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Wednesday, 18 September 1985
Page: 658


Senator SANDERS(10.55) —Thank you, Mr President. I take great pleasure in at last being on my feet legally in this chamber. I congratulate Senator Michael Baume on his thoughtful and not unduly provocative speech and I hope I can follow in the same manner. Frankly, my election is an extraordinary event personally, and I think it tells us something about this country in which I have chosen to spend the rest of my life. It is magnificent that a migrant, a person such as myself, can come to this country, be here ten years, and be elected to this Parliament-the highest Parliament in the land. It simply could not happen in the United States. There I would have to be a millionaire, or if I were not a millionaire I would have to sell my soul to the oil companies or the multinationals in some way to get elected to the Senate. Here in Australia, simply by campaigning and by collecting a few supporters, I can through the system attain this position.

I happen to represent a previously unrepresented portion of the electorate. It is a coalition of the dispossessed. It is Aboriginal people, pensioners, veterans, even motorcycle riders. It is environmentalists, and it is people who are worried sick about the threat of nuclear war. It is a whole bunch of people who felt that they were not being represented by the two existing parties-the Laborials. I had a letter from a constituent under the letterhead `Fluorescent Sheep Dog Productions', the name of his business, which said: `Congratulations. You are the first person I have ever voted for who got elected'. I think that pretty much describes my constituents.

It is a great pity that the Hawke conservative Government has chosen to tamper with the electoral system. It will be very difficult for any of us who have a viewpoint which is not consistent with the Laborials to get elected at the next Senate election. That will be a great loss not only to ourselves but also to this country. The proportional representation system, which has served this country so well, is now in grave danger in the Senate.

It might be useful at this time if I introduced myself to the Senate. I guess that in a sense I have been re-born in Australia. I had a previous life in the United States; I chose to turn my back on it. I was born in the mid-west of the United States and I followed my family west. Americans move very frequently, every 18 months, and my family did likewise. I ended up in a place called El Pueblo de la Nuestra Senora, La Reina de los Angeles, which I throw in just to tax Hansard's skills, They can call it Los Angeles if they wish. I was raised in a Hispanic-Anglo neighbourhood-a fairly rough part of town-and served my apprenticeship stealing hubcaps, siphoning gas and otherwise training myself to be a politician. Upon my graduation from high school I went to Los Angeles City College and took a year of journalism. When the Korean war came along I joined the United States Air Force. I was an air traffic controller in the Air Force. I never left the United States, for which I am eternally thankful, but I did learn to fly as a private pilot in commercial operations near the air bases at which I was stationed. I then got out of the Air Force.

I must say here that my father was a commercial artist and my mother was in public relations. They had a number of friends in the journalistic profession. I observed from an early date that journalists seemed to turn into cynical drunks or drunken cynics and I felt it was probably a good idea for me to get out of that line of work. So I took up geology and geophysics at the University of California, Los Angeles, under the GI Bill. I got interested in mountain climbing and, having climbed in Mexico and Canada, decided to try the big one, Mt McKinley, in Alaska. We did climb Mt McKinley, being the twelfth party ever to do so. I fell in love with Alaska, and went to the University of Alaska in the winters and ran a bush flying service in the summers. I was involved in geology and geophysics in the production of radio telescopes. In fact, scientists in Alaska were the first to track the Russian Sputnik satellite because the Americans, with their infinite lack of a realistic approach to the satellite system, thought that they would get up first. Of course, their satellite was to be in an equatorial orbit and Sputnik was in a polar orbit. We were the only people in the so-called free world ready to track this thing. So I have had some experience, even in those days, with the aerospace business.

In 1958 I left to go to Los Angeles and I was in the United States aerospace business for six years. I started building equipment which was ultimately used at Woomera for the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration deep space tracking system. Later I went on to build terminal guidance equipment for nuclear missiles. This was the time when I had my first realisation of the problems of nuclear warfare and what it actually meant. Until that time I had approached the problem as a scientific one. Sure, I was making a lot of money-I did not mind that-and I was told that it helped to keep the world safe on a balance of terror basis if I continued to produce these weapons. I took that line for about a year. When I finally had to start targeting my missiles on Russian cities I said, `No, this is wrong', and I got out of the business.

I became an academic. I obtained my master of arts in geography at UCLA, got a Fulbright fellowship and was casting around the world for a place to go on my Fulbright fellowship. It seemed as though nobody who had ever had one had gone to Tasmania so I selected that remote part of the earth. I have never regretted it; it is a lovely place. Tasmania is the place in which I have chosen to spend the rest of my life. While at the University of Tasmania I got a PhD. I got the first PhD in geography from the University of Tasmania-a fact which the geography department would like to forget.

I left Tasmania in 1968 to return to California. I became an assistant professor in the department of geography at the University of California in Santa Barbara and I was pretty straight until the Union oil company dumped four inches of crude oil on a beach which I was trying to study scientifically and this annoyed me. I then looked around and found that this company had also killed off some 8,000 birds, which affected the tourist and fishing industries and I became an environmentalist. In so doing, I spent a lot of time fighting the oil industry. I learned that one cannot really trust an oil company. I have developed the saying that one should never trust a politician or an oil man because these oil people are simply in the business of making money.

I also helped in the fight against the Diablo Canyon reactor. I was very active in the anti-war area and, for my efforts, was fired from the University of California in 1974. I took this matter to the Committee on Academic Freedom. That Committee took the matter to the Chancellor. The Chancellor then disbanded the Committee on Academic Freedom and the President of the Committee on Academic Freedom, who was a lawyer, took it to the courts. It became known as the `Sanders Case', and it boiled down to whether an employee of the State of California had the right to look at his employment records or not. Since there are as many employees in the state of California as there are in the Commonwealth system of Australia this became a major case, but I had had a gutful. Another thing that was happening was that Nixon was running around shooting his cuffs up in the air and saying: `I am not a crook'. We were all afraid as that time that he would punch the nuclear button just out of spite. The Whitlam Government had been elected in Australia. It looked like the time to leave the United States. So I bought a 29-foot sloop and my family and I set sail for these shores. Unfortunately, half way across, Nixon resigned and as soon as I got to Australia, of course, Whitlam also lost government, but that is another story.

I must go back to this nuclear fear because I remember getting 200 miles off the shore of California in my yacht and thinking: I have got my family into safety at last. They are now safe. Something that Australians do not understand is the gut fear that Americans and Europeans in the northern hemisphere have about nuclear war. I hope we have an awareness of it without having that gnawing fear that so affects people's lives.

Upon arrival in Tasmania I was interviewed on the television program This Day Tonight and, for reasons which are still unclear to me, I was offered the job of television reporter and I took up the position. I was a television reporter for two years on the program This Day Tonight. The conjecture was that either the producer was a Central Intelligence Agency man or he wanted to buy my boat; I never worked out which. I enjoyed my work on TDT. Those halcyon days of current affairs have not been equalled. Television current affairs have really sunk since then. I did 234 television stories. I looked around Tasmania and was appalled by what I found. I found a State which deserved to be, and could be, the model for a twenty-first century society which, in fact, was just being overexploited and hammered in every way. The unemployment rate was massive and the environmental degradation was unchecked. I read with some interest that E. F. Schumaker-the `Small Is Beautiful' man-had been there and he shared my views, and the views of any thinking person, that Tasmania was the perfect place in which to develop a balanced and ongoing society. Upon leaving This Day Tonight I joined the Wilderness Society, became an early director of the Wilderness Society before Bob Brown and then entered the battle to save the Franklin.

At the time, it seemed a good idea to get into parliament. I have always said: `Buy a politician, sell a politician, but never be one'. I did not follow my own advice; I stood for parliament. I did not get elected the first time. So I forced a by-election and was elected. I served in the Tasmanian Parliament for some three years and finally resigned in protest over the draconian legislation of that Parliament which actually locked up honest, sincere people who set foot in a national park. I think it is still an everlasting shame, a blot on the Tasmanian Parliament, that both sides of that Parliament-the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia-agreed to lock up sincere people who were merely trying to save the Franklin River.

I went into small business. I became the owner and operator of a firm called the Sanders Hot Prospect Stove Co. Because I had stepped on the udders of so many sacred cows I simply could not get a job from anybody else-Commonwealth or private-so I started a small business. I really believe that small business is the salvation of this country. Does that make me a capitalist? I do not think so. I am certainly not a socialist. I am not any of that kind of -ist, I am a humanist. I really think that this right-left dichotomy is out of date. I think it is a relic of the 1920s and it gets in the way of any meaningful change. As soon as one says, for example: `We ought to have nuclear disarmament', somebody says :`Ah, you are just a commie; you are just a Russian sympathiser'. I think we should face up to the late twentieth century and see that what we have in Australia is a mixture of socialism and capitalism and it seems to have worked pretty well. I think we had better stop fighting these old battles and get on with the new ones because we have plenty of them.

I have a number of areas of interest in this parliamentary system. I handle environmental issues. Actually, I am not really an environmentalist, I am a humanist. I am not worried about the environment. It will exist in some form or other. Mother Nature always bats last. It is just that she may just bat us out, and we will not be able to survive on this earth any more. So I am really working for the survival of the human species and everything on this earth. People in America or in Australia simply do not appreciate what they have. I think people in Australia appreciate it even less. We have a kind of cargo cult mentality in Australia that, if we develop some sort of infrastructure, or put in a dam or a power plant or something, somebody will come here and exploit it. We do not have the self-confidence to use it wisely ourselves.

The woodchip industry is a major example. We are actually paying the Japanese to haul away our forests. The woodchip industry is an incredible industry. It gives us absolutely no income, it is a net loss to the country, it destroys our forests, it destroys the animals in the forests and it makes no sense. Actually, it would seem that the Japanese won World War II. All they ever wanted was our resources, that is why they fought World War II. Now they have our resources and they do not even have to pay to occupy the place. We are simply giving away all our resources. The Hawke conservative Government is apparently set to cave in on woodchips. An article in the Hobart Mercury stated: `Gray pleased by Kerin line on renewals'. Robin Gray and the Minister for Primary Industry in the same bed! It boggles the mind. Robin Gray was quoted as saying that he was `pleased that Mr Kerin was reputed to have rejected conservationists' calls for a delay in the renewal process while another inquiry was held'. I believe that question time in Parliament is very important. I asked a question on this subject of Senator Walsh, the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry in the Senate. He resorted to a tactic of denying any knowledge of the question. I gave him advance warning of my question. I hope that the good senator will look upon Question Time in the way it is meant to be looked upon. He should offer information when he possesses it, and in that case he did possess it. I know that he has youth and inexperience to deal with but I trust that he will learn his role in this Parliament.

Nuclear disarmament is also one of my major concerns. I feel that it is part of the environmental portfolio, because the worst kind of environmental pollution is nuclear war. It is the ultimate of man's technological weapons and can destroy all of us. I came here to get my family to safety and I find, having come here, that it is not safe at all. As for our harbours, including Hobart harbour, they parked the USS Enterprise on my front lawn. It is one of the most destructive vessels ever produced in the world's history, and they parked it on my front lawn. They are still doing that. They brought the USS Texas in the other day. Any time those boats are in town I am a prime nuclear target. We are prime nuclear targets because of our bases-not our bases, the Americans' bases. I made a pledge, a promise, to my constituents that on my first day in this Parliament I would introduce a Bill to ban the United States bases. I could not. There is a motion on the Notice Paper which states that I could not because this Parliament does not have control over the bases. The bases are controlled by agreements-we do not even know how many there are-which are controlled by the Executive, the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. One of the first things this Parliament should do is to exert its control over Australian soil in this manner.

The Hawke conservative Government is cynically wooing our great and powerful friend, the United States, and putting us all at risk in the process. I am afraid that the Howard conservative Opposition is doing no better. If the public statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) can be believed, he is breathtakingly naive. He is blithely picking daisies in a minefield in supporting the strategic defence initiative, Star Wars. He claims that Star Wars will bring peace. It will not. Star Wars is the most destabilising of all the many destabilising programs the Reagan Administration has put forward. Basically it means that, if it is successful, the Unites States can sit behind an impregnable shield throwing missiles at will at any enemy and not suffering any damage itself. That means that the nations around the earth that have United States bases, such as Australia, will be in the front line while the United States gets off scot-free. That is the danger of Star Wars. I hope that the Opposition will recognise that fact.

What about ANZUS? ANZUS was supposed to protect us from the Japanese-no one else, not the Russians-but it did not work. ANZUS is an outmoded, outworn framework for defence. It has no real meaning in this part of the twentieth century. What we need is a strong and independent Australia, an Australia which can defend itself against any potential enemy-which does not include the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in my view-and which can exert some sort of protective control over the Pacific. We are a Pacific nation. We are a Pacific island. People in Australia do not understand that. If one asks an Australian where he lives he will say `Melbourne' or `Sydney'. If one says `Yes, but what do you think about the Pacific?' he will say, `It is a nice place to go swimming'. But the people of the Pacific look to us. We are the biggest country in the Pacific. They look to us; we do not look to them. It is time that we as Australians started feeling like a Pacific island nation and exerted some authority. One of the things we must do is take a firmer stand on the French presence at Mururoa Atoll and New Caledonia. If we were really serious about the Rainbow Warrior incident, we would be sending ships to protect the Greenpeace fleet because the French are definitely going to cause bloodshed in the Pacific if they are not halted.

Another of my interests is resources and energy. We should concentrate on renewable resources. We should make the exploiters pay the true costs of what they are doing to our resources. We should drive a harder bargain. We have to stop being conned by the oil exploration companies. We have to stop being taken in by the very subliminal commercials on television such as `The Quiet Achiever', `The Big Australian' and Mike Willesee in his silly Esso hat running around saying: `We just want to give you people more oil. We are working for you guys. We are not really interested in making money'. Of course they are. They are running around Australia with a front end loader picking up money and shipping it overseas. That is what we ought to be taxing. All this debate about taxes is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We are letting these guys go. The big guy is getting off scot-free while the Government is trying to figure out ways of getting more blood out of the taxpaying turnip. It just is not going to work.

Another of my fields of interest is science. I feel very strongly that scientists should be accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, many have not been accountable. I also feel that science should be for the people. It should be directed towards the true well-being of the people, not the well-being of the existing multinationals or the defence industry. We have to recognise that the Industrial Revolution is over and that the machines have won. As a society we have not addressed ourselves to this problem. We are still trying to find jobs in areas where jobs have been eliminated. With my colleague Senator David Vigor, who is our spokesman on technology, we can work towards a realisation that we have to restructure our thinking about jobs to account for the technological revolution.

Another of my interests is aviation. As a commercial pilot and flight instructor of some 35 years standing I have some experience in this field. I announce to you, Mr President, that yesterday the Australian Democrats agreed with me that we should go for complete deregulation of the Australian aviation industry. We need open skies for consumers and for the industry. I would like to see Qantas Airways Ltd carrying passengers across Australia on a standby basis, or a space available basis. I would like to see East West Airlines Ltd given a chance. East West has proven itself in Australia but is still operating with one hand tied behind its back. I would like to see other operators come in if they can operate safely and give consumers a good service. There is a vast pool of potential customers to tap. Some 92 per cent of people in Australia still do not fly. If unfettered, the industry could cater to these people. There would be plenty of profits for the existing operators and plenty of seats available for consumers if we had deregulation.

People Express sprang up after deregulation in the United States. It has made flying cheaper than riding a bus. One can fly from Newark to Atlanta, Georgia, for $69. It costs $104 on the bus. Whole new markets are being created this way. It could happen here. Unfortunately, it is being blocked by the Department of Aviation which is a bloated, cumulo-nimbus which is blotting out the once azure and clear peaceful skies of Australian aviation. It is run by a chair corps-not an air corps. These people do not fly. Only one in 20 has ever flown an aeroplane. The chair corp's main function is to sit at a big desk with a rubber stamp that has `No' written on it. If a piece of paper comes along that says `Can we import an aeroplane', the answer is `No'. If it says `Can we set up a route from here to there' the answer is `No'. If it says `Can we actually operate in a sensible and safe manner' the answer is `No'. At this very moment the Department of Aviation is closing down weather services here in Canberra, in Launceston, Port Hedland, Tamworth, Mount Isa, Alice Springs, Cairns, Hobart and Rockhampton. As an aircraft user, I am not happy about paying air navigation charges. All people, as consumers, pay air navigation charges. I am not happy about paying those charges. I am only happy about paying the charges for the services that I use. The airport weather office services are services that I use.

The Department of Aviation has been criticised because of its over-bureaucratic structure and the fact that it has six times as many bureaucrats per aeroplane as does the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States. The response is to cut staff. But does it cut its own staff? No, it cuts the Department of Science staff which are contracted to the Department of Aviation. This is a scandal and an unsafe scandal. It will increase the danger of collision, and of crashes, in Australia. The Department of Aviation's response to all this is: `Yes, we know it may be a problem but planes should carry more fuel'. Even those honourable senators who do not fly can see the fallacy of that argument.

As a migrant I am here by choice, not by accident of birth. As such, I may have a different perspective of this country. I want the best for this country, my adopted country. I would like to see a strong, self-confident, independent Australia led by compassionate, far-sighted leaders. Perhaps I am being a bit naive. Instead, it seems that we are a kind of lapdog of the United States, led by Laborials. The Laborials during divisions sit on each other's laps in this place; I have seen it. The Democrats are on one side and the Laborials on the other. There does not seem to be much difference between them.

What we need is a sense of entity in this country and I would start with the flag. I propose that we adopt the Eureka flag. The Eureka flag is not the flag of the Builders Labourers Federation of Australia or of the socialist Left, although I commend the socialist Left for making it more freely available in the form of stickers. I have a Eureka flag on my motor-cycle. It is the flag of small business. It was a bunch of small businessmen who said that they did not want bureaucratic interference and they did not want people overseas telling them what to do. I think that should be our attitude.

I would like to make people aware of the problems and the solution-I have always wanted to do this. In order to do that, we need the media. Unfortunately, the media in this place suffer from a severe case of omphaloscopsis. The media here is more interested in the gossip in the place than in the real issues. I consider myself to be a recent emissary of the people; Senator Vallentine is another. The people tell me that they are tired of the faction fighting, the back biting, the heated debates over Paddington Bears and colour television sets and are tired of gossip column style reporting. They want some hard questions from the media in their olympian heights up there. I notice there are not many of them up there. Those gods must be resting from their labours. People expect a lot from the media and they are not getting it. I hope that the media can look more closely at these issues and get some answers down here on this floor.

I do not particularly like being a politician. In the public mind, politicians are somewhere between rag and bone merchants and used motor-cycle salesmen. But I am willing to do my best here. I would like to eliminate the fear of nuclear annihilation, eliminate poverty and eliminate social inequality. I would like to establish a secure and rewarding future for our kids. I hope that we can all work together to achieve those goals.


The PRESIDENT —Before I call Senator Vallentine, I remind all honourable senators that this will be the first occasion that Senator Vallentine has spoken in this chamber and I ask all honourable senators to afford her the normal courtesies.