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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1930

Senator KILGARIFF(9.11) —One of the conventions of this Parliament is that in debating certain Bills senators are permitted to stray somewhat from those Bills. Tonight we are ostensibly debating the appropriation Bills. In speaking to those Bills I wish to refer to three issues which I believe are of vital importance to the nation and, specifically, to the people of the north of Australia. Senator Sir John Carrick spoke about our alarming overseas debt. Senator Peter Baume spoke about disadvantaged people. Tonight I will speak about the problems of the north. The two senators who spoke previously spoke about matters relating to money. Senator Peter Baume said that he hoped that the Government would be able to show leadership. I add that, while Senator Baume said that the Opposition supports the Government in regard to the present problems, which concern money, money, money, the nation as a whole must realise that as individuals, groups and towns they have very serious responsibilities.

The three issues which I will speak about tonight are the general development of the north, youth unemployment and coastal surveillance. I will begin by talking about coastal surveillance. I have spoken in the Senate on many occasions about this problem. At times one despairs about coastal surveillance. When some people on the beaches in the south hear the words `coastal surveillance' they perhaps think it refers to some type of shark patrol and that while they are enjoying themselves on the beach at weekends this surveillance warns them about sharks. It seems almost impossible to impress people, particularly those in the south, about the problems of the north in regard to coastal surveillance, which has such a dramatic effect on people, whether or not they realise it.

One reads in the Press and hears these days about the police encouraging people on certain days to phone in and say that they believe somebody is selling drugs-dope and such. The police are looking for information so that they can crack down on the importation and sale of drugs in Australia. Of course, people who follow the media may have seen a report that was in the Press not so long ago that one of the biggest sales of drugs in Australia by one of the biggest drug rings took place in Victoria a little while ago. The drugs were worth about $40m-an incredible amount of money. But the eventual gathering-in and conviction of this drug ring was brought about by an informer. My interest is in northern surveillance because I come from the north and I represent the Northern Territory. Thus, perhaps I am more aware than other people of the necessity for northern surveillance.

Last year I was able to go to Indo-China and see countries which are under various stresses and strains. I had the opportunity of going into the Golden Triangle where poppies grow very prolifically. Part of that huge crop now comes into Australia in many ways. Some people may say: `So what?'. If they were more aware, as people in Australia should be, they would find the result of this crop in Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne or some of the little towns throughout Australia. That is where to find the results of the produce of the Golden Triangle-the poppies, opium and heroin. This produce is being sent to places throughout Australia. This is possible because there is insufficient surveillance in the north.

Honourable senators will be aware that coastal surveillance is, as I have said, a matter which I have raised in this place on previous occasions. I raise it again today because the Federal Government continues to ignore the need for substantial improvement to the coastal surveillance operations presently in place. There is no doubt that more surveillance will cost additional money. It will cost the Government, and therefore the taxpayer, money. However, if any areas of expenditure need additional funding they are the areas of defence and coastal surveillance. I do not believe that such additional expenditure would be begrudged by the majority of Australians. I assure honourable senators that it would not be begrudged by the people of the north, who are only too well aware of our vulnerability.

Last week we had the spectacle of a convicted drug runner appearing in a television interview. He told Territorians how easily he managed to bring drugs into this country from South East Asia. He landed at Tindal Airport, which is near Katherine in the Northern Territory. I do not know whether the interview was broadcast in any other parts of Australia but it should be a matter of concern to all Australians that aircraft can so easily elude the coastal surveillance operation presently in place. We have all read about Mr Tait who was arrested in Thailand on very serious charges. He may not survive. In this interview he talked about flying an aircraft from the northern islands into northern Australia as if it were commonplace. He talked about the routine flights that he made from the northern islands. His aircraft was cleared through Darwin and landed at Tindal near Katherine. It was loaded with drugs and made these flights regularly. Honourable senators might remember that on one occasion a Royal Australian Air Force Hercules aircraft intercepted him and he eventually crashlanded at Tindal and set fire to his aircraft. But the situation is as he was indicating; that is, that it is so easy now, as it has been over the last few years, for such a smuggler to operate into Australia. Every time a light aircraft such as that comes into Australia, it could be carrying millions of dollars worth of drugs.

This week a campaign has been launched to try to close down drug dealers. I commend the Government for taking that action. But I must stress that the Government should be doing all that it can to ensure that drugs do not get into Australia in the first place. Customs officers are no defence when pilots such as Tait are able to fly aeroplanes into this country and land at remote or deserted airstrips where couriers are waiting to pick up their illegal cargo. As I have said before, on a rough count of airstrips in the north of Western Australia, the north of the Northern Territory and northern Queensland there would probably be about 900 to 1,000 on which such smuggling aircraft could land.

There are a number of other dangers associated with an inadequate coastal surveillance. The Federal Government, with its problems in determining a course of action in regard to Irian Jayan refugees, should be more aware than ever of the risk of illegal immigrants entering Australian territories. Apart from the fact that they are disrupting the Government's immigration program, they may also have the potential to bring in disease, and any plants or animals brought in illegally are a potential threat to our valuable agricultural and pastoral industries. So, as I have said before, northern surveillance covers more than drugs.

At the end of last month a meeting of the Intergovernmental Standing Advisory Committee on Coastal Protection and Surveillance was held in Darwin. One of the conclusions of the State and Territory representatives involved was that there was a need for a night surveillance capacity to be developed by the Coastal Protection Unit. That unit is made of Federal, State and various other authorities-24 to 26, I think. They also considered the possibility of current littoral patrol arrangements being broadened in order more directly to assist in the prevention of illegal entry of persons and goods.

A few days ago I picked up a Press release. It was signed by Assistant Commissioner Plumb, who was chairing the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Standing Advisory Committee on Coastal Protection and Surveillance. It is my desire that this Press statement be incorporated in Hansard, Mr Acting Deputy President, and I seek the leave of the Senate for such incorporation.

Leave granted.

The Press statement read as follows-

`The second meeting of the intergovernmental standing advisory committee on coastal protection and surveillance was held yesterday in Darwin. The sessional chairman for the meeting, assistant commissioner N. D. Plumb of the Northern Territory police said that the meeting had achieved considerable progress in the area of co-operation between the States, Northern Territory and the Commonwealth.

Mr Plumb said that decisions taken at the meeting included the need for an effort on the part of all participating States to strive for a better level of co-operation particularly among the fishing fleets, yachting and boat clubs and Australians living in coastal areas. He said that delegates had agreed to devise a better system for the passage of information between various government authorities and also to arrange for an interchange program of State and Commonwealth personnel who have a direct responsibility for coastal protection and surveillance.

Mr Plumb went on to say that the meeting had agreed to explore the feasibility of requiring all Australian vessels capable of putting to sea, to have an identification number which could be displayed for coastal surveillance purposes. The meeting agreed that this identification feature should also be recommended in international forums by Australia.

The meeting also decided to arrange joint exercises between various areas of government responsible for coastal surveillance and protection. It was also agreed that the various States would investigate the arrangements that could be put in place to more effectively co-ordinate State and Territory resources in their own jurisdictions.

The States and the Territory concluded that there is a need for a night surveillance capability to be developed by the C.P.U. and for the possibility of the current littoral patrol arrangements to be broadened in order to more directly assist in the prevention of the illegal entry of persons and goods.

All of the States and the Territory agreed that their resources could be made available to assist the C.P.U. in the joint coastal surveillance and protection effort.

The head of the Commonwealth delegation, Deputy Commissioner John Johnson and Assistant Commissioner Plumb commented that they were encouraged by the positive attitude displayed by the State and Northern Territory Government representatives, and said that it had become clear that the standing advisory committee is a valuable mechanism for allowing an exchange of views and achieving a high degree of co-operation.

The sessional chairman advised that the next meeting will be held in Broome in the first half of 1986.

Assistant Commissioner N. O. Plumb.

30th October, 1985.

Senator KILGARIFF —I thank the Senate. People who are interested in northern surveillance will find this Press statement interesting reading because it clearly indicates that the government officials who are responsible for surveillance are working extremely hard in an endeavour to improve this situation. They are very genuine people. But this Press statement could easily have been written five years ago, because whilst people have been endeavouring to bring about a better surveillance and better safeguards for the people of Australia, very little has happened in the last five years, as the statement indicates. The people involved in this Commonwealth unit have sought the co- operation of the people of the north in looking for suspicious people in coastal vessels, in light aircraft and so on. While I commend them for endeavouring to protect the people of Australia, I think that the Government must do much more. Despite the fact that we hear so much in the media about surveillance, it absolutely appals me that coastal surveillance in the north-where we were building up this unit that supposedly was going to protect the north and stop drugs, illegal immigrants and all those things that could introduce disease into Australia-is being cut back. I suggest that coastal surveillance in the north is now paid mere lip service. Despite the fact that the Government is spending money on defence, on the Orion aircraft that can operate far into the Indian Ocean-that is very desir- able-the patrol boat bases in Darwin, Cairns and various places around the coast and the buildup of Norforce, the operations of those charter aircraft which fly along the coast, from Broome through the Kimberleys to Darwin and Gove and the Gulf of Carpentaria around to Cairns and carry out this most important work, are being cut back to such a degree that they are no longer viable; they no longer carry out their duties in a way that provides some protection. That is an extremely serious situation. While the Government is developing the Tindal FA18 base, the benefits of that project will only be seen in the future. I am talking about the protection of the north coast and this Committee says that it supports 24-hour surveillance. At present the north does not have night surveillance, the radar facilities are pitiful, and the surveillance carried out in the daytime is absolutely deplorable. One wonders just how much and what kind of drugs are being brought into the north of Australia. Mr Tait, who is now under the sentence of death in Thailand, said in a frank interview in the last week or two that one must be absolutely fearful of what is happening with the bringing of drugs into Australia. He said that by the week he used to fly twin-engineed aircraft into Australia loaded with drugs. Clearly the States and the Territories are in agreement that something must be done to upgrade coastal surveillance, yet still surveillance flights from northern bases are made only in daylight hours. Surely the Federal Government does not believe that drug smugglers, illegal immigrants and other wrong doers operate only during the day.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, I wish to talk on a couple of other issues including youth unemployment in Australia, particularly in the Northern Territory, which has a very youthful population. Many young people have made their way to the Territory, as they see it as a place where they can make a life for themselves and prosper. Recent figures show that about 80 per cent of the Territory's population is under the age of 40. This is indicative of the future in the north because the young people of Australia are looking for opportunities and they see those opportunities in the north. With such a young population, getting young people into jobs both now and in the future is a matter of priority for the people of Australia, and particularly of the Northern Territory, because that is where we wish to encourage them. We, as much as anyone else in this country, are up against the selfishness and greed of the unions, which are contributing to the low rate of youth employment.

I believe the unions have created an exclusive club. We have seen this particularly in reports in the media in the last two weeks. Many members of unions are in well paid jobs and are determined to be even more well paid. I have no quarrel with unions being part of a democratic society as I believe they are a necessity. Workers do have the right of protection, but we now have a situation where unions are using their political muscle to improve the conditions of their members, I suggest, at the expense of the young people who are trying to break into the work force. Union insistence upon minimum wage levels has led to young people being priced right out of the work place. While unions have a duty to their members, they should realise that they also have a duty to the community. Unfortunately, recent events give no indication that there is any acknowledgement by unions of that wider community responsibility. Only last week they picked up a 3.8 per cent wage rise which will flow through to the community and, no doubt, to parliamentarians also. The unions are apparently not concerned that the employers, who will have to foot this Bill, will now find it even more difficult to divert funds into creating new jobs as a result of increased wages.

This lack of concern for those outside their exclusive club was also recently demonstrated in Mudginberri abattoir dispute. The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, which placed a picket outside the abattoir, was in fact opposing the payment of better wages to the employees at Mudginberri than its own members received. How could it argue that it was protecting the interests of those meat workers? I do not believe that the AMIEU could make such a claim. The fact is that the picket was established not because the employees of Mudginberri were working under poor conditions or for inadequate pay but because the union had been bypassed in the agreement of conditions by the owner and his employees. It did not matter to the union that the workers at Mudginberri were satisfied with their wages and conditions. I believe the Mudginberri dispute has struck a note of fear in the unions of this country who for too long have adopted an entirely selfish and tunnel-vision view of their role in the Australian community. They now realise that Australians who are not part of the union club are waking up to the fact that there may be other ways of conducting relations between employers and employees with the intention of allowing more people, particularly young people, into the work force. Such a move would not only add to job opportunities for the young but also increase our productivity and competitiveness.

We have so many older and more experienced people in the unions these days who can look back to their entry into the work force, in a professional or other capacity, and remember how they were given an opportunity to gain experience while being employed in lowly paid jobs. It is a pity that the unions are now disregarding the youth of Australia by not allowing them to enter the work force because they are insisting that if they do enter the work force they be paid a quite high salary when they have no experience. I suggest that in doing this they are protecting themselves. I have sons and daughters, as most of us in the Senate have, who are looking for the opportunity to gain experience. They are looking for opportunities and they are looking for experience. I suggest that, until the unions change their attitudes, there is going to be considerable disruption and unemployment amongst young people. I think it would be a very good thing if the unions would about-face and encourage young people to come into the work force. I suggest that the unions support the present Government and its plans now for youth employment assistance and the gaining of skills.

A point was made very forcefully by Des Keegan of the Australian in relation to the North Australian Development Conference held in Darwin last week to the effect that we should be making ourselves competititve in world markets. I believe that many people in Australia think that the points Des Keegan made in the Australian a few days ago really have some considerable force, for if nothing else our wheat dollars should provide an incentive for overseas tourists to come to Australia. Yet, prohibitive penalty rates in the hospitality industry, as an example of employment, and in other elements of the travel industry, detract from our appeal as a tourist destination. Mr Keegan made the valid point that tourism, which as I say is a means of employment, is a fine renewable resource which could plug a big hole in our current deficit account and create a lot of employment. He cited figures which detailed the massive financial benefit which has occurred in Spain as a result of the tourist boom. He went on to say that with the facilities we have here we should be able to capitalise in the same way as Spain and other Northern Hemisphere countries with far less than Australia to commend them. I agree with Mr Keegan wholeheartedly, and particularly from a Territory point of view I acknowledge the potential importance of the tourist industry.

The North Australian Development Conference, which was held in the north last week, was attended by people from various parts of Australia who heard some fine speakers, almost all of whom were supporters of the Northern Territory and other States in the north of Australia, in their respective bids for an opportunity to develop our resources, whether they be mineral, agricultural or tourism. There is something special about the Territory's attempts to become more financially independent of the Commonwealth. Believe me, nothing would please us more than to be able to say that we are increasing our contribution to the national income. As I say, the Territory's case is a special one. It is special because we do not have control of our national parks, because we do not have control of the minerals under our soil, because we do not have the right to determine policies concerning Aboriginal welfare and because we do not receive royalties from certain mining operations or from off-shore developments. Those things make the Territory special and very different from the States of Australia.

I have seen two recent Press reports-doubtless there have been many others-in which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) said that there is no special case for the north. In the Territory's case, at least, I beg to differ. We have been made a special case. We do not want to be a special case, but we have been made a special case by the actions of successive Commonwealth governments which have withheld from us the power to deal with our resources in a productive way. Both Mr Kerin and the Federal Government will be pleased to hear that we do not want to be special. We want to be like everyone else in Australia. We want sovereignty over our land and we want responsibility for its development. This is denied us.

An indication of the impatience of the Northern Territory with the Federal neglect under which we presently labour is in the private development of the gas pipeline from central to northern Australia. Not so long ago Senator Walsh described it in this chamber as a pie in the sky. The investors who are pouring millions of dollars into the project do not agree with him. The people of the north do not want to be regarded as a special case, but we do want the opportunity to develop what we have.

What we have in the Northern Territory is almost 10 per cent of the world's known uranium reserves-330,000 tonnes-equivalent in energy terms to the oil of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; an estimated 128 million tonnes of manganese ore at Groote Eylandt which currently supplies 10 per cent of the world market; one of the world's largest lead-zinc deposits-227 million tonnes at MacArthur River; gas reserves in the Amadeus Basin in Central Australia, which although barely explored can supply the energy needs for 30 years to come of the Northern Territory and, I would suggest, of the rest of Australia or of parts of Australia; and off-shore gas reserves of petrol as well as terne, which we share with Western Australia, which will create up to 4,000 jobs in the construction phase and 600 permanent jobs, with expenditure of $3 billion over a 10-year period.

The fields will supply overseas gas requirements for at least 20 years. At today's values they will earn $750m annually in export income. Adjacent to Darwin we have up to 26 million barrels of oil in the Jabiru field. Add to this our tourist potential and it is clear that the Northern Territory is deserving of something better than the derisory treatment it is presently getting from the Commonwealth Government in the form of attacks by the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, and the Treasurer (Mr Keating). In the Territory we are being told that effectively we are to be treated financially in the same way as the States. Within two years we will be funded in the same way as the States. No account will be taken of our isolation and our scattered population.

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