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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1733

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Smith - Postmaster-General) - Last evening the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) made a number of statements during the adjournment debate. He was somewhat critical of certai'n aspects of the Australian Post Office and I feel that a reply should be given to some of the remarks which he made. In particular, the honourable member for

Lyne referred to some legal action that is pending. I will not refer to that in detail but it related to the Rhodesian Information Centre. The honourable member was incorrect when he said that, because a State government registers that name under the Business Names Act, that business is virtually entitled to continue. As a matter of interest to the honourable member, the State Government of New South Wales has taken action to see whether that name could be deregistered.

From the point of view of the principles of the Australian Government, under the Posts and Telegraphs Act we must look at matters to see whether they are legal or illegal and there is no doubt - it will not be determined otherwise by any court in this country - that the regime in Rhodesia is illegal. It was declared to be so by the United Nations. In December 1966 the Security Council made that decision. The decision, of course, was made because of the rebellion of the regime against the British Government. I am somewhat surprised that the honourable member for Lyne fails to recognise the fact that in Rhodesia there is a regime that is denying the British Government. It is on that basis that the United Nations imposed those sanctions. It was a unanimous decision of the United Nations and, accordingly, it is not proper to suggest that there is any validity in the regime. Perhaps in the cause of humanity something can be done to solve the problems but nothing could be further from the truth than that political censorship is being imposed.

Whether action can be sustained within the scope of the present Act is another matter. It is purely a matter for determination by the High Court of Australia. If there are weaknesses in that Act, no doubt they can be rectified in this Parliament. It is somewhat incongruous to think that we have been asking a State government to do something about matters and now that it is doing something we are not doing anything, particularly when our attitude towards this issue was raised in this House and bearing in mind that sanctions have been imposed and the United Nations has already passed judgment as to the legality of the regime.

It is also worth while to look in passing at some of the problems now facing the Rhodesian regime. We could look at the trials and tribulations of a journalist named Peter Niesewand who is still under detention even though - thank God for British justice, we might say - the court of appeal in that regime found him innocent. Despite that finding he is still detained. These are some of the problems of the world. However, do not let it be said in this House that political censorship was being imposed. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is completely wrong and without foundation to suggest that some sort of censorship is being imposed that would prevent any sort of publication being delivered in the course through the Australian post. It was suggested by the honourable member for Lyne last evening that perhaps censorship would be imposed which would prevent publications being transmitted by post. That is not so. The people associated with the Rhodesian Information Centre are free to carry on with their functions and the honourable member for Lyne knows that. However, those people should not be spreading propaganda to sustain the illegal regime and this is what caused the action that is now being taken. It is not difficult to explain that to anybody who is aware of the circumstances behind the action. But to suggest that there has been an improper action on the part of this Government is completely wrong.

The honourable member for Lyne also suggested in his speech that the Australian Postal Workers Union was guilty of what might be termed wrongdoing in endeavouring to intimidate people in another place to pass legislation by threatening that mail would not be delivered to them. Let me explain to the House the situation regarding this issue. No such resolution .was passed by the Postal Workers Union. It was reported that there had been such a resolution but that was not so; no ban was ever imposed. I will admit, that such a ban was considered for the very good reason that the piece of legislation involved related to workers' compensation, and we now must acknowledge that it still has not been passed. I make no further comment except to say that the legislation was introduced in this House on 7th March and was not opposed by the Opposition. In fact the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen), a distinguished legal counsel, in leading for the Opposition supported the Bill and said that he found himself unable to disagree with it. His speech took no more than 10 minutes and the Bill passed through all stages in this House,

Nothing has happened since then. The Bill has gone into a state of limbo in another place and still has not been dealt with although some 2 months have elapsed since it was first introduced into the Parliament. Is it any wonder that the Postal Workers Union should be concerned? Under that Bill its members had rights to workers compensation, weekly payments, lump sum payments and recognition of compensation for specific injuries or disease, none of which is now recognised because of the delay in dealing with this legislation which was passed unopposed in this House 2 months ago. The situation is that some 250,000 Commonwealth employees have been denied compensation entitlements which will flow to them once the legislation is passed. However a sanction is still available. If a person is elected to the Parliament he is supposed to perform his functions as expeditiously as possible. It would be the will of this House that when legislation is passed by it that legislation should not be delayed for other than a valid reason. The legislation was passed by this House in April but it has not been dealt with by the other House. It would be for that reason that employees might have felt entitled to impose some sort of sanction or ban on the delivery of mail. They have been advised that this would be improper and illegal and they will not do it.

However other action is available to them. These employees, and their wives and families who may be dependent on them, number about 500,000. They should take a keen interest in the democratic process and should realise who are responsible for the delay in the passage of this legislation. I should think that members in another place might be interested in knowing that by subterfuge they are affecting so many people. It is improper for an honourable member to suggest, during an adjournment debate, that employees of the Post Office did something wrong. They did nothing wrong at all. They felt that they should do something - that they should ban the delivery of mail. They were advised that this would be improper and illegal and they did nothing to institute that sort of action. The action they should be encouraged to take is to teach a lesson to those members in the other place who are prepared to deny rights to others. The way to teach this lesson is for the 500,000 people who may be affected to throw themselves into the next Senate election campaign and determine which persons are best fitted to represent the needs of the people of Australia. I think that what I have said may explain 2 of the matters that have been raised, but if my explanation has not been satisfactory to the honourable member for Lyne I will await further developments from him.

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