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Wednesday, 5 March 1980
Page: 580

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - My entry into this debate is very late. Having studied the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill during the recess it was my intention to speak on some clauses of this Bill in the Committee stage. One of the clauses that I desire to speak on was referred to by Senator Hamer, who indicated that he intended to move an amendment to that clause in the Committee stage. As Senator Hamer announced the terms of his proposed amendment in the second reading debate, I decided that I should speak in that debate, mostly to congratulate him on the attitude he has taken and to remind him of some previous instances when I have pointed out the same thing, but also in the hope that he will get the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) to see the sense or logic of the proposed amendment and accept it. My words may appear to be rather irrelevant to the Bill but it is for the purpose of bringing us back to the Bill that I have decided to speak in this debate.

Senator Youngwas worried about the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to this matter. The Opposition believes, as its amendment states, that, whatever the defects of the Bill, there should be an independent regulatory authority responsible for nuclear-related environmental protection, health, safety, security, safeguards and other non-proliferation activities and that this authority should have supreme power. I join Senator Evans in saying that, although the Bill does not get rid of all the infringements of civil rights that Senator Evans mentioned, the Opposition appreciates the three, possibly four, amendments to the Act. The Act, with all its deprivations of civil rights and liberties, applies not just to uranium but to all prescribed substances. I believe that is the wording of the Act.

This legislation will not apply to uranium mining or mining for prescribed substances in the States unless the substances are mined for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth. I do not know what is the meaning of the words purposes each of which is related only to the defence of the Commonwealth'. I do not know whether the legislation will be applicable to a mine which operates as a commercial operation if some of its products are used for the defence of the Commonwealth. But a big section of mining which will take place in the States will be left out. The amendment to section 54 of the principal Act will permit an action by an individual against the Commonwealth for unlawful arrest. Proposed section 58 will prohibit prosecution for an act preparatory to the commission of an offence.

I want especially to mention clause 6 of the Bill, which seeks to repeal section 60 of the principal Act and to substitute something else. Section 60 of the principal Act applies the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act to all mining of uranium substances and its treatment. That Act, of which I have spoken before, takes all civil rights and liberties from the individual and gives supreme power and the right of arrest without charge to the Commonwealth. It takes away every right that an individual has. It was brought in by Dr Evatt for the building of the Woomera rocket range. Dr Evatt thought it was essential for approved defence projects at a time when the

Commonwealth may have been in dire danger. That Act justified the stripping of liberties from individuals to get in operation Commonwealth projects for defence purposes. There may be some logic in that.

The Act applied to every uranium deposit previously. We are now restricting it only to those under Commonwealth jurisdiction, and Commonwealth jurisdiction will be applicable only to those for the defence of the Commonwealth. But it will not of necessity apply to all of the projects. We could have Commonwealth control under which the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act would not apply until such time as the Minister directed that it should apply. Therefore we would say that it should be applicable to a project only on rare occasions. That would be a decision for the Minister. I suppose that one could justify the deprivation of all liberties if it were necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth. But what Senator Hamer has asked, and what I have asked repeatedly, is whether the Minister should be the one to make the decision on this matter. Should he have the entire power? Under the amendment his power will not apply to all projects; it will apply only to those that the Minister decides it ought to apply to. Without giving any justification to the Parliament the Minister could extend his powers to apply this freedom restricting legislation to a particular project. It may be for the purpose of stopping or preventing a strike.

Senator Primmer - Breaking a strike is more like it.

Senator CAVANAGH -Or breaking a strike at a project which is not in dire need for the defence of the Commonwealth. The project may be for the purpose of stockpiling uranium for future defence needs. But the Minister is the one who makes the decision. As I said, some of my remarks may not appear relevant, but I have argued for a long time that the power of making vital decisions must be kept within the Parliament. I believe it was the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which brought down a report recommending that the powers that we seek here should not be taken away from the Parliament, and that Bills should be referred to a joint committee of both houses for the purpose of reporting to the Parliament whether there had been an infringement of those basic needs which we think should be preserved.

I spoke on this matter when it came up for discussion in this House. Although I did not favour a joint committee being appointed, I was not opposed to a Senate select committee considering the matter, not because I thought it was essential but because I thought that many members of the Parliament were not doing their job in pointing this out to the Parliament. Recognising their inability or failure to carry out their duties, they wanted some committee to do the work for them.

During the recess I received a communication from Senator Hamer. I might say that when this matter was discussed in this place previously he was prevented from speaking by Government members who moved that the Senate continue with other business. Senator Evans, I believe, moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as to allow Senator Evans and Senator Hamer to be heard on the question. This motion was defeated by the Government, and we did not have the advantage of the honourable senator's views on this question. But he saw fit to issue a statement which he sent to me and, I suppose, to all members of the Parliament. It purported to include the Press statement that he had made. In my copy the Press statement was not there.

Senator Hamer - That was an oversight.

Senator CAVANAGH - I am not critical of that, but I was very interested in Senator Hamer 's view. My office contacted his office and asked whether I could have the statement. I received that statement and read it, and I had every intention of replying to him along the lines of what I have said, indicating that there appeared to have been some neglect of his duty in the past, as well as the duty of other members of the House, and while I did not think that a committee was necessary I would go along with it. However, I failed to reply. I thought: 'What is the use?' But now it appears that he does realise that what he suggested the committee could achieve can be done. He has studied the Act, he has looked at the legislation and he has seen the need for improvement. Now, courageously, he has brought the matter before the Parliament.

But there is another obstacle which the honourable senator has to overcome. I have pointed before to the lack of ability of a Minister to accept an amendment on this chamber, irrespective of whether he considers the amendment is justified. It will be remembered that when I spoke on this matter before I raised many cases. Senator Hamer and Senator Missen and others would agree with that. They would also agree that those cases, if they studied them, related to a right being taken away from the Parliament. But I do not think that they studied them and on those occasions I did not get a supporter. On those occasions I pressed the Minister concerned. He could not answer my criticism about taking power from the Parliament and giving it to a Minister. Later, after further consideration, there were amending Bills introduced and agreed to. I refer to the National Health Act and to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. I think I can say that I achieved amendments to those Acts. What I said at the time ultimately resulted in another amendment after a long delay. I will give an illustration. Because this matter was pointed out and the Minister concerned agreed that there was a need to alter an Act we have on the statute book today the immemorial words, in relation to maternity allowances, that if a female employee becomes pregnant -

Senator Colston - Only female employees?

Senator CAVANAGH -Yes, it does not apply to all employees, only female employees. But that is there. Speaking to the Minister at a later stage I said to him: 'You know this is wrong'. When he agreed with me I asked him what he was going to do, and he said: 'I hope that the draftsman will pick it up next time around '. This illustrates the inability of Ministers.

I submit that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) has to justify to the Senate why he should not accept Senator Hamer's amendment on this occasion. There must be a justification for the decision that there is something wrong with the amendment, or he must show courage and ability and say that draftsmen do not control legislation under his control; that if an alteration is justified the Bill will be altered and returned to the House of Representatives. In respect of the Bill before us, I have always maintained that the Government is depriving everyone of every liberty on some projects only. Why should the Minister be the one to decide what projects these should be? I make an earnest appeal to the Minister to consider this matter and not let us divide on the question. He knows that some members on his side of the House would support the proposed amendment. It is not an issue for division. It is an issue for logic. This is something we should accept. I feel that the only thing that would prevent its acceptance is the power of the draftsman over the Minister. I think this power should be broken. We should come back to Ministerial responsibility and Parliamentary decision.

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