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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2371

Senator COTTON (New South Wales) (Minister for Civil Aviation) - This is the second reading debate on 2 Appropriation Bills which, as Senator Wilkinson has pointed out, the Senate is dealing with as cognate measures. The first Bill might be described as the operating Bill while the second one might be described as the capital Bill. We are treating them as though they were one Bill. A number of speakers in the second reading debate have dealt with various matters. I must say that I have sat and listened carefully to them. As I recall, there were 7 speeches which came from Senators Wilkinson, Cant, Douglas McClelland, Jessop, Mulvihill, McLaren and Bishop. The speeches have been quite interesting. One would like to reply at much greater length to them but one is conscious of the fact that if one were to do that and one was so to prolong the debate into next week one's personal popularity would shrink well below its current level, which is not high. So I will refer very briefly to those speeches. I ask my colleagues to understand that I am not being discourteous, but I am anxious to make the time required to reply as short as possible.

Senator Wilkinsonqueried the change in the Government's attitude since the last Budget with regard to inflation and containing Government expenditure. The honourable senator referred also to the closing down of the Broken Hill South Ltd mine and its consequences on employment and the closing down of business. I will not elaborate in any way on the Broken Hill South mine except to say to Senator Wilkinson that I am quite familiar with the whole situation. I know a little about the matter. My father's first job in life was to work on Broken Hill South when he was a young man in 1905. My family has been associated with Broken Hill since that time. I understand the problem. I know a little about it.

Some of the remarks made by Senator Wilkinson are worthy of much greater comment perhaps at another time.

The Broken Hill South mine for a long time has been existing on a very diminishing ore body. I think the mine has been operating for nearly 88 years. It has been a very great mine. It has done a lot for this country, but its life was distinctly limited. It was possible - this was referred to recently in a series of interviews about this matter - that with some relaxation of industrial conditions the mine might have been capable of continuing operations for a few more years. This was decided against by those unionists involved, and the life of the mine was thereby shortened to some extent but not markedly. The real fact of life in relation to the South mine is that the ore body is largely mined out and what remains is a fairly low grade deposit which would have lasted only a couple more years. The consequence of what has happened now would have been inevitable within a couple of years. I think Mr Mills, who was the manager of the mine, last year told the unionists concerned that the mine certainly would close within 2 years.

Nonetheless, Senator Wilkinson's remarks about the South mine are of great moment and concern to anybody from Broken Hill because its closing represents the end of an era in that city, just as the closing of the old BHP mine represented the end of an era when it closed. I can remember the same sort of things happening on that occasion. There were the same predictions of doom, the same air of gloom and foreboding which, relatively, provided to be unnecessary. Broken Hill has had a great capacity for looking after its own development. I am not without some optimism about the future of that city. I make those remarks to say that I note Senator Wilkinson's observations. I refer to the matter because I personally am a little involved.

Senator Wilkinsonshould note that the original figures in the Budget were based on known costs and existing services at the time. The additional appropriations covered increases in costs and the requirements for new services that have been approved since the Budget. Savings that have been effected throughout the year - wherever possible these have been effected - are in accordance with Government policy and they are reflected in the figures. I think I should mention also that Senator Wilkinson made reference to a comment made by Mr Garland in the other House about employment. It is only proper to point out that really it is not relevant to talk about the closing down of complete sectors of industry. If this had happened it would have resulted in a massive increase in unemployment, and this has not occurred. What we have seen happening in recent days is a decline in the total number of persons registered for employment. From a peak level of 130,000 at the end of January when the figures were inflated by an influx of school leavers onto the labour market, actual unemployment has fallen to about 93,000. In seasonally adjusted terms, total unemployment has also declined somewhat in April, which is the most recent month for which figures are available. On seasonally adjusted figures there was a decline in unemployment in all States except Western Australia and Tasmania.

Senator Cantreferred to Gulf Fisheries Pty Ltd at Exmouth Gulf which was owned by Mr Michael Kailis. The Department of Air has made available information on this matter. As it is a matter of some precision necessitating some detail, I think I could leave it to my colleague Senator Drake-Brockman, the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, who can raise this matter when dealing with the estimates for the Department cif Air. I think he probably would prefer to do that rather than my intruding into it.

In regard to Senator Douglas McClelland's comments in relation to football replays, the Government has announced that it will introduce legislation to clarify the powers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in regard to Sunday morning programming on television. There has not been sufficient time to introduce appropriate legislation this session. I know that every honourable senator who has a particular interest in a particular matter believes that that matter should be dealt with immediately, but the legislative programme before a government is an immense one. It gets larger and more complex every year. Honourable senators will know this because of the intensive work they are required to carry out. The challenge by the

Federation of Commercial Television Stations on Sunday morning programming led to a detailed examination of the Board's powers generally. This has taken some time and it is still continuing. There is a very wide area to be covered. It needs a detailed examination. The matter is very involved. To some extent it goes beyond legal areas into areas of public interest, emotive concept and what various people regard as public interest. For instance, the people of Victoria regard Australian Rules Football played on Sunday as part of their religion. The people who play Rugby League do not so regard that game. These are the differences.

Senator Mulvihill - Do you not have regard to New South Wales?

Senator COTTON - I realise that Senator Mulvihill and I will put ourselves in some danger of physical harm if we do too much about this in the State that we represent. Stations have been asked to comply with the Board's present standards pending the introduction of the legislation. It was put to them that this was a fair thing because the legislation is complex and difficult. For the short time that I was involved in trying to help in this field, I found from talking to the people concerned in the Broadcasting Control Board - they are very fine people who are conscious of their responsibilities - that this clearly is a complex matter in relation to which they had not found it easy to see a perfectly clear and final path. They have been working seriously on this matter with the Attorney-General's Department. Most stations are adhering to the Government's request. To the extent that they are not, they have not obeyed the request of the Broadcasting Control Board, and perhaps it would be in the public interest if they were to conform with everybody else pending the legislation being finalised. The challenge by TCN on the Australian content requirements was part of a general examination of the Board's powers. The stations are complying with the Australian content requirement. 1 am informed that the challenge by TCN was only in relation to one section of the overall requirement.

Senator Jessopspoke about some of the problems in South Australia. He mentioned the Kimba-Polda Basin pipeline. I believe that this pipeline is still the subject of examination between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government. I believe that there is still the same interest in the project. It fascinated me to hear of the availability of a water supply in that area. It seemed to me to be a water supply scheme that had a lot to recommend it. However, I am not the Minister responsible for this matter, and therefore it cannot be taken that I am the person who can give approval to the project. I simply say that the prospect of such a pipeline created a lot of interest from myself.

Senator Jessopreferred also to roads in South Australia. He, Senator Bishop and other senators from South Australia have referred to this subject on quite a number of occasions. He referred to the Stuart Highway and the Eyre Highway. I think the remarks that I make to Senator Bishop and Senator Jessop will cover the general area of this subject. I understand the point being made, namely that these 2 highways bear a great deal of traffic which is over and above the traffic incidental to the State of South Australia. They are tending to become part of an internal highway system in this country for people who are travelling throughout Australia. When one considers that increasingly the people of Australia are on the move in motor cars, both on holidays and long service leave, one realises that there is a case for examination of some of these highways. Another highway referred to was the Landsborough Highway. There is also a highway that goes from Sydney out through the central west, through Cobar to Broken Hill and links up with the main coastal highway at Port Pirie. Another one leads out from Brisbane, passes through Mount Isa, crosses the Barkly Tableland and finishes at Darwin. Increasingly people in this country are travelling by road - they use caravans as well as cars - to see their own country. It does seem to me that there is a case here to have an overall Australian approach to our roads.

As I listened to both honourable senators it occurred to me that this is a case to be referred to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads which could look at the matter in that light. Perhaps one of the things one can do in this country is to encourage internal tourism. I think there is a need to encourage the people of Australia to see their own country. I think all honourable senators will realise that I have been quite keen on this proposition for some time. So, in relation to this matter, as in relation to the other matters raised, the remarks made by honourable senators will be referred to the appropriate departments. 1 make my comments not to take up the time of the Senate but to indicate the view that 1 have and perhaps to support some of the comments that have been made. 1 do understand the problems. It seems to me that in the context that these highways are bearing traffic over and above the incidental purposes of the State to which Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement moneys pass, this problem should be directed to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for examination.

Senator Mulvihilltalked at some length about the employment situation in Tulloch Ltd at Concord. I am not terribly familiar with this matter. The honourable senator has spoken to me about it before, as he has about the John Lysaght case in Newcastle. When he spoke to me about these matters I referred them to the Department of Trade and Industry. The honourable senator has been to the Department with a deputation, too. I should think that that matter has been taken into account by the Department fairly seriously.

Senator McLarenspoke about the homes savings grant scheme. I noted his remarks and I will pass them on to the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns). The honourable senator spoke also about the effect of the postage increases in the Budget on journals that relate to schools and churches. When I was Acting PostmasterGeneral I took up that matter on behalf of a number of honourable senators, one of whom was Senator McLaren. I did not succeed in making any change in the situation, really because the overall Post Office position is that there is a very heavy and increasing deficit between revenue and expenditure. Therefore, the Post Office is not impressed at all with propositions to decrease its revenue. I cannot say anything more than that at this stage. I think I have covered in the broad, as I said I would, the matters that were raised. I again say to honourable senators that, as always in these cases, through an arrangement in my office, the contents of the relevant speeches they make are passed on to the responsible Ministers and departments for their attention.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Would the Senate be so kind as to give me leave to reply to that portion of the submissions made by Senator Cant to which Senator Cotton has referred as being within my portfolio?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

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