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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2211

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - Speaking on behalf of the Government, I want to take up the challenge that has been made particularly by honourable senators from Western Australia. The only thing that I can say about the speech made by Senator Sim is that on this occasion he indicated the Government as Nazis whereas on previous occasions he has regarded the Government as unrepentant Marxists. At least there was a bit of variety in his contribution today. If I had a text with which to preface my speech I would say that men who suffer injustice and have the power to remove it deserve not compassion but contempt. I direct that remark to the Western Australian mining industry. I would equally indict Sir Charles Court and the present Western Australian Minister for Mines, Don May. I do not make these remarks on the Western Australian mining industry unbriefed. I have discussed this matter with Senator Cant who as honourable senators are aware, would know more about the Western Australian mining community than anyone else in this place. I am prepared to accept the existence of a racket in the Western Australian mining industry if Senator Cant says there is one.

I indict various Western Australian governments for refusing to give wage justice to people who are employed by the VC Mining Co. Within the last hour I have spoken to the Secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Western Australia about a paltry claim made by 6 migrants who worked at Dampier for 8 weeks well over 12 months ago. Honourable senators opposite talk about bureaucratic centralism. All I can say is that if a State government cannot settle a wage claim in 18 months there is something wrong with it. As a matter of fact, this kind of thing is not new. The Federal Government of the United States of America, when President Kennedy was in office, had to send Federal deputies into the southern States to make sure that justice was done and that coloured people were placed on the electoral rolls. I would equate what happened in America with what is going on in the Western Australian mining community. I repeat that I indict pretty boy Don May- and I use that term in the most venomous way that I can- who is the Western Australian Minister for Mines. People like him are not prepared to do anything. People ask: 'Why should there be centralisation of government in Canberra?' I will tell them why I believe that this should happen. The Western Australian Government has blandly said: 'Look, the Federal Labor Government has brought migrants to this country and it should look after them'. I do not mind, and I know that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) does not mind, if we have to pick up the tab to ensure that the wage claims of these people are met.

I say more in sorrow than in anger- and I do not want to tangle with legal luminaries like Senator Durack- that it is a pity if State laws are such that we cannot deal with peculiar people in the mining industry. I indicted VC Mining Co. One of its directors rang me up after the last occasion I spoke on this matter in the Senate and said: 'Senator, you were very offensive in the Senate'. He told me how he had lost money. I said to him: 'Well, are you going to go back and work with a jackhammer or are you going to your nice home at Cottesloe'? He said: 'Senator, you are being offensive'. Well, plenty of people have worked on jackhammers and they are probably better than some of these crook company directors. I have no desire, nor has Senator Cant or anyone else here, to meddle with the

State law. But I indict successive State governments, of Western Australia for their failure to provide trade union protection.

The Western Australian Secretary of the Australian Workers Union pointed out to me that his union could be involved in extensive litigation in order to have satisfied the paltry wage claim of the 6 migrant members of his union to whom I referred. I point out to Senator Hannan that the Western Australian Government suggested that perhaps the union could confer with the Yugoslav Consul General. It is a pretty poor state of affairs when Australia has virtually to bludge on a foreign country to get wage justice. This is the sort of thing that I am sick and tired of. I have spoken about the Western Australian Government. However, I also wish to indict the Queensland Government because it is equally culpable in many of these matters. I would like to point out to those listening to the proceedings the reasons why we are sick and tired of the dilatoriness of State governments whatever side of politics they may come from. I have asked Senator Murphy repeatedly why the Commonwealth cannot have a uniform gun code so that stupid people under the influence of liquor or drugs will not be able to gain access to shotguns and so that we can thereby avoid the tragedies that occur from time to time. He has told me that Mr Willis, the Chief Secretary of the State of New South Wales, has refused to agree, as have other States, to this proposal. The result is that these injustices are perpetuated. We have heard the wonderful heart-rending remarks about the weekend carnage on our roads and how a uniform road code would lessen these tragedies. But we cannot get agreement between the State Ministers for Transport about the implementation of a uniform road code or about requiring the motor industry to build motor vehicles with more effective bumper bars which would reduce damage done in minor prangs.

What I have been saying brings me back to the situation in the United States where the Federal Government in Washington had to send deputies into the southern States to make sure that the Negroes got on the roll. I am talking about centralism in this context because half of the State Ministers do not care and therefore we do not get agreement between States. I do not know with whom some of the Opposition Senators mingle. But I have found that if you address a high school audience or a university campus audience the people listening to you are not interested in whether you are a Victorian or a New South Welshman. They see the futility of these stupid attitudes. I wish to pay a tribute to a man who is no longer a Minister. I refer to Mr W. C. Wentworth who, during the time the Liberal-Country Party was the Government, tried to get a system of uniform rail gauges. Surely all honourable senators opposite realise that, because of stupid interstate jealousies before and after federation, we have not been able to agree on a rail standardisation policy.

When the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) campaigned in Federal elections between 1969 and 1972 the whole theme of his argument was that we should try to pitch a policy into the Constitution that was akin to the United States of America and Canada. In other words, he was in favour of the Roosevelt dogma of establishing Federal agencies that would harness the effectiveness of the States. This is what the present Government is doing. This is what we seek. If one looks at the personnel who make up the Federal authorities one can see that we have tried to tap the best brains in the various States. As a matter of fact, it is regrettable that Senator Davidson is not here at present because he was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution which recommended that we should harness the resources of the various States. Nowhere is this no-man's land of lost opportunity more exemplified than it is in the field of water pollution. We have had various abortive conferences between State Ministers which have got nowhere. Indeed, the report of the Committee suggested that in my own State of New South Wales there could be a minor improvement in the quality of water in the Parramatta River and the Georges River. I think it is time that honourable senators opposite realised that we should not be concerned with questions of dignity or of protocol, that it is results that count. Style is incidental to the results that one gets. It does not matter whether we get these results by a frontal approach or by a devious approach. We need to have immediate action. I imagine that most honourable senators who look at television when time permits them to do so will notice that all the commercials are based on instant action. It is a pity that instant action is not the lode-stone for our own legislature.

Some months ago I was cynical of the outcome of the constitutional convention. At that convention people had the opportunity to be big Australians. Instead of that the insidious Premier of Queensland said when he went back to his State that he had scored points over the Prime Minister. But this is the same man who would grovel on his belly if there were a threat to the north tomorrow and ask the Federal Government for patrol boats or something else to protect him.

The only consolation in this whole matter is that the average young Australian does not have the silly, stupid, suburban shibboleths that are held by some other people. What took place in this country 20 or 30 years ago is not good enough today. I have heard Senator McManus pay a tribute to successive Ministers of the Curtin Government. In particular he mentioned the late John Dedman. He knows in his heart that at that time there were a few people, not in the lower Houses of the various parliaments but in Upper Houses- I refer particularly to those people who masquerade as democrats in the Upper House of Tasmania- who did not realise in a time of emergency that Tasmania had to get instant government. These are the sorts of things that we are talking about. These are the reasons why we try to get some unanimity. In deference to Senator Durack I make no apology for this Government being a pace setter. If we float an idea, get the States together and they say that they will go 80 per cent of the way with us, I regard that as an achievement. What I and all my colleagues on this side resent is the way in which the Opposition flatly vetoes a proposal. It does not matter whether it is a proposal touching on the drug menace, the failure to get uniform legislation concerning the roadworthiness of motor cars, or even marine legislation, every time a matter is referred to a committee of State Ministers it goes into the limbo of forgotten things.

What I resented most of all was the nasty way in which Opposition senators talked about the Canberra bureaucracy. I think I can anticipate the views of most Commonwealth public servants, who come from the 6 States of" the Commonwealth. They are Australians. They may have blue eyes, brown eyes or other features, but they are still Australians. Most of the Commonwealth public servants about which the Opposition has talked were born in Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide, or in the other States. They are still Australians. The Opposition is selling Australia cheap when it talks as it did. There can be no argument about this. As a matter of fact when I deal with the North American precedent, I concede that Canada, with its age-old ethnic conflict between people of British origin and others of French origin, is in a dilemma. Fortunately, we have not that situation. In the absence of such a dilemma, there is no reason why we should have this incessant bickering. By all means let the Opposition sink something if it can find errors in the judgment of the Public Service, but it should not view the Public Service with suspicion.

Opposition members have used the term Canberra centralism. I accept the fact that a lot of

Commonwealth Ministries have to be based on a State. Yesterday the Senate debated the problems of submerged lands and the general attitude to territorial rights over waters, and that sort of thing. I made the point- it is relevant againthat in the event of a marine catastrophe, whatever State is involved it is very pleased to get in touch with the Commonwealth Minister for Transport, who has within his administration the Department of Shipping. Opposition senators know in their hearts that there must be co- ordination in such matters. No one wants to see another oil spillage disaster, but if one happens there must be co-ordination between the Commonwealth shipping authorities and State maritime authorities, such as that in Queensland, the Maritime Services Board in New South Wales and its equivalent in Victoria. After all, I can say with some degree of credibility, having sat on a Senate committee and listened to experts from all those bodies, that I do not question for one minute the dedication of State public servants. Australia is a massive land mass, and for this reason there must be co-ordination if we are to get results. If there were a major oil spillage tomorrow the State concerned would probably have to utilise the services of the Department of Shipping and in an extreme case seek assistance from the various defence forces.

If we as the Australian Government sound the tocsin, it is merely because of our appreciation of the need for reforms having seen what has happened so often in the United States of America and in Canada. I leave the Senate with this plea: We are not trying to score points off the Opposition. After all, I suppose one of the classic illustrations of our vision is the occasion when my illustrious colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) sat down with the Victorian Liberal Premier (Mr Hamer) to create the Wodonga-Albury complex, in which there are no political dividends for the Labor Party. We did this in an attempt to arrest the drift of population to the cities, on which Senator McManus and the 'News Weekly' have been harping for years What happened when we put up this proposal? The Victorian Premier, to his credit, agreed with it. I had hoped that Democratic Labor Party senators would agree with it also, but this hope has been in vain. If honourable senators look at the speeches that Senator Little made when he was seeking election, they will see that he hammered this idea of recognition of the deployment of people away from the big cities, including Melbourne. Now a Labor government has proposed such action. It is a tribute to the vision of the Prime Minister, Edward Gough Whitlam. This is the answer I give to all the carping criticism. On the one hand the Western Australian mining industry has been typical of this new frontier complex in which migrants have been exploited and State authorities cannot or will not give wage justice. There is no other word for it. I do not know what the situation is, but my defence rests on that telling rejoinder to what Senator Durack put up.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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