the article says:

The No case says the legislation is part of a plan by the Attorney-General, Senator Evans, to abolish the Senate and vest total power in the Canberra Government.

That is true also in regard to the proposed Bill of Rights, mentioned yesterday so ably by Senator Durack. It is something else the people of Australia should be very wary of when they go to the polls. This referendum case is important. Honourable senators may gather from what I am saying that I will vote No. I have always voted No in these referendum cases because I do not believe that the government of the day should have the right to interfere with the Constitution. The Constitution has stood us in very good stead.


Senator Robert Ray —Did you vote No in 1951?


Senator TOWNLEY —We always get interjections from certain people who come in here, who sit back in their chairs--


Senator Gietzelt —You said you always vote No. Does that mean you did not support Commonwealth responsibility for Aborigines?


Senator TOWNLEY —I did not vote on that. I was not here. I am not quite as old as Senator Gietzelt. Why does he not retire? He cannot remember things now. Obviously he should know who came into this place at the same time as he did. I am saying that I am against this alteration to the Constitution. I will be making that point very clearly as I campaign in Tasmania and other parts of Australia, as will other senators who recognise what the Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) is trying to do to the Constitution and the Senate.

I now wish to bring up a matter that was raised by Senator Jessop and me in the adjournment debate last evening. I will read what I said last night:

The information I have received, following a couple of telephone calls today, indicates that ASIO is not allowed entirely to look at people within certain organisations that it believes are front organisations and at people who could well be terrorists. That is a very serious situation. It is a matter I have brought up tonight because I was not sure whether we would have an adjournment debate tomorrow or whether I would have time to speak during the sitting of the Senate tomorrow.

I have the time and I want to repeat what I said. Later in that debate I called upon the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Button, to make some response to this situation that I believe involves national security. I said:

However, I do not think it is good enough to let the Senate rise tomorrow without something being said about this matter of national security. I ask: Is the Government not interested in national security any more? That is the Government's first responsibility; the first responsibility of any government is the security of the country.

Senator Button is sitting silently and making no statement in regard to this matter. I have always regarded Sentor Button as a person of integrity and also as a fairly knowledgeable politician. He knows very well that unless something is said about this matter and some offer made to look into it, it will be brought up again and again until something is said.

That is what I am doing now.


Senator Robert Ray —What are you doing?


Senator TOWNLEY —I am trying to bring national security to the forefront of the Senate once more. Whilst Senator Robert Ray from Victoria may not have any interest whatsoever in national security or in the security of Ministers during this election campaign, which was one of the bases on which this matter was brought up, it is something that the great majority of people in the community are worried about. I call once more upon the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) or the Attorney-General, who I was informed is the person responsible for stopping the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation from inquiring into certain matters and groups-


Senator Robert Ray —What matters?


Senator TOWNLEY —Senator Ray can get his own information; he knows very well.

Government senators interjecting-


Senator TOWNLEY —Here they go. They know very well-


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —Order! Senator Townley will direct his comments through the Chair. This will prevent many of the interjections.


Senator TOWNLEY —Senator Robert Ray from Victoria, by interjection, asked which organisations. The information that I was given-


Senator Robert Ray —By whom?


Senator TOWNLEY —Let me answer one question at a time. The information I was given-


Senator Gietzelt —What people? How many people are we talking about-one or six?


Senator TOWNLEY —ASIO is not allowed to investigate certain groups and individuals in the way it wants to and that, I believe from information I have received, is by direction of the Attorney-General. I expect that somebody in the Government should take the matter with a little more seriousness than those sitting on the Government benches right now are obviously taking it.

In the few minutes that I have left to speak, I want to talk about why this country will face an onslaught of new taxation after this election if the Australian Labor Party is returned to the Government benches. One of the main reasons, of course, is that it is a big spending government. Other people have said that; I will not go into the areas that are quite obvious to anyone. If we have a big spending government, we must have big taxes. If we balance our Budget the amount of taxes we bring in is equal to the amount of money we spend. This Government is spending a lot more than it is recouping in taxes. The situation in this country is now getting quite desperate. Let me quote from some newspaper articles that I have with me this morning. These articles are not all of them by any means that mention the matter of the national debt. Of course, the national debt is the accumulation of deficits over a number of years. Over the last couple of years we have seen the national debt increase by some $15,000m. That is a very large amount. Unfortunately the Government does not seem to recognise what a dangerous situation we are in.

In a speech the other day I said that it was clear from an examination of expenditure over the period when the Liberal Party was in government that a learning curve was required to recognise the danger in continuing deficits. A very real effort was made by the Fraser Government to curb the expenditure in the public sector so that the deficit could be reduced. Unless we reduce our deficit we are spending more money than we are getting in. It is just like an ordinary household where if we spend more than we get in eventually we will get ourselves into trouble. This country has been borrowing abroad at very high rates of interest. It is now getting to a stage which I feel is comparable with what is happening in some countries in South America. The Australian of 7 May 1984 had a headline 'Govt ''mortgaging future'' with national debt of $76,000m'. The article states:

The national total public debt of about $76,000m represents more than $5,000 for each man, woman and child in Australia.

The article then mentions the Australian Chamber of Commerce and continues-

The Chamber which is about to conduct a full inquiry into the national debt, says the almost exponential increase in public debt is 'mortgaging Australia's future'.

As a mathematician, I know that an exponential rate of increase is a dangerous increase indeed. A graph in my room shows that the amount of interest paid on overseas borrowings and borrowings within Australia is increasing at an exponential rate. That graph has a very steep upward curve. That tendency, once started, is very hard to reverse. Obviously that is something known and recognised by some of the media people around this country. It is to be hoped that the learning curve of the Australian Labor Party is such that it recognises what a mess this country is getting into with its foreign and local debt. The Courier-Mail of 8 May had a headline 'Your $5,000 debt to the nation'. The Sydney Morning Herald of 16 May had a headline 'CRA chief warns on burden of foreign debt'. It was stated in that article:

Unfortunately for the economic optimists one of Australia's most influential mining executives, John Ralph of CRA, endorses the gloomy portrait currently being painted of the resource sector's immediate future.

If we do not export how on earth will we repay our overseas debts? Other senators who have spoken before me have pointed out that not only is the income of our farmers expected to drop by nearly one third this year but also a lot of overseas exports are dropping in price. The left wing of the Labor Party is trying to stop uranium exports. Uranium is a metal abundant in the earth's crust and if we do not export it, others will. Yet while everything else is dropping the left wing asks why we should export uranium. If we do not export some of these things this country will become comparable with the countries I mentioned a moment ago. According to information provided by the Parliamentary Library we are already more in debt per head of population than Poland, whose per capita debt is only about half as much as ours. Brazil's debt is about the same, Chile' s is about two-thirds, Argentina's about the same and Mexico's about half. Those figures were compiled by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library. I seek leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

PER CAPITA LIABILITIES TO THE INTERNATIONAL BANKING COMMUNITY; SELECTED COUNTRIES: 1982

Per capita Country

Liabilities Population liabilities

$USm m $US/person Australia 27,924 (a)14.86 1,880 Poland 27,707 (b)35.23 790 Brazil 115,753 (a)121.55 950 Chile 11,610 (c)11.49 1,010 Argentina 50,986 (a) 28.09 1,820 Mexico 62,888 (a)71.19 880

(a) 1981 estimate.

(b) 1979 estimate.

(c) 1982 estimate.

Note: Per capita liabilities rounded to nearest $US10.

Source: I. P. Sharp & Associates.

Compiled at request by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service .


Senator TOWNLEY —Just two days ago a Mr Block, the chief economist at Dominguez Barry Samuel Montagu, said in his weekly comment:

. . . although Australia had easily retained its AAA credit status overseas at a time when New Zealand had been downgraded to AA, Australia's growing gross foreign debt required immediate attention.

He went on to say:

While Australia has a healthier international debt position than New Zealand, inevitably the more Australia borrows offshore, the easier it is for foreigners to look critically at our country's capacity to repay.

If we continue to borrow at the increased rate we have borrowed at over the last few years I very much worry about the future of this country. As Brian Buckly said recently at a conference entitled 'Australia: Poor Nation of the Pacific?', unless we do something fairly soon, unless the people who obviously do not understand anything other than the day to day figures given to them by those in this building who provide such figures, this country will be heading for a very serious position. Our debt is staggering. We now spend on interest almost as much as we do on defence. If we did not have to make those interest repayments we could spend more on defence in this country, and I believe that is something that a great number of people would like to see.

I believe that is why this country will face massive taxation after Labor is returned. Members of the Australian Labor Party are in a learning curve and I forgive them for the errors they have made in the first 18 months but they will be told in the end that they have to do something before this country goes down the plughole. The situation is really becoming quite serious, and is one that I do not like to see at all. Perhaps we should have more economic lessons, particularly for the people who sit on the Government benches because they certainly do not appear to understand just how dangerous this situation is becoming. When we realise that we have to pay back the huge borrowings that this Government has undertaken we can understand why taxes have to go up and why it is said that the Labor Party has a secret tax agenda that it will not tell the people of this country about. We have a huge debt but anybody who runs a household or anything of that nature knows that if we borrow we have to repay. This Government realises it cannot tell us of its secret tax agenda because of the massive amount of money it will have to borrow. I ask the voters of this country: 'Are you prepared to trust Mr Hawke and his socialist colleagues with your pay packets, because if you vote for them that is what you will be doing'.