18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took thechair at 3 p.m.,and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question in connexion with the talks that have taken place regarding the peace settlement with Japan. It has been stated in the press and elsewhere that the Minister gavea definite undertaking to give first consideration at these talks to the claim for reparations from Japan on behalf of former prisoners of war. Will the Minister say whether he presented the claim of former prisoners of war as a first consideration ? What are the prospects of payments being made to former prisoners of war from this source ?
– The matter, to which the honorable member has referred was discussed at the conference held in Canberra last August between representatives of the British countries interested in the Pacific region, namely, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Burma and Australia. It was decided that those countries should adopt a common attitude, but that they would not define their . attitude until the peace conference was being held.
– Because it is practically impossibleto obtain supplies of 22rim-fire cartridges and 12-gauge shotgun cartridges, I wrote to Imperial Chemical Industries of. Australia and New Zealand Limited, Melbourne, and was informed that owing to the shortage of labour it could not make the ammunition available, but that if labour were providedits f actory at Deer Park, Victoria,could fulfil requirements. Will the Minister for Immigration direct immigrants to work at the factory mentioned so that manufacturersmay be enabled to fulfill the demands for ammunition of the type that I have mentioned ?
– This is the first occasion on which I have heard of any shortage of labour at Deer Park. The initiative in this matter must come from the company concerned. If it wants labour, it should make its requirements known through the ordinary channels. If a request is made either to the Minister for Labour and National Service or to me, it will receive sympathetic consideration.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development request his colleague to make inquiries regarding the supply of ammunition for shot-guns and for.22 calibre rifles? These Cartridges are very difficult to obtain, and rabbits are assuming plague proportions in large areas of Australia. The cartridges that are available are of very poor quality and cost approximately 9s. a box. At the opening of the duck shooting season some were purchased on the black market for as much as £1 a box, or nearly 1s. for each cartridge. Gelignite; whichis used in mining operations, is obtainable from South Africa at approximately45 per cent. of the price charged to-day by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and NewZealand Proprietary Limited. Will the Minister ask the Minister for Supply and Development to institute inquiries to see whether arrangements can be made for the importation of supplies of this commodity from South Africa ? Has an application been made by another Australian company tobe allowed to commence the manufacture of gelignite in this country? If so, what is the present position?
– Part of the question asked by the honorable member has already been answered in the reply given to the honorable memberfor Grey. I shall refer the othermatters to the Minister for Supply and Development and obtain the information desired.
– I notice that the motion standing in my name with relation to an incident concerning the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for the Northern Territory is No. 1 under the heading of “ General Business “ on the notice-paper, and that under the heading of “ Government Business “ there is a motion, in the name of the Prime Minister, that Government business shall take precedence over general business tomorrow. Will the Prime Minister say whether this means that no opportunity will arise during these sittings to discuss the motion standing in my name? If it means merely that private members’ business or general business will not be taken to-morrow, will the right honorable gentleman assure the House that a3 soon as possible an opportunity will be given to debate the motion of which I have given notice?
– It was the Government’s intention that Government business should take precedence over general business to-morrow. At the time I gave notice of that motion I did not know that it was the intention of the Leader of the Opposition to give notice of the motion now standing in his name. I think he will acquit me of any evil intention in that regard. It is the Government’s intention to proceed to-day with the motion standing in my name. The right honorable gentleman is really asking whether or not an opportunity will be provided to discuss the motion of which he has given notice. An opportunity for that discussion will be provided on the next occasion that private members’ business is discussed.
– That will not be during this session?
– I do not know what the honorable member means by “ this session “.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the International Wheat Agreement will have any effect upon the sales
O’f Australian flour overseas? Has he been approached by employers or employees in the milling industry upon this matter? Will due regard be given to the necessity for grinding the maximum amount of wheat in Australia so that wheat offal will be available for use in the dairying, poultry and other industries 1
– Representations have been made to me by associations and organizations representing flour mill employers and employees. There appears to be a fear that the International Wheat Agreement, if ratified, will have an adverse effect upon the Australian flour milling industry. Under the terms of the agreement, flour is treated as wheatTrade will, therefore, continue as at present, and Australia will be free to sell as wheat its equivalent in flour. I cannot foresee any ill effects from the agreement upon the flour-milling industry of this country.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say when it is intended that honorable members of this Parliament will have an opportunity to peruse the International Wheat Agreement in detail? Did the Australian Wheat Board have before it the full text of the document and was it given an opportunity of tendering to the Government any advice it wished to tender before a decision was reached that Australia should become a party to the International Wheat Agreement?
– I intend to move later to-day that I be given leave to introduce a measure to ratify the International Wheat Agreement. I shall probably bring down the bill this week. The schedule to the bill will incorporate the terms of the agreement, so honorable members will have available its full text. The representative of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. Tadman, was present during the discussions that culminated in the signing of the agreement. The Australian Wheat Board has not submitted to me its views on the agreement. I should have been glad to receive and consider them had it done so.
– Did the Australian Wheat Board have the agreement?
Arn Accident in New Guinea-*- TransOceanic Airways Proprietary Limited.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation tell the House whether the 33 native passengers who were killed in the crash of an aircraft in New Guinea last Sunday were weighed as freight and loaded on a freighter aircraft that was bought from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission? Do civil aviation regulation stipulate that each passenger in an aircraft must be allotted a seat and a safety belt? Does that provision apply to natives as well as to whites? Will the Minister institute the fullest investigation of the tragedy?
– I cannot inform the honorable gentleman at this stage whether the natives who were unfortunately killed in that crash were treatedas freight, but, if they were, that wouldbe against the regulations. The Inspector of Air Accidents, Mr. Harper, is in New Guinea investigating the crash. Air navigation orders and a certificate of airworthiness call for the provision of a seat as well as a belt for all persons carried in aircraft, and no authority has been granted for any departure from those requirements in the carrying of native passengers. It is necessary for the purposes of safety that not only persons but also freight carried in aircraft shall be properly stowed and secured so that involuntary movement shall be prevented, and it is as important that those rules be observed in the carriage of natives as in that of other passengers. I. have already partly answered the honorable gentleman’s question whether a full inquiry will be made. Whether a public inquiry will be necessary will depend on the report of the Inspector of Air Accidents to the Department of Civil Aviation.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen reports which have appeared in the press stating that TransOceanic Airways Proprietary Limited has been given a fortnight’s notice to move two workshops from the flying boat base at Rose Bay? That company is a small one which operates five Sunderland aircraft and employs 23 ex-servicemen. It is competing in a small way with
Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which is under government control. The manager of Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited states that his company will be put to considerable inconvenience if it is compelled to move or vacate its workshops. Can the Minister say whether any such order has been issued by the Department of Civil Aviation, and whether the reports which have appeared in the press in this connexion are correct? In view of the drastic effect which removal or vacation of the workshops would have on the company, will the Minister undertake to consider the matter thoroughly and to give the company concerned an opportunity to make alternative arrangements instead of treating it in what I consider to be a totalitarian fashion ?
– It is a fact that Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited has been given notice to remove from or vacate the buildings which it now occupies, . but other portions of the reports which have appeared in the press are quite misleading. Some time ago certain temporary structures erected by the Dutch during the war were offered for sale, a condition of the sale being that the buildings would have to bc removed from the site within 28 days of purchase. Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited were aware of that condition when it purchased the structures, but it has made no attempt to remove them. The site on which the buildings stand is now required for the extension of existing permanent buildings at the flying boat base, and the company has been given notice to remove from or to vacate the buildings which it is occupying. Contrary to reports which have appeared in the press, the company has no lease of the land on which the buildings stand, and if any heavy machinery has been installed it has been placed there by the company in full knowledge of the conditions of the sale of the structures. The fact that the land on which the buildings stand is now required by the Department of Civil Aviation has nothing to do with any service operated by Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited or Qantas Empire Airways Limited. I have already made the inquiries which the honorable memberhassuggested,andIamsatis- fied thatthef actsareasI havestated andthatthehonorablemember hasbeen misinformed.
Mr.BEALE. - I havejustreturned fromNew Guinea, to which I madea short visit on a professional matter. While I was there it became known that I was a memberofthisHouse and I was besieged by agreat number of persons whowanted to tell me the difficulties under which citizens liveinNew Guinea. It wasimpossible.for me to deal with them all. As thereis nolonger a legislative council in NewGuineathrough which the wishes and difficulties of white citizens there may be made known, and as they have no representative in this Parliament, will the Minister for External Territories takean early opportunity of visiting New Guinea inordertomake a close examination of conditions there? While therewill he make ithis business to interview as many citizens as possible in orderthat hemay becomeaware oftheirdifficulties?
– Ashonorable members areaware, it hadbeenmy intention to visitthe , territories earlier thisyear, but owing tounforeseencircumstances my departurewas delayed.It is my intention tovisitthe territoriesassoonaspossible laterthis year.AtpresentI am not able todeterminethe exactdate. A billis inpreparationatthe moment toestablishapermanent administration in the territories to replace the provisionalorganization,and provision willbemadeinthat measuretopermit residents oftheterritorieshaving a voice inmattersaffectingtheir owninterests andthe territoriesgenerally.When I visittheterritories, asisalways mypractice,I shall,having regardtothetime atmy disposal,beavailable toallpersonswho haveanymatter which they desire tobring tomyattention. meat.
Mr.LANG. -Inviewofthe decision that itisnotpracticabletofixtheprice ofmeaton thehoof ,will theMinister representingtheMinisterforTrade and Customsconsiderthe suggestionthat pricefixingand rationing ofmeat should be suspendedf oran experimental period ? Willhealsogive considerationto the compulsorybranding ofallmeat.Is he yet in a position to replytoquestions whichI asked some time ago regarding exports oflive-stock to thePhilippines?
-I havealready given consideration. to thecompulsorybranding ofallmeat,but someofthe Statesare ratherdifficultintheirattitude towards thatmatter. Ishallbring thehonorable member’sfirst question to thenotice ofthe Ministerf orTradeandCustoms; and I shallendeavour toexpedite replies tothe questions askedby the honorable member regardingtheexport of livestockto the Philippines.
– Iask the Minister representing theMinister for Trade and Customs, or the PrimeMinister, whether any statement can be made as to the reason whythe Government decided lastMonday to ceasefixing the retail selling price oflamb? In view of the Government’s claim thatit cannot govern Australia effectively unless ithas permanent control of prices, will the Ministerexplain why it is not now necessary to fix the price of lamb and whyit is still necessary to continue fixing the prices ofbeef, muttonandpork?
– Ishallanswer briefly, on behalfof theMinisterfor TradeandCustoms, because thedecisions in regard to these mattersweremadeat lengthy conferences between members of the Cabinetsub-committee, thePrices Commissioner,and Mr. W.S.Kelly - whodeals with the subject largely on behalf of thePrices Commissioner. Rather than detaintheHouse whileItraverse allthe groundthatcould becovered, I shallsupplythehonorable member with a written answer setting out all the facts associated with the supply oflamb.I assure the honorable member thatthere isnothingpolitical in this action.
Mr.RANKIN.-Hasthe Minister for External Affairsseenreports from Lon- don whichhavebeenpublished inthe MelbourneAgesuggesting theexistence ofalinkbetweenCommunist organizations in Australia and in Malayaforthe purposeof increasing Communistactivity in this region1? Has the ‘Government any evidence that such a link exists1? Is it exploring the possibility of co-operative action on the part of ‘Communists in these areas?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred, but I stall read it and give the honorable member a full reply as soon as possible.
– As appeals have been made to me from persons affected, I -ask the Attorney-General what is the position of married women under Commonwealth law in respect of .their right to a share in savings made from the husband’s income and in all goods- purchased for the home? Can the husband legally dispose of all such property without the consent of the wife? Under Commonwealth law., is the wife recognized .as a partner ki such money and goods ? If not, will the right .honorable gentleman introduce .an amending .measure to protect the wife’s interest in such matters ?
– The .question -of the , re.spective rights ‘of spouses is determined broadly not ‘by Commonwealth law but by the ‘laws of the States, “which .do not always correspond. If -the honorable member will put ,heT question ‘om the notice-paper I shall supply Ja full answer, leven if k does -involve some reference to the laws of the States.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether the Australian Government was consulted “by -the United Kingdom Government prior to the .six-power -talks which began in -London .yesterday on the question of a separate government “for western ‘Germany!? Will the ‘-right honorable gentleman indicate whether ‘the Australian Government “supports ‘the policy enunciated ‘by ‘the “United “Kingdom Government “in “respect of this matter? ‘
– There ‘has been no specific consultation, except “that ‘the High Commissioner for Australia ‘ in ““London is “kept informed ‘on ‘these “matters and reports to the Australian Government. In view of that, it is inexpedient at present to add anything further to what 3 have already said. I shall look into the matter and ascertain whether it is possible to give the honorable m-ember any further information.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform tfe House whether or not ex-service mental patients are as a rule inmates of State mental hospitals? If so, will he consider the establishment of mental hospitals for ex-servicemen im the larger Stages?
– -Ex-servicemen who need mental treatment, receive it, in *he main, in mental hospitals ‘under State control. Im some States ex-servicemen are treated in special sections *of the mental institutions. It has “been the practice for ‘some years to separate exservicemen from civilians, as far .as it has been possible to do so. The latest, instance -of that is at Wacol, iti Queensland, where a separate -block is established for ‘ex-servicemen. In mother States also, separate blocks are provided for .this purpose. ‘Difficulty would be (experienced in providing separate institutions, because under “tike Lunacy Acts ,of the various State mental institutions ane under State control. As fiar .-as possible exservicemen requiring mental treatment are ‘separated from civilian , patients in mental ‘asylums.
– 1 preface my quest-ion by pointing .out that a number of questions ‘have been asked in -the House recently regarding mental patients in hospitals, including ex-servicemen, -and because of ‘the facilities provided- by radio receiving sets now installed in hospitals the ‘broadcast of such questions “is not desirable. ‘In the circumstances 1 suggest .to the Minister ‘for Repatriation that he circularize honorable* members requesting that when they -propose ‘to make representations on behalf of such patients they should do so .privately, and that if it is -necessary -formally to ask questions much questions ;be ;placed on the notice paper
– I appreciate the humane motive which has prompted the honorable member to make the suggestion and I congratulate him on the delicate manner in which he has mentioned the matter. The treatment of ex-servicemen who are mental patients is one of the difficult problems which confronts the Repatriation Department. As honorable members are aware, I prefer, for the reason indicated by the honorable member, not to discuss the matter publicly any more than is necessary. I shall certainly consider the suggestion which he has made.
Shortage of RUBBER Boots.
– With the recent approach of wintry conditions, I have received many complaints from residents of dairying districts regarding the shortage of rubber boots. As the Commonwealth no longer exercises control over these articles, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Fuel undertake to ask his colleague to confer with rubber manufacturers in order to ascertain the reason for the shortage of these boots and also to devise means if it be . possible by which the manufacture of these indispensible articles may be increased?
– I am glad that it has been made clear that the Commonwealth no longer has any control over the supply of rubber boots. However, in matters such as this, it is sometimes possible for a government department, in consultation with the industry concerned, to overcome difficulties of the kind mentioned by the honorable member. Whether or not the Department of Supply and Development is the best authority to undertake that task I am not certain. The Division of Industrial Development of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has a close relation with secondary industries generally. I shall examine the matter, and either I or the Minister for Supply and Development will see what can he done on the lines suggested.
– As primary producers in South Australia need tractors urgently - there are approximately 3,500- applicants on the waiting list - is it possible for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to expedite the importation of tractors from America to South Australia? Failing this, and in view of the fact that America is importing, tractors from Great Britain, is the Minister in a position to assist importers by directing British tractors to- South Australia if the importers desire to procure them by this means ?
– There is a serious shortage of tractors throughout Australia. Since the cessation of hostilities the demand has greatly exceeded’ the supply. The shortage is due mainly to the back-lag of production in the United States of America, in the United Kingdom, and in Australia itself. The authority controlling tractors in the Commonwealth at present endeavours, as far as is humanly possible, to ensure that whatever machines are available shall be distributed equitably amongst the States in accordance with their varying needs. British and American tractors coming to this country are pooled, and each State receives its quota. It is true that the United Kingdom is exporting tractors toAmerica. This indicates that there is a scarcity of these machines in the latter country also. However, we are receiving fairly substantial supplies from the United Kingdom, including the Fordson Major and other makes, and I hope that these supplies will increase in the future. In addition, _ Australian production of tractors is expanding and should play an important part in the provision of these machines in the very near future.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether under a new contract just concluded Great Britain will purchase 40,000 tons of Danish butter at £16 ls. 6d. per cwt. sterling, or 3s. 7d. per lb. Australian, compared with £10 3s. 6d. f.o.-b. sterling, or 2s. 3£d. per lb. Australian for choicest Australian butter? What is the reason for this disparity? Is New Zealand also receiving a higher f.o.b. sterling price than Australia? If so, what is the reason for this disparity also ? Was the sale of Australian butter negotiated directly between the United Kingdom Government and the . Australian Government, and who were the producers’ representatives, if any, who participated in the discussions that led to the determination of the conditions of sale? Have representatives of the Dairy Produce Control Board asked for, and recently been denied, a voice in such, negotiations? as the butter, in fact, been sold over their heads? If recognized sacrifices are to be made by Australia to assist Great Britain, does the Government consider that these should be borne by the producers of a. selected export commodity rather than by the taxpayers of Australia as a whole?
– The honorable member has asked a most comprehensive question and I should have to speak for half an hour to answer it thoroughly. T am aware that the Government of the United Kingdom has entered into arrangements with countries other than Australia and New Zealand, which involve the payment by the United Kingdom of higher prices for dairy products than those now being obtained by Australian and New Zealand producers. That is because the only alternative to the payment of those higher prices is to go without the butter. That does not justify the United Kingdom Government in paying the same price for Australian butter, bearing in mind the cost of production. After all, we are largely in the hands of the United Kingdom Government, and we have to accept the price which that government i3 willing to pay us? although it is true that Britain has been coerced into paying higher prices for butter purchased in other countries. The price paid for Australian butter is due to be reviewed in a few months’ time. The negotiations will be conducted on the highest government level, and as the request for the review has come from the United Kingdom Government itself, those who negotiate on behalf of Australia will necessarily be representatives of the Australian Government. It is true that the Australian Dairy Produce Board asked to be allowed to interpose itself in the negotiations between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Go vernment, and I do not blame it for that, but the Australian Government decided that, as a matter of policy, such interposition would not be justified. It informed the Australian Dairy Produce Board that its expert advice would be welcome, and would be taken into consideration during the negotiations. The honorable member for Richmond must know that the price obtained for dairy products in the past, both, on the Australian a.nd the British markets, was far below the cost of production, and is in striking contrast with that now being received by producers, a price which fully covers the cost of production. The honorable member for Bendigo who is interjecting must have a vivid recollection of the “stinking “ price which he obtained years ago for his butter while governments which he supported were in office. Dairyfarmers now have a five-year guarantee from the Government, under which prices are adjusted up or down in accordance with the cost of production index figure.
– The Minister should apply for an extension of time.
– I should not like to overlook any aspect of the question of the honorable member for Richmond, or give the impression that I was evading any of the issues he raised. For the first time in the history of the Australian dairying industry, the price paid by the United Kingdom Government for New Zealand and Australian butter is the same, except for such adjustments as are necessary to compensate for the difference in freight.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the City of Sydney will be deprived of refined sugar for the next five or six weeks because ships will not arrive from northern Queensland with cargoes of raw sugar for some time to come? As there is a standard railway gauge between Sydney and Brisbane, could not arrangements be made to transport raw sugar to New South Wales by rail as quickly as possible ?
– The problem of bringing raw sugar to Sydney from Queensland has naturally caused some anxiety because the shortage of sugar in
New South Wales is due to the nonar rival of raw sugar at the refineries in Sydney. When the recent industrial trouble ended, all of the ships that could Have been used to carry sugar had already been loaded with cargoes and were proceeding to various ports. Some of them were carrying very important cargo for Queensland ports and could not be diverted from those ports. Ocean Valor was the only ship in ballast at the time. The ship possibly could have been loaded with raw sugar at Mackay, but, although a total of 130,000 tons of raw sugar is stored in Queensland, there was not sufficient at Mackay to provide Ocean Valor with a full cargo. Therefore, it had to go to Cairns, where other ships are waiting to discharge general cargo and to load sugar. With regard to ships that were taking goods to Queensland, I understand that about two weeks must pass before loading of a sugar ship could commence. Even if Ocean Valor bad been able to obtain a full cargo of sugar at Mackay, it would not be able to reach Sydney before about the 4th May; I assure the honorable member that everything possible has been done and will continue to be done to send ships to sugar ports-. Eight or nine ships have already been allotted to the sugar ports. With reference to railtransport, the honorable member understands that the standard gauge line from Sydney terminates at. South Brisbane and does not extend to the sugar districts. Thosedistricts are a considerable distance north of Brisbane. Therefore, in view of the freight commitments of the Queensland railways authorities, it hits not been possible to bring raw sugar south for many hundreds of miles for trans-shipment at Brisbane and we havehad todepend largely on ships.Every possibleeffort is being made to send ships to Queensland ports so as to bring rawsugar to therefineries.
– Can the Minister for Air inform me of the present system of promotions for air crewmembers of the Royal Australian Air Force? Is it proposedto alter theSystem, and, ifso, whatnew systemwillbe adopted?
Mr.DRAKEFORD.- The present system of promotions in the. Royal Australian Air Force is similar to that which was in operation during the war. Consideration has been given to the system of promotions which should apply when the air force is established on its new basis, and when the change has been made, if it has not already started, a new method will be employed. I shall endeavour to obtain additional information which the honorable member desires.
– Will the Treasurer review the decision not to provide dollars for the importation of cyanogas during this financial year? I make this request because supplies of cyanogas are required immediately for the preservation of crops, the export value of which will be considerably greater than the amount represented by the saving of dollars. Cyanogas will destroy various pests which, at present, are responsible for the destruction of large quantities of exportable commodities. To vary the old Latin adage, I remind the Treasurer that “ He kills twice who kills quickly and I ask the right honorable gentleman to permit, in the present financial year, the importation of cyanogas, because the results of its use will be of considerable financial benefit to Australia.
– We examined the necessity for importing cyanogas, probably during the right honorable gentleman’s absence from Australia, and decided, not from choice., but because of the absolute necessity to save dollars, to restrict the importation of this exterminator. Dollar expenditure must be reduced to the absolute minimum, and the figure will have to be much below last year’s amount. We have decided not to issue licences covering a long period, because that might involve us in heavy dollar commitments next year and, in the changing circumstances, we might notbe able to meet them. In response to the right honorable gentleman’s request,I shallarrange for the Minister for Trade andCustoms to have the matter reexamined, particularly in the light of the reasons which have been advanced for a relaxation of the restrictions.
– Yesterday, the Sydney Daily Telegraphattributedto the Minister for External Affair’s a statement that Australia had played a notable part atthe UnitedNations Conference on Freedom of Information, held at Geneva. The righthonorable gentleman isreported ashavingsaid -
The initiative of Australia’s delegationhad won favorable comment.
Previously, I had read reports that representatives of tthe UnitedStates of America who attended that conference had expressed concern at the policy followed bythe Australian delegates, because it was considered that they were supportingthe Soviet point of view rather than that ofthedemocracies. In to-day’s press there appears a statementby Mr. Chancellor, the general manager of Reuters, to theeffect that the proceedings atthe United Nations Conference on Freedom ofInformationcould beviewed only with verygreat apprehension. Will the Minister inform me what part Australia played atthe conference,and what position was taken by Australia’s delegates on thatoccasion? Whatdiff erence of opinion,if any,existed between the American and Australian representatives there?
– Thefirstfact of which thehonorablemember should be informed is thatatthe last meeting of theGeneral Assembly ofthe United Nations, at Lake Success,the representatives ofthe57 nationsunanimously agreed thateverything possible should bedonebyeach countryto discourage publications which, instead of being merely criticisms of other countries,amounted to sheer propaganda against them. It wasthendecided, again unanimously, that the working out of positivearrangementstothat endshould bediscussedat the conference to which the honorable member has referred. At thatmeeting the Australian delegation, headedby Mr. Alan Watt, put forward certain proposals forcarrying outtheUnitedNations’decision, which was aimed atexactlythe same object. The purpose is not topreventfreedom of criticism,and thefull and accurate publication of facts,butto ensure, so faras agovernmentcando withoutanycensorship, or interference onthe application of restrictions, that thefacts of all tthese situationsshould be published fairlyand accurately. That wasthe policyadoptedby Australiaon both occasions,andat Geneva aproposal to that end was submitted by the Australian delegation. Thefact thatthe motion proposed by Australia was,after amendment, adoptedunanimously by the representativesofallcountries, including theUnitedStates of America, is a sufficientanswer to the honorablemember’s suggestion.
InfectiousDiseases - Unregistered Practitioners.
Mr.RYAN. -Can the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Health say whether a proposal has recently been made to the Government that itshould take over thecontrolandtreatment of infectious diseases throughout Australia? If so, will the Ministerindicate the nature of the Government’s reply?
– I knowthatthere has been discussion ofsuch a proposal, but inorder to furnish a satisfactory answer tothehonorablemember I shall referhis question tothe Minister for Healthforreply.
– In view ofthe statementbythechairman ofthe committee establishedin New South Wales to inquireinto the activities of Mr.John Brannd,who claims tobe abletocure cancer, andofthe report in which Mr. Branndis referredto as” a fraudanda charlatan”, and having regardtothe statement ofthe Minister for Health in New South Wales thatthereare many peopleoperating inthe community who are a menaceto the public health and to the pockets of their victims,will the Minister representingthe Ministerfor Health say whether the . Australian Government hastakenanysteps to ascertain theextent to which unregistered persons ineach Stateare permitted to apply allegedmedicaltreatment? Ifso, when isareport expected ? If the information discloses thatsuch persons are adanger tothehealth of thecommunity, will the
Government at least take action to discourage visas being given to sufferers overseas and so prevent them from coming to Australia at considerable expense to he fleeced in this way? Further, will the Minister for Health confer with the health authorities in each State to see if something can be done to mitigate these dangers?
– I think it is safe to say that the Australian Government has not taken any action in the Braund case. It has no authority to decide who shall be allowed to practise medicine in the States and, in fact, the Minister does not think it should be given any such authority. At the present time the State governments exercise control. I shall ask the Minister for Health whether he has any intention of inquiring into the matters referred to by the honorable member.
Alleged Blackmarketing by Officer - Appointment to Land .Sales Control.
– On the 25th February T asked the Prime Minister a question concerning a senior member of the Public Service who had been charged with a blackmarketing offence in regard to the rental of a house. The Prime Minister undertook to inquire into the matter and inform me of the result, but apart from showing me a few words which appeared on an official file he has made no further reply. More recently I asked a question with which the Prime Minister will be familiar concerning an officer of the Land Sales Control. Does the right honorable gentleman propose to answer those questions? If he does, when will he do so?
– I regret that there has been some delay in furnishing a full reply in regard to the first matter mentioned by the honorable member. It has always been the policy of the Government, and, indeed, of every government, to give the maximum information in reply to honorable members’ questions. I shall endeavour to amplify my reply to the honorable member’s first question. I have had some inquiries made with regard to the second question concerning an employee of the Land Sales Control, whose name the honorable member was good enough to give me privately.. Following the honorable member’s question, the officer concerned wrote to. me, and if the statements contained in his letter are true I think that although, he may have been guilty of offencesthere was some reason for mercy. Practically the only information available at present is that supplied voluntarily by the officer concerned, but the PublicService Board and the other department concerned are investigating this matter and expect to furnish a complete report within the next few days. As soon, as that report is received I shall communicate to the honorable member theinformation which he desires. However,. I .might say at once that the member of” the Public Service in question was found! guilty of some offence approximately eight years ago. I understand that heis a married man, with substantial family responsibilities, and that during the warhe enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. I have been informed that on his discharge the Public Service Board’ intimated that since he was an ex-serviceman he was entitled, under the Re-establishment and Employment Act to resume his- employment in the Public Service. I want to make it quite clear that that does not excuse the lack of any action that might have been taken in regard te,his employment in the first place. The facts are being ascertained. It appears that although some offences were committed: by this man - I am not yet able to say of what magnitude they were - there are also certain extenuating circumstances> and any severe punishment might result in some measure of injustice.. Beforemaking a decision, I wish to-be informed of all the facts. When I am, I shall’ supply the honorable member with- theinformation for which he asks..
– Yesterday a casewag, brought to my notice of a person, who applied to Land Sales Control forauthority to purchase a block of ‘flats for £10,000 and was told that at that pricethe return from his investment’, approximately 5^ per cent., would’ be too low. The valuation was reduced’ to approximately £8,000 in order to give- a return: of7½ per cent., although the purchaser would have been satisfied with 5½ per cent. Can the Prime Minister say whether it is the policy of the Government to administer the regulations governing this matter so as to value properties upon the basis of the return from the investment or upon the cost of the building and land that are being purchased ?
– I should detain the House for too long if I endeavoured fully to deal with all the points raised by the honorable member. In endeavouring to ascertain the real value of a property, in some cases consideration is given to the return from the investment. Valuations are not based upon the original cost of the buildings concerned, because in the case of old structures they were probably built at a time when building costs were low. Valuations are generallybased upon values as at February, 1942. Some flexibility is allowed and a sum is added in cases where repairs or renovations have been made which have enhanced the value of the buildings. The return from the money invested is one of the matters that is considered in deciding the fair price. Difficulties usually arise only in cases where there is a dispute about whether or not the suggested price is excessive. I shall endeavour to supply the honorable member with any additional information he may desire.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That Government business shall take pre- cedence over general business to-morrow.
– I oppose this motion. Its purpose is to exclude from our consideration, at any rate for to- morrow, at least two matters, one of which is a motion standing in my name.
– That is not the purpose of this motion, although, if carried, it will be its result. I gave notice of this motion before the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) gave notice of the motionnowstanding in his name.
– I shall assume that the purpose of the right honorable gentleman’s motion is benevolent, but its result will be to exclude two matters from our consideration to-morrow. One is the motion standing in my own name in relation to the incident to which I have already referred in a question addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and the other is that standing in the name of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang).
I want to say something about the importance of the motion standing in my name being considered by this House at the earliest possible moment. I shall not discuss its merits at this stage. I merely say it is a matter of urgency that a motion of this kind should not remain upon the notice-paper but should be disposed of as soon as possible. The next day upon which general business could be taken in the ordinary course would be the 13th May. Whilst I am not entirely in the confidence of the “ charnel house “ on this matter, I have a shrewd idea that, because of the referendum campaign, the House will not be sitting on that day. Precisely when it will resume thereafter, I do not know; but it is quite clear that if this matter is not debated to-morrow or in the very near future it will not be debated until after the House resumes following its next recess. When that will be I do not know. How long would then elapse before this unhappy business, which concerns the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for the Northern Territory, can be terminated. I do not know. I remind the House that the statements that gave rise to the investigations to the Privileges Committee whose report in turn gave rise to the motion standing in my name, were originally made on the 6th November last year. The matter was referred to the Privileges Committee on the 3rd December last year. There was delay in the making of the report of the committee . because of the absence of the chairman of the committee on his duties in the High Court of Australia, and the result was that the report reached us on the 7th April this year. If the Prime Minister’s motion is carried, and if no assurance can be given as to when this matter can be disposed of, it is quite on the cards that it will not come up for discussion in this House until July, August or September this year, which would mean that the better part of a year would have elapsed between the date of the offence and the disposal of the matter in this House.
– It will probably come up in June.
– When in June?
-I cannot say the exact date. I have not counted the. days.
– The right honorable gentleman makes these jovial remarks, which I fully appreciate, but he is the only man who can say when.
– It will be the first private members’ day in June.
– More precisely, it will be when the right honorable gentleman allows a private members’ day in June.
– I have given a promise.
-Then private members’ business will not be suspended in June ?
Mr.Chifley.- Not in relation to this matter.
– That is one step in the right direction. Will the Prime Minister take a second step in the, right direction, while he is in a. melting mood? May the House have an assurance that this matter will’ be, in fact, debated? Will the House be given the opportunity- of having the matter called on” and disposed of? I put it- to the Prime Minister that we cannot ha ve a matter of this kind lying on the notice-paper. It is grieviously discreditable to the Parliament if it does, and it will probably be gravely discreditable to the Government if it does not allow this matter to be deal t with.
– It has already been dealt with by the Priveleges Committee.
– Thatis true, but I remind theright honorable gentleman that the committeeisnot this House?. The committeereports to this House. This House is stillin command of its own responsibilities in this matter. This House is not bound to say that because a committee made an investigation that is the end of the matter. Honorable members have the right to express a view on this matter.
– It was a unanimous decision, too.
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) does not really think that. He knows that all these committees make unanimous decisions, techni cally.
– Order !. The report of the committee cannot be discussed at this stage.
– I am sorry that I followed the bad example set by the treasury bench. I do not desire to discuss the merits of this matter, for I know that I cannot do so at this stage, but I am saying that this is a matter that should he disposed of, and the effect of the motion before the Chair is that it will not be. disposed of during the present sittings. The most that we can get from the Prime Minister is that it may come up for discussion in June. But that is no guarantee that that will be so. If there is indefinite delay it will be a. matter of some disgrace to this Parliament.
Mr.LANG (Reid) [4.10].- This motion is not unexpected. There is one overriding reason why it has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). That is because the Government is afraid to allow members to vote on the motion standing in my name on the notice-paper for to-morrow. This is a Government without political morale or political morals. It is in a red funk. Sooner or later it will have to face the issue involved in the motion that I proposed to move. But it is making a pitiable attempt to buy time, by stalling off this motion. It hopes that something will turn up, so that it will not have to make a decision on the question of banning the Communist party. That is why it is obliterating private members’ business to-morrow. This motion proves how badly shakenis the Government’s morale. The Government is on the run. It is running away from the Communist issue. It knows the feelings of the electorateson the subject of communism. It knows that the people are demanding action… But that means declaring war onitsallies-the Communists whocontrol the big trade unions. So it retreats behind this motion.
– The honorable member knows that the matter of communism was the subject of a recent censure motion .
– Yes, and the Prime Minister knows that.I was “gagged” in that debate. Itis no use for him to put up his smug hypocrisy against me.
Butthere is another important reason why the Prime Minister has moved this motion. He knows that certain members of his own party are becoming restive. They are perhaps more in touch with public opinion than is the Prime Minister who isolates himself from public opinion by staying in Canberra. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has already had to be gagged in this House. The honorable members for Martin (Mr. Daly), Perth (Mr: Burke), the honorable member for Watson (Mr.Falstein), and thehonorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), as well asthe honorable member for Hunter have attempted to raise the issue in the party room. If the Government permitted the House to discussthe motion standingin my name those honorable members who areso upset just now would be brought face to face with what would be for them a personal crisis. They know that the Labour movement itself is disgusted with the Government because of its grovelling to Communist trades union, officials. Unless the Government takes positive action to deal with the Communistmenace the Government itself is doomed; and that means that the honorable members for Parkes, Martin, Perth, Eden-Monaro and Hume and many other Government supporters will not be interested in the preservation of private members’ day in this House after, the life of this Parliament expires.
Maybe, there is another reason, and, perhaps, a more sinister one, why the Prime Minister has proposed the motion. Does the Government hope to suppress discussion on the subject of the legality of the Communist party until after the forthcoming referendum? The Government has said that it will not expend
Government money on its case, except of course, what it expends on propaganda in loan publicity. Has it another pact with the Communist party similar to the pactit hadwith that party in 1944 ? Are the Communists going to find all the literature and be responsible for most of the organization in putting the Government’s case before the peopleatthe forthcoming referendum?
– The honorable member is straying from the question before the Chair. He is not now putting forward a legitimate argument with respecttothe motion.
– Perhaps the Prime Ministerhas a personal reason for submitting this motion which is designed to prevent discussion of the motion standing in my name on the notice-paper, and which in the ordinary course of events would be considered to-morrow. Apparently, he is trying to avoid declaring himself by not allowing my motion to be discussed in order to put himself on the right side with the Macquarie Electoral Council of the Labour party of which the Communist party has gained control.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the questions bef ore the Chair.
-I am pointing out the motives behind the motion which the Prime Minister has proposed. The right honorable gentleman assured the Leader of the Opposition that this motion was placed on the notice-paper before the latter gave notice of his motion, and that this motion was not intended to prevent consideration of the motion of which the Leader ofthe Opposition has given notice but was intended to prevent the House from dealing with some other motion. There is no other motion except that standing in my name.
– That, of course, is quite incorrect.
– The honorable member’s reference to the Macquarie Electoral Council has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– Is the Government afraid that once again it will be placed in the unenviable position, of defending the Communist party as it was during a recent debate in this chamber when the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), the very distinguished legal spokesman for the Government, was obliged to assume the role of devil’s advocate? If the motion before the Chair be not carried and, consequently, an opportunity be given to honorable members to-morrow to discuss the motion of which I have given notice, the Prime Minister would again find himself called upon to indulge in self pity. We should probably hear from him another sob story about what happened 25 years ago. The Prime Minister submitted this motion because he knows that the Government has no answer to the motion standing in my name on the notice-paper. Supporters of the Government invariably challenge other honorable members to say what the Government should do about the Communist party, but whenever an honorable member makes a proposal for positive action such as is embodied in the motion of which I have given notice, the Government prevents the House from not only voting upon the proposal, but also from even discussing it. The motion now before the Chair is an indictment of the Government on the ground of its political immorality. It gives lip service to democracy. It says that if it takes action to deal with the Communist party it will be accused of suppressing minorities. But what has been its history in this Parliament? This motion is typical of its contempt for the rights of not only minorities, but also majorities. It exhibits contempt for the majority which is represented by -supporters of the Government itself. It uses the gag not as a means of dealing with urgent Government business, but solely of suppressing criticism of its own actions. This motion has been moved to suppress criticism of the Government because it has intimated that it cannot do anything about the Communist party. That criticism -might come from, not only those opposed to it, but -also the rank and file of Government supporters. A government that sincerely believes in democracy makes certain that the privileges of private members are safeguarded at all costs. It provides every opportunity for all members to be heard. The House of Commons has a proud : record in that respect. As recently as last week a private member’s motion for the abolition of capital punishment for a period of five years was carried in the Mother of Parliaments. The British Minister responsible for the administration of justice opposed the motion bitterly, but, nevertheless, it was passed. That, I submit, was a vindication of democracy at work. Private members still have rights in the House of Commons; in this Parliament they have only such concessions as are doled out to them by the Prime Minister. They are no longer privileges, but depend solely upon the Prime Minister’s personal whim. Time after time I have been gagged in this House because the Government is afraid of something that I might say. Yet the Government says that the rights of the Communist party must be preserved at all costs. The Communists may subscribe to a doctrine of treason, but the Government still refuses to gag them. A member of this House who wants to expose the Communist party is immediately gagged. This motion is just another example of the Government’s humbug and political hypocrisy. It is afraid to allow its own members to answer to their own consciences. Only a political coward would retreat behind the barricade of numbers on a question such as this. Sooner or later, however, every member of this House must answer to his own conscience as to whether this Parliament has taken the necessary steps to safeguard the security of this country, when threatened by traitors from within.
Honorable members who vote for this motion will become parties to the Government’s blindness to what is happening in Australia to-day. A vote for this motion will be a vote to prevent a proper examination of the steps that might be taken to deal with the danger. Before voting with the Prime Minister, members of the Labour party should ask themselves whether, by delaying consideration of the steps that should be taken against the Communist party, they are not voting in favour of the Communist party. If they vote for it, they will he duly praised in the official organ of the Communist party, but will not that praise be merely the prelude to a kiss of political death for them? Are they members of the Labour party or are they “ fellow travellers “ ?
There is not the slightest justification for this motion. The only important Government measure that has appeared on the notice-paper during these sittings deals with elections that will take place eighteen months hence. The Government has been stone-walling. It is waiting for the High Court’s decision on the banking bill and playing for time so that there will be no controversial business under consideration before the referendum is held. So, there is not the slightest reason for the motion. If an arrangement has been made for the House to rise next week, or the week after, it is a private one. There is not the slightest reason why the Parliament should not remain in session. In fact, overseas events suggest that it is imperative that the Parliament should do so, even if it involves personal inconvenience to honorable members. The nation does not expect the Parliament to fold up at a time of mounting international crisis. The Prime Minister has advanced no reasons why the motion should be carried, because not any, in fact, exist. In reality this motion represents the application of the gag in another form. That private members should be gagged in ordinary circumstances, is bad enough - it is that attitude of mind that breeds dictatorship - but when private members are gagged on a question of national security, the Government must accept full responsibility for all the implications that follow its actions. Inside this Parliament the Government can still gag debate; it can frustrate the proper parliamentary practice; it can deny freedom of speech to members; and it can repudiate democracy; but outside this Parliament the people will have the last say. The position has not yet been reached when the people are denied the opportunity of passing final judgment. So, this action only brings the Government into further contempt, and no government can survive the contempt of the people. When the Government goes out of office, those who vote for this motion will be called upon to pay the penalty. They, too, will go. Those who vote to protect the Communist party must eventually face their masters, the electors. While democracy remains in this country the people will continue to deal effectively with a government such as this. It cannot run away from the people. It must answer for the consequences of its actions in appeasing the Communist party. Proof that the Government’s time is running out, if proof be needed, is to be found in the foolish interjections made by Government supporters during this debate.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker -Hon. J. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the loth April (vide page 941), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the following paper be printed: -
International Affairs - Statement prepared by the Minister for External Affairs. 11th March, 1948.
.- This debate on international affairs is the longest in the history of this Parliament. It is now in its third week, and many honorable members will wish to speak. I remember when debates on international affairs occupied the time and considera- tion of few honorable members. The fact that this discussion has lasted so long indicates the interest that is now being taken in world relationships, and also the degree to which this topic affects not only our safety and security, but also our economy. I am glad to see the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) in the House to-day. He has a habit of beginning a debate and then running away to undertake some other business. During the currency of this debate the right honorable gentleman has been peregrinating with the High Court. We can only hope that the arguments which he has placed before that tribunal on the banking issue have had as little substance as his statement on international affairs which we are now discussing. If that hope be realized, his activities at home will have been far less damaging to this country than his excursions overseas.
Shortly after hostilities ceased in 1945 I had a conversation with a gentleman who is as old in diplomatic ways as any man in this country. He happened to remark that there would not be any peace while Russia participated in international peace conferences. I did not ask why he said that. I thought I knew the reason. I am one of the few people in this country - one of the very few in the Parliament - who have visited Russia in recent years. I do not profess to know much about Russia, but the fact remains that a visit to that country, which is one remote from most people, is of advantage when it comes to assessing national motives, and, particularly, Russian psychology. I did not see very much when I was in Russia. I saw only the best that could be shown to me, and that best was deplorable. Indeed, I did not believe that in any country possessing what might be called Western civilization there could exist so much gloom, poverty and tyranny as I saw there. The members of the clique that rules Russia to-day - and, of course, it is a clique, because the Communist party has a membership of only between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 - have had a regrettable past, into which I need not go now. It is well known that the Russian regime rests upon suspicion. Even the highest officials always have the fear that something which they say will be reported and used against them. Examples have been cited of suspicion between friend and friend, and even between husband and wife. Those who have gone on missions to Russia have stated how they, as foreigners, were received everywhere with suspicion, and’ were closely guarded from the day they entered the country until they left it again. Those who represent Russia at international conferences may have had some experience abroad, and have enjoyed an opportunity to appreciate the psychology of other peoples, but those are not the persons who are responsible for Russian foreign policy. That policy is determined by men in the background - those who, one might say, inhabit the dark corners of the Kremlin. They have an intense suspicion of any proposal put forward by the representatives of other nations, as has been demonstrated during the peace discussions, and during the proceedings of the United Nations. Any proposal put forward by Great Britain or the United States of America or any other nation is always received by the Soviet representatives as if its real purpose were something other than it appears to be. The result is that no progress has been made towards a major peace settlement, and there does not appear to be much prospect of progress. Two years after the conclusion of World War II., the nations are discussing international affairs in a state of great tension. Despite some soothing expressions of opinion by the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), it is evident from the statements of other Ministers that the possibility of war is realized by the Government. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) said that he could hot see a third world war breaking out for at least ten years. That shows that the prospect is causing him some concern, at any rate. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that he could not foresee war within a period of five years. It cannot be denied that the war clouds are lowering, and that there is a likelihood that war might break out at any moment. This situation has been brought about because of the Russian domination of a large part of Europe, and by the ever-present fear that another move might be made at any time which could only result in embroiling the world once more in war. The present situation has arisen directly out of the war just concluded. It is strange to look back, and to remember why we went to war. The reason was the invasion of Poland by Germany, Great Britain having guaranteed the frontiers of Poland. We now know, that a few days before Hitler moved against Poland, Germany and Russia had, in fact, agreed to the partition of that country. The Germans attacked Poland from the west, and the Russians moved in from the east. Thus, while we went to war to preserve its freedom, Poland is to-day under a regime more ruthless, and certainly less progressive, than it would have been under the Nazis.
However, that is by the way, and we must consider the situation which has arisen in Europe as the result of the war. Germany, which had for years played an important part in the affairs of Europe, was utterly destroyed, militarily and industrially, so that to-day it constitutes one of the greatest European problems. Europe was thrown off balance by the destruction of German power. France, after the war, was in a state of political indecision and industrial turmoil, with no strong government to hold it together. Italy had been ravaged by war, and only now does the political situation appear likely to be clarified. For a great many years before the war Great Britain, although an island off the mainland of Europe, had filled the role of a continental power, and has been the principal stabilizing factor in European affairs. However, arising out of the war. there fell upon Britain an almost unparalleled disaster, the gravity of which the world is only now beginning to realize. For reasons into which we need not now go, the British people overthrew the government which had led the nation successfully during the war, threw out of office the men who had a knowledge of international problems, and put into power a socialist government. That was the beginning of the calamity which has led to the present unstable situation in Europe. In the Socialist Government in Britain, Communist influence was strong, because British Labour is as rotten with communism as is Labour in this country. When Great Britain went socialist it meant that there were socialist governments in the heart of the Empire and in Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, Russia could reasonably believe that the Empire would not have a strong foreign policy. I have no doubt that that circumstance was carefully considered by the Russians. That situation left the United States of America on its own. It was the only democratic nation in the world which could be expected to show any interest in European affairs or to have any firm line of foreign policy. The people in the Kremlin probably studied the history of the United States of America, recalled that country’s attitude after World War I., and remembered President Wilson’s “ fourteen points “. In the light of such a study, they could well believe that isolationism would again .become paramount in American politics and that no force of any considerable strength would be left to counter Russia’s aims in Europe.
To quote our own Prime Minister’s phrase about this country, Russia’s “ golden age “ had arrived. Europe as we once knew it no longer existed. Great Britain had become socialist ; some of the dominions were already socialist ; and the United States was alone. I find no great cause for wonder in the fact that Russia saw its opportunity in this situation and seized it. The result of this action is that to-day no fewer than twelve countries and 180,000,000 people have come under the Soviet yoke. In many respects, we have reached a situation similar to that which existed after the famous meeting at Munich. Contrary to expectations, the United States of America has emerged as a great stabilizing force and a very potent champion of democracy. I doubt whether any other act in recent history has so astonished the people at the Kremlin as the assumption by the United States of its present status in world affairs. American statesmen recognize to-day that their country must play the role which was played by Great Britain for many years. After the Munich conference to which I have referred, Great Britain guaranteed the integrity of Poland’s frontiers. British statesmen said then that any future German aggression would lead to war, and, as we know, war followed Germany’s invasion of Poland. To-day American statesmen, not British statesmen, have assumed the mantle of protectors of frontiers.
On the 17th March, President Truman declared that “ any further advance by Russia would be resisted “, and, according to this morning’s newspapers, he has made another strong assertion that “the United States of America will not allow any one country to engulf free nations”. Of course, there is no need for me to point out which country he meant when speaking of “ any one country “. Its head-quarters is in the snowy wastes of Russia. A movement for a union of western nations has arisen from the fear of further advances by Russia in Europe. In addition, on the economic side, we have the Marshall plan, new details of which were announced only to-day. Any further move by Russia to satisfy its ambitions might easily lead to a third world war, and in these circumstances, most people are asking, “ Will Russia go on with its schemes for expansion and what forces actuate Russia? “
Many points of Russia’s foreign policy are well known to us. The foreign policies of nations do not alter merely with, changes of government. It is generally known that, .though governments may come and go, foreign policies remain fairly constant. Russia has always had imperialistic aims, both under the Czars and under the Communist regime. It. has always dreamed of warm-water ports. We all know the story of Port Arthur and of Russia’s aims in the Baltic. That nation has always nursed an ambition to have a warm-water capital somewhere. in the region of Constantinople. I do not imagine for a moment that the ambition has vanished. Russia’s greed for expansion is causing it to reach out to-day not in one direction but in many directions all over the world.. For example, it has swallowed the Baltic States, of which I gleaned some knowledge when I travelled through them some years ago. As far ‘as I could see, those states were making much greater progress under their own governments than Russia was making. Their peoples hated the Russians and the Communist regime, and they lived constantly in the fear that they would be left alone to be devoured by Russia. Now they have been devoured, and Russia’s borders have been extended.
Finland is in danger, the Balkan countries have been overtaken, and there is darkness on the Danube for almost its entire course. Committees of the United Nations have demonstrated clearly that Russian influence is behind the troubles in Greece, even if Soviet soldiers are not actively engaged there. Agitation and infiltration from Yugoslavia and Albania have been fostered ‘by Russia. Greece Ls the key to Turkey, and Turkey is the key to the Middle East, with its oil and other wealth. No nation can fight a successful global war, or even defend itself effectively within its own borders, unless it has oil. The Middle East is the keystone between the “West and the East. Russia’s ambitions are also being pursued in China and in Northern Korea, and its agents have caused agitation in Japan.
The Minister for External Affairs would do a great service if, in addressing this House on international affairs, he gave us accurate information concerning events in the countries which I have mentioned. For example, we should be told what part Russian agents are playing in the disturbances in Palestine, a danger spot where events might lead to war at any moment. I.f the right honorable gentleman objects to giving such information in public, perhaps it would not be unwise to hold a secret session of the Parliament so that honorable members could be told about events behind the scenes in other countries. In many respects, Russia’s present aims are not new. We have seen them fulfilled in country after country within the last few years, culminating in the rape of Czechoslovakia within the last few months. Russia saw its golden opportunity - an opportunity never presented before to any nation. It realized what was involved in the socialist swing in Great Britain. For years before the change, the Communist ideology had been permeating the world. The seeds of communism had been falling on fertile ground wherever socialism existed. Socialism is, after all, allied to communism. Both political creeds draw their policy in the main from Karl Marx. Socialism has always made the ground ready for communism. Wherever socialist governments have been in office, no real action has been taken against the Communists. As events in this country have proved, the Soviet leaders grasped their opportunity, and sent instructions to all their agents throughout the world in these terms: “ Cause all the industrial trouble that yon can. Close the coal mines, prevent the movement of ships on the high seas, and, generally, do everything possible to divert the attention of the governments from ex ternal to internal conditions. Keep the world in a constant state of flux, so that post-war reconstruction cannot proceed “. They hoped that by these devices, the world would be weakened while Russia pursued its aims in the Baltic States, the Middle East, China and Korea. Those are the foreign aims of Russia.
One most important factor behind Russia’s activity is its war machine. This military instrument was created, partly by the Russians themselves, and partly by Great Britain and the United States of America. The momentum which this machine has gathered may be difficult to check, and may menace world peace. Hitler’s immensely powerful military machine became, in the opinion of the leading Nazis, a weapon which was difficult to control and therefore, had to be used. World War II. ended with Russia possessing military power which it had never before known. The Russian people have not been told by their leaders how their military machine was created. During World War II., the United States of America allocated no less than 41 per cent, of its lendlease materials to Russia, and Great Britain made tremendous contributions to the arming of the Soviet. From all the evidence that one can glean from articles written since the end of World War II., the Russian people have never been told about the assistance which their country received from Great Britain and the United States of America. The Russians have been told. “We alone won the war. We alone created this immensely powerful machine which fought its way into the heart of Germany and into Berlin itself “. I have no doubt that there is a feeling of arrogance and omnipotence among the Russian army, and this spirit may cause a spark which will lead to another world conflagration.
From articles which I have read and from a certain inside knowledge of Russia, which I gained during my visit there, I believe that domestic discontent will play an important part in any action that Russia may take. Unless a person has actually seen Russian inefficiency, suspicion, tyranny and needs, he will find it difficult to judge the present situation in that country. When I was in Russia before World War
Il.j the people were being told by their leaders’ that they were better off than were the peoples of other countries. They were told that although housing conditions were not of the best and food supplies were not always satisfactory, they were enjoying a condition of prosperity unknown elsewhere. Honorable members can imagine the thoughts of many Russian people to-day. Whilst discontent and dissatisfaction may be rife in other European countries which participated in the war, I feel sure that the . normal condition of dislocation internally in Russia must be greatly accentuated, and that that state of affairs must breed discontent amongst the people. When the Russian troops marched through the Balkans and Poland into Germany, which was one of the greatest industrial and agricultural communities in the world, their eyes must have been opened, and they must have realized the lies behind propaganda to which they had been subjected for many years. A new world opened before their astonished eyes. I read in a recent issue of the Saturday Evening Post, a Russian’s description of his feelings when he entered some of the Balkan countries, his amazement when he saw the wide variety of articles for personal comfort and general use displayed in the shops, and his astonishment at the way in which the people were dressed, and at their general living conditions. I can imagine how millions of Russian soldiers, seeing for the first time the living standards of other peoples, must have felt about the propaganda to which they had been subjected for so long. In the Balkan States, Russian soldiers evinced a strong desire for clocks and watches, even surpassing that of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), because they were almost unknown among millions of Russian people.
During World War II., Soviet leaders made certain promises to. their people. I am not stating a new fact when I say that Russian leaders promised the peasants that they would be granted an extra acre or two of land for their own usp. At the end of the war, revolts broke out in Leningrad, and disorganization occurred on a huge scale, because of inefficiency and mismanagement when troops were being demobilized. Those circumstances must have bred in the minds of millions of Russian subjects a measure of discontent. When a nation which is governed by a dictator becomes discontented, there is grave danger that the ruler will embark upon an external venture in order to distract attention from internal conditions. At any rate, millions of Russians for the first time have seen evidence of the standards of other European countries, and rr.v.-~t feel that they should endeavour to improve living standards in Russia. All these factors could cause Russia to commit an act of aggression.
The fourth point to which 1 direct attention is the comparative weakness of those who now oppose Russian expansion. We must dismiss from our minds that the rulers and peoples of other countries always have the same benign and benevolent outlook as that which we adopt. We must get out of our heads any idea that the outlook of a democratic country is the same as that of a dictator. One of the main reasons why Hitler embarked on World War II. was that he believed that he would emerge successful from the conflict. Our own weakness was one of the factors which influenced him to attack Poland. Until recently, what was the position that the Kremlin saw? Russia had no real opposition in Europe. Great, Britain did not appear in the role of a strong opponent. Here, I digress for a moment to mention that it is strange that the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and the Dominions have not met in conference to consider these developments, to examine how the international situation has altered since the end of World War II., and to determine what military and industrial changes should be made. Even to-day, the Empire is not strong, and, until recently, the United States of America could not be described as a serious opponent of any nation which threatened the peace of the world. So, the Russian leaders in the Kremlin saw the weakness of the opposition, and to men who have already gone far and think that they might go farther, any sign of weakness is almost an open invitation to war. The only counter balance to this weakness was the possession by the United States of America of the atomic bomb. This instrument of destruction has had an appreciable effect on Russia’s aims.
The question has been asked, is war inevitable? So far in my speech, I have dealt with matters which, I believe, could influence Russia to embark on a third world war. Nothing that that man can prevent is inevitable, and since war is made by men I say that war is not inevitable; it need not occur. The proper attitude for the democratic countries to adopt now is to acknowledge that war is not inevitable, but they must also realize that if war is to be avoided they must summon all their strength and make adequate preparations to defend themselves. I said earlier that the weakness of the democratic countries was one of the major factors which contributed to the outbreak of World War II. Had the democratic countries realized in 1936 and 1937 that it was vitally necessary for them to increase their strength and that war was inevitable, it is quite possible that World War II. might not have occurred. However, their very weakness was an incitement to Hitler to make war upon them. Therefore, in the light of our experience, it is obvious that we must prepare to defend ourselves. The ideology of the Russian Communists is so opposed to that of the other great powers that a clash which could result in the outbreak of a major conflagration might occur in any one of ,a number of trouble spots in the world. If the democratic powers - or those of them that are left - and particularly the Anglo-Saxon nations, would assume the attitude that war is inevitable, and that by their weakness they are inviting its outbreak, I believe that it is still possible to avoid war. The only country which has taken realistic action is the United States of America. Only recently, announcements were made that the United States of America was strengthening its army, had re-opened a factory for the .manufacture of bomber aircraft and that universal military training was to be established. Those announcements must have had an appreciable effect in maintaining the peace of the world ; certainly their effects can be perceived in some countries. [Extension of time granted.”] To summarize what I have .been saying; weakness i3 a factor which contributes towards war,, whilst strength acts as a deterrent.
Unfortunately, this country is weak militarily, and it could not make any effective contribution in any conflict which might arise. Because of our present weakness, our assistance would not be of any real value to the democracies. I do not believe that we haveeven two squadrons of aircraft which could take the air, and whilst we are producing Lincoln bombers, I understand that there is not sufficient personnel to maintain them. In matters affecting the Army, the Government’s only concern appears to be whether the uniforms of its members are to sport a red or a blue stripe on the trousers, or no stripe at all. Although we are supposed to be spending £50,000,000 a year on defence, no real preparation for defence is being made apart from scientific research, of which honorable members on this side of the House know practically nothing. Because the weakness of democratic countries is always an invitation to predatory nations to embark on a career of conquest, I urge the Government to make our defences really effective. I am not a pessimist : I believe that the firm stand taken by the United States of America, and the strength of its armed forces, may result in the democracies being given a further opportunity to consolidate their position, and that even those countries which have been temporarily lost to democracy may yet be regained.
I turn now to the Marshall aid plan. That plan has been a contributing cause to the downfall of communism in. France, and also, possibly, in Italy. For years the Communist party has represented itself as being a national manifestation in each of the countries in which it has reared its head. The meeting of the Cominform in Poland last year, decided to oppose the Marshall plan, and instructed its agents in all countries to oppose acceptance by any European country of aid from that plan. It was that decision which caused the French people, and - in the light of subsequent events- possibly also the Italian people, to realize that the Communist organizations which they had accepted as being indigenous to their countries were but part of an organization inspired and dominated by a foreign country, and that the local Communists were simply obeying the orders of that foreign country. When the French Communist party acted in response to orders of the Cominform there was an immediate decline of the prestige of that party, and a similar decline also of the Italian Communist party probably occurred. The Marshall aid. plan, however, is designed to revitalize Europe and to recover it for democracy. If that plan succeeds in its aims - and now tha t we know the early results of the Italian elections, its prospects appear quite good - Europe may yet be regained by democracy. France is recovering, and money is being poured into other democratic countries to enable them to rehabilitate themselves. Furthermore, the operation of the Marshall aid plan will erect a substantial barrier in the path of Russia’s ambitions. As western Europe is re-built, the prestige of the west will rise in the east. The maxim “ be on the right side “ has always been regarded as an importantt one in eastern countries, and the successful functioning of the economy of the western countries must also have an appreciable effect on the Balkan States. We are all convinced that the advance of communism in eastern Europe will reduce, not raise, the living standards of the people, in contrast to the rise of standards which the western nations will undoubtedly enjoy. Therefore, it is quite possible that the faith in democracy of the peoples of eastern Europe may be re-established, and that eventually they will throw off the Russian yoke. However, no recovery can take place in Europe, or in any part of the world, unless Germany is resuscitated. A new Germany in some form or other must arise. No real prosperity can be induced in Europe unless a new Germany is created. How that can be brought about I do not pretend to suggest; all I know is that a nation of 60,000,000 people, closely allied by ties of blood, heredity, tradition and history cannot be obliterated. Germany was the third greatest industrial nation of the world. If a nation of that size, which previously exerted a great influence upon world trade is paralysed, it is unreasonable to expect the world to recover, or even to expect the dollar position within the British Empire to rectify itself. The creation of a new Germany is the most important problem in international affairs, because until it is created we cannot expect to see the world recovery for which we all hope. The Communist does not believe in prosperity for any nation other than Russia. He does not wish to see a new Germany created, because anything that assists the material well-being and contentment of Europe is a barrier to the fulfilment of Communist plans. Recently there have been suggestions that the western powers should form a. new Germany in the zones now controlled by them. If that be done, it is quite possible that the Soviet Union in its turn will annex the Russian zone of Germany. This problem can easily lead to a fresh outbreak of hostilities. It has to be faced, because, in my opinion, no solution to the world’s ills can be found unless a Germany in some new form once again participates in world economy.
I have tried to show how the actions of the United States of America have contributed to world peace and the wellbeing of Europe. It must now accept the role played by Britain for many years and which kept the world contented for a long time. The question is whether, due to the influence of party politics or for some other reason, the American people will become isolationist in their outlook and make that point of view felt at the impending presidential election. If anything of that kind happened it would be1 a great disaster to the world and would lead, I believe, to a new world conflict. The American presidential election is, therefore, of great importance.
The task of maintaining world peace and of restoring democracy, to the many nations that have been overwhelmed is essentially one for the Anglo-Saxon peoples and the United States of America. That nation is already strong. If we also make ourselves strong, I believe that we can prevent a third world war, help to raise the standard of living of millions of people, and do something of enormous and material benefit to the world. That, as I see it, is our task, but we can only perform it if the Empire is united and strong. It is our duty to the world, and Ave must not fail in it.
– I am in agreement with two propositions advanced by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), but I believe that the other bases of his argument Wl not stand examination. One of the two matters upon which I think there is general agreement is that if peace is to reign in the world, and if there is to be a higher standard of living and a better order in the old world, it is necessary to restore Germany to its historic position in Europe. No one suggests for a moment that the regime existing in Germany prior to the outbreak of the recent conflict should be revived, but it is undoubtedly true that, while Germany is in ruins and its territory cut up into zones policed by different nations, not only will the rehabilitation of Europe be imposible but also the maintenance of the German people and the control of the country will impose a heavy strain upon the victor nations. That is particularly true of Great Britain, because the present situation in Germany aggravates the desperate position in which Britain finds itself to-day after the fierce conflict in which it was engaged. The other matter upon which I think there is general agreement is that poverty and depression are the breeding grounds for communism and other revolutionary ideologies. I hope to say something further about that in the course of my remarks.
Honorable members opposite have said that the Labour Government in Britain is responsible for the present plight of that country. Such a statement is far from the truth. Britain lost its place as the foremost industrial country of the world during long years of tory rule. Its industrial potential was not fully developed and it did not keep pace with the advance in technological methods in industry. That happened in the years between the 1914-18 conflict and the war from which we have recently emerged. Luring those years of tory government, and particularly in the years of coalition ministries, Britain’s place in the world was lost - and lost irretrievably, as we fear to-day. The same is true of this country, with its magnificent potentialities. Great industrial development, the fullest- utilization of the natural wealth within our borders and the growth of our population could have been secured by Wl,98 and ordered government in the years between the end of the 1.914-18 wai* and the outbreak of the recent conflict. In those years, we had in this country, as there were in Great Britain, tory governments. We had something even more tragic - coalition ministries that were unable to give progressive leadership, to make any firm endeavour to develop the potentialities of Australia, to increase the population or to maintain the industrial standards of the people. That is true of this country and it is even more true of Great Britain, which, in those years, fell from its position as leader to that of a minor industrial nation.
It has also been said that despite the desperate situation facing the world to-day Empire leaders have not been brought together. That is quite contrary to the facts. On every occasion on which, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has made a statement to this House he has drawn attention to the fact that Australia’s representatives have collaborated with the leading figures in the British Parliaments and with other delegates from units of the British family of nations. Had the other Empire countries applied the policy enunciated by the late John Curtin and by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), both of whom have endeavoured to tighten the bonds that bind the Empire, there would have been more consultation between them resulting in concerted action.
This debate has been generally on a high level. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that Australia and the rest of the world had to choose between discussion and recourse to arms or at least the threat of recourse to arms as a means of settling their differences. But war does not do away with the need for discussions between nations; it merely defers discussion. When a war is over, the problems that existed before it began are found .to have Deen magnified one thousand-fold in complexity and scope. The world situation calls not for great alarm or absolute pessimism, but for serious thought by every one, particularly honorable members of this Parliament and similar assemblies in other countries. We have emerged from a long and fierce conflict into a period of peace, but it is not real peace. We fought the war believing that, when we had crushed Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and the war lords of Japan we should enjoy a period of peace in which we should be able to plan in order that war might not again devastate the world. Yet the situation is such that a third world war is far from impossible. Every one, therefore, has the duty of ensuring that by neither word nor action shall he aggravate the situation. We look to the United Nations to settle differences between nations. As the Minister for External Affairs has said in this debate and on other occasions, it is utterly wrong to blame the United Nations for the failure to bring about early peace treaties, because the framing of peace treaties was expressly excluded from its work. But it has laid the foundations upon which present international difficulties may be discussed and disposed of and future quarrels avoided. The complaint has been expressed that the Minister for External Affairs has been too much concerned with procedural matters in the deliberations of the United Nations. The Leader of the Opposition laid the charge that on the whole the work done by the Minister for External Affairs had been damaging, but that charge was not sustained, because no facts were advanced on which it could rest. Instead of being true, the charge is utterly baseless. The Leader of the Opposition also said that the Minister for External Affairs had shown himself to be confused in his dealings with other nations. I concede that the Leader of the Opposition graciously admitted that we were all in some degree confused about the world situation; but,- whatever else may be said about the Minister for External Affairs, it can not be said that at meetings of the United Nations or in this House he has been confused in his mind. The right honorable gentleman’s clearness of mind and brightness of intellect are outstanding. In the set-up of the United Nations, we have not only the
Assembly and the Security Council, but also a series of auxiliary bodies dealing with particular problems, the value of whose work may not be apparent for quite a period. For instance, the organization set up to promote cultural relations can not possibly prove its worth for a long time. The intervention of the United States of America in European affairs is greater to-day than it ever was. As the honorable member for Deakin truthfully said, the United States of America has been forced by world events to take a new stand. The war has left it as the leading country not only in trade and finance but also in the councils of the world. The east and the west of Europe are alined against each other in a clash, of not arms, but ideologies. Indeed I do not think there is an actual threat of a clash of arms. In order to assess the situation correctly and apply a remedy, we have to seek the reason for the development of communism throughout the world. As the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) said, the Communist ideology is not comfortable. It is, indeed, a most austere philosophy. Yet, despite the fact that it is opposed to the things in which the ordinary man believes, communism has grown greatly throughout the world and is threatening democracy. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that communism thrives on misery and degradation. His remarks were echoed by the honorable member for Deakin. I think we are all agreed that we can expect honorable gentlemen opposite to do as tories always have done - rant and rail at the growth of revolutionary movements because if they are unwilling that one privilege enjoyed by the classes they represent in this Parliament shall be surrendered. Revolutionary movements have their birth and are enabled to expand as the result of the work of tory movements and governments which throughout the years have opposed the provision of greater freedom and security and the removal of poverty and oppression. That is true of this country as it is, to a more marked degree, of the old world to-day. Communism took root in this country during the depression. It took root in other countries under similar conditions.
Communism is born under conditions of misery and poverty, but its growth as a revolutionary movement is favoured by certain circumstances. Whilst communism rarely takes root in poor countries whose citizens as a whole are povertystricken, its growth is most rapid in countries where the poverty of the masses is accentuated by the wealth of a privileged few, when the masses of the people are unable to live as ordinary human beings in the enjoyment of normal physical and domestic comforts. Communism is strongest in those countries where such conditions arise as the result of the breakdown of the monetary system, where poverty exists amidst plenty and orthodox political parties and movements are powerless to remedy economic evils. Communism presents the greatest danger to-day in European countries in which prices are rising rapidly, where increases of the worker’s wage are immediately nullified by increases of prices. Under those conditions the Communist movement, which is a minority movement pledged to revolution and opposed to the way of life of the ordinary man, can exploit industrial unrest to the greatest possible degree. This Government realizes that fact as the real cause of the spread of communism, but, unfortunately, it is overlooked by honorable members opposite who do nothing but scold and shriek. Consequently, the Government has taken practical measures to ensure that so far as monetary reform can prevent a recurrence of the depression which occurred between the two world wars the people of Australia shall not again experience the conditions which existed in this country during that terrible period in our history. The Government has endeavoured to achieve that objective by following the only course which will enable it to succeed, namely, by taking full control of the banking system. On the other hand, honorable members opposite have merely ranted and raved about communism. They claim that they are opposed to communism and fear its growth ,in this country. I repeat that the Communists in Europe are exploiting conditions where steeply rising prices have caused discontent. However, in Australia the Government is seeking to prevent prices from rising and by that means to prevent industrial unrest which the Communists exploit to the full, as, indeed, they must if, as a minority movement, they are to achieve their purpose. Honorable members opposite who claim to fear the growth of communism have helped to encourage its development by working vigorously to defeat the proposals to be submitted by the Government to the people at the forthcoming referendum.
– I rise to order! Reference to the prices referendum by an. honorable member who spoke earlier in this debate was ruled out of order. I ask, Mr. Speaker, that that ruling beenforced. It is obvious that the honorable member for Perth has for the last ten minutes been intending to “ put over “ propaganda in respect of the forthcoming referendum. I ask that he be prevented from doing so.
– I am not aware of any such ruling having been given by the Chair; but for some days past the Chair has been obliged to listen to talk of communism being encouraged by the Government. -The honorable member for Perth is now seeking to refute that argument. Honorable members of the Opposition cannot have it both ways.
– I have completed that phase of my remarks. I repeat that communism is enabled to expand only in situations of the kind which I have described, when, owing to industrial dislocation, Communists are able to play upon the feelings of the masses. I shall be interested to hear any honorable member opposite refute that proposition. Communism owes its strength in Europe to-day to the dislocation of the economies of those countries in which it is now nourishing.
Another danger spot in present-day international relations to which many honorable members have drawn attention is the situation that exists in Palestine. The Leader of the Opposition compared the situation there with that existing in Korea. He endeavoured to show that the Minister for External Affairs had been inconsistent in his approach to those two great problems. No thing is farther from the fact. The United Kingdom, after bearing the brunt of the struggle which has continued for a considerable time between the factions in Palestine, decided that it would no longer permit British men and women to be killed or subjected to indignities of all kinds while it sought to carry out the difficult mandate entrusted to it. Therefore, it said that at a specified time it would relinquish the mandate. The United Nations appointed a committee to consider the problem, and that committee recommended the partition of Palestine. What were the choices? First, an effort could be made to establish a unitary state in which Arab and Jew could work as partners. I do not. believe that any honorable member would suggest that that proposal would have the slightest prospect of success. The second course was that the people of Palestine should be left to their own devices. The British Government could have said to the Arabs and Jews, “ We take no interest in your personal quarrels. We leave to you the task of settling your differences “. But that also was impossible. Subsequently, the United Nations, through its special committee, in whose deliberations the Minister for External Affairs played a prominent part, decided upon partition of Palestine. Jews and Arabs constitute the population of Palestine, and we must face that fact. It is said that the United Nations has not yet decided how to implement that decision. That is true, but if, in the councils of the world, the Minister for External Affairs, or any other representative of this Government were to commit Australia to the use of any force which might be needed to compel compliance with their decisions, or agreed to any sacrifice of our sovereignty, his action would be criticized from one end of Australia to the other. Until Australia and the other members of the United Nations organization are willing to provide the Security Council with the means by which its decisions can be enforced in the last analysis, every one of them remains unenforceable. The mere making of a security pact with other nations is not sufficient to guarantee our security as honorable members opposite have suggested. In the event of attack, the mere existence of a pact is, in itself, no guarantee that aid will be available to us in our time of need. If we had a pact with the United Kingdom, and war broke out in the Pacific while hostilities still continued in Europe, as happened in recent years, no one would contend that the United Kingdom should divert forces from Europe to help to relieve the situation in the Pacific. These remarks may be applied with equal truth to a mutual aid pact concluded with the United States of America. The United Nations organization has three lines of practice upon which it can and must proceed. First, and highly important among these, is the adoption of a procedural code. It is undoubtedly true that unless sound procedure is prescribed and uniformly followed, power politics may operate behind the facade of the United Nations organization. Next in importance is the establishment of the fact-finding bodies to which I have already referred. In the service of these bodies the Minister for External Affairs has played a very important part. Lastly, effective means of enforcing the decisions of the Security Council must be established. When the United Nations organization is strong enough to institute offensive action against a disturber of the peace, the possibility of war in the future will he very greatly diminished. Australia has played an outstanding part in the deliberations of the United Nations-. Because Australia is far removed from the conflicts of the old world and from the fierce conflicts of industrial- capitalism which exist in the United States of America, its voice has been not only raised, but also freely acted upon in the councils of the United Nations. In another sphere, that of the alleviation of the misery and suffering that exists in Europe to-day, Australia has also made a notable contribution. A great deal has been said about the Marshall plan to aid the devastated and broken countries of Europe. The people of the United States of America have given a magnificent lead to the rest of the world in this respect. Whilst it is admitted that mistakes have been made, no one can deny that since the war ended the Americans have been generous- in the extreme. Australia, also, has its part to play. If we expect America to utilize the bulk of its surplus food and industrial production to succour the distressed people of Europe, we must be prepared to do likewise. We should authorize the Minister for External Affairs and our other representatives abroad to state that Australian consumption of food and other commodities will be limited and that our surplus production will be made available to the organizations of the United Nations, such as the Economic and Social Council, for the relief of the suffering peoples of the world. That would do more to ensure the preservation of democracy than would the resort to arms or a show of force to counter totalitarianism. The world situation is so grave that we should refrain from provocative actions and propagandist speeches which may lead to war. Australia should play it9 part as fully as possible, in helping to provide food and other products for the suffering peoples of the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th April (vide page .964), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There are two cognate bills on the notice-paper. The first is the Representation Bill 1948, and the second, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1948. The first deals with the alteration of the number of members of the Commonwealth Parliament, and the second concentrates in particular upon the election of senators. As many of the matters that have to be debated are common to both these bills, I suggest that they be considered together so that there will be only one second-reading debate. I should like an understanding however, that when the bills are dealt with in committee, not only will each measure be considered separately as is necessary, but. also that there will be no curtailment of the debates.
– I give an assurance that if the measures are considered to gether there will be no curtailment of the debate either on the second reading, or at the committee stage of each measure.
– If the House agrees to the measures being debated together, it must be clearly understood that should the Minister who introduced the measures exercise his right to reply to the second-reading debate, his speech will conclude the second-reading debate on both measures. I take it that the House desires that the bills should be considered together.
Honorable MEMBERS - Hear, hear !
– Although much that I shall have to say will be common to both measures, it may be necessary to make some particular references to either bill. The Representation Bill deals with proposals to increase the number of senators and therefore, to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives. In brief, the Government proposes to increase the number of members of this chamber from 74 to 121. I am speaking now of members with full voting power. Outside of this scheme of course will be the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) who has a limited vote, and also the proposed non-voting representative of the Australian Capital Territory - a proposal about which I do not know anything officially. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in his second-reading speech, indicated what the new representation of the various States would be, and I shall remind the House of the figures. New South Wales, in the present Parliament, has 2S members in this House. The proposal is that it should have 47. 7 3ee a smile on the face of the AttorneyGeneral. Victoria, which, has twenty members of this House, is to have 33 and Queensland’s representation is to be increased from ten to eighteen members.
– Not enough.
– I hope that the honorable member will support that’ remark with his vote. South Australian representation to be increased from six to ten members and Western Australian from five to eight. In the case of Tasmania - patient Tasmania - representation is to remain at five members, a matter which no doubt my friend the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) will be able to explain to his electors with his usual versatility. Broadly, this proposal could be based on an intelligible principle. I say that because it is a principle to which I myself have referred before to-day. But when such ;a scheme is advanced by a government half-way between two elections, it is permissible, although, of course, honorable members opposite will not like it, to inquire whether the Government has secured a mandate from the people for this action.
– Of course my mathematical friend, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), scoffs at the very idea, because he is now - if I may use this expression without giving offence - getting long in the tooth politically. No doubt he says, “Why worry about : mandates? We did not worry about one ;for the Banking Bill “.
– I have not said anything.
– I have not accused the honorable member of saying anything. He made some trifling noise. What I have to say now will interest the House as I hope it will interest the people. The party that I have the honour to lead did refer to the enlargement of the Commonwealth Parliament at the last elections.
– Why has the right honable gentleman’s party not done something about it?
– During this Parliament we have not had an opportunity to do anything about it as even the Minister should be aware.
– Many happy returns of the day.
– And the same to the Minister - many happy returns of the next polling day. It will be welcomed by my colleagues and myself. At the last elections the Liberal party, through myself, mentioned the enlargement of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Labour party did not, and just as honorable members opposite are never weary of telling me and my colleagues that the people did not approve our policy on such and such a matter, so I now say that the people did not approve of our policy on this matter.
– The people gave Labour a blank cheque.
– Protected by your generosity, Mr. Speaker, from my somewhat difficult friend-
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition should not encourage him.
– When the day comes that I do not encourage the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) I shall regard myself as no longer qualified to lead my party. The following is a passage from my own policy speech at the last elections : -
In the meantime there are two matters which we will have promptly investigated if yon return us to office.
The first is the size of the Federal Parliament . . .
The Attorney-General need not tell me that we were only promising to have the matter investigated. He completely concealed from the people the slightest idea that he intended to do anything about it -
The first is the size of the Federal Parliament, which lias the overwhelming share of tin: responsibility for government in Australia, but which is nevertheless much smaller in numbers than the Parliament of Kew South Wales. 1 point nut to you that an effective democracy requires that Parliament should be fully representative; that members should not he so immersed in matters of detail as to be unable to devote full consideration to major matters of policy, and that there should be the widest possible area of choice of the Ministers who have to accept the ultimate responsibilities of administration.
And how true that is I am reminded every day when I look at Ministers. .1 continued -
We are not wedded to any particular proposal, hut we believe that early in the new Parliament the problem should be specially investigated on its merits.
– It has been.
– And by whom ? By the Parliament? Not at all. All we know is that, in circumstances quite familiar to all of us, the Government, said to caucus, “ It would not be a ba’l idea to increase the size of the Parliament, because it will save 45 of us from the wrath to come “. Every schoolboy - to adopt Macaulay’s phrase - knows that. My policy speech continued -
The second mutter is the method of electing the Senate. In view of the fact that only half the senators are voted for at each general election, there are serious difficulties about introducing new methods of voting. But it is, we believe, true that the present system, under which all the candidates elected in any one State are inevitably of one side of politics is basically unsatisfactorily. Thus, at the present election it happens that every Liberal party and Country party senator retires. To secure a majority in the Senate as a result of this election wo will need to have a complete victory in every State. It is because of the difficulties of the problem that we believe that an early attempt must be made to devise some new method of Senate election and some way of making the introduction of the new method fair to both sides of politics, and to electors of all shades of political opinion.
If I am to accept the vocal judgment of honorable members opposite, that is what the people refused to approve. But did the Government say anything about increasing the size of the Parliament? Not a word. Now, for the second time in the history of this Parliament, the Government comes before us without a mandate, and without ever having previously mentioned the matter and, in the middle of the Parliament, it says, “ We are now going to increase the size of the Parliament “.
There is another aspect to be considered. Not only did the Government fail to get a mandate for this change, but everything that it had done was calculated to persuade the people that there would be no change. Let me remind the Government that we have, within a measurable time as we look backwards1, had parliamentary allowances increased, and secretarial help provided for members of Parliament. These accommodations were made on a quite intelligible view that the growing pressure of legislation and the growing number of persons in the electorates required that they should be done. Whatever intrinsic virtue there was in such provisions, there was certainly no hint given that when they were accomplished the next step would be to cut the electorates in half, and increase the number of members who sit in this place. These things are worth remembering, because, insofar as a matter of principle was involved, it was raised only from this side of the House. The parly, of which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is deputy leader, declared that it concurred in the views stated by my own party in respect of this very matter. In these circumstances, I might be tempted to ask, “ Why is -this change being made now ? “ Of course, I know that a few of my more obliging friends opposite will at once proceed to tell me that it is being made on grounds of high principle. In other words, they will ‘tell me that, after this long interval of ‘time, they have got around to reading the policy speech of the Liberal ‘party, and have been persuaded by it, because, after all, that is the only way in which they would be introduced to high political principles. But while the role of the sceptic is an ungrateful one, I am bound to say that some honorable gentlemen opposite, in spite of the fact that they ure putting a bold front on it, know quite well that they are going out.
– The right honorable gentleman is optimistic.
– I am naturally cast in a rather pessimistic mould ; but I should need to be not only a pessimist, but also dead, not to know that this Government is on the way out; and this redistribution, this re-arrangement of numbers of the Parliament, will be a great consolation to the 45 gentlemen who now sit on that side of the House.
– And to a number of those opposite also.
– I was thinking in particular of the 45 gentlemen on the Government side - dc motuis nil nisi bonum.
– What about nil des.perandum?
– If I were in the place of the honorable member, nil desperandum would certainly be my motto now.
– It might quite well be the right honorable gentleman’s.
– The honorable member is getting rather the worse of the exchanges. I think he had better keep quiet.
– It would certainly be an unfortunate result of the redistribution if the Labour party were unable to hold 45 out of 121 seats, and I have no doubt that, but for that singular and fortuitous circumstance, we would not have heard anything at this time about increasing the size of the Parliament. The circumstances in which the scheme was produced corroborate that. Here we are in a chamber which will not hold 121 members so, no doubt, some changes will be made. “We are in a building which only with the greatest difficulty affords accommodation for 74 members. We are in a city in which the ordinary living accommodation for those who come here, including members of Parliament, is stretched to the very limit. But without consideration of these things, without any mandate, and without any warning, we are told by the Government, “We have thought of introducing a major revolution. We will have a House of Representatives with 121 members “. Then, sotto voce, “If there are not 4.5 good Labour seats among that number it will be a great pity.”
I turn away from a consideration of how this thing is being done to why it is being done. At the present time, New South Wales and Victoria, have between them in this House 48 members, and the other States have 26, so that the two major States have an absolute majority of representation over all other States of 22. Tasmania, has five representatives under a provision in the Constitution which gives to Tasmania the protection of a minimum of five seats in this House, although, the number of electors in the Tasmanian electorates is not so great as the average number in the mainland electorates. Under this new proposal, New South Wales and Victoria will have 80 members and the rest will have 41, which means that the two States will have an absolute majority in voting strength over all other States, not of 22, but of 39. I want to say at once to those honorable members who represent the smaller and the more distant States that these simple facts are not to be explained as a matter of simple proportion. These facts represent a further enormous movement towards central control, through two States, of the entire federal system of Australia..
Consider the position of Tasmania. That State now has five seats out of 74.
When this bill becomes law it will have five seats out of 121. In a House of 121 members, margins of majority will, in the normal course, tend to be larger than in a smaller House and so we are much less likely in a larger House to have a condition of affairs in which a government will have a majority of only two, three or four. Therefore, the significance of the voice of Tasmania will correspondingly diminish.
– It will still be heard.
– I do not doubt that it will still be heard as long as the Minister is with us. But I was not talking about the voice; I was talking about the significance of the voice. As long as Tasmania has five representatives in a House of 121 members, so long will it be true that, except under very special conditions, the Tasmanian voice will be completely a minority voice. I do not know how the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) can tell the electors of Tasmania that, although every other State is to have more members in this House, Tasmania is to be pegged at its existing level. No doubt the honorable gentleman will be able to explain that to his electors. I wonder also how the honorable gentleman will be able to explain to them why it is that, in the lower house, which makes and unmakes governments, Tasmania’s voice will be five whereas in the upper house, the Senate, it will be ten. That is a poor compliment to Tasmania.
Apart altogether from any compliment to Tasmania, this represents a serious movement against the truly federal character of the Constitution of Australia. We talk a great deal about the federal system. People attack it; people praise it; other people have perhaps a little bit each way on it. That is inevitable in the course of discussions on the federal system. However, if we are to have a true federal system in Australia, if we are genuinely to have a state of affairs in which the powers of government are divided so that the ordinary citizen has some chance of not falling into the hands, of a government monopoly, then I believe that we must give the most serious consideration to the representation in this Parliament of the smaller States, numerically speaking.
It is very simple to say of the problem of the representation of the people, “ Well, it is a pure matter of arithmetic. You divide the population by 121, or whatever the number may be, and there is the quota for the electorate.” Whether chat quota is in my electorate, which I could walk around in an afternoon, or in the electorate of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), or the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), which one could not fly around in less than a period of weeks, the answer always is, “ Well, in the simple phrase - one man one vote. Therefore let us have equal electorates “.
– One vote one value.
– Yes. As a broad principle in a democracy, “ one vote one value “ is unassailable. But Ave must not leave out of mind the fact that we happen to be living in a country which, politically and from the point of view of its population, as I am sure the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) will agree, is in its infancy, not in its old age.
Here Ave are in a community in which, the greatest concentrations of population are in places of the greatest intensive development, and the smallest aggregations of population are in places which must be developed by us if we are ever to carry the number of people that we ought to carry. Therefore, this Parliament is bound, in my most humble opinion, to take account not merely of numbers but of other circumstances. Not for one moment am I an advocate of the state of affairs which I once saw existing in Victoria in which one electorate might have 30,000 or 40,000 voters and another one 6,000. This is not a plea for “ rotten boroughs “. This is a plea for genuine democracy. We cannot have a genuine democracy of representation unless we take into account not merely the sum that will be worked out by dividing one number into another but also what it is that a man has to represent. Australia must be developed. Therefore, there is always a. powerful case for giving to the relatively, under-developed States of Australia a greater proportion of representation per head than is given to the highly developed States.
The Government’s plan might be all right for the honorable member for
Martin (Mr. Daly), who, like myself, represents a very pleasant metropolitan electorate. It is easy to say, “ This is all a matter of numbers “, but it never has been entirely a matter of numbers. I have nearly 90,000 electors in my electorate. I dare say that most of my colleagues on either side of the House who represent country electorates have a substantially smaller number than that. The particular point I am discussing is that the future of Australia does not depend half so much on more intensive development within 25 miles of Melbourne or Sydney as it does on more intensive development in Western Australia, which has had an amazing expansion, but which, nevertheless, is relatively undeveloped, in areas of New South Wales and in great areas of Queensland, that most fertile State-
– Hear! hear!
– Except in ideas, as 1 am reminded by looking at the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). Those States must all be given their full opportunity. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and myself made a statement on this matter to the press at a time when Ave were told, in broad terms, that the size of the Parliament was to be increased. We then posed such questions as these : “ What is to be the proportion of seats as between city and country? What protection is to be given to the representation of the smaller States? Will the distribution of seats be such as to give overwhelming strength to two States out of six ? “ Looking back on that statement, which was made on the 18th February, I still think that they are pertinent questions. Not one of them Was answered in the second-reading speeches of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt).
I turn to my next point. There is, and I say it quite plainly, a very good case in principle for a larger House of Representatives. I do not need to labour that subject. A larger hou3e would provide, on the whole, closer and more effective representation and would widen the area of choice. All honorable members have stated these arguments time after time, and they are wel understood, but I should like to know what is the true case for a larger Senate, because we have not been told. All that we have been told, and I understand the mathematics of it, is that, as the Constitution provides that the House of Representatives should be as nearly as practicable twice the size of the Senate, if we have a House of Representatives of 121 members we must have a Senate of 60 members. As a matter of arithmetic, that is impeccable, but as a matter of the proper structure, governmentally speaking, of the Commonwealth, I should like to know the real basis of the case for a larger Senate.
There is a second question which I should like to ask while I am in this interrogative mood. Grant the case for a larger Commonwealth Parliament, is not there a case, in at least some States, for smaller State parliaments? Is this to be a net addition to government, or is it to be, in effect, some re-arrangement of government? The Legislative Assembly of New South Wales has - I speak subject to correction - 90 members. I always considered that it was curiously anomalous that the lower house of New South Wales should have 90 members, and the lower house in the Parliament of the Commonwealth 74 voting members. But just as there is, in principle, a case for a larger Commonwealth Parliament, so there is, in principle, a case for some reduction of the members of State parliaments.
– Get rid of all the upper houses.
– I do not care which Houses the honorable member refers to; I am no believer in these great amorphous upper houses which spread out to undue size; but I raise both these matters because I desire to say to the Government that if the Government proposes to change the size of the Commonwealth Parliament and establish a House of Representatives of 121 members; if the Government believes that the size of the Senate, in the circumstances, should be reconsidered and desires to introduce a new method of electing senators which will apply only to some of them ; and if the Government desires to consult with the States as to whether an increase of the Commonwealth Parliament should be accompanied by some reduction of the size of some State parliaments, then it is abundantly clear that all these matters should not be dealt with between two elections, without discussion with the people, merely by the fortuitous majority that arises in this House. These matters should be dealt with by means of constitutional change. If ever there were a powerful case for saying to the people, “ Look, constitutionally, 47 years ago we decided that we should have a House of Representatives of 75 members and a Senate of 36 members which would be elected in a certain way, and we also decided that we would have the relations between the two chambers fixed in a certain way, but now, with the experience of 47 years, we want to change all that “-
– The right honorable gentleman would still oppose it.
– On the contrary, if the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will support a proposal that there should be some constitutional review of this problem, I undertake to make my full contribution to the solution of the problem.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that before, and then he was directed otherwise.
– The honorable member is quite wrong, as I shall tell him later, but it is not perhaps quite relevant to this discussion. If the Government had done as I have stated, at least two things would be obviated, and those two things have particular reference to the Senate, and to the new proposal for electing the Senate. First, we would have got rid of what I regard as a most dubious expedient, under which the new election of senators, is so arranged that some senators, instead of being elected for six years, as the Constitution intended them to ‘be, will be elected for six years and eight months. In other words, they will be given a longer term than six years because the Government, having decided to make this change in mid-air, so to speak, has to make all sorts of queer artificial arrangements for the changeover. Secondly, it would have obviated what is not dubious but indecent, and that is that this great scheme by which, with the introduction of proportional voting for only some of the senators, there will be guaranteed to the present Government control of the Senate until 1953. That is indecent. In the simplest AngloAmerican term, it is a “ racket “.
– A fraud on the public.
– I shall say something about it in a little more detail in a moment. I believe, and I think that most Australians will believe, that it is a monstrous thing to have in 1950 a Senate which is elected partly under one system and partly under another. At the present time, as I hope everybody in Australia will realize, eighteen honorable sena tors will not retire at the next election. They will remain in the Senate until the 1st July, 1953. Of these eighteen, Through happy circumstances that honorable members opposite will recall, fifteen arc supporters of the Labour party and three are supporters of the Opposition parties. I do not describe this manoeuvre as subtle, because there is nothing subtle about it. It is no more subtle than hitting a nian over the head and taking his purse while he is unconscious. What the Government proposes to do may be stated briefly, thus - “We shall increase the size of the Senate from 36 to 60. That means that at the next election 42 honorable senators, not eighteen, will be elected by the people. Seven will be elected in each State, under a system of proportional representation “. Under this system, as the Attorney-General was at some pains to tell us, and I think quite rightly, the probable result of the kind -of vote that we have had for the Senate will be that one party or group of parties will have four, and another party or group of parties will have three candidates returned. If, at the next elections, there occurred in every State what is described in the press as a “landslide”, the political parties now forming the Opposition in this Parliament would get four honorable senators in each State, and the Government would get three. My Tasmanian friends, who are completely familiar with this method of voting, will entirely agree with that statement. That means that the Government will get eighteen seats in the Senate and the Opposition will get 24 seats.
– There is no fear of that.
– I ask the honorable member for Griffith to assume it. I am not sure that, subject to the Electoral Act, I shall not have a small side-wager with the honorable member about this matter at a later date. However, let lis make that assumption, because we are talking about constituting this Parliament democratically. Very well ! The Labour party will get eighteen honorable senators, and the parties constituting the Opposition will get 24. In the reconstituted Senate the present Opposition parties will thus have in all 27 supporters, of whom 24 will be elected at the next election, and the other three will be the nonretiring senators. The Government will have eighteen new senators and fifteen non-retiring senators, making a total of 33. Therefore, until July, 1953, the Labour party, which will then be in Opposition in this House-
– Where did the Leader of the Opposition get that information ?
– That is not information; it is a conviction. All I ask of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is that he assume that at the next general elections the people of every State indicate by their votes for the election of senators that they do not want the Government. Then the position will be that until July, 1953, the Australian Labour party will have in the Senate 33 representatives and the present Opposition parties, although they will be fresh from their victory, will have only 27 representatives.
– It sounds like an upper house.
– Whatever it may be called, if the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) intends to suggest that it sounds undemocratic then I agree with him. An arrangement of that kind cannot be defended. A very strong case, indeed, almost an unanswerable one, can be made for altering the present method of electing members of the Senate. I say at once that a great many of us are open to criticism for not having made any effective attempt in the past to alter that system. I do not need to be told that, because I know that it is perfectly true. The truth is that any preceding government whose representatives held eighteen seats to “ love “ or fifteen seats to three, thought that it was not a had system, although the political party which held no seats, or very few, thought that it was a terrible system. However, although a formidable case can be presented for altering the method of electing the Senate, and although a very strong case can be made for introducing proportional representation, no case whatever can be made, for having one part of a popularly elected legislature elected under one system and the other part of it under another. If the Government had handled this matter properly it would have decided that all senators should be elected by proportional representation, which ensures that at all times minorities are democratically represented, and it would have introduced a measure to provide for the dissolution of the whole Senate and the election of a new one. When those measures had been introduced, machinery could have been devised to provide that half the members of the Senate were to be elected for a term of three years and the other half for a term of six years. In brief, the only way to deal with this problem fairly - and there is a pronounced instinct for fairness in the people of this country - is to effect a double dissolution by constitutional means. Had that been done and had the matter been treated as a constitutional problem, it would have been competent for members of this House to say, “ Let us consider whether we should not have a Senate of 60, 50, 40, or any other number which commends itself to us”.
– That would enable members of the Australian Labour party to give effect to their own policy of abolishing the Senate.
– Quite so. The abolition of the Senate is obviously a matter that would arise in the course of any such discussion. However, the fact is that the Government, with the Australian Labour party behind it, is in a hurry. It is anxious to seize its chance in relation to the Senate; therefore its proposal is like the other one to which 1 have referred, and is, in reality, an attack on democracy.
There are many matters of technical detail which arise from this proposal and to which I have not had time to refer, although I have been speaking for some time. However, the last matter which 1 wish to mention is that the Senate, although endowed technically with extensive powers in our system of Government, has always assumed a subordinate role in regard to the passage of legislation. I say that with great respect to the Senate. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it cannot amend money bills, and in the last analysis a measure which has been passed through this House - perhaps by a government fresh from an election - may be sent to the Senate again in the next session, so that if that body again rejects it there will be a double dissolution. In that way the will of the people can prevail. Because of the existence of that provision for a double dissolution, and because of the constant, although perhaps unspoken, threat of a double dissolution, the role of the Senate in our legislative system, although important, has been subordinated to that of this House. It is this House which, after all, makes and unmakes governments, and represents in its most recent form the public opinion of the country. I am merely pointing out that when proportional representation is introduced into the system of election for the Senate, the threat, spoken or unspoken, of a double dissolution will be much less formidable than it has ‘been to date. It is one thing for a government to say, in effect, to members of the Senate : “ If you throw this out there will be a double dissolution, and you are ‘ gone ‘, because we believe the people want thi: measure enacted “ ; hut an entirely different thing for a government to say to the senators elected under the proposed system : “ If you throw this measure out, although you will not all be ‘ gone ‘, one or two of you may be. No matter how unpopular you may be, we admit that you will get at least three seats out of seven “-
– Or five out of ten seats in a State in the case of a double dissolution.
– At any rate, the opponents of the Government might win four out of ten seats in a State. The result is that instead of members of the Senate saying lo one another, “If we are wrong on this matter we are all ‘ gone ‘ “, they will be looking at each other - as members of Parliament do from time to time - and saying, “ I think that I am all right, but I am a bit sorry for you; I think you will be a little bit on the outer ‘ “.
– We sometimes make mistakes.
– If the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) were in a threatening mood, and I am glad he is not, he would consider that it would be much more effective to threaten members of the Senate elected under the present system than to threaten the members who would be elected under the queer, confused system which the Government is now proposing.
Those are all matters which deserve consideration, but there is no evidence before the House that any one of them has received consideration. The thing which “ sticks out a mile “ is that the scheme now before us has been devised for a particular purpose at a particular time in the history of this Parliament. This scheme has been devised to deliver individual Labour members of this House from the wrath to come. It is also designed to secure to the Australian Labour party, irrespective of the popular will as it will express itself at the general elections next year, power to resist and obstruct its opponents, and to accomplish everything short of a double dissolution in the Senate until 1953. Occasionally I hear speeches made by members and supporters of the Government, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), about the preservation of democracy; but if the Prime Minister can explain how the Government’s proposals measure up to the standard of democracy then he will have made the most lucid and convincing speech he has ever delivered in the Parliament.
– This bill has been introduced in the national interest. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has asked, “ Has the Government a mandate to introduce this legislation ?” He is (lie gentleman who, after the last election, said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had received a blank cheque from the people of Australia; in other words, that he had a mandate to do whatever he liked. Having said that, the right honorable gentleman cannot now challenge the Prime Minister for not having a mandate or for writing his signature at the foot of the blank cheque. The truth of the matter is that during the last election campaign the Prime Minister did refer to the need for a larger Parliament. Three days before the election was held the Sydney Morning Herald reported (lie right honorable gentleman as saying -
If the Labour Government is returned at Saturday’s elections, it will consider an increase in the size of the Federal Parliament after next year’s census.
That was a very definite and conclusive statement. All that the Leader of the Opposition said in his policy speech was that the matter would be promptly investigated. I emphasize the word “ promptly “. Knowing the promptitude with which members of the Opposition moved when they comprised the government, I should have expected that, had the Liberal party and the Australian Country party combined to form the Government of Australia after the 1946 general election, nothing would have been done about the matter at all. They have been considering this matter for years and years. All that is wrong with them tonight is that they regret that they missed the opportunity to do a national work at a time when they had an overwhelming majority in both houses of this Parliament, and when the Labour party was beaten and broken by dissention, with people moving to the right and to the left, and when its members were divided on the conscription issue at an earlier period. The present Opposition had its chance then, but neglected an opportunity to serve the Australian people. The Prime Minister made the statement to which I have referred at a press interview. In addition to the passage I have already quoted, he said that the question of allotting more seats to the House of Representatives was bound to be considered and that some Labour Cabinet Ministers felt strongly that there was a good case for a larger representation in the House.
That was not the first occasion upon which a Labour Prime Minister had referred to this matter. The right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) referred to it in 1946, and the former right honorable member for Fremantle, the late Mr. Curtin, advocated a larger Parliament in July, 1944. On the 27th of that month, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the opinions of a number of public men who supported the suggestion of a Labour Prime Minister that the size of the Parliament should be increased. The first gentleman quoted was Dr. Prank Louat, the president of the Constitutional Association of New South Wales, and a non-Labour candidate in the 194.0 election. He said that an enlargement of the Australian Parliament was urgently desirable, whether the referendum of that period was carried or not. Professor F. A. Bland, the associate of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in the Political Research Committee, a mysterious organization that functions on hankers’ money in New South Wales and that is always decrying the Australian Parliament and Australian governments, said -
The numerical strength of the Federal Parliament should he increased.
Mr. W. K. McConnell, the spokesman for the Australian Constitutional League, who represented the banks here during the debate on the hank nationalization legislation, and who wrote most of the speeches made by honorable members opposite on that occasion, said -
A bigger Parliament should be a prelude—
I hope honorable members opposite will not shiver - to any increase in powers. The present federal constituencies should be divided into three.
We propose a 66$ per cent, increase in the size of the Parliament, but this gentleman wanted a 200 per cent, increase. The right honorable member for North Sydnew (Mr. Hughes) said -
As a suggestion, it is stimulating and has much to commend it for it is attuned to the times. We are on the threshold of a new world.
Those were the words of the right honorable gentleman in 1944. Then, speaking, no doubt, of his own experiences . as a Minister in successive anti-Labour governments, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said -
The limited number of members of Parliament leads to the appointment of Ministers most of whom are quite unqualified to discharge their important duties.
I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition approved of that statement by his follower.
– If it was made during the last four years, I heartily agree with it.
– The honorable member for Warringah concluded by saying -
The result is that the government of the country is carried on not by Ministers hut by delegates of Ministers.
It will be seen, therefore, that the question of a larger Parliament has been canvassed over the years. It has been canvassed not only during the last three or four years but during the last twenty years. The Minister for Air (Mr. ra kef ord) has spoken of it repeatedly, unci the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has often mentioned it. To go farther back, in 1942, an article in the Daily Telegraph referred to the present Leader of the Opposition as “ another leading advocate of an enlarged Federal Parliament “. The writer of the article suggested that the House of Representatives could be increased to 200 members without any alteration of the Constitution, and pointed out that that would involve a corresponding increase in the size of the Senate. On the 7th August, 1943, the same right honorable gentileman expressed the opinion that there should be a larger Parliament. A report in the Daily Telegraph of that date read -
An increase in the size of the Federal Parliament was urgently needed, Mr. E. G. Menzies, M.H.R., said in a radio talk to-night.
That was in 1943. If it was urgently needed then, it is more urgently needed in 1948.
– I said it in 1946, too.
– I am pointing out what the right honorable gentleman said earlier, because what he said in 1943 differs slightly from what he has said in 1948. Bie said in 1943 that no referendum would be required, since an increase in the membership of both houses would not involve an alteration of the Constitution. The Daily Telegraph, of the 7 th August. 1:943, reported the right honorable gentleman as having said -
Good government was worth millions of pounds a year to Australia, and a few thousands of pounds a year more in salaries to ensure a. greater choice of ministerial personnel would be purchasing governmental success at bargain rates.
Yet the Leader of the Opposition opposes this legislation to-night, and for a conglomeration of reasons. He opposes it, first of all, on the ground that the Government has no mandate. “When I quote the statement made by the Leader of the Government three days before the last general election, I have no doubt the right honorable gentleman will still say the Government has no mandate. “When 1 refer him to his statement made after the election, in 1946, that the Leader of the Government had a blank cheque, lie will say, “Yes, but the blank cheque did not include the question of electoral reform “.
– I did not know what was going to be done, with the blank cheque. “Mr. CALWELL. - Then the right honorable gentleman should not have been so unreserved in his observations. He said 1hat the Australian Country party concurred in his view that there ought to be a larger Parliament. That is stating only half the position, because in his policy speech the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), inferring to the question of an enlarged Parliament, said -
I cordially agree with Mr. Menzies with respect to the increase of membership of the Parliament. As the only way it can be carried out under the Constitution is by increasing the number of Senators, we believe that such increase will give a new opportunity for putting into practical effect a continuous policy of proportional representation for that chamber.
That is the policy of the Australian Country party as expressed by its leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). The Liberal party did not go so far as to support the principle of proportional representation in the election of members of the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition stated a few moments ago that the Australian Country party and the Liberal party have a joint policy on elec toral reform. It is a pity that, in their own best interests, they did not have a joint financial policy because it was the auctioneering and the bargaining for votes which they indulged in that left them in opposition.
This Government is doing something that should have been done_ many years ago. As the population of Australia increased, so the number of electorates should have been altered to correspond with the increase in the number of electors in the Commonwealth. In some countries the number of seats is increased or decreased according to the number of electors in the nation. Anti-Labour governments were so smug and satisfied, so certain that they, like the departed Stuarts, governed by some divine right, that they never thought of the possibility of the revival of Labour faith and the return of Labour governments that would make the Australian Parliament truly representative of the people. A parliament in which each member represents 80,000 electors is not a representative Parliament, and cannot be. The Leader of the Opposition himself pointed that out in his policy speech. He said -
I point out to you that an effective democracy requires that Parliament should be fully representative; that members should not be so immersed in matters of detail as to be unable to devote full consideration to major matters of policy, and that there should be the widest possible area of choice of the Ministers who have to accept the ultimate responsibilities of administration.
As a statement of sound political sense, no one queries that, but the proposal there enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition could be made effective only by the method that the Government is adopting. We have to increase the size of the Senate before we can increase the size of the House of Representatives. That is provided for in the Constitution and it was placed in the Constitution by the men who framed it with a full knowledge of what it meant and what would lie before the nation after the federation was established. The framers of the Constitution provided that each original State should have six senators and that the Parliament could increase the number of senators beyond six but with the qualification that the representation of all the States had to be equal. That being so, it is idle to argue that we should have a double dissolution or some other method of electing an enlarged Senate. If the framers of the Constitution had intended that when the Senate was increased from time to time there should be a double dissolution or some other method of election than that provided in the Constitution, they would have made the necessary provision. They placed in the Constitution a power for a double dissolution to be exercised by the Governor-General at his discretion in a certain eventuality only, and the eventuality is disagreement between both Houses of the Parliament. It is a device by which the feelings of the two chambers may be reconciled. If the Senate twice rejects, fails to pass, or amends legislation passed by the House of Representatives in a manner with which the House of Representatives disagrees, the GovernorGeneral may dissolve both Houses. Should their difficulties then remain unreconciled the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider and vote upon the measure. It would be an abuse of the Constitution to use the provision for a double dissolution now merely to oblige people who feel sore and sorry for themselves that they did not do the right thing when they had the opportunity to do it.
– How would the Leader of the Opposition set about creating a situation in which a double dissolution would be possible?
– Only by arranging for the Labour majority of 33 in the Senate fraudulently to dissallow a bill so as to precipitate a double dissolution. But that would not provide for the election of an enlarged parliament even if there were such a double dissolution. It would only provide for a double dissolution of the 110 members who now serve in the Parliament. There is no machinery in the Constitution for enlarging the Senate and, consequently, the House of Representatives except by the method that we are adopting. It was open to the non-Labour parties in the years from 1917 to 1929 and 1932 to 1941 to adopt that method if they were so inclined. It is idle for them to talk about democracy when they condoned and countenanced the situation in which, in 1935, there were three Labour, and 33 non-Labour senators, just the reverse of to-day. After the general elections of 1919 the anti-Labour forces had 35 senators and the Labour party one, but no attempt was made to establish democratic representation then. The anti-Labour forces at that time thought they had the Labour party down and out, that it was finished politically and electorally and that they could govern in perpetuity along the way they had gone. To-day, they have to face the situation in which they have only three members in a Senate of 36. We want to alter the situation because the .Senate is not fully representative of the people. The only way in which to give effective representation to all political parties and all shades of political opinion is by the adoption of the Tasmanian system of equitable proportional representation. That system will at least make the Senate a more generally respected body and it will destroy the gibes hurled at senators today because, with overwhelming numbers on one side or the other, they can pass legislation in a few minutes, figuratively speaking, with scant regard for the views of the minute Opposition.
– The Government does not consider the feelings of its own side. Labour senators are unemployed.
– I am not here to consider the feelings of the “honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I do not know that I ever did or that I ever shall do so. One oan never tell what will happen in the future, but my surmise is as good as that of any one else and I am satisfied that, with a birth rate of 23 per 1,000 women of childbearing age and our system of planned immigration, it is possible that by 1960 Australia will hold between 9,500.000 and 10,000,000 people and that the numbers in each electorate will have increased from about 40,000, as we propose to have them now, to about 53,000, and there will be occasion then, if not earlier, for a further increase of the size of the Parliament. I know that honorable members on all sides consider that the Parliament will never be fully representative until we have a Parliament about the size -of the Canadian Parliament, with about 250 members in the lower house.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that we ought to tie up this matter of electoral reform and a larger Parliament with a diminution of the numbers -of the members in the State parliaments. Just imagine the Liberal party wanting to interfere with the rights of the State parliaments ! The idea is fantastic. We could not do it except as the result of a referendum empowering this Parliament to do so. Does any one think that honorable members opposite would support such a referendum when they will not support referendums which have a great deal more merit? But honorable members opposite are poor historians; and they have little knowledge of Australia’s political history they would know that at the time of federation the Legislative Assembly in New South Wales consisted of 120 members and that because of the emergence of this National Parliament and the creation of a federation that legislature, itself, reduced its numbers from 120 to 90. It did so about 1903. At the time of federation, the Victorian Legislative Assembly consisted, of 90 members and that number was reduced in 1904 to 68. There was, at that time, an iniquitous provision which gave to railwaymen two members as a special representation, because the tories of those days were afraid of the railwaymen’s vote, whilst public servants got one member. But the size of the Victorian Parliament was reduced further by three when that system of representation was abolished. It might well be that when these measures are passed the weight of public opinion may force State parliaments to. reduce their size as was done in earlier years. Be that as it may, the problem of the size of State parliaments is a problem for the States and for State electors; and the democracy must be allowed to express itself in its own way. But here in the national sphere we have a mandate to do what we are doing under these measures, and we believe that it is in the national interest to do what we are doing. I shall quote the opinions expressed in earlier years on this question of an enlarged parliament by persons who ‘are at least in sympathy with honorable members opposite. I should like to quote the opinions of some of the press backers of nonLabour forces written quite recently on the Government’s policy in this matter. The Sydney Daily Telegraph in its issue of the 18th February last stated -
The Labour party’s wise decision to increase the size of Federal Parliament gives all parties an opportunity to improve the general standard of their parliamentary teams.
That journal went on, in salutary fashion -
This is particularly true of the Liberal party. This party’s efforts to get new and brighter minds into the House have been frustrated by the ferocious grip with which the old incumbents-
These are the Daily Telegraph’s words, not mine - have hung on to the safe seats they have occupied for so long.
And, as if it had not said enough to make Liberal party members of Parliament annoyed, that journal continued -
Now that many of these seats are to be divided, -the party (that is the Liberal party) has a chance to try out new men of promise who hitherto have generally had to fight for a seat in electorates where a blackfellow would have won for the other side.
That was not the only advice which the Sydney Daily Telegraph gave to the Opposition in its issue of the 18th February last. It continued -
Of course, there will be a lot of string.pulling to have the new seats handed to deserving party hacks from the State Parliament. But the Liberal party will be wise to ignore this for there is very little talent in State politics which would improve the federal benches.
Opposition members and the newspapers that support them have not seen in the proposal to enlarge the Commonwealth Parliament the sinister designs that the Leader of the Opposition is reading into the Government’s proposals to-night-
– When the Minister refers to my press backers like that, he makes my mouth water.
– They may not be 100 per cent., but they are 99 per cent, backers of the Opposition parties. Even before this proposal was mooted conservatives in more than one State campaigned for the very proposal which the Labour
Government now places before the Parliament. On the 15th January last, the Melbourne Herald published this sound advice -
Enlargement of the Commonwealth Parliament has become a necessity for efficient Government in Australia, and narrow considerations of party advantage at the next elections should not be allowed to stand in the way of the change.
That was before the Government made this decision ; and the same journal, when it learned what we had decided upon, said -
The opportunity to increase the membership of Parliament should not he missed or sacrificed to a belief by Labour’s strategists that redistribution only would be more advantageous to a party conscious of being in disfavour.
And this last reference, in view of the people’s decision at the last general elections, may in truth apply, as did the references of the Daily Telegraph, to members of the Opposition. In our consideration of this matter we are not concerned with questions of favour, or disfavour, at the next elections. We are doing the right thing and we can trust _ to the democracy to exercise the same sound common sense as it exercised when it elected this Government in 1946 and in 1943, although on both those occasions leaders of the non-Labour forces had confidently predicted sweeping anti-Labour victories. Now honorable members opposite talk about what is going to happen in 1949. Who knows what is going to happen in 1949? The next general elections are about a year and eight months away, and a lot of things are going to happen in the meantime. This Government will continue doing its good work, and it seems to be beyond the bounds of possibility that a government with the splendid record of this Government Could lose the support of the Australian people. The Sydney Morning Herald was quite correct when it said -
With the growth of the population a.nd the extension of Commonwealth responsibility., a House of Representatives of 74 voting members has become much too small.
I do not like wearying the House with a recitation, of opinions of non-Labour dailies in the capital cities, but it is good for the record. It goes down in the annals of the Parliament and shows that the
Opposition forces which charge the Government with trying to snatch a temporary party advantage hope to advantage themselves by postponing this reform until after the next elections. After all, if we do get control of the Senate as an incidental circumstance and as a fortuitous happening consequent upon the passage of this legislation how long would that control last ? At the most it would last three years ; and what is three years in the life of a nation?
– The Government needs to win in only one State at the next general elections in order to retain its majority in the Senate.
– It is true that we would not lose the next election if we won in only one State under the present system. If the Government won in two States, the Opposition parties, if they won a majority in the House of Representatives, would still be in a minority in the Senate. Their assumption is that they are going to win every seat in the Senate, as the Labour party did in 1943, and that they may even win every seat in the House of Representatives. They are presumptuous enough to believe that they can win every seat because they have the money of the banks behind them; but the pennies of the people have always defeated the pounds of the profiteers, and the Government will win again as it has won before. I shall read to the House a few more references by the press to this matter. The Sydney Morning Herald said -
The Senate could be brought into closer touch with public needs hy reform of a voting procedure which now produces wholly unsatisfactory and even farcical results.
We are taking the only course open to us under the Constitution to prevent the possibility of any more farcical results eventuating from general elections in this country. Even earlier, away back in August, 1947, we find that the Melbourne Argus, which, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, is rather kindly disposed towards me in respect of immigration matters but, editorially, still backs the Liberal party, after speculating on the need for increasing membership, reported the Leader of the Opposition on the 6th of that month as saying -that he favoured enlargement in membership of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Leaders of the two Opposition parties, in their joint statements after the announcement of the Government’s decision, described the Australian Labour party’s decision as a move “ to save the seats of Labour members who otherwise would lose them “. That was their method of trying to decry a very laudable measure and a long-awaited reform. They were, however, more honest in their declaration. that while the Opposition parties have, in principle, supported the idea of a larger Commonwealth Parliament, naturally everything depended upon how the principle is put into operation. They cannot suggest any effective way inside the Constitution by which it could be put into operation other than the way we suggest. A double dissolution of the present Parliament would not help them. What they are hoping for is tha t by some means or other the matter will be relegated to oblivion. In other words, they hoped that the Government would drop the scheme, as they themselves dropped the national insurance scheme, and that nothing would be heard of it until after the next elections. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) recently said, the great virtue of this Government is that it governs and that it accepts its obligations and discharges its responsibility. The Government knows what is right and what ought to be done and is proceeding to do it. The principles and methods laid down in the Constitution are those which we intend to follow.
On the 19th February last, the Sydney Morning Herald said -
Federal Labour Caucus has done the right thing in approving legislation to increase the size of the Commonwealth Parliament and to reform the method of electing the Senate . . Party considerations aside- says this 100-year-old journal - an increase in the number of parliamentary seats - the first projected since Federation - is a most significant forward step. Leaders of all parties know that it is overdue . . . It behoves all parties to look beyond questions of current expediency, and to treat the impending change as a landmark in Commonwealth parliamentary history.
– “ Granny “ must have been drunk I
– She certainly uttered some sober common sense when she made that observation. On the 18th February - a day earlier - the Melbourne Herald said -
A political step of the greatest importance has been taken through the decision of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party to provide, by legislation, for a greatly enlarged National Parliament . . . Beyond party manoeuvres, there is a very strong case for adjusting the size of Parliament to the growth of Australia’s population.
Three days later, on the 21st February, the Melbourne Argus said -
If the highly contentious question of motive is treated as a separate problem - - and it does not need to be so treated for very long or very seriously - the plan foi a larger Federal Parliament is one which should commend itself to all Australians. Cries of “ gerrymandering and safeseat hunting “ are the catch-calls of political expediency and should not be allowed to confuse the ultimate issue of the wisdom of increasing the numerical strength of the Federal Houses. This is a national issue which must be treated as such, and be placed above the rancours of inter-party disputes. As a matter of broad principle, the present state of affairs does warrant an increased Federal Government, whilst the prospect of great national development in this country positively demands it.
On the 19th February, the Melbourne A ge said -
Most people concede that a larger parliament, to accord with population growth and greater governing responsibilities, is justified. The plan adopted by Federal Labour Caucus has some acceptable features: 122 House members would not be too many in view of the work to be done and heavy increases in numbers of electors served by each. The principle of proportional representation in Senate elections can be approved as a means nf ending electoral abuses that confer a virtual monopoly of contested seats on the dominant party, and deny representation to the defeated, even though the margin between the two be very narrow.
On the 19th April, only a few days ago, the Sydney Morning Herald stated -
The Government’s bill to increase the size of the Federal Parliament deserves general support . . . The present move is overdue and should not be made a party issue. Opposition leaders have, in the past, recognized the need for smaller constituencies and more members, and while it is regrettable that such an important reform was not initiated by a representative all-party committee, there is nothing in the Government’s measure to which the Opposition can legitimately take exception.
Those articles were written by people who ordinarily do not write in favour of the Australian Labour party. The writers, however, had not been caught up with the political rancour of those who failed to do their duty in the past. They realized that this move is, as the press has unanimously said, of major importance and long overdue, and they commended the Government for what it is doing. There is no need for a referendum or an alteration of the Constitution. All this Government has to do is to discharge its responsibilities and accept the verdict of the people when the new electorates are determined and members are elected to them, and senators are elected to the enlarged Senate at the same time. I do not want to say very much more on this matter-
– The Minister has so far said very little.
– No matter what 1 say, I could not hope to make any impression upon the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride). He is a gentleman who it might be truly said is the victim of invincible ignorance. The Leader of the Opposition has admitted the mistakes of the past. He beat his breast publicly and said, “ We have sinned, but we think that the Government has sinned even more than we did in doing the thing we failed to do “. Extraordinarily enough, he indulged in the Communist tactics of self-criticism. He exposed himself to the ridicule of his own supporters in the House by admitting that when they had the opportunity to do the right thing, they did not do it. We are not neglecting any opportunity to do the right thing. In the course of seven years, this Government has passed more beneficial legislation than have probably all the governments which preceded it. It has a record for honesty and action. It is prepared to do the thing that lies at its hands. It neither runs” away from problems nor shirks its responsibilities. It has not fallen into political disgrace because of its neglect.
Mr. McEwen interjecting,
– I remind the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the members of the party to which he belongs that they are where they aretoday because they failed to enunciate a. positive wheat policy when they were in office in 1940. There is a good deal tobe said for positive action in politics, and even if mistakes are sometimes made, thepeople will forgive the Government if they think that it is trying to do something for the common good. They do not want political leeches and barnacles.. Because honorable members opposite weretaken for those things, they are payingthe consequences now. The Legislative Council of Victoria was reformed as far as it was possible to reform it in thethirties, but the one-half of its members who were not due to retire within the ensuing three years did not go to the country.. They continued their membership of the council on the basis of the old electoral boundaries, which had remained unaltered for nearly 40 years. There was no question of forcing an election upon all members of the council. The change could have been effected by a simple amendment of the Constitution Act. A State Parliament may amend its Constitution Act without a referendum. It is not inhibited by any of the difficulties which confront legislatures which work under a written constitution and are bound hy hard and fast rules. The Leader of the Opposition said that what this Government is doing is indecent, and that this proposal is a racket. The people will not endorse those charges. Honorable members opposite have made all kinds of charges against us, from being the associates of Communists to being members of the Communist party in disguise. We have been accused of wanting to destroy everything that the people hold sacred. In other years Labour members were even accused of wanting to interfere with the marriage tie. When the Commonwealth Bank was established, Labour members were accused of wanting to destroy the credit of this country. To-night we have been told that in taking this simple, honorable and desirable action we are indulging in a racket. All this shows the attitude of mind of honorable members opposite to the problems of government. We are doing what is right and just, and we are prepared to take the consequences, whatever they might be.
.- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has treated the House to a discourse upon what, beyond question, is one of the most important issues to be brought before this Parliament since federation - an issue affecting the composition and the manner of election of the Australian Parliament. The Minister spoke for approximately 45 minutes, but 95 per cent, of that time was occupied with the reading of extracts from various journals. The Minister quoted statements by his political opponents. In fact, he produced what was virtually a dossier on his political opponents. In an endeavour to sul>stantiate the policy of his party, he quoted from sources upon which he did not dare to rely in connexion with Labour’s policy on banking. I ask honorable members, and my listeners, whether they believe that the Minister, himself, has had time to prepare all the extracts from journals that he has quoted. The honorable gentleman spent 35 or 40 minutes reading to honorable members the most comprehensive collection of journalistic comment that I have ever heard in this Parliament. Is it possible that a Minister who has charge of two important departments could have had sufficient free time to compile the comprehensive dossier? If he did in fact prepare the material himself, any shortcomings in the administration of his departments can be readily understood. If the MacDonald family cannot get a permit to come to Australia from Scotland, at least we know on what occupation the Minister was engaged while he neglected his ministerial duties. Obviously, no intelligent person will believe that the Minister himself collated those voluminous records. Then who did ? They were prepared by officials whose salaries are paid out of the vote for the Department of Information. These individuals, paid by the Australian taxpayers, fortify ministers with almost unending extracts from hundreds of journals so that whatever political situation may arise, ministers will be able to quote in this chamber selected utterances of their political opponents. This is improper and unmoral, but it is completely in line with the course that was followed on an earlier issue involving the constitutional powers of the Australian Parliament. On that occasion the funds of Australian taxpayers amounting to £150,000 - that is the sum that was revealed and heaven knows how much was unrevealed - were expended on what the Government had the effrontery to describe as “ post-war education “, but which the Auditor-General recognized as political propaganda on a referendum issue.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to return to the measure now under discussion.
– I have made my point. This display of political unmorality is but another revelation of the mental attitude and ethical standards of those who are behind the legislation now before the House. It is incontrovertible that the proposal involves the most important domestic issues ever brought before the Australian Parliament. But what has been said about it? At best, the Minister for Immigration could only say that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had uttered half-a-dozen words about it a few days before the last elections. And what has been said during the eighteen months that the present Parliament has been in existence about the intention of the Government to change in such a revolutionary manner the composition of the Australian Parliament and the manner in which some of its members are elected? Nothing at all. Not a word was heard until quite recently, when the public was permitted, through the enterprise of some skilled journalist, to hear of discussions that were taking place in caucus. We learned that there had been some difference of opinion on the question of how the scalps of Labour members could best be saved and that caucus had been split into two factions, one supporting the Prime Minister and the other the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Obviously, the idea of enlarging the Commonwealth Parliament was not conceived until the necessity for it arose. It is no exaggeration to say that the Government deliberately 1–_- 1 silent on this matter for eighteen months, in fact, until circumstances forced its hand. These circumstances, of course, were the
Commonwealth-wide opposition to the Government’s banking proposals, and the subsequent Victorian elections, at which a section of the population of this country had an opportunity to express their opinion upon those proposals. Not long after the political temper of the Australian people was revealed at these elections we were informed in the press that discussions of proposed constitutional changes in the composition and the manner of election of the Australian Parliament were taking place in caucus. That was more than a coincidence. One would have to be simple-minded indeed to believe that the Labour party had in mind the enlargement of the Commonwealth Parliament as a matter of high policy. The time at which the proposal was brought forward indicated quite clearly that the Government was not actuated by high motives. It is more than a coincidence that the scheme advanced by the Labour party as being in the interests of the Australian people, is also very much in the interests of members of that party. It can be shown that the scheme will, with mathematical certainty, leave the Australian Labour party in charge of the Senate, irrespective of the will of the people. We are not so simpleminded as to believe that a party which does not scruple to spend public money on political propaganda, and to engage public servants to prepare dossiers on political opponents, would not, in order to save the skins of political associates, or perhaps the life of the Government, and certainly in order to prevent the will of the people from prevailing, have thought of this cunning device which, among other things, will ensure control of the Senate by the Labour party for at least another three years. And so I wholeheartedly condemn the motive behind the proposal, and my party supports me in this.
My leader has said, not surreptitiously, or upon some awkward political occasion, but from the public platform when announcing the policy of our party, that we see merit in the proposal to enlarge the Parliament. We withdraw no word of that, nor do we make any apology for it, but we believe that the enlargement of the Parliament, and the manner of its election, ought to be above base, political motives. That is why we suggest that the proposal to enlarge the Parliament, and to vary the method of election of senators, ought to he the subject of an. inquiry. If necessary, the consent of the people should be sought to an alteration of the Constitution to give effect to whatever scheme is recommended as most desirable. The Government’s present proposals are smeared in our minds because of the circumstances which have given rise to them. However, the matter has now come forward for consideration, and I am obliged to declare the general policy of the Australian Country party regarding it. Throughout the whole period of its existence, the Australian Country party has believed in the principle of decentralization. We believe that Australia is too big to be governed satisfactorily from any one point. The policies applied in the past have brought about aggregations of population in Sydney and Melbourne, and nearby districts. We believe that the more remote areas, even though sparsely populated at. present, should not be left without adequate political representation. Therefore, we have never thought it necessary to apologize for declaring that the principle of one vote, one value, should not apply to rural areas. If I remember rightly, that principle is embodied in theLabour party’s platform. At any rate, it has frequently been endorsed by spokesmen for the Labour party. Under the present electoral system, even at themoment of a redistribution, there may bea disparity of as much as 20 per cent, in the population of electorates, and the Australian Country party believes this to> be right, having regard to the present distribution of population. What is the policy of the Government in that connexion?” We have just listened f or ‘ threequartersof an hour to the Minister for Information, but he said not one word on thisissue which is so important to the rural population of Australia, and, in particular, to the population of the smallerStates. Where does the Government stand on this issue of rural representation as against metropolitan representation? Australia has certain natural industries, such as the pastoral industry, agriculture, horticulture, and mining, which. need no tariffs or subsidies or other devices to support them. They are spread throughout the length and breadth of the land, and their continued existence depends ultimately upon the political decisions of this Parliament. Therefore, their representation should be protected. What is the opinion of the Labour party on this point? Up to the present, Government spokesmen have been silent. The whole economy of Australia rests upon such primary industries as wool, meat, wheat, dairying and mining, and it would be bad - it -might, indeed, be fatal - if they were not properly represented in the place where their destiny is decided. We direct the attention of the people to the fact that the Government has been silent on this point. Obviously, the Government is concerned only to evolve a scheme which will give Labour every chance of being returned to power; or, failing that, to dominate the Senate ; and, in any event, to give sitting members of the Parliament a good chance of being returned at the next election.
I support the view of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the smaller States. Our policy of decentralization is not confined to the rural industries; we believe in the decentralization of government. The Australian Country party has for years advocated the creation of new States. It. is history that we have got nowhere with such advocacy, but we have never abandoned our policy. At any rate, if we cannot obtain acceptance for our new States policy, at least we insist that the present political representation of the existing smaller States should be preserved. What is the policy of the Government in regard to that? True, the Government has been silent regarding it, but its actions show that it is resolved to strip from the smaller States the last vestige of their political power, and to multiply the representation of New South Wales and Victoria, while pegging the representation of Tasmania at the original number of five. The population of this country has increased greatly since 1900; we have acquired international prestige, and we have developed in many other ways. Is it right that Tasmania alone should be prevented from moving forward politically? Is that the policy of the Government? If so, it should say so. As it refuses to admit the fact, the Opposition must point out that the proposal to peg Tasmania’s status will reduce its importance in comparison with other States. Heaven knows, the progress of that State has already been held back in no small degree by the relative minuteness of its political representation in this Parliament! In view of the Government’s silence, the Opposition is bound to point these things out.
What is the intention ci the Government regarding representation of outback areas, where our principal export industries are conducted ? Does it intend that small areas such as Surry Hills, Bellevue Hill, Toorak or Port Melbourne shall have exactly the same number of representatives as, for instance, the area represented by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), embracing Broken Hill and part of the vast pastoral area of New South Wales? Is the policy of the Government to have equality or to have some weighting of the present permissible marginal disparity between electorates? The fact, that the Government has had nothing to say on this issue, which is o’f the utmost importance to rural citizens, is significant. In fact, it is sinister. Whatever may be said of the Government, I am sure that it is politically smart enough to know when things have important political implications. It is sufficiently politically conscious to know that this matter will not be overlooked by voters in the rural areas. Therefore, if it had intended to weigh the proportion of representation in this Parliament in order to give proper recognition to the needs of our rural communities, it would have announced the fact. For this reason, I attach significance to its silence.
What real justification has been produced by the Government for this revolutionary and sudden change? The Attorney-General has said that, whereas we have only 74 members in this House, the Canadian House of Commons has 240 or 250 members. The only inference to be drawn from that is that Australia is to copy Canada. Does the Labour party copy Canada in regard to banking legislation? I am not impressed by any statement that what is done in some other country is sufficient justification for us to do likewise. The Labour Government has not shown any willingness to emulate other parliaments in its political activities except in the case of banking, in which it has imitated Soviet Russia. This proposal does not ring true. It represents a. policy of expediency and is readily recognizable as such. That is true also of the Government’s proposals in relation to the Senate. The policy of the Australian Country party in respect of the Senate has been clearly announced by its leader at election after election. We stand for proportional representation because we believe that that is the fairest system for the Senate.
– Hear, hear ! And that is what the Government is giving to the people.
– It is giving it to us in a cunning manner. It is playing a political trick. It is taking up the policy of the Australian Country party and applying if at a time when the Labour party will be thereby assured of retaining a majority in the Senate. This fact should be recognized. For twenty years, the Australian Country party has preached the virtues of proportional representation for the Senate. Has any member of the Labour party ever supported that part of the Australian Country party’s policy? No! It has never been announced by the Labour party as part of a political programme during any election campaign. It has emerged as the result of a secret caucus examination of the state of health of the Labour party and the prospect of the party’s survival at the coming elections. The caucus studied all devices that could possibly be employed to save the party in this Parliament, and, amongst all the alternative schemes, it discovered the system of proportional representation for the Senate, This examination of the subject by people whom I consider to be completely unmoral politically, revealed that the party could devise a scheme which, unless it were closely examined, would have the superficial appearance of a fair system of representation for the electors. However, close inspection of the plan discloses that it is a cunning trick to maintain the Labour party’s majority in the Senate for three more years after the election, irrespective of the will of the Australian people. I have my own views about the probable outcome of the next elections. I shall not expound them because there is no necessity for me to do so. I merely say that the Australian Country party has stood by its policy, has abided by the outcome, and is prepared to do so again at the next elections.
This proposition, which is designed to defy the will of the Australian people, is completely intolerable. The only decent thing - I use the word “ decent “ advisedly - for the Government to do would be to propose proportional representation in the Senate and enlargement of the House of Representatives in a forthright statement of its policy to the electors and to stand by their decision in the matter at the elections next year. Alternatively, of course, it could have consulted the people more expeditiously. We are expected to regard this as a matter of urgency. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out the virtual impossibility of squeezing 121 members into this chamber unless we are first transformed into sardines, the almost complete impossibility of accommodating the essential staff in the existing building, and the difficulty of finding the additional hotel and house accommodation that will be required in Canberra. Considering all these obstacles, one is forced to the belief that the Government proposes to represent this scheme to the Australian people as a matter of great urgency. The people could have been given an opportunity to express their views on the 29th May. This is an issue upon which the Australian people would be anxious to express their opinion. But it is not to be. The Labour party does not take any risks. During the last election campaign it did not inform the people that it proposed to nationalize banking. The policy’ of the Labour Government may be expressed, thus, “ Whip it in and get it through “. Now the Government proposes to “ fix “ the Australian Parliament, and I use the word “ fix “ in its most sinister sense.
– Shame on YOU
– The policy of the Labour party is to “whip it in and get it through while there is the chance “.
– That is a disgraceful observation.
– It is a disgraceful proposal to provide for the election of a Senate which will defy the will of the Australian people. I stand by that observation.
– It is an absurd observation.
– The Minister should be a judge of absurdity.
– I have been listening to the honorable member.
– Order ! The Minister must refrain from interjecting.
– On behalf of members of the Australian Country party, I say to the Parliament and the Australian people that we believe that this legislation is the exemplification of a deplorably low standard of public morals. We do not think that it springs from a motive to improve the conditions of the Australian people. We consider that it is a device of cunning men, intended to protect the interests of the Australian Labour party. It is the principle which underlies the expression “ Any scheme, so long as you can. get away with it “.
– I listened in vain for the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to make a statesmanlike contribution to this debate. All that he has done this evening has been to accuse the Labour party of having sinister motives for introducing this legislation. The truth is that the Labour party has advocated, for a long period, the principle of effective representation in this Parliament. When the honorable member was Minister for the Interior, he introduced a bill to abolish the section of the Electoral Act which provided for an estimate to be taken of the circumstances to determine the number of members that should be elected in the various States. When that bill was introduced, the government and the opposition of the day - I was a member of the Opposition - were in agreement as to the necessity for that action because the figures could be inflated as the result of conditions operating in particular States so as to make the composition of this House unrepresentative. For instance, had’ an election been held during the centenary celebrations in Melbourne on the basis of a census taken at that time, Victoria would probably have had one more member than it was entitled to, South Australia and New South Wales were later in a similar position. The debate on the measure to which I have referred was conducted on a vastly different plane from that which the honorable member for Indi chose to discuss the bill now before us. He appears to have been completely “ rattled “ by the fact that the newspapers which usually support the political views which he advocates have announced in unmistakable terms that it is essential to give Australia more effective representation in this Parliament.
Other members of the Opposition, like the honorable member for Indi, find difficulty in recovering from the shock, because they are so accustomed to the metropolitan press supporting them. When the honorable member for Indi found that the newspapers were arrayed against him he accused the Minsiter for Information (Mr. Calwell) of having sinister motives. He also took exception to the fact that the Minister’s private secretary had provided certain data which could be used in this House, and accused him of compiling dossiers on members of the Opposition. The honorable member has similar assistance in collecting material for use in debate provided at government expense, and no doubt he avails himself of it. What is wrong with that? The Government has no sinister motive in introducing this bill, because the increasing population of Australia has for a long period justified an enlargement of the Commonwealth Parliament. Political parties which are opposed to the Labour party were in office in this Parliament for many years, and had the opportunity to increase the membership of the Parliament and to introduce proportional representation; but, true to their instincts of “ never doing anything until forced by public opinion to act “, they allowed the opportunity- to slip. They did not intend to do anything because it could have resulted to their disadvantage. Any provision for more effective representation would have been more democratic, and, therefore, “ they simply refrained, as they usually do, from making an essential reform in the interest1; of the people. They left this responsibility to the Australian Labour party, which initiated all the good legislation in Australia.
In my opinion this bill to enlarge the Parliament of the Commonwealth is long overdue. It proposes to increase the strength of the House of Representatives from 74 to 121 members, and that of the
Senate from 36 to 60. Related to this increase of the numerical strength of both chambers is a proposal to introduce the system of proportional representation in all future elections for the Senate. Had it not been for the outbreak of war in 1939 I am confident that a measure to enlarge the Parliament would have been considered by this chamber much earlier than now, but it would have been introduced by a Labour government because anti-Labour governments do not stand for progress and reforms. . My personal support of this bill does not arise from any newly developed enthusiasm. When speaking on the Representation Bill in 1 93S, I pointed out that the number of electors, in some Commonwealth constituencies was being doubled and that the position of Australia regarding party representation was worse than that of Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Eire. I shall show, first, that ample justification exists for a larger Parliament, and secondly, that the method of making this change, as suggested by the Government, is, in all the circumstances, fair. As honorable members know, I have for many years advocated the enlargement of the Commonwealth Parliament. Speaking on the Representation Bill which the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) introduced in 1938, I said -
I venture to suggest that the numbers of persons in the Australian electorates are growing to such a degree that honorable members of this Parliament cannot do them justice. Moreover, the numbers of matters of detail that have to be attended to are greater than they wore when the numbers of electorates were less.
That cannot be denied. On that occasion I advocated that at the proper time consideration should be given to increasing the number of members of this Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. I am glad that that action is now being taken and my only regret is that it was not possible to introduce this legislation some years ago. One argument which I advanced in 1938 for an increased membership of the Parliament is even more valid to-day than it was at that time. I said -
The question of representation is one which should interest members of all parties-
It was not a party political matter, and should have commanded the interest of all parties. I continued - . . I trust that the debate on this bill will serve to awaken an interest that will lead to consideration being given to the basis of representation being put on a, more reasonable numerical basis than that which now exists.
Where the legislative rights of the people are involved, it is the duty of their representatives to draw attention to any disadvantages or defects which exist, and it is in that spirit that I direct attention to the position with respect to parliaments in other parts of the British Empire where adult franchise operates. The Constitution clearly provides for an enlargement of this Parliament on a specific basis; that is to say, the membership of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable double the number of honorable senators. The Government is proceeding to make provision for the enlargement of the Parliament in accordance with the Constitution. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Indi seem to be able to discover something sinister in every proposal that the Labour Government makes. I attribute that to their own suspicious minds. They have not presented any facts or arguments which will convince the Australian people.
I shall now compare the proportion of members to population in various countries. In Eire, there is one representative to every 21,500 of the population, and in New Zealand one representative to every 23,500 of the population.
– Or electors?
– No. The Constitution of the Commonwealth provides that we shall determine the total number of the population, and, by certain means, arrive at a quota-
– 1 understand that.
– The probabilities are that it will serve a good purpose if some honorable members opposite, who are not so familiar with the subject as is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) hear the explanation again. In the United Kingdom, there is one representative to every 75,000 of the population, but in Australia at present, there is only one representative in this House to every 100,000 of the population, or excluding Tasmania, because of the special circumstances prevailing there, one to every 104,000 persons. So that on a population basis it is quite clear that Australia has fewer representatives of the people in its National Parliament than has any other English-speaking country. Another method of comparison is to examine the average number of electors in the constituency of each representative in the various Parliaments of the British Commonwealth. The result provides even more striking evidence of the unfavorable position in which members of this House are placed. In South Africa, the average constituency comprises 7,000 electors-
– What about the representation of natives?
– I am speaking now of white populations. In Eire, the average constituency comprises 13,000 electors; in New Zealand 14,000 electors; in Canada 28,000 electors; and in the United Kingdom 51,000 electors. However, the average constituency in Australia contains 66,000 electors, or excluding Tasmania, 69,000 electors, and, as honorable members are aware, there are no less than 30 electorates each with an enrolment of over 70,000 electors and twelve electorates with over 80,000 electors. I am speaking now of the House o’f Representatives; I shall deal with representation in the Senate before I conclude.
The honorable member for Indi referred to the necessity for con- sideration being given to the interests of people living in the country and the difficulties under which they labour. However, there is provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act for the quota to be varied by one-fifth. I have not considered that provision up to the present, but it can be discussed in the committee stages of the bill. Country electorates comprise a smaller number of” people than metropolitan electorates.
The urgent need for reform is emphasized by the fact that when the Commonwealth Parliament was first elected’ in 1901 the average constituency contained approximately 26,000 electors. It is interesting to note that whereas Australian electorates, many of which cover an enormous area, place upon representatives of this House the responsibility for representing about 104,000 persons, the United Kingdom, which has a highly concentrated population and very much smaller electorates, agreed under the Representation of the People Bill 1944 to a redistribution of seats on the basis of one member of the, House of Commons for every 70,000 of the population. By a separate act redistribution in Northern Ireland was placed on the basis of one member for every 43,000 of the population.
Until the complete redistribution could be carried out, Royal Assent was given in the same year as a temporary plan of electoral reform to the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, by which legislation twenty constituencies were split up and the membership of the House of Commons temporarily increased from 615 to 640. It will be realized, therefore, that the Mother of Parliaments has recently set us a good example in increasing the number of seats in the people’s House to provide for more adequate and effective representation. Every honorable member, irrespective of the political party to which he belongs, should be in favour of more adequate and effective representation.
I have referred to the fact that the average number of electors for each constituency of the first Commonwealth Parliament was approximately 26;000, whereas the average number to-day, if we exclude Tasmania, is 69,000. The functions and responsibilities of the Commonwealth have increased tremendously during the last half-century and particularly during the last decade. Some indication of this increase is given by the statistics of Commonwealth expenditure, which in 1910 was £16,500,000 ; in 1920, £64,500,000; in 1930, £80,000,000; in 1940, £150,500,000; and in 1947, £431,000,000. Obviously, the work of the Parliament has increased enormously and that is something which cannot be disregarded. Statistics prove the need for adequate and effective representation, and any honorable member who suggests that we should not increase the membership of the Parliament ignores the facts established by those statistics. I do not say this in any spirit of malice, but any honorable member who opposes increased membership of the Parliament is probably actuated by selfish motives in that he does not want to disturb the “comfortable electorate which he represents.
The increasing trend of Commonwealth activity is dramatically revealed by the statistics in regard to the number of persons employed by the Government. In 1920 the Commonwealth employed approximately 25,000 persons. By 1933 the number had increased to 45,000, whilst in 1941 approximately 111,000 persons were employed. The employees in 1947 numbered approximately 158,000. I realize that the press contends that there are too many public servants, but their number increased enormously during the years when the anti-Labour parties were in office.
– A large proportion of that increase was due to wartime employment.
– The war greatly increased the activities of the Government. Because of the extension of social services it is obvious that the Government will require even more public servants in order to provide effective administration.
A very great proportion of the duties of a member of this House in looking after the interests of his constituents is concerned’ with the administration of pensions and social service provisions. An increase of government activity in this field is reflected immediately by a corresponding increase of the demands made upon members for advice and assistance by their constituents. An index of the growth of social services can therefore be accepted as a fairly accurate graph of the growth of members’ electorate responsibilities. In 1910, Commonwealth expenditure on social services was less than £2,000,000; in 1920 less than £7,000,000; in 1930 approximately £14,000,000 ; in 1940 it amounted to £18,000,000; and in 1947 to £65,500,000.
We are in this House as representatives of the people of Australia, and it is therefore our bounden duty to take the steps which the Constitution provides for increasing the people’s representation in this Parliament when we believe that a stage has been reached where such increased representation is necessary to ensure the best interests of the people.
Some people will dismiss the matter by saying that they do not want any more politicians at any price. I can understand people making observations of that kind when they have ^ regard to members of the Opposition, but, in reality, such statements do not contribute anything of value to the problem of government. [Quorum formed.] The only alternative to legislation by Parliament is by the decree of fascist dictatorship. Once a citizen accepts the democratic system of parliamentary representation by secret ballot of the people, to be logical he must believe in an efficient parliament, with members giving the best possible service to their constituents. In many electorates it is not a matter of having masses of electors living in one locality where they are easily accessible. For instance, the electorates of Kalgoorlie, Kennedy, Darling and Grey are very extensive in area, with the population dispersed over great distances.
An increase of the number of seats in the House of Representatives to 121 will mean that each member will represent an average of about 41,000 voters, as compared with 25,000 in 1903. However, the figures I have just given, although indicating a marked increase of the number of electors, do not reveal the heavy increased burden which has been thrown upon certain honorable members. For instance, the electoral machinery ha3 fixed a quota of 66,867 electors for seats in New South Wales. This quota was obtained by the Chief Electoral Officer dividing the number of people in the Commonwealth by twice the number of 36 senators; 7,531,211 divided by 72 gives approximately 104,877. To obtain the number of members to be elected to the House of Representatives, the population, of each State is divided by 104,877. That at present gives New South Wales 28 members, Vic’, ria 20, Queensland 11 and South Australia 6. In the case of Western Australia and Tasmania a minimum of five members is prescribed. Then the number of electors on the roll of each State is divided by the number of members of the House of Representatives allotted to it. In respect of New South Wales at present, 1,872,000, the number of voters, divided by 28, the number of seats, gives a quota of 66,867 voters. To this quota, however, the electoral law has added a one-fifth marginal allowance, which adds a further 13,373 voters to the 66,867 already mentioned, making a maximum quota of 80,240 for New South Wales. In other States the same formula is applied. Suffice it to say that 38 of the existing 74 electorates exceed their normal quota. Apparently, honorable members opposite are prepared to allow this situation to continue. The Australian Country party and the Liberal party formed the government prior to the outbreak of World War II., but they did not attempt to do anything but abolish the provision for the “ estimate “ which appeared in the Representation Act. Now we have the sorry position that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who, as Minister for the Interior, had charge of that bill, attributes to us sinister motives when we try to remedy the defects that previous governments allowed to continue for so long. My own electorate of Maribyrnong is included in these, and exceeds its normal quota of 67,352 by 10,853. No less than ten federal electorates exceed their maximum quota after 20 per cent, has been added to the normal quota of electors. The electorates carrying this heavy burden are Warringah, Werriwa, Reid, Lang, Lilley, Kooyong, Henty, Balaclava, Hindmarsh and Fre mantle. They are well in excess of the limits provided. It will be clear that if this, greatly increased number of voters was the only factor the amount of work thrown on honorable members by their constituents would have shown a corresponding increase. Obviously, 1,893,000 electors in 1903 did not have the same volume of problems, deputations, meetings, correspondence, &c, as the 4,7S0,000 of 1948. In 1949, it is expected that the total number of electors enrolled will have reached 5,000,000. If we use the suits. electoral formula as at present, by merely adding one member to Queensland’s existing total, we shall have 75 members in the House of Representatives representing an average of over 60,000 voters each.
The need for this alteration has existed for some considerable time. It was only the war that prevented it from being made earlier. The proper time at which to do it was after the census was taken, and the census figures revealed the need to be much greater than- had been supposed. It is to the credit of most newspapers that they have realized this, although they are usually opposed to any legislation introduced by the Labour party. The Minister for Information quoted extracts from newspaper after newspaper showing quite clearly that they believed this to be something that should have been done long ago.
In the Mother of Parliaments no member is expected to cater for the requirements of more than 50,000 electors. Canada, with an area about one-fifth larger than Australia and a population of approximately 12,000,000, has a Senate of 96 and a House of Commons of about 250 members. Each member there represents about half the number of electors represented by an honorable member of this Parliament. In this vast continent some electors have never seen the member who represents them in the Commonwealth Parliament. Probably many were absent or engaged on urgent duties when the member paid to their town one of those visits, which, because of distance and the number of other electors clamouring for attention, are necessarily few. An increase of the number of members means smaller territories, which will reduce, in big electorates, the long distances to be travelled by the parliamentary representatives of the people. Kalgoorlie electorate is a notable instance, but it is. not the only one.
When a member’s consti tuents become too numerous or too widely scattered for him to meet them personally, many electors are deprived of their only contact with the parliamentary system of government. He or she has no chance to see the local member about personal problems. This tends to isolate large numbers of citizens from the machinery of government. They regard it as a thing apart - something in which they have no effective voice or control. This is not good for any democracy.
There is justification for this bill in addition to that provided by the very substantial increase of the number of electors. This further justification is provided by the fact that not only have the affairs of government increased and become more complex, but also that the average elector is grappling with problems of prices, rent, housing, gratuity, rehabilitation, endowment and many other things which have arisen comparatively recently.
Citizens are seeking advice and counsel from their parliamentary representatives personally and by telephone or correspondence far more frequently than was the case in pre-war days. The task of girding Australia for war, formidable as it was, was not more difficult than the job of organizing the peace, because in wai1 there was at least a common objective, with almost everybody going in the same direction. In peace, however, there are almost as many objectives and directions as there are voters. There is an unprecedented array of economic problems taxing the Parliament’s capacity, physical and mental, to the utmost. Over 700,000 service men and women are adapting themselves to a new environment. There are many more people and many more problems and there should be more parliamentarians to cope with them.
Here in a nutshell are some of the reasons why the Parliament should be enlarged: - 1. The number of electors is so large that the volume of business brought forward is too heavy for a member to deal with adequately. 2. A larger Parliament would result in an improved service to which electors are entitled. 3. A larger Parliament would provide a wider field from which to choose Cabinet Ministers. On the suggested basis of ten instead of six senators from each State, making a total of 60 senators and 121 members of the House of Representatives, the average number of electors to each representative in the Commonwealth Parliament of 1949, combining senators and members of the House of Representatives, would be 27,624. I have added all senators to reduce the weighted average to 27,624 voters to each member of Parliament. Each member of the House of Representatives, as I stated earlier, would represent an average of over 40,000 electors instead of over 60,000 if no adjustment is made. A redistribution of all States into divisions appears to be necessary in accordance with section 25 of the Electoral Act. It is considered that the distribution commissioners should endeavour to lodge their proposals for the new divisions with the Parliament about September or October next. It appears to be desirable that the redistribution proposals should be dealt with by the Parliament before the end of this year or early next year so that rolls and maps may be prepared and printed before the general elections take place in the latter half of 1949.
In his policy speech at the last general elections, the Leader of the Opposition acknowledged the need for a larger Parliament. He also admitted that the present method of electing senators was “ basically unsound “. To-night he contended that because his party had been rejected at the polls in 1946 the electors had therefore shown themselves opposed to a larger parliament. The probabilities are that the electors remembered the inactivity of the anti-Labour parties when the question was raised in 1938 and before, and rejected their utterances about a larger parliament as mere idle talk.
In a speech, which was not that of a federalist, but one calculated to add fuel to the fires of interstate jealousies, the Leader of the Opposition dwelt on Tasmania. Special treatment under the quota system has already been accorded to Tasmania. The voice of that State will definitely be beard with five members in the House of Representatives and .ten senators - fifteen in nil. The principle of having double the number of members in the House of Representatives to senators has been followed since federation and is provided for in the Constitution.
To offset the case for a larger Commonwealth Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition claimed there was a case for smaller State parliaments and even made some slight concession to those who advocated abolition of State Upper Houses. The fact is that the right honorable member when in Victorian State politics never uttered one word about reducing the size of State parliaments. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and I were members of the Victorian Parliament with the right honorable gentleman and know that that is so. He referred feelingly to the position in which 42 senators or seven from each State would be elected at the next general elections. Under proportional representation he said this would be in a ratio of four to three. 1 suggest this is much to be preferred to the present system under which the party obtaining 51 per cent, of the votes secures every one of the seats. Some members of the Opposition favour the enlargement of the Parliament and the introduction of proportional representation into Senate elections, but object to the time at which, and the method by which, these changes are to be made. The fact is that when Labour was in opposition we pressed just as strongly for the enlargement of the Parliament as we do now. If the time seems inopportune to members of the Opposition, it is the fault of their own parties, which had the power to make these changes, but did nothing. 1 have here a detailed explanation of proportional representation issued by the Proportional Representation League, but I shall not occupy time by launching into a long analysis of it. The proportional representation method contemplated by this bill was ably explained by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in this House last week. Proportional representation means provision for the representation of minorities in the Senate. Tt will gave Opposition candidates from annihilation at the next general elections, it is only fair, to give an illustration, that if 900,C00 votes arc cast and one party secures 500,000 and another party 400,000 that the representation should be in the ratio of 5 to 4. The Proportional Representation League has pointed out that the absence of proportional representation sometimes produces peculiar results. For instance, the winner of the election for Warringah shire on the 28th December last, received only 3$ per cent, of the votes cast. In the Kearsley shire election two candidates who received only 37 per cent, of the votes, were elected. That is, 37 per cent, of the voters secured all of the representation. In .previous elections for the Senate three candidates representing a particular party have received 51 per cent, of the votes and have been elected. The 49 per cent, with nearly half of the votes received no representation at all. In the past, Labour candidate’ for the Senate obtained hundreds of thousands of votes and yet Labour was not represented in proportion to the total votes, cast. Tn one parliament, Labour had one solitary representative in the Senate, Senator Gardiner. This bill will make such a thing impossible. There has to be a starting point somewhere and the present is clearly a suitable and proper time with the prevailing record number of electors and a formidable array of problems, never exceeded in volume, confronting the Parliament. At all events, the electoral clock cannot be turned back. We cannot assume that eighteen senators elected in 1946 were elected in 1943 and that their six years term will expire in 1949. We know full well that these eighteen senators were elected in 1946 for six years and this Parliament cannot flout the purpose of the electors all over the Commonwealth who voted on the understanding that they were electing senators in 1946 to hold office until 1953. If we established such a dubious precedent, we should strike ;i shattering blow at the parliamentary system. We must not break faith with the electors. The Opposition parties contend that there will be a swing in their favour at the next general elections. They contend that the eighteen senators who were elected in 1946 fora term of six years should be obliged to go to the polls at the next general elections in 1949 so that they themselves may gain the advantage of this alleged swing. However, the swing is as mythical as those about which the Opposition parties talked prior to the last two general elections. There will be no swing because the people realize fully that Australia enjoys the soundest economy and is the best-governed country in the world to-day. Honorable members opposite will again be ina minority; but they should welcome this legislation, which guarantees fair representation to their parties. If representation in this Parliament after the next general elections prejudices them in any way - and I do not accept that view - the responsibility for such a position will be theirs, because of their failure to heed picas for democratic parliamentary reform made in 1938 and earlier by my colleagues and I, as well as by members of their own parties. This legislation will provide more efficient and more truly representative government. Therefore, I support it wholeheartedly. I repeat that the Government is now doing something which the Opposition parties failed to do when they were in office during a long period of years. They broke faith with the people; and when this Government now attempts to rectify their omission they endeavour to cast suspicion upon the motives which actuate it. The Government has introduced this legislation solely because it believes it to be essential to ensure fair parliamentary representation of minorities, whereas the Opposition parties are not prepared to recognize the lights of minorities in that respect.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Health- J. F. Funder.
Interior - R. A. Borland, B. F. Cane,
L. R. Forbes,O. D. Gaffney, P. Liiv, B.C. Oliver, R. R. Parr, J.W. Slater.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (12).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
South Yarra, Victoria.
Spring Hill, Queensland.
Yass, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Australia’s postal communications would not be secure “ ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I am not in a position to state when the inquiries made by the Security Branch will be completed, but whena report is received consideration will be given to the question of whether the circumstances justify any further statement to Parlia- ment “.
Security, vide Hansard of the 7th April.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
At the Easter Conference of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, Mr. j. Ward made statements concerning this matter which he was requested subsequently to substantiate. Mr. Ward furnished certain information which has been passed to the Security Branch of the Attorney -General’s
Department for investigation. I am not in a position to state when the inquiries made by the Security Branch will be completed, but when a report is received consideration will be given to the question of whether the circumstances justify any further statement to Parliament.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following information : -
Civil A viation : Preservation of Air-strips.
Mr.Francis asked the Minister for Civil Aviation,uponnotice -
d. -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to both the above questions is “ No “.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
g asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Answers will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as practicable.
g asked the ‘Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows . -
n asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
How many tons of copra have been actually received in Australia from New Guinea and Papua for each quarter of the years since the conclusion of war hostilities?
Mr.Ward. - Particulars of copra imported into Australia from New Guinea and Papua are as follows -
Southaustralia: Supplies of Building Materials.
y. - I refer to the question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), on the 14th April, regarding the possibility of some special allocations of certain materials to South Australia’ to repair damage caused by the recent severe storm in that State. I am advised that, provided labour is available, the SS. Mungana, which departed from Sydney en route to Adelaide via Newcastle on the 14th April, with 2,000 cases of horticultural glasses, would depart from Newcastle on the 20th April, with 400 tons of corrugated galvanized iron plus 115,000 super, feet of sawn timber. In addition, because of the non-availability of shipping, instructions have been issued for movement by road immediately from Sydney to Adelaide of 1,000 cases of mixed glass.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480421_reps_18_196/>.