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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2640


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - It would not be an appropriate debate for me to take action against any honourable member. It might be against the spirit of the title of the Bill that we are discussing. If* honourable members could enter into the spirit of the debate on this Bill having regard to its title, perhaps we may be able to get through it quicker and easier.


Mr INNES - I bow to your great experience, Mr Deputy Speaker. Secondly, if the Christmas Islanders wish to maintain their community, what effect is the present legislation likely to have on the realisation of that wish? Surely there is a very real danger that qualified people would be drawn from the island to the mainland- and, after all, they can make more than one fifth of the European award there which is great stuffthus making the viability of Christmas Island much more difficult to sustain. Thirdly, as phosphate deposits will continue to be worked for the next 20 years, what effect will this legislation have on Christmas Island during that period?


Mr Corbett - Don 't you want the legislation?


Mr INNES - I hope that the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) will take time out to consider what I have said and answer my comments in the honest way that I always expect of him. As people move to the mainland from Christmas Island under the resettlement scheme, what effect will this legislation have on Christmas Island? That is something to which every one of us must give serious consideration and not be flamboyant about. As people move from Christmas Island under the resettlement scheme, will they continue to be replaced by exploited and underpaid labour from Singapore? If that is to be the case, I give notice that we on the Opposition side will harry the Government mercilessly until that shameful position is rectified. It is not good enough for Australian superphosphate to be subsidised by the use of cheap sweated labour from Singapore. If the Minister wants to talk of simple justice he should reflect on these matters. He should not simply pass them off in the way he has done. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) is now giving the Minister some riding instructions. That is about the last gasp.

The Opposition is supporting this Bill in the absence of firm information about these matters. If the Minister can allay our fears we can give unqualified support to this Bill. Ideally, however, the Opposition would like to see matters such as these become the subject of a wide ranging inquiry. These are not the only matters which we believe should properly be dealt with by a duly constituted general inquiry. What I wish to do in the time remaining to me is urge the Government, if possible, to set up a general inquiry into the operations and management of the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission and the British Phosphate Commission. Great changes took place on Christmas Island during the 3 years of the Labor Administration. For the first time unions on the island were registered, teaching was standardised so that Asians can now receive the same schooling that was previously available only to Europeans, and educational standards have been brought into line with the level of excellence currently obtaining in the Commonwealth Teaching Service. A number of students travelled to Australia on re-settlement scholarships and enormous improvements were made in technical education and health standards. Despite these advances there is much about Christmas Island which requires the attention of the Government. To simply negotiate the agreement, sign it and then to discharge further responsibility would be a miscarriage of justice but, in view of the son of things that happen under the Government's standard of simple justice, one would probably expect the Government to do just that.

The substance of many of these matters can be determined only by a properly conducted government inquiry. Some of them I have already referred to but there is a number of others. One in particular concerns the charges which have been made against the company for breaches of the award. The honourable member for La Trobe nods his head and tut-tuts in a very cynical way, but he is an individual who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The Baillieu family would huff and puff all over the place about these things and the honourable member has never had any experience with them.


Mr Baillieu - I rise to order. I was at the table speaking to the Minister in some confidence. The remarks made by the honourable member for Melbourne are quite out of order and reprehensible. I suggest, Mr Deputy Speaker, that he should not be allowed to pursue them and I ask that they be withdrawn because I find them offensive.







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