House of Representatives
3 June 1949

18th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 508




– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that Victoria Barracks, Paddington, are situated in a thickly populated and very limited area. In view of the expansion of the City of Sydney, does not the Minister consider that Army headquarters should be removed to Ingleburn?

Minister for the Army · ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · ALP

– I do not consider that, at present, Victoria Barracks should be removed from Paddington to Ingleburn. Apart from the physical difficulties involved in such a transfer,the cost would be approximately £500,000. The Commands are in the capital cities of the various States. If the Victoria Barracks were removed from Paddington to Ingleburn, a person who required information about an army matter would have to travel all the way to Ingleburn in order to obtain it. While I am Minister for the Army I cannot recommend that the Victoria Barracks be transferred to any other area.

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Health and Medical Services


– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been directed to a long report that appeared in Thursday’s issue of the Sydney Sun relating to the findings of the select committee which was appointed by the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory to inquire into the health and medical services of that part of theCommonwealth ?


– Order ! I hope that the honorable gentleman is aware of the Standing Orders in relation to the asking of questions based on newspaper reports.


– I am.


– Then will the honorable member ask his question?


– I shall proceed to do so in the following way: Has the Minister seen the article in the Sunday Sun? If so, can he inform the House how the report has become available apparently to the press before it has become available to this House ? I remind the Minister that I asked him for a copy of that report a couple of days ago, and be stated that he would consider the matter. Having regard to the alarming statements in the report, will he now make it available immediately to members of this House, so that they may form their own opinions about the medical and health services of! the Northern Territory?

Minister for the Interior · KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– I have not seen the press article to which the honorable member f.or Parramatta has referred. When the honorable gentleman mentioned the matter in the House some days ago I assured him that I would consider his request that I should make the report available. As the honorable member is doubtless aware, health matters in the Northern Territory are administered by my colleague, the Minister for Health-

Mr Beale:

– But the Northern Territory is administered by the Minister for the Interior.


– I repeat that when the honorable member asked this question some days ago I undertook to discuss the matter with the Minister for Health, and I assured the honorable member that [ would communicate my decision to him at an early date. The Minister for Health has been absent from Canberra since then, but I shall consult him immediately on his return, and advise the honorable member whether the report will be made available.

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Reconstruction Training Scheme


– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction give any indication of the progress that has been made by reconstruction trainees at the University of Melbourne?

Minister for Defence · CORIO, VICTORIA · ALP

– A large number of reconstruction trainees are undergoing various stages of training at different universities. Last year 500 trainees completed their training in various faculties at the University of Melbourne and received degrees. Almost every one of them has been placed in employment.

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Australians in the United States oe- America.


– Will the Minister for Immigration inform me whether visitors to the United States of America from the United Kingdom are permitted to engage in employment, whereas visitors from Australia are not ? If that is so, it is obvious that Australians in the United States of America are suffering hardship because of the difficulty experienced in the transmission of dollars. Will the Minister endeavour to ensure that Australians shall be allowed facilities to obtain remunerative employment equal to those enjoyed by other nationals?

Minister for Immigration · MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP

– I do not know whether citizens of the United Kingdom who visit the United States are accorded treatment different from that extended to Australians. I know that it is not the practice of the American authorities to permit Australians who visit that country on a visitor’s vise to engage in gainful employment. I shall make inquiries and consult my colleagues, particularly the Prime Minister, who i»acting for the Minister for External Affairs, in order that he may make any representations that appear to be warranted after ascertaining the facts.

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– Further to a question that I asked the Minister for Immigration some time ago concerning the destination of displaced persons who come to this country as migrants, I know of instances of the husband and father of a migrant family having been sent to work at Adelaide and his family having been directed to Bonegilla. There are other instances of dependants having been sent to camps in New South Wales. Has the Minister been able to evolve a scheme whereby the units of migrant families can be sent to places where they will be within access of each other?


– The honorable member for Hindmarsh raised this matter some time ago, and I believe that I gave him an assurance then, which I repeat now, that every endeavour is made to place the members of migrant families in close proximity to each other. However, I point out that it is not always easy or practicable to arrange employment for the breadwinner and accommodation for his wife and children in the same area. We do our .best to overcome difficulties a3 they arise, and we have surmounted many obstacles. For example, some migrants have to work in the cane-fields in Queensland while their families live in holding centres in New South Wales, and some members of families left in New South Wales may even have to be directed to other States for accommodation or employment. Thanks to the co-operation of the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air, army and air force huts in about nineteen places are being converted into holding centres for tha accommodation of children and female dependants of new Australian settlers. Whilst we are doing our utmost to overcome the difficulties associated with the employment and accommodation of migrants, it should be remembered that many Australian seasonal workers have to leave their homes and go to distant places to work. They are thereby deprived for considerable periods of the company of their wives and families and of the amenities enjoyed by city dwellers. We treat the new Australians as well as we can. We try to give them equal treatment with Australians. Although many of them have come from countries in which the distances are not very great, they realize that we are doing our best to meet their requirements. I shall be !»lad to be advised by honorable members 011 both sides of the House of any hard oases that exist. I shall do my utmost to ensure that members of family units are re-united at the earliest possible moment. The first four migrant ships which arrived in Australia carried about 3,000 people, of an average age of 25 years, most of whom were single. We promised those young people that we would bring to Australia as early as possible their aged fathers and mothers and the wives of those who were married. We have honoured all our promises in that regard. Family units are being brought to Australia and families are being re-united.


– Has the Minister for Immigration considered a scheme whereby intending British migrants who are unable to arrange for families or friends in Australia to nominate them may be brought out under the assisted passage scheme and housed temporarily either in Army or Royal Australian Air Force camps? Does the Minister believe that such a scheme would overcome the bottleneck in the pool of English migrants waiting passage to Australia? Does the honorable gentleman think that such a scheme would ensure a bigger and steadier flow of migrants to Australia?


– This matter has been brought to my notice from time to time by a number of honorable members. Whilst on the surface the scheme appears to be feasible, there are two great weaknesses in it. The first is that when British migrants arrive we do not oblige them to remain in any particular locality or to undertake certain work for any given period. We could, but we do not, do so. We say to the English migrant when he arrives, “You can go where you like and do what you like “. In Great Britain to-day man-power is directed. A similar system operated in this country during the war, but we do not propose to introduce it again now in respect of British migrants. The second great weakness is that if we put British immigrants into temporary settlements and in camps, and so on which the Army, Air Force, and the Navy make available to us, as we do displaced persons, British immigrants might, and, I am afraid, would in many instances feel that conditions in such cam j is were not so good as those obtaining in Great Britain, and they would seek to leave the country districts for the city areas. In that way they would aggravate the housing problems of Australians, and create a feeling of hostility towards immigrants and immigration generally. We have discussed with organizations such as the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Projects whereby every sub-branch of the organization throughout Australia may nominate one immigrant with a guarantee of accommodation for him when he arrives. That is an excellent scheme, and I have already sent some exservicemen representing the returned soldiers’ associations to the United Kingdom to travel back as welfare officers on boats with such selected immigrants. With the State governments, we have a system of group nominations, and I have told the Minister for Transport in Victoria, Mr. Kent Hughes, that he may bring out 1,200 British immigrants to work on the Victorian railways. He is also going to bring out prefabricated houses for them at the expense of the Government of Victoria. We have given special facilities to officers to the Victorian Government to select those immigrants. -Schemes such as the returned soldiers nomination and guarantee scheme, and the group nomination scheme operated by State governments and by private employers, will give us an opportunity to secure more British immigrants. The greatest difficulty all along has been shipping. Vessels available at present are sufficient to carry immigrants selected under the nomination system for free and assisted passages. Should we ever have more shipping than is required for nominated immigrants we may take risks on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Calare and other honorable members.

Mr Beale:

– I wish to make a personal explanation arising out of a newspaper report published in the Melbourne Herald on the 28th May. On Wednesday, the 25th May, I asked the Minister for Immigration a question without notice relating to certain European migrants and the Minister gave his reply. On the 28th May, there appeared in the Melbourne Herald, over the name of Olive Turnbull, a report of and a comment on my question. I understand that Turnbull is some sort of a journalist who conducts a column which, ironically enough, is headed “ Free Speech “.

Mr Calwell:

– Curse the press!

Mr Beale:

– I am glad to have the sympathy of the Minister for Immigration. Mr. Turnbull’s report stated -

Mr. Beale, M.H.R., of N.S.W., makes too rare un appearance in the news, for his contributions to the national thinking are always stimulating.

I am not protesting against those words, although I am afraid that Mr. Turnbull did not mean them.


-Order! The honorable member must state in what way he was misrepresented.

Mr Beale:

Mr. Turnbull then stated -

Mr. Beale now says that “migrants from Central Europe arc highly undesirable particularly because of their personal habits and lack of hygiene “.

Those words were quoted by Mr. Turnbull as being the words I used. The article continued -

We can all imagine the sort of place Australia might have been if people like Marcus

Aurelius or Homer, St. Francis of Assisi, or Toscannini were allowed to come here instead of Mr. Beale.

Some of us, of course, are eccentric enough to think “ hygiene “ merely an accident of time and place and not an integral part of personality. Are not “ the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban t”


-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to read a long article. He has asked for the indulgence of the House to make a personal explanation. He must point out where he has been misrepresented and immediately proceed to correct the misrepresentation. The reading of a long article that has no relevance is not permitted.

Mr Beale:

– But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the writer proceeded to say -

Such members of the Australian Imperial Force as I have spoken to about it had a different view of the Greeks from that of Mr. Beale.

That statement is quite false and misleading. What I said to the Minister in a form of a question was this -

Will the Minister say whether a considerable number of migrants from central and southern Europe, who have travelled to Darwin in chartered aircraft and proceeded southwards from Darwin by local aircraft, have been persons of a highly undesirable type, particularly in their personal habits and hygiene? Is it true that the aircraft in which they have travelled south from Darwin have been found, on arrival at their destinations, to be in a revolting condition and have had to be fumigated and scoured before they could be used again? If this is so, what steps have been taken to educate these new arrivals in proper hygiene and cleanliness? Is it proposed to permit any more of them to settle in Australia?

Mr. Turnbull quotes me as having said : “Migrants from central and southern Europe are highly undesirable, particularly because of their personal habits and lack of hygiene “. That, of course, is a general statement suggesting that all migrants from central and southern Europe are undesirable. Honorable members will see from the question .1 have read that I said nothing of the sort. In the first place, I did not make a statement. I asked a question ‘based upon information given to me while I was travelling round Australia some time before. Secondly, I referred only to one class of migrant. I referred to those who had travelled from Darwin in chartered aircraft and had proceeded south in local aircraft. Thirdly, I made n« generalization about migrants, even of this .class. I merely asked a question concerning a considerable number of them. Mr. Turnbull also makes reference in the last paragraph of his statement to the Greeks and this, indeed, has caused certain Greeks living in Melbourne to write to the Melbourne Herald protesting against my statement. Honorable members will see that I did not mention tha Greeks at all. Indeed, they were not, in fact, in my mind. I particularly refrained from mentioning any particular races or nationalities because I did not want to give offence to good Australian citizens who way have had the same origins. I asked my question as a matter pf public interest and in the course of what I conceived to be my public duty in the same way as members on both sides of the House ask questions every day. I asked the question because I had been told from reliable sources in several places round Australia stories concerning some of the persons who hud been flown into Australia which were too alarming to he ignored. For instance, I was told again and again that some migrants were so depraved that they declined to use the lavatories and insisted upon squatting in the corridors of the planes and using them as latrines. There were also other stories which I do not wish to repeat. I thought and still think that this was something that young Australian girls noting as air hostesses ought not to be subjected to.


– Order I Tho honorable member is proceeding to debate the matter.

Mr Beale:

– I have bothered the House with this explanation only because I am sure that if I wrote to Mr. Turnbull, and asked for a correction to be published in the Herald, he would either not publish it at all or would only publish it with a further misleading comment. From hia vindictive tone he is obviously that type of journalist.

page 512




– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the amount of wheat from the ¥0.. 12 pool that has been sold and when the next payments from the pool are likely to be made to farmers?

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · ALP

– I cannot supply the honorable member with complete figures regarding the sales that have been made horn the No. 12 pool. The Australian Wheat Board has not recommended that further payments from the pool should be made. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that as soon as the Australian Wheat Board considers that the financial position is strong enough for it to recommend another payment on the No. 12 pool, it will make the necessary recommendation to me and I shall promptly pass it on to the Treasurer, who never wastes any time in seeing that the wheat-growers receive the payments to which they are entitled.

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– Will the Treasurer say whether in the years 1940-47 the Postal Department accumulated a surplus of approximately £30,000,000? Does the right honorable gentleman believe that the downward price movement in the United States of America will have the effect of reducing costs and prices in other countries? If so, having regard to the heavy burden that the proposed increases of postal and telephone charges will impose upon the commercial community and private individuals, does the right honorable gentleman consider it to be reasonable that the application of the proposed increases should be deferred until is it ascertained whether Australia will feel the effect of lower costs and prices overseas?


– I referred to this matter last night. Of tho so-called surplus of £30,000,000, £12,000,000 is a notional figure in respect of services rendered by the Postal Department to other government departments. I do not question the quality of the services that have been rendered or dispute that private enterprise would have been charged twice as much for them, but they were not a source of revenue. I pointed out last night that during the last two years £20,000,000 of capital expenditure has been incurred by the Postal Department.

That sum has been found directly from revenue and has not involved the depart-‘ ment in any exchange or interest payments. In two years alone, £20,000,000 of the surplus has been used for capital expenditure. Expenditure this year is at the rate of approximately £12,000,000 a year. As far as possible, that money will be found from revenue, 30 that the department will not be involved in charges for interest and exchange in respect of it. Payments to the sinking fund in relation to the Post Office debt, which amounts at present to over £2,000,000 a year, are made by the Treasury and not by the Postal Department. That sum is paid every year by the Treasury from Consolidated Revenue. An examination of the mathematics of the position shows that the surplus is a very illusory one and of a temporary nature. The honorable member has asked whether a decrease of costs and prices overseas may ultimately have some effect upon the expenditure of the Postal Department. I hope that it will. If prices overseas fall, the Postal Department, which requires electrical equipment, copper wire, automatic telephones and other supplies, may derive some benefit from that occurrence. The programme that is envisaged by the department will involve an expenditure far exceeding the magnitude of any surplus that has been accumulated. The department is endeavouring to provide the public with efficient services, and it is felt it should provide for its own maintenance and interest charges.


– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General when an up-to-date report of the activities of the Postal Department is likely to be available. The latest available annual report of the department is for the year ended the 30th June, 1947. When will the report for 1948 be tabled?


– I shall ask the Postmaster-General to supply an answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question. I know that it is no fault of the Postal Department that the report for last year has not been tabled before now. There are all sorts of difficulties, both physical and mechanical, in connexion with the preparation of such a report.

I hope to be able to let the right honorable gentleman have a reply by next Tuesday.

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– Can the Minister for Works and Housing inform me what amount of money the Commonwealth Government is making available for the construction of homes throughout Australia during this financial year, and whether it is anticipated that a greater expenditure will be possible in the forthcoming financial year?

Minister for Works and Housing · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The amount of money that the Government anticipates making available in 1948-49, that is up to the end of this month, for the purpose of housing, is £24,150,000. That amount is being made available in two way9. An amount of £16,000,000 is covered by the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement and an amout of £8,150,000 by the provisions of the War Service Homes Act. The latter sum is made available in two ways. An amount of £4,450,000 is made available for new work, whilst £3,700,000 is made available for the purchase of properties for exservicemen and women. In the next financial year the Government anticipates that it will make available to the States, under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement, a total of £20,000,000. Under the War Service Homes Act it will also provide a total of £14,894,000 for housing. That will make the total contribution by the Commonwealth for housing in the next financial year £34,894,000. In supplying those figures I do not want there to be any confusion between them and the figures that I gave last night regarding the £42,000,000 that the Government has made available to the States under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement up to the end of the last quarter. The fact is that with this quarter’s figures included the amount that will have been made available to the Commonwealth by the States this financial year under the agreement will be about £47,000,000.

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– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. For purposes of petrol distribution, Tasmania is divided into three districts, of which the north-western district is one and there, incidentally, the price is highest. Tt often happens that, at the end of the month, the north-west is entirely without petrol. A special allocation was made by arrangement with the Minister to ensure that supplies for the north-west were maintained. Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that only 25 per cent, of the special issue was distributed last month? Will he confer with his colleague with a view to ensuring that the promised inquiry into the matter takes place, and that a similar situation will not be allowed to arise this month?


– It is somewhat difficult to understand the purport of the honorable member’s question. As I understand it, the north-western district of Tasmania was given a special petrol allowance to enable traders to carry on until the end of the month without running short, but the allowance was not distributed. I shall certainly draw the attention of my colleague to the matter, and he will make inquiries and furnish an explanation if one is needed. The distribution of petrol is the responsibility of private companies, and the Minister can do no more than draw their attention co what is needed. I also point out to the honorable member for Darwin, and to honorable members generally, that if the suggestion made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) for the abolition of petrol rationing were adopted, it is probable that there would be a shortage of petrol in every district in Australia.

page 514




– Under the Commonwealth Aids Roads and Works Act, part of the proceeds of the petrol tax is made available by the Commonwealth to the States for road construction and maintenance. Certain shire councils in New South Wales complain that, although they have labour and machinery available, they lack the money to carry out necessary work, and that when they apply to the State Government for financial assistance, they are told that the Com monwealth has all the money. Can the Prime Minister, by arrangement with the Government of New South Wales, have a statement prepared for the benefit of honorable members showing how much has been made available to each local governing body, and also the amount provided by the State out of motor registration and drivers’ licence-fees?


– That information can best be obtained from the Minister for Transport, who administers the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act. Briefly, however, I can say that an allocation is made to each State from the proceeds of the petrol tax. The distribution of that money is left entirely to the State government. In New South Wales, and I think, in the other States, the practice has been for the State government to make an allotment to the Main Roads Board. None of that money was. made available to other bodies, sud as shire or municipal councils. The whole of the money was expended by the Main Roads Board, which may expend some of it on the construction of roads through cities and country towns. Neither the State government nor the board made any direct payment to local government bodies. About two years ago, the Australian Government felt that a special allocation should be made to shire and municipal councils whose areas include a large mileage of roads. That was done because we believed that the method previously followed in the distribution of this money was nol entirely satisfactory. Therefore, the Commonwealth made £1,000,000 available to the States for distribution to local government bodies for the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas and the construction of developmental roads, and. last year, that sum was increased to £2,000,000. That money is handed over to States. Its distribution is subject to the approval of the Minister for Transport, who is supplied, at the end of each year, with reports on its expenditure. That has been the method followed in New South Wales, and, no doubt, to some degree in the other States, although I do not know in detail the method followed outside New South Wales. Thus, shire and municipal councils are now receiving direct contributions from petrol tax collections for the improvement of roads in their areas. The Minister for Transport will be receiving reports from the State governments on how they have distributed that £2,000,000. The present roads grant has been made available for a period of only three years, and the additional assistance to local government bodies to which I have referred has been made on an experimental basis. I shall have a detailed statement prepared on the matter for the honorable member.

page 515



Accommodation at Lapstone Hotel.


– On various occasions last year and this year I have asked the Prime Minister how much the Australian Government has recovered of the sum of £8,000 which I was informed it had expended on the Lapstone Hotel to provide additional accommodation in connexion with the conference of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. On each occasion the right honorable gentleman promised to supply that information to me, but in his latestwritten reply on the matter he stated that he was unable to supply the information, but that I could be assured that the interests of the Commonwealth would be adequately safeguarded. Is not the House entitled to definite information in respect of that substantial sum which the Government expended on a private hotel which has since been offered for sale at public auction? The management must have finalized its account with the Commonwealth before the auction could be held.


– The matter which the honorable member has mentioned has also been raised by the honorable member for Reid.

Mr Anthony:

– His question referred to a different aspect of the matter.


– It related to somewhat similar points. The position is that no settlement has been reached with respect to the particular buildings on which the Commonwealth expended, I think, about £8,000. Those buildings were to be offered at auction, but the then management of the hotel requested the

Minister for the Interior that it be given an opportunity to make an offer for them rather than that they be removed. I understand that the Minister decided to consider the request and that the management of the hotel made a deposit in respect of its offer of purchase. For a number of reasons which will be made apparent at a later stage, that transaction has not been finalized. However, the buildings have not passed from the ownership of the Commonwealth, and, from a conversation I had with the Minister recently, I think that they will be retained by the Commonwealth.

Mr Anthony:

– That expenditure was incurred not only on those buildings, but also on structural improvements at the hotel.


– The various heads under which the expenditure was incurred will be disclosed later. All I can say is that it is not possible at the moment to give a detailed statement of the final settlement of this matter, but such a statement will be made available as early as possible.

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– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I have received a letter from Mr. J. H. Julin, of Callide Open-Cut Collieries Proprietary Limited, the concluding paragraph of which reads as follows : -

With assistance in purchase at reasonable price of heavy machinery and a railway to the field,we could maintain a production of up to 6,000 tons per week, or approximately 250,000 tons a year. Our leases comprise approximately 360 acres and have an estimated tonnage of not less than 25,000,000 tons.

In view of the ever-increasing demand for coal by our secondary industries, due to the enormous expansion that is taking place under the wise administration of this Government, will the Prime Minister confer with the Premier of Queensland with the object of stepping up the production of coal in the Callide field in order to ensure that sufficient quantities of coal are produced to meet present demands?


– With the object of developing the coal resources of Queensland, particularly in the larger fields, the Australian Government endeavoured some time ago to make an arrangement with the Government of Queensland for the establishment of a joint coal organization. I understand that, at a later date, the Queensland Government thought that it would be wiser to enter into an arrangement with an English company for the development of certain coal resources, but not including at that time the Callide field. Such an arrangement, I understand, has not yet materialized. I have discussed the development of the Callide field with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. One of the great difficulties to be overcome there is the cost of transport of the coal from the field to a port for shipment to other States. I discussed that problem with Mr. Kent Hughes, the Victorian Minister for Transport, who was anxious to sign a long-term contract for the supply of coal from the Callide valley to Victoria. Mr. Kent Hughes, of course, realized that under present transport conditions, coal from the Callide valley would be very expensive. At the earliest opportunity I shall again discuss with the Premier of Queensland the possibility of joint action by the Australian and Queensland Governments which will enable the Callide valley to be developed, if not under a direct agreement between the two governments, at least under an arrangement by which the Australian Government will render such assistance as it can to the Queensland Government. I understand that the Victorian Government was prepared to make available a railway line of a certain length in order to improve the transport facilities at the Callide valley and thereby reduce the cost of transport. I shall be glad to discuss with the Premier of Queensland the question of what assistance the Australian Government can render in the development of the Callide valley coal resources.

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Parliamentary Procedure

Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the notice of motion - censure motion - taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.

Leader of the Opposition · Kooyong

– I move -

That the Government -

by the use of its majority in this House is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors they represent;

is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice paper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of no-confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker ;

is permitting and encouraging personal defamatory and threatening attacks upon Opposition members by Ministers, and so violating the decencies of political controversy;

is exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament and its function as the democratic forum of the nation; and therefore that the Government is deserving of the censure of this House.

I propose to say a little about each point in the charge that is contained in this motion. I do not propose by any means to exhaust it, because, wherever one can produce one example of the kind of action complained of, unfortunately it would be possible to produce a hundred. I take the first opening paragraph of the motion, which states that the Government -

  1. by the use of its majority in this House is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors they represent;

That paragraph describes a chronic state of affairs in this House, but we have had the most recent examples in the last two days. The Parliament does not exist merely to record decisions that have been made elsewhere. It does not exist merely to pass laws. It exists, to a very great degree, to enable administration to be criticized, to enable administrators to be questioned, and to enable grievances of electors to be brought forward, ventilated and rectified. Those functions of Parliament are of the first importance in a democratic community. Consequently, Parliament does not exist only for the Minister; it exists in large measure for the private member. Those who drew up the Standing Orders of this Parliament realized that, and those who established the practices of Parliament over a period of centuries knew it. The result is that we have various ways and means of enabling private members to bring matters before the House to have them discussed. We even have machinery, very little used, by which a private member may submit legislation to the House, with the exception only of legislation involving a charge on the revenues.

In the last two days the Government has done two things. I select them as examples because they are the experience of the last 48 hours. In the first place, it Wotted out of the notice-paper - because that is what its action meant-the general business which stood in the names of private members. That general business included a motion by myself, who am a private member for this purpose, for leave to bring in a bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That bill, as I have said to honorable members, was designed to bring before this House for its consideration the problem of the secret ballot in the industrial field. What happened ? The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), performing what I saw described this morning as “ a good tactical move “-

Mr Pollard:

– Hear, hear I


– Apparently the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) agrees with that.


– Order ! The Minister must cease interrupting.


– The right honorable gentleman, performing “ a good tactical move “ moved that general business be not taken yesterday, which means, of course, that it will not be taken for another month, which means that it will not be taken in a month’s time, which means in turn that it will not be taken at all. So, although in form, the motion was for the mere suspension of a standing order for the time being, in effect it was a motion to suppress a private member’s bill, and that not a private member’s bill proceeding from a private member in the generally accepted term, but one put forward by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of every member of the Opposition. That extraordinary performance did not entirely dispose of private member’s rights, because yesterday, there was still on the notice-paper, as it always stands on such occasions, the question “ That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair” - the question which initiates the “Grievance Day” debate in this Parliament or any other parliament. Grievance day ! “ Grievance Day “ comes once a month, and honorable members then have the opportunity to discuss grievances, not of their own, but of the people who have sent them here. That is the whole point. The debate began, but before it had gone more than an hour, it was “gagged”. “You have had enough time now for grievances “ honorable members were told, when about three of them had had an opportunity to speak. So, in 48 hours, we have seen the entire suppression of the rights of private members to initiate motions or legislation in this House, and the almost complete suppression of the rights of honorable members to ventilate the grievances of their electors. Of course, the truth is, and I am happy to say that the people of Australia are increasingly becoming aware of it, that the Parliament is being treated by this Government and by the Government party as a mere recording instrument for decisions that are made outside of this chamber. Some of them may be made in the party room, and some of them may be made far away from the party room. All I know is that, when we come to this House, we are told blatantly and brutally, time after time, that it is of no use for us to move an amendment because the matter under consideration has already been decided by caucus. It is of no use for anybody in this House to submit proposals for some change in legislation, because such matters are arranged elsewhere. Somebody said recently, with complete truth, that the Prime Minister, after years of office, has got into the habit of believing that the Parliament exists partly for long propaganda statements by himself at question time and partly for the voting of the necessary supplies to enable the government to be carried on, and that, apart from that, our function is of no moment.

The second paragraph of my motion of censure speaks for itself. It reads as follows: -

That the Government,

is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice-paper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of. no-confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Let me remind the House of the terms of that motion on the notice-paper. It reads as follows: -

That this House has no further confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker on the grounds -

That in the discharge of his duties he has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government members:

That he regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour party and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of elected members of this Parliament;

That he constantly fails to interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House ; and

Of gross incompetency in his administration of parliamentary procedure.

That is a motion of the gravest possible kind. Notice of it was given on the 19th November of last year, and ever since it has appeared on the notice-paper in those terms. It was moved and partly debated on the 24th February of this year. To-day is the 3rd June, and the motion still stands on the notice-paper. It has not been discussed in the interval. Apparently it is a matter of little moment to the Government that -in the National Parliament the presiding officer should be under charges of that kind.

Mr Barnard:

– Frivolous charges.


– If the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) believes the charges to be frivolous, he knows perfectly well that the Government could have taken steps this morning to discharge the motion from the notice-paper.

Mr Barnard:

– I repeat that they are frivolous charges.


– It is of no use to say that they are frivolous charges, and leave the motion on the notice-paper for everybody to read and to be aware of month after month. I should be very surprised to think that the presiding officer of the House thought that it was a frivolous matter, and that he obtained, or, indeed, any occupant of his office, would obtain any satisfaction from knowing that the Government, which has instant command of the proceedings of this House, thinks so little of the importance, significance, or dignity of the Chair as to allow charges of that kind to remain unresolved as matters of public record, not only day after day, but month after month.

The third paragraph of the motion reads -

That the Government -

is permitting and encouraging personal defamatory and threatening attacks upon Opposition members by Ministers, and so violating the decencies of political controversy;

I may as well say at the outset that there is a general feeling among honorable members on this side of the House that those attacks are a part of a settled policy. In this election year particularly, it has become settled policy to say, “ If a member of the Opposition becomes a critic, he must be attacked “. He is attacked, not on political grounds, but in his character and reputation. The dossier must be kept. Somebody must be able to go out and secure some ugly rumour, some charge, or something that may be ventilated against the honorable member, the hope being that if that is done sufficiently frequently, the member will be discouraged from criticizing. That is one of the oldest tricks of tyranny in the world, but I am bound to say that it is going to fail dismally in its object. It is the technique itself that I want to discuss. I thought that the technique of character assassination was peculiar to the Communists. I shall not deal with the many earlier instances of it of which those associated with the Government has been guilty because I have not sufficient time to do so. But attacks like the one that I am about to discuss, because it is freshest in our memories, have been made repeatedly on the floor of this House by Ministers, and they have never been repudiated, rebuked or disavowed by the Prime Minister or Cabinet. The latest example is sufficient. It is a perfectly disgraceful example. I refer to the attack that was made on

Wednesday on the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), in the course of which, by a side wind, he actually succeeded in making a most offensive and defamatory remark about the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Let me recall to the minds of honorable members precisely what happened. The honorable member for Maranoa is not one of those members of this House who tear a passion to tatters. He is a quiet member. He is, I should have thought, a universally respected member, a man whose character is obvious to everybody. He delivered a speech, in the course of which he made some criticism, mildly and tolerantly expressed, of government administration or policy. The Minister for Information opened his own speech by going direct to the attack on the honorable member for Maranoa. He made no secret about it. He said -

I have been waiting for him for quite a while.

This was not a chance melee. This was a case of a man arming himself with a particular charge, and waiting for the opportunity to make it. So this attack had all the elements of deliberation. It was not something cast off in the heat of the moment, but was something deliberately planned and deliberately anticipated. Having said those words, the Minister proceeded to. state that the honorable member for Maranoa has a few friends in Queensland who do not like the methods which he has adopted in regard to a number of matters. He then went on to say that he had received a letter from “ a gentleman in Queensland “ who asked him to treat his name as confidential. We need not speculate for long on the character of a man - if the man. exists - who sends a defamatory letter to a Minister of the Crown and says, in effect, “ Use it, but don’t mention my name”. Why not? “Because if my name came out I should be shot for it “. We need not speculate on the character of the correspondent. Then the Minister went on to say that his correspondent had informed him that at the last general election the honorable . member for Maranoa had helped to organize a co operative trading society and had used the services of his parliamentary secretary while doing so. The Minister went on to state -

When the election was over and the honorable gentleman got all the votes that he wanted, he promptly re-acted favorably to the crack of the whip of Dalgety and Company Limited and other organizations, and the shareholders of the co-operative society lost their money.

That was a charge against the honorable member for Maranoa of being a fraudulent rogue, and it was idle for the Minister to say that the letter on which the charge was based came from a gentleman in Queensland. The charge that the honorable member for Maranoa was a fraudulent rogue was made in this House by a Minister of the Crown standing in his place at the table while the proceedings of the House were being broadcast over the air. The honorable member for Maranoa interjected - which was disorderly - and said, “ That is a He “. Applying the interpretation that has been placed on the Standing Orders in modern times, Mr. Deputy Speaker said -

I ask the honorable member for Maranoa te withdraw the expression ‘ lie “. It is unparliamentary.

The honorable member for Maranoa, having been lied about, said -

I withdraw the unparliamentary expression. I ask that the Minister be instructed to withdraw his statement regarding the organizing of a co-operative society. It is offensive to me.

Whereupon Mr. Deputy Speaker repeated his previous ruling and said -

The Minister is entitled to make his speech in his own way. I shall not allow him to be interrupted while doing so.

I am not for the moment quarrelling with that ruling; I am merely relating what happened. I shall return to the matter of the ruling later. Then the Minister went on to say -

The gentleman to whom I have referred also said that the honorable member for Maranoa used his position as chairman of the Peanut Board-

If I may interrupt the quotation of the Minister’s remarks, I point out that the honorable member, who had held that position for a long period, was elected to it by the vote of his fellow growers. who know him best. The Minister continued - . to class his third-grade peanuts as firstgrade nuts, and that when the grader refused to do so he was sacked.

If that allegation were true it was further proof that the honorable member was a fraudulent rogue. A man who would use. his public office to endeavour to gain for himself some dishonest advantage, and _ then connive at the dismissal of an employee who refused to participate in the fraud is certainly not fit to remain in public life. Those are charges of the gravest kind. They are every bit as grave as the charges made against the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) some time ago. Again, the honorable member for Maranoa protested. He said -

I ask for a withdrawal of that statement, [t is offensive to me.

And once more the Chair ruled that the Minister was in order. Mr. Deputy Speaker’s actual words were -

The statement was not unparliamentary. I shall deal with any honorable member who does not allow the Minister to make his speech without interruption.

Then, the Minister, having wanned up by making this frightful allegation against a man of the highest character - an allegation, let me remind the House, that was based on a piece of unsubstantiated gossip from a man so like a cur that his name had to be suppressed - turned aside to offer what, I suppose, he regarded as a mild observation on the right honorable member for Cowper. Referring to that right honorable gentleman, the Minister said -

He is the man who did something in international finance which, if it had been done in private finance, would have resulted in his being put in gaol.

Another charge of fraud! Perhaps it was a little more vague and a little more rhetorical than the charge made against the honorable member for Maranoa, but it was nevertheless a definite allegation of fraud.

The House has heard the honorable member for Maranoa reply to the charges made against him, and it has heard his categorical denials of the allegations. There is not a member of this House who does not know that he is completely innocent. The Minister for Repatriation shakes his head. Does he doubt the integrity of the honorable member ?

Mr Barnard:

– I did not say anything.


– The Minister shook his head, apparently dissenting from the proposition.


– Order I If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) will address himself to the Chair, the Chair will not permit honorable members to interrupt him.


– All I shall say is that the overwhelming majority of honorable members of the House - in fact, every honorable member with the exception of one - believes implicitly every word of the denials made by the honorable member for Maranoa. After the Minister for Information had made his unfounded charges, what defence did he put forward for his conduct? He had none. The Minister’s conduct throughout was all part of the same horrible pattern. Make the attack! Get it over the air ! Instead of a few people hearing it, have a quarter of a million hear it! Most of them will not hear the answer, anyway! Half of them will not be listening to the broadcast of the proceedings when the member concerned makes his explanation half an hour later ! Get it out, that is the important thing ! And then, having got it out let us surround it with an aura of respectability, and say: “ We did not charge the honorable member with any offence; we merely read the contents of a letter that we had received “. That was the attitude adopted by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was put up yesterday to defend the Minister and the Government. What was his actual defence? The best defence, of course, would have ‘been for him to say: “We are all satisfied that these charges were false. We regret that they should have been offered; they are withdrawn, and we shall take steps, if you like, to have them struck out of the Hansard record of the proceedings “. But what was the defence put forward? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said, in effect: “But my colleague, the Minister for Information, did not say the letter was right; all he said was that he had a letter which contained these charges that the honorable member was a fraudulent rogue. The Minister did not say that he believed that the honorable member was a fraudulent rogue “. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) rightly interjected and said -

No, your colleague did not mix the mud; he merely threw it.

What sort of position - what sort of shameful and pitiful position - is it for a Minister to be forced to get up and say : *‘I am merely quoting somebody else; don’t blame me. I would not quote this letter on the platform because if I did so I could at once be sued for damages. I will not quote the name of my correspondent. If I did so, he could be sued, and I want to protect him. I am quoting from the letter because I want to hurt you. I am giving it a circulation, not to one person, myself, but to hundreds of thousands of people. I am doing that because I know that in this charitable world of ours some mud will always stick”. That is the most contemptible defence that could possibly be put up on a matter of this kind. Every member of the Parliament receives defamatory letters. I, like every other honorable member, have received scores of letters containing the most defamatory suggestions about Ministers. I do not believe the suggestions, and I burn the letters. It will be a poor state of affairs if it be conceded that the right way in which to deal with those filthy epistles is to save them up and some day sneak one of them into the House, read it, and say, “I am not lending the weight of my authority to this. I am merely publishing it to the world”. Whose reputation would be safe under those circumstances? What man is there in the House, however utterly honorable and upright he may be in his personal capacity, who could not be smirched by a technique of that kind? It seems sometimes to be thought that a man who repeats a foul rumour stands in a different position from the man who started it. Let there be no misapprehension about this matter. There has never been any ambiguity about it in the eyes of the law of this land or the law of any other British com munity. I shall quote a few words only from a celebrated authority. They are -

The fact that the defendant expressed a doubt or disbelief as to the truth of the slander at the time will make no difference to his liability. No character or reputation would be safe if a mere statement of a person’s disbelief of a rumour which the speaker was engaged in circulating could be made to defeat the right of recovery for the slander.

That is good law, good common sense, and good justice. So much for the attack and so much for the defence.

What of the position of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) ? The right honorable gentleman is the most powerful man in this House. He is the head of the Government, and notoriously in command of it. When this matter was raised to him he dismissed it by saying, “I understand that there were recriminations or exchanges “. Is that a reasonable description of what happens when a man of decency and character is submitted to a foul charge and rejects it? Is the charge to be written off by the head of the Government as mere recriminations or exchanges? The honorable member for Maranoa rose in his place yesterday and asked for the appointment of a select committee or a royal commission. Charges made against a Minister were made the subject of a royal commission, and I do not suppose that anybody will pretend that the charges that were made against him were worse than the charge of being a fraudulent rogue that was made against the honorable member for Maranoa. The Prime Minister says, “ We will not have a select committee or a royal commission”. He rejects the request. There is to be no inquiry. There is to be no redress. Those things flow from the decision of the Prime Minister of this country. Why does the right honorable gentleman reject the claim? It is worth while looking at the reasons that might exist in his mind. Does he reject it because he thinks that the foul charges of personal fraud are unfounded and not worthy of inquiry? If that is his belief, let him say so and repudiate the charge. He has not repudiated the charge. It was made from the treasury bench by one of his own Ministers, speaking on behalf of the Government. Therefore, the charge is the Prime Minister’s charge, unless it be repudiated. So far there is not one word of disavowal. The shoulder has been shrugged and it has been dismissed as a mere exchange. Does the Prime Minister reject the application for an inquiry because he thinks that charges of this kind are of no moment in a national parliament? If that is his reason, he does a grave injury to the standing, reputation and functions of the Parliament. There may be other reasons. Does the Prime Minister reject the application because he thinks that the charges are so clearly proved by the anonymous letter that an inquiry is unnecessary? fs that his reason? If it is, let him say so. No man with the faintest instinct of justice could say so, but if that is what the Prime Minister thinks, let him say so. There is another possible explanation. Does the Prime Minister reject the claim for an inquiry because he thinks that a member of the Parliament has adequate protection under the law? He knows that under these circumstances a member of the Parliament has no protection under the law and that what a Minister or member says in this House whilst standing in his place cannot be canvassed in any court of law under any circumstances whatever. Defamation in the Parliament is safe. Perhaps he rejects the claim for an inquiry because he thinks that a member is adequately protected under the Standing Orders. If that is what he thinks, I take leave to say that that is nonsense. After all, we have some standing orders. Standing Order 272 reads as follows : -

No Member shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member thereof, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

Glancing at Standing Order 272, one would have thought that personal reflections on members could at once be denounced and ordered to be recalled. But under the modern interpretation of Standing Order 272, the position taken by the Chair is, in effect - and we have seen it in the passages that I have just read - “ You may not call an honorable member a liar in four letters, but you may with impunity call him a fraudulent rogue in four sentences “. If he then says, “ That is a lie “, he is out of order, but the man who has made the chargewas not out of order. That is what the Standing Order3, as now interpreted^ mean. Therefore, an honorable memberhas no real protection under the StandingOrders. What is the use of saying that he can wait for, say, an hour until theend of the speech in which the accusation has been made, and then rise to make a personal explanation? If he did riseto make a personal explanation he would probably be greeted with cries of, “ Youcan’t take it “, as has frequently happened in this chamber. It is possible that by the time an honorable member who has been attacked gets his chance tomake a personal explanation, the House is “ off the air “. It is almost certain, that if the House happened to be “ on the air “ both when the accusation wasmade and when the accused member made his personal explanation, many people who heard the slander would not hear the personal explanation. It is not possible to give real protection to honorable members who are the object of unjust accusations, except by adopting a standing order under which a statement alleging dishonest, fraudulent, foul, criminal, improper, or immoral conduct by one honorable member against another honorable member can be ordered- at once to be withdrawn and the honorable member making the charge be dealt with by disciplinary action. We should give serious consideration to the adoption of such a standing order.

Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !


– As Standing Order 272 is interpreted now, there is no true protection for an honorable member whohas been subjected to an attack. I desireto conclude my examination of thismatter by offering, for the second timein my experience in this House, what 1 shall describe as a word of warning. I shall do it by quoting part of a speech, that I made during the secondreadingdebate of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill 1946. I said -

There is a very widespread belief, I fear, that all you have to do in this country is topick out of Hansard some statement that attacks some one or makes unpleasant remarks about him, and embody it in any circular you like, because, forsooth, it ia privileged.

All honorable members know that that is true. I am almost an expert at the receiving end of abuse. Hordes and hordes of pamphlets are issued by people who are quite bullet-proof because they are not worth powder and shot. Many of those pamphlets are based on the fact that somebody in Parliament made a defamatory statement about Menzies, Smith, Brown or Robinson. Some individual prints that statement in a circular and thinks that he is as safe as a house. That is why I said during my speech in 1946, from which I have already quoted -

Any one who contemplates such action has no protection whatever, because the only privilege that attaches to a report of what is said in this House attaches to a fair and accurate report which must not be garbled or partial . . . Suppose Jones attacks Brown in a speech and Brown replies, defends himself and denies the charges. No newspaper could claim privilege for publication of that day’s debates if it published Jones’s attack and ignored Brown’s answer. That illustrates exactly what I mean when I say that the report must not be partial or garbled if it is to enjoy privilege . . .

Parliament is “ on the air “ to-day. It behoves us all to speak with uncommon restraint when the proceedings are being broadcast. A newspaper may be called upon to publish an answer to a charge in the same report as that in which it publishes the charge, but the system of wireless broadcasting is not amenable to such a procedure. Words go out over the air and can never be recalled. An accusation may ,be answered an hour after it is made, but it is not possible to compel people who heard the charge to listen to the answer. The result is that the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament lays special inhibitions upon all of us who desire to maintain the standards of the Parliament, and, above all, upon those who otherwise may be tempted to use material for which they cannot vouch as a foundation for personal and wounding charges against honorable members whose greatest offence is that they are members of an opposing political party. I shall not delay the House any longer. I have taken the instances I have mentioned because they are recent. I have spoken about them warmly because we have all been stirred by them. I say that nobody can regard them fairly without coming to the conclusion that the last paragraph of this motion is abundantly justified. It states, in part, that the Government - is exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament . . . and … is deserving of the censure of this House.

Prime Minister and Treasurer · Macquarie · ALP

– I do not think that ever in the history of this Parliament has a more curious kind of censure motion been moved in this chamber. As far as 1 can ascertain, the motion is largely a complaint against the present Standing Orders of the House or against what they permit to be done, and contains some reflections upon Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker, as the case may be. In other words, it is like some of the notorious sporting bodies and players who have been known as “ win, tie or wrangle “ organizations. The burden of the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) appears to be that the Standing Orders permit certain things to be done that should not be permitted, or that Mr. Speaker’s or Mr. Deputy Speaker’s interpretation of the Standing Orders permits conduct that, in the opinion of honorable members opposite, is improper. Let us have a look at just one instance, although I do not propose to spend a great deal of time on it. Paragraph a of the motion states that, the Government - by the use of its majority in this House is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors they represent.

In what way are those rights restricted? Is it suggested that this Parliament does not provide ample opportunities for its members to express, in this House, their views and what they believe represents the opinions of those who elected them?

Opposition Members. - Yes !


– Order ! Honorable members must not interrupt the Prime Minister’s speech.


– I shall prove by mathematics that this Government has given greater opportunities to honorable members to express themselves, by permitting more sittings than any other government has allowed in the last 30 years. As a matter of fact, it can be proved by the records of the House that not only has the number of sitting days been higher than any previous record, but also that the number of hours has been higher. During the life of the present Parliament up to date, this House has sat for 230 days, and the life of the Parliament is not yet over. In the -whole history of the Commonwealth Parliament, only the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Eighth Parliaments exceeded that number. We have provided many long sitting days so as to give honorable members an opportunity of expressing their views. For instance, the proceedings finished at a very late hour last night. There has been no restraint imposed upon honorable members regarding the debate on bills now before the House. During that debate honorable members are permitted to address the House on almost any subject. The only restraint imposed is that they must keep within the time limit provided by the Standing Orders, but, even so, the leaders of parties are frequently granted extensions of time. As far as paragraph a of the motion is concerned I repeat that never in the history of the Parliament has greater opportunity been given to members to express their own views, or the views of their constituents, than has been given by this Government. I am astounded that any one should say that honorable members have not had an opportunity to express their views. During the last fortnight, no limitation lias been placed upon them. The AddressinReply debate is put on for the express purpose of allowing honorable members to discuss any matter they like. Therefore, that charge is completely unfounded, and, indeed, unworthy of attention. We now come to the next paragraph of the motion which states that the Government is worthy of censure because it - is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the noticepaper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of no confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker ;

As honorable members know, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, who is also Chairman of Committees, are elected by the Parliament itself, and not by any political party. Any member of the House has the right to nominate another member for the position of Speaker or Chairman of Committees. It is true that the Labour party, when it has had a majority, has done as other parties did when they had a majority; it has met and made a selection for the position of Speaker before the House has considered the matter. That cannot be denied, but it does not affect the truth of the statement that the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees are appointed by the House. As a matter of fact, the very censure motion which the House is now discussing was drafted and decided upon in the Opposition party room. The Speaker is elected by a majority of the members of the House and, once elected, becomes the custodian of the rights and privileges of honorable members. Surely honorable members realize that no government could allow the Speaker to be humiliated by the carrying of a motion of no confidence in his decisions or rulings. Always, when a motion of dissent from a ruling of the Speaker has been put forward, the government of the day has supported the Speaker.

Mr Menzies:

– That is not so.


– I should like to know of an instance to the contrary.

Mr Harrison:

– Has the Prime Minister ever heard of Sir Littleton Groom?


– Yes, and I know that when his rulings were disputed he was supported by the government of the day. I have also heard what happened when he would not vote with the Government. Because he took the stand that he was entitled to absent himself from the Committee of the whole House, and refrain from voting as the Government wanted him to do, he was expelled by the Conservative party which supported the Government. That party had so much respect for the Speaker whom it had nominated, and whom the Parliament had elected, that it expelled him, and brought about his defeat at the ensuing election. Therefore, I do not want to hear any more about Sir Littleton Groom in this connexion. Of course, differences of opinion occur about the interpretation of the Standing Orders, but that has never prevented the government of the day from supporting the rulings of the Speaker. I know of no instance, either in this Parliament or in the British Parliament, when a government failed to support the Speaker. Indeed, it is recognized that the Speaker, in his own sphere, has as much power as the King, and it is a waste of time for honorable members to make against the Deputy Speaker the sort of charges we have just listened to.

I come now to a very important matter, one that has always troubled me a great deal. I did not hear the exchanges between the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). It is clear that certain statements were made, but the first account that I had of it was the probably biased account given by the Leader of the Opposition.


– Does not the Prime Minister read the Hansard “ flats “ ?


– I do not. I have such complete confidence in the Hansard staff, and in their ability to make far better speeches than I can, that I never even look at the proofs. As I have said, I did not hear the exchanges between the Minister and the honorable member for Maranoa. The Leader of the Opposition got very worked up over the matter this morning. He is good at dramatics, and I have a great admiration for the way he can act. He became very worked up over what he described as a defamatory statement made in the House about an honorable member. I have not heard him become dramatic when honorable members on his own side of the House have made defamatory statements about private citizens and public servants. I do not say that the Leader of the Opposition himself has offended in this way, but my remarks certainly apply to his deputy, the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), and to some members of the Australian Country party.

Mr Harrison:

– Let the Prime Minister be specific, so that I shall have a case to answer.


– Charges have been brought against public servants, and reflections have been made upon private citizens, but no one on the Opposition side got hot under the collar about it. Not one member of the Opposition arose to defend their rights, or to protest against the making of defamatory statements although the persons defamed did not have the right to come into this House and explain their position, as the honorable member for Maranoa has if he considers that he has been treated unjustly, or that false statements have been made about him. Members of the Opposition, in this “ coward’s castle “ - and that is what it i9 - have made dastardly innuendoes against Sir David Rivett, and others associated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Mr Holt:

– If that is the Prime Minister’s opinion, why was Sir David Rivett eased out of his position?


– Order ! If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) does not cease interjecting he will be eased out of the chamber.


– For my part, I would abolish the privilege which protects members of the Parliament who defame other members, or persons outside the Parliament. I would provide that any member who makes a defamatory statement in the Parliament about any person, no matter how humble, should be subject to the ordinary processes of the law.

Mr Harrison:

– Well, why not do it? You are Prime Minister.


– There have been some very striking instances in recent times of honorable members claiming privilege. It has even been claimed that privilege extended to what was done in the lobbies of this building; that honorable members may do almost anything they like without being subject to the law as are other citizens. I should have no objection to the abolition of parliamentary privilege. I am prepared to say on any street corner whatever I say in this House. I know that there are arguments in favour of the principle of privilege. For instance, it is claimed that an ordinary member of the Parliament would hesitate to attack wealthy interests for fear that he might be subjected to heavy legal expenses in defending himself against claims for damages. The present Government had nothing to do with the drafting of the Standing Orders. When the Curtin Government was in office a report was presented to the House by Mr. Nairn, the then member for Perth, and the Speaker at that time, containing recommendations for revision of the Standing Orders, but the members of the Opposition did not even want to discuss that report. That was the last opportunity that the House has had to consider the Standing Orders. However, [ have no objection to their being revised in order to exclude from parliamentary privilege reflections by honorable members upon citizens who have no opportunity to defend themselves. For instance, I have heard such statements made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Wentworth. A few members of the Opposition are noted for this business of slandering or casting reflections upon people outside who cannot reply in their own defence. T. am prepared to support a revision of the Standing Orders to remove that privilege, so that such members will be subject to the ordinary processes of the law. The Leader of the Opposition displayed much indignation concerning certain exchanges which occurred between honorable members, but every honorable member has an opportunity to defend himself against attacks made upon him in this House. There has been a great desire on the part of the Opposition to slander a Minister; however, I shall not refer to that subject at this stage. That is all I have to say about the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition concerning defamatory statements. It is not of much use for the right honorable gentleman to dramatize about exchanges between honorable members. I, myself, take little notice of such exchanges. I do not bother to read about them, because they may be controlled under the Standing Orders, which, I repeat, were substantially drawn up over the years by non-Labour governments. It is true that their interpretation is a matter for the wisdom of the presiding officers. The Government is not responsible for the .Standing Orders in their present form, and past governments had many opportunities to revise them. The present Government, I admit, has a similar opportunity, and I shall support any amendment of them to deprive any honorable member of the pro- tection of the parliamentary privilege when he makes statements reflecting upon the character of people outside.

The fourth charge made by the Leader of the Opposition was that the Government was exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament and its function as the democratic forum of the nation. What justification exists for such a charge? I was a member of the Government during the latter part of the war, and I have had the privilege of leading the Government for the last four years. I should be very astonished if the Leader of the Opposition, or the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) should say that when an important debate has been proceeding in this chamber - and this has been particularly true since parliamentary proceedings have been broadcast - I have ever tried to prevent either of them from putting his views before the House and the public at an hour which he considered to be the best listening time. Indeed, although some of my own supporters have disagreed with me, I have gone out. of my way to afford to the leader of each of the Opposition parties, or his representative, opportunities to speak at times which he considered to be equally as valuable, from a broadcasting point of view, as those when the Government presented its case on important matters, whilst, frequently, I have made my secondreading speech on certain measures at whatever time happened to be available, whether it was early in the morning or late at night. With but two exceptions, one of them being the occasion on which I introduced the Banking Bill, I have not sought to speak at special times. 1 have agreed to the postponement of important debates in order to give to the Leader of the Opposition the opportunity to speak at a time which he considered to be the most valuable from a broadcasting point of view. I have never refused any request of that kind by the Opposition. Therefore, I am at a loss to know in what way the Government has failed to enable the Parliament to function as the democratic forum of the nation. That charge is without foundation. In fact, it was this Government which instituted the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, and thus gave to the people the opportunity to hear parliamentary debates. Therefore, the Gocomment is not preventing the Opposition from presenting its views to the people. Of course, there is always a little jealousy among Opposition members themselves in their endeavours to obtain r,he best broadcasting time.

Mr Harrison:

– When is the right honorable gentleman going to answer the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition ?


– If the honorable member for Wentworth can tell me what arguments have been advanced that really call for a reply, I shall answer them. Let us examine the arguments that have been advanced. Is there anything wrong with the Standing Orders that permits honorable members to make charges against each other? If so, that fault can he remedied; and I shall support such a revision of the Standing Orders. The second charge made by the Leader of the Opposition is that the Government is deserving of the censure of the House because it is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice-paper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of no confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker. No government would fail to support the Chair or its ruling, because the Chair is the custodian of the House. I have just answered the third charge made by the Leader of the Opposition. His fourth charge is that the Government is deserving of the censure of this House because it is exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament and its function as the democratic forum of the nation. [ am dealing with that charge now. The Government of which I have the privilege to be leader has arranged for the Parliament to sit more frequently and for longer periods, and thus has enabled honorable members to express their views to a greater degree, than has any other government which has held office during the last 30 years. I should not be surprised if this Parliament breaks all records in that respect. Therefore, that charge is unfounded. In addition, as I have already said, the Government has given special opportunities to leading members of the Opposition to express their views in debate at times at which they considered the majority of the listening public would be likely to hear them over the air. I have heard many charges made in thu chamber that the Government has not afforded sufficient opportunity for debate on certain matters; but very often in such instances the honorable member who complained on that score found that he had very important private business to perform, and was not in attendance at all the following week, when opportunities were given for such debates. I am not putting all the blame in that respect upon the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). He may not be in attendance as often a« some of us would like, but he does make valuable contributions to debates in this House. I believe that I shall be excused should I appear to be a little cynical on this subject.

So long as I am leader of the Government every Speaker, or his deputy, will have the Government’s support. That principle has been adhered to by every government in parliamentary history. The proceedings in the Parliament would become completely chaotic if the government of the day did not support the rights of the custodian of the House.

Mr Archie Cameron:

– The Lyons Government did not always do so.


– If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) desires that the Standing Orders be amended to exclude from parliamentary privilege statements by honorable members defaming people outside - some honorable members opposite make such statements quite frequently and, probably, would do so more frequently if they had the courage - I would support such an amendment. I sum up by saying that the complaints of the Leader of the Opposition largely appear to be directed, not against the Government, but against the Standing Orders, which honorable members may at any time take leave to alter if they so desire, and against the interpretation of the Standing Orders by Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker. I make it perfectly clear that the custodian of the rights and privileges of this House, whoever he may be, will be given my unwavering support. Otherwise, there would be chaos. The motion of censure has been designed solely to give honorable members opposite an opportunity to attack the Government. It contains no real charge against the Government.

Leader of the Australian Country party · Darling Downs

– If definite evidence were needed of the necessity for a motion of censure to awaken a sense of responsibility in the mind of the man who is in charge of this nation, that evidence was presented this morning by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) endeavoured to reply to the basic charges so sensibly and properly made by the Leader of the Opposition by saying that he had not listened to the incidents which gave rise to them, and had not read the Hansard “ flats “ in which those incidents were recorded. The House and the country must be appalled by the Prime Minister’s final assertion that, in any circumstances, and rightly or wrongly, the appointed custodian of the rights and privileges of this House - Mr, Speaker or his deputy - would be given his unwavering support. The right honorable gentleman has no regard whatever for the dignity of this Parliament, which is the greatest national institution in the Commonwealth. Obviously he has no regard for the high tradition handed down to us by the Mother of Parliaments that the leader of the Government should set an example to the House in the conduct of the lawmaking machinery of this country. “Without consideration for the country, or for the rights, duties and responsibilities of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said, in effect, that, irrespective of the degree to which Mr. Speaker and Mr. Deputy Speaker may misinterpret the Standing Orders, the persons appointed to those exalted positions by the Labour Government would be given the unwavering support of his party. The fundamental purpose of a British parliament is surely to provide an opportunity for the elected representatives of the people to make laws for the government of the people and, at the same time, to give to the Opposition section of the Parliament an opportunity to criticize proposed laws that have been originated and introduced by the Govern ment. The very existence of the Opposition and its inherent right to criticize the legislative proposals of governments is the very feature which distinguishes the British form of government from all other current or historical forms of government. Deprive the Opposition - strictly termed His Majesty’s Opposition - of its right to criticize or propose laws or amendments of laws, or to probe administration, and the traditional British parliamentary system no longer exists. The Opposition in this Parliament represents and acts as trustees for from 46 to 48 per cent, of the electors of Australia. The very Constitution of the Parliament itself necessitates the existence of the Executive and the Opposition. The events of recent times, which culminated in the incident that occurred on Wednesday last, when the Leader of the Opposition was suspended from the service of the House, demonstrate the tolerance and perseverance exercised by honorable member, on this side of the House in the face of great provocation. This motion of censure was not prompted, however, by tho unfair and unwise action of the Chair in relation to the Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday last. That action was merely the culmination of a series of such events. The Opposition has exhibited tolerance and patience for a long period. We have had numerous examples of the degree to which parliamentary decorum has deteriorated in this House. This morning the Leader of the Opposition adduced ample evidence to prove his case that the Government has all too frequently used its majority in this House improperly to restrict the rights of private members and the electors whom they represent. The right honorable gentleman went to great pains to traverse the many incidents that prompted the charges set out in the first paragraph of his motion of censure; but with his usual irresponsibility the Prime Minister brushed the charges aside as being of no importance. In endeavouring to reply to the charges in the first paragraph of the motion, the Prime Minister said with pride that by the end of this sessional period this Parliament will have established a record in sitting time. If that be so, the fact that the Opposition has left until now the bringing forward of a motion of censure of this kind is evidence of its great tolerance. The mere establishment of record sittings, however, has no bearing upon these charges. The Parliament has been kept almost continuously in session because the business of the nation has demanded that it should do so. What has happened inside the Parliament during these record sittings? On a relative basis, the “ gag “ has been applied to a greater degree than ever before in the history of the Parliament, criticism has been stifled, and millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money have been appropriated in estimates which have been approved after scanty or totally inadequate consideration. The imposition of time-tables, and the use of the “ guillotine “, on debates on proposals for the expenditure of millions of pounds have prevented the Opposition from fully discharging the responsibility that rests upon it. Then, when during the parliamentary recesses, members of the Opposition seek details of expenditure they are told that ample opportunity to obtain such information was given when the Estimates were before the Parliament. The Prime Minister has been totally inconsiderate of the Opposition’s wish to discharge its obligations as it believes that they should be discharged in accordance with the principles of constitutional parliamentary government. His attitude towards paragraph *b of the motion of censure is startling to say the least of it. The right honorable gentleman said that the occupant of the chair was the appointee of the House. That explanation might be sufficient to excuse the conduct of Mr. Deputy Speaker to the satisfaction of the Prime Minister, but it will not deceive anybody. We all know that the Government, with its slavish majority, was able to secure the election of its nominee regardless of the views of Opposition members. The right honorable gentleman stated as a reason for permitting the present state of affairs to continue, that the Opposition had had an opportunity to vote at the election of the various presiding officers. The Opposition’s complaint is that the Government has shown scant consideration for the prestige of the Chair by permitting to remain on the notice-paper for such a long period, a motion of want of confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker. As far back as November last, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) placed on the notice-paper a motion which, in effect, is a clear and unambiguous condemnation of the present occupant of the high office of Mr. Deputy Speaker of this chamber. The terms of the motion indicate that in the view of the Opposition members at least, Mr. Deputy Speaker is not a proper or competent person to ensure the balancing of the scales of justice between Government and Opposition members of this House. The motion states -

That this Househas no further confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker on the grounds -

  1. That in the discharge of his duties he has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government members;

Ample evidence of that was seen on Wednesday night, when the Leader of the Opposition was suspended from this House for the remainder of this sitting. Although the action taken by the Chair on that occasion was technically within the authority vested in it, the incident was disgraceful. Members of the party that I lead regard that incident alone as worthy of the censure motion that we are now debating. The Leader of the Opposition has given many years of valuable service to this House and to the country. I am sure that even his greatest political enemies will agree that, during his membership of this Parliament, he has raised its standards of dignityand decorum to the greatest degree that is within his power. He interjects most infrequently, and then only to obtain information or to give the lie direct to statements by honorable members opposite. It was for the latter purpose that he interjected on Wednesday night. Until the present Prime Minister assumed office, the invariable practice in this chamber was that when an honorable member was named, the Prime Minister was sent for and, after being informed of what had happened, he appealed to the honorable member concerned to withdraw his remarks and, if necessary, to apologize. That was the traditional procedure that was handed down from the Mother of Parliaments to this legislature, and, as I have said, it was followed until the present Prime Minister assumed office. In view of the circumstances of the incident on Wednesday night, and particularly because the Leader of the Opposition was involved, common decency and political etiquette demanded the presence of the Prime Minister, who, upon hearing of the proposal to suspend the Leader of the Opposition, should have acted in the best interests of the House. But no; we all know what happened instead. The Opposition therefore believes that it is justified in voicing its criticism of the conduct of the affairs of this House in no uncertain way.

The second portion of the want of confidence motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Wentworth states that Mr. Deputy Speaker regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour party and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of elected members of the Parliament. The Prime Minister indicated quite clearly this morning that, in his opinion, the occupant of the chair should recognize himself as the servant of the governing party, and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of members of the Parliament. In effect, the Prime Minister has given to Mr. Deputy Speaker every possible encouragement, indeed, an instruction, to consider himself to be the custodian of the privileges of the Labour party and not the guardian of the integrity and reputation of the House. Paragraph c of the want of confidence motion charges Mr. Deputy Speaker that he constantly fails to interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House. We .have ample evidence of that. The honorable gentleman has shown a total disregard for Standing Order 272. Such disregard was shown even yesterday, after the incident of the night before, when the Leader of the Opposition was named for having made two very pertinent interjections. While the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) was speaking, he was persistently interrupted by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), as Hansard will prove.

Mr Dedman:

– Have a look at the interruptions to some of my speeches.


– There is another interruption, this time by a Minister who cannot be believed, because he speaks the truth only for an ulterior motive or by accident. The third paragraph of the motion now before the House states that Mr. Deputy Speaker - ib permitting and encouraging personal defamatory and threatening attacks upon Opposition members by Ministers, and so violating the decencies of political controversy ;

To attempt to add anything to the case that was presented by the Leader of the Opposition would, indeed, be to endeavour to paint the lily. On behalf of the Australian Country party, and particularly the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), I warmly thank the right honorable gentleman for the very effective way in which he presented the case, not only to this House, but also, through the House, to the people of Australia. The unwarranted attack that was made upon my valued colleague was one of the most dastardly that I have heard since I have been a member of this Parliament. I have been intimately and happily acquainted with the honorable member for Maranoa for over twenty years. He is one of the last men in this chamber who should be the victim of accusations such as were made by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). He is the personification of trustworthiness and complete integrity. The fact that the Prime Minister has given scant consideration to the honorable gentleman is an adequate reason why this House should draw the attention of the people to what can only be described as the irresponsibility of the Government. The honorable member for Maranoa asked that his name be cleared of the false charges that were made against him. He asked that some form of inquiry, by a select committee of the Parliament or even a royal commission, be instituted into the charges in order to protect his reputation for trustworthiness and integrity. But the only reply that the Prime Minister made to the request was that he had not read the Hansard “ flats “ and did not know anything about the incident, although he had heard that there had been some disturbance in the House. I say, and I am sure that I have the unanimous support of all other honorable members on this side of the House, that it was the responsibility and duty of the Prime Minister to have made himself thoroughly conversant with the details of the incident that had taken place, an incident of a very grave nature affecting the well-deserved reputation for honesty and integrity of an honorable member. He should have informed himself fully of the matter instead of offering to us the excuse that he knew nothing about it and, therefore, could not pass any judgment. In the interests of decorum and the prestige of this House, the charges that were made against the honorable member for Maranoa should not be allowed to rest where the Prime Minister, in his smugness, is letting them rest. The matter should be probed as other charges made in this House have been probed. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) was attacked in this chamber, and a committeo of inquiry was appointed as a result.

Mr Spender:

– But its report was stifled.

Mr.FADDEN. - Yes, that is so. More recently a royal commission was appointed to inquire into charges that had been made concerning ministerial administration. Yet, when the honorable member for Maranoa is attacked by a Minister of the Crown in a most despicable fashion, the Prime Minister states that he is prepared to amend the Standing Orders of the House in order to remove a privilege and the right to take shelter in a coward’s castle. Even if a full inquiry were held, it could not remedy entirely the great harm that has already been done to my colleague by the cowardly attack that was made upon him. But the injustice is to go unnoticed and unremedied by the Government.


– The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Dedman) adjourned.

page 531


The following papers were pre sented : -

Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1049, No. 28.

Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1049, No. 27.

Egg Export Charges Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1949, No. 20.

War Service Homes Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1949, No. 29.

House adjourned at 12.46 p.m.

page 531


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

British Industriesfair.

Mr Chifley:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.The preponderance of visitors who attend the British Industries Fair, apart from the British public admitted for limited periods each day only, are from continental countries. These countries offer little opportunity for markets for our manufactured products. Australia has participated in the British Industries Fair on other occasions, the last being in 1947. The Empire section is not regarded as an avenue for promoting Bales, and in some years this section has been placed outside the area visited by the great bulk of buyers. Few inquiries were received for secondary products at the 1947 exhibition, although special equipment was used to illustrate the development and wide diversification of Australian secondary industry. Other steps have been taken bythe CommonwealthGovernment to draw attention in the United Kingdom to Australia’s manufacturing output and potential. The general emphasis on our trade publicity has for obvious reasons always been on primary products, and it. was considered preferable this year to conduct a series of mobile exhibitions in the United Kingdom which feature both primary and secondary industry. These have recently been held at London and Glasgow, and attracted many thousands of people. A similar exhibition is scheduled for Manchester.

  1. No. Advice received from the British Empire Producers Organization shows that New Zealand, Southern Rhodesia, East and Central African territories, British Guiana and Fiji were other component parts of the Empire not represented at this year’s British Industries Fair.

IMMIGRATION : Compulsory Unionism.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.