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Considerations of Interest

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Some of the items considered by Cabinet in 1971:

Free travel for pensioners

 

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The Tonkin Cabinet considered this issue after an election promise to extend free travel for pensioners, including child welfare pensioners and those living in the country. It agreed to increase the subsidy from 50 per cent to 100 per cent at its 25 May 1971 meeting, providing free travel on all suburban trains and buses for eligible pensioners at a cost of $555,000 per annum. It also approved the widening of the scheme to include pensioners in country towns using private bus services. Cabinet agreed also to a 50 per cent pensioner concession for country travel. The new subsidies were to operate from July the following year.

Compulsory Use of Seat Belts

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The introduction of legislation to make the wearing of seat belts compulsory in WA was first considered by Cabinet at a meeting on 1 July 1971. Victoria had already passed similar legislation six months earlier and found that its death toll fell by 20 percent.

The WA Police Minister advised Cabinet that only one of the 72 people killed on WA roads in the same period had been wearing a seat belt. Of the 1656 injured, 92.6 per cent were not wearing belts. The Minister considered it an urgent matter in the interests of humanity, and for reasons of economy and pressure on hospital accommodation and services.

On 13 July 1971, Cabinet approved the drafting of legislation to amend the Traffic Act to make the wearing of belts compulsory.

New South Wales also introduced similar legislation that year.

Consumer Protection Matters

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In September, Cabinet approved the draft Consumer Protection Act for printing and introduction into Parliament. This Bill was to establish a Consumer Affairs Council and a Consumer Protection Bureau, and appoint a Consumer Commissioner.

The Commissioner was to be given wide powers of investigation with the power to institute or defend legal proceedings on behalf of consumers.

Payroll Tax

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The Treasurer advised Cabinet on 16 August that it had been agreed at the June Premiers' conference that the States would take over payroll tax from the Commonwealth. This required new Commonwealth and State laws. Cabinet agreed to the drafting of a Bill incorporating the principles contained in a model uniform Bill agreed by the States and Commonwealth. A rate of three and a half per cent was specified in the taxing Bill, and the legislation would exempt local authorities from the tax.

"R" Certificate Film Classification

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The introduction of an additional classification for the censorship of films in WA was raised in Cabinet following an agreement at national level in September 1970 to introduce an "R" certificate in Australia. All States and the Commonwealth were then party to an agreement giving the Chief Film Censor the authority to act as the censor for all films screened in public theatres. Cabinet decided on 15 June 1971 to approve the necessary authorising legislation to be prepared.

Abolition of Death Penalty and Punishment by Whipping

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The Attorney General sought formal approval in July for the drafting of legislation to provide the necessary amendments to the Criminal Code for the abolition of the death penalty and punishment by whipping.

Cabinet agreed on 22 November 1971, to approve the printing of the Bill for introduction to Parliament in 1972. The draft Bill was an Acts Amendment Act amending the Criminal Code, the Juries Act, the Justices Act, the Native Welfare Act, and the Prisons Act.

However, it took another 13 years for legislation scrapping the death penalty to be passed by Parliament.

Daylight Saving

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The contentious issue of daylight saving went to Cabinet on several occasions during August and October.

It considered the case for and against from letters received from the public, a report from the Government Astronomer and collated climatological data. The letters represented a cross section of the community including "housewives, workers, farmers and business". On 2 August 1971, Cabinet approved the introduction of daylight saving in line with other States on a trial basis starting at 2am 31October 1971, until 2am 27 February 1972. Three weeks later, it approved a draft Bill for printing and introduction to Parliament. However, the decision was not popular and ultimately the Bill was rejected by the Legislative Council.

Environmental Protection Legislation

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Cabinet approved the preparation of a draft Bill to set up the Environmental Protection Authority on 23 August 1971. The Bill was to also establish a Department of Environmental Protection, an Environmental Protection Council and a Environmental Appeals Board.

Ombudsman

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The drafting of legislation to provide for the appointment of an Ombudsman [the first in Australia] was approved by Cabinet at its meeting on 13 July 1971.

Immigration Policy

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Cabinet considered a recommendation from the Minister for Immigration on 1 June 1971 that WA cooperate with the Commonwealth Government's declared policy of restraint on immigration. That policy provided an assisted passage program for 1971-72 at the same level as it ran from 1964-68.

The Minister had previously advised Cabinet in March that the State was experiencing an over-supply of building workers, particularly bricklayers, and the industry's future was obscure. He recommended that further recruitment of migrant building industry workers cease until further notice, while passages for bricklayers already accepted be arranged at a minimum monthly rate, "preference to be given to those travelling by the slow method of ship". Cabinet accepted these recommendations and at its later meeting decided it would support the Commonwealth's position.

Indecent Publications Act - Amendments

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The unsuccessful prosecution for the sale of the controversial book "Portnoy's Complaint" led the Minister of Police to recommend that Cabinet amend the Indecent Publications Act. The prosecution failed due to a phrase in Section 5 of the Act that stated, "nothing in this Act relates to any work of recognised literary merit". This was despite the Magistrate's view that the book was "patently and often nauseatingly obscene". Cabinet decided that a draft Bill should be prepared to provide that the censorship of films and publications and the relevant Acts be administered by the Chief Secretary.

Repeal of Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act/Extension of Liquor Rights to All Aborigines

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In a minute to Cabinet on 25 May 1971, the Minister for Community Welfare advised that liquor rights had been withheld from Aborigines living north and east of a line drawn from Cape Keraudren to a point 50 miles west of Esperance. To bring WA in line with all other States and the Commonwealth, it was necessary to lift this restriction, making the Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act redundant. Cabinet approved the move and the repeal of the Act.

Abolition of Appeals to the Privy Council

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The issue of the State's legal and constitutional ties with the UK and whether they should be abolished came before Cabinet in April.

The Attorney General advised that it was in the interests of Australia's true status as a sovereign state to abolish appeals to the Privy Council. He said that appeals on matters adjudicated by WA's Supreme Court should not go to the Council as the distance caused unnecessary delay and expense, and the appeals were adjudicated by persons unversed in Australian law and affairs.

He advised any abolition would require the British Government to amend the Imperial Statutes conferring the right of appeal, or, as an alternative, it could remove laws preventing Australian States passing their own laws to abolish appeals. Cabinet agreed to give the Attorney General the authority to raise the matter with the Commonwealth Attorney General to "discuss ways and means, and report back to Cabinet". However, it was not until 1986 that appeals to the Privy Council were abolished after the proclamation of the Australia Acts.