19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers
– With regard to the statement, attributed in New York to Mr. Boyd, of the Australian Wool Board, favouring the removal of the ban on the export of stud merino sheep, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether Mr. Boyd was speaking in any way on behalf of the Australian Government? Has the Government considered the matter? Is it in favour of the removal of the existing prohibition? Will the Minister undertake to consult the Parliament before any such proposal, if recommended to or approved by the Government, is carried into effect?
– I have seen the statement in the press attributed to Mr. Douglas Boyd. Mr. Boyd is an official of the Australian Wool-growers’ Council and a prominent grazier, as well as being the chairman of the Australian Wool Board. If Mr. Boyd made the statement attributed to him, he made it without the knowledge of the Australian Government and without any consultation or discussion with the Australian Government. It refers to an issue which has never been considered by the Government.
– In view of the second recent statement by the President of the Republic of Indonesia with regard to the destiny of western or Dutch New Guinea, and also in view of the fact that the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia has been recalled to Canberra - I take it for consultation upon Dr. Soekarno’s claims - nun the Minister for External Affairs inform the House of the nature of the steps that have been taken, or of steps it is intended to take in the very near future, to make Australia’s official view on such claims clearly understood by Indonesia ?
– I think that on different occasions I have made Australia’s position reasonably plain in this matter, and I propose to make a statement upon the subject to-morrow.
– In view of the urgent need for Australia to establish friendly relations with and goodwill in Indonesia and other neighbouring countries, will the Minister for External Affairs give consideration to the establishment of medical clinics in Indonesia staffed by Australians and maintained by Australia ?
– I sought to make it clear in the statement that I made to the House upon the results of the conference that was held in Sydney following the adoption of the Colombo resolutions that the Australian Government had undertaken, amongst other things, to establish with other Commonwealth countries a fund of £stg.8,000,000 for the purpose of providing technical assistance, which would include the type of assistance that the honorable member has suggested. Obviously, we cannot give assistance to a country that does not need it or that does not request it. Requests for assistance will be considered by a bureau that is to be established at Colombo and, if any assistance can be given along the lines that have been indicated by the honorable member, I am sure that the proposal will receive favorable consideration.
– My question relates to a home-consumption price for wool. In view of the fact that the fantastically high price of wool is not only making the cost of manufactured woollen goods prohibitive, but is also feeding the inflationary spiral and forcing up the general price level, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recommend the establishment of a home-consumption price for wool on the basis of the scheme operating in the lead and zinc industries, under which those products are sold on the local market at a much lower price than the overseas price. By way of explanation, a home-consumption price of 24d. per lb. for greasy wool, the price which prevailed in the 1946-47 season, as against the present world price of 60d., would cost the wool industry only £20,000,000 out of the estimated wool cheque of £270,000,000 for the current year.
– I think that the honorable member is now giving information.
– Then I shall leave the question at that.
– The answer is “ No “.
Mv. WIGHT. - Recently I asked the Minister for the Interior whether it would be possible to alter the location of the proposed site for the American war memorial at Canberra and the honorable gentleman informed me that, although the site had not been decided upon definitely, consideration was being given to a position on a knoll in front of Parliament House and in a direct line with the Australian War Memorial. Representations have been made by exservicemen’s organizations to have the American memorial erected in a position in which it will not impair the view from Parliament House of our own national shrine and 90 that priority will not be given to any monument erected to soldiers of another nation. In view of the fact that Australian and American servicemen fought side by side, exservicemen’s organizations consider that it would be appropriate for the memorials to stand side by side. Will the Minister consider transferring the location of the American memorial to a site near the Australian War Memorial?
– Has the Prime Minister read a newspaper report to the effect that, after the present parliamentary sessional period has ended, he intends to proceed to the United States of America for the purpose of floating a big dollar loan? Does that report reflect the policy that the Government intends to pursue to attempt to counter the present inflationary spiral? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the terms of loans previously raised in America have been most unfavorable to Australia? Does the Government intend to revalue the Australian £1 for the purpose of creating a favorable atmosphere for the financial interests in the United States of America? What amount has been paid by Australia into the International Monetary Fund? What amounts have been drawn by Australia from that fund ? What amount remains in the fund upon which Australia can draw as distinct from the dollar pool that has been established by Great Britain? Will the Prime Minister take the House into his confidence and disclose his reasons for seeking an American loan when the provisions of the Bretton Woods Agreement should assist Australia with regard, to the dollar shortage?
– The questions obviously should be placed upon the notice-paper because they involve inquiry into a great number of facts about which one could scarcely be expected to carry around precise information. They appear te proceed from a report in a newspaper. That report, I may say, was purely speculative.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to a press report of the meeting of the Central Council of the Country party in Victoria which was held in Melbourne on Wednesday, the 31st May last ? Mr. W. L. Moss, the chief president of the Central Council, stated that the meeting had unanimously agreed to the following resolution: -
That the associated banks be notified that this Party views with concern their very definite participation in the political field in opposition to the Country Party, and their very material contribution to the Liberal Party fight to exterminate the Country Party.
Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been directed to another statement which was made at that meeting by Mr. S. Lockhart, the past chief president of the central council ? He said -
The banks are known to be the enemy of the Country Party.
Mr. Lockhart is also reported as having said of the private banks -
They are using our money for the extermination of the Party which stands for the interests of the country people.
He asked the following question : -
Are we worms, that we do not turn on these people ?
I ask the Treasurer whether he will consider the advisability of introducing suitable amendments to the banking legislation of this country in order to prevent the private banks from trying to exterminate the Country party, the Labour party, or any other political party. Will he introduce legislation to stop the banks from using their funds, the shareholders’ money or anybody else’s money in connexion with their participation in the political affairs of this nation? I make this request to the right honorable gentleman on behalf of, not merely the members of the Labour party, but also the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture
– Order ! Will the honorable gentleman ask his question?
– I make those representations on behalf of the honorable member for Mallee, the honorable member for Gippsland, and all other honorable members who are threatened with political extermination by the activities of the private trading banks.
– I point out, first and foremost, that the question which the honorable gentleman has asked does not involve public interests, but, nevertheless, I inform him that my attention has not been drawn to the alleged statement to which he has referred. I further inform him that those who endeavour to exterminate the Country party will have the job before them.
– In view of the fact that the imperial authorities made the 31st May last the closing date for personnel of the Royal Navy to apply for prize money, will the Minister for the Navy inform me of the position of personnel of the Royal Australian Navy in this matter? Will he state when they are likely to receive the prize money to which they are entitled, and will he inform me of the position of personnel of the Royal Australian Navy who served with the Royal Navy?
– Considerable difficulty has been experienced by the British Government in establishing the total pool of funds that is to be made available for distribution as prize money. The British
Government intimated to the Australian Government some time ago that it considered that it would be in a position, by last April, to announce the amount that would be made available, but, unfortunately, delay on the part of certain governments in furnishing the details which were required has prevented the British authorities from making a decision in the matter. However, representations were made to the British Government recently to expedite its decision, and I am hopeful that the decision will be made at an early date. At present, it is expected from the figures to hand that the amount that will be made available for each person will be approximately £9. As soon as I am advised of the total amount that ;s available for distribution, I shall make a further statement on the matter.
– I address a question to the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Defence. In to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald there appears a statement that three tank-landing ships have been disposed of on the market at a sacrifice price because they are surplus to defence requirements. In view of the intention of the Government to increase the defence forces of this country, and the vital necessity to do so, will consideration be given to the wisdom of making a review of all defence materiel, including vessels, before it is disposed of at sacrifice prices ?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. I assure him that before ships and other defence equipment are disposed of full consideration is always given to defence requirements. In view of the honorable member’s representations, I shall arrange for the transaction to which he has referred to be examined.
– In view of the fact that some time will apparently elapse before the Government’s complete proposals for a national health and medical service can be submitted to this House, will the Minister for Health consider the advisability of implementing forthwith, through the existing machinery, that portion of his programme which should be of a noncontroversial character and which should not involve further negotiations with outside interests? The portions of the plan to which I refer cover the more needy sections of the community such as pensioners, many of whom may not be here to receive any benefits if they have to await the introduction of the complete health and medical service; exservicemen who need medical attention, but whose condition is not considered to be due to war service and who, therefore, are ineligible for treatment at repatriation hospitals; and school children for whom, according to an intimation by the Minister, free milk will be provided.
– Negotiations on the matters to which the honorable member has referred are proceeding as rapidly as possible. The Government could implement certain elements of its scheme immediately but for the fact that Senator McKenna, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, has said that he and his colleagues will resist any amendments of regulations being made in order to permit life-saving drugs to be made available to patients under the scheme.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health who was recently reported to have made a statement that the Government intended to operate its proposed national health scheme on a voluntary basis under which people would join friendly societies or make arrangements with private insurance companies. As a medical examination to determine physical fitness is required before a person can join a friendly society or take out a policy with a private insurance company, would the Minister state whether the Government’s proposals are to provide for a health scheme for healthy people only? If there is some scheme to provide health services for people who are in ill health, will the Minister give some details of it to the House?
– If the honorable member had taken sufficient care to read in full the statement that appeared in the press in connexion with this matter, he would have seen that sick people are to be adequately cared for under the Government’s proposed national health scheme.
– It is proposed to raise the Hume Weir in order to increase the capacity of the dam by 2,000,000 acre feet. The sudden release of such a volume of additional water would cause serious flooding of the town of Albury. In view of the importance of that town in the communication system of Australia, I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Defence whether consideration has been given to the defence aspect of the project? If not, will consideration be given to that aspect before the work is proceeded with?
– I understand that the incidence of raising the Hume Weir has not been considered by the Defence Department. I shall arrange for the department to consider it. ‘
– The Minister for National Development has stated in reply to a question asked in the House on a previous occasion that the Government has entered into an arrangement with an aluminium company to carry out explorations for bauxite and other minerals iri New Guinea. Will the Government be prepared to enter into similar arrangements with other companies that are prepared to carry out drilling explorations within Australia for minerals the production of which will save dollars, particularly if the programmes undertaken by such companies are favorably reported upon by departmental officers as the result of geophysical surveys?
– I should be most grateful to the honorable member if he would supply me with details of any company coming within the category that he has indicated. Every possible encouragement will be given to companies that are prepared to undertake work of the kind that he has described.
– I have been advised that offers made by civilians to provide hospitality and entertainments for migrants stationed at a large centre in my electorate have been coldly received by the officer in charge of the centre. In one instance migrants at the centre were not permitted to attend the local district show. In view of these facts, I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is the policy of his department to encourage the establishment of friendly relations between residents and migrants stationed at camps in their locality?
– It is the desire of the Government - and the desire is being translated into general policy - to have migrants assimilated as rapidly as possible into the Australian community. For that purpose the department courages functions to give Australian citizens and New Australians the opportunity to mingle freely in a convivial social atmosphere. If the honorable member will give me details of the centre to which he has referred, I shall ascertain whether special circumstances existed to justify the rejection of the offer of hospitality. Through the co-operation of good neighbour committees and other similar bodies we are hoping to increase, rather than diminish, opportunities for social intercourse between migrants and residents in districts where migrant camps are situated.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Is the Government aware that employees who have retired from the service of the Crown in New South Wales and Victoria have received, or are about to receive, a 25 per cent, increase of their superannuation payments to meet cost-of-living rises, and that because of the operation of the means test that increase will be offset by a reduction of 25 per cent, in the age pension now being paid to those who qualify for the receipt of such pension? Will the Government undertake to liberalize the application of the “means test to ensure that increases of that kind which are granted by the State governments to cover rising costs are received by the pensioners concerned ?
– I have repeatedly said that questions which relate to matters under the control of a Minister in the Senate should be placed on the noticepaper.
– Would I be in order in referring the question to the Prime Minister ?
-The Prime Minister can answer it if he is an encyclopaedia of knowledge. That is the only way in which a reply can be obtained forthwith.
– I plead guilty to being an encyclopaedia, but as yet only in one volume. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Social Services and ask him to provide an answer.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General relative to his recent disclosure in the House that in certain private residences in Sydney more than one telephone and, in some instances, six telephones had been installed, presumably for the purpose of illegal betting. Has the honorable gentleman taken steps to ascertain on whose responsibility such telephones were installed and has he taken steps to deal with the matter? Is he satisfied that the present arrangements in the Postal Department will prevent such practices from occurring in the future ?
– Practically all of the telephones to which I have referred were installed in such a way that no reflection could be cast on the postal officials responsible for their installation. Most of them were installed over a period of years, a great many of them at a time when telephones were easy to obtain and when the instruments were usually installed on the day following the receipt of the application. In other instances there was deliberate misrepresentation by the applicants. False names were used, false information was given and false statutory declarations were even furnished. In one instance, for example, fifteen telephones were installed but not one of them was listed correctly in the name of the person conducting the business.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - They were installed on the same premises ?
– Yes. The mechanics who installed them simply carried out their instructions. In the past, when a new telephone was being installed, they were not called upon to notify the departmental officers of the number of telephones already installed in the building or residence. Since the disclosures to which the honorable gentleman has referred were made instructions have been given to all telephone mechanics that they are to make a report of cases in which there is already one telephone in a residence to which they have gone to install another. I desire to say in fairness to the staff of the department that although I have investigated every one of these cases personally, so far as I have been able to investigate them, no reflection can be made imputing any improper conduct on the part of any official involved.
– In connexion with the premises in which it was stated fifteen telephones had been installed, are those fifteen instruments in the names of fifteen different persons and are fifteen accounts rendered to fifteen different individuals, or is one account rendered for the fifteen telephones and is it paid by one person ?
– The fifteen telephones referred to are in the names of several individuals. Two or three are in one name and maybe four in another name, and so on.
– Do those persons exist?
– So far as I can ascertain the persons do not exist; they are just names. One individual is believed to be running the business. All that I know is that the accounts have been paid. I am not at present in a position to say who pays them. My department has been satisfied up to now if the accounts have been paid. The accounts in this case have been paid.
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture subscribe to the Government’s view that the most effective answer to high prices is increased production ?If so, is he aware that since 1 938 the production of eggs in Victoria has increased by 100 per cent., that is, from 16,000,000 dozen to 32,000,000 dozen annually? If he is aware of that fact, will he explain to the House what has happened to the Government’s theory as applied to egg production? When does the Government intend to see that its theory will operate in respect of eggs?
– I consider that question time is an occasion on which to answer questions and not to make speeches.
– I refer the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to previous questions asked in the House and to representations made to him regarding seed cotton. Is the Minister yet able to advise the House whether the Government has decided to grant a price subsidy of 9½d. per lb. for seed cotton, to apply to the crop that is to be planted later this year? By way of explanation I point out that unless a decision on that matter is reached and the cotton industry advised thereof by the end of this month, the industry will have insufficient time for preparation of the soil for seed. If a decision has not been made in the matter, will the Minister endeavour to have such a decision made and announced within the next three weeks?
– The matter to which the honorable member has referred has also been brought to the Government’s notice by a number of honorable members who represent various electorates in Queensland. It is under consideration but no decision that could be announced has yet been reached. The Government is aware of the seasonal implications’ of the timing of any appropriate announcement, and I assure the honorable member and the Queensland cotton industry that if a decision of a kind that has a bearing upon the subject raised is reached it will be made known to the industry as quickly as possible.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Commonwealth jubilee celebrations that are to take place next year, he will give consideration to the erection of a suitable memorial to our British kinsfolk who gave their lives in defence of the Empire? If so, will he consider approaching the leaders of local government bodies in Australia, and asking them to co-operate in the erection of such a memorial by conducting public appeals for funds to defray its cost ? Will he also consider inviting the Empire’s war-time leader, Mr. Winston Churchill, through the Prime Minister of Great Britain, to be associated with any such scheme, as a tribute to the part that Mr. Churchill played in saving democracy ?
– A committee to deal with the Commonwealth jubilee celebrations is in process of establishment, and I shall see that the honorable member’s interesting suggestion is considered by it.
– In view of the charges that have been made by the executive of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen in Sydney that copies of their publication, Express, have been delayed by Communists within the postal service, will the PostmasterGeneral take action to exonerate officers of the bulk postage section of the mail branch of the General Post Office, Sydney, the point at which the postings were made, from any blame in this matter ? Is it a fact that of the eight employees in the bulk postage section one has had 36 years’ service and another 37 years’ service in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and that the remaining six are returned servicemen with upwards of four years’ active service and years of efficient service in the department? Have numerous complimentary letters been received from business interests in Sydney, including the Sydney Morning Herald, the publishers of the article complained of, thanking the bulk postage staff for their assistance and- complimenting them on their efficiency?
– As soon as I have read the allegation that has been made by certain members of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen that the legion’s publications were being interfered with by Communists, I had a very thorough and complete investigation made into this matter. I have not the detailed particulars of that investigation .at the moment, but I shall supply them to the honorable member to-morrow. There is not a scintilla of truth in the allegations that have been made. The mail branch service was completely freed from any suggestion of interference with the mails. The employees in that section have a tradition of service in seeing that the mails are properly delivered and they have been living up to that tradition.
– In view of the fact that the delivery of superphosphate is at present severely restricted because of a lack of bags that are suitable for holding this commodity, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he is a<ble to give the House any further information in regard to the negotiations that he mentioned, some time ago, were taking place between the Australian Government and the Indian Government in regard to the supply of jute goods. ‘Can he intimate whether the present acute shortage of bags is likely to be relieved by early shipments of jute goods in order to make sure that (here will be no restriction of Australia’s agricultural production programme?
– Until very recently there was a shortage of cornsacks in Australia, and it was possible that there would be a shortage of bags at harvest time. In view of those circumstances, existing supplies of sacks were not made fully available to fertilizer companies for the purposes of fertilizer distribution and the companies, by arrangement with officers of my department, engaged to campaign for the return of fertilizer sacks so that they could be put to the minimum use of paper bags and the minimum use of new cornsacks. This arrangement was carried out to a point at which it was just possible to supply all the cornsacks required during the season. I am able to say now that the Government has received an assurance from the Government of India during the last few days, and I was able publicly to announce last Friday that, following negotiations, in the course of which the Controller of Jute was sent to India, the Prime Minister communicated directly with the Government of India, and I, personally, conducted negotiations with the Indian High Commissioner in Canberra and, as a result, at the latter part of last week the Government received an unequivocal assurance from the Government of India that adequate supplies of cornsacks would be made available to Australia at such times as would enable shipments to be made to a time-table which would ensure a full supply of cornseeks for the coming harvest. This will enable the Government to release some sacks for the bagging of fertilizer, and that will be done as quickly as possible.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Fremantle asked me a question in relation to the suggestion that a Mr. Upson, a sub-inspector of police in the employment of the Department of External Territories, had been employed as a hangman in connexion with the pending Japanese trials at Los Negros in Manus.
– I did not name the man.
– The name was reported in the newspaper which the honorable member handed to me. I have made inquiries into the matter, and as I indicated to the honorable member, no such appointment has been made. It is proper that I should say, however, that without the knowledge of the Minister for the Army or of myself, discussions took place between our two departments to ascertain whether Mr. Upson could be made available in the event of his services being required. I regard that as exceedingly regrettable and unfortunate, and I have so indicated to my department. The Minister for the Army has also indicated that to his department. I have made it quite clear in my department that neither Mr. Upson nor any other officer of the Department of External Territories will, in any circumstances, be made available for such a task. At the same time since the report has led to the unfortunate inference that there was some partiality in relation to the trials, it is appropriate that I should point out that in any event the trials must be reported to an independent legal adviser who advises whether the sentences should be recorded. Even if he reports in favour of confirming the sentences the matter then goes before the Judge AdvocateGeneral. I am sure that the honorable member will agree that this Government, and any government in the British community, will be specially concerned to ensure that even-handed justice is meted out, even to those who have been our enemies.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral advise this House of the number of applications filed in his department for commercial broadcasting licences in (a) amplitude modulation, (b) frequency modulation, and (c) television? Will the Minister advise how many commercial broadcasting stations are operating on shared frequency channels ?
– I shall study the question of the honorable member and see what information can be given to him. I point out that no applications for television licences would be considered because, until the act is amended, no television licence can be granted. At the present time television licences are a government monopoly. In regard to the other licences I shall see what I can do to supply the information.
– Will the Prime Minister bring to the notice of the Cabinet subcommittee dealing with the problems of ex-servicemen, the needs of totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers in regard to better pensions and physical aids? Will the right honorable gentleman particularly give attention to the matter of legless soldiers, and ascertain whether some mobile aids such as motor cars or motor chairs can be provided for them? In England, Canada and the United States, legless soldiers are supplied by their Governments with motor cars or motor chairs. Will the Prime Minister use his influence and see whether similar provision can be made for our own incapacitated soldiers, many of whom are permanent prisoners in their own homes.
– The matters referred to by the honorable member have in fact been brought to the notice of the Government, if that were necessary, by a number of ex-service members of this House. They have been under active consideration, and all the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred are being kept well in mind. I am not in a position to make an announcement at present but those matters are well under consideration.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the facts (a) that at the Repatriation Department’s artificial limb factory in Sydney the older men employed as limb makers, chair and crutches makers, surgical boot makers and fitters and turners, who are thoroughly experienced and expert tradesmen, are reaching the retiring age and becoming due for their six months retiring leave before leaving the service; (b) that at the present time the number of men employed at this factory, which caters for ex-service limbless men and civilians also, is somewhere approximating 40, many of whom have not yet reached the journeyman stage of their training, and have not the expert knowledge and experience of the older employees which is essential to artificial limb making; (c) that this staff is not able to anywhere near cope with the demand for artificial limbs and other aids for the limbless, owing to vastly inadequate work space, lack of trained men, and in some instances lack of materials; (d) that because of these inadequacies in the artificial limb factory in Sydney there is a waiting period of sometimes eighteen months before an artificial limb can be built for a limbless person, and that in one case a young ex-serviceman had to wait twelve months for his first artificial leg, 1 ask the Prime Minister to give serious consideration to the whole matter and explore the possibility of obtaining more adequate accommodation for the limb factory so that more work benches can be installed and more staff employed, and also seriously to consider the possibility of retaining the services of those expert tradesmen who are reaching the retiring age, and have them appointed as instructors and supervisors for the younger men so that the expert know ledge and skill which they have will not be lost to the service on their retirement. If they leave the service the factory will be even less able to cope with the demand for artificial limbs than is at present the case.
– I shall have the remarks of the honorable member brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation.
– As there are a number of very competent musicians amongst the migrants who have entered Australia and as Launceston urgently needs the services of teachers of wind and string instruments, will the Minister for Immigration give consideration to the securing of at least two musicians qualified to teach those instruments and of having those teachers stationed in Launceston.
– I think that the honorable member will realize that in the case of migrants who come to Australia under the system whereby they are required to work under contract for a period of two years, it is not the practice of the Government to allow them to be employed in the class of occupation to which the honorable member has referred. There may be some musicians whose contract period has expired, and there may be others who have come to Australia with musical qualifications and who do not come within the scope of our displaced persons scheme. I shall bring the question to the notice of the officers of my department so that if there are migrants who have completed their period of contract and who have the qualifications, the opportunities available for them in Launceston may be brought to their notice.
– by have - Yesterday the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) asked a question concerning the broadcasting by national stations of descriptions of important sporting events. I have consulted the Australian
Broadcasting Commission on the subject and have received the following advice from it: - 1 The Australlian Broadcasting Commission fully appreciates its obligation to give a full cover of all important sporting events and, with this aim in view, the time devoted to racing broadcasts has been greatly reduced and the hare minimum of time is taken up with these descriptions or results when any important sporting feature is being covered. As an example, on Saturday last, when flu; English rugby league team was playing New South Wales, the match lasted for 89 minutes and a broadcast was given for approximately 73 minutes of this time. Sixteen minutes only was devoted to starters, descriptions, results and other information of the five races decided during this period. Had this match been a tost match the time given to races would have been still further reduced. The Australian broadcasting Commission sporting staff lias been instructed not to cross to a race description he fore the field has actually started and to return to the broadcast of any other sporting event as soon as possible sifter the conclusion of the race. If a match being described holds sufficient public interest, results only of i .ices are given and only important races are described as briefly as possible. Whilst appreciating its obligation to the followers of cricket, football, &c, the commission cannot disregard the vast public who are interested in racing, many of whom cannot receive this service from any other source. With only one metropolitan transmitter at its disposal, the other carrying a musical programme for those who arc not interested in sport, it is impossible to please all its listeners all the time. In the country, many listeners are solely dependent on the national regional transmitter w’hich carries the Australian Broadcasting Commission Saturday sporting service. The commission’s sporting staff has been instructed to use its judgment and to avoid crossing from a description of a match at a vital stage to lake a race description or give a result, and within the limits of human error this instruction is carried out. The commission considers that the present organization gives the best service to the most people.
Debate resinned from the 6th June (vide page 3772), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill, as its title implies, provides machinery for the purpose of altering the Constitution so as to prevent deadlocks between the Houses of this Parliament following a double dissolution. The subject has been well canvassed during the debate. Many suggestions for the improvement of the bill and for methods o.£ giving more detailed consideration to the problem that it involves, have been made both by supporters of the Government and by members of the Opposition, lt seems to me that the Government has been too hasty in introducing the measure. “When it was introduced, it was hailed as a bombshell that would frighten members of the Opposition and, presumably, make them mend their ways. But members of the Government parties must now realize, after giving the matter closer consideration, that the bill should have been more carefully considered before it was presented to us and that the scheme certainly must be examined exhaustively, together with alternative proposals, before it is put to the people. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), whose name is renowned because of the part that his father played in framing the Australian Constitution, has suggested that a conference he organized, or a committee appointed, for the purpose of considering, on a nonparty basis, the bill and other schemes for resolving the problem to which it is directed. That suggestion, I believe, commends itself to many supporters of the Government and is generally approved by members of the Opposition. This is not a party political proposition and it certainly should not be treated as such. The problem with which the bill is intended to cope is a continuing problem that must be faced by every government. Therefore, we should give serious consideration to any alternative scheme that may be proposed and should subject the bill itself to the most critical examination. We must consider the situation that may arise at any time from the present composition of this Parliament and examine the allegations that have been made by the Government and its supporters before we seek to establish machinery that will be used permanently to deal with the prevention of deadlocks following double dissolutions, if and when they occur. I do not admit that a vital need for such new machinery has yet arisen.
We have heard a great deal of talk about deadlocks and “we have been told that the Government’s measures are being obstructed and its plans defeated. Such statements are not true. No member of the Government can honestly say that the Opposition has used its majority in the Senate for any purpose other than that of giving earnest consideration to the Government’s measures. It is true, of course, that the Opposition in the Senate has amended Government legislation. But it has given very sound reasons in favour of the adoption of its amendments and the Government, although it has used its power in this chamber to reject them, has not condemned them in’ principle. It has not denied the force of the arguments that have been advanced in favour of the Opposition’s proposals. The Government’s objection to one amendment that was made to a bill by the Opposition in the Senate was that it could not find the finance necessary to give effect to the amendment. Clearly, the only real attempt that has been made by the Opposition in the Senate to amend Government legislation has not represented an unjustified use of its numbers in that chamber. 1 refer now to other measures that the Government has either introduced or foreshadowed. The Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950 has been passed by this House and is now under consideration in the Senate. That is another measure to which serious consideration must be given, and nobody can rightly say at this stage that the Opposition in the Senate is treating it with anything but the earnestness that it merits.
– Order ! The honorable member must not allude to the proceedings in the Senate.
– I am sorry, sir. I bow to your ruling. My point, of course, is that the bill relates to the Senate and not to any other part of the parliamentary machinery. It does not refer to the House of Representatives and has no relation to it. It is solely concerned with the prevention of possible deadlocks. I point out, Mr. Speaker, that the House is discussing a bill for an act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Senate. Therefore, it seems to me-
– The provisions of this bill will operate only in the event of a double dissolution.
– That is so, but I contend that the bill has been introduced at a time when it appears that the Government’s legislative programme is not being defeated, frustrated or delayed by the failure of the Senate to pass bills. In those circumstances, a double dissolution is neither possible nor likely, and this bill is not necessary. I am endeavouring, Mr. Speaker, to establish the point that this bill should not be passed until more serious consideration is given to it than it has yet received.
However, I pass from that matter, in conformity with Mr. Speaker’s ruling, and point out that the present situation has arisen because the last Parliament decided to alter the system of voting in Senate elections. The position which existed in the last Parliament was not unique in our parliamentary history, and the last Parliament considered that a situation in which the Senate consisted of 33 Government supporters and three Opposition supporters was intolerable. We had to contemplate, whenever a substantial shift of public opinion occurred, that a. similar division of party strengths in the Senate could result. Therefore, the Chifley Government, with the general concurrence of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, provided for the introduction of the system of proportional representation into the elections for the Senate. All honorable members at that time realized that the adoption of that system would make inevitable, over a period of years, a close relation between the strengths of the Government and Opposition parties in the Senate, and would also make certain that, from time to time, deadlocks could occur. Despite that fact, all the political parties that were represented in this House and in the Senate agreed that a change in the method of voting was necessary, and the system of proportional representation was adopted. No sinister motives were imputed to the decision of the Chifley Government in that matter by members of the Liberal party and the Australian
Country party, who then constituted the Opposition in this House. It is true that they claimed that all senators should retire when the Eighteenth Parliament was dissolved, and that the people should have been asked, at the general election on the 10th December last, to elect 60 senators. However, it was not possible to give effect to that proposal. The provisions of the Constitution relative to a double dissolution could not have been complied with without a sham fight between the Senate and the House of Representatives, and even in that event, the GovernorGeneral might not have been prepared to recognize it as a real fight between the two chambers. His Excellency would have had the right, I presume, not to grant a double dissolution because of the improper nature of the proceedings that would have been required to enable all the members of the Senate in the Eighteenth Parliament to retire simultaneously. Therefore, it is clear that, with that exception, members of the present Government when they were in Opposition, and members of the present Opposition when they were in Government, were united in the view that the situation which existed at that time in the Senate had to be changed, and that the only satisfactory system for Senate elections was proportional representation.
– That was an important exception.
– I agree with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) that it was an important exception, but I have endeavoured to point out the impossibility of obtaining a double dissolution before the last general election. All the senators could not have retired simultaneously unless all the formalities had been observed of having the Senate twice reject a bill which had been transmitted to it by the House of Representatives. The proceedings would have been farcical if the Chifley Government had attempted to adopt the suggestion of the Opposition parties at that time.
– The Labour party had a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, and, therefore, a double dissolution would not have been necessary.
– I have been endeavouring to show that the Chifley Government would have been obliged to reduce the proceedings to a farce in order to achieve a double dissolution in 1949. The Labour party then had a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. The Constitution provides that before a double dissolution may h« granted, the Senate must reject on two occasions a hill which has been transmitted to it by the House of Representatives. Therefore, the position would have been that the Labour majority in the Senate would have been obliged to reject, on two occasions, a bill that had been passed by the House of Representatives, in which there was also a Labour majority. After that, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, would have been obliged to inform the Governor-General that the Senate had twice failed to pass a bill, and to advise His Excellency to grant a double dissolution. That procedure would have been, not a formality, but a farce. Although the 36 senators in the last Parliament could not have retired simultaneously unless a double dissolution had been granted. In the circumstances that then prevailed, all honorable members agreed that the system of proportional representation for Senate elections should be given a trial. I admit that the voting for the Senate at the last general election could not have destroyed the Labour party’s majority in that chamber.
Deadlocks in government in. the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States are by no means new experiences. The present situation in the Parliament of the Commonwealth has existed for years in every State with the exception of Queensland, and New South Wales. The position in New South Wales in that respect has been remedied only quite recently. ‘Governments in every State, particularly in Western Australia, have been elected on a clear and unequivocal vote to give effect to certain matters in their legislative programmes. Yet, when they have attempted to do so, the upper houses have rejected their legislation, and, finally, the governments have abandoned those measures in despair, because they had no means, after the managers representing both chambers had conferred, of giving ffect to their promises to people. Therefore, I take little notice of the crocodile tears which Government supporters have shed in this debate, because the situation with which this bill seeks to deal has not arisen in this Parliament, although as I have pointed out, it has frequently existed in the States. It is certainly true that we expect that a government should be able to give effect to its legislative programme. The only reason for the acceptance of the bicameral system, in which members of the upper house do not retire simultaneously, or are elected on restricted franchises, is, I assume, to prevent the hurried passing of legislation during a period of great emotional disturbance. Such a situation might have existed during the last general election campaign. The government of the da’”’, with a majority in the lower house, should be able to prevail over the majority of members of the upper house. That situation should exist, whether it be brought about by means of a double dissolution, a referendum and a mandate from the people arising therefrom, or a conference of managers appointed by both chambers to discuss matters in dispute. The bill provides that after a double disolution, one-half of the members of the Senate shall be elected for six years, and the other half for three years. I do not desire to labour the point, .because it has already been well canvassed, but it is clear that the proposed new system of election for the Senate is far from being completely satisfactory, and that other systems should be considered. ] propose at this point to deal with two matters that appear to me to have been overlooked in this debate. The first is that at every general election, many informal votes are recorded. At the last general election, more than 500,000 votes that were cast for the Senate were informal. I realize that some people deliberately make their vote informal, but a big percentage of the informal votes is attributed to the fact that many electors are confused by the number of candidates, and the number of ballot papers. More informal- votes are cast when electors are required to vote in one division for candidates for the Senate and for the House of Representatives, than when they are asked to vote only for candidates for the Senate.
– At the next general election, the Communist party will not have candidates.
– We can never tell who will seek election. Obviously, many people have difficulty in casting a formal vote, and if their confusion is increased by the addition of a third ballot-paper, the number of informal votes may be substantially greater than that cast at the last general election. The first thing that we should seek to avoid is the possibility of increasing the number of informal votes. However, with the provision of an additional ballot-paper at general elections, the number of such votes will perhaps be increased by at least onethird.
At previous general elections, the successful party, or coalition of parties, has received a majority of approximately from 20,000 to’ 30,000 of the aggregate votes cast. That is a narrow margin indeed. We also know from past experience that the .position of individual candidates or groups of candidates on ballotpapers inevitably influences many electors. Candidates, or groups of candidates, whose names appear at the top of a ballot-paper or in a position that is regarded as being more favorable than other positions gain a considerable number of votes for that reason alone. If two ballotpapers are to be issued in respect of elections of the Senate, that factor gives rise to further complications. For instance, the Labour party group of candidates may appear in the most favorable position on the ballot-paper in one ballot whilst the Liberal party group, or the Australian Country party group, may appear in the most favorable position on the ‘ballotpaper in the second ballot. Having reward to the narrow overall majority by which parties have been returned to office in the past, it is very probable that under such conditions three Labour senators could be returned in one ‘ballot and three non-Labour senators could be returned in the other ballot. Should that occur in the election of senators in several of the States, the whole purpose of this measure could be nullified. Therefore, the Government should give further consideration to this proposal. It could do so by referring it to .an all-party committee, as the honorable member for Angas (Mr.
Downer) and other honorable member.! have suggested, or it could consider the various suggestions that have been mad’: in the course of this debate to overcome, the difficulties to which I have referred.
As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, this proposal is clumsy. It does not. meet the requirements of the situation with which the Government seeks to deal. The Government proposes to alter the Constitution in order to deal with what is a temporary electoral difficulty. Even if this measure should fulfil the best hopes of its originator and of the Government, it will, at best, solve the difficulties arising from a deadlock only until such time as the following ordinary general election takes place when a situation similar to that which now exists might recur. In view of that possibility; it Ls useless for the Government to persist with this proposal. Both the Government and the Opposition parties have a continuing responsibility in this matter, and we should not limit our consideration to circumstances that may prevail for only a limited number of years. Therefore, we should not attempt to alter the Constitution so as to make a. permanent change, merely in order to meet circumstances that can exist only temporarily. A future government may decide to re-institute the system that existed before the last election in spite of all its shortcomings. The Opposition has an equal responsibility with the Government in this matter, particularly as we believe that in a short time Labour will again assume the reins of office. We must deal with the problem of deadlocks in the Parliament in a more effective way than that provided under this measure. The Opposition accepts the principle that under our bi-cameral parliamentary system the views of the government of the day should triumph over the Opposition of a hostile upper chamber. The framers of the Constitution sought to give effect to that principle by making provision for double dissolutions, whilst in the British Parliament it is provided that legislation rejected by the House of Lords shall come into force after the lapse of a certain period of time.
I urge the Government to consider this problem on a non-party basis. If it does so, I believe tha t a final solution will be evolved. The Government has intimated that it is prepared to approach in that way differences that have arisen on two major measures in respect of which it has accepted some of the amendments suggested by the Opposition. On those two measures, the Government has intimated that it is prepared to confer with the Opposition with a view to reaching agreement. That procedure would be independent of the machinery provided for conferences of party managers. I believe that if the Government followed that course in respect of the measure now before us, we should be able to evolve a system to avoid deadlocks that would work to the maximum benefit of the Parliament and of the people.
.- I wish to deal with certain aspects of the measure which, I believe, have not been sufficiently considered up to the present. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) followed the example of his colleagues, and attempted to cloud the real issue that arises under the measure and to confuse the minds of the people concerning the Government’s intention in introducing it. It is important, therefore, that the object of the measure should be re-stated at every opportunity in order to dispel any misunderstanding that may have arisen concerning its purpose. The object of the bill is to avoid deadlocks arising between the House of Representatives and the Senate following a double dissolution. We should keep that thought foremost in our minds all the time. All honorable senators are obliged to go to election at the one time only as the result of unresolvable disagreement between the two houses, and a double dissolution has occurred on only one occasion since federation. That was in July, 1914, when the then Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, granted a double dissolution on the advice of the government of the day. However, the conditions existing to-day are vastly different from those that existed in 1914. At that time, the conception of the Senate as being a house of review was generally accepted. Party political manoeuvres have interfered considerably with the function of the Senate which has been reduced almost to a party house. It is useless for Opposition members to- say that they are eager to assist the Government in the passage of ite legislation when their colleagues in the Senate continue to frustrate the Government at every opportunity. After all, actions, not words, count, and the actions of the Opposition senators have left us in no doubt of their purpose. During the short life of this Government there have been many occasions on which Opposition members, both in this House and in the Senate, have plainly indicated their intention to retard the passage of legislation placed before them. The Opposition in the Senate used the weight of its numbers to amend the sessional order relating to sitting days. One outstanding instance of the Opposition’s failure to co-operate with the Government was the action of Opposition senators in refusing to form a quorum to enable a sitting of the Senate to be held.
– The honorable member is treading on dangerous ground. [ was not permitted to refer to that matter.
– I am referring to the manner in which the business of the Senate has been taken out of the hands of the Government.
-Order ! The honorable member must npt refer to the proceedings of the Senate.
– I had intended to connect my remarks with the bill in which the name of another place features very prominently.
– The honorable member will be in order in referring to the other place as “the Senate”, but a standing order specifically provides that no honorable member shall allude to any debate or proceedings of the current session in the Senate, or to any measure pending therein.
– I shall endeavour to observe your ruling, Mr. Speaker. In 1948, when a government formed by the present Opposition party was in office, it introduced legislation to increase the membership of the Senate to 60 by providing for the election of ten senators to represent each State, and it changed the system of Senate voting by introducing a system of proportional representation, which provides for small minorities. All parties agree now that in the event of a double dissolution the parties in the newly elected Senate may be equal, which must inevitably mean a stalemate, irrespective of what party may be in power in the House of. Representatives. The bill now before us provides a solution of such a problem as its short title indicates. It provides for the issue to the electors of two ballot-papers, one on which will indicate those who shall be appointed for three years, and the other those who shall be appointed for six years. The adoption of the method proposed by the Government will, it is thought, prevent a stalemate in the event of a double dissolution. There are many reasons why the Government should give serious consideration to the problems that might arise in the event of a double dissolution. Apart from the fact that a stalemate would render the Parliament unworkable, it ie also extremely vexatious for the people to have hanging over their heads the threat of a double dissolution which may not resolve the deadlock. We have witnessed the experiences of other countries that have found their parliaments unworkable. If I remember aright, there have been four governments in France in the last two years, and as a result the power and prestige of that country have been greatly weakened. We must provide against the possibility of the continuance of a stalemate after a double dissolution and at the same time we should seek to. cure any weaknesses that are found to exist in our electoral system.
Opposition members are not prepared to admit that real dangers do not exist in the Senate electoral system. They have criticized the hill on the grounds that it is wrong in form and inadequate in scope. Those were the terms of the criticism levelled at the bill by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) when he led the second-reading debate on behalf of the Opposition. The honorable gentleman did not make a single constructive suggestion, other than that the Senate might become more effective if a committee system were introduced. He ref erred at great length to the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate, and based his argument on the fact that in the past casual vacancies in the Senate have frequently been filled by persons of different political faith from that of those whose places they have taken. Casual vacancies are filled by the Parliament of the State in the representation of which the vacancy occurs. The choice is made by the vote of a joint meeting of both Houses of the Parliament of that State. In every instance the candidate selected is accepted irrespective of party affiliations. The State Parliaments are in a much better position than is the Parliament of the Commonwealth to decide who should fill a casual vacancy.
The necessity for this bill arises largely from, the Opposition’s meddlesome tinkering at the Constitution in 1948 and the political manoeuvres in which it indulged in order to gain some of its objectives.
– The Labour Government did not make any proposal for the alteration of the Constitution.
– That is so, but it altered the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act solely for the purpose of gaining a party political advantage. There are good grounds for believing that the alteration was made for the sole purpose of implementing Labour’s policy which provides for the abolition of State parliaments and of the Senate. The Australian Labour party has not disguised its desire to abolish State parliaments. It crippled the power of State governments by withdrawing the taxing powers of the States. The uniform income tax legislation, which was introduced as an emergency measure during the war remained in force during the whole of the eight years in which Labour governments were in office. Labour’s policy has been carried forward step by step, each step bringing closer to realization the desired result. To-day, the State Parliaments are gradually losing the support of the people. The attendance at State political meetings has greatly fallen off in recent years. That was particularly noticeable during the recent general election campaign in Victoria. The number of persons who refrained from voting in the general election in Victoria showed an alarming increase, notwithstanding the fact that compulsory voting is in operation in that State. Another State election will take place in New South Wales in less than a fortnight’s time, and I am sure that a large number of the electors in that State will fail to vote at that election despite the legislative provision for compulsory voting. Interest in State politics is on the wane, and because of that decreasing interest the Labour party is gradually attaining its objective. Another step towards the attainment of that objective was taken by this Parliament in 1948 when, under a Labour administration, it adopted legislation that provided for an increase of the size of the Parliament. That increase of membership, particularly as applied to this House, has put another nail in the coffin of State parliamentary government because of the fact that many people are beginning to feel, quite rightly, that they are being overgoverned. Naturally, if the people feel rOrY keenly that they are being overgoverned, the first legislative bodies to go into the discard will be the State parliaments. I consider that the Chifley Labour Government introduced the legislation to provide for an increase of the size of this Parliament only as a step towards its objective, which is the abolition of parliamentary government by States. I am sure that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who is sitting at the table at the moment, will agree with me that as soon as the State parliaments have been abolished the objectives of the Labour party will be carried out to their fullest degree.
The Labour party also desires to abolish the Senate. It wishes to put an end to the bicameral system of government. However, when the Chifley Administration desired to increase the number of members of this House as a step along the path towards the abolition of the State parliaments, it discovered that the Constitution provided that an increase of the membership of this House was dependent upon an increase of the size of the Senate. As a. result, although the Labour party policy provides for the abolition of the Senate, that Labour Administration had to bring down legislation to provide for an increase of the number of senators so that it could thereby automatically gain an increase of the number of members of this House.
The introduction of a system of proportional representation for the election of senators has many weaknesses. Under it, the margin between the numbers of senators on either side of that chamber would be so small after a total Senate election that the possibility of a stalemate occurring would be very great. I consider, therefore, that unless some safeguards, such as that intended by this bill, are provided in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, we shall find that the Senate itself will lose a tremendous amount of public respect. If that happens, then one of the objectives of the Labour party will be on the way to accomplishment, because such a condition would be one step nearer to the abolition of the Senate. That result would, I am sure, be applauded by the members of the Opposition. I believe that if honorable members on this side of the House favour the retention of the bicameral system of parliamentary government they should do all that is in their power to block up any holes that exist in legislation covering the method used in Senate elections. This bill is designed to block up one such hole. It is intended to provide a formula that will prevent, as far as is possible, a stalemate occurring in the Senate following a double dissolution.
From the beginning of the work of this Nineteenth Parliament the Government has been faced with legislative difficulties that were manufactured by the preceding Government. It may overcome those difficulties with the help of the people, when the people have realized the effects of some of the legislative actions of the previous Administration. The Go- eminent is to be congratulated on the fact that it is endeavouring, by means of the present measure, to prevent the difficulties that will and must occur, under the system of proportional representation, iv. a Senate elected at a general election, following a double dissolution. In attempting to provide the safeguards that are contained in this measure the Government has acted upon the assumption that the people of Australia have an earnest desire that effect should be given to policy upon which the Government was elected to office. In order to ensure that that popular desire is brought to fruition we should do our best to decrease the possibility of a stalemate occurring in the Senate after a double dissolution, because all the indications up to the present have shown that Labour party senators desire to cause a certain amount of frustration of the Government’s legislative programme. If there is, indeed, a desire on the part of the Labour majority in the Senate to hamstring the Government’s legislation by wasting time or by adopting party tactics, precautions should be taken to ensure that, in the event of a double dissolution, the Senate elected at the subsequent general election will have a sufficient disparity in numbers on each hide to enable whatever government is in power to be assured of a reasonable majority that would enable it to carry through its legislative programme. The Senate was constituted solely as a house of review. I suggest that, because of the tactics that have been adopted in that chamber recently, it is necessary that a safeguard, such as is contained in this hill, be provided. Recently, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) directed attention to the fact that although one-sixth of the lifetime pf the present Parliament had expired, the Liberal-Australian Country party Government had introduced only four bills, and also that no legislation had yet passed through the Senate.
– No legislation at all.
– I am not sure whether I understand the honorable member’s interjection aright, but I assume that he agrees with the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne. That statement indicates very clearly that a. close working arrangement exists between the Opposition in this House and the Labour party Opposition in the Senate. If that kind of thing continues the stage must be reached when the Government will have to consider its position, and if it becomes necessary for it to do so it will be forced to provide against the weaknesses in our laws. We now realize that the alterations of the strength of the Senate and the House of Representatives that followed legislation introduced by the Chifley Government in 1948, had the specific purposes of attempting to carry out the Australian Labour party’s policy of effecting the abolition of State parliaments by first bringing them into public contempt, and also of taking another step towards the eventual abolition of the Senate. Honorable members opposite should take the present opportunity to say whether or not that legislation was introduced for the purposes that I have stated. If they deny that the size of this Parliament was increased as a step towards the Labour party’s objectives, then they should support this hill. If they do not support this bill then it is reasonable to conclude that they desire to bring about the eventual abolition of both the Senate and the State legislatures.
I Quorum formed.’]
.- In addressing myself to this bill, I should like to make one or two remarks in regard to matters that were raised by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), who expressed the opinion that the Labour party, when it agreed to an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives, had in mind solely the abolition of the State parliaments. I assure the honorable member for Isaacs that the Labour party’s platform does not contain any provision for the abolition of State parliaments. On the contrary, the Labour party believes that it is desirable to re-arrange the States of Australia so as to give more effective government according to a. principle similar to that which has been adopted in the United States of America where a country only 25,000 square miles bigger than Australia has 48 States.
In reply to any suggestion that the aim of the Labour party is the eventual abolition of the Senate I point out that if anything is calculated to bring about the abolition of the Senate and bring it about quickly it is the bill that is now before the House. This measure proposes to overcome deadlocks which are inevitable under the bicameral system of government. Ever since the bicameral system has operated in this and other countries deadlocks between the house representing the people and the house representing special interests or areas have frequently occurred and have considerably taxed the ingenuity of the legislators and statesmen who have tried to find some way by which they might be overcome. This bill is one of the many that have been introduced during the last 50 years in many parts of the world in order to overcome what is known as the “ deadlock “ between the two houses of parliament and I suggest that it does not provide a satisfactory solution to a problem that has always existed and will continue to exist while the bicameral system of government is in operation. During the last sixteen years efforts have been made in the State parliaments to overcome deadlocks between the Houses of Assembly and the Legislative Councils of the various States. An attempt to overcome the problem was made in New South “Wales by the abolition of a nominee house and the election of another type of legislative council which cannot, by the widest stretch of the imagination, be regarded as fitting within the democratic framework of Australian methods of government.
Within four months of my becoming a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, that council had to consider a bill that was sent to it from the Legislative Assembly in regard to deadlock? between the assembly and the council. Within four months of Parliament having met a dissolution of the assembly took place in an .effort to find a means of overcoming the deadlock between that body and the Legislative Council. The subsequent election was followed by numerous conferences between the two houses of Parliament in order to find a satisfactory solution to the problem. Eventually, what was alleged to be a solution was found and the constitution was altered. If a deadlock does become a matter of real politics in the State of Victoria, and the provisions of the constitution are put into operation, the assembly will be dissolved. If, following its dissolution and re-election, the measure is opposed again then both houses of Parliament are dissolved and an election takes place, it is probable that the members of the Legislative Assembly will be returned with their action endorsed by the people who elected them, and that members of the Legislative Council, representing special interests with a. property qualification, would also be returned with their action endorsed by their particular electors. There would then be a meeting of both houses of that Parliament and a majority would decide the extent to which the bill was to be accepted or rejected. One can see from what has happened in the States within the last few years that the problem of overcoming deadlocks is not so easy as to be met by the mere passing of legislation.
This bill is different from any others that have come before the legislature in regard to this question because this is a bill to deal with deadlocks which yet have to arise. No deadlock has taken place so far as this Parliament is concerned. It is true that certain legislation has been passed by the House of Representatives and has gone to another place but, up to the present, none of that legislation has been rejected. It has been amended but it has not been rejected. So far, there is no sign of a deadlock between the two houses. In fact, yesterday the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) told the House that during the life of this Parliament there would be no double dissolution and he was satisfied that whatever the difference may arise between the two Houses of this legislature those differences could be resolved without an appeal to the people. When a Minister has expressed those views it is surprising to find that legislation is brought into this House for the purpose of overcoming a deadlock, which, apparently, at least one Minister does not believe will arise.
In the 49 years that have elapsed since the Commonwealth Parliament commenced to operate only on one occasion has there been a double dissolution because of a disagreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Strange to relate, the deadlock did not arise as the result of any matter of urgency so far as the electors were concerned nor was it of any paramount political interest. The double dissolution took place because a dispute was manufactured. It did not arise over a question of policy and it did not arise from any matter that had been contained in a policy speech. But at the conclusion of the 1913 general election the Liberal party, led by Mr. Cook, was returned as a government with a majority of one. The Labour party had a majority in the Senate. Whatever legislation was submitted to the two houses on matters affecting the politics of the moment, apparently was passed without difficulty but in order that the Labour majority in the Senate might be destroyed the Government determined that it would introduce a bill on the question of preference to unionists. That question had not been a political issue at the 1913 elections. Mr. Cook, through his Attorney-General, Sir William Irvine, introduced into the House of Representatives a bill to prohibit the granting of preference to unionists in the Commonwealth Public Service. That bill was passed by the House of Representatives but was defeated by the Senate. Prom the House of Representatives, it again went to the Senate and was defeated once more and upon that question only the double dissolution took place in 1914. The result of the dissolution was the defeat of the Government. Apparently, the people recognized that the double dissolution had been secured on grounds that had been manufactured and that the deadlock was not a real deadlock but had been engineered. The Cook Government was defeated and the Fisher Government was returned to office. Taking into consideration the decision of the electors after the double dissolution of 1914 and the fact that, up to the present, no legislation that has been passed by this House has been rejected by the Senate, this bill can be regarded as premature. It is a bill that has been introduced in contemplation of something that has not yet arisen. During the history of federation, Labour governments have suffered more from being in a minority in the Senate than have anti-Labour or non-Labour governments. A Labour government had to carry on for two years, between 1929 and 1931, with a majority against it in the Senate. Between the years 1941 and 1943 the Curtin Government had to govern although its supporters were in a minority in the Senate. It is quite clear in the light of the history of the Commonwealth and of this House and the Senate, that the mere fact that the House of Representatives is controlled by one party and the Senate by another will not prevent the business of the country from being carried on. There is no doubt that under such circumstances it could also be conducted in the future without any great difficulty.
The bicameral system of government was brought into operation for certain specific reasons. A number of reasons has been advanced for the advantage of two legislative houses rather than one, but generally it may be conceded that there are four main reasons for a system of bicameral government as against a unicameral system. Those reasons are briefly as follows: - First, it permits the representation of areas as well as of populations. That applies so far as our Senate is concerned, because it was originally intended to represent States as States rather than populations as populations. Secondly, one house is a check upon the other. The existence of two chambers tends to more careful deliberation and prevents hasty and illconsidered legislation. Thirdly, each house will remedy the defects of the legislation passed by the other. Fourthly, it affords the granting of representation to different classes and interests. If those reasons be sound, I suppose that the general advantage of the second chamber can be expressed by saying that it is a house of review. If the Senate is to be regarded as a house of review it is necessary that it shall be able to function as a branch of the legislature, express its opinion and be able to make the amendments to legislation that it considers necessary. When it believes that the legislation forwarded to it is contrary to the people’s interests or to the national interest, it should be able to make such alterations or amendments as it desires to make. If one believes in the bicameral system, as does the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), one must realize that the powers of the second chamber should enable it to carry out the functions which is was intended to carry out. If the Senate cannot function as a chamber of review, it is useless for it to exist. If the intention is to make the Senate a rubber stamp which will automatically give approval to every act of the House of Representatives, then it will not be carrying out the functions of a house of review. If it were merely a rubber stamp, it would not be acting as a part of the legislature designed to protect the interests of the people, and it should cease to exist. One cannot give allegiance to the bicameral system and then advocate that under no circumstances shall the second chamber of the legislature be permitted to carry out the functions.. which the bicameral system envisages for it. For that reason I suggest to the chamber that the whole matter should be examined from the standpoint of the sincerity of the Government in submitting this measure. Does the Government desire to place itself in such a position that its decisions as approved by this House shall under no circumstances be subject to criticism, review, amendment or anything else. If that is to be the method by which legislation is to be carried out in Australia, consideration must be given to whether the Senate is necessary and whether its existence should continue.
Another matter raised by this bill is the submission of a proposal to alter the Constitution to the people at a referendum. Immediately that issue is raised, then in addition to the bicameral system the whole matter of the system of checks, which the people themselves have evolved over a long time to prevent the extension and misuse of authority by those who govern them for the time being, must also be raised. One of the reasons why referendums have been defeated in the past is not that the people did not believe in the justice of the proposals placed before them, but that, as the history of government particularly during the last 200 years indicates, the people are suspicious of granting power to those who govern them. That is best illustrated by the events at the time of the drafting of the American constitution, which were referred to yesterday by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). In 1788, the great fear of the American colonists when they mot at Philadelphia, was that when they established a parliament of their own they might hand over to it powers which could be used to oppress them. As a result of that fear some remarkable checks were devised and embodied in the American constitution.
Those checks are best evidenced by the method of government in the United States to-day. The executive consists of persons who are not members of the American legislature. The President himself is elected by a vote of the people, but his cabinet ministers are not drawn from the legislators. They are appointed by him to be members of his executive. The House of Representatives is elected by the .people. In the early days the Senate was elected by the legislatures of the States because it was a body designed to represent their interests. To provide a check on the executive and on both houses of the Parliament, the Supreme Court was set up and was given the task of ensuring that neither the executive nor the legislature should a* any time exceed its powers. The framers of the Constitution took great consolation from the fact that although they had been oppressed in the past, they had provided in the American constitution a series ‘ of checks which would enable pressure by any one section of the government to be prevented by the other sections.
In attempting so to alter the Constitution as to make the Senate more subservient to the House of Representatives, the Government is up against the fear of the public that any change in the Constitution which will increase the strength of one section of the Parliament to the detriment of the other is bound to lead to results which will not be satisfactory to the .people themselves. Because that fear of the usurpation of authority by the few against the interests of the many has always been expressed in the fight for constitutional government within the English-speaking countries, it will be expressed when the matter goes to the people. Let us assume that the referendum is carried. How is the proposal likely to react so far as the people are concerned? The proposal introduces a system of election which deliberately inflates the vote given to the majority and deliberately deflates the vote given to the minority. As was pointed out when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made his second-reading speech, under the present system of proportion a.l representation if the voting is close and ten people are to be elected from two groups, five from each group will be returned. If voting is as close as it can bc, as has happened in the past when one party got 51 per cent, and the other 49 per cent, of the votes, the system proposed to be operated will ensure that the extra 2 per cent, of the votes will result in six persons being elected to represent the 51 per cent, as against four to represent the 49 per cent. Under the system of using two ballot-papers, one for the election of five senators for six years and one for the election of five senators for three years, for each term of office, three will belong to one political party and two to another party. Therefore, although the difference in the total votes as between the two parties throughout the States will be only 2 per cent., because of the method of talcing the vote and of counting it the ratio of the seats of the two parties as a result of the poll will be six seats to four. Those who hope to win the poll are anxious to do so in such a way as to ensure the inflation of the value of the votes they receive and the deflation of the value of the votes that their opponents receive. That is the wrong way to deal with deadlocks and the difficulties in regard to the two houses. It is by no means certain that if this bill is carried the result will be as the Government anticipates. It is quite conceivable, for a number of reasons, that if there is a double dissolution three of the States might vote in one way and three in another. If that occurs the result will be that the number of senators in each group will again be equal, and the deadlock will accordingly not be resolved.
A further difficulty to be overcome is in the method by which the names of persons submitting themselves for election are to he placed upon the ballot-paper. They are to e placed in groups according to party, but the question of who shall have No. 1 position is left to chance. That can lead to some extraordinary results. At the last general election on the 10th December, the Communist party was fortunate enough to have its candidates for the Senate in Victoria drawn for number one position on the ballot-paper. Those candidates received more votes than did the Communist candidates in all the other
States. That was not because communism was stronger in Victoria than elsewhere, because, as all honorable members will agree, the membership and the organization of the Communist party are stronger in New South Wales than they are in Victoria. It happened for the simple reason that the names of Communist candidates were placed in the first position on the ballot-paper in Victoria. It is freely recognized that the party which draws number one position on the ballotpaper usually receives a greater proportion of votes than would otherwise be accorded to it. That factor also is likely to affect the situation.
The Minister for Labour and National Service .(Mr. Holt) has said that, in his opinion, members of the Labour party in the Senate have gone to extreme lengths to delay and sabotage the Government’s measures. I reiterate that members of the Senate, if they are to fulfil the functions of the bicameral system of government, have a right to debate, deliberate, amend and take such other action as they consider to be necessary to improve legislation so that it will operate in the best interests of the people. The Government has missed a glorious opportunity in presenting the bill. Fifty years have passed since our Constitution was adopted, and during that period many events have indicated the necessity for a review of the Constitution. Possibly the best way in which I can illustrate the widespread nature of that opinion is to quote a statement that was made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the second -read ing debate on the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill 1942. The right honorable gentleman, who was then Leader of the Opposition, said -
I should say that, in the first place, it seems to me that in Australia there are certain things which, constitutionally and from a government point of view, are very desirable. The first is that there shall be a new Constitution. T have arrived at that conclusion after years of experience in both State and Federal politics.
The Government would have acted in the best interests of the community if, when considering this measure in the first place, it had decided not to push forward with it but to say frankly to the Parliament, “ We believe that the time has arrived to make a thorough investigation of the posi tion of the Senate and, if need be, of the whole Constitution, and therefore we propose to appoint an all-party committee from both Houses of the Parliament for the purpose of making recommendations on such matters”. I believe that such acommittee could establish unanimity concerning the constitutional alterations that ought to be made and that, in such circumstances, proposals submitted to the people at a referendum would be endorsed by them. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) rightly pointed out yesterday, no referendum proposal has been carried without the support of the major political parties. No scheme for constitutional alteration will be adopted by the people at a referendum unless it has the wholehearted support of the political parties. Questions that ought to be considered by an all-party committee concern the suggested abolition of the Senate, the election of senators from areas within States, and the increase or decrease of the membership of the Senate. I believe that the Government would be able to achieve good results if it followed the course of procedure that I have suggested instead of pressing, on with the legislation that we are now considering.
.- The object of the bill is clearly set out in a few words in its short title - the “ Constitution Alteration (Avoidance of Double Dissolution Deadlocks) Bill “. That title slates the real intention of the Government; no more and no less. Members of the Opposition have suggested that the purpose of the bill should be widened and they have “ drawn many red herrings across the trail “ in the hope of confusing the issue. However, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated the simple object of the measure in the clearest terms and the Opposition has failed to camouflage it. We have only to recollect events of the last few months in order to appreciate why the Government proposes to enact this measure. Just before the 10th December, 1949, Australian Country party and Liberal party candidates told the people over the radio, through the press and at street meetings by day and by night, “ If you return us to power on the 10th December we will ban the Communist party, we will pay endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child in every family, and we will abolish petrol rationing “. The Government has already introduced and passed through this House legislation designed to ban the Communist party and to extend the range of child endowment, but the Opposition has used the power of its majority in the Senate in order to. delay and obstruct that legislation. I say also that, had it been necessary to pass legislation for the abolition of petrol rationing, the Opposition would have protested loudly against the measure. Certainly any such bill would have been rejected by the Labour Opposition in the Senate. That is undeniable. The sole object of this bill is to avert deadlocks in this Parliament as a result of elections following double dissolutions. In discussing its provisions, my main purpose is to answer some of the extravagant statements that have been made about it by members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) said -
The bill is to gain a political advantage.
The only political advantage that the Government is trying to gain is the opportunity to put into operation the proposals for which the people gave a mandate on the 10th December. If I were to add to the title of the bill, I should expand it to read “ a bill to provide for the avoidance of double dissolution deadlocks and to allow the Government to implement the will of the people “. In fact, the Government is seeking merely to give effect to the popular will.
Party political advantage in relation to Senate elections was secured by the Chifley Government when it saw fit to introduce a new method of electing senators. The Leader of the Opposition, has said -
The new way of voting will cause confusion.
For the purpose of supporting that assertion the right honorable gentleman said that during the last general election he had walked into a .poorly lit booth - a polling booth, I assume - and had found confusion there. I should say that the right thing to do in such circumstances would be to provide a better light in the booth. Instead of attempting to impede the passage of the bill, members of the Oppo- sition should let some light into their minds by studying the wishes of the people. The Government parties received a specific mandate from the people at the last election, and the Opposition, in opposing its measures now, is trying to frustrate the will of the people. The Leader of the Opposition said that he had witnessed confusion in the poorly lit polling booth that he visited and that, if there were two ballot-papers for a Senate election following a double dissolution as the bill provides, the confusion would be even greater than before. That was a futile statement, and we should attach no importance to it. The present deadlock situation in this Parliament has resulted from the changed method of voting at Senate elections that the Chifley Government introduced. One member of the Opposition has referred to the situation that existed during the regime of the Scullin Government, which was faced by a hostile majority in the Senate. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Senate at that time had been elected by the normal balloting procedure that had been employed ever since the inception of federation. The sudden alteration of the method of electing the Senate that was effected by the Chifley Government has brought about a situation that could not have occurred in normal circumstances. Therefore, this is a special bill with a special purpose. That purpose is to enable the Government to do what the people have asked it to do.
There is more to the Opposition’s attitude on this measure than meets the eye. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and other members of the Opposition have said, “You cannot put the feathers back in a plucked fowl “ ; hut apparently they have not realized that the fowl is not yet dead and may grow new feathers. The honorable member for Melbourne also used the expression, “You cannot unscramble an egg that has been scrambled “, referring to an enactment of the Chifley Government. Such statements by prominent members of the Labour party prove that they will endeavour at all costs to prevent this Government from repealing any legislation that was enacted by the Labour party when it was in power.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said that there will not be any deadlocks in this Parliament. If the honorable member had authority to give such an assurance, I have not the slightest doubt that the Prime Minister would withdraw this bill, for without deadlocks it would be unnecessary. But the Leader of the Opposition has not said that there will not be a deadlock, and I do not think that the honorable member for Bendigo had any more authority to make his statement than he had to advocate during the last election campaign the payment of endowment for the first child in every family at the rate of 5s. a week, when his leader opposed the proposition. Such statements by members of the Labour party do not carry any weight. The fact is that a Senate elected by a method not normally used has the power to reject legislation that is passed by this House. It is my opinion, and the considered opinion of men who have made a careful examination of the situation, that the Labour majority in the Senate will continue to exercise that power.
The honorable member for Melbourne described the bill as a secret weapon and said that nobody knew much about it until it was presented in this House. That statement was incorrect. Members of both Government parties knew about the bill before it was introduced. How many members of the Labour party knew, when they were in power, that the then Prime Minister proposed to announce that the private banks would be nationalized? I do not think that any of the rank and file members knew about that plan before it was announced.
– The Australian Labour party’s platform provides for the nationalization of banking.
– But the party had kept very quiet about that for a very long time. Its platform had included the socialization objective since 1921, but nothing was done about it until the present Leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister of the day, suddenly announced his intention to nationalize the private banks. At that stage, when the Labour party showed itself in its true colours, the people of Australia turned against it. They will not submit to socialism. They have rejected the Labour party’s proposals and have given this Government a mandate to repeal certain legislation that was enacted by the Chifley Government so that a reasonable state of affairs may be re-established in Australia. It is of the utmost importance that the Government should be able to give effect to that mandate. That is why it has brought down this bill. The object of the measure is to deal with an abnormal situation that exists now, not some normal event that may occur five or six years hence. Judging by the way in which the Labour Opposition is acting at present, I should think that a double dissolution is almost inevitable. But, if the Parliament went to the people without the machinery for which this bill provides, there would probably be a deadlock in the new Parliament and we should be no further ahead than we are now. Some Opposition speakers complained that the proposal to place the names of some candidates for election to the Senate on one .ballot-paper, and the names of other candidates for election to the Senate on another ballotpaper, would rob the people of their right to decide for whom they should vote for election for a period of six years and for whom they should vote for election for a period of three years. But every honorable member knows that, perhaps with one exception, people vote “ down the card “ in a Senate election. It is rot to state that this proposal will rob the people of their right to decide who shall be elected for six. years, and who shall be elected for three years.
– There has been one exception.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) may be able to cite one instance in 50 years. However, it is known that the people vote “ down the card “ in a Senate election, and this proposal will not rob them of any of their rights. After all, the various political parties place their candidates on the ballot-paper in the order that they think fit. Opposition members who raise that objection also are trying to cause confusion. The arguments that have been advanced by Opposition members against this bill do not carry any weight. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) began his speech by denning a politician as a man who looks forward to the next general election, and a statesman as a man who looks forward to the next ten years. At that point, the honorable gentleman described this measure as a politician’s bill. The truth is that the instances that he cited classify it as a statesman’s bill, because the Government, in introducing this legislation, is looking forward, not to the next general election, but to the next ten years. It is also looking forward to this bill ‘becoming law, and to having :i double dissolution, after which its legislation will not be delayed by the Senate. The Government hopes to lift the yoke of socialism from the people of Australia. I ii. 10, 15, 20. or even 50 years, the people will say, “ That bill was one of the best that has ever been passed by the Australian Parliament “. The people of Australia will not tolerate socialism, yet the Chifley Government tried to force through the Parliament, against their wishes, a number of measures that were socialist in every particular. A member of the Opposition said that a referendum on the proposal to avoid double dissolution deadlocks in the Senate would be a waste of money, and would be doomed to failure, unless the three political parties that are represented in this Parliament unanimously supported it. I am not convinced by that contention. During the last eight years, the Chifley Labour Government submitted a number of referendum proposals to the people, although the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were not in favour of them.
– The Liberal party and the Australian Country party supported many of those proposals in the Parliament, -but “ twisted “ on them during the referendum campaigns.
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) supported the Labour Government’s referendum proposals, and he should be aware that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party opposed them. On that ground, the previous Labour Government stands condemned because it submitted to the people a number of referendum proposals that were not supported by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Opposition members cannot escapethat fact, and it is futile for them to seek a party political advantage by advancing an argument now that they rejected a few years ago. The Opposition has also protested against the expense of conducting a referendum on this proposal but it has not thought in that way in the past. Did the Chifley Labour Government consider the matter of expense when it attempted to nationalize banking? It was not prepared to submit its banking proposals to the people for their approval, and the cost of litigation before the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council was approximately twice as much as the cost of a referendum. Various members of the Opposition have raised those matters, not because they have any relation to the bill, but in an endeavour to confuse the issue. They hope to persuade this Government to carry on under the existing conditions for the next three years. It would be easy for the Government to accept the present situation if it chose to disregardits obligation to implement the will of the people. Measures that were designed to give effect to its pre-election promises would be continually delayed, or amended, by the Senate, and bills would pass between the two chambers in merrygoroundfashion. But Australia is fortunate in having a Government that is anxious to give effect to the will of the people. It will not remain idle until the next general election. It is a democratic government of action, and it is prepared to ask the people to decide whether their will shall be frustrated by the Senate. I have not heard any member of the Opposition submit au alternative proposal for ending the deadlock.
– Then the honorable member must have been frequently absent from the chamber.
– If the honorable member for Batman were in the House as constantly as I am, he would have a very good record.
– I have.
– .Opposition members hope, by frequent interjections, to confuse the issue. Whenever the Government submits to the House a proposal that the Opposition does not favour, members of the Labour party immediately try to cloud the issue. The honorable member for Bendigo asked, “ Why should the Senate be an absolute reflection of the House of Representatives? “
– Yes, I should like the honorable member to answer that question.
– Who said that the Senate is an absolute reflection of the House of Representatives?
– The Senate is an absolute reflection of the House of Representatives as it was constituted during the last Parliament, and of which the people showed their disapproval at the general election on the 10th December, 1949. Every honorable member knows that, had the people been given a fair chance to vote for 60 senators at the last general election, the Labour party would not now control that chamber. The Chifley Government feared the reaction of the people against its socialist policy, and realized that it could not win the race to nationalize banking before the High Court and the Privy Council declared the Banking Act 1947 invalid. It evolved a method of enabling the Labour party to retain control of the Senate in the event of its defeat at the general election. The Labour party has resolved to delay the present Government’s legislation until it considers that an issue has arisen that will give it a reasonable chance of being returned to office. Opposition members in both chambers frequently ask, “ How many bills have been passed during this session ? “
– That is true, and the reason is that a hostile Opposition in the Senate is preventing the Government from fulfilling its promises to the people. The present political situation could be discussed at length, but the paramount consideration at the moment is that the Labour party has definitely set out to oppose almost every bill that is transmitted to it by this chamber.
– The Labour party will oppose all bad legislation.
– All legislation that is brought forward by a government that represents a free-thinking people is bad in the eyes of a socialist. The Labour party, of course, is pledged to socialism. Some honorable members of the Opposition suggested tha t a committee consisting of honorable members from both sides of the chamber should be appointed to discuss ways and means of overcoming the deadlock. Such a conference could not possibly succeed, because some of the honorable members who would attend it have already signed away their freedom by declaring that they will do everything in their power to implement the socialization of industry, production, distribution, and exchange. Free-thinking people, and socialists, could not agree on any proposal for ending the deadlock. Those who attended such a conference would need to be imbued with the spirit of doing what is best for Australia, but members of the Labour .party would not be free to express their own views on that subject, because they are bound, by their own signatures, to assist the implementation of their socialist policy.
– The honorable member will believe that statement one of these days.
– I do believe it, because I have in my hand the federal platform and objectives of the Australian Labour party, and I have discovered, after having read the pamphlets most carefully-
– ‘Order! The honorable member’s remarks are rather wide of the bill.
– Members of the Labour party are pledged to implement a socialist policy. I believe that this bill is in the best interests of the people of Australia. I also believe that members of the Labour party will continue to oppose it, but that the people, at, a referendum, will vote solidly in favour of it.
– The people would reject it.
– I do not consider that the Senate at the present time serves any useful purpose whatsoever. I believe in one of the planks in the platform of the Labour party, namely, the abolition of the Senate. Yet, even in that matter, the Labour party has not been consistent. Instead of seeking to abolish the Senate when it had the opportunity to submit the case to the people, the
Chifley Government introduced legislation, the effect of which was to increase the number of senators from 36 to 60. Obviously, the Labour party is confused about many issues. Some members of the Opposition declare that the less populous States would not support a proposal for the abolition of the Senate. That statement may have been true before the proceedings of that chamber were broadcast-
– That is not fair to the Senate.
– It is more than fair to the Senate, because since the proceedings of that chamber have been broadcast, many listeners-
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is not in order in reflecting upon the Senate.
– I did not hear the honorable gentleman reflect upon the Senate.
– 1 merely stated my view about how the people would react to a proposal to abolish the Senate. However, I shall leave that point. I support the bill because I consider that it is in the best interests of the people. I believe that the Labour party will oppose it to the last ditch, in the same way as it will resist any attempts by this Government to give effect to the will of the people.
– The honorable member for Malley (Mr. Turnbull) has given the House a good deal of food for thought, and he has given me, in particular, a good deal of food for argument. One of the -points that he made was that the Government was being prevented from giving effect to the pledges that it made to the people during the last general election campaign, and he cited two instances, namely, the promise to ban the Communist party of Australia, and the promise to pay endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child of the family under the age of sixteen years.
– The present Government also promised that it would abolish petrol rationing.
– That is true, and the Senate cannot be accused of preventing the Government from giving effect to that promise.
– Because the Senate did not have a voice in that matter.
– The abolition of petrol rationing has had serious results. People who wish to build homes are unable to obtain their requirements of timber and hardware, because the effect of the shortage of dollars is reflected in a reduction of imported building materials. A deputation representing timber merchants in- South Australia waited on the Premier, Mr. Playford, and compained that the shortage of dollars, which is undoubtedly due to the abolition of petrol rationing-
– That is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh may not develop that line of argument.
– I wished merely to remark that the timber merchants in South Australia claim that the shortage of dollars has caused imports of Oregon to be reduced by 33 per cent. With respect to the banning of the Communist party, it is true that the present Prime Minister, in his policy speech at the recent general election, promised that his party if returned to office would dissolve the Communist party and confiscate its property. The Opposition has accepted that part of the present Government’s election policy and the Senate has not prevented the Government from giving effect to it. The only delay that is being experienced in the Senate is due to the fact that the Government is endeavouring to include in that measure a provision that the present Government, parties did not mention during the recent general election campaign. Under the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Government is endeavouring to deprive ordinary citizens of a right which British subjects have enjoyed for centuries, that is, the right of an accused to be confronted with his accuser and to be held to be innocent until he is proved guilty. Whilst it is true that at the recent general election the present Government parties promised to provide endowment at the rate of 5s. for the first child in a family, at the same time those parties did not make it clear that they intended to leave the way open to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to take that benefit into account when fixing the basic wage. The Senate has attempted to close that gap ; and that is the only reason for the delay in the passage of that measure. Therefore, the general allegations of supporters of the Government that the Senate is delaying the passage of legislation are unfounded. The fact is that after the Child Endowment Bill, which was the first measure introduced in the Senate, had been passed by the chamber, it was allowed to lie on the table of the House of Representatives for some weeks. Although this chamber devoted nearly five weeks to the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Senate will have completed its consideration of that measure within a period of three weeks. In this chamber the Government has a substantial majority which it has not hesitated to use to “ guillotine “ certain measures in this House. Thus, there is no validity in the arguments of honorable members opposite that the Senate is unnecessarily delaying important legislation that has been placed before it.
The honorable member for Mallee also said that the Government is the only safeguard against the introduction of socialization. I wonder why it has not yet attempted to give effect to another of its election promises that it would introduce a measure to alter the Constitution in order to prevent any industry from being socialized unless the particular proposal is first approved by the people at a referendum. Would not this be an appropriate occasion for the Government to honour that promise?
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I was replying to statements made by the honorable member for Mallee to the effect that the Senate is preventing the Government from fulfilling promises that it made to the people at the last general election. As this measure embodies a proposal to alter the Constitution, why has the Government failed to take advantage of this opportunity to honour other promises, involving alterations of the Constitution, that it made to the people?
-Order! The honorable member will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– The honorable member for Mallee said that the Labour party increased the number of senators although it is a part of Labour’s policy to abolish the Senate. The honorable member was not honest when he put forward that argument because he knows perfectly well that when the Chifley Government increased the membership of the House of Representatives it was obliged under the Constitution to increase the membership of the Senate proportionately. As this measure embodies a proposal to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Senate we should look at other defects in those provisions. As the Government is attempting to rectify one anomaly in respect of the Senate it should, at the same time, attempt to rectify other anomalies in the Constitution relating to that chamber. The provision that the number of senators shall be as near as practicable half the number of the members of the House of Representatives should be discarded.
– The honorable member does not believe in the abolition of the Senate?
– I believe that all upper houses should be abolished. Ii astonishes me that honorable members opposite should feel so terribly concerned about the fact that the Senate is fulfilling its proper function a3 a house of review when, at the same time, they support the retention of upper houses in the State legislatures. The Labour party advocates the abolition of the Senate. It advocates also the abolition of all upper houses in the State parliaments because those chambers have repeatedly thwarted the will of the popularly elected lower chambers. In South Australia, not only is the franchise in respect of the upper house restricted, but, as well, the divisions that return members to it are so arranged that it is almost impossible for Labour to obtain a majority in that chamber. For instance, in Central No. 1 Division in which there is a preponderance of workers, the number of electors is nearly three times the number of electors in other divisions which are regarded as Liberal strongholds. The result is that Labour cannot possibly win more than one of the five divisions that return members of the upper chamber in that State. Yet, supporters of this Government approve of the fact that that chamber can veto any measure that the democratically-elected lower house may introduce. In Victoria we recently witnessed the sorry spectacle of the upper house, acting on direct instructions from the private banks, refusing to grant supply to the democraticallyelected Government in that State. On that occasion, the upper house forced that Government to go to an election but did not itself go to an election. The same thing has happened in Tasmania. If honorable members opposite can justify such action on the part of the upper houses in Victoria and Tasmania, could they logically object if the Senate refused supply to this Government and thus forced it to go to a general election without all senators themselves having to do so?
– The Senate has power to do that.
– Labour has a majority in the Senate, and if it ever took such action it would only be for the reason that Liberal-controlled upper houses in Victoria and Tasmania have sown the germ of such a thought. However, if the Senate took such action, no honorable member opposite could consistently protest and, at the same time, defend the tact es that the upper houses in the States that I have referred to have applied. The membership of the Senate should not be related in any way to that of the House of Representatives. I repeat that the provisions of the Constitution in that respect should be discarded. The government of the day should be perfectly free to increase, or decrease, the number of members of the House of Representatives without being compelled to maintain any fixed proportion between the number of members of the two chambers. In my view, the present number of senators is too great. I believe that it is fantastic and stupid that a small State like Tasmania should be represented by ten senators in order to enjoy representation equal to that of each of the other States in that chamber. The Government should take this opportunity to rectify that anomaly in the Constitution.
It should also rectify the anomaly that exists in the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate. At present, when a casual vacancy occurs in that chamber the joint houses of the parliament of the State represented by the senator who has retired, or who has died, chooses the person to fill that vacancy. As the Parliaments of South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and “Western Australia are controlled by Liberal-dominated upper houses that are elected on an undemocratic franchise, they will invariably choose a supporter of the non-Labour parties. In making that choice, the upper houses are able to thwart the will of the democratically elected lower houses I shall give a specific instance. Following the death of Senator Keane, who was a Victorian and a Minister in the Chifley Government, the Liberalcontrolled upper house in Victoria had so little regard for democratic ‘principles that it chose Mr. A. J. Fraser, a Country party nominee, to fill the vacancy, and that gentleman was rejected by the people when he stood as a candidate for the Senate at the following general election. Casual vacancies in the Senate should be filled in the same way as casual vacancies in the upper house in Tasmania are filled, under the Hare-Clark system. Under that system a casual vacancy in the Senate would be automatically filled by the candidate who had polled the highest number of votes of the unsuccessful candidates at the preceding general election. This measure does not attempt to deal with those defects in the Constitution in relation to the Senate.
I believe also that the election of senators for a set period of six years is old-fashioned and undemocratic. If a general election were held in 1951, the successful Senate candidates would not take office until the following year. That position is too absurd to be tolerated any longer. The term of appointment of senators should be related to the term of appointment of members of the House of- Representatives, as in South Australia, where the term of appointment of members of the Legislative Council is related to the term of appointment of members of the House of Assembly. The proposal contained in this bill will not prevent the occurrence of deadlocks. The Government has adopted an amateurish way of dealing with the problem. In the event of a double dissolution, unless we witness a landslide, in all probability three States will each elect six Labour senators and the other three States will each elect six Liberal senators, and as a result the Senate will be equally divided. That would not solve the problem. I do not believe in double dissolutions as a means of overcoming deadlocks. In order to avoid deadlocks in the Senate some consideration should be given to the desirability of authorizing the President of the Senate to exercise a casting as well as a deliberative vote. I do not contend that the problem could be solved in that way, nor do I suggest that such a proposal could at present be supported ; but at least it might be considered. In the event of the Senate refusing to pass a bill transmitted to it by the House of Representatives after a lapse of, say, six months, the matters in dispute should be resolved by a joint sitting of both houses of: the Parliament. I do not believe that a joint sitting of both houses should be confined, as it is under the Constitution, to a proposed law that has brought about a double dissolution. All matters that cause deadlocks to arise, either in the Senate or between the two houses of the Parliament, should be referred to a joint sitting of both houses of the Parliament. That would be the best and most effective way of overcoming difficulties caused by deadlock’s. Under section 57 of the Constitution a joint sitting may be held only after a double dissolution has taken place on a proposed law which has been again passed by the House of Representatives and which the Senate ha9 rejected or failed to pass, and it must deal with that issue only. We have been told that the Senate was originally instituted to act as a States’ house and as a house of review. Whilst it is true that the Senate is no longer a States’ house - the party political system having prevented it from operating in that capacity - it is still a house of review and there is nothing to prevent it from reviewing closely all legislation transmitted to or introduced in it. That is precisely what the Senate is now doing, and that is why the Government has introduced this measure. These statements cannot be passed off as being of no consequence. The honorable member for Mallee has said that if the Government had a guarantee from the Opposition that it would not bring about a deadlock, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would withdraw this bill.
– I do not think that the honorable member said that.
– He made that statement. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) twitted him with having done so.
– I did not agree with him.
– The honorable member for Mallee has been a member of this Parliament for very much longer than has the honorable member for Gwydir, and he is very rauch closer to the ear of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister having allowed the honorable member for Mallee to make such a statement on his behalf it can be taken for granted that if such a guarantee were forthcoming the bill would be withdrawn. That is why we have characterized this bill as a political trick to compel the Opposition to accept whatever legislation the Government cares to introduce. The honorable member twitted the Labour party by saying that the people will not stand for a socialist State. If the honorable member contemplated a socialist State in which every branch of industry, production, distribution and exchange was socialized, I agree with him. I hope the day will never come when the people of this country will be prepared to accept a completely socialized state. The Labour party does not believe in a completely socialized state; but it advocates the socialization of such of the means of industry, production, distribution and exchange as are not being used in a socially useful manner. There is nothing in this bill which entitles the honorable member for Mallee to refer to a socialist state. Again, the honorable member, probably voicing the opinion of the Government - I regard him as the most influential honorable member on the crossbenches occupied by members of the Australian Country party - stated that the Government, when it introduced this bill, was not looking forward to the next general election. If the honorable member knows the temper of the people outside, that statement is not to be wondered atbecause the attitude of the people towards this Government is such that if a general election were held in the immediate future-
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) would not be in this House.
– I should be here, but at least 28 honorable members on the Government side would not be here. Hostility to the onus of proof provisions in a certain measure, now before the Senate, is so great in the electorate that those honorable members would be bound to be rejected.
– The onus of proof of the correctness of that statement is on the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Mallee has also alleged that the Senate Opposition has refused to allow the Government to implement its pre-election promises.
– A good point, too.
– He did not mention the Government’s preelection promise to put value back into the £1. Honorable members opposite cannot blame the Senate for the failure of the Government to honour that promise because it has made no attempt to do so.
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order ! There are too many interjections. The honorable member for Hindmarsh should not invite them.
– I am sorry if I have offended, Mr. Speaker. Honorable members opposite have also claimed that this Government is different from the Chifley Government in that it has exhibited its willingness to accept amendments of its legislation, whereas the Chifley Government consistently re fused to do so. As everybody knows, this Government has accepted amendments only because the Senate is operating as a house of review, as it was intended to operate by the framers of the Constitution, and in the process of reviewing the Government’s legislation it has found much of it very faulty. Evidence of that fact can be obtained by an examination of the report of the debates on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. Already between twenty and 30 amendments have been made in that measure and an additional sixteen or twenty amendments have been proposed or foreshadowed by the Government as the result of the intensive review of it by the Senate. Can any honorable member contend that if the house of review were not operating as it was intended to operate the Government would have made any amendments in that legislation? If it had unfettered power this Government would force through the Parliament the whole of its legislation in its originalform.
Honorable members opposite have complained that the Opposition in the Senate has prevented the Government from giving effect to its legislative programme. “What was the attitude of the anti-Labour majority in the Senate to the Scullin Government’s legislation to authorize the issue of £18,000,000 worth of fiduciary notes to relieve unemployment and provide some relief for the hard-pressed farming community ?
– And wreck the country.
– The honorable member for Gwydir says, “ And wreck the country “. Does he contend that the issue of a mere £18,000,000 worth of fiduciary notes to relieve unemployment and help the needy farmers would wreck a country like this ? The cold, hard fact is that, without justification of any kind, the Senate, which was then controlled by the anti-Labour parties, refused pointblank to permit the Labour Government toproceed with the proposal. It ill becomes honorable members opposite to say a word about obstruction by the Senate or falsely to accuse the Opposition in the Senate of holding up the legislation placed before that chamber. With the exception of the two bills now before the Senate that chamber has disposed of all the business that the Government has placed before it. Let us examine the notice-paper in order to ascertain what items of business still remain to be dealt with in this chamber. Before this House can further consider the two bills now before the Senate, it should consider the eleven items of Government business which have yet to be debated. Is it intended by the Government that we shall conclude the debate on all those items before the House rises on the 15th lune? If so, democratically elected representatives of the people who sit in this House will be denied an opportunity to state their views on many subjects of the greatest importance. Long before this House has concluded its discussion of those matters the Senate will have completed the two bills now before it.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The weakness of the case submitted by the Opposition against this bill was very well illustrated by the attitude of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). As we all are aware, he is one of the most forceful debaters and, if I may say so, one of the best-informed members in the ranks of the Opposition. On this occasion, he dealt with many matters, but not one of them had any relation to what is contained in this bill. His speech provided a very excellent example of the reason why the consideration of government business is proceeding so slowly. His comments on the bill, if I may say so without offence, could well have been stated in five minutes.
I should like to say a few words about Mr. Mclntyre, who originated the proposals contained in this bill and upon whose ability Opposition members hare cast aspersions during this debate. In justice to a citizen who has made some contribution to the -progress of his country, it should be said that Mr. Mclntyre is a prominent member of the legal profession in Melbourne who has displayed an active and intelligent interest in the political affairs of this country. Indeed, rather than criticize such suggestions I think that this House should appreciate the fact that we have in this country men of that kind who take an interest in the country’s affairs. The fact that this bill is designed to deal with a position that might arise as a result of a double dissolution seems to have been completely forgotten during the last 30 minutes or so. I remind the House, therefore, that the bill is designed to deal with one particular eventuality only - a general election for the Senate following a double dissolution that may arise as a result of a deadlock between the two Houses. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) referred to the danger of the Senate, if it had a large majority of Government senators, being a mere rubber stamp. I direct attention to the fact that the Australian Constitution was not framed in haste, but was framed after a great deal of deliberation. The system of selecting senators for terms was deliberately designed for the purpose of carrying over at least half the membership of the Senate from one general election to another. That was done, perhaps, as other honorable members have pointed out, for the purpose of slowing down or levelling off the changes in public opinion that may be too rapidly reflected in this House. Machinery was provided so that when a deadlock occurred as a result of a change of public opinion that was reflected in this House, but not in the Senate, a double dissolution could be obtained by the Government in office. The effect of a double dissolution is to give to the people of this country something that I think every person and every honorable member has appreciated from time to time - the right te have a second thought, a second bite at the cherry. By the time a general election following a double dissolution had been held the people would have become acquainted with the situation that had arisen out of a change in the public mind that had produced a deadlock because that change had not been reflected in the Senate, half of whose members had been elected three years previously and would still have three years’ service ahead of them. The people, having seen how the new government had worked, would then have an opportunity to make a final determination upon whom they wished to rule them. This House has the responsibility to provide the machinery by which the people can express that second opinion, and I consider that it can be said with some justice that the previous
Government, through the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act that it enacted, caused a situation to arise that it must have foreseen. That situation is one in which a deadlock between the two Mouses that could not in fact be solved by a double dissolution may well arise. I infer to the previous Government’s alteration of the method of electing senators. Yesterday, if my recollection serves me aright, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) suggested that the Senate might be reformed so as to become a body similar to the British House of Lords. I do not know whether that honorable gentleman had in mind any of the awful results that might follow such a reformation ; for example- we might be confronted with the spectacle of a Lord Curtin of Watson or a Baron Bird of Batman. It seems to me that whilst the honorable member might have meant well when he in.ade that suggestion, in view of our experience of general elections over the last half-cenutry the possibility that I have indicated is not to be viewed with any degree of pleasure by either side of the House.
I now turn to one of the platitudes that have been mouthed during this debate. I refer to the statement repeated by a number of honorable members opposite about majorities and about giving the people the right to decide the political pattern of the Government. It is necessary to regard this matter in a practical manner, and in order to do so the actual relevant figures must be examined. Let us consider what is involved in the election of ten senators under this peculiar system of proportional representation that is now in operation. Under that system, in order to achieve a majority in the Senate following a double dissolution the Government would need to secure 54.54 per cent, of the aggregate popular vote. That figure is very easily arrived at from a study of the existing formula. In the’ election of ten senators’ under proportional representation, the principle is to add one to the number to be elected, which gives the figure eleven, then divide the number of formal votes by eleven and add one to the quotient. The resultant sum is the quota that each senator must get in order to be elected. That quota is 9.09 per cent., which, when multiplied by six, becomes 54.54 per cent., which would be the lowest aggregate vote that the Government would need to obtain in order to secure the return of six of the ten senators in each State. The proposal contained in the measure for the election of the senators for each State in two sets of five for differing periods, simplifies the present system. Honorable members should remember that the purpose of the bill is to give the people an opportunity to make a clearcut decision on the facts presented to them. The formula that I have described would apply for the election of five senators. I shall repeat it. One k added to the number to be elected. The number of forma] votes is then divided by the sum so obtained, that is, by six. One is then added to that figure and that gives the quota which three government candidates would need to obtain if the Government was to have a majority of three of the five senators elected. As honorable members will readily appreciate, it would be necessary to obtain three quotas in each group in order to have a majority under the system of electing two groups of five senators for each State. The Government would have to receive more than 50.001 per cent, of the aggregate popular votes. This bill will give the Australian Government something that it must have if our democracy is to work - a reasonable majority in the upper house that will enable it to proceed with its legislative programme. Some honorable members have talked somewhat loosely on the proposition that a large government majority in the Senate would make that House a mere reflection of this chamber, therefore I pay tribute to those honorable members opposite who have referred to the degree of informal voting at general elections. That matter is a joint and common responsibility of all parties. The number of informal votes cast at general elections is amazing and is one of the reasons why so many criticisms have been levelled at the Senate. Let us consider the application of the proportional representation formula to the New South Wales vote in 1949. In a total of 1,848,572 votes cast there were 222,576 informal votes, or roughly 12-J per cent, of the total. The quota necessary to elect each of ten senators was about 147,000. In other words, the informal vote exceeded the quota necessary to elect a senator. Honorable members opposite have advanced the argument that the big informal vote in New South “Wales was due to a lack of knowledge of the system on the part of the electors. The answer to that statement lies in a consideration of the percentage of informal votes cast in 1949 in Tasmania, where a similar system has existed in the State sphere for many years. New South Wales had the honour of topping the informal voting list with a little over 12 per cent, of such votes. The lowest on the list was Queensland with a little more than 7 per cent., whilst Tasmania had 10.55 per cent., although the system of proportional representation has been, to some degree, in use in that State for many years. The astounding figure is that which related to Australia as a whole, which was 505,275 informal votes compared with a total formal vote of 4,100,000, or a little over one in eight. That was 10.75 per cent, of the total number of votes recorded, and was considerably more than the quota needed in almost any State to elect a senator. The argument advanced by honorable members opposite that the large percentage of informal votes has arisen from the introduction of a new system, therefore, does not apply. In 1937, before the system of proportional representation was introduced, there were 416,000 informal votes in a total of 4,000,000 votes. In 1943 the figure was 418,000 informal votes and in 1946 the total shrank to 356,000. In 1949 it rose again to 505,000. In other words, the introduction of the proportional representation system did not materially increase the number of informal votes, although it increased them to a certain degree.
I have spoken on this matter at some length, because if the number of informal votes cast in relation to Senate elections is compared with the number cast on the House of Representative ballot papers at almost any period, it will be seen that the number of informal votes cast for the House of Representatives is normally only about one-sixth of the number cast for the Senate. Whereas the number of informal votes cast throughout Australia for the Senate in 1946 was 356,000 the number cast for the House of Representatives was 93,000. Certain conclusions may be drawn from those figures, one of which is that, as the honorable member for Bendigo has stated, the luck of the draw for the position to be occupied by the various groups on the ballot-paper affects the final vote. I consider that statement to be unquestionably true. It is also unquestionably true that it is the responsibility of this House to consider that aspect at the present time, because no matter which party obtained a majority in the Senate that party would not, in fact, represent a majority of the electors. It would represent only a majority of the 89.25 per cent, of the total number of electors who had voted. The remaining 10.75 per cent, who had voted informally, would not, in fact, be represented at all. That is a matter to which some consideration should be given either by the electoral authorities or by the parties concerned, because informal voting which results from an apathy and lack of knowledge or a plain refusal to vote, is the canker in democracy. That is a weakness for which all parties share a common responsibility and it is a danger to democratic institutions.
I believe that another point which should be considered is that the elector should not be forced to place a number against every name on a Senate ballot-paper. I say without reservation that at the last general election a number of people refused to allot a vote to the Communist party candidates for the Senate, and their ballot-papers were thereby informal. Honorable gentlemen who have been associated with election campaigns over the last few years will agree that at the next general election a considerable percentage of the people will refuse to vote, particularly for Communist party candidates and perhaps for some of the candidates sponsored by sectional interests that have come into existence. Another aspect that should be considered is that this bill does intend to do more than prevent a deadlock. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and other honorable members have raised the point that it may well not solve the deadlock which is now possible, although not probable, as a result of a double dissolution, because they say a Senate would be returned equally divided between the opposing parties. If that is so, then I suggest that this House should not accept any responsibility for it. If the people of this country are evenly divided in their voting it is only right, whatever consequence may flow from their decision, that it shall be reflected by equal representation. All honorable members are aware of the disadvantages that would result from such a position, but it is. not the function of this House to interfere with a democratic vote. Its function is to provide the machinery by which the popular vote will become effective. I think that there has been too much discussion on the manner in which this situation has arisen. I indicated earlier that some criticism could be laid at the door of the last Government and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) expressed himself vehemently on that subject. It is peculiar that honorable members of the Opposition who were then members of the Government party framed legislation which, as the slightest and most elementary knowledge of the figures concerned would have indicated to them, made it probable that a deadlock would occur in the near future and that a double dissolution would become possible.
– The lawyers on the honorable member’s side of the House did not raise that point during the discussions on the previous Government’s legislation.
– This is a matter not of law, but of figures. It is a matter of mathematics that a child could understand if it made the attempt to do so. Having been responsible for the situation which made the introduction of a bill such as this inevitable, honorable members of the Opposition have endeavoured, throughout this debate, to combat the arguments that have been put forward in favour of the bill by dragging in all sorts of matters which have nothing to do with a double dissolution. They have brought into the debate the widest questions of constitutional and Senate reform although they are facing a situation which they themselves caused. I suggest that, in view of the figures concerning informal voting which I have quoted and in view of the fact that legislation must not be unduly delayed if it is to be effective, the Opposition has a responsibility, at least equal to the responsibility of the government of the day, to provide machinery by which the will of the people can be readily fmd quickly expressed under circumstances which have resulted in a deadlock between the two Houses and in a failure of democracy to work. It is the common responsibility of this House and the other place to ensure that democracy shall work in this country. Honorable members of the Opposition might give that matter some thought. Admittedly, this is a bill to deal with only one aspect of a very big problem, but let us deal with this one aspect and get on with the job.
.- May I suggest that this would be an appropriate time to adjourn, Mr. Speaker ?
– Does the honorable member wish to address the House on the bill?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. 1 wish to address the House later.
– The honorable gentleman has taken the adjournment before, and there is a limit to the number of times that an honorable member may do that.
– I understood, Mr. Speaker, that I had an arrangement with you that this would be allowed in my case.
– There is no objection, Mr. Speaker.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to S p.m.
– I move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the matter of altering the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Senate bc considered by an appropriate authority, including representatives of both the Government and the Opposition parties in Parliament, such authority being also authorized to re-examine the existing constitutional arrangement governing disputes between the Senate and the House of Representatives and to make positive recommendations for resolving such disputes on a just and democratic basis”.
Considering together the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the amendment, I desire to point out to the House that this bill is an attempt to undertake an almost impossible task. That is to isolate one aspect only of the constitutional problem of the relationship between the -Senate and this House. The result of that attempt is to strain the Constitution itself, because this bill does not propose to amend the system of proportional representation for election to the Senate, but it destroys the true principle of proportional representation by a transparent device. The broader issues behind this bill were made apparent in the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), the honorable member for Angus (Mr. Downer), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and other speakers on both sides of this House. They showed that the matter behind the superficial problem of how to choose a proper method of voting for election to the Senate, is the tremendously important non-party matter of determining the relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives in case of dispute. I say again that it is a transparent device. I am glad to see that the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) are here while this matter is being discussed. Through their connexion with the Legislative Council of New South Wales they have had considerable experience in electoral devices. The present electoral system of the Legislative Council of New South Wales was brought into existence in the ‘thirties. The members of that body are selected Ivy a system of proportional representation. In a House of 60 members fifteen are elected every three years under that system. The electorate is not the people of New South Wales, it is the members of Parliament themselves, at present 90 in the Legislative Assembly and 60 in the Legislative Council. I suppose that such an election is the most undemocratic procedure on the face of the earth.. In the United States of America, until 1912 when President Woodrow Wilson altered it, a system existed under which the members of the Senate were elected by the Legislative Houses of the various States. That system led to inquiry after inquiry because it was a most undemocratic system of election. In the Legislative Council of New South Wales, although a system of proportional representation operates, its original purpose was to prevent the then Opposition parties which had a tiny minority in the Legislative Assembly from getting control of both Houses of the legislature for a very considerable time. Three successive general elections were necessary before a balance could be effected in the upper house.
I now ask honorable members to consider this patent device of the Government. Here we have a system of proportional representation which has been embodied in the law of Australia. This bill does not seek to alter that system-
– It ought to do so.
– But it does not alter it at all. This measure preserves the system of proportional representation, and it is admitted that under such a system, after a dissolution of the Senate when it is necessary to elect ten senators from each of the six Australian States, it is extremely difficult for one party at such an election to have six out of ten elected. An effective margin of senators in each State is difficult to obtain unless a party polls 54 per cent, of the votes or something more than that. This device is to split such an election into two parts. The proposal is to elect five senators and then another five on the same day by a different ballot. I do not know why the Government should not go further and propose the election of three senators on a first ballot, three on a second, three on a third, and one on a fourth. An odd number would be elected each time, and the victorious party might get two candidates at each ballot except the fourth, in which it might get one, thus giving it 70 per cent, of the senators. But on a straight out single ballot it might get 50 per cent, Peg one of the votes. This measure is a complete denial of the system, because proportional representation has always been understood to mean that the seats will be proportional to the votes polled by the various parties. That principle is here departed from in the hope, which perhaps is not so seriously entertained now, that the bill will introduce in Australia a system under which the Government will succeed in having six of its candidates selected out of ten submitted. That is not proportional representation; it is tearing up the system of proportional representation without making any attempt to deal with the matter constitutionally. The gentleman who suggested this alteration is the gentleman who succeeded in altering the system of football semi-finals in an Australian football competition.
– That is where he should have stopped.
– Perhaps so, but if the Government proposes to have a constitutional alteration and to maintain that it has proportional representation when the fact is that it has nothing of the kind, then it is quite easy to have seven out of ten candidates elected. Perhaps the Government could go back to the old system of crosses or the system under which the victorious party could obtain ten seats out of a total of ten. The Government does not dare to do that. The people of Australia believe in the system of proportional representation.
– No they do not.
– I suggest that they, do, and that one of the scandals of this country has been the disparity in the relative number of senators because of the voting-
– Can the right honorable gentleman tell us where proportional representation has been a success? As an example of its non-success I draw the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the State of Tasmania.
– I do not understand why, because the majority is small in Tasmania and that is reflected in the quota of members, the right honorable gentleman should condemn the system. If he does so then everything must be left to chance. In Western Australia, which has a different system, there is also a deadlock. My next point is that the bill is not intended to break the deadlock which leads to a double dissolution under section 57. A deadlock under section 57 of the Constitution is caused because of a disagreement between the two Houses, repeated after an interval of three months. After a double dissolution the Constitution provides for the resolving of the deadlock by a joint meeting of the two
Houses. It is practically impossible, if the two Houses remain in disagreement, for the cause of the deadlock not to be settled. Therefore it is not the object of this bill to deal with some legislation which may be held up by the Senate. If the bill now in the Senate were held up in that chamber and that led to a double dissolution, in the event of each party having 30 senators in the new Senate the provision of the Constitution for a joint sitting of the two Houses could be invoked and if the Government got the support of this House it could carry through the bill that had caused the deadlock. The real object of this bill is punitive. It is to deter the senators from rejecting bills at all, when in fact the Government should resort to the constitutional means so plainly provided for the resolution of deadlocks.
– That is a reflection upon the Senate.
– No, it is a criticism of the Government. It is by no means a reflection on the Senate. The objective of this bill is not to deal with some particular piece of legislation which may be in dispute, but, because the Senate may not agree with the Government’s proposals on several occasions, to force a double dissolution and thus deter the .Senate from carrying out its function of reviewing the legislation of this House. Let us suppose that a Labour government was in office and that the present Senate voting strength was reversed. In that case the Senate proceedings would be held up by the supporters of the nonLabour parties, and the press which supports them would laud the Senate as the defender of liberty because it insisted upon the right to review the Government’s legislation. The real purpose of the bill is to obtain an advantage for the Government parties by a misuse of section 57, accompanied by a misuse of the system of election. It is a misuse of section 57 because that section is aimed at dealing with the problem in relation to a particular measure. The misuse of the system of election occurs because, in fact, what is proposed is not proportional representation at all.
– It was not during the last election, either, because the Labour party had fifteen senators who had not to retire.
– If the Minister will listen, and if he can understand what £ arn saying, he will realize that if the system of proportional representation is altered, under the Constitution those already elected shall hold office for six years. There is no method, short of an alteration of the Constitution, for converting the system of six years enjoyed by the senior senators into a shorter term. Therefore the Minister’s interjection wrongly stated the position. This measure is punitive in character and is intended to deter a Senate in which the Opposition is in the majority from exercising what the Constitution says is its right, namely, that of rejecting measures that do not deal with financial matters.
– A double dissolution could cure that situation.
– Yes; but the object of this bill is to prevent the Senate from reviewing legislation generally. Temporary expedients of this kind, once understood bv the people, will not succeed. When the people understand that this measure is to obtain a party advantage ite defeat is certain. Several anomalies have been pointed out by previous speakers. Any move to obtain a constitutional change for the sake of temporary party advantage will almost certainly lead to anomalies, because in the hurry to get the advantage nobody will realize the anomalies that will occur. That will be so in this case. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed- out one anomaly. The people are to be asked to decide that each State shall have an arbitrary number of senators. The proposal has no relation whatever to the practical needs of representation of the people. The number fixed must be six, ten - which is the existing number - fourteen, or eighteen and so forth. That is to be a permanent feature of the Constitution. Yet the object of the bill - a temporary and political object - is supposed to be to deal with the problem of proportional representation ! As the honorable member for Fremantle has said, the Government would not have dreamed of employing the
Prime Minister’s “mathematical epigram “ if it had not had proportional representation in mind. The number of senators for each State must be a number which, when divided into two parte for the purposes of an election after a double dissolution, will leave an odd number in each group. Thus, a party political motive is stamped upon a proposed constitutional change. It will not be merely a temporary provision that will apply only for as long as proportional representation lasts. Honorable members will realize, if they study clause 2, that the provision is intended to be permanent. Therefore, even if we get rid of proportional representation, as the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) would like to do, the provision will still apply. It should relate only to the present system of proportional representation and should be capable of alteration as necessity arises.
– The Constitution worked well for nearly 50 years until a Labour Government messed it about with proportional representation.
– The right honorable gentleman’s remarks are always interesting and witty, but on this occasion they are completely inaccurate. The Labour Government did not mess about with the Constitution. It passed an ordinary law, and an ordinary law can be repealed by an ordinary law. The Constitution was not altered. The interjection, though interesting, was quite incorrect. Under the Government’s proposal, the membership of the Senate cannot be increased by any number less than 24, even if proportional representation is abolished. Some future government might want to increase the number of senators for each State to eleven, but that would not be possible. Incidentally, that figure would probably cause an election after a double dissolution to result in a six to five majority one way or the other in each State. But the proposed permanent alteration of the Constitution will make it impossible to increase the number of senators from each State by any number less than four. Therefore, the minimum increase for the whole of Australia will be 24. Such an increase could not be made, of course, unless the membership of the House of
Representatives was increased by approximately twice that number, that is, by 48. Those facts provide complete evidence of the Government’s failure to consider this proposal carefully and to balance it with other provisions that relate to the Senate and the House of Representatives. The terms of the bill suggest that any new State would have the same representation in the Senate as an original State. That also is opposed to the provisions of the Constitution.
I come now to the real problem that confronts the Parliament on this issue. This should not be a matter of snatching at some possible electoral victory. Parties that seek to gain advantage under such conditions seldom achieve their objective. The proposal goes much deeper than any mere political victory. It involves an important principle. Therefore, the purpose of the amendment is to provide for the appointment of a non-party authority to examine the whole problem of the relationship of the two houses with the object of establishing some balance between them and, in particular, of framing a scheme for settling disputes between them. In essence, the problem is that of veto by the Senate of bills passed by the House of Representatives. The same problem exists in several of the States. The honorable member for Melbourne and other honorable members have referred to the situation in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, where there are legislative councils which, in effect, have the right of veto and which cannot be controlled by the citizens of those States. They are not subject to any constitutional check. I do not think that any supporter of this Government has ever demanded that the right of veto exercised by a State legislative council over a legislative assembly should even be suspended, much less abolished. Yet, because the Senate stands in the way of the conservative parties at the moment, they suggest that it should be legislated for in this way! Compared with the legislative councils of the States, the Senate is a popular chamber. It was hailed by the conservative press of the country as the guardian of the liberties of the people when a Labour government was faced by an anti-Labour majority in the
Senate. Some people favour the abolition of the Senate, and when that proposal was mentioned in this chamber it was accorded a considerable volume of applause. In fact, I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Treatt, actually suggested the abolition of the Senate a few days ago. As a matter of theory, the suggestion is very interesting. But, as a matter of hard practical fact, it would be impossible to abolish the Senate because it is certain that any proposal to do so would fail to gain the necessary support of four of the six States.
The proper solution of the problem of the Senate can be reached if we start al the fact that, under the existing Constitution, disputes are bound to occur from time to time between the Senate and the House of Representatives. In my view, section 57 of the Constitution, which provides for a double dissolution of the Parliament, does not offer a final solution of the problem. That is why it has been invoked only once in 50 years. The very presence of that section in the Constitution acts as a deterrent. Some think that it is a deterrent upon the Senate but, after a certain time, it is also a deterrent upon the House of Representatives. Both Houses are dissolved when it is put into effect, and therefore it may act as a deterrent on both Houses for a considerable portion of the life of a parliament. A possible solution of the problem with which we are confronted is to provide for a referendum of the people to settle any sustained dispute between the Houses. Why should there be a double dissolution of the Parliament simply because an important bill results in a sustained disagreement between both Houses?
– There will not be a double dissolution of this Parliament.
– No, but at the moment I am dealing only with the suggested alteration of the Constitution and the general problem of which the present situation is only one aspect. A possible solution, as I have said, is to have a referendum of the people to deal with any particular measure that is the cause of a sustained dispute between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Another possible solution is to adopt the British system for the settlement of disputes between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. That system involves what has been called sometimes the SUSpensary veto. A limit might reasonably be imposed upon the length of time for which the Senate could delay bills that had been passed by the House of Representatives. Honorable members may know the history of the British system for dealing with disputes between the two Houses. Under legislation enacted in 1911, the House of Lords was able to delay financial measures passed by the House of Commons for a period of one month. In respect of other legislation it could exercise its veto over a period of two years. At that time, the periodic life of the House of Commons was much longer than that of the Australian House of Representatives. A recent enactment in the United Kingdom altered the 1911 provision so that the period of the veto of the House of Lords is now only twelve months and the House of Commons may make its will prevail after two sessions.
Both of the solutions that I have suggested should be examined carefully by the authority that the Opposition suggests should be appointed for the purpose of examining the principles that underlie the bill. The amendment has been drafted for that purpose. We suggest that the solution of the Senate problem should not be merely a party political solution and that the real issues should be carefully examined. The solution should be reached as the result of a. study by some non-party body of the history of the Constitution and the objects of the men who framed section 57. If the Government persists with the bill in its present form, it could lead to the holding of a referendum at some time next year in order to obtain the opinion of the people upon the proposal. I predict that the proposition will be defeated in every State of the Commonwealth if it is submitted to the electors. It is very difficult to have any proposal endorsed at a referendum even when all political parties support it. The wisest course open to the Government is indicated in the amendment that I have submitted. Itcrystallizes many of the suggestions that have been made by honorable members of the Opposition and also by some sup porters of the Government, who have attempted to uncover the root problem and have spurned what is, after all, only a piece of electoral jugglery. The Government proposes that proportional representation in the Senate shall be retained as the law of the land, but that the purpose of the system shall be defeated by the adoption of the constitutional change for which the bill provides.
– Is the bill fair to both sides of the House?
– In one sense it is, but I am not dealing with it from a party point of view. In fact, from the point of view of the present Opposition, the proposed change would be very suitable if it were accepted by the people. However, though it may be fair in that sense, it is contrary to a principle. If we have proportional representation in the Senate, then we must let it be true proportional representation. We must not destroy its purpose by the method that is proposed in this bill. If we do not approve of the system, then we ought to face up to the fact and alter it. Let us not pretend to have proportional representation and then, by using a series of ballot-papers. prevent the election of senators in proportion to the strength of the respective party votes.
I shall summarize the objections to the measure that I have already . stated in detail. First, the proposal is designed to gain a temporary political objective. That objective is not, as I must have convinced honorable members, to provide a means of dealing with the particular subject of any dispute between the two houses. Such machinery is already provided in section 57 of the Constitution. Even if the Senate be evenly divided after an election following a double dissolution, a dispute can be settled by the constitutional method of holding a joint sitting of the two houses, which would undoubtedly result in a settlement in favour of the majority view in the House of Representatives. The hill is not intended to deal with that issue. Instead, it is designed to gain some indefinite advantage for the Government in the Senate. That objective will not be attained. Honorable members who have had experience in such matters must realize that the people will vote against the proposal. They will take a long time to understand it, but, when they do so, they will vote against it. Even if they do not understand it, they will vote against it because they always vote “ No “ when they are in doubt.
– I second the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr, Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 23
Bill read a second time.
Clause .1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Number of senators).
.- This clause renders the proposal to alter the Constitution extremely clumsy. The section proposed to be inserted under the clause reads - 7a. The number of senators for a Senate (whether an Original Senate or a new Senate) shall be a number which is divisible by two without; remainder but is not divisible by four without remainder.
This provision, if it is to make sense, should definitely be associated with another provision to destroy the relationship of the numerical strength of the House of Representatives with that of the Senate. No honorable member can resist the assertion that, having regard to this clause, the next increase that can be effected in the numerical strength of the Senate must be from ten to fourteen additional senators from each State, or an additional 24 senators in all, and that if the Senate is enlarged in that way the number of members of the House of Representatives must be increased by 48. Many honorable members can envisage the time when it will be justifiable to increase the numerical strength of the House of Representatives by less than that number. However, when we reach such a period - for instance, when our population has increased by 2,000,000 - and an interim increase of twenty additional members will be justified, it will not be possible for the Parliament to do so because of the provision in the Constitution which relates the numerical strength of the House of Representatives to that of the Senate. I cannot see why the Government, in making this alteration, could not also make the intelligent consequential alteration to remove the provision that the number of senators must, as near as practicable, be half the number of members of the House of Representatives. Unless that provision is removed we shall make rigid the method by which the number of senators shall be increased and, consequently, the method by which a proportional adjustment shall be made in the number of members of. the House of Representatives.
There has never been any sensible reason why the numerical strength of the Senate should be half that of the House of Representatives. Probably, the framers of the Constitution envisaged that following double dissolutions, joint sittings of both houses would be fairly frequent and that if the number of senators were half the number of members of the House of Representatives the less populous States would have a greater degree of representation if the numerical strength of the Senate were fixed at that fairly large proportion of the numerical strength of the House of Representatives. But that anticipation has not been justified, because not one joint sitting of both houses has been held since federation. Therefore, that provision is unnecessary. The Constitution of the United States of America does not contain a similar provision. Speaking from memory, the number of members of the House of Representatives in that country is 450, whilst there are 96 senators, that is, two senators for each of the 48 States of the Union. The United States of America has managed to get on quite well without an absurd provision that relates the numerical strength of two unrelated chambers. As the Government is now proposing to make it difficult to make adjustments in the numerical strength of the Senate there is no reason why, as a consequence, it should not remove the provision that the numerical strength of the House of Representatives shall be twice that of the Senate.
I also remind the committee of another observation that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and I have made previously. In providing that the number of senators from each State shall be a number which is divisible by two without remainder but not divisible by four without remainder, the Government clearly anticipates that an election that results from a double dissolution will be held under the system of proportional representation. Under those conditions it will be necessary in Senate elections to hold two ballots, in each of which an uneven number of senators will have to be elected, that is, five on the basis of the present numerical strength of the Senate, and seven if the Senate is enlarged under the conditions imposed by this measure. The Government proposes to write permanently into the Constitution a provision which arises from what is, after all, only a temporary statute.
– Does not the honorable member believe that the proposal should be given a fair trial?
– It is not a matter of giving the proposal .a fair trial. If the system of proportional representation in the Senate should be abolished by a future government, it will become necessary to alter the Constitution to reinstitute the system that exists at present. Surely, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) will agree that it is much more desirable to permit electors to decide which candidates shall be elected for a term of six years and which shall be elected for a term of three years than it is to allow the various parties to decide that point insofar as they decide in which of the two ballots the various candidates shall be nominated. I am not arguing about the measure as a whole because the second reeding has been agreed to. I am simply suggesting that the Government would be wise to insert another clause in order to destroy the provision now contained in the Constitution that makes rigid the numerical strength of the House of Representatives in relation to that of the Senate.
.- It is necessary to retain this clause because of the existence of proportional representation in the Senate. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) envisaged the time when it may become necessary to increase the numerical strength of this chamber. I believe that the Parliament will not be justified in taking such action for a long time to come. Furthermore, before any necessity to increase the numerical strength of the chamber arises, I believe that it will be found necessary to effect various alterations of the Constitution. All honorable members agree that the time has arrived when a convention should be set up to review the Constitution thoroughly. If the Government were silly enough to provide for an alteration of the Constitution to remove the provision that prescribes that the numerical strength of the House of Representatives shall be twice that of the Senate, it would of necessity be obliged to submit not one question, but two questions, to the people at the referendum that will be held as the result of the passage of this measure. This is a simple bill the object of which is to give this Government the right that every previous government has enjoyed to appeal to the people to resolve any deadlock that may arise. The debate on the motion for the second reading showed clearly that as a result of the action of the Chifley Government in instituting proportional representation in the Senate, an election following a double dissolution would most probably fail to resolve the stalemate. It has been suggested that the Government has introduced this measure in order to frighten the Labour Opposition in the Senate into passing legislation. It is a reflection upon those honorable senators if we believe that they have not sufficient strength of character and willpower to stand up to what they hold to be right. This measure has not been introduced in order to frighten them into passing legislation which they believe should not be passed.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– This is a simple measure that is designed to achieve a simple objective. There would be no sense in submitting additional questions to the people at the referendum for which the bill makes provision. Such a proposition would be strongly opposed by the less populous States. The bill is designed to give to the present Government the right that has been enjoyed by every previous government to appeal to the people to resolve a deadlock in the Parliament.
– Order ! That aspect does not arise under the clause before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Fremantle has suggested that an additional question should be submitted at the referendum. I repeat that the Government would be unwise to do so because the people would be likely to be confused. It will be time enough to consider making an alteration of the Constitution to alter the present provision in relation to the numerical strength of the Senate and the House of Representatives when it is regarded as necessary to do so.
.- This clause involves the making of two alterations of the Constitution, and supporters of the Government have overlooked the importance of the second alteration. Originally, the Constitution provided that the number of senators for each of the original States should be equal and that that number should be not les9 than six. The Constitution also empowered the Parliament to increase the number of senators for each of the original States provided that the number for each State remained equal. However, it still provides that the Parliament itself can determine the number of senators who shall represent any new State. At present, each State is represented by ten senators, but the Parliament could provide that if a new State or States were established in, say, Queensland or New South Wales, the number of senators for the new State, or States, should be any number less than ten. That is the position under the Constitution at present.
– The Parliament would he hardly likely to do that.
– I am dealing with the matter, not from a political, but from the constitutional standpoint. The provision in the clause that the number of senators for a State shall be a number which is divisible by two without remainder but not divisible by four without remainder applies in respect of not only each of the original States but also each of any new States that may be formed in the future. This clause involves an alteration of the Constitution to provide that each new State shall have an equal number of senators with each of the original States.
– That is only fair.
– I can conceive the formation of a new State that would have a population of only 120,000 or less. That State under this provision would be entitled to ten senators. This clause involves the making of two alterations of the Constitution. First, it provides for a mathematical formula which is quite new to the Constitution; and secondly, it would destroy the power of the Australian Parliament to establish new .States with a number of senators different from that to which each of the original States is entitled. I mention that point because the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) said that it would be unwise to submit more than one question to the people at the referendum for which this measure makes provision. As I have already pointed out, more than one question must be submitted if this clause is agreed to. In any event there is nothing wrong with asking the people to vote at a referendum upon a number of questions. In 1944, the government of the day submitted fourteen questions to the people at the one referendum, and die Constitution itself with 128 sections, and a lot of sub-sections and paragraphs was voted on by our forefathers. The Constitution was not cited on the ballot- paper. The question put to the people was something like this: “Do you approve of the Constitution as approved by the Parliament of your State? “ I am not worried about the number of questions that may be put to the people. This proposed new section, like all the others in the bill, was hastily drafted without regard to the complementary legislation that will he necessary if we are to deal with this matter in a proper fashion. The Opposition has shown no desire to oppose the bill merely for the sake of doing so. We have suggested that if this proposal is considered in conjunction with all related matters that affect the constitution of the Senate, we shall help the Government to enact a piece of legislation which the people may vote upon with the support of all political parties. Such an enactment would have a much better chance of being accepted than would a piecemeal proposal. I join issue with the honorable member opposite who has said that .this section must necessarily be added to the Constitution because of the adoption of the system of proportional representation for Senate elections. It is not necessary to provide that the number of senators shall be a number which is divisible by two without remainder but not divisible by four without remainder in order to render workable the system of proportional representation. We could arrange for twelve or sixteen senators to represent each -State and still have proportional representation. There would be a disability in such representation, I admit, because if twelve senators represented each State, six would retire alternately. Under the proportional representation system it would be likely that three would be elected to represent each side of politics. When the Chifley Government considered the increase of the numerical strength of the Parliament and the adoption of a system of proportional representation for the election of the .Senate a suggestion was submitted to the Cabinet subcommittee, of which I was a member, that the number of senators representing each State should be increased from six to eight. The Chief Electoral Officer, however, pointed out that, in that event, four would retire alternately, and that under the system of proportional representation almost inevitably two senators representing the Government parties and two representing the Opposition party would be elected and that a deadlock would be reached. We agreed to increase the number of senators representing each State to ten, so that five would retire prior to each general election. The system of proportional representation would not be- nullified, although it might be made more difficult to work, if the number of senators representing each State were a number divisible by four without remainder.
– That would not solve the problem arising from a double dissolution because in that event all senators would go out together.
– In a time of political crisis if we had a middleclass party, a conservative party, a Liberal party, an Australian Labour party, and other political parties, some fragmentary section of the people might secure representation. . In Tasmania, where the system of proportional representation is in operation and six representatives are elected for each of the five electorates, some independents have managed to get into the Parliament.
– In the Commonwealth sphere a candidate would need to poll 150,000 votes in order to be elected.
– Strange things have happened. Under the proportional representation system in New South Wales a few independents were able to secure seats in the Parliament of that State. A similar thing could happen on the grand scale. A few years ago, when the Douglas Credit party was at the height of its popularity, it would have been possible for that party to secure representation in the Senate if the proportional representation system had been in existence and we had had a double dissolution followed by the election of ten senators such as we have now. When the Communist party was at the height of its popularity, it would have been possible, in a Senate consisting of ten representatives from each State, for that party to poll one-eleventh of the votes plus one, in which event a deadlock would not have arisen. It may be said that the greater the number of senators representing each State the greater is the probability of such an occurrence. I agree with that view. But I do not agree with the argument that the mathematical formula laid down in this bill is necessary in order to render workable the system of proportional representation. We should not at this stage prevent the formation of more States in the Commonwealth by obliging the Parliament, if it approves of their establishment, to give rise to a Gilbertian situation in which ten senators would be elected to represent each of the new States but perhaps only two members would be elected to represent each of those States in the House of Representatives.
– There is no provision in the proposed new section that would enable that to be done.
– Such an outcome is involved in the provisions of the proposed new section. 1 ask the honorable member to read it again. It provides -
The number of senators for a State (whether an original State or a new State) shall be a lumber winch is divisible by two without remainder but isa not divisible by four without remainder.
The section presupposes that the same number of senators will be allotted to new States as is allotted to original States. Honorable members opposite contend that that is. not the meaning of the section. In the final analysis this matter would go to the High Court. Who can say what the High Court would rule on this matter any more than they can say what it will rule on any other matter that is submitted to it? Tasmania, which is an original State, is represented in the Senate by ten senators but it is represented in the House of Representatives by only five members.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I was somewhat astonished to hear the mathematical calculation that was propounded by my friend the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I do not know where the honorable gentleman received his mathematical education, but wherever it was, on this occasion his calculations are astray. The meaning of the proposed i:e”.v section is quite clear. The honorable member has said that it moans that a new State shall be represented in the Senate by no fewer than ten senators.
– That is a possible interpretation.
– I agree. It might even be eighteen or 22. But if the honorable member reads the section more carefully he will see that it provides that the number of senators for a new State shall be a number that is divisible by two without remainder but not divisible by four without remainder. The number two is obviously divisible by two without remainder but it is not divisible by four without remainder. The section merely refers to “ a number “. and two is a number. The honorable member’s objection to the section has no substance and accordingly we need pay no attention to his argument.
– What about the provision that there shall be an equal number of senators to represent each State?
– If we agreed to the election of two senators to represent a new State that State could be represented in this chamber by four honorable members. The provision is perfectly clear to me and the criticism levelled against it by the honorable member for Melbourne has no validity.
.- The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has told us that this is a very simple matter, and that we must place it before the people in a simple way so that it will be readily understood. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has also referred to its simplicity. Notwithstanding these assurances, I recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) informed us that when he read the draft bill he had to call in the Parliamentary Draftsman to explain the meaning of this section, which he described as a mathematical epigram.
– The right honorable gentleman was merely trying to save Opposition members from embarrassment.
– He admitted frankly that he did not understand it and that he had to call upon the Parliamentary Draftsmen to explain it. If a proposal is thoroughly explained, a person usually understands it. We may not have an opportunity to explain this proposal to the electors of Australia as carefully as it has been explained to the members of this committee.
– Will the bill be referred to the people?
– The people are entitled to know what it contains. I take it that the honorable member for Dawson (“Mr. Davidson) has suggested that we should put a question to the electors and tell them that if they assent to it we shall tell them what it is all about. I believe in taking the electors fully into my confidence. The people are entitled to know what the Parliament of the Commonwealth has in mind when it proposes to alter the Constitution. I am astonished that the honorable member for Dawson should suggest that we should submit a question to the electors without informing them fully of what it involves. I ‘expect many wild suggestions to be made by members of the Australian Country party, but I am astonished that the honorable member for Dawson should go so far as to suggest that we should submit a question to the electors without informing them of everything that is involved in it.
– Order ! The honorable member is indulging in tedious repetition. He must relate his remarks to the clause.
– The proposed new section is designed to ensure that an odd number of senators shall be elected to the Senate for terms of three and six years. It presupposes that because the system of proportional representation is now in operation for the election of senators it will continue to remain in operation for all time and that if it does not apply to ordinary elections for the Senate it will be resurrected on every occasion when a double dissolution has occurred. If this new section is embedded in the Constitution there will be a definite possibility of a deadlock arising in the Senate immediately after a double dissolution. If the Government’s proposal to iss’ue two ballot-papers to the electors, one for the election of five senators for a period of three years, and the other for the election of five senators for a period of six years, is given effect, there is a distinct possibility that three States will return a six to four majority of senators in favour of one’ side of politics and the remaining three States will return a six to four majority of senators in favour of the other side of politics. If that happened the present position would not be changed. The same result might be experienced in ordinary Senate elections under the ‘proportional representation system and we should have a continuous series of deadlocks. At the last general election, notwithstanding that the anti-Labour candidates secured 50.4 per cent, of the total votes, the parties were evenly divided. There is a distinct possibility that in future general elections fifteen senators representing each side of politics will be elected every three years and that the deadlock will continue.
– What percentage of the total votes was secured by candidates representing the Labour party?
– Labour candidate* secured 46 per cent, of the total votes cast. The result of the last general election was regarded as an overwhelming victory by anti-Labour supporters.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair. The system of voting with which he is now dealing should be dealt with when clause 3 is under consideration.
– I regret, Mr. Chairman, that I have been led astray by the interjections of honorable members opposite. Whilst this bill purports to provide machinery for the prevention of a deadlock following a double dissolution that has itself resulted from a deadlock, it contains no provision for the prevention of deadlocks following ordinary Senate elections. There is a distinct possibility of a deadlock resulting from every election for the Senate. I consider that the necessity to remove or reduce the possibility of deadlocks after ordinary elections is a more live and a much more important matter for consideration at this juncture than is the present proposal for the avoidance of a deadlock after a. double dissolution. That is particularly so when we consider that in the 50 years’ of this Parliament’s history only one double dissolution has occurred. It is a distinct-
– Order! The honorable member is really discussing the subject-matter of the next clause.
– I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, but I wish to point out that the provision in the clause that the number of senators for a State shall be a number which is divisible by two without remainder, but is not divisible by four without remainder is one which, instead of improving the Constitution, will limit the powers and functions of this Parliament. I shall always oppose writing into the Constitution any provision that will restrict the powers of this Parliament. As the Constitution provides that the membership of the House of Representatives shall be approximately double that of the Senate the implication of the bill is that if we find it necessary, as we shall sooner or latter, to increase the membership of the House of
Representatives, we shall also have to increase the membership of the Senate although we might not consider that there was any real necessity to do so. A provision of this nature written into the Constitution will definitely mean that in order to increase the membership of the House of Representatives at all we shall have to increase it by a minimum number of 48 members, because the minimum increase possible in the number of senators would be 24.
– Not if new States were formed.
– I am not discussing the matter of new States. I know that arugments for the formation of new States have been advanced from time to tune, but we do not seem to be making much progress in forming such States. Because of the distribution of our population it may become necessary in the not far distant future to increase the membership of the House of Representatives. If this bill has then become law we shall be forced to increase it by not fewer than 4.S members.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to answer all the observations about this clause that have been made by honorable members opposite, but I propose to make some answer to the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The main contention that he advanced was that if the Government’s proposal is put into effect we shall have to face the problem of having far too big a Senate. I say that that is not likely at all for the reason that the number of members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate is already so great that there could not be any substantial increase such as was envisaged by the honorable member because of the very steady increase of our population. Without that substantial increase of population, there is no sound basis for the honorable member’s contention. I believe that long before we come to the stage when we shall be asked to make the substantial increase that he has envisaged we shall have had, in all probability, opportunities of seeing how the proposed system works, and I feel quite certain that as a result of its operation we shall not need to make the change that he has mentioned. The Government’s proposals are mainly designed to correct anomalies in the method of electing the Senate that was enacted by the hasty legislation introduced by the Chifley Government prior to the last general election.
– That is ridiculous.
– Everything that the honorable member says is ridiculous. It is not proposed to complicate this legislation by adopting the suggestion made by the honorable member for Fremantle.
The only other observation made by the Opposition that I consider to be worthy of reply at this stage is one made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). He suggested that the Government’s proposals are hasty and ill-considered. I remind him that that argument is always used by an opposition when it has no real argument to advance. I have listened to the last three speakers on the Opposition side, and, except for the fact that I do not wish to reflect on your conduct of the proceedings, Mr. Chairman, I should state in detail why I regard their contributions to the debate as neither more nor less than stone-walling. The proposals embodied in the measure were carefully considered. The Government spent a good deal of time on them. Many alternative proposals were examined but the Government wishes the present proposal to be adopted.
– The Minister has really answered a question that I wished to ask, and I am very pleased that he has done so. He has stated very definitely and clearly that there is not likely to be any major increase of the membership of this House for many years.
– I did not.
Mi-. THOMPSON. - The Minister has said that the number of members in this House and in another place is so great at present that there is not likely to he any major increase for many years to come. If that is so, then why did the Government include this clause in the measure, because its provisions mean that it will not be possible to increase the number of senators except by multiples of four in each State, which would involve a major increase of members. It would be possible in the case of a new State to have a minimum of two senators, or multiples of four in addition to that number, as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) suggested. The number of senators to be elected for an original State would be six, ten, fourteen or any other multiple of four. I cannot understand why the Government has introduced this clause when the membership of the Parliament has been almost doubled in the last year.
– It has introduced the measure to avoid deadlocks.
– The honorable gentleman says that this clause has been introduced to avoid deadlocks. I do not consider that it was introduced to avoid a deadlock at all, because a deadlock is avoidable in another way. A Government must have a majority in this House in order to be in power, and if a deadlock occurred between this House and the Senate, because of an equal number of senators on each side of the Senate, a joint sitting of the two houses would resolve the issue. This clause, therefore, is not intended to avoid deadlocks but has been included in the bill because the Government wishes to make it almost certain that the party with a majority in this House will also have a majority in the Senate under proportional voting as it operates at present; and the provision will be made a permanent feature of our Constitution. I believe that this Parliament has no right to bind future generations to a particular electoral system in this way. I cannot see where this hill will help to avoid a double dissolution at all. I do not know whether honorable members have considered the fact that if this proposal is adopted by the people every time we wish to increase the membership of the House of Representatives it will be necessary to increase it by 48 members because the minimum increase of senators that would be possible under this provision would be 24. 1 admit that the Chifley Government increased the membership of the Parliament but the number of senators for each State was increased from six to ten, because we considered that that increase was necessary under the system of proportional representation. I say that there is no need to alter the Constitution, because the system of proportional representation under which the Senate is now elected can be altered without any difficulty. This Parliament may not always wish to have a system of proportional representation and may propose to have a different one, but if this measure is passed it will be tied down to a system of increasing or decreasing the number of senators in each State by multiples of four. T consider that the Government has been ill advised in putting this clause into the measure. I can understand its wish to have this bill passed so as to solve a deadlock by having an odd number of senators returned at two ballots at a general election after a double dissolution, and thus give effect to its will in relation to a. particular matter. But, I do not agree that the Constitution should be altered as is proposed by this clause for a mere temporary purpose. I am amazed that the Government has included this clause in the bill, because there is no need for it. The Chifley Government increased the number of senators to be elected in each State by four because it believed that to be necessary under the system of proportional representation. I do not think that it would have so increased the number of senators had it not adopted that system.
I turn now to the problem of new States. “When our federation was formed the Senate was instituted to protect the less populous .States. That is shown by the fact that those States return as many senators as do the more populous States. Under the Government’s proposal new States will return two senators as a minimum or multiples of four on that number. That provision will perhaps whittle down the powers that should be retained for the original States. I. object to the Constitution being altered so as to “‘bind foi- all time the conduct of elections that will be held when the political situation will be different from what it is at present. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) said that, unless this measure became law, the system of j> proportional representation could mean a. continual deadlock between the two Houses.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the clause.
– No, I am not. I am linking this matter with the clause. If we had a continual deadlock between the two Houses we could then decide to alter the system of election, but the Government wishes the system of election for the Senate to be strictly bound in the Constitution to election of senators in multiples of four. I do not think that there was any need to put this provision in the bill. The bill would contain all that is necessary without the proposed section, which, I think, the Government should withdraw, because it should refrain from putting a permanent provision into the Constitution in order to provide for what may be a temporary method of election to the Senate.
Honorable members opposite have suggested that the Opposition is just stone-walling in this debate. I am not stone-walling. It is the duty of all honorable members to protect the Constitution, and I believe that, in any system of election, an endeavour should be made to see that this shall be done-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Quite apart from any suggestion of an alteration of the Constitution in regard to a double dissolution, this clause could very well have been written into the legislation that was introduced in 194S for the purpose of increasing the membership of the Senate and the establishment of proportional representation, because, in effect, it is based on the principle that, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) admitted to-night, was observed by the Opposition when it was considering the practical methods of applying proportional representation to Senate elections. The Opposition decided that the only practical way of implementing proportional representation was by having elected from each State a number of senators that was divisible by two but not by four. Therefore, quite apart from the matter of altering the Constitution to provide for the separate election of senators after a double dissolution, this clause is appropriate to the system of so electing the Senate by proportional representation as to avoid a permanent deadlock after ordinary Senate elections. In that sense the clause is merely supplementary to the legislation that was introduced by the last Government.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) raised the objection that the clause unduly restricts the number of members of this House as well as of the Senate. In other words, he said that instead of trying so to alter the Constitution as to overcome one difficulty the Government should take into consideration another difficulty which might arise in the future but which, need not necessarily arise. He attacked the Government for not having tried to alter the Constitution now in order to overcome a difficulty which might, and contingently, arise in the future. The possibility of such a difficulty arising is very remote. If the honorable member had considered the actual figures involved he would have realized that. As I pointed out last night, when federation began there were 3,500,000 people in Australia. There were 1,800,000 electors in Australia in 1903. It was not until 194S, nearly 50 years after federation, that the membership of this Parliament was increased. The number of electors had then increased from 1,500,000 to over 4,000,000. The population had increased from 3,500,000 to 7,000,000, in round figures, in 48 years. The honorable member says airily that honorable members must realize that they .may wish to increase the membership of this House when the population has increased by another 2,000,000. I suggest, that, at the present rate of increase of the population, the necessity to provide for the election of an additional 48 members within the next ten or fifteen years is not outside the bounds of possibility. In 1900 one member of this House represented approximately 25,000 electors. In 1948, before the increase of the membership of this House, one member represented about 64,000 electors. Tasmanian members had well below the average number of constituents. There was thus considerable elasticity, the number varying from 25,000 to 64,000. If the voting population increases by 1,900,000, at the present rate of approximately 40,000 electors to each seat, it will be necessary to increase the present membership of this House by only 48 members. In other words, there could be an addition of 1,900,000 voters to the rolls, which would give members of this House an average of less than 60,000 constitutents, before it would be necessary to increase the membership of this House by 48. At the present rate of increase of the population, it is not unduly restrictive of the potential increase of the membership of this House to suggest that it can be increased only by 48 members, and it is very likely that that will happen in the next ten or fifteen years.
– Why increase the membership of the Senate proportionately?
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised that point, because I happen to come from one of the less populous States and I should be very resentful of any reduction of the representation of such States in the Senate. I am aware that the Senate has not fulfilled its function as a States’ House. Western Australia has eight members in this House and ten in the other House, which gives it a total of eighteen, and if any increase of representation were contemplated I should be very thankful to see that State’s number of representatives increased in the upper house as well as in the lower house.
The objection that has been raised by honorable members of the Opposition to this clause on numerical grounds is without validity although, until one examines the figures, it has some apparent validity.
.- The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has been frank about this clause.
He said that it is a provision that is not intended to have any permanent place in the Constitution-
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– Let me finish the sentence. The honorable member said that it is not intended to have any permanent place in the Constitution,, but is a provision which is linked with the system of proportional representation. Putting it more accurately, perhaps, the honorable member has made it clear that it is the system of proportional representation, which depends only upon an ordinary law of the Commonwealth and its application to a particular election, that has led to the inclusion of this clause in the bill. I think that that is conceded by all speakers on the Government side of the House. Why should this provision be inserted as a permanent feature of the Constitution unless it is linked with a provision that it shall continue to be so for as long as the system of proportional representation remains in existence? If it is with proportional representation alone that it is associated, as it must be, why not say so? The Government proposes to ask the people to include in the Constitution a provision that is meaningless, except in relation to a system of proportional representation. Do all honorable members agree that that system will be retained permanently? The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) has said that he opposes it. There are certainly many critics of the system. I cannot understand why an alteration of the Constitution should be made in respect of a particular electoral system which is provided for in the ordinary law of the Parliament, nor why rigidity should be given to a provision which is not entitled to have rigidity except in connexion with the system of election to which-
– It already has a certain rigidity.
– There is no rigidity at all.
– Half the members of the Senate retire every three years.
– There is no constitutional basis for that fact. The Government, by this bill, proposes to insert in the Constitution a provision which will be a clog on future parliaments that may wish to change from the system of proportional representation. Under the bill, there must be ten members for each State and if that number is increased it must be increased to fourteen. Why assume that the States will always vote as one electorate? That provision of the Constitution is intended to apply only until the Parliament otherwise provides. It might be just as effective to have a State divided into electoral divisions, each returning one senator. A future parliament might think that that would be very advantageous and if that were the case why should this Parliament suggest to the people the fixing of this number? A suitable number might be eleven, or twelve, or less.
– Eleven would hardly be suitable.
– I agree that there would be a difficulty in regard to the figure eleven for as long as half the senators from each State had to retire at the end of three years.
– Does the right honorable member say that proportional representation was only a temporary expedient ?
– No. But it was not a rigid constitutional provision such as this proposed alteration would be.
– The right honorable member said that proportional representation was only a temporary expedient.
– Not at all. It was put forward as a solution of the problem of fair representation in the Senate. I am not criticizing that system.
– It has had important constitutional effects.
– The right honorable member for Bradfield is opposed to the system of proportional representation and so are others. One should not endeavour to prevent elasticity in a constitution of this kind which is so rigid and so difficult to alter.
This provision of the bill is linked with the system of proportional representation. For what purpose? Not because the wish is to retain that system, but because the Government does not want the election of ten senators from each State, to be conducted according to a system of proportional representation. That is to say, the Government intends to have a kind of gamble on whether it wil win the odd vote in any State. It might be that a handful of votes in a total of 1,500,000 would give a party a majority of two. in the Senate. That is quite opposed to the system of proportional representation. A 603 representation will be obtained by the major group in the Senate from a vote of 50 per cent, plus one of the people. That is not a system of proportional representation; it is the negation of it. The provision in clause 2 is occasioned by a link with proportional representation, and its purpose is to prevent proportional representation from operating on the occasion of a double dissolution, the deadlock that had caused which having been supposedly removed. The other point that I have already made is that once a provision like this is inserted in the Constitution not only will it endure while proportional representation lasts, but in addition difficulties will arise in relation to an increase of the membership of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Apparently the Government, is hostile to any independent consideration of this matter, but it is a part of the real problem, which is the relationship between the two houses.
– I support the clause. Its intentions are quite clear. It is a proposal to make the proportional representation system, as inaugurated by the previous Government, work as’ effectively as possible to the advantage of Australia. It has been stressed throughout this discussion that this clause is perfectly fair to all political parties and that it will give a fair result whatever may be the actual verdict of the people in the terms of the number of votes cast for or against a party. The matters mentioned by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) were introduced merely in an attempt to confuse the people when voting at a referendum .by suggesting that some additional provision should be inserted. The remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. .Bryson) clearly indicated that they also wish to confuse the people. Before they concluded their speeches they were certainly more confused themselves than was any body in this House as to what they were endeavouring to say. The honorable member for Melbourne mentioned new States. It should be obvious to this House that if new States are enshrined in the federal system they will be economic units and will be qualified to elect the same number of Senate representatives as the other States are permitted to elect. At the time of federation the population of Tasmania was comparatively small, yet the proposal was that Tasmania should have the same representation in the Senate as New South Wales, Western Australia or any other State was given. No Parliament is likely to agree that any new State should have either more or less representation than the others now have. Therefore, this clause is quite clear and its approval is necessary to make the system of proportional representation, adopted by the previous Government, work as effectively as possible. [Quorumformed.’) In conclusion I merely say that the Government’s intention in regard to this proposal is to make possible the effective working of the system of proportional representation as far as all political parties are concerned. That is quite a worthy objective. I am not favorably disposed towards the proportional representation system, but it is the duty of honorable members of this House to give it the very best trial. This measure proposes to make it possible for that system to work at its highest efficiency. The growth of the British democratic system of government in England, and in this country since the federation of the States of Australia, has been remarkable. That system, under which we operated until its alteration by the previous Government, was quite satisfactory from the standpoint of the well-being and progress of Australia. But the previous Government having changed the system for the reasons that have been mentioned, and that I need not reiterate, it is our responsibility to give the new system a fair trial. If, after a few years’ trial, it is found that proportional representation does not meet the requirements of this country, then of course there will need to be a complete change.
– I had no intention of speaking to this clause, but I feel that I must reply to “the remarkable statement that was made a few minutes ago by the Minister in charge of the committee (Mr. Francis). Heinformed the committee that it was unlikely that this Parliament would beenlarged again for a great many years.
– I did not say “for a great many years “.
– Then for a long time to come. I stand corrected, because I have no wish to misinterpret the speech of the honorable gentleman. He proceeded to say that in the meantime we should have many opportunities of testing the efficacy of this legislalation. That statement can mean only that the legislation is actually as ineffective as I believed that it would be when I first read the bill. If I have correctly interpreted his statement, it means that there will be a long series of crises. Therefore, according to the Minister, this measure will not remove the evils that the Government announced it was introduced to remove.
– That is quite wrong.
– I have mentioned the Minister’s own words. Therefore, this bill stands revealed as political expedience and trickery. That is the reason why I support the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt).
– I think the. honorable member is straying from the subject. The Minister’s reference had regard to senators, and I require the honorable member to connect his remarks with that matter.
– You, Mr. Chairman, have interpreted, the Minister’s remarks in your way, and I have interpreted them in my way. I have a clear recollection of the Minister saying that many opportunities will arise for the testing of this legislation. If that is so, then it must be quite obvious that this clause will not accomplish the purpose announced by the Government. I should like the Minister to explain what he meant by his remarkable statement.
– I wish to refer to the speech of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). He said that proportional representation has produced a certain result and that this clause is being introduced to escape that result. Does the right honorable gentleman infer that proportional representation is a temporary expedient and that the Government should have introduced a different proposal, which would deal with all possible cases? If the right honorable gentleman does not mean that, then the position is that this clause certainly deals with the effects produced by proportional representation. That is apparent from the effect that has been produced by the election of the Senate. A general election held in 1946 produced a majority which now, in 1950, prevents the expressed wish of the people from being implemented. Therefore, if the Government introduces a provision that will give effect to the wish of the people then nothing could be fairer. If we introduce a provision of a different type, and remove proportional representation, we still will not have implemented the purposes of this bill, which is to resolve deadlocks. Clearly, that is the purpose of this clause.
– Order! I think that the next clause deals with that matter.
– We are saddled with proportional representation, and the object of the clause is to reconcile that system with the implementation of the clearly expressed will of the Australian people. For that reason, I cannot see the force of the argument of the right honorable member for Barton that proportional representation is the matter that is exercising the minds of the members of the Government. Certainly it is a part of the problem. But this clause is designed to reconcile the will of the Australian people with the fact that the Senate is elected by the system of proportional representation.
.- In answer to the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron), I say that proportional representation is dependent on a statute which may be altered by any future parliament. It has no constitutional sanction, and another system could easily take its place. Because of proportional representation, and only because of it, this constitutional alteration is being made without being linked with the continued existence of proportional representation.
– It could still apply without proportional representation.
– It could. Let us suppose a return to the old system under which a whole block of senators was elected. If three were to be elected three would be elected, if ten were to be elected then ten would be elected. Why should there be two votes when the result would be practically the same as the result of one vote? Two elections are quite necessary to establish a majority under the system of proportional representation. This clause is quite meaningless unless it is linked with the rest of the bill. I do not argue against proportional representation; I merely point out that the system of proportional representation has no constitutional basis and its foundation is purely statutory. It might be amended or replaced by other systems, and different divisions of the States might be made, in which case this clause would be quite unnecessary. My sole purpose in rising was to answer the observations of the honorable member for Oxley.
Question put -
That the clause he agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron. )
Majority . . . . 27
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - There being 63 “ Ayes” and 36 “ Noes “, I certify that the third reading of the bill has been agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the House as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Earlier to-day, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr.. Spender) announced that he proposed to make a statement to the House on Indonesia either to-morrow or shortly afterwards. I should like to put forward a proposal for the consideration of the Government. Early this year, or at the end of last year, certain statements claiming Dutch New Guinea for Indonesia were made by some of the members of the Government of the United States of Indonesia. “We were told at that time that those statements were unofficial. However, the last two statements that were made recently by the President of the United States of Indonesia, Dr. Soekarno, cannot be taken as anything but official, and it appears that he now hopes to retain the allegiance of his followers by offering them greater territorial ambitions. I recall an old Malayan proverb to the effect that, “If you want to provide your family with more food, it is much better to mend your own fish traps than to promise the family food from somebody else’s fish traps “. I commend that proverb to President Soekarno. Australians havenot been reassured in any way by his statement that “ he does not want anything to do with the Australian part of New Guinea “. Unfortunately, that statement has a rather sinister echo from Europe, because Hitler said, “If I get Czechoslovakia, I shall have no further territorial ambitions “.
I think that I speak on behalf of all honorable members when I say that Australians wish very strongly to be friendly with Indonesia. Furthermore, we wish to give all the help that we can give to that young nation. But the President will be making it most difficult for us, or at least, for the majority of Australians, to be friendly, or to give that assistance, if he continues to make those announcements and declarations claiming Dutch
New Guinea as a part of Indonesia. Actually, he said -
We want Australia to realize that our claim is just, and for her to assist in settling the issue. Indonesia would be a friend sitting next door in New Guinea rather than a suspicious neighbour.
May I say in all friendliness to President Soekarno that his claim is not just either historically, ethnically, geologically or geographically. Even the fauna and flora of New Guinea are not the same as those of Indonesia, but they are the same as those of Australia. If I remember rightly there are nine species of echidna, and 84 species of marsupials in New Guinea. The whole of that island is geographically and in every other way tied with Australia. Racially, the people are not straight-haired Indonesians but frizzy-haired Melanesians. On the historical side, the President said thatNew Guinea was once a part of the Madjapahit Empire, that rose to its greatest height in the middle of the fifteenth century. That statement also is historically incorrect. Other people besides President Soekarno have a knowledge of history. Originally, this claim was made on the basis that the Princes of the Moluccas, wishing to confirm themselves in their own positions and increase their trade with Java, consented to pay tribute to the Madjapahit Empire. Incidentally, it is extremely doubtful whether the Moluccas, ethnically or historically, should belong to Indonesia, but President Soekarno’s Government has been given the benefit of the doubt in that particular case. However, those princes, the Sultans of Ternate, Tidore and Batjan, had certain sovereign rights over three small islands off the western tip of New Guinea that were named Waigeo, Salwatti and Mizool. A chieftain on one of those islands claimed some sort of control over a native tribe in a piece of territory on the McCluer Gulf, in New Guinea, and, on that shadowy basis, and on that thrice-removed suzerainity is the only claim that the Indonesians have that New Guinea was in any way ever connected with Indonesia in the historical sense. Of course, it is absurd to put it on that basis. The claim is not just. It is merely a fabricated fairy-tale that has apparently been told in order to fan the enthusiasm of the followers of the present Government of Indonesia. I consider that it is most unfortunate that President Soekarno should insist on making those provocative statements instead of proceeding through the ordinary diplomatic channels in a tactful way on a subject that is as delicate as this particular one is.
– That is putting it mildly.
– I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). It is very unfortunate that those statements should have been made almost immediately after the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Yamin returned from a goodwill mission to Moscow. It is also most unfortunate that those statements should have been made just after the South-West Pacific Conference that was held at Suva. At that conference, two representatives from Dutch New Guinea said that they looked to the Pacific, and not to Indonesia and Asia, in their future cultural, racial and general progress. Again, it is unfortunate that those statements should have been made at a time when the Indonesian Government hesitated, for a moment, but implied that it was inclined to recognize Vietminh as against Vietnam in respect of Indo-China. All those matters, when considered together, must arouse grave suspicion in the minds of all Australians. We do not want those suspicions to be there. We wish to be friends with, and we desire to help, Indonesia, but President Soekarno is making it most difficult for us to do so. I do not think that he understands the feelings of the vast majority of Australians on this matter. For that reason, I should like to suggest, for the consideration of the Government, that the Minister for External Affairs should give the House an opportunity, before the Parliament goes into recess, to vote on a resolution that will show clearly and distinctly our opinion about this problem, so that no one in Indonesia shall be under the misapprehension that a change of government in Australia will bring about a change of policy. I think that such a misapprehension exists at the present time in the minds of many Indonesians. They will also clearly under stand that the waterside workers will’ not again dictate the foreign policy of this country.
– I indicated to-day that I propose to make astatement to-morrow on the subject to> which the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) has referred. That statement will be made.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Government to the position of retired Commonwealth public servants - superannuated officers - who returned to work in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as telegraphists during World War II. Those men wereinvited by newspaper advertisements and by special letter from the Superintendent of Telegraph Branches at that time toresume their former occupations. Section 50a of the Superannuation Act, which has been in operation since 1922, provides that a superannuated officer whois re-employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall forgo his pension. The result was that some of the retired officers, who were invited to return to the Postmaster-General’s Department as telegraphists during the war, earned a salary of £7 a week but forfeited a pension of £5 a week. Those men were inspired by patriotic motives to resume their former employment becauseat that time telegraphists were urgently required throughout the Commonwealth. Many of the younger men had enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy, the Army or the Royal Australian Air Force. The retired officers, who resumed their former occupation of telegraphist, worked full time, in effect, for £2 a week. I believe that it was originally intended that section 50a of the (Superannuation Act should apply to an officer who had been retired from the Public Service on the ground of infirmity or invalidity, and who had subsequently recovered and returned to work. In those circumstances, it was reasonable that the officer should receive the wage to which he was entitled and forfeit hispension. I do not consider that section 50a was intended to apply to an officer who had retired from the Public Service on reaching the age of 65 years and who had returned to work, particularly in war-time, for patriotic reasons. A number of telegraphists in each State are in the position that I ha-ve described. [ ask the Government to consider the advisability of amending the Superannuation Act so that section 50a shall not apply to an officer who retires from the Public Service on attaining the age of 65 years, and is subsequently recalled to his former position. If those men to whom I have referred had not returned to the Postmaster-General’s Department, where i hey were well qualified to do an efficient job, they could have obtained employment in private industry, and retained their pensions. I understand that the act also provides that a superannuated officer who responds to a special invitation to resume employment in the Public Service is entitled to retain his pension, in spite of the fact that he is .paid a wage or salary for the work that he performs for the Commonwealth. A Mr. Hughes, of Brisbane, who forfeited his pension on being re-employed by the Commonwealth as a telegraphist, successfully tested the case in the High Court of Australia, and I believe that he received arrears of payment amounting to £600 or £700. That rase may be regarded as a precedent that should be applied to the claims of other retired public servants who forfeited their pensions when they were re-employed by the Commonwealth. I understand that a previous government appointed a committee to investigate those cases; but, to date, no decision has been announced on the matter. I should like the Government ro publish the findings of that committee. According to my information, several superannuated officers are still employed by the Commonwealth and are rendering valuable service. They should not forfeit their pensions. Telegraphists would return to the Postmaster-General’s Department, where their services are urgently needed, if they were assured that they would not forfeit their pensions. In Sydney a.lone, the services of between 300 and 4.00 additional telegraphists are required, and members of the present staff are working five or six hours’ overtime daily in order to cope with the work. The act should be amended in order to rectify the anomaly that I have described. If that were done, other superannuated officers would return to the Service, in which trained employees are so urgently required.
.- I wish to deal with the future of vessels that are owned and controlled by the Australian Shipping Board and to make a plea to the Government to retain them. It is obvious, however, from statements that have been made recently by the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) that the Government proposes to dispose of them. For that purpose it is exaggerating the losses that have been incurred by the Australian Shipping Board. I propose to place before the House a few facts in substantiation of that statement. The Minister said that substantial losses were incurred as a result of troubles that were initiated by the Communists on the waterfront. The figures that he gave are at variance with those disclosed in the Auditor-General’s annual report upon the operation of those vessels. I should say that the Auditor-General’s figures would be more reliable than those that the Minister cited. The Minister lumped together the loss of £11,000,000 incurred on requisition tonnage, the loss of £6,700,000 incurred on Commonwealthowned and chartered ships, and an estimated loss on the cost value of Commonwealth owned ships of £5,400,000. The Auditor-General’s report, however, disclosed a different story. It showed that the loss of £11,000,000 on requisition tonnage, as has been pointed out on several previous occasions, was due almost solely to war conditions. The report points out that a large proportion of that sum went into the pockets of Australian shipowners who were guaranteed remunerative rates for their vessels and were also granted various perquisites in the form of commissions and the like. The shipowners were also allowed to make substantial increases of freight in August, 1947, when the Australian Government handed back certain ships to them, and they have since been allowed to increase their charges still further.
It is admitted that a profit of over £5,000,000 was made on Commonwealthowned and chartered tonnage when the vessels were operating in the overseas trade. At the 30th June, 1948, according to the Auditor-General, the board had an accumulated surplus after allowing for the loss of £852,000 that was sustained because chartered vessels had to be used in the Australian coastal trade at the freight rates pegged in 1942. That was a remarkable performance. Instead of a gross loss of £17,700,000 being incurred on the operations of these vessels, the loss as at the 80th June, 1948, was actually £10,000,000 and that loss can be attributed almost wholly to war conditions. Including the estimated loss of £2,400,000 for the year ended the 30th June, 1949, the total loss amounted to only £12,400,000. However, after allowance is made for the provision for nearly £1,000,000 interest that was credited to the Treasury on the cost of the vessels and for a further sum of approximately £1,000,000 -that was placed to reserve for repairs and insurance, the loss is reduced to £10,400,000. The Minister said that the sum of £5,400,000 had been lost on the cost of hulls, but, apparently, he arrived at that figure by deducting the value of hulls shown in the accounts of the Australian Shipping Board from the total cost of the board’s ship-building programme. I should like to know whether the Minister, in arriving at that figure, allowed anything for depreciation, because some of the ships have been in commission for seven years.
The Menzies Government was responsible for approving of the design and construction of thirteen “ River “ class ships which comprise a large proportion of Commonwealth-owned tonnage. When those vessels were ordered, was any consideration given to the fact that they would be used in the post-war years? Unfortunately, the “River” class vessels are not suitable for the Australian trade, and that factor has reduced their earning capacity. During the recent war, the regulations were relaxed in order to enable those ships to carry the maximum quantity of cargo, but after the conclusion of the war the regulations were again enforced with the result that the quantity of cargo permitted to be carried by the ships -was materially reduced. That factor naturally reduced the earning capacity of the vessels. The “ River “ ships were actually too large to be used in the Australian coastal trade except for the carriage of bulk cargo such as coal, whilst, at the same time, they were not suitable for use in the overseas trade. However, they had to be used even at a loss to help carry on the essential trade of the nation. The D and E class ships also were originally ordered for war purposes, and no one can say they have not rendered very useful service in the Australian coastal trade.
The Australian Shipping Board controls 28 ships that are owned by the Australian Government. The line was officially established under legislation that was passed last year by the Chifley Government, which intended to appoint a leading British shipping man to manage it. Arrangements were made for that gentleman to come to Australia in March, but as the result of the change of government his appointment was not finalized. The present Government has taken evey opportunity to ridicule the operations of the board. Honorable members will recall that the Bruce-Page Government indulged in similar tactics before it disposed of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Those tactics are designed to create a psychology to the detriment of the present line and in order to provide a pretext for the Government to sell the vessels. As I have said, the losses have been exaggerated. In addition, private ship-owners have seized every opportunity to sabotage the board’s operations. Proof of that statement can be supplied by Australian seamen who have worked on these vessels on the Australian coast. I shall give an illustration of such sabotage. A man who has big timber interests in Tasmania and is interested also in a private shipping line consigns most of his timber, which is the least profitable of shipping cargoes, on vessels controlled by the Australian Shipping Board. The freight rates for cargoes such as potatoes and other commodities, which Tasmania supplies to the mainland, are much more profitable to shipowners than those charged for timber cargoes. However, the board is not the only shipping organization that has incurred losses in recent years. For the year ended the 30th September, 1949, the
Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited showed a loss of £161,173, compared with the loss of £173,786 for the preceding year. The low carrying capacity of the D class vessels controlled by the Australian Shipping Board has also reduced the fleet’s earning capacity. Nevertheless, those vessels have done a magnificent joh in the interests of the nation.
– Order .’ The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. GULLETT (Henty) ri0.40].- I support the admirable suggestion made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) that the House should be given an opportunity to express in unmistakable terms its views concerning the claims that have been made by the Government of Indonesia on Dutch New Guinea. Regardless of party political considerations, the House should express the united opinion of the Australian people in answer to those claims. First, ‘it should express the indignation that those statements have aroused among the Australian people; and, secondly, it should clearly reveal its reaction to the claims that Dr. Soekarno has made in the name of the United States of Indonesia. I propose to deal briefly with two of the claims that he embodied in statements that he made some weeks ago. Many supporters of the Government, who noted those statements at the time they were made, have remained silent about them, but I believe that the time has now arrived when something should be said in the Parliament about them. First, Dr. Soekarno said that the Indonesians have a claim upon Dutch New Guinea because of the historical and cultural association of the two countries in the past. The honorable member for Chisholm has shown clearly that there is not the slightest shred of truth in that statement. It would be a very bad day for the natives of New Guinea if the people of Indonesia should ever get control of their country. Australia owes a duty to the people of New Guinea. A study of the history of colonial empires in the Pacific reveals that the granting of sovereign powers to Asiatics in countries in which the standards of the native population have been very low has almost invariably resulted in the extinction of those populations. The natives of New Guinea would suffer a similar fate if the Indonesians were given the opportunity to control the economy of their country for the advantage of Indonesia. The second claim that Dr. Soekarno made was as follows: -
We can guarantee Australia and the whole world that if we obtain sovereignty over New Guinea it will not become Communist.
Let us consider that statement. “What justification has Dr. Soekarno for making such a claim? It is completely groundless, particularly when we know the position in which the Government of Indonesia finds itself in relation to Communists in its own territory. Judged by modern standards, that government is not really a government at all. Its authority is recognized only within a limited radius of the larger cities in Indonesia. The industries in that country are rapidly deteriorating under the control of the present regime. In fact, law and order does not exist in Indonesia and the country is gradually reverting to the conditions that existed in it 150 years ago before the British, and later the Dutch, colonized the country and introduced some semblance of law and order and did much for the progress of the country until their work was interrupted by the outbreak of the recent war. The claim that if the Indonesians obtain control of Dutch New Guinea Australia will have nothing to fear because the Indonesians will prevent the spread of communism is not worth a rap, and it cannot inspire the slightest confidence on our part. The people of this country are being asked to some degree to assist in the rehabilitation of Indonesia; and very properly, because it seems quite clear that without our assistance, not only financial hut perhaps administrative and in other directions, the Indonesians are unlikely to get out of the mess in which they find themselves. I support the policy, of granting to them any assistance that we can render. Any good neighbourly action cn our part will, I am sure, meet with the wholehearted approval of the people of Australia; but the Indonesians should also understand that our people will not tolerate outrageous claims of the sort that have been made in relation to New
Guinea, for which there is no justification or reason. The sooner they abandon those tactics, the better it will be for them.
– I think that the intervention of the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), in this matter, is justified. The problem is delicate and difficult because a third party, the Netherlands, is concerned. It is important that Australia should be closely associated with the negotiations that are now proceeding between the Netherlands and Indonesia. I do not consider that it is necessary for me to say much about the internal situation in Indonesia, but the matter of whether Indonesia was, on an- ethnical or a geographical basis, a part of the area in which New Guinea is situated, was carefully considered by the South Pacific Commission with which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) and I were closely associated. The reports of all the experts on that commission indicate that Dutch New Guinea really belongs to the Pacific, and has no close relation .with Asia or Indonesia. New Guinea is divided from Indonesia by the so-called “ Wallace line “. It is perfectly clear that a sufficient association does not exist between Indonesia and Dutch New Guinea to justify the claim that has been made. I agree with the honorable member for Chisholm on that point.
– And there can be no justification for it, even on the basis of the “ Weaver line “ instead of the “ Wallace line “.
– I have no considerable knowledge of the details of the former, although I have read extensively about the “ Wallace line “. The sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea is in the Netherlands, and that could be altered only with the consent of the Netherlands Government. The situation is most difficult. I have always assumed that the Government of this country would be as closely in touch with these conversations as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), on several occasions, has indicated it to be. I understand that it was never contemplated that Dutch New Guinea would “bc a part of the subject-matter of negotiations in relation to Indonesia. In any event, Australia has a right to participate in them. I should like this problem to be considered on a non-party basis. As the honorable member for Henty pointed out, the taking over of Dutch New Guinea by Indonesia would lead to the very problem that we are trying to solve in other parts of New Guinea, in respect of which other Asiatic races claim the right of entry. That right is not accepted on the principle of the United Nations that the welfare of the native peoples is the main consideration. It is not a matter of which is the better race or the more powerful race. The fact is that the Melanesian race in New Guinea, and the Indonesian race, are completely different. The overrunning of the Melanesians by the Indonesians would lead to the complete destruction of tribal life in New Guinea. In the last resort, the United Nations would have to intervene in that matter. The Government has an opportunity to have this matter settled to the advantage of Australia. Three parties, the Netherlands, the United States of Indonesia, and Australia, are concerned in it. Australia is closely interested in the future of New Guinea. I do not think that the claims that have been advanced in the name of the United States of Indonesia should be accepted by Australia and I do think that Australia is entitled to active and close participation in the negotiations. As the honorable member for Henty followed up the important interventions by the honorable member for Chisholm in this matter, I thought that I should make that statement with a view to obtaining the unanimous expression of opinion of this House.
.-! wish to make a few brief remarks in order to lend my general support to the proposition that this is one of the issues on which the Australian nation, as a whole, should express a united opinion. It seems to me that three major matters are involved. One of them is the question of upholding the best usages of international relations. As the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has pointed out, the sovereignty of this area is still resting in the Netherlands, and having regard to our own interests in international affairs, and to the maintenance of international law, we should be careful to insist at all times that any transfer of sovereignty shall be made, not as a result of loose and extravagant claims by one party, but in accordance with the usages and principles of international relations, and with due respect to international law. “We should be particularly careful to uphold that point, because it affects a country that is close to our own borders.
The second principle is that of the protection of dependent areas. In that respect, as in the previous matter, our conduct should be governed by the set of principles to which we have subscribed as signatories of the Charter of the United Nations. Certain responsibilities for the preservation of the rights of the people in dependent territories have been accepted in that Charter. Having regard to the interests of the people in this dependent area, I heartily support the statements by previous speakers on this subject, to the effect that these people would not benefit by the immediate proclamation of Indonesian sovereignty over them. In the interests of the people in that dependent territory, we have to see that arrangements are made that will ensure that their welfare shall be advanced.
The third set of principles relates to Australia. All sections of opinion in this nation will agree that, having regard to the security of this country, we cannot allow a change to be brought about in an idle or loose way in this part of the world. We have a definite interest and responsibility to see that Australian interests are preserved in any future disposition of New Guinea.
.- I should like to say a few words about Soekarno’s attitude, not only to Dutch New Guinea, but also to Australian New Guinea. The Foreign Minister of the ramshackle Indonesian Republic, Mr. Yamin, recently declared that Indonesia demanded control of Australian New Guinea. That statement was made obviously only for diplomatic purposes. He indicated that the imperialists of the Republic of Indonesia wanted to possess what remains of the Dutch colonial empire in the East Indies as well as that portion of the territory of New Guinea which is mandated to Australia and forms a part of the Commonwealth of Australia. I hope that when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) makes a statement on this subject tomorrow he will indicate that we reject out of hand - I use his phraseology - the claim of Indonesia to Australian New Guinea, and also that he will say definitely that Australia will not permit Indonesia to occupy any portion of Dutch New Guinea.
When the Minister recently returned from Djakarta he said that he regarded Soekarno as a reasonable man and that his Ministers were men of moderate views. The whole sordid history of Soekarno shows him to be a most traitorous and dangerous character. He has been a Communist, an extreme nationalist and a collaborator with Japan. Now he is seeking to exercise power over a portion of the earth to which, for the reasons that were advanced by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), he has no claim. Unfortunately, following the visit of the Minister to Indonesia this Government decided to raise the status of the Australian representative in Indonesia from that of consul-general to that of ambassador. That decision was made at a time when we are unable to exchange Ministers with countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, to which we are tied on ethnic grounds, because of the shortage of trained Australian diplomats. The Government was able to find an ambassador to represent this country in Indonesia, although for a long time we have not been able to exchange representatives with those nations which have already sent representatives here. Belgium and Denmark have both recalled their Ministers from this country, and they are no longer represented here except by consular officials. The Minister for Sweden recently died, and his place has not been filled. It may be a long time before that country is again represented in Australia. So far all that the Minister has said is that Indonesia has no claim to Dutch territory. We should make our position very much more clear than that because we are approaching a crisis in our Pacific relations. If the first law of nature is self-preservation, the first law of national existence demands that those territories which are of great importance to our defence shall not be seized by others and be capable of being used at some future time against us. Soekarno has collaborated with the Japanese on one occasion. He may well do so again. If he can gain control of Dutch New Guinea, in another crisis, Japanese imperialists or Chinese Communists might be given access to that territory and our national existence would then be gravely endangered. I am disappointed that the Minister has not been more forthright in his statements on this matter. He is trying to help the Indonesians by some sort of arrangement to stop the spread of Asiatic communism in their country. Only a few days ago, I read that Mr, Yamin told the Indonesians that his government was considering the recognition of the Vietminh, the Communist government of Vietnam. “We have read that the government of the United States of Indonesia is contemplating the exchange of diplomatic representatives with Moscow. Soekarno would be a rotten reed on which to rely in any crisis. Whatever our foreign policy may be, it should not have as one of its cornerstones friendship with Indonesia, and other countries, the leaders of which were noted for their collaboration with the Japanese during the war in the Pacific. We have to rely on people with whom we are closely related on ethnic grounds, whether they be in Europe or the United States of America. No other alinement, are of any assistance to us in our future attempts to hold our own country. I disagree with the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), who ended his remarks with an observation about the waterside workers running the foreign policy of the Chifley Government.
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad that I have evoked some response from the Minister, who knows very well that the oft-repeated statement that the waterside workers ran Australia’s foreign policy during the Chifley regime was only a cliche that was used by him and other opponents at that time-
– It is all too true that they did run it.
– It is not all too true. There was a great deal of hostility and opposition on the part of the whole of the people of this country to the Dutch at that period. Be that as it may, the attitude of the watersiders in not loading supplies for the Netherlands East Indies did not mean that they ran the foreign policy of the Chifley Government. I remind the Minister that the Chifley Government did not try to tie Australia up with Japanese collaborationists, as his Government is doing. Surely nobody in this Parliament wants to be tied up with collaborationists, and if the Minister has any influence in the Cabinet - and I hope that he has - I trust that he will bring it down on the side of honorable members like the honorable member for Chisholm and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who desire the rights of the people in Dutch New Guinea and the rights of the people in this country as far as New Guinea is concerned, to be safeguarded, and who want the Indonesians to be told very quickly and directly that they are not going to be allowed, to interfere in the affairs of Dutch New Guinea, and also that if there is to be any change it will be made through the United Nations. I hope that the United Nations will be asked by the Dutch to give Australia and the Netherlands a joint trusteeship of Dutch New Guinea. That is the only way to deal with the problem. We have no territorial ambitions, but we have a very natural and proper desire to safeguard the security of this country from people headed by Soekarno, who will play any game and serve any interests and who will attempt a second time to destroy this country in the event pf the conditions and circumstances of the time being propitious.
– I consider that as an ex-serviceman I should touch upon one aspect of New Guinea that has not been touched on by other honorable members. Many of the men of this country have made sacrifices in New Guinea. When we think of New Guinea we cannot help thinking of the Kokoda Trail, where one brigade of our men was almost completely wiped out in its endeavours to save New Guinea from the Japanese. We also remember
Milne Bay, Buna, Sanananda, Madang, Alexishafen, Hansa Bay, Wewak and Hollandia, which is in Dutch New Guinea. This nation and its fighting men will always remember New Guinea, where lie Australian war cemeteries that will probably be places of pilgrimage for the relatives of men who were lost in that country, just as the war graves in Palestine and other parts of the world are holy ground for Australians. We have made tremendous sacrifices in New Guinea and for that reason we have a tremendous interest in that country.
– I shall reply to the observations made by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), who spoke about superannuated officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who rendered assistance to this country during the war and at other times by returning to duty in the Public Service and who were placed at an economic disadvantage thereby. Many representations have been made to the Government about that matter, and I assure the honorable gentleman that it is under consideration by the Treasurer at present.
I refer briefly to the observations made by the honorable member’ for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) -and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). Twice to-day the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. ‘Spender) has assured the House that to-morrow morning he will make a statement on the subject of New Guinea. I assure honorable gentlemen that New Guinea has been constantly under consideration by the Government. Many representations have been made by the Minister for External Affairs about the views of the Government on it. Those views will be given expression in the House to-morrow morning. I am very pleased that so many honorable members on both sides of the House have expressed opinions in relation to this important matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500607_reps_19_208/>.