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Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2117

Senator WALTERS(11.57) —We are debating the package of Appropriation Bills. It includes the examination of the Estimates recently undertaken by Senate Estimates Committees. A senator is entitled to debate anything he or she wishes to bring to the attention of the Senate in the debate on the Appropriation Bills. First, I would like to discuss briefly the meaning of Estimates, because I do not think the Government members in this place are fully aware of what the Estimates are all about.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —I remind the honourable senator that this is a second reading debate and that matters to be discussed are not as broad as she is indicating. This is not a first reading debate; it is a second reading debate.

Senator WALTERS —As I understand it, the debate is to cover discussion on any item on which moneys will be spent.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It may cover those matters that are raised within the Estimates. That is quite right.

Senator WALTERS —That would mean any business at all.

Senator Gareth Evans —No.

Senator WALTERS —Madam Acting Deputy President, I would appreciate the Attorney- General leaving it to you to instruct me.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I am making the point to you, Senator Walters, that the only matters under consideration are those contained in the Estimates. Debate may not be as wide ranging as you are intimating at this stage. If you intend to move outside that very broad range of matters included in the Estimates, I will have to call you to order.

Senator WALTERS —We will perhaps leave it until you have cause to do so.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Yes, until such time as you step outside that range .

Senator WALTERS —I think it would be a good idea if we were to discuss in this place what the Estimates are all about, because it is obvious, and Senator Peter Baume has just brought it to our attention, that one of the Ministers in this place is not aware that the information being sought by members of both the Government and the Opposition involves legitimate questions which should be answered to the full extent by the Minister. If the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) is unable to do that, it should be done by officers of that Department. There is never need for questions not to be answered truthfully and fully. We have just had an example of what occurred in the Estimates Committee referred to by Senator Peter Baume, when matters were not dealt with in the best fashion. From the fact that the Opposition has just won its motion and that the Government did not even demur, it is understood that the Government accepted that that Estimates Committee was indeed run in a very poor fashion and the Minister has a lot to answer for. That attitude is very prevalent throughout the Ministry today, not just from Senator Ryan.

I would like to talk a little about Estimates Committee E. I am not a member of that Committee but, Madam Acting Deputy President, as you are well aware, anyone is entitled to attend any of the Estimates committees and to ask questions. I was sitting in my room preparing a speech for the following day and I had the intercom on and was listening to Estimates Committee E which was being broadcast from the Senate chamber. Senator Kilgariff asked a legitimate question about rents, I believe, of the officer in charge of that division of the Department of Defence and the officer told him that he did not have the information available. As you would know, Madam Acting Deputy President, that often occurs in Estimates committee meetings. The officer of the Department will then say that he or she will get the information the honourable senator has requested and forward it at a later date. That is exactly what the officer offered to do in this case. Senator Evans, our Attorney-General, the first law officer of this country, was in charge at that particular Estimates Committee meeting, and he made an aside to that officer which was not heard by the members of the Committee but which floated over the intercom. That comment, after the officer said he would get the information, was: 'Well, don't try too hard'. Senator Evans is chuckling away at the moment and thinking he is dreadfully clever. That is typical of the attitude of the Attorney-General to the whole of the Senate. If honourable senators remember, it was the same Attorney-General who ordered spy flights to go over Tasmania. Exactly the same attitude was expressed by the Attorney-General in this area.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, I just draw your attention to the fact that you are now stepping outside the bounds of the Estimates Committee debate.

Senator WALTERS —Madam Acting Deputy President, I am explaining the history, what is expected of the Senate, what is expected of Estimates committees and the attitude of the Ministers in charge of Estimates. I am being very critical of the attitude of the Ministers of the Government to the Estimates committees. For the Attorney-General to instruct an officer not to get the information for which an honourable senator had legitimately asked I believe is a disgrace. While the Attorney-General thinks it is a big joke, the people on this side of the chamber do not consider in any way amusing instructions by Ministers to their officers not to get information that has been legitimately requested.

As a result of hearing that remark on the intercom I came down to the chamber and said to the Attorney-General that I thought it was most inappropriate. He certainly did not deny it and he could not deny it, but he treated the whole thing in a cavalier fashion, which he always does when he has been caught out doing something completely reprehensible, as he did on this occasion. I then went up to the Hansard office and listened to the tape to make sure that what what I had heard commented on was indeed accurate, and it was. The Hansard officers assured me that they would consider whether the comment should go in the Hansard record, because I requested that it should. It was very clear to the Hansard reporter that that was what Senator Evans had said. But Hansard decided, in its wisdom, and I respect that, that it was an aside and that it did not print every aside that was made. It certainly was made and was an instruction to the officer sitting beside the Attorney-General not to go forward and get the information that Senator Kilgariff had asked for. That is the general attitude that I am objecting to in this debate.

If we look at what has happened since this Government has been in power we find that there has been tremendous change in the everyday life of the Australian citizen. The Sex Discrimination Bill was financed under the Estimates, so I am quite sure that I am able fully to discuss that Bill. Let me start by saying that I believe there is need in Australia for a sex discrimination Bill, if for no other reason than an educative one, to point out to people that there is sex discrimination and that people should be aware of it and made to think about it. Let us not say that I am for sex discrimination and that I am against any sort of Bill. However, I will not be intimidated into voting for a Bill on its name alone. I was told that I was being hysterical. We were all told that many times when the original Bill came forward.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, this is not the second reading debate on the Sex Discrimination Bill. If you want to discuss the Sex Discrimination Bill you must discuss it in the terms of the financing of that legislation.

Senator WALTERS —When I introduced the sex discrimination area of my speech I said that the Bill was a costing in the Estimates and therefore I would be entitled to speak about it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You are not entitled to debate the Sex Discrimination Bill in itself, Senator Walters. Contain your remarks to the actual financing of the legislation and you will not have any concern expressed by the Chair.

Senator WALTERS —I am objecting to the costing of certain areas of the Sex Discrimination Bill brought forward in the Estimates. As I said, I was told that I was being hysterical when I objected to certain areas that have certainly incurred costing in the Sex Discrimination Bill. Some 80 amendments later, after I had been told I was hysterical, the Government passed the Bill. I wonder how many other people were being hysterical on the Government side. The Minister was certainly being hysterical before the 80 amendments were passed. That Bill interferes with religious freedom, and the Australian people will find that their general freedom also will be interfered with. We have a situation where people with certain religious beliefs are no longer able to carry out activities concerning those religious beliefs purely because of certain clauses in the Sex Discrimination Bill. This restriction has been extended to the ridiculous point where the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been told that it should change the language it uses in the presentation of news items to fit in with the concept of sex discrimination.

The Family Law Amendment Bill that the Government brought in-again this involves a cost saving-introduced the concept of divorce by post. That is another matter that will certainly change the way of life in this country. Now a couple simply has to separate for 12 months, fill in a form, send it in and they will receive a letter that says: 'Dear Mrs Smith', or 'Dear Mr Smith, your divorce came through on such and such a date'. We have been told that that will save the Government money. That is not the most important consideration in the Australian way of life. The most important thing in maintaining the stability in our country is to have stable marriages and stable family situations. But this Government has introduced divorce by post. It has made divorce so easy that future generations, when considering marriage, will know in the back of their minds--

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Walters, once again you are ranging outside the matters raised before the Estimates committees. I draw your attention to the fact that I will provide you with an opportunity to debate the matters that were considered by the Estimates committees. You cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, ask me to consider that divorce by post, to the extent that you wish to debate that matter, is included among those matters considered by the Estimates committees. I will entertain a certain amount of latitude but I am not prepared to entertain it to that extent.

Senator WALTERS —Madam Acting Deputy President, you will remember that I said that the Government had said that divorce by post was a cost saving, and the saving of costs in the Family Law Court is part of the matters considered by the Estimates committees. I stipulated that right from the beginning of my remarks.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You tend to make that sort of statement at the beginning of your remarks and then you range very broadly in your remarks. Each time you do that I will have occasion to bring you back into line.

Senator WALTERS —Madam Acting Deputy President, when I mentioned that cost savings are not the only thing involved and then go on to elaborate by stating why I believe there are more important things than cost savings--

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —By doing that you are engaging in a second reading debate on that legislation and certainly not a second reading debate on the Estimates. I ask you to confine your remarks to that those matters raised in the Estimates committees.

Senator WALTERS —Madam Acting Deputy President, if I make mention of costs savings but I cannot mention why I believe those costs savings are unjustified, then you are hindering my debate tremendously. If I mention matters in relation to which I believe moneys have been wasted, can I not elaborate and say why I believe they have been wasted?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, I have informed you that I will provide you with an opportunity to range in your remarks as widely as possible within the terms of the appropriations package. Once you step outside that package, I will have to call you to order. I will do so each time you adopt that course.

Senator WALTERS —As I have stated already, the amendments introduced by the Government in the family law area have changed tremendously our present way of life and the stability of marriage. So we have the family law situation and we have the sex discrimination legislation. I now turn to video material. Madam Acting Deputy President, I do not know whether you will rule me out of order in referring to video material, but a cost saving is certainly entailed in this item. According to the Attorney-General, the new legislation provides for a great cost saving. I will leave it to you, Madam Acting Deputy President, to rule whether I can expand on why I believe the great cost saving in this area is wrong. If you rule me out of order in saying that I believe that such a cost saving is not justified, I feel you will be containing my remarks beyond what I believe is reasonable. Before I commence my remarks on that matter, I seek your judgment.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, if you confine your remarks to costs and cost savings, the Chair will entertain such references. Once you range in your remarks into matters concerning legislation that has either been passed or is before the chamber, I will call you to order.

Senator WALTERS —I presume then that in relation to the motion that was passed last night which provided for the allowance rather than the disallowance of the regulations, I can at least say that the Attorney-General believes that this will effect a tremendous cost saving. But, as in the family law area, cost savings in this area are not everything. The Attorney-General said that the purpose of the exercise was to save Customs duty. He said that the barriers to the importation of hard core pornography have been lifted. However, he added that child pornography, publications inciting terrorism and acts of significant violence or sexual violence will be excluded from importation. The standards in this country are now way down if it is said that a cost saving is more important than those matters of concern that should arise from the adoption of these regulations. As I said last night, the standards set by the Attorney-General are so low that I am not prepared to abide by them.

We have a report that tells us that this cost saving-allowing all this rubbish into the country-will do harm to the young of this nation. A report from the United Kingdom says that no matter what sort of cost saving is entailed, harm will be done to children who see these things. If these X rated videos are allowed into the country and parents are able to hire them, children will see them. The report makes it very clear that in the United Kingdom over 50 per cent of 13- and 14-year-olds have seen the sort of X rated video material that the Attorney-General is now letting into the country because it is cheaper as it does not have to go through the rigours of Customs. He says that the barriers to the importation of hard core pornography have been lifted. The United Kingdom report states that children in the United Kingdom have formed video clubs. They pool their pocket money and vie with each other to see who can get the worst of these videos. They take them home and view them after school while their parents are at work.

The report says that tremendous short term problems have been caused to these children. They are having nightmares and are unable to erase some of the more horrendous scenes from their minds. The short term problems that they are facing are quite horrific. The Attorney-General tried to discredit this report. However , he did not speak to the chairman of the working party, Lord Swinfen. I spoke to him, and he assured me that no criticism has been made of Part II of the report which substantiates all the figures contained in Part I. He assured me also that similar reports have been made by the European Community committee on youth. This problem is being found to exist in both Europe and the United Kingdom. While that is happening and while Sweden is reaching the stage where it is withdrawing from open slather in this area-Sweden is bringing in laws to stop this sort of thing-what is happening in Australia? The Attorney-General is opening our gates to all the stuff that he believes should be allowed in the country. As I have already said, we have divorce by post. We have a sex discrimination Bill that interferes with our religious freedoms. We have barriers to the importation of hard core pornography being done away with altogether.

Madam Acting Deputy President, we are slowly but surely moving towards a republic. We have been told by the Prime Minister--

Senator Childs —A point of order. It seem to me that Senator Walters is once again straying from the appropriations and deliberately engaging in commercials from other debates in which she took part. I ask that she be directed to make her speech relevant to the appropriations.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —On two or three occasions in this debate, Senator Walters, I have brought you back to the appropriations package. I remind you that you are beginning to range a little outside those boundaries once again. If you contain your remarks to the costing of the appropriations package, there will be no further difficulty.

Senator WALTERS —I have done so up to date, Madam Acting Deputy President. Indeed, I have made sure that every one of those matters has referred to costing . What I was saying was that we are moving towards a republic, slowly but surely . I will explain how that matter is within the estimates. We have been told that there will be a change to the oath of allegiance. We have been told by the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) that de facto spouses of members of parliament should be entitled to travelling allowances. That would be a cost on the taxpayers of this country. Though the Special Minister of State so contends, he has not stipulated what duration of relationship would constitute a de facto relationship. As far as he is concerned, if a member of parliament wants to travel overseas and take a de facto spouse-even a de facto of the moment perhaps -the taxpayer will have to finance that travel. I repeat: We are slowly moving to a republic. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has decided unilaterally that Australia will no longer have its traditional national anthem; he has chosen another and indeed changed the words of the song. Again he has moved to do away with the oath of allegiance. These again are changes in our way of life.

We know that the external affairs power will be used, and has already been used . It is the greatest threat to our State. We know that Mr Hawke does not believe in State governments. He made that clear in his Boyer lectures prior to becoming Prime Minister. He used the external affairs power to make sure that Australia interfered with the rights of Tasmania in wanting to build a dam. At the time we were told by the Chief Judge of the High Court that the use of the external affairs power would interfere with every part of our day to day living. The external affairs power, if used to the fullest extent, would interfere with the rights of every State and individual in Australia. It certainly is beginning to. As I said, its use prevented Tasmania from building a dam.

We have been told that, if Tasmania does not introduce a sex discrimination Bill within two years, the Federal Government will introduce a sex discrimination Bill applicable to Tasmania. We have been told that the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill will be applied to Tasmania, as well as every other State. That type of Bill may be appropriate in certain areas, for example, in the Northern Territory in respect of Aboriginal land rights; but it is not appropriate in Tasmania, for that State has no indigenous Aborigines. The tribal Aborigine certainly has great affinity with some of his sacred sites, but that situation is not applicable in Tasmania. Yet the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) tells Tasmania that an Aboriginal Heritage Bill will be introduced in respect of Tasmania.

It seems to me that the ambitions of the Prime Minister are being fulfilled. As I said, the Prime Minister said in his Boyer lectures that Australia needs to be a republic; it does not need State governments, but a Federal Government only. He is certainly leading us towards that. Before the last Federal election I was asked whether we would need to have a referendum before Australia became a republic. I said at the time that if we are led all the way along the path, with changes of the national anthem, the oath of allegiance and the Australian flag, it is only one short step to become a republic. That is the way the Prime Minister is going at the moment.