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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 1749

Senator Greenwood asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:

(   1 ) When the Commonwealth Police Force raided premises in Sydney suburbs on the morning of 1 April 1973, did they have, in each case, search warrants; if not, in how many instances did the Police have search warrants.

(2)   Were any search warrants granted pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes Act.

(3)   If the answer to (2) is in the negative, under what power or authority were search warrants obtained by the Police.

(4)   Why does the Attorney-General refuse to table the warrants and the affidavit material, or copies of them, on which the warrants were obtained.

(5)   Does the Attorney-General accept that Senators and Members of Parliament have a right to ascertain whether the Commonwealth Police Force is acting lawfully.

(6)   On what ground, particularly having regard to the Prime Minister's policy speech promise with respect to 'open Government', does the Attorney-General withhold the warrants and affidavit material from disclosure in the Parliament.

Senator Murphy - The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

I am informed that:

(   1 ) The New South Wales and Commonwealth Police had 57 search warrants on 1 April 1973. They searched one premises by invitation and in a second case they had a warrant for a wrongly given address and searched the correct address by invitation.

(2)   Yes.

(3)   Does not arise.

(4)   The sworn informations and warrants that had been obtained by the Commonwealth have been produced to the Senate Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians. They had been filed in the Court of Petty Sessions, Phillip Street, Sydney.

(5)   and (6) Do not arise in view of answer to (4) above.

Royal Wedding

Senator Murphy - Last week, Senator McManus and Senator Wood asked, without notice, questions relating to the wedding tomorrow of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, following reports that the Governor-General had declined an invitation to attend. I undertook to find out what were the facts.

As honourable senators may know, the Prime Minister answered a question about this in the House of Representatives yesterday and I have nothing to add to what he said. I am sure there have been no embarrassments and I know honourable senators will join me in wishing Princess Anne and Captain Phillips every happiness on their wedding day. The Prime Minister's reply was as follows:

The Governor-General did discuss with me the invitation he had received from the Queen and Prince Philip to attend Princess Anne's wedding. I know that he also discussed it with the Queen and Prince Philip when they were in Canberra.

This is a matter on which the Governor-General makes up his own mind. I do not consider it appropriate to state what might have been the purport of discussions between His Excellency and me on this or similiar matters nor what I understand was the purport of discussions between His Excellency and the Queen and Prince Philip.

I should inform honourable gentlemen that my memory is that no other Governor-General is attending the wedding. I have not heard, I do not believe, that State Governors were invited to attend the wedding.

Embassies in Canberra: Rates (Question No. 466)

Senator Gietzelt asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:

(   1 ) Has the Australian Government decided to require all Embassies to pay rates on properties in Canberra in an endeavour to bolster the City's municipal budget.

(2)   Will the Government give consideration to extending the important principle, viz., that rates should be paid on all properties, by agreeing that rates be paid on all Australian Government properties to local authorities, thus rectifying a serious grievance now existing between them.

Senator Murphy - The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(   1 ) Before 1 July 1973 embassies in Canberra were required to pay water charges but were exempt from the payment of general and sewerage rates.

Following negotiations with the Treasury and the Department of Foreign Affairs it has been agreed that in future all diplomatic properties will be charged for specific services beneficial to the property, such as water, sewerage, engineering services, and parks etc.

Diplomatic properties will continue to be exempt from payment of other elements of the general rate (e.g., public libraries, vacation play centres) under the terms of the Vienna

Convention. The Australian Government will pay the amount for which diplomatic properties are exempt.

2.   Although section 1 14 of the Constitution exempts Australian government property from municipal rating the Australian Government has, over the years, agreed to pay, as an act of grace, the equivalent of municipal rates on housing erected or purchased by the Government solely for domestic purposes, on other property where an element for rates is recovered in rents charged to tenants, and on Defence Service Homes. Payments are also made for any services rendered by a rating authority such as the supply of water, sewerage, electricity or collection of garbage. Australian Government instrumentalities engaged in commercial enterprise in competition with private organisations, and which either own property or lease property from the Government, pay to the local authority the equivalent of rates assessed on the property.

Whether the circumstances in which payments are made by the Australian Government in lieu of rates should be extended is a question that can properly be considered only in the overall context of financial relationships between the Australian Government, the State Governments and local government authorites. In that regard, as the Honourable Senator knows, the Government is very much aware of the financial problems being faced by local government authorities. The Government is giving close attention, in developing and implementing its policies, to how best to achieve its objectives of having the role of local government become a fuller and more effective one, and making available to local government resources adequate for its functions.

Accordingly, the Grants Commission Act 1973, which has recently been implemented, authorises the Grants Commission to inquire into applications for assistance by regional organisations of local government as approved for this purpose by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. The Commission's inquiries will be directed towards recommending special assistance for those authorities or regions which are financially disadvantaged compared with other authorities or regions- because, for example, of relatively low rating capacity or special or additional expenditure requirements not shared by local government generally.

If a Council felt that it suffered unduly as a result of the nonpayment of rates by the Australian Government- if, for example, it believed that it had an unusually high proportion of properties owned by the Australian Government within its bordersit would appear to be open to it, as part of a regional organisation to submit to the Grants Commission that it should receive financial assistance to compensate it for this disability. I cannot, of course, predict the Commission 's attitude towards such a submission, or what it might recommend on the matter.

It may also be of interest to the Honourable Senator to learn that this matter has been referred by the Australian Constitutional Convention to one of its Standing Committees for discussion.

Gold-mining Industry Concessions (Question No. 514)

Senator Durack asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:

(   1 ) Has the Australian Government given consideration to submissions made by the Western Australian Government against a Budget proposal to withdraw the concession on goldmining.

(2)   When will the Government make a decision on this matter.

(3)   Will the Government defer the introduction of legislation on this matter until it has made a decision.

Senator Willesee - The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   and (3) After careful consideration of all the pertinent issues, it has been decided to proceed with the proposals announced in the Budget. The relevant legislation has already been introduced. If, as seems unlikely, real problems were to arise in gold mining areas, the Government would then consider appropriate steps to deal with them.

Housing: Lending by Savings Banks (Question No. 446)

Senator Greenwood asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:

(   1 ) Is it a fact, as reported in The Age of 1 3 September 1973, that the Federal Government has told savings banks to restrain their lending for housing.

(2)   Was such request, as reported, routed through the Reserve Bank.

(3)   When was the request made by the Government.

(4)   Is it intended that such request should limit the opportunities for prospective home purchasers to obtain finance.

(   5 ) Does it in fact limit such opportunities.

(6)   How does the Treasurer justify this request having regard to (a) the election promises of the Government to assist the home buyer; (b) the failure to honour the election promise to make mortgage interest payments tax deductible; and (c) the abolition of the Home Savings Grant Scheme.

Senator Willesee - The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(   1 ) to (3) A request was made by the Reserve Bank on 20 August to the savings banks to hold, for the present, their lending for housing at the levels that had been reached in 1972-73. In the June quarter of that year the value of housing loans approved by the savings banks was 92 per cent greater than in the June quarter 1972 and 158 per cent greater than in the June quarter 1971. Against the background of such rapid growth the Reserve Bank's request to hold lending at recent levels could hardly be said to constitute restraint in the usual sense of the word.

(4)   The intention of the request was to moderate the excessive flow of finance into housing which has given rise to lengthening delays in construction and escalating prices. In the overstretched state of the housing industry an excessive provision of finance was increasing delays and costs rather than enabling more houses to be built.

(   5 ) See answer to ( 4 ).

(6)   See preceding answers. The facts are that more dwellings have been commenced in the first half of 1973 than in any comparable period in Australia's history. In addition, it will be recalled that the Treasurer announced in his Budget Speech that the Government proposed to introduce legislation to provide for a scheme of deductibility of mortgage interest in the coming Autumn Parliamentary session, to have effect from 1 July 1974. The decision to end the Home Savings Grant Scheme was taken inter alia in the light of the decision to introduce the scheme of deductibility of mortgage interest. The Home Savings Grant Scheme is to be phased out in such a way that those who commenced to save for the grant before the announcement of its termination will be given time to complete their three years savings and receive the grant.

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