23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I desire to know whether, in view of the Cabinet’s unanimous decision to accept all of the recommendations contained in the Richardson committee’s report on parliamentary allowances, the right honorable gentleman will now take action to advise the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the Government no longer opposes the restoration of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage based on fluctuations in the cost of living. If he is not prepared to take the suggested action, will he explain how the Government justifies the inconsistency of its attitude in respect of parliamentary allowances and the wage rates of Australian workers?
– I will not. That is the answer to the question. I will not do anything quite so ridiculous. It seems a very odd thing to me that the honorable member should be so confused in his thinking as to believe that there is some identity between a three-yearly review of parliamentary salaries and a quarterly review of wages.
– Will the Treasurer examine the possible effect of the introduction of a wool futures market on the general exchange position? Could an Australian futures market, affording protection to both overseas buyer and Australian seller, be used as a means of speculation in overseas exchange? Would this make the introduction of a futures market difficult or almost impossible? Finally, could a futures market be controlled so that the exchange position could be protected against any speculative moves?
– I have noted the interest that certain sections of the wool industry have recently expressed in the establishment of a futures market in greasy wool in Australia. Officers of my department and of the Commonwealth Bank are at present examining the possible effects on the operation of our exchange control of permitting non-residents to transfer funds freely, both into and out of Australia, for purposes of buying or selling wool futures. This investigation has not yet reached the stage where I can have firm answers to the honorable member’s questions.
– Is there any information that the acting Minister for External Affairs can give this House on the present situation in Tibet? Can he inform me whether any action is likely to be taken by the United Nations?
– The information that is available from Tibet grows a little more certain day by day. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Dalai Lama has reached India but, as yet, no information has emanated directly from him as to what has occurred. It is plain, however, that there has been the suppression of at least a disturbance, if not a revolt, in Tibet by singularly ruthless and inhuman means. I know that., the utmost sympathy is due, and is given, to the Tibetan people in this situation. I hope that our Asian neighbours who live under the fear and threat of the imperialist expansionism - to use an oldfashioned term - of the Communist regime of mainland China will observe and bear in mind exactly what credit can be given to a Communist assertion that the autonomy of a country will be respected. Our Asian neighbours should also observe what recognition of basic human rights is accorded by that regime.
The question of doing anything in the United Nations is fraught with some uncertainty. As honorable members know, there has been a long-standing recognition by some countries of a suzerainty by China over Tibet. That suzerainty was said to be consistent with, and to recognize, the autonomy of Tibet. As to which China has the suzerainty there seems to be some question, and the greater nations of the world have not, as far as I know, made up their minds on this question. It seems to me that as one of the smaller nations of the world we ought not, at this moment, to endeavour to refer the matter in the United Nations.
May I add that there is quite some doubt as to whether the United Nations would entertain such a matter? On a former occasion, in similar but not quite the same circumstances, it did not. In answering the honorable member who asked me a question on this subject a few days ago I said that this country was not contemplating taking the matter to the United Nations. I have indicated, this morning, some of the reasons. But let me say that we are taking that course, not because we are in any sense out of sympathy with the Tibetan people. They have our utmost sympathy and we sympathize also with our Asian neighbours who are living under like threat or fear of suppression or of aggression.
The Minister for External Affairs will be back next week from his attendance of the meeting of Seato. No doubt, the effect of the treatment meted out to the Tibetans will have been observed by the Ministers who are considering at the Seato conference what continuing efforts should be made to confine this expanding Communist aggression.
– I wish to ask a question supplementary to that which the Minister has just answered. His answer covered a number of very interesting and important grounds, and I hope that arrangements can be made by the Prime Minister for some discussion on the subject as soon as possible. In the meantime, I ask the Minister to review his provisional view that the matter is not one for the United Nations. Similar matters have been taken there with great advantage. I do not say that the same would occur in this case, because I know it is very difficult. The other thing I want to suggest is that we should obtain from the representative of Australia in New Delhi the latest reports that are available. I presume that this is being done. I would suggest to the Government that some message should be sent to the Prime Minister of India expressing appreciation of his action in giving refuge - or whatever the appropriate term may be - to the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
– The right honorable member will appreciate that I am acting, only for a very short period, as Minister for External Affairs, and that the return of the Minister is very imminent. None the less, if there were such urgency as I thought required me to take what would be a major step, I would take it. But I did not say that I did not think the matter was one for the United Nations. I said there was a question as to whether the United Nations would deal with it. I did say that I do not think this country should set the matter in motion.
As to the other matters, we are being kept informed by our representative in India and we have some information as to what Mr. Nehru has done and what attitude he has taken. For my part - and this is fairly personal - I do not think it is opportune at the moment for this country to intervene in the way of sending a message to the Indian Prime Minister. There are delicate considerations which would not lead me to favour that course. However, the matter that I have received from our representatives in India I can make available to the Leader of the Opposition for his perusal.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry any indication of primary production values for the present financial year? How does the present estimate compare with the calculations made at the beginning of the year?
– There have been some variations since the estimates were given in January last with respect to primary production values. The estimates made at that time of the net farm income for the financial year totalled £349,000,000. To-day, I am happy to say that the present estimate exceeds £400,000,000. A variation has occurred in the wool situation, and the department now estimates that the overall realization will be higher by about 4 or 5 per cent, than previously estimated. Wheat production is now estimated at 212,000,000 bushels as against the previous estimate of 200,000,000 bushels, which will represent an increase in overall value of £7,000,000. The chief increase in values, however, has been in respect of meats. The continued high rate of slaughtering shows that the gross value should be up about £36*000,000 on the January estimate.
– My question to the Treasurer makes a plea on behalf of the girl guides and brownies of the Australian Capital Territory. I ask the Minister: Will he, at the earliest appropriate time, consider granting to the Girl Guides Association exemption from the payment of sales tax on purchases made by the association of equipment for girl guide companies and brownie packs? Would the right honorable gentleman recognize that while the motto of the girl guides is “ Be prepared “, they would be better prepared for their outdoor activities and their indoor training if the Government would be prepared to exempt them from the payment of sales tax on equipment they purchase?
– As an old boy scout myself, I think I could be expected to take a sympathetic interest in the activities of girl guides and brownies, whether they be indoor activities or outdoor activities. Like the honorable member, I, too, adopted the motto “ Be prepared “, and even if his question comes to me without notice, I shall have in mind that old injunction that we should do a good deed every day, and I shall see what can be done in the matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to a question that was asked earlier to-day by the honorable member for Wannon. Since both the selling and buying of futures must involve the making of a profit by somebody, would not the establishment of a futures market here result only in further depressing the return to wool-growers and enabling the manipulators, who would establish such a market, to dictate future auction prices?
– As I conveyed, I think at least by implication, to the honorable member for Wannon, this question is recognized as being a very complex one. I have already told the House that my officers are examining the matter quite closely at the present time. I cannot give a firm answer to the honorable member, any more than I was able to give a firm answer to the honorable member for Wannon. Frankly,. I know so little about the subject myself that I would not have the temerity to give a firm answer at this stage. I am having the matter carefully analysed, and shall see whether I can supply information to the honorable member.
– I ask my question of the Prime Minister. Could consideration be given to extending the Australian visit of Princess Alexandra so as to include a visit to Western Australia, even if only to give the children of that State an opportunity to meet Her Highness at some gathering similar to that arranged for the Queen Mother?
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the honorable member’s suggestion, but I want him to know that the arranging of this tour is a matter of considerable difficulty because of the overall limitation of time imposed on it, and the fact that the visit is primarily for purposes connected with the Queensland centenary. Approximately half of Her High.ness’s very limited stay in this country will be spent in Queensland. In those circumstances, it was thought not possible to extend the tour to all of the six States. The matter of the tour and the details of it will be under active consideration by the Princess and her staff, together with representatives of my staff on the organizing side, within the next few weeks.
– Will the Minister for Social Services consider recommending that a representative public committee be set up to take evidence and make recommendations in respect of reasonable rates of age, invalid and widow’s pensions, instead of relying upon arbitrary ad hoc determinations?
– If I thought for a single moment that the recommendation to establish a committee to make determinations of the kind would absolve me from some of my very difficult duties, I would be prepared to give some consideration to it. Similarly, if I thought for a single moment that the setting up of a committee of the kind would absolve the Parliament from its duties with regard to social service benefits, again I would be prepared to give it favorable considerable. But I am of the opinion that the setting up of a committee would absolve neither the Parliament nor me from our responsibilities with regard to social services.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I preface it by saying that the Premier of Victoria stated in the Victorian Parliament, in reply to a question, that an application had been made to the Commonwealth for a £l-for-£l grant to assist bush fire sufferers in Victoria who were in need of relief. Will the Prime Minister say what action has been taken or is contemplated by the Federal Government?
– I have notified the Premier of Victoria that, pursuant to his request, the Commonwealth will provide the sum of £10,000 on the usual terms relating to cases of personal hardship.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Defence concerning the second half of the report which the Allison committee was asked to make over eighteen months ago. The committee reported on the allowances paid to serving members of the forces in the middle of last year, and the Government has already implemented the recommendations of the report. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether the committee has reported on the remaining matter within its charter, that is, the retiring allowances for members of the forces, and whether those allowances will be made payable from the date the committee was appointed, the date the committee reported to the Minister, or the date the report is adopted by this Parliament.
– The statement in the first part of the honorable member’s remarks is correct. In reply to his question, Sir John Allison’s report has come to me and I am grateful for it. A most comprehensive and exhaustive study has been made of a very complex matter. The report was received by me within the last few days and is in my hands now. At the present time I am studying it. Subsequently, of course, it will go to Cabinet with my recommendation.
– As a large proportion of the cost of specialist medical treatment for people of the outback is incurred in travelling to a city for such treatment, will the Treasurer consider allowing such fares as a rebatable item for taxation purposes, when a patient is under a doctor’s orders to undergo specialist treatment?
– The question on the face of it clearly indicates that it calls for some examination, and perhaps some rather technical examination. I do not quite know where such a proposal would lead. However, I shall see that it is examined, and that it is considered amongst other matters of policy which are normally considered at the time of preparation of the Budget.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I bring to the right honorable gentleman’s notice the fact that, two years ago, a constituent of mine had his extensive poultry farm completely destroyed by the disastrous bush fires which ravaged the countryside at that time. I now ask the Treasurer: Does he agree that it is an imposition to tax that poultry farmer on the assistance which he has received to re-establish himself - assistance which has been generously given by the Bush Fire Relief Committee? If the right honorable gentleman agrees with this proposition, will he take action to amend the taxation laws in order to protect needy citizens who receive relief after they have been hit by the disaster of flood, fire or any other calamity?
– The honorable gentleman will be aware that there is now a clearly established practice as between the Commonwealth and State governments which is followed in these matters. Whether one of the consequences of present policy is the effect which he mentions, and whether that policy should be reviewed, is a matter which I am prepared to look into. I shall study his question and see whether I can supply him with further information on the matter.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. I believe that many sections of the primary industries are in serious need of greater credit facilities from the banking system. Will the right honorable gentleman examine the matter and discuss it with the Minister for Primary Industry and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia?
– I am interested in what has been put forward by the honorable member. So far as I am aware, I have not had that kind of information brought under my notice by representatives of the primary producers. If this situation exists, it certainly does not arise from any lack of liquidity on the part of the banking system. In fact, it has been quite apparent for some time that there is lending capacity - lending capacity which has been augmented in recent months by the action of the Commonwealth Bank in releasing further funds from the special accounts that the private banks held with it. Perhaps, if the honorable gentleman could bring some illustrations to my notice, I could have them looked into and see whether there is any way in which I could be helpful to him.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question which is supplementary to the one directed to him yesterday by the honorable member for Melbourne. In reply to that question, the Minister indicated that the target set by the Department of Immigration for this year was approximately 110,000 immigrants. The Minister will recall that that was the quota for the preceding year, but in actual fact only about 60,000 immigrants arrived in this country. Will the honorable gentleman indicate to the House the reason why the intake fell approximately 45 per cent, short of the quota decided upon by the Government, and will he also tell me whether it is considered that the discrepancy has some relationship to the high level of unemployment which exists in this country to-day?
– I think that the honorable gentleman really is not quite correct in his premise. First of all, I said yesterday that the target for the current year was 115,000 immigrants, and not 110,000. Secondly, so far as the preceding financial year was concerned, the target was the same as for the present year - 115,000 - but it is quite untrue for my honorable friend to say that only about 60,000 - I think that was the figure that he used - migrants arrived. In actual fact, the overall intake, in round figures, was 108,000, which was only 7,000 short of what we aimed at.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Has the Government investigated the plane known as the TSR2, with which it is proposed by the Royal Air Force to replace the Canberra bomber? If so, has the Royal Australian Air Force considered following suit?
– I am aware of the plans of the British Government for the development of an aircraft at present described as the TSR2, because the Department of Air follows very carefully all the aircraft development plans of our allies which may be of future interest to us. I think that it is somewhat premature to describe the TSR2 as a plane. If my recollection is correct, at the present stage it is little more than a drawing board plan and its probable date of flying lies many years in the future.
– I wish to direct a question without notice to the Minister for the Interior. I ask the honorable gentleman whether the inter-departmental committee on civil defence has yet recommended how the Budget appropriation of £300,000 for civil defence should be expended. If so, has the recommendation been communicated to, or discussed with, the Commonwealth-State committee on civil defence? Finally, Sir, I ask him how much of the appropriation it is expected will be spent during the remainder of this financial year for which it was appropriated.
– The honorable member is not entirely correct when he assumes that the job of the inter-departmental committee on civil defence was to recommend how the sum of £300,000 appropriated was to be spent. A considerable portion of that sum is expended on the Commonwealth Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon. As to the second portion of the question, there has been no report from the interdepartmental committee, and that also answers the third part of his question.
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister, may I preface my remarks, Sir, by stating that I believe that throughout the world there is general concern about pollution, as a result of atomic radiation, of the earth and the waters of the earth, and that international action is being sought to achieve control of this very dangerous element. I desire to ask the right honorable gentleman whether his attention has been directed to the reported action of the New South Wales Government regarding the introduction of legislation to control some of the factors concerned, and to consult with other States on the matter. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth has at present no constitutional control over this matter? If so, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether consideration has been given to speeding up reference of this and allied subjects to the people of Australia by referendum so that the necessary power can be given to the Commonwealth?
– The matter is a very complex one, and I think I should bring the terms of the honorable member’s question to the notice of my colleague in the appropriate department, with whom I shall be very happy to discuss it in order to see whether anything can be done.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position yet to say whether the committee that is dealing with the question of social services for detribalized aborigines has made a decision and, if so, what it is?
– The honorable member is referring, no doubt, to the fact that there is a Cabinet committee going into that matter. It has not yet concluded its own work, but I am hoping that quite soon it will be in a position to make recommendations to the Government on this quite important matter.
– Will the Minister for Social Services explain by what manner of reasoning he arrives at the conclusion that a pensioner purchasing a home by instal ments, and having a very small equity only in the property, is ineligible, on the ground that he is an owner, for the grant of supplementary rent allowance?
– I remind the honorable member that I do not make determinations of the sort to which he has referred. The conditions are laid down in the social service legislation. Under that legislation, in the case of a person eligible to receive an age or invalid pension or indeed a widow’s pension, the value of the home is eliminated from the calculations made in the application of the means test. That is a considerable advantage to persons who own homes of any value at all, and to that degree it is prejudicial to persons who qualify for social service benefits of any kind and who have their savings invested in bonds or property other than a home in which they live. The supplementary allowance was introduced to relieve the circumstances of hardship that are incidental to people who are trying to live on a single pension and have to pay rent. The supplementary allowance was introduced for that purpose and for no other purpose.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by stating that banana growers have been suffering very severely as a result of the extremely low prices that have been paid for their product during the last three months. These people are mainly single-unit farmers of small means. Because of the low prices for bananas their financial reserves have been exhausted, and they are finding it difficult to continue farming operations. Will the Treasurer consider giving these people more time in which to pay their income tax?
– I regret to learn that the plight of the banana growers, particularly in the area represented by the honorable gentleman, is so embarrassing. However, I shall take up with the Commissioner of Taxation the practicability of the course the honorable member has suggested. It may be that the Commissioner will be willing to look at individual cases that are brought to his notice. I shall write to the honorable gentleman giving him such further information as I can obtain.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Will the right honorable gentleman consider extending tax concessions to persons who make donations to the Age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association? If a concession were granted, it might encourage persons with large salaries, like the editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald”, to make such donations.
– There are policy lines which relate to the classes of donations which should be exempt for taxation purposes. The particular purpose the honorable gentleman has mentioned may or may not come within that range of principle. However, I shall consider having it examined; and the results which flow from it will, of course, depend upon the liberality of those who wish to assist the worthy cause referred to.
– -Will the Minister for Social Services take immediate and positive action to give relief to the wives and children of age pensioners who are only existing on a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week which the husband receives?
- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member knows that the question of social service payments comes up for consideration every year. Throughout the whole of its term of office, this Government has consistently applied itself to that task to the limit of the financial capacity of the Australian people.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that many intending visitors from iron curtain countries are advised to submit applications to emigrate permanently? Would the Minister agree that many intending visitors are elderly parents of our new settlers and often are incapable of complying with high health standards due to age? Is it not also a fact that to follow the Government’s advice would involve many intending visitors in relinquishing pensions and other entitlements? In the circumstances, does the Minister consider the policy of the Department of Immigration to be unreasonable? Will he review the position with a view to restoring visitors’ vises to the category of countries to which 1 have referred?
– Intending visitors in the category to which the honorable gentleman refers come in, as a rule, according to the Government’s general tourist policy. An application in these cases is examined on its merits. As the honorable member may be aware, only six months ago the Government introduced quite considerable restrictions on the types of vises and the general conditions with which intending visitors to Australia had to comply. It would be true to say that, in the broad, Australian policy with regard to visitors for tourist or other short-term purposes is now very much in line with that of practically all other countries, certainly of the Western democratic countries. I do not think, therefore, that it is correct to impute some form of discrimination, as the honorable member tries to do.
– I address a question to the acting Minister for External Affairs. I preface my question by referring to the recent attacks on the South-East Asia Treaty Organization by the Soviet Government, through the government-controlled Soviet press. I ask the Minister whether these attacks represent an example of the kind of Soviet Embassy press statement we can expect regarding similar organizations when the Soviet diplomatic mission is again established in Canberra.
– I said in answer to a question yesterday that my colleague, the Minister, would no doubt be making a statement shortly on the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Russia in this country. I would like to suggest to the honorable member that perhaps it would be just as well if we did not begin the resumed relations in the spirit which his question perhaps suggests. I will look at the report in question, and no doubt my colleague will, as these relations are resumed, have his eye on any like statements.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. Is it a fact that 21 rooms in Parliament House are allocated to the Australian press proprietors, rent free, for the purpose of housing their employees? If so, could you give me the annual cost to the taxpayers of Australia of this gesture, based on rentals prevailing in Canberra city?
– I undertake to give consideration to the matter raised by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. Earlier, in answer to a question about the formation of a committee to investigate social services, the Minister said that finally the responsibility would devolve upon him and that he accepted the responsibility. In answer to another question about the pensioners’ supplementary allowances, he said that the responsibility was not his, that the matter was covered by a provision in the act and that the responsibility was that of departmental officers. How does the Minister manage to reconcile the two statements?
– I must express my regret that the honorable member’s powers of understanding are so limited that he was unable to grasp my meaning. Let me explain the position. The first question concerned the setting up of a committee to determine social service payments, and I said that if this committee could absolve me from my difficult duties to any degree, or if it could absolve the Parliament from the responsibility of determining social service payments, I would be quite prepared to consider it. Quite obviously, it is the primary duty of the Minister ‘for Social Services to make recommendations, and it is for the Parliament to decide whether to accept them, once a year. No committee, no matter how it applied itself to the task, could ever absolve the Minister or the Parliament of their responsibilities. These facts are quite consistent with the answer that I gave to the second question, when I said that these determinations are made once a year.
– On 7th April, the honorable member for Macquarie asked me whether I would convene an early meeting of the Standing Orders Committee to review certain matters to which he referred. I suggest that the honorable member define his proposals in more detail, and that, at this stage, it would be appropriate for him to discuss them informally with his colleagues who are members of the committee.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth for Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section six of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act 1948-1949.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is similar to the Northern Territory Representation Bill which my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), introduced on 19th March. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act 1948-1949, in order to give increased voting powers to the member of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory.
Of course there are many, both residents of the Australian Capital Territory and non-residents, who contend that the member for the Australian Capital Territory should have full voting rights in this House. The present honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is reported recently to have stated that he demands full voting rights. However, as honorable members will know, representation in this House is decided upon a population basis. The present population of the Australian Capital Territory is 43,000 and the number of electors 22,000. As this figure is much less than that of the numerically smallest electorate in Australia excluding, of course, the Northern Territory, it follows that the member for the Australian Capital Territory is not entitled to voting rights equal to those of other members.
Further, I would direct attention to the fact that the Australian Capital Territory differs in many respects from other electorates. The development and advancement of the Territory is very largely dependent on the contribution made by the Federal Government - much more so than in any other area of the Commonwealth. It is of interest to note that Washington, the seat of the United States Federal Government, is not self-ruled but is governed by the Federal Congress through three commissioners, all appointed by the President with the concurrence of the Senate. The Federal Congress legislates for the district. Residents of the District of Washington exercise no vote. They have no representative in Congress.
It may be argued that having departed from the precedent which exists in Washington to the extent of allowing this National Capital to elect a member to Parliament, we should go the whole way and give him full voting powers. In the first place there is the numerical objection I referred to. The voters enrolled number approximately half of the number enrolled in the average federal electorate. I know that all kinds of figures have been quoted to show that at other times in our history electorates have had representation on smaller numbers. I regard such argument as entirely irrelevant to the present situation. The simple fact is that, mathematically, the citizen of the Australian Capital Territory would exercise twice as much voting authority as that of any other elector, and the whole spirit of our Constitution, so far as representation of the States in this House is concerned, is to make every vote of equal value. The electorate of Kalgoorlie, which is the smallest, numerically, of all federal electorates, covers an area extending from the north coast of Australia to the Bight and from the west coast to the South Australian border - almost 1,000,000 square miles of territory - and even there the numbers of electors enrolled are considerably more than in the Australian Capital Territory.
– How many are there?
– Approximately 31,000. There is another way of looking at this matter: Under the Constitution, a population quota is calculated by dividing twice the number of Senate seats into the total population. The number of seats in each State is then determined by the quota arrived at being divided into the total population of each State. The present quota would be 80,000 people and Canberra will not achieve a population of that order for many years.
If it is merely a question of numbers, then the member for the Australian Capital Territory is clearly not entitled to full voting rights at present. When the population increases substantially, as it inevitably will increase, the voting rights of the member for the Australian Capital Territory may well come up for consideration by a future government.
There are, of course, other difficulties in the way. The Australian Capital Territory has been created by the States as part of the machinery of federation. As a centre of administration it is largely financed by the contributions of taxpayers all over Australia. Whether it is justifiable to have the fate of a government responsible for national policy possibly at the mercy of a representative largely elected by the civil servants at the heart of the administrative machine is at least open to argument.
I want to assure the present honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that I do not express that view merely because, at the present time, he happens to represent a political party in opposition to the present Government. A glance at the party numbers in this House should be a convincing re-assurance to him on that score. Indeed - and I do not know whether the honorable member can take this is a compliment or otherwise - it has been represented to me quite strongly that while the member for the Australian Capital Territory has no vote in the House and therefore does not directly influence the fate of a government, residents in the Australian Capital Territory make the best of both worlds by electing a representative of the opposite political persuasion to that of the government in office. I concede that, at times, that kind of view demands some pretty accurate political forecasting.
I mention that argument only to emphasize that this Government is not actuated by party politics or personalities in its present views. Another argument sometimes used to justify the withholding of full voting rights is the extent to which the Commonwealth Government is obliged, as part of its function of developing a national capital, to spend on the provision of amenities here large sums of money that are quite out of proportion to the taxation contributed by the electors resident in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not rely on that as a very powerful argument except to say that there is no ground for supposing, on the present expenditures on Canberra, that the citizens are not receiving a very fair share of Government consideration.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has made some extravagant claims about the per capita amounts of income paid in the Australian Capital Territory by virtue of the relatively high average incomes enjoyed here. Particularly from the traditional Labour point of view, it seems somewhat illogical to use this as the basis of a demand for special consideration. But, by and large, the simple reason for limiting the voting rights of the member for the Australian Capital Territory, as in the case of the member for the Northern Territory, at the present time, is the question of numbers. The Constitution takes detailed and careful steps to ensure an equality of voting power within fairly narrow margins. At this time no strong case exists for departure from the spirit of the Constitution.
The bill offers a substantial addition to the present powers of the member for the Australian Capital Territory. It will enable the member for the Australian Capital Territory to vote on any proposed law which relates solely to that Territory. Decisions on the interpretation of this matter in particular cases are to be made by the Speaker or Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, subject to a provision that, if there is dissent from the ruling of the Speaker or the Chairman, the ruling of the House or the committee is to prevail. The bill will also allow the member to vote on a motion for the disallowance of a regulation made under an Australian Capital Territory ordinance. This is a logical extension of the present voting power.
Finally, the bill gives the member power to vote on a motion for the disallowance of a modification or variation of the plan of lay-out of the city of Canberra. Just as this bill extends to a worthwhile degree the voting powers first conferred only in 1948 in a very narrow field, so the House may be assured that this Government will have regard, in the future, to the reasonable requirements of traditional democratic development so far as parliamentary representation for the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. J. R. Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Aliens Act 1947-1952.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. Speaker, this is a short bill, of only five clauses, designed to amend the Aliens Act 1947-1952 in one particular respect. For some time now there has been mounting evidence that the certificate of registration issued to an alien under section 12 of the principal act is superfluous; and the Government therefore proposes to abolish this practice by repealing sections 12 and 12a, and to make formal consequential amendments.
It has long been the Government’s policy to erase, wherever possible, differences between Australian-born and naturalized citizens. The same spirit now animates the Government in its attitude towards settlers who, as yet, are unqualified for, or are not desirous of, naturalization. These are included in the generic terms “ aliens “ - a harsh, unlikeable, oldfashioned appellation, but one which nevertheless is widely used in Englishspeaking countries.
At present all foreigners landing in Australia must complete a statement of their intended stay in this country if they propose to remain less than 60 days. If they intend to stay for more than 60 days they must complete an application for registration. The last-named are issued with a certificate of registration. However, they are not required by the Aliens Act to carry the certificate with them, but merely to be in possession of it if required by lawful authority to produce it. Originally, no doubt, this certificate was thought to be a useful device for policing the movements of people about whom little was known and protecting the Australian public against unwelcome strangers. Experience has proven this unnecessary. The application form is detailed and comprehensive; in addition, every alien has to supply a photograph of himself. By these means, much information can be gleaned, and I must emphasize that the bill does not alter this procedure, or these requirements, in any way.
Honorable members will recall that since the certificate of registration was first provided for in the Aliens Registration Act 1939, great changes have been made in methods of enlisting immigrants. The Department of Immigration now maintains in the principal nations of supply, selection, health, and security officers. These must interview and carefully examine all foreigners seeking to enter Australia as full fare or assisted migrants, and also investigate their credentials. People who wish to come here merely as visitors for short periods, whether for business or pleasure, are also subject to inquiry before being granted vises. I remind the House of these things so as to illustrate the redundancy of registration certificates.
Furthermore, as I have said on earlier occasions, the story of immigration in Australia is still in its opening chapters. What has been happening since 1946 will, I believe, come to be regarded as the foundation of a continuing process extending throughout the remaining four decades of this century, and well into the twentyfirst. If this is so, then the number of people legally termed “ aliens “ will grow; for although all of us hope that the rate of naturalization will steadily rise year by year, if the annual immigration quota is to realize the proportion of 1 per cent, increase of total population there is likely to be a still larger number of aliens in our midst at any given point of time than to-day. The present figure is quite formidable: Approximately 410,000 people over sixteen years of age. A moment’s thought will reveal to honorable members the growing cost of these registration cer tificates which, as I have said, serve no useful purpose. By abolishing them, and other incidental administrative work associated with aliens registration, a valuable economy will be gained, amounting to a possible reduction in the Immigration Department of as much as 40 per cent, of the work relating to aliens.
Lest some people may fear that the Government is proceeding too quickly in its attitude to foreign residents in Australia, I remind the House of the exacting provisions of the Aliens Act which stand untouched by this bill. The aliens register remains for every State and Territory, and registration is compulsory. An alien must still notify the Immigration Department of his change of address. He must still give notice of his change of employment or occupation. He still has to notify the department if he marries. He cannot, subject to certain exceptions principally in favour of alien women on marriage, change his surname without the consent of myself or an authorized immigration officer. An officer may also require any person whom he believes to be an alien to give personal information of a comprehensive kind, and to substantiate such information by documentary or other evidence in his possession or control.
It cannot be said, therefore, that the Government is throwing away security safeguards, or absolving aliens of their civic obligations. What the Government is trying to achieve is the pruning of unnecessary encumbrances, economy in administration, and another gesture of goodwill towards the hundreds of thousands of people, not of our own race, who have come to live in our midst. It will be the Government’s constant aim to induce these settlers from countries outside the British Commonwealth to look upon Australia as their home, and to facilitate their adoption of our own nationality - not by compulsion, but by an appreciation of the practical advantages of joining us, as fully fledged citizens, in the work of evolving this continent into one of the great powers of the world. I am sure that our non-British residents will welcome this emancipation from registration certificates, and I hope the House will give the bill its blessing.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
.- At the outset I wish to say that the moving of this motion is something of an historic event because there has not been a “ Grievance Day” debate in this House since 1st May, 1958. On that occasion only nine honorable members were permitted, in the time available, to speak on matters such as the “ Grievance Day “ debate allows. As honorable members are aware, Standing Order No. 291 provides -
Notwithstanding the preceding Standing Order, the first Order of the Day on each alternate Thursday commencing with the first Thursday after the appointment of the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means shall be either Supply or Ways and Means, and on that Order of the Day being read the Question shall be proposed “ That the Speaker do now leave the Chair “…
The point I make is that the Government has completely taken away this rare opportunity, which should be a regular feature of this Parliament, to debate matters of importance to the people whom honorable members represent. To-day honorable members who hope to participate in this debate should keep in mind the possibility that it may be another twelve or eighteen months before a similar opportunity is given to them. The Government should also keep in mind the fact that “ Grievance Day “ is the only opportunity which private members have of debating matters of importance to their constituents; and it should not allow such a long period to elapse before the next similar opportunity is given to us. The Government continually brushes aside the rights of honorable members with regard to “ Grievance Day “ because it does not wish to have certain embarrassing matters raised. I hope that to-day many honorable members will take advantage of this rare opportunity to voice their protests, particularly on the infringement of their rights as private members. I hope that in the future the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Government will allow honorable members to exercise their rights, as laid down in
Standing Order No. 291, to raise matters of importance to their constituents.
This morning, I want to deal with some matters concerning the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Some considerable time ago, I directed attention to the treatment that was being meted out by the department to blind pensioners. Blind pensioners are still required to pay for telephone facilities at full rates. They are required to pay the £10 installation fee for a telephone. They get no reduction of the rental charge for a telephone. No consideration whatever is given to that suffering section of the community by way of rebate or assistance in connexion with the installation of a telephone. I have had correspondence, as no doubt other honorable members have also had, from blind pensioners’ associations stating that a telephone in the home of a blind person is almost like having another person in the home who can see. The blind pensioners are seeking a reduction of their telephone rental charges, reduced charges for calls, and the elimination of the installation fee.
Various other matters affecting telephone facilities for blind persons have been placed in detail before the Postmaster-General, by myself and other honorable members, and no doubt also by associations representing blind pensioners. The Postmaster-General has stated that the requests could not be met because of the cost involved. I point out that the Postmaster-General’s Department made a profit of about £4,000,000 last year. I can see no reason why a fraction of that amount cannot be set aside to give concessions to blind pensioners, concessions which, in my opinion, are their undeniable right. The blind pensioners have an unanswerable case, and a fraction of the department’s profits should be set aside to enable blind pensioners to have a telephone. It should be possible for the Government to provide telephones for blind pensioners at reduced rates, and I urge the Government to take appropriate action in this regard.
I am concerned with delays that occur in the provision of public telephone facilities. I have applied for a number of public telephones to be installed in my constituency, and in some instances considerable delay has taken place before a public telephone has been installed. To-day, about fourteen years after the war ended, there can be no reason why telephones, either private or public, should be in short supply. Yet endless delays occur, and no reason is given by the department other than, the application having been approved, the telephone will be installed at the appropriate time. The Government should bear in mind the inconvenience caused to people by these delays. Instead of telling the people that the telephones will be installed in due course, action should be taken to speed up the installation. There is no justification for saying that equipment is scarce.
– The department is putting people on to duplex systems.
– Yes, some people are being forced on to the duplex system. People who may have had a telephone for 20 or 30 years are now forced to have another subscriber attached to their service. I cannot understand why the Government is unable to supply an individual telephone service to anybody who wants one. There has been some bad planning and maladministration somewhere. Why the Government cannot give a better service has never been explained. Surely the department, having made such large profits, should be able to improve the service. The £10 installation fee is a real grab. The inability of the department to provide a sufficient number of public telephones, and the forcing of people to accept a duplex system, verge on scandalous. The Government has no plan for the provision of future telephone services. I urge the Postmaster-General to look into the matters that I have raised, particularly the matters concerning blind pensioners, the provision of public telephones and the transfer of telephones to a duplex system.
A particular matter that I want to raise concerns the delay that took place in the transfer of a telephone service. On 21st January last, a subscriber asked that a telephone be transferred from No. 672 New Canterbury-road, Hurlstone Park, to No. 676, only two doors away. On contacting the department the subscriber was informed that his application had been received and that in due course the transfer would be effected. I may say that there is a charge of £10 for that transfer. Time went on and the subscriber became anxious. I was asked to contact the department, which I did, and the department advised me that the transfer would be effected within three or four weeks. I remarked that that was a long time to effect the transfer of a telephone a mere two doors, and the official in the department said that the usual time in such cases was three months - 90 days to go two doors away in this age of peace, progress and atomic weapons. On 6th March, the telephone was still not installed at the new address. When I contacted a senior official of the department I was told that the telephone would be provided in one week. So, in effect, the department took almost two months to transfer a telephone to a place two doors away, and to make sure that it did not miss out on anything, it charged £10 for the transfer. The subscriber, who was in business, lost money because of the delay, and I am sure that the delay would have been even longer if I had not intervened. But people who do not seek the assistance of their representatives in this place would be faced with endless delay in such matters. There is no excuse for delays of that kind. Why could not the department transfer the telephone quicker, bearing in mind all the facilities at its command?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish also to grieve about the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but in an entirely different manner from that of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I believe that the people who are responsible for administration and planning in the Postmaster-General’s Department are very able and capable men, but they are greatly handicapped by lack of sufficient funds for capital development. I refer particularly to that area that comprises the northern part of my electorate, and which embraces the whole of the shire of Mulgrave, and extends to the southern municipalities of Box Hill and Blackburn and the shire of Springvale and Noble Park. I am pleased to be able to say on “ Grievance Day “ that with regard to the problems of the shire of Dandenong, the PostmasterGeneral, as a result of a personal inspection of the area, has been able to eliminate a great many of the problems in the area. The people of that district are greatly appreciative of the personal efforts of the Postmaster-General and of his staff in Victoria.
– And of their local member.
– And of their local member. I now direct the PostmasterGeneral’s attention to the problems of the northern part of that area. I have selected the shire of Mulgrave, because my electorate embraces the whole of the shire, in order to give an example to the PostmasterGeneral of the very urgent need for a greater allocation of funds for capital development. I shall give some indication of the incredible growth of this locality. Mulgrave shire has an area of 16 square miles. In 1948, there were 7,300 ratable properties; in 1959, there are 18,000 ratable properties. In 1948, the rate revenue was £11,570; in 1959, the rate revenue is £300,000. The population in 1948 was 4,326; the population to-day is 47,000.
The rate of completion of houses is quite startling. In the year ended June, 1957, 1,247 houses were completed; in the year ended June, 1958, 1,336 houses were completed; and in the quarter ended December, 1958, 396 houses were completed. This represents the biggest growth anywhere in Victoria, and indeed, I think, the biggest growth anywhere in Australia. The figures for completed houses do not include housing commission homes. If any other illustration of the incredible growth is required, let me say that whereas in 1950 there were four schools in the 16 square miles, with an enrolment of 191 children, in 1959 there are nineteen schools, plus one in the course of construction, with 8,000 pupils enrolled.
On 22nd September, 1958, the PostmasterGeneral, in answer to an inquiry by me, told me that 607 applicants for telephones had been given services or had had line plant reserved for them. There were 833 outstanding applications for telephones, 421 in the Jordanville exchange area, 321 in the Tallyho exchange area, and nine in the Clayton exchange area. The PostmasterGeneral indicated that line plant would be available in three months for 100 applicants of the 321 outstanding in the Tallyho area at that date. In the succeeding three months, while the 100 installations were made, although I am unable to state the figures accurately, I know that there were more than 100 additional applications. In that same letter of 22nd September, 1958, the Postmaster-General indicated that in six months he would be able to meet the requests of 330 applicants in the Jordanville area. But, as I have pointed out, each year 1,465 houses are being built in the area. If the number of houses being built were shown in a graphic form, the curve would show a very sharp upward incline, as the rate of increase itself is growing.
The present plan for exchanges is totally inadequate to meet the requirements of the area. Every Saturday there are two or three, and even as many as six, auctions of sub-divisions, with as many as 200 blocks of land being sold. Building blocks are bringing an average of about £1,400, and people who are building on them houses priced at from £4,000 to £5,000 are unable to get a telephone at any time. When I caused to be published in the local press the answer that the Postmaster-General gave me, there was a lull of requests to me to intercede on behalf of people seeking telephones, but now that six months have elapsed everybody is writing to me saying, “ I thought I would have been one of the 100 or 300, but I find I am not, and nobody seems to be aware of where the 100 or 300 are “. The reason is that there are so many outstanding applications and the rate of growth is so rapid, that nobody realizes just what the problems of his neighbours are.
This is a matter which will become increasingly difficult. The sixteen square miles of the Mulgrave shire will, within ten or fifteen years, be as closely settled as inner suburban areas, such as Caulfield or Malvern. We will need to expend tremendous capital on exchanges and line plant in order that telephones can be provided to these houses. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral is aware of the problem, and I therefore must extend to the Cabinet itself my plea for a great amount of money to be made available to the PostmasterGeneral for expenditure in this area and in other areas of this kind. As I pointed out, this is the principal area in Australia with this problem of rapid growth.
There is another matter in relation to the Postmaster-General’s Department which, in the few minutes remaining to me, I would like to mention. In the course of this growth that has occurred, there have been some startling changes. Mulgrave was once an area with a few orchards and needed only a small manual exchange to provide an adequate service to the orchardists. In the last few years the growth of the number of residences has been so great that we need a tremendous development in the exchanges. As the population grows, it is necessary to build new exchanges, post offices, to establish nonofficial post offices, and to make new arrangements for letter delivery and all that sort of thing.
The shire of Mulgrave has its office on a road called Springvale-road, which is approximately four miles north of Prince’s Highway. To the south of Prince’s Highway is the almost equally rapidly developing area of Springvale, which has the shire office of the shire of Springvale and Noble Park. The Postmaster-General’s Department decided, within the last month or so, that letter delivery to Mulgrave will take place from the Springvale post office. The consequence is that new residents in the Mulgrave area and people who have lived there all their lives are now faced with the proposition that from now on there will be no such thing as a Mulgrave postal district. There is a Mulgrave shire but not a Mulgrave postal district. One can imagine the problem if a resident gives his address, as he would be required to do by the Postmaster-General’s Department, as Springvale. Somebody coming from Melbourne down Prince’s Highway and looking for, say, Wellington-road, Springvale, would naturally turn to the right and go south towards Springvale, whereas Wellingtonroad is about four miles to the north and is reached by making a left turn from Prince’s Highway. This will make completely impossible the direction of people to any parts of these areas. It will make the job of the letter deliverer extremely difficult and at the best it could only be said that it will serve any purpose for a minimum of time, because of the growth taking place betwen Mulgrave and Springvale, a distance of some miles. I hope that the Postmaster-General will be able to correct this position immediately, and I hope very sincerely that the problems of this area in relation to telephones will result in some considerable increment in the amount of capital moneys made available.
– The first reason for my taking part in this debate relates to Lord Howe Island, which is part of my electorate. That island is 480 miles out in the ocean from Sydney, and it cannot be served by the ordinary kinds of transport services that other parts of the Commonwealth enjoy. Admittedly, the island is subject to the administration of the New South Wales Government, but the Commonwealth Government nevertheless has responsibilities towards it because it collects from the residents every tax that is levied. It subscribes no funds for the construction of roads. Everything done on the island has been done by the people themselves. The worst feature of the taxes inflicted on the residents of Lord Howe Island is the pay-roll tax, which this Government continues to maintain.
The island has a total of 212 residents, 112 of whom are enrolled as electors, most of the remainder being children. In addition, there are approximately 300 visitors during most cif the year. The only means of obtaining a livelihood for the islanders is the conduct of guest houses. Some of the residents till the ground and sow vegetables and other crops, but eventually almost all of them find their way into the business of conducting guest houses. It costs a guest house £12 each way in fares to bring staff such as waitresses and cooks from Sydney, and, in addition, the guest house must offer a guarantee of six months’ employment. So honorable members can understand how difficult it is for the guest houses, which, naturally, are forced to pass on these additional costs to the holiday-makers who visit the island to enjoy themselves. After all, there is a limit to everything. It is mostly young city workers who go to the island for their holidays, because the transport difficulties are too great for older people. There is no landplane service and visitors must travel to the island in a flying boat. They disembark from the flying boat some hundreds of yards from the shore and, if they are lucky, manage to jump into a boat safely and without mishap, in order to be ferried ashore.
The people of Lord Howe Island are anxiously looking for better transport services. I have raised the matter previously, and representatives from the island have come to Canberra to interview the Minister for Civil Aviation in an endeavour to have an air strip constructed on the island. However, I think that that must be regarded as a long-range matter, and I can see little hope of the islanders receiving in the near future the relief for which they are looking in respect of transport services. But I do not think that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should expect the guest houses on Lord Howe Island to continue to pay pay-roll tax. The islanders stand alone in this matter, no one else is in a comparable situation. The island is, as I have said, 480 miles out in the ocean, and enjoys no regular shipping service. A boat may call perhaps every five or six months. As a consequence, most of the goods needed from the mainland have to be transported from Sydney by flying boat, and this makes them expensive.
I leave the matter at that for the present, in the hope that the Treasurer, in the consideration of the Budget, will give sympathetic attention to the request that I have made.
Another complaint that I wish to mention to-day concerns unemployment and sickness benefits and age pensions. The unemployment situation in Sydney is becoming desperate. About 70,000 or 80,000 people are out of work in Australia. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has assured us that the number will decline by a few thousands in the next couple of months. Unfortunately, the core of unemployment is to be found in Sydney. Unemployment may occur in the country, in the mines, and elsewhere, but eventually a man who is thrown out of work in any State and who cannot get another job goes to Sydney looking for work. Although young men may be able to find jobs in the industries in that city, there is no hope for elderly men and women, and it is on their behalf that I raise this matter now. Daily, they visit the employment offices to be told the same story - that a job may be offering for them at some place perhaps 10 or 15 miles away. It might as well be in Timbuktu. If they are able to go to the place where the job is supposed to be available, they generally find that somebody else has already got it. There is no chance for people like this to get work.
When a man loses his job, the first thing he does, if he needs some financial assistance, is to apply for the unemployment benefit. If he is over 65, that fact is noted when his application is read at the employment office, and he is then told that nothing much can be done there and that it would be best for him to apply for the age pension. In my experience, it usually takes at least two months for an applicant to get the age pension. In the meantime, the unemployed worker is left in a hopeless situation because he is completely without the financial means to provide himself with a room or accommodation of any kind. Could not the Department of Social Services advise these applicants for the unemployment benefit that they will be able to get that benefit until they begin to receive the age pension, and that an adjustment will be made by a deduction from the age pension when it becomes payable? Instead of that being done at present, these unfortunate people are left in mid-air, as it were, with no means of keeping body and soul together. They move back and forth from the employment office to the Department of Social Services, only to find that there is nothing for them at either place.
This is a scandalous state of affairs, and it affects hundreds of men who want work and cannot get it, and who have very little chance of getting it in the future while younger men are available and are looking for work. As a consequence, they have to resort to the soup kitchen or are forced to throw themselves on the mercy of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which maintains, in Young-street, Sydney, an establishment at which meals are provided every day for 600 people, 200 or 250 of whom are able-bodied men, although their age prevents them from getting work. Is it right for a government that prates about the prosperity of the country to neglect to investigate these matters? I appeal to the Government to investigate the problem. It neglects these unfortunate people, but it is very active at the present time, telling us about this, that and the other thing in relation to the Richardson report. It never seeks a report about these unfortunate citizens who are starving because they lack the bare necessities of life, which this Government denies them. It is a standing disgrace that the Government should treat these people in this manner.
I turn now to another anomaly. I sincerely hope that before the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) leaves Australia on his overseas trip he will announce his intention of giving to pensioners a substantial increase in their pensions in order to compensate for the rise in the cost of living. There is no get-out for him. It is a downright shame for the Government to say that Australia is prosperous and for the Prime Minister to stand aside and leave the pensioners to starve on their inadequate resources. There is prosperity all right, but it is only for the Government’s friends. This Government has failed to look at those things which the pensioners need in order to keep body and soul together. I remind honorable members opposite that many of these people lived on a wage of £2 or £3 a week for about 50 years before the basic wage was increased to £6 a week. Yet honorable members opposite say that these unfortunate people should themselves have provided for their old age. Many of these pensioners reared families of four or five children, and many of them served in the first and second world wars. They have been left totally helpless in their last days, and all that this Government can do is to say that, in their earlier life, they should have provided for their old age. On the occasion of every increase in pensions since I entered this House, I have appealed to the Government and to the Treasurer of the day to make the increases retrospective. But what happens. The Government usually says, after a delay of two months after the presentation of the Budget, “ If this bill is not passed to-night, the Australian Labour Party will be responsible for delaying the payment of these increases to the pensioners “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, on 18th February last, when the House was debating the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I took the opportunity of mentioning the differences that I had found occurring in judgments given by war pensions entitlement appeal tribunals on appeals made by ex-servicemen. My experience since that time has been that that difference has been maintained and increased, and to such a degree that I consider it necessary to direct the attention of the Parliament to it and, by this means, request the Minister for Repatriation to have the necessary discussions with the Commissioner to see whether or not some fresh policy can be adopted regarding the matter.
I refer, of course, in particular, to the interpretation of the onus of proof section. I believe that the time has come when it could be suggested to the commission that a fresh approach be made to the interpretation of this section. All members of this Parliament realize that the sole ambition of ex-servicemen, particularly those of World War I., when they were discharged from the services, was to get out as quickly as possible and back into civilian life. Some of them were not aware of their right to benefits. Quite true, that is their own fault. Some of them were not aware of the physical disabilities from which they might have been suffering, because they did not wait for their final medical examination before discharge. These are all human frailties, and all understandable. Of course, what is happening now is that, with the passage of time, those disabilities are becoming more noticeable and more acute.
It is hard to say, even from the medical point of view, to what degree the present accepted disabilities of such men, or those that they claim they have, are affected by physical disabilities which are not accepted by the Repatriation Commission as being war caused. I think, therefore, that the time has arrived for us to make a new assessment, to provide for a more understanding interpretation of that part of the act.
I wish to make only one further comment regarding the remarks I made during my speech on the Address-in-RepIy. In that speech, I cited an example of an anomaly in repatriation administration, and I had an acknowledgment from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) saying that he would look into the matter and see what could be done. I should like to know when I shall be able to get a decision on this case, because, ay will be remembered, the case is one of urgency and, to my knowledge, it has not yet been determined.
I should also like to refer to another repatriation case which is also an urgent matter. It concerns a war widow who has been notified by the Repatriation Department that her claim for the money equivalent of long-service leave due to her late husband has been rejected on the grounds that she is not considered as having been his dependant. It will be realized, of course, that this war widow was naturally disappointed when that decision was conveyed to her, especially as she is unable to work any longer, due to her state of health. This was made clear to the department when the application for the money was first lodged, and the statement about her health was supported by a doctor’s certificate. In the information which she provided this woman stressed the fact that she was compelled to go to work to maintain herself and her child, as her late husband did not maintain her or his family in any way. She naturally asks why she should suffer as a result of that lack on his part now. She had a maintenance order taken out against her husband for the support of one child - the only one who, at that time, was under the age of sixteen years - and she herself sought, and obtained, employment. However, as I explained to the House a few moments ago, her state of health does not allow her to continue in that employment. She is at present receiving 35s. 6d. a week pension from the department, and although her husband died over two months ago she has not received any answer to a further application that she has made for an increase of pension. I think my short summary of the facts of that particular case stresses the urgency of the matter, and I use this opportunity to bring it directly to the notice of the Minister.
The only other thing I wish to say this morning is to thank the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for the answer that he gave to my question about Tibet earlier to-day, in his capacity as acting Minister for External Affairs. I think it would be unwise for me to anticipate, in any way, any information that the Minister for External Affairs may give in any statement that he may make to this House on his return from the Seato conference, but I have no doubt that Seato has taken full cognizance of the recent happenings in Tibet. I raise this matter again to express my hope that the absence of the Minister for External Affairs himself will not prevent the making of any proposals that the Australian Government believes ought to be made, or the holding up of any discussions that ought to be held with other members of Seato or, indeed, with any of the free countries of Asia or South-East Asia. In view of the available information about what is happening in Tibet it would, I think, be a great comfort to our friends closer to that country - such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, India and Pakistan - if the countries of Asia showed some concerted effort in this matter. I include Australia as one of the countries of Asia, as I also include New Zealand, because I believe that the future of Australia and New Zealand is becoming each week more intimately linked with the future of the countries of South-East Asia. It can be of little comfort to those countries to see the present action being taken in Tibet by imperialist Communist forces, and to see once again that the Communists are again using the only too well known technique of singling out one country and bringing strong forces to bear on it, while trying to lull the suspicions of the surrounding countries. In saying that, I do not wish to anticipate any debate that mav take place here on the return of the Minister for External Affairs, but I believe it necessary for us to keep this whole matter constantly in our minds.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My attention has been drawn to a report in the Melbourne “ Age “ of this date, which is supposed to be an account of what transpired at two Labour Party meetings yesterday, one being a meeting of the executive of the party and the other a meeting of the caucus, which is the full membership of the party. The first statement to which I wish to take the strongest possible exception, because it is a completely false statement reads -
Mr. Calwell urged caucus to adopt the report in full.
The report referred to there is the Richardson committee’s report. Now, my colleagues who are here to-day know that there is not a scintilla of truth in that statement As a matter of fact, I did the opposite. I supported the executive’s recommendation to caucus. I answered some statements that had been made about the benefits I allegedly would receive if the report were adopted, and I criticized the behaviour of the New South Wales press, particularly over the week-end, for its gross - and, I suggest,, malicious - distortion of facts- concerning the Leader of the Labour Party, and Senator McKenna, Senator Kennelly and myself. At no time did I suggest to caucus that the report should be adopted in full or that it should be adopted at all. I have my own strong views on the matter, but I reserve them for expression in the proper place at the proper time.
– Order! The honorable gentleman seems to be getting slightly away from a personal explanation.
– I am dealing with the misrepresentation of my position, the second example of which is contained in a statement: concerning the meeting of the Labour Party executive, which reads -
Dr. Evatt, his deputy, Mr. Calwell, Senator McKenna and his deputy, Senator Kennelly, opposed the Fraser-Ward recommendation in the executive meeting.
Well, there was no Fraser-Ward recommendation in the- executive meeting. The executive reached its* decision after a. full and frank discussion of the events preceding
Me. Cramer. - Surely this is not a personal explanation,. Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– It is a personal explanation, because I have been grossly misrepresented in this instance, too. My name has been mentioned here as I have shown and therefore, I am in order in trying to clear myself from the effects of misrepresentation. The course I am said to have taken in the executive meeting I did not take, and it is completely untrue to say that I did, as members of the Parliamentary Labour Party executive know.
I am unaware of the source of these attacks, inspired or otherwise; but they are malicious, and they have been proceeding now for more than a week.. Some things that were later reported to- have been! said in the caucus, yesterday actually appeared in several morning’ papers, in anticipation, as it were, before the caucus met. I am certainly not going to sit silent, while this continual misrepresentation of myself and my colleagues takes place, but it all shows how contemptible the whole campaign is. The people will know my views in due course, when the ultimate decision has to be made on. acceptance or otherwise of the Richardson committee report. I do not blame the chief of the “ Age “ staff for this report. I do not know where it originated. I only wish I did. It might have been a think piece on the part of some newspaper reporter but it might have been something more deliberate. I thank the House for having given me the- opportunity to make my position clear.
Mr: COSTA (Banks) [12.2 lj.- This time i’n the House to-day has been set apart for private members. The Standing Orders provide that we have these opportunities regularly, but I am sorry to say that we have started late to-day. The Standing Orders provide for two hours for this discussion, but we have been cut down to 55 minutes. As a matter of fact as the Opposition. Whip> now informs me, we have been reduced to 40’ minutes; and that means that the position is worse than I calculated1. I take this opportunity to speak about some matters which are important to many Australians. I refer particularly to health benefits. When we speak about health benefits, we refer to the need for medicine and hospitalization. All honorable members will remember that in 1949 when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered his policy speech, he used some very fancy phrases in relation to this matter. This is one statement that the right honorable gentleman made about medicine -
We need an adequate supply of life, saving and maintaining, drugs, the availability of which should in no case be restricted by the means of the patient.
I am sure that, that statement gave great encouragement to invalid pensioners and those who suffered ill health whether it be chronic, spasmodic or periodical. They expected that something would be done to implement that statement. That was in 1949, but now, ten years later, time- position has not been materially improved. The right honorable gentleman also said -
We need to reduce the high cost of diagnosis in a specialized age by including diagnostic clinics in hospitals.
That was another very promising statement, but I venture to say that no clinics have been established for that purpose at all. There are research clinics, but in order to get clinic treatment, the ordinary citizen must go to a doctor. The doctor will tell the patient , that he will be put into hospital in an intermediate ward; that is, provided the doctor knows that the patient has sufficient means because we have doctors - I am not saying all, but plenty of them - who are prepared to exploit the sick. The patient who is committed to an intermediate ward becomes the subject of many tests in the clinics and research departments. But when the patient is discharged from hospital, the amount payable from the hospital benefits fund to which the patient has been contributing, is less than the cost of the treatment in the research department. So, these clinics are being exploited.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is the price of drugs prescribed for aged, invalid and chronic sufferers who cannot afford to pay for them. I am sure that all honorable members know of poor pensioners for whom doctors have prescribed certain treatment and drugs. The pensioners find when they take the prescription to a chemist that they have to pay for the drugs. That is not in keeping with the promise made by the Prime Minister, in 1 949. when he said that the drugs would be free for those who needed them and would be prescribed in accordance with their needs.
The drug cortisone is used for treating various complaints, particularly for arthritis. A pensioner in my electorate had this treatment prescribed for him. He had to have an injection twice a day. Each injection had to be administered by a doctor, at a cost of 10s. 6d. each, over a period of seven days. As the treatment was prescribed by a doctor, the pensioner was charged about £8 8s. a week for it. It is scandalous when an old person who is suffering pain from such an ailment cannot have free treatment for alleviation of his pain.
Lipostabil tablets are prescribed for persons who suffer from heart trouble, particularly following a coronary occlusion. I know a pensioner, not an old person, who had a coronary occlusion and because of the condition of his heart became an invalid pensioner. He is paid £4 7s. 6d. a week, and his wife receives £1 15s. These tablets, which cost £2 4s. a hundred, were prescribed for him. He must take five daily, so that 100 last only twenty days. That pensioner must take the tablets to sustain his life. But how can he afford to pay for them? I know another case of a person for whom saridone tablets were prescribed. These tablets are given to aged persons who are suffering from a heart condition. They pay 9s. for 50 tablets and take six a day, so that the cost of the tablets to an age or invalid pensioner is about 9s. a week. Those tablets are not on the free list.
When we bring these matters to the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) in this House and tell him that many patients cannot afford to pay for these drugs, he replies that there is a medical board which decides these things. That is all the Minister does about it. He passes the buck to a medical board and absolves himself from responsibility. This is poor recognition of the needs of invalid and age pensioners. I believe that they should be properly looked after with free drugs, in accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech.
There is another matter about which I wish to say a few words in the brief time left at my disposal. It concerns hospitalization. We know that before the election last year the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) brought down in this House a bill which made certain provisions with regard to persons suffering from chronic ailments, or from illnesses with which they had been afflicted before commencing to contribute to any benefit fund. If such persons could not be accepted into general hospitals but were admitted to convalescent homes and other such institutions designed for the treatment of old people or those troubled with chronic complaints, the Commonwealth hospital benefits could be extended to them if they were contributors to a recognized hospital benefits fund. That is the impression that was gained from the Minister’s second-reading speech. The people of Australia believed that this would be the case. Regulations under that legislation have now been issued, and we find that the Commonwealth benefit will not be extended to those very places that we were led to believe would be assisted.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to direct my attention to a protest against the Government’s reluctance to consider effectively the future of the aircraft industry. A couple of years ago it became apparent that the flourishing aircraft industry of that period would shortly face grave difficulties if a positive Government policy was not enunciated. It was obvious that there would be a marked decline in employment and a marked deterioration of the morale of those employed in the industry. In response to public agitation the Government decided to appoint a committee to consider the future of the industry. This was at least two years ago. Unfortunately, since the time of the commencement of the committee’s deliberations there has been a marked silence as to whether it has met at all and, if it has, what conclusions it has arrived at. 1 realize that it seems to be the practice of the Government, whenever there is public agitation on a particular matter, to appoint a committee and leave it at that. In most cases we hear nothing about the committee’s decisions in relation to the matter. However, we have reached the position at which the issue in regard to the aircraft industry has become one of acute importance. The industry cannot plan ahead, because of uncertainty as to the future, and there is, therefore, a tendency on the part of skilled personnel, who, by the way, have gained their particular skills after many years of work in the industry, to look for employment that offers greater security.
Let me give the House some indication of the situation in the industry. The orders for Sabre jets, Canberras, Vampires and Winjeels, the production of which began in 1947 or 1948, have been all but completed. Last year, in response to urgent representations from the industry, the Government issued a supplementary order for another 21 Sabre jets, but, at the present rate of production, that order will have been completed early in 1961. Now, because of the reluctance of the Government to place orders or even to indicate what the future holds, the industry has almost reached the stage of extinction.
In Melbourne - and I can speak with some confidence and knowledge regarding the aircraft industry in that city - there are two big aircraft factories. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, which is a privately owned concern, has very big workshops situated at Fishermen’s Bend. It has, I suggest, machinery and a machine shop second to none in the southern hemisphere. It has all the up-to-date machinery, the personnel, the know-how and the techniques necessary for the successful implementation of an aircraft manufacturing programme. Unfortunately, however, because of the falling off of orders, the number of persons employed at this very specialized factory has markedly declined in the last year or two. In 1955 the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation employed at Fishermen’s Bend 4,635 persons. That was when the Sabre jet project was at its height. To-day there are only 2,920 employees at that factory, and it is estimated that at the beginning of 1961. less than two years from now, when the Sabre jet project has been completed, there will be only 700 employed at that factory.
A similar situation is found at the government factory which is next door to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s establishment. This organization has done a splendid job during the last five or six years in constructing Canberra bombers. The orders for those aircraft have been completed and the departmental aircraft production factory has been existing on hand-to-mouth orders for the construction of Jindiviks. Some time ago there were great hopes of being able to sei! a number of Jindiviks overseas, particularly to Sweden and other countries, but the orders from those countries have not been up to expectations. There is now a marked degree of pessimism amongst employees of the departmental establishment, and there is a continual movement of skilled personnel who, despairing of any security in the aircraft industry, are seeking employment in other sections of the engineering trade. The services of those persons will be lost for all time to the aircraft industry. In Sydney, the De Havilland organization, which constructs the Vampires, is in a similar position.
Because of these conditions every one in the industry, from the management down to the lowest and most humble worker, wants to know whether the Government has decided that the industry is really necessary or that it is not. It is time that the Government arrived at a decision and restored the waning confidence of those concerned.
Experience has shown that Australia cannot fully equip herself with the necessary aircraft in time of war. We must make purchases from overseas. When this situation arises, however, the overseas manufacturers say .that they cannot supply all Australia’s requirements because the aircraft are urgently needed in the countries in which they are manufactured. By developing our own industry we have been able to adapt overseas designs to suit our own needs. This happened in connexion with the Canberra bomber. If this Government, or the Chifley Government of that time, had decided to purchase its requirements of Canberra bombers from overseas, those aircraft would have been totally unfitted for service in tropical conditions, such as .prevail in Malaya, where Australianmanufactured Canberras have been used with marked success during the last few years. It is recognized in aviation circles that the Australian-built Canberra bomber is a distinct improvement, in very many respects, on the Canberras that could 62 ve been purchased from overseas.
Similarly, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation combined the original Sabre jet design with the Avon jet engine. In this way the corporation produced an aircraft which is far ahead of the Sabre jets produced elsewhere, with the exception of the American Super Sabre, which, of course, leads the world. However, our Sabres come second, in the estimation of ali recognized aircraft authorities.
The Government should seriously consider making a decision, once and for all, $hat this industry must remain a permanent part of the Australian industrial scene, because it is necessary to have a fullyequipped industry to maintain and repair the aircraft that we already have. If we must have jigs, -dies, machines, skilled labour and scientific personnel in order to maintain our aircraft, is it not far more sensible to employ many more men in the industry for the construction of our own aircraft? If we do not have a fully equipped aircraft maintenance service in Australia, we will have to send machines back to their country of construction for repairs, modifications or alterations. This, of course, costs an enormous amount of money. Even at the present time, when the aircraft industry is able to maintain and repair machines constructed in Australia it is necessary for the Air Force to have two machines on the list to maintain one in the air. If we send our repairs overseas, instead of needing two machines to keep one in the air, we may need at least four machines to keep one in the air.
The point made by opponents of the local aircraft industry - and I regret that there are some - is that the Australianbuilt aeroplane costs too much. If that point of view had been accepted when we adopted our tariff policy, secondary industry would never have made any progress. We realize that although Australian costs might “be higher than those outside Australia, it was essential, in the interests of Australian industry, that we should have Australian industries. I suggest that if the Government adopts a policy for the aircraft .industry-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- By some coincidence, what I wish to say concerns the aircraft industry, but it is not along the same lines as those followed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). As we are aware, for a considerable time there has been great controversy concerning the location of a suitable Melbourne airport for the jet age which will be heralded in by the Boeing 707. We are aware that great resistance has been offered by the residents of Tullamarine, near Essendon, to runways and facilities being constructed there for the jets. The resistance has covered quite an amount of territory, but, in the main, it -has been based on the ground that the area would be suitable for building because it is close to Melbourne and an airport would occupy valuable property. It has also been objected that the noise, in a congested area, would be intolerable for the residents.
I am not so concerned with Tullamarine residents as I am to put forward the merits of an alternative airport. After giving a considerable amount of thought to this subject, I cannot see why the Avalon airport would not be an excellent alternative airport. The approaches over the sea to the Idlewild airport, and the Washington and San Francisco airports make them particularly suitable for jet aircraft. Such an approach exists at Avalon.
– And at Mascot.
– Yes . The suitability of such a location has been proved at Mascot. We also have to consider the question of distance. A four-lane road from Geelong to Melbourne is in course of construction, and with a railway close handy, the importance of the time factor would be reduced. With a diesel-electric train, the 33 miles to Melbourne could probably be covered in 45 minutes. So, there cannot be any great objection to the travelling time, particularly for an international airport.
In addition to these arguments, it must be remembered that the Boeing 707 aircraft are coming to Avalon for their testing and for the training of pilots before they take over the international run. Therefore, runways will have to be constructed which are not at Tullamarine at the present time. Vast additional expenditure would have to take place on such runways at Tullamarine. Tullamarine is in a congested area, and, in every way, the facilities at Avalon appear to me to be far superior. In addition, as Qantas will probably use the Avalon airport for quite a period for passenger traffic, facilities will have to be developed there. Tullamarine could not be ready for a number of years. By the time it was ready, the travelling public would have become quite accustomed to using the Avalon airport and making the journey to Melbourne. Therefore, I should like to have an assurance from the Government that before the construction of the new airport at Tullamarine, it will make a complete and thorough investigation of Avalon.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No, 291.
Question resolved in the negative..
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to’ 2.15 p.m.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 1)
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 19th February (vide page 135), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the Schedule to the Customs. Tariff 1933-1958 he amended as set out in the Schedule’ to these Proposals (vide page 133).
Motion - by leave - taken, as a whole.
.: - Honorable members will recall that on 19th February and. again on 19th March this year,. I introduced a number of tariff proposals, seven in all, and promised to give honorable members an early opportunity to debate them after the Easter recess. This is that opportunity, which I hope honorable members will agree has been given promptly. I spoke on the proposals at the time of their introduction, but it may be helpful, Mr. Chairman, if I reiterate briefly the background to the amendments. I will cover the whole field of these proposals in this speech to avoid repetition.
Customs Tariff Proposals 1 and 2, in the main, provide for tariff variations consequent upon recommendations made by the Tariff Board in connexion with the following goods: - Almonds, peanuts and peanut oil, fresh frozen peas and beans, drills and denims, cotton piece goods for use in the manufacture of bed sheets and pillow cases, buttons, metal-working lathes, electric filament lamps, insulating parts for sparking plugs and slide fasteners of the progressive interlocking types. The last-named item will no doubt suggest” zip “ fasteners. “ Zip “ is a. trade name, however, and is not used in formal documents. The other items are metal clamps and cramps, hammers wholly or principally of metal, thioglycollic acid and its salts, hairdressers’ and opticians’ chairs, dental chairs and dental units, rubber and rubber latex, cotton yarns and yarns of man-made fibre. “ Manmade fibre “ is the term currently used in the Department of Customs and Excise to replace the older term “ artificial silk “.
Tariff changes not associated with Tariff Board reports are amendments of an administrative or drafting nature, and these comprise the following: - Definition of the term “ free on board price “, removal of redundant provisions in Item 334 (c) of the tariff relating to newsprinting paper, textile spinning frames, pattern cutting machines, film for home cinematographs, drugs and chemicals packed for retail sale, and cream separators.
As honorable members have had an opportunity to peruse the Tariff Board reports associated with the corresponding tariff amendments, I shall not comment further on that aspect. However, some explanation of the administrative changes outlined above may be appropriate. First, I will deal with the expression “ free on board price “. Previously, Prefatory Note No. 6 related to a definition of the term “bylaws “. This has been deleted as redundant, as similar provisions are contained in section 271 of the Customs Act.
As it has been found that the Tariff Board sometimes makes recommendations in which the tariff treatment is dependent upon the “ free on board price “, it has been deemed desirable to define “ free on board price “ by prefatory note. As, previously, “ free on board price “ was defined in a number of individual items of the tariff, those tariff items in which the definition was written in are now being amended to delete such definitions as redundant. The items involved are: Tariff Item 334 (f) (2), Tariff Item 334 (j), Tariff Item 334 (o) (1 ), and Tariff Item 334 (q).
Item 334 (c) included provision for an additional duty on newsprint which was to have become operative when the imported cost of newsprint fell below £15 a ton. While the overseas price of newsprinting paper remains at its present level, there is no possibility of the additional duty being brought into operation. Honorable members may recall that the additional duties on newsprint were associated with the newsprinting paper bounty legislation which has since lapsed.
Item 174(v)(34) has been redrafted to apply to textile spinning frames regardless of the industry in which they are to be used. At present the item is restricted to frames for the woollen, worsted and cotton industries, and it will now be extended to frames suitable for spinning nylon, for example. This action obviates the need to make by-law provision for frames for spinning yarns for use in other industries.
Item 174(x)(19) is being amended so as to apply to pattern cutting machines for use with dobby as well as jacquard textile weaving machines. This does not involve any change in the existing rates on pattern cutting machines.
In regard to films for home cinematographs, the amendment of item 320 (c) (2) (a), which deals with cinematograph film, is intended to make it clear that the item applies only to cinematograph film having a width not exceeding 9.5 mm. By administrative practice item 320 (c) (2) (a) is limited to film having a width not exceeding 9.5 mm. so that no change of practice is involved in this alteration.
Another administrative amendment provides by-law items enabling the Minister to approve admission at by-law rates of duty of certain drugs and chemicals which are imported packed for retail sale. This action is taken to ensure that departmental action is in line with fact. I point out that prior to the amendment, it had been the practice to regard as not packed for retail sale, drugs and chemicals, even though in small parcels, supplied to dentists and medical practitioners. This general practice, although ensuring that small packages of the drugs and chemicals are made available to the users without excessive costs, did debar local packers in certain instances from the protection which they were entitled to expect. For example, small packs of chemicals for X-ray visualization were being treated as not packed for retail sale and accordingly local packers were unable to compete with imported products. By virtue of this amendment, the Department of Customs and Excise is able to accord the same concession as previously applied to goods generally used by doctors and dentists, but at the same time the concession of the by-law can be denied to specific products and thus enable local packers to receive the benefits of the protective duties which apply to goods packed for retail sale.
It is also proposed to reduce the intermediate tariff and general tariff rates on smaller capacity cream separators from 12i per cent, to 7i per cent, ad valorem.
This action is supplementary to that taken in the Tariff Proposals of 22nd May, 1957, when the preference margins on a wide range of goods were similarly reduced following the signing of the United KingdomAustralia Trade Agreement. As the rates of duty on cream separators whether having a capacity greater or less than 350 gallons per hour now become the same, it is possible to redraft the item to apply to cream separators simpliciter.
The amendment proposed by Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3 applies the British preferential tariff rates to goods of Australian origin which are exported and returned to this country. Generally speaking, returned Australian goods which comply with certain prescribed conditions arc admissible free of duty under item 401 (a). In the few instances when the goods do not qualify for admission under item 401 (a), they are at present dutiable under the appropriate items of the Customs Tariff at general tariff rates of duty.
It is considered anomalous that returned Australian-made goods should be subject to duty at rates higher than those provided for goods qualifying for admission under the British preferential tariff and this proposed alteration corrects the position.
The amendments in Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals No. 1, Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 1 and Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Proposals No. 1 without exception are complementary to the amendments being made in Customs Tariff Proposals No. 2.
Turning to Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1, the tariff concession on certain spirituous liquors and cigarettes and tobacco which is at present granted under item 18 of the excise tariff to the personnel of Royal Australian naval ships is being extended to crews of sea-going ships in full commission which are operated by the Australian Military Forces.
Army ships are employed on military maintenance tasks and in the training of crews, and make voyages to such places as Manus Island, Lord Howe Island and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This amendment is being made on the grounds of equity.
Should honorable members desire further information of any particular item, I will endeavour to let them have that information during the course of the debate.
I propose, Mr. Chairman, during the debate to move minor amendments to two items in Customs Tariff Proposals No. 2, namely to items 392 (a) (3) and 392 (a) (4).
The reason for these two amendments is to make it abundantly clear that mercerized yarns do not come within the ambit of item 392 (a)(3)(a) or item 392 (a)(4)(a). Mercerized yarns are specifically provided for in item 392 (a) (2) in these proposals and are duitable at the rates recommended by the Tariff Board in its report on cotton yarns.
I commend the tariff proposals to honorable members.
– As I understand the position, the history of these proposals is as follows: - The Minister introduced the proposals before Easter and suggested that they would be debated after Easter. To-day is the first time that the Opposition has heard of any plan to debate the proposals to-day. With the understanding that certain amendments must be made in order that the duties will be effective as from- to-morrow, the Opposition will agree to proceedings being carried to such a stage as will ensure that the revenues are protected. We suggest that the Minister might then report progress, after which the Opposition will have an opportunity to look at the proposals and debate them next week.
– There are no technical objections to that course, and I am happy to meet the wishes of the honorable gentleman.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 2)
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 19th March (vide page 840), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1958, proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals, introduced into the House of Representatives on nineteenth day of February, . . (vide page 826).
Items in the Schedule - by leave - taken together.
– Are we to pass these items without debate, and without having seen them? I am not sure what is happening, and I want an opportunity to have a look at one or two of these items and to discuss them.
– At the request of the Opposition the debate is to be stood over to a later stage. Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 1) has been passed by the committee. Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 2) has now been brought to the point at which I can move two amendments, which I hope will be agreed to. The proposal can then be debated and accepted. The remaining proposals can be debated at a later date. The passage of the bills necessary to amend the Customs Tariff Schedule will be deferred to a later date. I therefore move -
Amendments agreed to.
Items, as amended, agreed to.
.- I move-
That the preliminary paragraph be omitted and the following paragraph be inserted in its stead: - “ That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1958, as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the nineteenth day of February, one thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine, be further amended as set out in the Schedule to these Proposals, and that on and after the twentieth day of March, one thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine, or such later date as may be specified in the Schedule to these Proposals, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1933-1958 as so amended.”.
This is merely a formal amendment to provide for a date of operation later than 20th March, 1959, of the new provisions of items 392 (a)(3) and 392 (a)(4) which have just been approved by the committee.
.- I wish to suggest to the Minister, as I have done before, that this complicated system, which is somewhat confusing to honorable members, might be examined by the Government with a view to having it simplified and clarified. It is very hard to follow the method by which these matters are decided in this Parliament at present. All honorable members are vitally concerned with the state of the economy, and they want to be able to follow in an intelligent way what is happening and to understand the effect of the Government’s tariff decisions on the economy generally, and possibly on particular industries in their electorates. As an Opposition, we have always been prepared to co-operate. I acknowledge that, when the Chifley Government was in power, we received cooperation from the Opposition then. The urgency of this matter lies in the fact that the Government desires to make its decisions operable from some time to-morrow morning.
– That is not so.
– I thought it was. The amendment moved by the Minister mentions the date of 10th April.
– I beg your pardon. That is so in the case of the previous amendment.
– This amendment provides for the omission of a preliminary paragraph and the substitution of another paragraph. These remarks may not be entirely relevant, but they are at least an appeal to the Minister to see that we get some more up-to-date system introduced by the Customs Department for the submission of their matters to the Parliament.
– I am sympathetic to the view expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and I acknowledge his co-operation in these matters. As Minister for Customs and Excise and since then as Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, who is in another place, I have always received co-operation from the honorable member in these matters. I have passed on to the Minister his previous remarks about the need for simplification of these procedures. However, I must point out to him that tariffs, as contained in the tariff schedules, can never be made really simple. They are much too involved and technical and they have, of their nature, to remain so. It is not possible to make them matters of simplicity for honorable members.
In this instance what we are really doing is to engage in the process of passing into law the substance of tariff proposals that were introduced on two separate occasions during the last six months. As the committee knows, the practice is for a resolution to be passed after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Under customs procedures, the resolution applies certain duties as from 9 o’clock the next morning. Those duties remain in force and, if they cannot be passed into law within the required time, which is, I think, by the end of the session or within six months, they are validated by another resolution for a further period until the schedules can be amended, by ordinary legislative processes, to include the new rates. We are now engaged in passing into law the new duties which were made operable by resolution on two separate occasions in the last six months.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rightly points out, one matter which is required to be passed now and to be made operative from to-morrow is the application of a new prefatory note. With that exception, the measures before the committee will simply give formal effect to duties which have been in operation since the resolutions were moved and passed.
.- I support the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I want to voice a protest at the manner in which customs tariff proposals are brought to the attention of the committee. The Minister in his second explanation has attempted to clarify a position which should have been clarified at the outset. I feel that on these occasions it should not be necessary for honorable members to seek special information from the Minister. He has a duty to give the information at the outset. All that we heard from the Minister when he brought his amendment to the committee this afternoon was a whispered few words across the table. Perhaps they were audible to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition but they were inaudible to most honorable members who sit in their places in this chamber. That is not good enough. Matters of this kind are of the utmost importance to the people of Australia, particularly those engaged in commercial, industrial and financial activities. They deserve a better hearing than they have received to-day and in the past.
– I feel that I must answer the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). As I pointed out a moment ago to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), the process that we are now engaged in is to give formal legislative effect to new duties which were introduced on two occasions - in February and March of this year. The substance of the new duties was included in resolutions which I moved in the committee in February and March. If the honorable member for Macquarie were concerned as a member of Parliament to find out what the new duties were and what their economic effect was, he had access to the proposals. He could look at them and learn what the new duties were. He could read the reports of the Tariff Board on which they were based, all of which were tabled in this chamber. The whole of the information which he now complains has not been made available to him has been available to any honorable member who cared to look at it since February and March of this year.
Amendment agreed to.
Preliminary paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Debate resumed from 19th March (vide page 865), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Honorable members will recall that the bill was introduced by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) before the Easter recess. The Minister then delivered his second-reading speech and the House adjourned until this week. The bill purports to improve the representation of the people on the Legislative Council by increasing the number of elected members. However, the position, in fact, remains much the same as it was. It is doubtful whether the bill does either of the things that the Minister said it did. He said it was designed to bring about greater representation on the council and to give greater power to it.
About an hour ago I received a telephone call from one of the councillors in the Northern Territory asking me to seek the permission of the Minister for Territories, who is handling this measure, to adjourn the debate so that a special session of the council could be called to discuss the provisions of the bill. A request for a special session was made some time ago, but as yet no finality has been reached by the Administrator. I ask the Minister now whether he will agree to an adjournment of the debate to allow such a discussion to take place. The elected members feel that they have a vital interest in this measure as representatives of constituencies in the Northern Territory. When they had a conference in Canberra with the Government’s representatives last July, they asked that the Legislative Council be given an opportunity to consider the bill. The Minister for Territories might say that they had an opportunity of discussion among themselves during the Easter recess, but I point out that at that time the Legislative Council had select committees sitting in different places throughout the Northern Territory. They had advertised select committee meetings and people had attended to present their views. The commitments of the select committees were such that it would have been awkward for them to break faith with the people.
I ask the Minister now whether he would be prepared to adjourn this debate pending a reply from the Administrator of the Northern Territory and to allow the Legislative Council to give consideration to this matter. Would the Minister agree to that course?
– The bill is before this Parliament and not before any other legislature.
– I make the request on behalf of the people concerned.
– In any case, that is a matter for the Administrator to decide. I have no authority over the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.
– The councillors believe that the debate should be adjourned to enable them to negotiate with the Administrator for a meeting.
– That is a very reasonable suggestion.
– I think so, because the people are deeply concerned about the proposals in the bill. The delegates from the Northern Territory made a request at the conference with the Government’s representatives in Canberra in July. They were led to believe that there would be some discussion on the provisions contained in the proposed legislation before it was actually presented in this House. In view of the reluctance of the Minister to agree to the request by the councillors-
– I simply say that this bill is before this House and the House has an obligation to deal with the bill. Let the debate proceed.
– May I seek an adjournment of the debate pending a discussion by the Legislative Council?
– I am in a difficult position. I cannot rise to speak, or I will close the debate.
– I ask that the debate be adjourned, and I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Order! At this juncture, the honorable member may ask only for leave to continue his remarks at a later stage.
– I cannot ask for an adjournment of the debate?
– Then it is useless to pursue the point. We must proceed with the debate on the bill.
– The Minister for Territories is not agreeable to an adjournment.
– That is correct. Therefore, it is useless to attempt to force an adjournment. I intend at a later stage to move an amendment of the bill seeking its withdrawal and asking that the whole problem of constitutional reform in respect of the Northern Territory be referred to a select committee. I remind honorable members that the elected members of the Legislative Council have long complained of the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs in the set-up of the Legislative Council. The discontent stems from the fact that the elected members of the council are in a minority. There are six elected representatives. Members nominated by the Government number seven, and in addition two votes reside in the Administrator, who is President of the council. In effect, there are six elected members against nine officially nominated members.
The members of the council say that it is futile for them to introduce measures which are contrary to government policy or the wishes of the Government, because of its majority in the Legislative Council. Of course, legislation that is originated by the Government is assured of passage through the council by virtue of the Government’s majority, but that does not apply to legislation that is introduced by the elected members who are in a minority. They have had legislation passed through the Legislative Council, but only measures which were completely in accord with government policy and did not conflict with the wishes of the Government’s majority. As it would be futile for them to introduce legislation in many cases, the present arrangement is a deterrent to the introduction of legislation which might be sought by the people and, indeed, be necessary for the good government of the Territory.
Feelings on this matter have run high over a number of years. The people of the Northern Territory have always believed that the existing state of affairs was unsatisfactory. Indeed, feeling ran so high last vear that all the elected members of the Legislative Council resigned in a body and walked out. As a result, I raised the matter for discussion in this House as a definite matter of urgent public importance to direct attention to the situation that had arisen in the Territory. The publicity that resulted and the interest that was aroused were such that the Government felt obliged to placate the elected members of the Legislative Council in some measure. Subsequently, those members sought re-election and were re-elected. As a result, the Government invited all the members of the Legislative Council, both elected and nominated, to visit Canberra to discuss their grievances with representatives of the Government.
That discussion took place in July of last year. As a result of the deliberations over several days, recommendations were submitted to the Cabinet. The Government has now introduced legislation to give effect to the recommendations in accordance with an undertaking it gave to the members of the Legislative Council. T say, Mr. Speaker - and I am supported by the people of the Northern Territory and the elected members of the Legislative Council - that the recommendations which have now been put forward in legislative form, are totally inadequate to the people of the Northern Territory. Following a perusal of these proposals, the elected members of the Legislative Council have asked for the adjournment of the debate so that the bill can be discussed further by them. They say that there is now no urgency about the bill because of the meagre character of the proposals contained in it. There is plenty of time to implement the provisions of this measure. They will not affect the functioning of government in the Northern Territory and will not improve the position of the elected members of the Legislative Council. Now, Mr. Speaker, the Government has had nine months to make up its mind about these matters. Admittedly, there has been a general election during that time, but I remind honorable members that as well as having taken nine months to make up its mind after the holding of that conference the Government has had nine years’ experience of the actual working of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. It has known for a considerable number of years that the council has not been working as effectively as it was intended to work, and that the people of the Northern Territory are very dissatisfied with the provisions for their representation on the council. So, even before that conference was called, there should have been in existence some practical propositions for rectifying some of the anomalies and some of the actual injustices imposed upon the people of the Northern Territory under the present set-up.
T say. Mr. Speaker, that the Government has approached the proposals for reform in the Northern Territory with a determination to give the least possible consideration to the demands of the legislative councillors. The Government has not set out with a view to giving as much reform as possible, but with the determination to limit, in every respect, reforms for which the people of the Northern Territory have been asking, during this last year in particular. It is quite apparent that the Government’s guiding principle has been to yield as little as possible. I think it is amply demonstrated in this legislation that the Government intends to hold on. at all costs, to the powers that it has in the Northern Territory. It has no intention of yielding an inch without a fight. This bill is, in fact, a bill to perpetuate and consolidate the authority that the Government now holds. Although the legislation may not actually put the clock back in respect of the Legislative Council, it certainly makes no provision for any progress.
It has been demonstrated time and again that there is considerable danger in the retention by Canberra of the powers of government in the Northern Territory, with no delegation to local authorities. I recall that on 22nd April last year, during a debate on the Northern Territory Legislative Council, I made the following statement: -
The Minister for Territories would like to preserve for Canberra the powers it now has over the Northern Territory. It is time this practice was discarded, as it should have been years ago. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is not so sure on this point, because at Terrigal, New South Wales, only a few days ago, when addressing some Asian students, he said - “ It is not good government for Australia if everything has to go to Canberra for a decision.”
The Prime Minister stated that so long as the powers of government were divided between the Commonwealth and the States, there would be no threat of tyranny in Australia. He said - “ By dividing powers you give yourselves protection. Concentration of power in the one authority could lead to communism, fascism or any other ism and could include dictatorship for Australia.”
I repeated there the Prime Minister’s own words. They echo the thought long held by people in the Territory, that it would be in the best interests not only of the Territory itself, but also of the Commonwealth, if there were some division of authority, some delegation of power, which would enable people of the Territory to secure their rights.
The bill sets out to do two things. First, it sets out to reconstitute the Legislative Council and, secondly, it sets out to appoint an administrative committee, which will be a legislative innovation in the Northern Territory. The provisions of the bill in respect of the reconstitution of the council will increase the number of elected members from six to eight. That, in itself, is good. It will also provide for a decrease in the number of official nominated members from seven to six. That, too, is good. But on top of these provisions there is provision for the appointment of non-official nominated persons, the effect of whose appoint ment, in my view, and the view of everybody else who has studied the provision, will be to make the council wholly ineffective.
The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
This bill, together with a bill amending the Northern Territory Representation Act, is intended to bring about constitutional reform in the Northern Territory.
Honorable members will see how much constitutional reform, or any other kind of reform for that matter, is provided for in the bill. The Minister went on to say -
The main elements in that reform are: Firstly, a strengthening of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, and changes in its structure and membership designed to make it more widely representative of the Northern Territory community and to end the official majority in the Council.
Those are the Minister’s own words. Provision is made in the bill for an increase in the number of elected members, but we say that the effect of superimposing three non-official nominated members on the number of government-nominated members leaves the Government’s majority on the council intact. Had the number of official members been decreased in accord with the number of non-official members to be appointed, there would have been some justification for the provision, because that was what was actually asked for by the Legislative Council at that conference in July. The council asked for twelve elected and twelve nominated members and said it would agree to the Government selecting from the nominated members three non-official members, who would normally be selected from outside the civil service and would, at least, represent the point of view of interests not otherwise represented on the council. Instead of that we are to have the appointment of three non-official members who could hold the balance of power on the council. The Minister has not told us whether those nonofficial members will be independent members from outside the service.
– Certainly they will be.
– Will they be residents of the Northern Territory?
– Not necessarily, but highly probably.
– Will they be completely independent in action?
– They will not be subject to instruction.
– The Minister says that these members will not be subject to instruction, but we could, and would, have a state of affairs in which three nominated members, completely independent in action and responsibility, held the balance of power in the Legislative Council - a body which is obliged by law to legislate for good order and government in the Northern Territory. There will be three legislative councillors who will owe allegiance to nobody and be responsible to nobody, but who will hold the balance of power in the council. I say that such a thing is absolutely unheard of.
– It is customary in every legislature of this kind.
– In New Guinea there are certain nominated non-official members of the Legislative Council, but they do not hold the balance of power. In this instance, three nominated members hold the balance of power, and I say that that is contrary to all the democratic principles of government.
– In every Australian colony before responsible government, we had exactly the same thing.
– We are dealing with present-day conditions. In a democracy, such as Australia is to-day, we should at least follow democratic trends. Here is a provision that will establish three men as virtual dictators of the Northern Territory, subject, of course, to the power of veto of this Parliament. If anybody holds the balance of power in the Legislative Council, it should be elected and not nominated members. Previously, governmentnominated members had that power. At least, the elected members knew where they stood. Under this provision, three nominated members could completely dominate the council and be answerable and responsible to nobody. If the elected members held the balance of power or formed a majority in the council, they would at least be responsible to their electors and, as citizens, responsible to their fellow men in the Northern Territory. I say that the pro vision is wrong in principle and wrong on every possible count. I say now without hesitation that we in the Northern Territory are at least entitled to a fully elective Legislative Council. We are not being unreasonable in that respect. We agree, of course, that the power of veto of any legislation should still reside in the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not think that that would result in a very great change from the proposed state of affairs, where three nominated members will have the balance of power. The power of veto would still remain here.
– Strictly speaking, the power of disallowance is with the Governor-General, not with this Parliament.
– It is, strictly speaking, but it is exercised on the advice of the Minister, and that, of course, amounts to the same thing. Why should the elected members not have a majority in the Legislative Council? They would still be subject to the power of veto of the GovernorGeneral.
– What about the control over funds provided by the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member mentions a matter to which we shall come later. Power to allocate funds and expend money does not reside in the Legislative Council at the present time. It is not intended that the council should have that power under the proposed amendment. The bill provides for reconstitution of the Legislative Council, but the powers of the council will remain the same as they are under the existing legislation. The powers are not to be altered in any shape or form. We are arguing at present only about the constitution of the council. I have no hesitation in saying that we deserve to have a fully elective council or. at least, a council comprised of members the majority of whom are elected.
This request is not unreasonable, because when certain members of the Government were in Opposition in 1947 and the original proposals were before this House, they voted for an amendment which would have provided for the majority of members of the council to be elected. Honorable members who voted for that amendment, as shown by the division list appearing at page 3583 of volume 192 of “ Hansard “, included the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). Those five Ministers, when members of the Opposition, voted for an amendment that would have had the effect of creating a council the majority of the members of which were elected.
Honorable members may be interested if I read the amendment that was proposed by the then honorable member for the Northern Territory, Mr. Blain. The new section that he proposed was as follows: - (2.) The Legislative Council shall consist of -
If the Administrator then had a deliberative as well as a casting vote, the position would have been that there were nine votes of nominated members and ten votes of elected members. We are accused of being irresponsible when we ask either that the majority of members of the council be elected or that it be completely elective, when in fact the leaders of this Government supported a proposal that would have had the same effect when the original legislation was introduced. Apparently, you may act responsibly or irresponsibly when you are in opposition, and you may act responsibly or irresponsibly when you are in government, but you do not have to act consistently.
This position shows either a state of irresponsibility now on the part of the Government, or a state of irresponsibility when it was in opposition. I say that its former attitude was probably right, although on that occasion it could have been argued that the establishment of a legislative council straight after the war demanded certain safeguards for the taxpayer of Australia, and these provisions might have been justified at that time. The residents of the Northern Territory did not concede that point of view at that time, but they did concede that there may be some justification for it. Now, twelve years afterwards, when the legislation has had time to prove itself, and the weaknesses of the functioning of the council have been revealed, it is time for the Government to act up to its responsibility to the residents of the Northern Territory and to give us some definite control over our own affairs, or a decisive voice in them, subject to the overriding power of veto of the Commonwealth Parliament or the Governor-General, which would safeguard the Australian taxpayer in every way in the discharge of the duties of elected councillors.
I now come to the matter which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) has just mentioned, namely the financial powers of the Legislative Council. Of course, the council does not now enjoy any financial powers at all. The Minister said in his second-reading speech that the Government was still looking into that aspect of the representations made by councillors at their meeting with government representatives in July last. A final decision on the proposal has not been arrived at, and if and when it is arrived at it may be presented to the Parliament, I say that the people of the Northern Territory are at least entitled to use in the manner they think fit in the development of the Northern Territory that portion of the Government’s revenue that they provide. We know that all moneys collected in the Northern Territory at the present time are paid into Consolidated Revenue. Grants are then made from that revenue from time to time by the Federal Parliament in its Budget sessions, and the Commonwealth decides how that money will be spent in the Northern Territory.
The legislative councillors have, of course, put the proposition that they should be allowed to indicate the manner in which that portion of the money which is raised by residents of the Northern Territory shall be spent, without direction from a federal body. I think that is a reasonable proposition, and I think the Government would do well to consider it seriously and sympathetically. It may be that its consideration will be sympathetic. I suggest that when the review is being made this concession should be granted to the people of the Territory, and that they should at least have the right to spend that portion of the revenue that is raised within the
Territory. The money is raised by taxation of industry and in other ways, and at present it is being paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Another provision that I think could well be amended, and which the legislative councillors have asked to be amended, concerns the power of veto. The councillors themselves, of course, ask that the power of veto should reside in this Parliament and not in the Governor-General. They say that if legislation is to be vetoed it should be after the direct vote of this Parliament. At the present time the Minister can veto legislation passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council, and he need not give any reasons for exercising the veto. I realize that the provisions of this bill represent a big improvement on the existing provisions, because the Minister will at least have to provide reasons for exercising the veto on legislation passed by the Council. In cases in which an amendment is desired, the legislation may be returned to the Council with a message to the effect that if it is amended in a certain direction it will become acceptable to the Government. That is a vast improvement on the existing legislation, and I commend the Government for inserting that provision.
I pass now to the provision relating to the proposed Administrator’s committee. It is true that the legislative councillors at their conference recommended the setting up of an Administrator’s committee, but they did not recommend an advisory committee. They contended that if an Administrator’s committee was to be established it should be an executive body, not an advisory body. They envisaged, of course, a certain type of committee. I will read a portion of a submission made at the time by one of the councillors. He said -
The Executive Council- that is the body that they required to be set up- is thus the central organ of the colonial government that is the Administration- of the Northern Territory. It is to the Governor what the Privy Council was to the Tudor Sovereign, where he could avail himself of the experience of his senior officers. Here their advice is frankly given. Divergencies can be recon ciled or concealed and the measures embodying Government policy are hammered out before they are submitted to the Legislative Council in the form of a bill.
He goes on to enumerate certain other functions. The councillors wanted an executive body. The Government has given them an advisory body. In any case, they wanted a body of this nature to work only in conjunction with a majority-elected council.
The powers of the Administrator in setting up this advisory committee are wide. He nominates all the personnel of the committee. He need not refer anything to it at all, and he is not obliged in any way to take notice of its recommendations on those measures that he does refer to it.
– There are certain things that he can do only on the committee’s advice. He is obliged to do certain things on the advice of the committee.
– Yes, but on the general legislative programme he is not obliged to submit anything to the committee. Therefore, it is purely an advisory committee on legislative matters that he does submit to it. I feel that as an advisory body a committee such as this will serve very little useful purpose. It might exercise a great deal of influence on the development of the country if it were given executive powers and were able to work in conjunction with a Legislative Council on which a majority of the members were elected by the people of the Territory. It can, of course, still do useful work, but I think the chances are that such a hope will not materialize.
I disagree with the provision for the calling of special council meetings. The bill requires at least nine members of the Legislative Council to requisition a special meeting of the council. Councillors feel that a request by all the elected members should be sufficient to requisition, if they so desire, a special council meeting. It is felt that if any matter crops up on the spur of the moment needing attention, the elected members of the council should have the power to call a special meeting. At present, of course, Government members have to be convinced of the need for a special meeting, and if they act as directed by the Administrator they can easily prevent the calling of such a meeting. It is requested, therefore, that the number provided in the bill be altered, and that the number should be the number of the elected members of the council.
At this stage I think I have pointed out some of the weaknesses of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. These comments of mine have been made after consultations with a majority of the elected members of the Legislative Council. They endorse the remarks that I have made here to-day. They feel that no worthwhile concession has been given to the people of the Northern Territory in their struggle for a greater say in the control of their own affairs. The legislation does not meet even remotely the demands made by the councillors on the occasion of their conference with the Government representatives. While a slight improvement could result from the implementation of this legislation, we feel that the control of the Legislative Council by three non-official nominated members could make the result a gamble, and that it could prove both dangerous and undemocratic. It may, of course, result in some improvement, but we feel that the chances are that the results will not be as the Government expects, and, indeed, that they could be very dangerous indeed.
We are not even assured that the three nominated members, or the three nonofficial nominated members, will come from within the Northern Territory. It could be that interests outside the Territory, having no deep roots in it but roots of an investment nature only, could have representatives appointed to the council, and thereby influence the deliberations of that body, contrary to the wishes and will of local residents.
That is the position as we see it. We feel that in appointing these three members to control the council the Government has shown that it has no faith in the ability of local residents to manage their own affairs. While, having the appearance of granting some concessions, the proposals are so hedged and tied with string as to make them utterly worthless. As the Minister and the Cabinet have failed to render common justice to the people of the north, I intend to move for the withdrawal of the bill and the setting up of a parliamentary committee to investigate and report on the constitutional reforms that this bill seeks to make. As this body would be an all-party committee, it would be able to approach its task without some of the handicaps that the Government apparently had in arriving at the proposals presented to-day. It would not be concerned with considerations of majorities. It would not be concerned with the retention of power. It would be more concerned with seeing that the people of the Northern Territory were given just consideration of their needs.
– Even an opposition becomes a government sometimes.
– Yes. I realize that fact.
– Your problem, in government, would be no different from our problem, in government.
– -I think it would be. Our people have committed themselves to certain reforms. I now move -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the bill be referred to a joint committee of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for investigation and report on constitutional reform of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory so as to provide a greater measure of self-determination by the people of the Territory “.
I commend the amendment to the House and suggest that it is the only fair and equitable way for these proposals to be treated.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has moved an amendment to the bill which is before the House. Having listened to him attentively, I am led to express disappointment that there has not been a greater recognition of what the Government has set out, helpfully, to do by way of reform in respect to the administration of this expanding territory which we know as the Northern Territory of Australia. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has laid stress on certain deficiencies. He has given evidence of a feeling of frustration, as the member elected by the people of the Northern Territory to represent that area. He has endeavoured to express, he said, the feelings of those who are the elected members of the present Legislative Council.
One point that he made very early in his submission was that the proposed Legislative Council membership virtually represents a structure similar to that which exists at present. I want to emphasize that that is by no means a fact. The structure proposed is certainly not the same as the present one, as I trust that my later comments will clearly show. I think it is a little unfortunate that the honorable member should seek - unsuccessfully I hope - an adjournment of this debate so that the matter can be further discussed by the Legislative Council. This would necessitate a specially called meeting.
I direct attention to the fact that the second-reading speech on this legislation was made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on 19th March. The new legislation is based largely upon the second report of a second select committee, which has been thoroughly discussed with representatives from the Legislative Council. Due cognizance has been taken of the earnest representations made. Surely, it now becomes a matter for parliamentary legislation to be presented in this place by the Minister, and he has done so. Surely the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who is leading the debate for the Opposition, could not reasonably have expected more than is being offered.
I have a personal interest in this developing Territory of the Australian Commonwealth. It was my pleasure, during the war years, to see something of it and I was delighted to go back there as a member of a Government delegation soon after my election to this National Parliament. The development in that period of ten years was fascinating. If we have ample time to-day we should pay adequate tribute to the present Government which has, by sound guidance and administration, led the Northern Territory to its present stage of vast expansion. Its potentiality in the years ahead is very challenging indeed.
I sympathize with the honorable member for the Northern Territory in his efforts to seek freedom and reform in administration. But is it not true that the time has not vet arrived when it can be said that the Northern Territory has reached the status at which what the honorable member asks for is amply justified? Under the constitutional authority of this Parliament, the things that the honorable member and certain people in the Territory ask for are just not possible. We have not yet reached the stage at which we can say to the Northern) Territory, “ By your population, by your expansion and development, you can now be classified as a State “. We have to recognize that this area in which we are vitally interested, and in which we are so pleased to see such great development taking place, is still an area under the control of this Commonwealth Parliament. Much to our regret we cannot yet give it self determination, nor can we hope for its immediate independence.
The honorable member, again, drew attention to his position - to the power of a veto, as he expressed it, by way of control through this Parliament. I think he should be reminded that, under this legislation, provision is made for non-approved or disallowed ordinances of the Northern Territory to be tabled in this House. If I had adequate time I could expand on that and point out how valuable that will be in the future administration as compared to the procedure of the past. The constitutional reform which is being effected is undoubtedly warranted by progress and general development.
Perhaps, before I go any further, I might direct the attention of the House to very important aspects of this expansion. I think that most honorable members are well aware of the situation in the Northern Territory, with its vast area of over 500,000 square miles. Members who have not travelled in the Territory, as many of us have been privileged to do, will be interested to know that the extreme points lie about 1,000 miles from north to south and 580 miles from east to west. In this vast area, the population is the crux of the situation. The population, excluding full-blooded aborigines, increased from 10,868, at the time of the 1947 census, to 16,469 at the time of the last census in 1954. The estimated population, at 30th June, 1958, was 19,579. It is significant to recall that the eligible voters of that population number only in the region of 8,000. Here is a situation which we must recognize right at the outset because it is fundamental to the request for administrative reforms.
I now wish to refer the House to government expenditure in the Territory. In 1948-49, before this Government took over administrative control, the total expenditure in the interest of the Northern Territory was only £1,669,688. In 1958-59, the expenditure had risen, we are pleased to say, to £8,899,000, and it seems to be continuing to rise. The cost of health services in 1948-49 absorbed only £174,042, but to-day the Administration is spending £830,000 on health. In works, the capital purchases are a fairly clear indication of the developmental projects which are current. In 1948-49, the figure was only £632,888, but in this financial year it has risen to almost £4,000,000. It stands at something in excess of £3,961,000. Salaries and allowances indicate a growth-
– Unfortunately, I am talking about government employees. Today, 518 officers are employed by the Northern Territory Administration, as against 43 immediately post-war. The provision for salaries and allowances for this financial year has reached almost £1,000,000. It stands at £930,000. The economic expansion of the Territory is that fascinating aspect to which I have already made passing reference. Only a few days ago, the Minister for Territories released a press statement with reference to mineral prospects in the Northern Territory. He said -
Despite the fall in the prices of all minerals except gold, mineral production in the Northern Territory continues at a high level. It seems unlikely that the value of production in 1958-59 will reach the record level of 1957-58 of £4,030,000, excluding uranium, there are some prospects of future development which could lead to increases in production.
He went on to refer to the re-opening of the government battery at Tennant Creek, which would appear to be encouraging a revival of small-scale mining in the area. The Minister then paid tribute to the results of the work of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I, myself, and other members of this House, saw, with a great deal of pleasure, something of the value of that work when we visited that area a few years ago. The economic development relating to mineral resources falls into the category of the most attractive potential for future years.
But that potential is not restricted to minerals and mining prospects. The pastoral industry offers a great attraction not only to people who are seeking to become residents in that Territory and to carve out a career for themselves, but also to people resident elsewhere in Australia who regard the Northern Territory as having a tremendous potential to absorb future migrants to our country. The turn-off for cattle in the whole of the Territory for 1956-57 was 135,988 beasts, worth approximately £2,750,000. Under normal conditions, the cattle population of the Territory could increase to 1,300,000 by 1966 with an annual turn-off of 165,000 which, at present values would be worth £3,800,000. As a result of the research and development programme being undertaken, much higher figures than these could quite easily be attained.
In his second-reading speech, dealing with administrative reforms, the Minister, in a very balanced and logical manner clarified three main items of reform which are proposed. In the first place, he dealt with the Legislative Council, its strengthening and its wider representation. Here I have to cross swords, as I endeavoured to do when I opened my remarks, with the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I do so by pointing out that in the present Legislative Council there are seven nominated official members. In the proposed new council that figure is to be reduced by one. The elected members in the present council number six, but that figure is to be increased to eight. There have been no nonofficial nominated members under the present system, but three are now proposed. Therefore, the present council, apart from the Administrator, who acts as president, numbers thirteen, of whom seven are nominated official members. The proposed council will number seventeen, of whom only six will be nominated official members.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory says that the non-official nominated members will hold the balance of power. But they are not full-time appointed officers of the Northern Territory Administration. They are by no means in the same category as the nominated official members.
– They owe their positions to official nomination by the Government.
– I will come to that. The Minister has already answered that question, which the honorable member raised a little earlier. The new set-up surely represents a strengthening and a wider representation of the community of the
Northern Territory, than if there had been a retention of the same number of official representatives who are virtually employees. They are highly qualified public servants and they hold their seats in an expanding administration for that very reason.
In a territory bursting at the seams and wanting to take control of its own affairs, I think every honorable member will concede that there is need for the advice and guidance of men trained in various subjects, such as animal husbandry, mineral research and mining, lands and surveys and so on. If we gave free rein to our desires and those of the people of the Northern Territory so that the people had complete freedom to have an elected Legislative Council the deficiency caused by the absence of these skilled persons would soon be realized. Therefore, I make the point without, I trust, much fear of contradiction, that this movement towards freedom and wider representation of the people in the Northern Territory will be recognized as a much greater indication of confidence in the people to govern themselves eventually.
The second point made abundantly clear by the Minister relates to changes in procedure for handling ordinances of the Legislative Council. At present, when the Administrator or the Governor-General withholds assent to any ordinance of the Northern Territory, that measure collapses. The reform proposed in this legislation provides for the return to the council of such an ordinance with suggested amendments. I would not say that that was a frustration scheme or that it was anywhere comparable with the experience which the councillors of the Northern Territory Legislative Council have faced in the past.
– I agree that it is an advance.
– It is a great improvement, and a similar procedure applies when an ordinance is to be disallowed for some reason or other. I mentioned earlier that parliamentary scrutiny will now be possible, due to the tabling in this House of non-approved or disallowed ordinances. The honorable member for the Northern Territory, together with other honorable members, will have the opportunity of noting immediately these ordinances and possibly of taking some action apart from the action that I am sure he would havealready taken of contacting the Minister.
Members of the Administrator’s council, will be nominated by the Administrator. I could not imagine the responsible Administrator of any of the territories - theNorthern Territory, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, or any other territory - not carrying with due recognition the responsibility of choosing as non-official nominated members men appropriate for appointment to such councils as this. Thecouncil will consist of two official members and three other members, two of whom must come from the group known as elected members. The purpose of this council, which the honorable member for the Northern Territory has said will be of little value and will not carry any responsibilities, is to advise the Administrator first on any matter referred to the council by the Administrator, and secondly, on any other matter committed to the Administrator in council by the ordinances of the Northern Territory administration. The Minister and his departmental officers are to be congratulated on the manner in which this legislation has been presented to the House. It is only by wise administration on the part of the Government that the Northern Territory has developed to its present state.
– That is arrogance.
– It is not. I think that the honorable member for the Northern Territory might himself have paid that tribute, because we have all noted with satisfaction what has been accomplished in the Territory. Not all of the development of the Territory has been due to government action, but government leadership has been of great assistance in what has been done. I cheerfully acknowledge that the people of the Northern Territory have worked hard. That has been one factor in the development of the Territory, but wise government administration during the past nine or ten years has been responsible in a large measure for the development of the Territory.
As the Minister pointed out, the Opposition, if it were in power, would be faced with the same responsibilities that face the present Government. You cannot give to a Territory the rights and privileges of an area that is recognized as a State and that has a vastly larger population. To be clear on the matter, I point out that the classification of the Northern Territory is “ a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia “. I do not think that the honorable member took cognizance of the fact that the system of nominated members applies successfully in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
I pay tribute to-day to the leadership given by the Minister and those associated with him in recent years. I pay tribute also to the fast developing industry and potential of the Northern Territory. I support the legislation that is before the House, because it represents the reform requested as far as the Government can “find it possible at this stage to approve. I trust that as the legislation is put into practice the residents of the Northern Territory, those who work in the interests of the Administration on the present Legislative Council, those who may in future enjoy the privilege of election, and those who may be called upon by the Administrator to take a seat on that council as nominated non-official members, will have the inspiration of seeing the Territory move on apace to the stage where all the reforms requested by the honorable member for the Northern Territory may be approved.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). Nobody could deny that great development has taken place in the Northern Territory in recent years, but it is true to say that that development is in line with the development throughout the country generally. If the Northern Territory had not developed along the lines indicated by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), it would be a poor lookout for the Territory and for Australia generally. In my opinion, the bill in its present form will intensify the problems that exist to-day in the Territory. I do not think that the amendment goes far enough. In my view, we will always have unrest, dissatisfaction, frustration, despair, and lack of confidence in the Northern Territory until such time as the Northern
Territory has a Legislative Council democratically elected by the people, responsible to the people and to this Government. Anybody who suggests that that belief is not widely held by the residents of the Territory is completely out of touch with the situation.
I also think that it is necessary to reorganize the departments in the Territory. Chairmen should be appointed to control those re-organized departments. Such a step would lead to greater efficiency. It would have the approval of the people of the Territory, and it would do a lot towards removing the jealousies that certainly exist among departmental heads in the Territory to-day. Such a move would bring the people closer to the administration. It would lead to better administration, and in some respects it would remove a lot of responsibilities from the Administrator and would enable him to pinpoint the weaknesses and the deficiencies that exist in the departments operating within the Territory. In my opinion, a step of that kind would assist the Minister for Territories. It would go along way towards formulating a policy of continuity in the Territory, which is most urgently needed at this present time. It is this lack of continuity that creates a lack of confidence in the Territory.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory did not delve into the financial side of the Territory’s affairs. I do not desire to go into that aspect either, but I do say that any body or any council that cannot bring down a Budget to take care adequately of those affairs creates within the Territory a lack of confidence. I think that it is highly desirable that such matters should be taken care of. A sound financial policy with regard to the Northern Territory would lead to a spirit of selfdependence in the Territory, and that is something that we all desire to see. It would result in greater efficiency.
Great developments have occurred in the past few years, and are still occurring. I refer to Rum Jungle, Peko, the cattle industry and Humpty Doo. In some measure, these developments have intensified the problems not only of the Government but also of the people in the Northern Territory. When developments take place in these areas, it is necessary for people to go there to work in the industries that are created. Conditions must be made as attractive as possible to induce people to stay in the Territory. If the people there had a greater say in their destinies, they would have a greater inducement to stay and raise their families there. We all know that it is a semi-tropical area and every inducement to stay must be held out to these people. Whatever may be our views on this bill, we must concede that Darwin generally has become one of the most important places in Australia.
Whatever may have been the problems of the past, they are not the problems of the present or of the future. Air travel has re-orientated the whole of our thinking. The argument against any form of selfgovernment for the Territory has always been that the area is isolated, but isolation does not exist to-day. The great air route from Darwin to Adelaide, with its connecting air links through Western Australia and other States and the feeder routes in the Northern Territory serves to take the area out of isolation and bring it as close as Cairns or other similar places on the coast. Nobody can suggest that Cairns is isolated. The lack of communications in the days gone by created isolation and no doubt created major problems in the Territory for the governments of the day.
T want to refer to the way transport has assisted the development of the Northern Territory. A major development, which came to us as a result of the last war, is the Stuart Highway. Great transports use this highway to operate between Alice Springs and Darwin, and places in between. In the season they go out into the cattle country with produce and bring in the produce of those places, and provide important feeder systems. However, the subject of roads brings me to a point that I consider reveals bad administration. It does not seem to be anybody’s business to construct proper roads. Once a grader or bulldozer has formed a road into the various cattle stations, nobody cares what happens when the wet season comes. Then these roughly formed roads become ribbons of erosion right across the Territory. Valuable top soil which should not be lost is washed into the creeks and streams. Since the construction of the Stuart Highway, we have not seen any effort made to lay down any all-weather roads. The construction of all-weather roads, particularly as feeder roads to theStuart Highway, would assist developmentMore people would be induced to comethere and they would introduce somethingthat is more democratic than the present system. The small man would be given a chance to establish cattle holdings and earnt a living. Improved transport facilities as a result of the construction of better roadswould permit the marketing of produce at a more competitive price.
I want to refer to the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh reports of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the Northern Territory Administration. These reports, are coloured with despair, frustration and deficiencies. I have already referred to> transport facilities. Apparently referring to conditions in 1937. the report said -
Unfortunately this unsatisfactory position cannot be improved without expenditure of more loan money in providing transport facilities.
In those days, no one visualized the great air routes that are operating around Australia to-day. Every one believed that theTerritory could not be developed without adequate transport facilities, and that is still the position. If the departments were organized under a chairman, measures to improve conditions could be pushed. In addition, if the Northern Territory Legislative Council had the opportunity to formulate its own Budget, measures could be introduced for the benefit not only of the Northern Territory but of Australia generally. In clause 99 of the report, thecommittee said -
Two factors which prompted earlier authorities to propose greater autonomy for the local administration in the Territory were isolation and poor communications.
Those disadvantages no longer exist. The report of the Public Accounts Committeeemphasizes that there should be some improvement in the number of democratically elected councillors in the Territory. Thereport refers to a statement by Mr. Lambert, who said -
We regard ourselves as one family and we help one another. Communications are very easy to-day. We can get around a table with oneanother within fifteen hours. We have a teleprinter service between ourselves and the Administrator that can operate and settle conflicting-, views in a matter of half an hour.
There is no reason why the Government should not introduce legislation to permit the people of the Northern Territory to elect their own representatives. Mr. Lambert continued -
That liaison between the Administrator and the department, acting on behalf of the Minister, is going on all the time and works very happily.
Later, Mr. Archer commented -
Yet there is the question of distance.
This advocacy has been consistent. There should be a revision of thinking in relation to the governing bodies of the Northern Territory. By giving the Northern Territory a democratically elected council and appointing a chairman to take charge of the various departments, there would be greater co-ordination between the departments. That would go a long way towards meeting the wishes of the people in the Territory.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory has given his opinions on the bill. He referred to the statement of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) that the membership of the Legislative Council was designed to make it more widely representative of the Northern Territory community and not of a government majority in the council. The Minister admitted that those people could be residents of the Northern Territory, but he was not prepared to say absolutely that they would be people who had worked there and had learned the needs of the Territory.
– They would certainly be that sort df person.
– That is good, but I -still contend that it will not change the outlook of residents of the Territory. Referring to financial control for the Legislative Council, the Minister said -
Because it was found necessary that certain constitutional points should be further examined, it was not possible for the Government to proceed to a decision on this particular proposal.
I contend that that provision is the only way the Government can get over the difficulties in the Northern Territory. Unless the members of the Legislative Council are able to bring down a Budget giving the people some stake in their destiny, and unless the people can bring before the council matters which are vital to them, they cannot look to the future with much “hope. They will be frustrated by public servants who, in the main, have to keep within the limits of the funds handed to them. The public servants admit that themselves. The legislative council must be given a Budget so that they can plan. In his second-reading speech, the Minister referred to the campaign for constitutional change and said -
It has become part of the campaign for constitutional change to represent the present council in a light which is far worse than the record of the council really deserves.
The Minister went on to give his reasons for the differential representation. Again, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has pointed out, whatever change is made in the constitution of the council, it will be ineffective so far as the people of the Northern Territory are concerned. They have emphasized that point in the telegram they sent to the honorable member asking him to seek an adjournment Qf this debate so that they might have a chance to express their views to this Parliament and an opportunity to submit proposals which they think would be of advantage. Those people should know what they want.
I am not decrying the Minister’s work or experience. I have travelled through the Northern Territory with the Minister for Territories and I give him credit for the interest he has in his job. I said then, and I say again, that it was an inspiration when the present Minister was appointed to his post; but that does not change my opinion that the development which is desired by the people there will not be seen until there is a democratically elected Legislative Council. In fact, the Minister referred to some of the investment that is likely in the Northern Territory, and he said -
For the present, the progress of the Northern Territory still depends in a very large measure on investment from outside the Territory and on public expenditures of moneys raised outside the Territory and voted by this Parliament.
He then promised further projects in the future which, he said, the Government hoped would eventually lead to even greater development in the future. The Minister added -
The making of such an investment - and the sort of figures I have at the back of my mind are not £1,000,000 but tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of pounds - is always touch and go.
I do not know what the Minister meant by the phrase “ always touch and go “. The Minister then referred to the confidence in the Northern Territory that must be engendered so that money would be invested there. I respectfully suggest that if the Government wants investment in the Territory, it must create confidence. Is the demand that has already been made in this debate by the honorable member for the Northern Territory likely to create confidence in the minds of those who might be interested in investing money in the Territory? Would they do so if they felt there was unrest among the people of the Territory? Obviously, unrest will not create confidence.
The Minister gave some interesting figures concerning the population of the Territory. He said that the white population consisted of some 20,000 persons and this yielded a total constituency of something over 8,000 voters. The Minister added -
A proportion of the wage and salary earners have made the Northern Territory their home permanently.
We want to encourage all the residents - not just a proportion of them - to settle there permanently. They must be given a definite stake in their future. That can be done by giving them self-government. The Minister rightly referred to the wide disparity between conditions in different parts of the Northern Territory. He said it was a dependent area and a dependent community, and he added -
That is not to the shame of the Territory: and I agree - - it is to the shame of a nation that has allowed such a condition to prevail for so long, but we have to face the fact that, in order to bring about the greater development which we all wish to see, the Territory will have to rely for some time to come on both private and public sources outside the Territory.
I agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is to the shame of this nation that conditions in the Northern Territory have prevailed for so long; but the conditions which brought about the trouble in the Territory no longer exist. We can overcome the isolation and the lack of communications. There is a great sea port serving the Northern Territory. It could be made one of the greatest sea ports in Australia. It could most probably be the port at which overseas vessels would unload their cargoes, which would then be brought down through the centre to the coastal areas.
I want to conclude by saying that I believe the administrative plan provided for in the bill would not be necessary if the Northern Territory had a democratically elected legislative council, and if chairmen were appointed at the head of the various departments. If these things were given consideration, and the wishes of the people of the Territory were acceded to in that respect, better relations between this Parliament and the people of the Territory would result, these people would have better conditions, and this would be for the good of the country as a whole.
.- I rise to oppose the amendment. In doing so I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for the quality of this bill. I believe the bill is a very sincere and able attempt to give the Northern Territory a great measure of self-government. This is possibly the first plan to be implemented which gives hope to that area that its potential wealth will be put to the best use for the people of Australia.
I can appreciate to some degree the concern of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) about the retention of too much control of the Territory from outside, because, after all, history is on his side. But we must realize that history also points the other way, because the great disadvantage of the Northern Territory to date, I think we must confess, has been irresponsibility. I shall support that statement by giving some of the history of the development of the Northern Territory. As a result, we may get a clearer conception of this bill:
When the boundaries of the States were fixed, the area which is now the Northern Territory was the bit that was left over. I believe that it was very unfortunate that that area was granted to South Australia. Had it been granted to either Western Australia or Queensland the history of the Territory would have been altogether different. I am not suggesting for onemoment that South Australia did not make a very courageous attempt to develop the area but, unfortunately, South Australia very naturally attempted to develop it from the south. It built a railway line part of the way to the Northern Territory, but, unfortunately, most of the valuable part of the Territory was cut off from the settled areas of South Australia by many hundreds of miles of inferior country. As we all know, the railway was constructed with the intention of making Darwin the port and centre for the Northern Territory, and a northern line was constructed to Pine Creek.
When the Commonwealth took the Territory over in 1911, it made an agreement with South Australia that a line would be eventually built from Port Augusta in the south to Darwin. About 1929, the line was taken to Alice Springs, and the northern line was built from Pine Creek to Birdum. I say that if, by any mischance, a line is eventually constructed from Alice Springs to Birdum, no engineer could pick an area of country with less opportunity for development than the area through which this part of the north-south line will pass.
The line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs serves to take fat cattle from the north to the Adelaide market, and also carries pastoral and other supplies north to the mining areas at Tennant Creek and thereabout. Its future does not look very bright. The country through which it passes south of Alice Springs is a very poor pastoral area, and does not offer any possibility for great revenue for the line. The northern section of the line - about 316 miles to Pine Creek - also traverses very inferior country.
The vast pastoral potential of the Territory, which contains some the finest pastoral country of its type in Australia, has not been tapped. The Government should study the report made by W. L. Payne and J. W. Fletcher, in 1937. After all, Mr. Payne is probably one of the greatest authorities on land matters in Australia, and he has also great international repute. He suggested that a line should be extended from the great northern line of Queensland, from Dajarra to the Rankine River, on the Barkly Tableland, a distance of 240 miles - 160 miles in Queensland and 80 miles in the Northern Territory. His view, which would be supported by most people who know that country, is that if a line were taken into the Barkly Tableland, most of that area would be developed for sheep.
His estimate was that 1,250,000 sheep could be carried on it. The area could not be developed, for sheep unless there were a railway line through it. I think it is very interesting to contemplate that the railway line from Townsville to Mount Isa will possibly, over the next few years, be rehabilitated by a loan of £29,000,000, which is to be made by the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. In the strengthening of that line the rails will be replaced to a great degree. There is a wonderful opportunity for the Government to consider the use of those rails for the extension of that line into the Northern Territory, particularly to the Barkly Tableland. We have a railway line from Townsville to Mount Isa which provides substantial revenue. The history of railways in Australia shows that lines which serve sheep-raising areas are amongst the best paying, because considerable traffic is. provided in both directions. Much material is needed to develop a sheep property, and sheep attract comparatively high freight charges. I believe that the extension of this line to the Territory is the best way of developing that pastoral area, because the Barkly Tableland is not touched by the north-south road to-day. The tableland begins roughly at Newcastle Waters on the west and extends to within 50 miles of the Queensland border.
There is another equally fine area extending from about 160 miles west of the Stuart Highway right into Western Australia, which is also capable of development under sheep. I feel that until we develop these lines the Territory will remain in its present state of stagnation. We must look to development by the provision of railways rather than the provision of the roads suggested by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor). We know that during the last war the northsouth road from Alice Springs to Darwin, and the road from Tennant Creek to Mount Isa were hurriedly built. I think the cost of construction of those roads was about £7,000,000. Had we acted a little earlier we would have had the railways which I have mentioned. Instead, we have those roads which cost a great deal to maintain, and they do not carry very much traffic. The cost of maintenance of a railway line, in those areas where problems of engineering are easy, would be low, and the Government would be receiving revenue.
The Minister, in a few words, made clear the main problem of the Territory to-day. He said -
The investor needs to have confidence that the laws of the Territory, particularly those governing the conditions under which land or mining rights can be obtained, will not be lightly changed after he has made his investment.
I think that that is the crux of the position. For developments of the Northern Territory we must rely on hundreds of millions of pounds from outside, and until the investor has confidence we will not succeed in this development. The history of private investment in the Territory has been a very sad one. In 1917 Vesteys built a meatworks at Darwin at a cost of nearly £1,000,000. In three years it slaughtered about 67,000 head of cattle and suffered a loss of £3 on every beast slaughtered. We all know the circumstances of that failure. Eventually the works had to close down. If we had had a capable and strong administration, that would never have happened and we would now have a meatworks there. Probably its poor design, like the badly designed wharf, would have added to costs, but we would have an industry which would have brought population and prosperity to the Territory.
We must realize that confidence is the most important factor in developing the Territory. We have great confidence that this measure will succeed to the extent hoped for by the Minister. We know the history of a similar measure in Papua-New Guinea. Whenever large sums of public money are used governments must have a degree of control, and until the Northern Territory reaches the stage of supporting a large and responsible population, and until it develops its industries and potential to the stage where it can finance its own Budget I believe that we must have a considerable measure of control over that area. As I said before, I feel that by bringing confidence to the Territory we shall succeed in developing that most valuable part of Australia.
.- The honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) has spoken most interestingly to the bill before the House. He has spoken with a wealth of knowledge of the cattle industry and he has revealed an understanding of what makes Australia go and what makes the nation tick. He will be supported in his condemnation of what has occurred in the past and the words he used will be re-echoed by every responsible person. He said that if there had been capable and strong administration a valuable meat industry would have existed in the Northern Territory. Every one in this chamber who is prepared to speak frankly and truthfully will readily accept that comment. We all agree with his references to stagnation and the need for development.
This measure, of course, does not propose the establishment of new industries or any form of new development, but it was refreshing to hear the honorable member bring so clearly to the attention of the House the need for better transport and the positive urgency of linking the Northern Territory by rail with the east coast as well as of extending and strengthening the link between north and south. We must always remember the words of Barton -
We are one people, one flag and one destiny.
It is a far cry from the Northern Territory to this Parliament. The cry for selfgovernment is heard only faintly by the Administration here. The Government is caught in the toils of expediency and departmental pride and prejudice. It is reluctant to give more than a token form of selfgovernment to the people of the Northern Territory. The development that has taken place there over the years has been of a patchwork nature, without any positive plan, without any broad, all-embracing intention of developing a new area of Australia. I am grateful to the honorable member for McPherson for his reference to the fact that the Northern Territory is that part of Australia which was left over when the other States were established. Of course, we have honorable members in this House who continue to advocate the establishment of new States in different parts of Australia, disregarding entirely the geography and the economics of Australia. They would leave a residue of barren frontier land for some future administration to control and develop.
A primitive people emerging from Stone Age conditions could not be treated much worse than the people of the Northern Territory in the matter of the granting of self-government. Although extended voting rights are to be given to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has so ably championed the cause of the people whom he represents in this chamber, nothing else of a significant character is proposed in the bill to deal with the problems affecting the Territory. It is true that the measure makes some minor adjustments and amendments. The Legislative Council, however, will continue to be dominated by the Minister’s nominees. Provision is now made for two classes of nominees. There are six official nominees and three non-official nominees. It is an extraordinary state of affairs when the Minister finds it necessary to divide his nominees in the Northern Territory into two classifications, the official and the nonofficial. If the Minister wishes to continue the system under which the elected members shall be dominated by the non-elected members, he would have done much better if he had simply exercised his prerogative and selected as his nominees the people whom he considers- most suitable, whether they be official or non-official.
This extraordinary division between the two classifications seems to strike a blow at the people who reside in the Territory. Why is it not intended to grant selfgovernment to the people there? Why is there a distinction between the kinds of government nominees? Is it that the people of the Territory cannot be trusted? Is it that the non-public servants can be trusted less than other citizens, or that they are less worthy, not so well informed, less responsible or less dependable? If these are the reasons, why is it considered that they are different from people elsewhere?
I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). Honorable members may wonder at this, having heard the caustic comments that I have just made. I do say, however, that the Minister has, I believe, taken a very keen interest in matters affecting the Northern Territory. I believe that his decision to permit honorable members to make periodic visits to the Territory has much to commend it. As a result of those visits honorable members will be better fitted to express their views with regard to the affairs of the Northern Territory. I am sure that the Minister faces certain problems within the
Cabinet itself. There are matters which cannot be resolved in his own mind and in his own conscience, and which have to be considered in the light of opinions expressed by his colleagues in the Cabinet room. However, the problems affecting the Northern Territory are not being resolved in the best interests of that area.
When one considers that there are some 20,000 people in the Territory, one must conclude that at some time, some day, at some point in history, these people will have developed sufficiently to be trusted to govern themselves in the way that municipal or city councils govern their own particular communities. That is why I suggest that we should be informed of the broad pattern of Government intention in regard to this matter. We should have placed before us some legislation which will deal with the overall problem of developing the Territory, giving to the people of the north some hope, some confidence and some pattern for the future.
T have met many of the residents of the Northern Territory on quite a number of occasions, and I can testify to their outstanding qualities. Many of them are dedicated people, people who are imbued with the highest feelings of national pride, decency and dignity. They are, perhaps more than people from other parts of the country, intensely Australian. When it comes to rendering service to the nation, whether it be on a cattle run, in the mines, or in the armed services, the people of the Territory are never lacking. They are outstanding examples of Australian citizens, of Australian manhood and womanhood. The women, particularly, who have pioneered the area and carried the flag of our white Christian civilization into the corners of the Northern Territory, are entitled at this time to a better deal from the Government than is being afforded them.
Looking through the bill, I find very little to commend it. The nominees will continue to out-vote the elected representatives. I have already made that point clear. The elected representative in the Northern Territory is no better, and perhaps no worse, than the elected representative anywhere else. Surely they can be trusted in the same way as elected representatives in other places. Why continue to make the Legislative Council just a mockery, a hollow sham? Surely the people in that area have arrived at the state of maturity at which they can be trusted to do what is right for the Northern Territory and for the rest of the people of Australia. When we think of the development of this nation we must give a good deal of consideration to the wealth being produced in the Territory, at Rum Jungle, at the Peko and other mines, and on the cattle stations. The people of the north are producing a considerable amount of wealth for Australia.
But, excluding entirely this consideration, what is wrong with the suggestion that the 20,000 people in the Territory should be given the opportunity to govern themselves? I suggest that 20,000 people anywhere should have the right to govern themselves. It is not sought that they should be empowered to dominate the Commonwealth of Australia; it is merely sought that the Legislative Council should, in local matters, be given the power to govern. I should have very much liked to see the Minister produce some history-making bill to the House which would have provided for a suitable kind of Legislative Council in the Northern Territory and would, in addition, have set out an appropriate pattern of self-government for the people in the various parts of the Territory. I should like to have seen something done for the people of Alice Springs and of Tennant Creek by giving them some responsibility. In addition to receiving the responsibility of governing themselves, they could also have been called upon - although this may not be popular in the north - to find some of the money necessary to carry out essential local development in their own areas.
Looking over the history of Australia, I wonder just how far short we fall to-day in planning compared with what was done in the days, say, of Lachlan Macquarie. In those colonial days, he planned great development in New South Wales. The manner in which he carried it out would no doubt be very vigorously opposed to-day, but he did plan to develop the colony. The city of Bathurst in my own electorate is a standing, shining, glorious example of planning by a colonial governor in the earliest days of the development of this nation. Is there planning in the Northern Territory comparable to the planning of
Bathurst at that time? I think of al] the other towns, hamlets and villages emerging all over Australia - a street from the post office to the railway station or from the hotel to the club; no pattern, plan or purpose.
Every time I go to Alice Springs, that delightful city that should be the capital of inland Australia, I find it growing in bits and pieces, with extensions here and extensions there. We ought to have sufficient pride in Australia to see that a local government organization is set up there, truly representing the people of Australia, and assisted out of the finances of the nation, in order to help the local people to make Alice Springs the great city of the inland that it is destined to be in years to come. If we cannot proceed, now, with imagination, vision and zeal, to develop this country, surely we have fallen down on our job. Governor Lachlan Macquarie at least had some vision when he planned cities such as Bathurst, which to-day stand immeasurably superior to many of the cities being built in Australia at the present time. Surely that sort of thing is a challenge to us.
When one goes to Alice Springs one observes the effects of its restrictive planning and its piecemeal development. It is just another town but it ought to be planned as the capital of the inland of all Australia - the centre of this great nation to which we are all so proud to belong. No plan for the development of Alice Springs will emerge from this bill. There is no plan for the development of Tennant Creek. There is no plan for the over-all development of the Northern Territory in which the people of that Territory could play a part as equals with the people down south, or east, or anywhere else.
– There is no inducement.
– There is no inducement, as the honorable gentleman who is so deeply interested in this matter has said. I can only hope that, perhaps, the amendment proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory will be accepted by this chamber. It provides for an allparty committee of the idealists on both sides of this chamber and on both sides of another place, who could come to grips with this problem in a realistic way so that the view-point of the Parliament - not of a party, a section of a party, or a bureaucrat - will prevail. I do not use the word “ bureaucrat “ disrespectfully to the good public servants who are engaged in the service of the Northern Territory in that Territory. I have the greatest respect for them. But this must be remembered: Many of those people are only temporary citizens of the Northern Territory. They are there for a period and then they move on.
In Canberra, one finds a situation in which two departments are vieing and competing with each other in their dealings with the Northern Territory. I refer to the Department of Territories and the Department of the Interior in which there is a constant clash of interests in regard to the Northern Territory. In trying to work out some over-all plan and pattern which will be truly valuable to the Northern Territory, it is a question of satisfying the desires of some public servants here who are so far removed from what is taking place that they have little opportunity to understand it.
The people of the Northern Territory must be given an opportunity to make their contribution in thought and action and in a financial way to the development of the Territory. If this bill does not enable that, the only logical thing to do is to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory and permit this Parliament to work as a parliament. Only too frequently, we read in the daily press and elsewhere of the ineffectiveness of the Parliament and of control by the Executive. Here is a challenge to the Parliament to do a job of work for the whole of Australia. Here we can lend support to the Minister to give effect to his desire with respect to native welfare and advancement. Perhaps we could assist him to give to some of our Australian aborigines an opportunity to render service in the government of the Northern Territory and so set an example to some other countries whose shameful conduct in recent times in dealing with coloured people is to be deplored and condemned by all right-thinking people,
What I have said in regard to the clash of interests of departments in regard to the Northern Territory and the ineffectiveness of the administration can be witnessed by any observer who is on the spot to note what takes place there. The thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh reports of the Public Accounts Committee deal fairly thoroughly with the administration of the Northern Territory. A distinguished honorable member, a former professor of public administration at the University of Sydney, is the chairman of that committee the report of which contains such excerpts as this -
The Secretary of the Department (Mr. Lambert) told us that the department tends to play a dual role - it assists the Administrator and, when necessary, protects the Minister and that there is no danger of a restrictive attitude or any attitude of inferiority or superiority ever arising.
What a confusing situation exists there The report also states -
As against this somewhat over-simplified picture, responsible witnesses at Darwin sensed an unwillingness to allow the local authorities to manage their own affairs coupled with a reassertion of control from Canberra.
Is not that precisely what we complain about at the present time? I repeat that there is nothing in this bill to remedy that situation. As I have mentioned previously, the head of the Department of Works in the Northern Territory is able to spend more money than the Administrator in developing the area. Who is responsible for managing this Territory? Who is responsible for its orderly government? It seems that there is utter confusion and the Northern Territory and Australia suffers because of it. Again, the Public Accounts Committee said this -
Your committee examine the existing administrative arrangements, note the tendency for detailed departmental control from Canberra and conclude that while those arrangements remain, the office of the Department of Territories in Canberra will continue to play a positive role in dealing with matters affecting the Northern Territory. Some would meet this problem by clothing the Administrator with the powers, if not the status, of a Permanent Head.
Further criticism is contained in paragraph 38 of the report as follows: -
Whatever may be done in a formal manner, Your Committee believes that it is imperative that an effort should be made by the department to slough off the vestigial remains of the old order under which the Territory was administered by a system of remote control.
Every word is a condemnation of existing conditions in the Northern Territory. Not one word in the bill will correct the situation referred to by the Accounts Committee and by honorable members on both sides of this Parliament from time to time. Surely the time has arrived when a proposal such as that made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory to deal with this problem should be considered.
I have referred to the types of people in the Northern Territory. The Minister has divided them into two categories when it comes to an election. If the Minister feels that there are not enough of the right type of people surely the answer is in the suggestion of the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes). He advocated a more vigorous and dynamic policy to develop the Northern Territory. We ought to try to get away from a state of affairs which was indicated to me in a comprehensive reply given by the Minister - for which I thank him - to a series of questions I asked concerning land policy in the Northern Territory. A perusal of this report shows that many ex-servicemen are anxious to take up land in the Territory, establish their homes there, and play their part as good Australians in developing that area. But although these people cannot get land in the Northern Territory, the report contains the names of large firms who have been fortunate enough to get large tracts of it. They are not only firms that are financed by American capital, such as the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) referred to last night, but also companies from all over the world.
I suggest to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) that when the question arises of settling men on the land for the purpose of developing the Territory, the flesh and blood and sacrifice of our own ex-servicemen ought to be weighed in the balance against the money coming from other parts of the world. Honorable members on this side say that the Government has a responsibility to provide the means for ex-servicemen to help develop the Territory. This report shows name after name of large, wealthy organizations tied to companies such as Vestey’s and other similar firms who have large holdings in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for McPherson referred to them.
Honorable members will recall the case of a meatworks at Darwin which refused to continue operations and closed down, des pite the need to supply the peoples of the world with meat. The former Labour Administration helped to establish a meatworks at Katherine. It was almost completed when the present Administration was elected to office and as a result of pressure from absentee landowners that project was stopped and the almost completed works demolished. I am glad to say that according to present information considerable development is occurring at Katherine, and before long cattle will be killed and meat processed there for the very lucrative markets in many parts of the world. The mere fact that absentee landowners have reinvested capital in a company should not give them the right to prevent development by ex-servicemen and others. The need exists to give our own people the opportunity to develop the Northern Territory.
If we want to establish there the type of person, who is not a public servant, a manager or an absentee landowner, then we should give the native people and the genuine settler the opportunity to take up land in the Territory. They will be the patriots who will not only develop it physically but also govern it successfully. This measure makes a very modest contribution to the problem of governing and developing the Northern Territory. Settlers who have a practical part in its development would legislate for its progress far more effectively.
There are one or two virtues in this measure. One is the provision that ordinances rejected by the Administrator or the Governor-General must be submitted to the House for consideration. This will give the honorable member for the Northern Territory an additional right to express himself in this place. But a full charter is required for the Territory in keeping with the democratic rights of the people who will settle there. If similar conditions had applied to Australia generally in another generation this nation would not have emerged from colonialism and become self-reliant and independent. The amendment of the honorable member for the Northern Territory ought to be accepted by this House because it will give honorable members an opportunity to come to grips with the problems of the Territory in detail and to produce a charter for that area and its development on a national level.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) who has just concluded his speech has shown great enthusiasm for and a great belief in the Northern Territory, but like other honorable members opposite he has allowed his enthusiasm to cloud the real issue. He suggests that the people of the Northern Territory should now be given the opportunity to govern themselves. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) spoke about the Legislative Council being responsible to the people of the Northern Territory. If the Legislative Council is responsible to those people then the Northern Territory must become a State in its own right. The question immediately arises: Is the time ripe for that? The Northern Territory has a voting population of about 8,000 and if the Legislative Council were comprised of twenty members it would mean that each member would represent about 400 people. In such a set-up, the entire government of the Territory would be in the capital. In those circumstances, I would not mind having a seat there.
It is a very attractive proposition to grant a greater measure of government or even complete self-government to the Northern Territory. Some honorable members may consider that the Government has not gone far enough in this measure. Others might say that it has gone too far to make the scheme work properly, because greater measures of self-government bring greater responsibility. I think we must admit that the Northern Territory, with a voting population of only 8,000, its present resources and the present growth of population, is not yet ready for self-government. Members of the Legislative Council there have already indicated that view. Although the visionary aim of the Australian Labour Party might be feasible at a time many years ahead, they must admit that it is not practicable at present. The Commonwealth Government clearly has a responsibility to the Northern Territory which it must exercise. It must continue to govern the Territory until it becomes a separate State. Any one who knows something about the Northern Territory will agree with that view.
Another criticism is that this Government has not discharged its responsibility towards the Northern Territory. Let us cast our minds back to 1951 when the Department of Territories was formed. Honorable members will recall that the Northern Territory was then attached to the Department of the Interior, and it was every one’s and no one’s responsibility. As a result the Northern Territory did not receive the attention to which it was entitled. When the Department of Territories came into being under the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) the government of the Territory really started and since then it has been progressing rapidly.
I do not intend to weary the House with figures but I point out that since 1950 Commonwealth expenditure in the Territory has risen from £3,000,000 to £9,000,000. This year, it will rise to almost £12,000,000. The population of the Territory has nearly doubled. The pastoral industry has increased, and despite great losses there are now about 1,500,000 head of cattle in the Northern Territory. Despite droughts and set-backs, the Government, by maintaining watering places and stock routes and by providing drought relief, has helped to build up the pastoral industry. Enormous strides have been made in agricultural development. Many people held the view that agricultural production was not possible in the Northern Territory. But what do we see to-day? We see great rice projects, and a wide variety of other crops are being grown.
One of the greatest advances in the Northern Territory has been with respect to transport. In a period of about eight years the total mileage of roads has increased by 25 per cent. Since 1950, wharves have been built and a network of airline services has completely revolutionized living conditions in the Territory. There has been tremendous development with regard to mining. Education, not only of Europeans but also of natives, has leapt ahead.
The Government and the Minister can be proud of this record. I do not say for one moment - and neither, 1 am sure, would the Minister - that everything has been done. We know that so much remains to be done. But a start has been made, and the problem of development is being tackled in an active and vigorous way. What is the alternative - to give the Northern Territory full self-government now? That suggestion has been advanced by several honorable members opposite. What would it mean? If the Northern Territory became a State it would receive less by way of Commonwealth grant than it receives at the present time. The present Commonwealth grant to the Northern Territory is approximately £225 for each person in the territory, including aborigines. Western Australia, another large area, receives £50 a head by way of Commonwealth grant, excluding aborigines. South Australia receives £34 a head, excluding aborigines. So the Northern Territory, under Commonwealth administration, has done very well, and if the Territory became a State it would have to find vast sums of money from its own resources. Clearly, at the present time that is impracticable.
This legislation is a clear measure of the Government’s faith and confidence in the non-official members and three appointed members of the Legislative Council. The Government believes that those members will act with a high sense of responsibility, because the non-official members will have a clear majority over the seven official members. A suggestion has been made that the number of elected members should be increased. Let us look at that proposal. I suggest that honorable members have a look at a map of the Northern Territory. In the north is Darwin, with a voting population of 4,462, returning two members. Tennant Creek, and the area within 40 miles of Tennant Creek, has a voting population of 440, and returns one member. Alice Springs has a population of approximately 1,500, and returns one member. The Territory is divided on the twentieth parallel of latitude. North of the twentieth parallel is Batchelor, with a voting population of 1,121. South of the twentieth parallel is Stuart, with a voting population of 481 persons. Batchelor and Stuart each return one member. That makes up the six elected members. The bill provides that there shall be eight elected members of the Legislative Council. Obviously, Darwin, with a voting population of 4,462, will have another elected member, perhaps two. The eight members will represent approximately 8,000 voters. But if we adopt the proposition of twelve elected members, what will that mean? If the country areas are to be properly represented there will only be a few hundred voters in each electorate and the majority of members will come from Darwin, which has a floating population. That floating population will be able to dominate the Legislative Council. Such a situation would be unreal, and would be undesirable from every point of view.
The proposal in the legislation to increase the number of elected members to eight will provide full and proper representation for the people of the Northern Territory. A great deal has been said in this House about nominated non-official members of the council. They have been called Government stooges, and allegations have been made that they will give allegiance to the Government and vote only with the official members. Let us look at the remarks of some of the nominated non-official members of the Legistive Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Let us see what Mr. FairfaxRoss said on 4th March, 1958. Speaking in the debate on the Native Employment Bill, he said -
He was opposing Government legislation. On 10th October, 1957, speaking on the Personal Tax Bill, Mr. Hohnen, another nominated member - nominated by the Minister - said -
I have very little to add to the Non-official speakers who have preceded me . . . this Bill . . . will prove to be ill-conceived and inopportune. . . . God forbid that that relationship should ever be impaired by a discriminatory measure of this kind.
They are hardly the words of a Government stooge.
– Is he in the majority or the minority?
– He is an appointed nonofficial member. That is how he thinks and speaks.
– Does he hold the balance of power?
– He is independent.
– On 10th October, 1957, speaking on the Personal Tax Bill, Mr. Bunting said -
I am not going to expand on this subject because I have heard enough of it on both sides but what does annoy me and what does get under my skin is that from the official side who with all sincerity at this Session agree that there must not be any discriminatory tax yet will with tongue in cheek, within twelve months or two or three years, be saying the exact opposite.
He continued, referring to non-official members -
They will be speaking just as sincerely in two or three years’ time in the exact opposite to this. Sir, and that to me is political humbug.
Not only do these three nominated members speak with sincerity and knowledge, but also they come down to Australia at their own expense and take part in various summer schools and discussions. They go on record as being very critical of the Administration and of the Government, not merely in an unpleasant way, but they express their opinions very forcibly and stand by them. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) who has interjected, will have met these gentlemen and will know them to be men of standing and worth.
The members nominated by the Government are prepared to stand up to the Government, to voice their opinions and to bring the weight of their views before the Legislative Council. I have no doubt that men of similar calibre will be found in the Northern Territory. So, instead of having a majority, the Government has deliberately introduced legislation which will allow the Administration to be defeated if the eight elected members get together with the nominated members. That establishes an interest ing situation. It means, in effect, that the Administrator in introducing bills in the future will have to obtain the support of several elected members or nominated members before his legislation will become law. That is a most progressive step. I doubt whether the government of any country has ever deliberately created a situation in which non-official members have a majority. But this legislation is further evidence to the Parliament that the Government is preprepared to give to the Territory as large a part of government as possible. Some critics will say that it goes too far at this stage of development and with the present population numbers. I do not hold that view, and I believe that the Government does not hold it. The Government has clearly shown faith and confidence in the good sense and sound citizenship of the people of the Territory. It believes that they will use these powers wisely and properly, and I feel that it will not be disappointed.
I have been Parliamentary Secretary for a number of years, and I would like to take this opportunity of saying that, whatever criticism one might level at the Minister for Territories, nobody can doubt his energy and sincerity in the great work he has done for the benefit of the Territory.
.- I am disappointed that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) was prepared to admit that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) may have some faults. It shows that party discipline on the other side is becoming ineffective. The honorable member in putting a case was attempting to avoid the issues that arise from this legislation. Like some other members on this side, I am prepared to admit that within the limits of activity afforded him by membership of the Liberal Party, the Minister has brought to the Territory something that it probably would not have received from any one else in the Cabinet. But, inside his humanitarian approach, I can see in the construction of the bill a very conservative, cautious and hesitant attitude to the question of responsible government.
– My goodness, what is yours?
– Mine is the correct approach. It has most properly developed out of the study of the history of the development of responsible government over 1,000 years. I propose to develop that theme, because the problem of territories such as the Northern Territory is not merely one of building new railway lines; it is a fundamental problem of the concept of law, of the structure of governmental institutions, and of the relationship between the law makers and the people for whom the laws are made. The very concept of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and its powers offends against all the precepts and principles upon which Parliamentary democracy and representative government are based.
These have been developed in British countries over many years. We have examples in Australian history of an even more dynamic approach to the question ot government than has been shown here. We are not learning even from our own history. The Minister pointed out, and rightly so, that some of this is simply another example of colonial practices, developed fairly effectively by British institutions; but from there where do we go? We are not dealing with a small population. According to the last report, the population of the Territory was 34,268. Admittedly, all the people are not counted, but that is as close as we are likely to get. However, honorable members on this side of the House, and I believe the people generally, are prepared to admit that the aboriginal inhabitants of the Territory are people and should be treated as such. It is true that because of the rate of development in some fields, this brings problems on matters of government, but those are problems which we must face and to which we should try to find a solution. I look in this bill, which should be a charter for the Northern Territory, for the solutions to these problems, but I do not find any of them.
I shall refer to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Calare. He said that the Territory is not yet ready for responsible government. It never will be ready for responsible government. Nowhere in the history of the Liberal Party, or its predecessors of various names and types, is there an admission that any of the people of Australia were ever ready for responsible government. Even in recent history, we have the case of the struggle for adult franchise for the Legislative Council in Victoria. This was opposed by the Liberal Party in Victoria because ir was said by the then leader, who lost his seat at the subsequent election, that six waterside workers might have the same power as six farmers or graziers - a shocking state of affairs to develop! We find, of course, that this is the general principle behind the activities of this Government. I admit that the approach in this legislation may well be humanitarian, but as far as parliamentary principles are concerned, it is completely unrealistic and terribly conservative.
The honorable member for Calare, in referring to the number of elected members, raised the question of the size of electorates. His party has never really bothered very much about that in the past. One has only to examine the relationship between the electorates in South Australia, some of which are five or six times as large as others, to see that this is no new question when it comes to the preservation of political power.
– What about New South Wales?
– In New South Wales, the majority of electors voted for the Government in the last two elections. When the day comes that the majority of people support the Playford Government in South Australia, I will shout you free ice creams, or something similar, not being able to afford anything more.
The pointed question raised by the honorable member for Calare is whether we will have electorates with too few electors. What is wrong with that? In what way is the voting strength of the electorate related to the discharge of responsible representative government? Why is it felt that one person cannot as effectively represent 200 people as 2,000 or 20,000? As a member of this side of the House, I would say that the principle is that all members must represent the same number of people. Each vote must be of equal value, but the fact that a person is representative of only a few people does not really prevent him from using his responsibility effectively and responsibly. So we say that the size of the electorate is not really a case against the proposition put up by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– What about finance?
– I shall deal with that directly. The question then arises of the domination of land-owners. This has been one of the key notes of parliamentary development in Australia - the struggle by people who represent great land masses to control parliamentary power and retain it. It is the basis of the distribution of electorates for the Legislative Council in Victoria. It was the basis of the fight for the preservation of electoral power in Victoria by the Country Party. It is the very basis of representation in the parliamentary system in South Australia, both in the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. In the Commonwealth, ever since federation, we have accepted the principle of equal electorates and it seems to have worked effectively. It seems to have returned on occasions people from both major political parties satisfactorily. I hear no great clamour from honorable members opposite that they ought to abandon the present system of representation in respect ot Sydney or Melbourne where, because et the metropolitan population, the case is more obviously exemplified. Therefore, that is no argument against the case that has been put forward by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
So, I say that this bill is an exercise in delusion. The problems that are raised in relation to the Northern Territory arc self-government, the development of the country, ownership of land - a matter so effectively brought out by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) - the division of powers, the responsibility tor expenditure and, over-riding it all, the question of the aboriginal population. The aborgines must still be regarded as human beings and treated as such, and from my own inspection of the Territory, I believe that the problem of the aboriginal population is most important.
Is it not time that we resolved this problem by some whole-hearted approach, as suggested by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and appointed a select committee to make a complete examination of the whole question? Then we would have an inquiry, a report and recommendations. It has been traditional for Parliament to arrive at complicated decisions by going to the source of information. I suggest that that proposal should be followed.
Now I want to return the minds of honorable members to the question of democracy as it stands and to parliamentary government as it ought to stand, and consider the principles that we ought to apply to this problem. Consider the position in the Northern Territory Legislative Council. We have on the council, the Administrator, seven nominated official members and six elected members. There is no possibiltiy of the elected members out-voting the nominated members because they have not the numbers. If we examine the proposition contained in the bill that there should be an Administrator, six official members, three nominated but unofficial members and eight elected members, we ask ouselves who will have the responsibility? Who will have the authority, and upon whom can we lay the burden of decision? Not upon the elected members.
The principle on which our system is based is elective responsibility - that you can place the responsibility for decision eventually on some person who is answerable to you at some particular place and time. In the case of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, the bill does not provide the answer at all. Admittedly, it would be possible under the new set-up for the eight elected members, with the three nominated members who are not necessarily employees of the Crown, to out-vote the official members. Even in that case, however, they would not have much authority because there are lines of veto over which they have no say. Finally, when the decision came to this Parliament, the honorable member for the Northern Territory would have only limited power as he has at present.
The principle of any democratic system is that the people who exercise power to make laws shall answer to the people for whom they make them. Therefore, the body proposed for the Northern Territory is not a parliament and is not, in the strict sense, a legislative body at all. It is a body for producing government decisions under the auspices of a parliamentary system. There will be an election, but no real power. There will be authority exercised by persons who are nominated. They will be government employees and members of the Public Service. They will be good men certainly, but that is not the question. It is not even a question of whether the people of the Northern Territory think the arrangement is satisfactory or not. The main point is the principle under which we have representative government. That applies whether we are talking of the federal sphere, the State sphere or the municipal sphere. Therefore, this measure does not answer the relevant question or solve the problem.
The honorable member for Calare has said that this is an instance of the faith and confidence that the Government has in the people of the Northern Territory, but the Government does not intend even to show that faith by giving their representatives the right to make decisions and take full responsibility for them.
Consider the basis of Northern Territory law. In recent times, we have had cases of persons having been sent to gaol for breaking Northern Territory ordinances. Admittedly, those ordinances have finally had the sanction of the Minister for Territories and therefore, in an indirect sense, the sanction of this Parliament; but we are asked to give to a non-responsible body the power to take away the freedom of individuals, whether black or white. We are to hand over the same sort of power that this Parliament has. We are to hand over, in fact, the same sort of power that any State Parliament has.
– It is the courts that pass the sentences.
– Admittedly, the courts pass the sentences. But is it not a fact that the laws are made by the people in the Legislative Council? It is not the courts which, in fact, make the law that pushes a person around. The person who makes the law is responsible in the long run. The courts are part of the machinery to implement the decisions of others. Therefore, we cannot remove responsibility for legislative acts of the Legislative Council by saying that, in the end, the courts have to do it. The fact is that a non representative, non-responsible body is exercising the same functions over human freedom as this Parliament does. That is against the general principles we have developed in responsible government.
– Every ordinance is tabled.
– Every ordinance in the end, admittedly comes to this House and lies here. One of the principal features of the operations of this House is the responsibility of the Minister and the person who runs any department to answer to us directly in this Parliament. In effect, the proposal is that the representatives in the Northern Territory will sit down and pass laws. They cannot be put on the front bench on the government side of this chamber to answer questions. They cannot be answerable to us. No person in the Northern Territory can question them at all. That is a removal of responsibility for the exercise of power. I admit that this power is desirable and that, in the end, it is a very desirable feature in the particular context of the Northern Territory that you must retain this power in some form; but that does not remove from this legislation the odium ot non-representation. Direct responsibility is the essence of our parliamentary democracy and I think it is one of the weaknesses of the set-up in Australia, with sovereign States and a federal sphere, that in many instances we cannot get at the person who is directly responsible for some of the things for which we in this House have to accept part of the responsibility.
So we suggest that this Legislative Council for the Northern Territory should be given a structure more closely resembling parliamentary government. I do not agree at all with the retention of nominated members. I believe elected members should run the show. This raises a question which has not been answered in thousands of cases throughout Australia where we have some 900 local government organizations. In Victoria there are 200. I believe we should approach this question of a legislative body in the Northern Territory in much the same way as did those who framed the local government acts and the laws of the various States in creating municipal government.
– We have a fully elected local government body in Darwin.
– Yes, but this still does not answer the questions I am raising concerning the Legislative Council. I admit that there should be a lot more. I feel that this is a case when this Parliament should decide that there are some things which are exclusively within the province of the people of the Northern Territory. But I would not question that until the thing was put before us for decision.
Consider the tremendously complicated structure of local government law as it applies in Victoria. I think that the laws affecting local government in Victoria cover about 500 pages. They define the powers and responsibilities, the methods of election, and so on. Local government authorities in Victoria have a definite responsibility. I do not approve altogether of the way that local government has developed in Victoria. I think that the retention of plural voting and a restricted franchise is farcical at this time in Australia. The very idea of approaching the Government of the Northern Territory in the same way as we approach the question of local government is wrong. There must surely be dozens of things which apply to all of the Northern Territory, and which are peculiar to the Northern Territory, for which the people of the Territory can be financially responsible. In respect of them they should exercise delegated powers. But there must surely be lots of things, as pointed out by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), which are our direct responsibility because, admittedly, we are the people who are supplying the cash. I think the amount supplied annually for the Northern Territory ranges from £3,000,000 to £12,000,000. That is a fair sum of money, but it is not as large as the subsidy that we are putting into the airlines system. We do not apply this system directly to lots of the other activities of this Parliament. We make grants to the States as such because they need extra money for development. So money is not the problem.
My feeling is that we approach the problem of the Northern Territory in too cautious and piece-meal a way. We see that riots and revolutions are likely to develop in the Northern Territory, and then we bring in another three ideas to stop them, instead of trying to solve the whole problem in the light of our own history.
I wish to direct the Minister’s attention now to another problem, although I really do not need to do so, because I will say for the Minister that he has probably brought more thought and more care to the study of the aboriginal people than has any other parliamentarian in the history of Australia. He certainly has had that problem on his hands for longer than anybody else has ever had. So I wish to direct the notice of the House to this problem. The Minister was good enough last year to make special facilities available to some of us to visit the Northern Territory, as he has done in the case of others in the past. I think that every honorable member ought to go to the Territory, and it might not be a bad idea, Mr. Minister, to offer facilities to members of State parliaments to visit that area.
The aboriginal population of the Northern Territory numbers 15,000 or 16,000 people of whom seventeen are Australian citizens. I congratulate the Minister on the original decision that those with nonaboriginal blood in them should become full citizens. I congratulated him at the time. Admittedly, the aborigines are backward politically. Judging from comments passed about the membership of this place it is hard to imagine how much more backward anybody could be. But it is said that the aborigines are backward politically. This is a problem which is facing other countries, too. It faces the people of India and the people of Indonesia, and they have made some approach to it, some attempt to solve it. They have their troubles, but we are in a singularly fortunate position. The matter of 15,000 or 16,000 people of a different race is a small problem compared with what faces people in other parts of the world.
I suggest that if the Government intends to nominate people to the Legislative Council it could well consider nominating one of those sixteen or seventeen aboriginal citizens in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out here one day that in the end it is only somebody speaking for his fellows directly, as one of them, who can ensure progress on their behalf. The honorable member for Fremantle also gave some of the history of the development of political rights and political powers for the Maori people of New Zealand. So I make that suggestion. While the general question of the Northern Territory will eventually only be solved by giving the people of the Northern Territory-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [5.4V. - I am supporting this bill, although, in common with the other honorable members, I regard it as a transitional measure only. This is a measure which will not last for long. I do not think its sponsors would expect it lo last for long because, as a matter of fact, it is a measure which acknowledges a period of transition.
I sympathize entirely with the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) when he says that he cannot grant, at this stage, full responsible self-government to the Northern Territory. I do not think that the Territory is ripe for that yet; but we know that it will be ripe for it some time. We know that it is in a period of transition towards that ripeness, and we believe that a higher measure of responsible government should be accorded as the Territory itself develops. Just as in New South Wales some transitional councils lasted only a short time, so 1 would think that the council which the Minister envisages in this legislation will not be long-lived, but will give place progressively to other types of councils, each one embodying a higher measure of responsible self-government, and the Northern Territory will take its place eventually as one of the Australian States. But that time is not yet, and in the meantime the Minister, in this bill, is moving in what this House will commend as the right direction.
The bill proposes the establishment of a Legislative Council consisting of the Administrator, six official members who will be members holding their office by virtue ot the fact that they hold office in the public service of the Northern Territory, three non-official members who will be appointed by the Governor-General, and eight elected members. The eight elected members are obviously a minority. The majority lies with those who are appointed by the Governor-General, but of those, three are persons who are not to be in the Public Service. It is believed that they will exhibit some independence. It is believed that they will not be at the whim and behest of the Government, as indeed the official members must be and have shown themselves to be in the history of past councils. These three non-official members now to be appointed, together with the eight elected members, could be, as the Minister points out, and points out very rightly, a majority of the members on the council. I think that this is an arrangement which will commend itself to the House as a transitional arrangement, although only as a transitional arrangement; but there is one feature of it to which I would draw attention - a feature which is of theoretical rather than practical importance, but which, I think, might well justify some amendment of the bil! as it stands at the moment.
These three non-official members, who are the core of the reform in clause 8 of the bill may at any time be removed from office by the Governor-General. I am not certain that that is the thing that we want. I think rather we should provide that they may be removed from office by both houses of the Parliament. By so doing, we would be following out a principle which is so well followed out in a later clause of the bill which gives to this House some overriding surveyance of the disallowance of ordinances. This House should take more responsibility. I turn to these three non-official members, because they are the core of the matter. They are to be appointed by the Governor-General. They are not three irresponsible people; they are people whom the Minister, or the Governor-General on behalf of the Minister, believes to be the best and most responsible people available in the Territory. Once appointed, they should have a measure of independence; not an infinite measure of independence, because under this bill - I think rightly - there is power to disallow an ordinance of the council, but a moderate though increasing measure of independence. These three members, selected by the Governor-General because they are outstanding, are to be there for three years. That is their term of office under the clause. During those three years they should not be liable to be removed for any frivolous cause, nor indeed should they be in any way amenable to the pressure of removal. They should be given the independent status of being appointed for three years, to be removed only by resolution of each House of this Parliament. That is a provision which, as honorable members know, is incorporated already in many acts. It is a provision, I think, in regard to the Auditor-General, who is appointed by executive act by the Governor-General but cannot be removed from office except by the resolution of each House of this Parliament.
– But for what reason would they be removed?
– The reason for removal should be for the Parliament to say. I would not in any way endeavour to pre-judge, prejudice, or circumscribe the vote of the House on any hypothetical matter in the future. A person thus appointed, selected because in the opinion of the Governor-General he is one of the three most responsible and suitable persons in the whole Territory, should, once he is appointed, be given security of tenure of office and should not be liable to removal without the most serious process. I am not suggesting that he should not be liable to removal. I am suggesting that no Minister should ever be in the position to say to that man, “ Vote for this measure or lose your seat “, or “ Advocate this measure and I will throw you out “. We are giving, rightly, not an infinite, full degree of independence, but an increasing degree of independence, to the Territory. Let it be a real and not a sham gift.
I would not go all the way to giving the people of the Territory full control of revenues which they do not themselves provide and of assets which will be held by a vastly greater number of people in the future. I am in agreement with the Minister on this matter. I feel that they should be given an increasing measure of independence and that this transitional measure - because it is a transitional measure - should embody in it just that small amendment which, after all, will be of no practical importance in the immediate future, because nobody thinks that the Minister at the table will do the kind of thing to which I have referred. But these people should have the proper protection of law, and we should draw this bill not in a sloppy way but in a precise way; not in a way in which the issue depends on the goodwill of a Minister of whose goodwill we have no doubt, but in a way which embodies the proper will of the House and which is independent of the personality of the Minister who is in charge of this matter from time to time. I therefore commend this suggestion to the House. I hope to have it further discussed in committee. I propose that clause 8, which provides that an appointed member may be removed from office by the Governor-General should be amended to provide that he may be removed from office by the resolution of both Houses of the Parliament. This would import into the act the phraseology of other acts where serious matters are in question. 1 think we should be very delicate about this matter because we are dealing with this delicate “transitional form, where the council is not being given full responsibility but is being given major responsibility.
Having said that, may I say that this bill in other respects seems to me to be making an excellent advance towards the objectives which the Minister outlined. I was grateful for the reference that he made to myself in regard to the new provisions for the disallowance of ordinances. These, I think are a distinct advance on the existing situation. I believe this is a bill which recognizes that the Territory will advance.
Let me say something about the Territory, adverting particularly to the remarks made earlier in the debate by the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes), who spoke, with some authority and some knowledge, about the transport system and the need for certain rail developments in the Territory. I think that there is a case to be made out for some of those developments immediately. I want to refer to two matters, first the proposed line into Queensland, via Mount Isa or Dajarra, and secondly the north-south line. I want to refer to them in the light of the fact that we are just realizing the potentialities of the northern part of the Northern Territory as a fattening area, and an area in which agricultural and pasture improvements need to be carried out. I will be making further reference to this later.
Let me turn now to a consideration o£ this railway line via Mount Isa. We know that this line is going to be, as, indeed, it should and must be, brought up to a high standard with the least possible delay. This is not because of any pastoral considerations but because of the fact that at Mount Isa there is one of the greatest masses of base metal ore known in the world, which will constitute one of Australia’s great sources of riches. For that reason the line from Townsville to Mount Isa should quickly be brought up to firstclass standard, so that it can provide an economic service for this great mine. I was a member of a committee which recently visited Mount Isa to study the question of the railway, and I can claim to be reasonably well-informed on the matter. I am quite certain that this is a work of high national priority.
As the honorable member for McPherson has said, when this work is completed some ancillary pastoral use should be made of it. If you have first-class tracks, diesel locomotives and proper rolling-stock then you can contemplate cattle and sheep movements being carried out with an efficiency not possible using the existing lines. Let us look at this line. It goes to Duchess, and then it branches, one line running south-west to Dajarra and the other line going north-west to Mount Isa. 1 feel, having studied the problem on the ground and in some detail, that the extension would be better made from Mount Isa than from Dajarra. I say that partly because the engineering problems are not of such magnitude, partly because the
Distance is less, and partly because the line of lode out from Mount Isa runs along the projected line of the railway. If the line were taken off what is known as the hard country on to the soft limestone country, which it could reach in, I think, some 50 or 60 miles from Mount Isa, then we would be able to provide in the first stage - and I speak only of the first stage - a good cattle loading point.
As honorable members know, the cattle route comes across from the Barkly Tableland and meets the Georgina River south of Camooweal, and the cattle travel down the river to their entraining points. There is no reason why they could not just as easily go 30 miles up the river and entrain there. I believe that when we come to look at this problem in detail - and this is not the place to discuss it in detail - we will see that the route I have suggested is the better one.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was mentioning the railway line from Mount Isa westwards into the Northern Territory. The honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) also mentioned the north-south line, and I find myself in agreement with him that this passes through poor country which, pastorally, is of little interest. The line, however, has been promised to South Australia, and its main justification would be mineral rather than pastoral.
I think that one of the things that we have failed to do in the Northern Territory is adequately to drill the deposits at Tennant Creek which show surface indications of justifying mineral development on a very large scale. Those indications, however, are not, I think, fully proved or sufficiently proved to warrant very large capital construction. I would think that this is something that we have to look at. One of the urgent requirements of the Territory is to get on with further drilling in the Tennant Creek area. I am also faced with another glorious uncertainty in regard to this. The present line, as we know, is standard gauge to Marree, from whence it bends westward and passes up the western side of Lake Eyre. This route was, doubtless and rightly, chosen because on the eastern side of Lake Eyre there are large tributaries, such as the Cooper, emptying in to the lake. This would make railway construction along the eastern bank very difficult.
On the other hand, something is now occurring which is uncertain, but which needs to be kept in mind. That is that in the Innamincka area there are some oil prospects. It is much too early, of course, to consider these as being definite enough to build high hopes on them. But I feel that we should hold our hand, here, a little because if those oil prospects come to anything - and I do emphasize that they are still highly speculative - it might be economic to face the extra cost of bridge construction and bring that main line not up the western side of Lake Eyre but up the eastern side. It would be a more expensive plan, but if these are oil-fields, that is where the line will have to go, expense or no expense.
As we know, the line from Marree southwards into Port Augusta and Port Pirie is a standard gauge, 4-ft. 81/2-in. high-quality line. The linkage from Port Pirie to Broken Hill is an antiquated 3-ft. 6-in. line, and we will not get full usage from the Marree line, which carries mineral concentrates, until that other line is standardized. I am glad to say that the Government has made a preliminary move towards standardization and I hope that the work will be carried forward without delay.
The Northern Territory may be on the threshold of very great expansion because of the new importance of the meat trade. It would appear that, of all the primary products, meat is the one with the brightest immediate, or, shall I say, middle-term prospects. Over the long term, one would think that meat may turn out to be very much more important to the primaryproducing economy than it is to-day. In that case, the Northern Territory will be a much more important factor in providing Australia’s exports than we are inclined, at the present time, to think that it will be. But if it is to be as important as that, other developments must occur.
Honorable members have mentioned rice. lt is true that rice may form part of a pastoral economy. But much more important than that are the experiments which are being made in the Northern Territory and in tropical Queensland in the development of high rainfall pastures under these tropical conditions. Here I come back to the question of the decentralization of control and the more efficient conduct of our operations in the Northern Territory.
I have found by personal inquiry, for example, that some of the most valuable experiments which are being undertaken in the Northern Territory for the realization of pastoral potentialities are being impeded because people cannot get a decision from Canberra, or cannot get some small amount such as £5,000. In country such as the Northern Territory, where seasonal variations are high, to lose a month may be to lose twelve months. For that reason, I feel that the Northern Territory administration might be further decentralized. I hope that, as a consequence of the bill before the House, it will be further decentralized and that the Northern Territory will have a greater measure of control over its own services.
The Minister will be familiar with the unsatisfactory nature of the construction, for example, of the Eldorado road. I instance this as typical and not of itself as a matter of Territory-shaking importance. The Minister will be familiar with the cost of exporting goods from Darwin. He will remember correspondence that we have had about the cost of loading fodder on the boats which carry live cattle away fro-n Darwin. If the Government is anxious about the development of the Northern Territory, it should be providing, in the early stages, a cheap transport system. Such a system will not be self-supporting until the turnover is very much bigger. But the turnover will not grow without cheap transport. Let us break the vicious circle. Let us say that costs, with a big turnover, will be down to such and such a point. Let lis put prices down to that point as an experiment to see whether the turnover will grow. I do not say that this should be done irresponsibly. I think we should look at those industries which, taken as a whole, on the basis of the best export prices, have a real chance of growth in the Northern Territory. Primarily, of course, these are the mining and pastoral industries. There is now a chance to clean up the Northern Territory to some extent because of the very good prices being achieved for meat which allow the profitable slaughter of “ mickeys “ - the bulls which are destroying the quality of the herds, and even allow of the disposal of numbers of surplus female cattle which are, in some respects, because of their bad breeding, better out of the way. But these things will not hi really effective unless we get a much bigger programme of fencing in the Northern Territory. It is perhaps reasonable to ask that the big properties should develop small parts of their areas very much more intensely. This can be done. It would not involve them all in colossal expense, and if it were done it would provide a viable pastoral-growing economy which has not existed up till now.
Here again the Government might help with a special scheme for the provision of fencing materials at a cheap rate and a special scheme for the introduction into the Northern Territory of fertilizer which is needed for some of these pastoral improvements. Cattle breeding and cattle improvement centres in the Territory might well pay off very big in terms of national prosperity in these days when meat looks to be such a promising export.
Apart from that, one feels that the immediate future of the Territory lies in the mineral field. We have not had as much luck here lately as we would have liked. Personally, I should think that, in terms of surface profit - and I emphasize the words “ surface profit “ - the Tennant Creek field would repay a good deal more attention than it is getting. I am familiar with the work being done there by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and I do know what has been achieved by the provision of cheap power facilities and assistance in other ways at Tennant Creek. The Government might enter into an agreement with the company to accelerate development there considerably and particularly the development of exports. I am sorry it is not possible for me to pursue this matter further owing to limitation of time.
.- There are no politics in this bill in the sense that the Opposition wishes to score off the Government in respect of any question of administration or any item of expenditure; but we feel compelled to say that the bill as drafted does too little for the Northern Territory and that, if we are not careful as a nation, the little that we are trying to do might be too late.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), as honorable members know, represents in this Parliament 500,000 square miles of Australia - onesixth of the total land mass that we call the Commonwealth of Australia. That is all of Australia north of the 26th parallel of latitude, bounded by Western Australia on the west and Queensland on the east. In that great expanse of country, one-sixth of Australia, there are only 18,000 people of our blood and that figure includes the half-castes. This handful of people are trying to develop that part of our country so that it can be defended, because it is an integral part of Australia. Insofar as they are doing their utmost, giving of their talents and their energies, in the work of development, they are to be complimented and they deserve to be commended.
The Northern Territory has had an unhappy history. The honorable member for the Northern Territory saw one successful revolution in that part of the country after the First World War when, as a boy in a tree, he witnessed the deportation of the Administrator (Dr. J. A. Gilruth) who had fallen out of favour with the residents. The direct methods they used were certainly very effective. As a result, the Administrator returned south and the Government of the day - I think it was the Hughes Government - was unable to do anything at all about the matter. Governments since that time have given some attention to the development of the Northern Territory and 1 suppose that in the last fourteen years, in the post-World War II. period, more has been done than was ever done in the whole history of the Northern Territory, either as an appendage of South Australia or since the control of it was transferred to the Commonwealth by an act of the South Australian Parliament back in 1909 or thereabouts.
But the Northern Territory will never be developed unless and until the rivers are dammed and railways and roads are put through. The Northern Territory and every other part of northern Australia, like the more settled parts of the rest of Australia and like the American continent in the earlier period, cannot be developed unless roads and railways are pushed out first, and the people are thus enabled to follow later. Vast areas of the Northern Territory provide great opportunities for settlement, but unfortunately we are a cityminded people and we do not seem to worry about the future of our nation. That is evident from the fact that 70 per cent, of the population of Victoria live in Melbourne and 64 per cent, of the people of New South Wales live in Sydney. More than 4,000,000 Australians live in little more than 800,000 square miles and the rest of our 10,000,000 people live in the remaining 3,000,000 square miles.
In the Northern Territory the population is growing very slowly. This Territory, with the rest of the northern part of Australia is the most vulnerable part of the continent. In the comparable portion of Western Australia there are only 6,000 people of our blood occupying 500,000 square miles. This means that 24,000 Australians are holding - if the word is used honestly - one-third of Australia for themselves and the rest of us. The Australian people must be persuaded, in their own interests, that they shall have to spend much more money in the development of Northern Australia than they have been prepared to spend to date. This year the Government is spending £12,000,000. I am not saying anything against what the Government is doing, but I wish it would spend more. That £12,000,000 includes expenditure on defence in the Northern Territory.
But the Northern Territory has no defence. I think there might be 100 people in the Army at Darwin, and nobody south of it. There are twenty servicemen in the Royal Australian Navy at Darwin and they have one launch with which to hold Darwin if ever it is attacked. I know the story that aircraft can be flown in quickly from Garbutt in Queensland, Richmond in New South Wales, Point Cook in Victoria and Parafield in South Australia and that ships can be moved there from Sydney, Nowra and Melbourne. I know also that there are about 40 people in the Royal Australian
Air Force at Darwin. They used to have one Lincoln bomber, one Dakota and one Wirraway. The Dakota crashed; I do not know whether it has been replaced, but that is the total air force. I apologize, because I forgot to mention that they also have an air-sea rescue launch. The ChiefsofStaff know their business best, but I am sure that other countries do not concentrate the whole of their defence forces in the densely settled areas in the portions most remote from the point of danger.
The defence position of the Northern Territory when the Labour Party was in office at the end of the post-war period was just a little better, but there seemed little likelihood then of another war occurring in the foreseeable future. During the war there was, of course, a big force in the Northern Territory. During the war, also, and only because of the war, a fine road was built between Alice Springs and Darwin. It is one of the best roads in Australia still and it is maintained in that condition by the Army and by the Administration. Many more roads ought to be built through the Northern Territory from east to west and they should be bitumenized. There are only about 1,200 miles of bitumenized roads in 500,000 square miles of the Territory, and those are mainly the miles that constitute the north-south road.
The problem of the Northern Territory is on the conscience of every Australian. I do not wish that anybody should think that I am reflecting on the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), because he is doing a good job both in the Northern Territory and in New Guinea. He is devoting a lot of his time and energy and displaying his ability in trying to find the solution of the problems of the Northern Territory. I hope that he will be able to convince his Government to give more money for the development of the area and to listen to the pleas repeatedly made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who is one of the hardest working members of this House for more action and for a bigger and better development programme. He never spares himself travelling over the vast territory and is always ready to help any elector in his far-flung electorate. But the honorable member for the Northern Territory has not been able to convince the Government that in the interests of development and defence a railway line, similar to the one recom mended by Sir Harold Clapp to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) when he was Minister for Transport, should be built. That railway line across the Barkly Tableland, an area of 30,000 square miles, would run from Birdum, in the Northern Territory, across this vast plateau down into Queensland, joining up with the railway line at Cloncurry, and on to Townsville. There is a lot of good cattle country in that area which can be developed, and surrounding it is one of the greatest metalliferous mining areas in Australia. North of the Katherine River to Darwin, a distance of some 200 miles and extending into Queensland is an area of country which includes such famous mines as Mr Isa, Mary Kathleen and Rum Jungle. It is pre-Cambrian rock and Devonian rock, containing some of the oldest and richest ores in the world. That country cannot be developed unless we have east-west railways and one running north and south somewhere near the main Alice Springs-Darwin road, together with branch lines. It is absolutely essential that the present standard-gauge line from Port Augusta to Marree should be extended to Alice Springs, and even pushed on to Darwin within the next ten years or so. A lot of the mineral wealth of Tennant Creek should go to Port Augusta or Adelaide for shipment, but at the moment there is only one road through that great stretch of country to take out all its mineral wealth.
The cattle industry needs the services of a modern railway with diesel locomotives, not necessarily for the transport of live cattle, but to take the meat from killing centres in the heart of Australia. That would promote settlement in the Territory and aid further development arount Alice Springs and other places.
Fortunately, I have been able to visit the Northern Territory quite often. I hope to go there again this winter. In the Territory I have met many honorable members from both sides of the House and I am sure that any proposal brought forward by this Government or any other government for the development of the Northern Territory would have their support. There would not be a single critic in this Parliament of anything that the Minister might like to do in carrying out the programmes that he has in hand. It is very disheartening to a number of people living in the
Territory - public servants and others - to find that their hopes are frustrated either because of indecision at the Canberra level or because of opposition from people who do not understand their problems, and who will not see the urgent need to do something to solve the problems in the Northern Territory. When I say that I am referring to people on the administrative level.
While visiting the Northern Territory I have heard it suggested to the honorable member for the Northern Territory that, like the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the Northern Territory should have its own public service. There is hostility among public servants in the Territory over the practice of filling important posts in the Territory with people who possibly never saw that part of the country before, people who come from Canberra to fill the top jobs while those who have been working on the jobs over the years are passed over. There may be good reasons in every case why consideration should be given to the claims of outsiders, but the day must arrive soon when those who have carried the burden in the Northern Territory will be allowed to fill the top positions.
I compliment the Minister for his appointment of Dr. John Gunther as Assistant Administrator for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I doubt whether he could have made a better choice. Dr. Gunther had been Chief Medical Officer in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and he knew the Territory better than anybody else. The people who are serving on the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory - this bill concerns their work - are very dissatisfied because up to date they have not been able to convince the Government that their requests should be acceded to. We of the Australian Labour Party go further than the elected members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council are prepared to go. What amazes us is the modesty of the people who staged a walk-out from the Legislative Council and then agreed to settle with the Government for much less than they originally demanded, and much less than we think should have been agreed to by the Government when it considered the requests of the elected members. At present, there are six elected members on the Council and seven nominated members, with the Administra tor having a deliberative and casting vote. That position is almost identical with the position created by the Chifley Government immediately after the war.
The Australian Labour Party, in the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, proposes that the Legislative Council shall consist of twelve official members and twelve elected members, and that an elected member shall become Speaker of the Legislative Council. The Opposition does not desire the Administrator to be the President of the Legislative Council. What the Government proposes to do is to appoint six nominated official members - only one less than at present - and to add three nominated non-official members. In addition, it proposes to increase the number of elected members from six to eight, and it also proposes that the Administrator shall retain his casting and deliberative votes. We fear that the three nominated nonofficial members may not represent the people who live in the Territory as lifetime settlers or as permanent residents. They might represent the meat interests, the gold-mining or copper-mining interests of Tennant Creek, or the uranium interests of Rum Jungle. We do not believe that such persons would be truly representative of opinion in the Northern Territory, although their presence on the Legislative Council might give some assurance to overseas investors that nothing radical would be done in the Northern Territory Legislative Council affecting their interersts. In any case, the Government will still have the right to veto what is done by the Northern Territory Legislative Council, and under the provisions of this bill this Parliament will know what is happening, because ordinances will be submitted to the Parliament and may be disallowed.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory will not have a vote in this House on all matters, not even on the Estimates for the Northern Territory, although there will be some extension of his rights. He will be able to vote on the disallowance of an ordinance and on any bill solely affecting the Northern Territory, but whether a bill deals solely with the Northern Territory will be a matter for determination from time to time by the Speaker or Chairman of Committees or some other official of the House and, of course, such determination could vary from Parliament to Parliament.
We should like the Minister to accept the amendments that have been moved from this side of the House, and we think that they would undoubtedly help the further development of the Northern Territory. Those amendments, if accepted, would encourage the people who are serving on the Legislative Council to continue to do their best. They would remove causes of irritation and they would mean that settlers and officials throughout the 500,000 square miles of the Northern Territory would feel that some notice was being taken of them, whereas to-day they sometimes feel that they are Australia’s forgotten people. They feel that they must have a member in the Parliament with almost equal or equal rights with every other honorable member in the Parliament, even though the number of his electors is comparatively small alongside that of the average electorate in the mainland States or even in Tasmania. They feel that if their Legislative Council were made more important in the scheme of things, then more could be done for the Northern Territory. Again, whatever alterations we may make in the administration of the Territory, must be helpful to local residents. The real question is, however, how soon and to what extent is this Australian Parliament prepared to pour money into the whole of the north of Australia to make it habitable, and to encourage people to settle there, and so enable it to be more quickly developed and more easily defended than it possibly can be at this time.
I have no more to say, except to wish the measure well and to express the hope that, although we may not succeed at the moment with the suggestions that we make to the Government, the time will soon come when many of our proposals will be adopted. I am sure if that happens, it will be all to the good certainly of the Northern Territory and also of Australia generally.
– in reply- The House is debating the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has moved an amendment to the bill and if accepted it would have the effect of referring the bill to a select committee. If I may, I should like to express appreciation to the House for the thoughtful and moderate way in which the measure has been debated.
In the course of the debate, we have had a number of references, by people well qualified to make them, to the need for the development of the north, to the transport problems and to the pastoral mineral and other opportunities there. It is a great encouragement to the Government to see that on each successive occasion on which any matter relating to the Northern Territory is brought to the Parliament, there are renewed signs of an increasing interest in the problems of this great Territory. I should like to express particular appreciation of the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who, during the years when I have held this portfolio, has been most constant in his personal interest in the affairs of the Northern Territory and has visited it not once but on several occasions in order to familiarize himself with its problems.
Interesting as the remarks about development are, we must remind ourselves that this is essentially a measure dealing rather narrowly with constitutional reform and in particular with the structure, the membership and the powers of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, which is the creation of this Parliament.
I should like now to refer to the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. Early in his speech this afternoon, he requested an adjournment of the debate and accompanied his request with the suggestion that, if the debate were adjourned, it would enable the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to be called together to discuss the bill and perhaps to prepare amendments to it. It was doubtful whether the forms of the House would have allowed us to grant the adjournment in the way in which the honorable member requested it. The history of the measure, of course, is that it was introduced to the House on 19th March. It has been in the possession of the House for three weeks and, as it was already in the possession of the House, it seemed a little unusual to say that we should interrupt our consideration of it in order to allow some other legislative body to consider it. The only reason given by the honorable member for asking for the adjournment of the debate or, rather, that he might be allowed to sit down and have leave to continue his remarks at some future date, was so that in the interval the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory could discuss the measure.
During the course of his remarks, the honorable member made one or two statements on which I should like to comment. My first comment is the simple statement that it is not within my province, nor, indeed, is it within my power as Minister for the Territories, to take any action to call the Legislative Council together. That is the province of the Administrator of the Northern Territory, who is the President of the council. Secondly, the honorable member suggested that a request for such a meeting had been made. The facts, as I know them, are that yesterday the Administrator of the Northern Territory received a letter ‘bearing yesterday’s date from one of the members of the Legislative Council asking that a special meeting of the council be called within fourteen days. My only comment on that is that the Administrator was informed that the decision was one for his responsibility. So far as the Government is concerned, there is no objection to him using his judgment as to whether or not the council should be called together. Lest there should be thought to be something sinister about the matter, 1 should remark also that the debating programme and the notice-paper of this Parliament had been arranged long before the Government knew that the Legislative Council was interested in having a meeting.
On the’ merits of the request for an adjournment, I suggest to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and to the House, through you, Mr. Speaker, that the only real case for postponing this debate would have been if the Opposition had been able to represent that it was not ready to proceed. Then, with the courtesy that is customary between parties in arranging the business of the House, we could have considered the matter. But the honorable member did not make his plea on those grounds. Indeed, if I may say so without nattering him unduly, when the debate did proceed he immediately revealed to us that he was exceedingly well prepared for it; that he had in fact already had his consultations with people in the Northern Territory who had opinions to express, and that he came here exceedingly well briefed and in a position to present in a very able, forceful and, from his point of view, effective way the views that are held in the Northern Territory on this matter. It is obvious that in the presentation of the case for the Northern Territory, the honorable member suffered no disadvantage from the fact that the debate proceeded to-day.
One point emerges out of this. I do not rate it very highly and I do not take it seriously, but in passing I throw it out for the consideration of honorable members. The suggestion that the debate should be postponed so that the Legislative Council could discuss the bill does raise, incidentally, a question affecting the relationships between two legislative bodies. The Commonwealth Parliament might very well prove sensitive about its own rights and privileges in this matter. I would think it would be completely improper for this Parliament to debate an ordinance of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory whilst that ordinance was still being debated in the council. It is all right for us to exercise our powers to discuss it after the council has disposed of it. Similarly, I would suggest that it would be more appropriate for the Legislative Council to debate this subject or the contents of the bill after this Parliament has concluded its debate, rather than attempt to do so while the debate is still proceeding. But I do not attach a great deal of importance te that. This is just a small point which might be considered because after all if the parent is not to intrude into the field being cultivated by the child, it is reasonable that the child should not attempt to till the field that rightly belongs to the parent legislature. In any case, the Legislative Council will have ample opportunity to do iti own functions in respect of this measure, because if and when this bill is passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, certain ancillary legislation will have to be introduced into the Legislative Council itself in order to complete this programme for constitutional reform. At any rate, let that matter pass, and I hope that no one thinks that I attach undue importance to it.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory moved his amendment to refer the bill to a select committee. I would like to make two comments on that suggestion. The amendment was not simply a proposal for postponement; it was also a direction that the bill be re-examined along certain lines, lt was an expression of opinion regarding the contents of the bill. So, we cannot consider the suggestion to reexamine it as a pure suggestion for reexamination. The amendment before the House is also an attempt to express an opinion on the contents of this bill. The Government, having carefully considered this measure and brought it to the House, believes it is a good measure and prefers to maintain that measure rather than accept the suggestion of the honorable member in his amendment that the principles upon which it is based are wrong.
The second point I should like to make on the amendment is that there has already been a prolonged - and what some people would call an unduly prolonged - examination of this matter. Let me recall to the House what has happened. This question of constitutional reform was considered by a select committee of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, and was made the subject of a report which was the starting point of the examination that led to the production of this piece of legislation. The report of that select committee was available to members and was debated in this House last April and May. Following that, a conference was held between the whole of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and representatives of the Government. The report which emerged from that conference was again circulated to all members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Following that, Cabinet itself deliberated on. the matter. It exercised the responsibility which belongs to it of preparing proposals for legislation and has submitted them to this Parliament. Under the Constitution as it is at present, only the Commonwealth Government can make that decision. Only the Commonwealth Parliament can pass judgment on that decision.
A curious feature about this proposed amendment, if I may say so, is that in their enthusiasm for the general subject of development of the north, and in offering their comments on the various problems of native welfare, mining, pasture development, transport and railways in the north, so far as I recollect there was not a single honorable member on the Opposition side who. in speaking to this debate, gave any attention to the proposal that the bill be referred to a select committee. We can check the “ Hansard “ report to-morrow, but there was no more than at the most a casual sentence here and there supporting, or producing any argument to support, the proposal that the bill be referred to a select committee. So the Government is not disposed to accept the amendment. We think it is within the competence of this House to vote upon the measure with the information that it already has and against the background of the very long and careful consideration that has already been given to the proposals.
Now, Sir, if I may, I should like to make one or two points about the arguments that were raised in the debate on constitutional issues. The first point I should like to make is that this is a transitional and not a final proposal. I tried to make that clear in my second-reading speech. We are not attempting to say the last word on what shall happen in the constitutional development of the Northern Territory. We are trying to advance the one step which it seems appropriate to take at this particular moment of time. As the progress and development of the Territory takes place, its population grows, and its opportunities increase. I am sure that this Government, if in office, will not hesitate one moment to introduce successive measures to give, as it were, further instalments of constitutional progress to the people of the Northern Territory. This is not final. It represents what the Government feels can be done at this particular moment of time, and as changes take place, further progress can readily be made.
The second point I should like to make as clearly as I can - and I tried to make it earlier by way of interjection - is this: I am sure, in spite of what speakers on the Opposition side have said, that the same problem that faces this Government would face any government. If the Opposition were to attain the treasury-bench and had to do the things which we have to do now, I am very doubtful whether they would find it within their judgment to go further than we are going at present. It is essentially a constitutional matter in which party political difference does not count for very much. It is a question relating to the powers which can be distributed by this Parliament to a legislature in the Northern Territory.
The question of what control this Parliament needs to exercise over a territory which is dependent upon it is the fundamental point. It is a problem which has something almost of an academic character. By that I mean it is a problem which has to be judged as an exercise in wise administration and sound government, and not as a matter of political advantage. I feel sure that the problem will be seen in almost identical terms by the Opposition if it should have the good fortunte to be on this side of the House. In that event, I am sure that the Opposition, if it acted with the responsibility one expects of a government, would come to a solution not very much different from the one we have offered to the House, because we have to face the fact - and one cannot varnish words or pretend it is otherwise - that at this moment of time, the Northern Territory is a dependent territory. That is, it is a territory which depends upon funds voted to it from outside the Territory. It depends in large measure on decisions taken outside the Territory. This is not something that we regard as final, but at this moment of time we have to recognize it as a fact of the constitutional situation.
What is the problem we face and with which we are attempting to deal? Broadly, it is simply the question: Can the Northern Territory at this stage have responsible government? So that we may be quite precise about it and cut our way through some of the mistiness that surrounds this subject, I suggest this means: Can it have a wholly elected Legislative Council? Can it have a Cabinet formed from the elected members of that council, and can its officials and public servants be placed under the control of Ministers of that Cabinet? The answer is: Not yet; and I do not think there is a member in this House who would give any other answer. As I understand it, the majority of the thoughtful members of the Legislative Council who have taken an interest in this matter also say, “ Not yet “. When it comes to the issue, they admit that the Northern Territory at this stage cannot have responsible government in the sense in which I have attempted to define it. So, our problem is: How far towards responsible government can we go? If I understood the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) correctly, he developed an interesting approach to this subject. If I may paraphrase him without distorting his meaning, he said that one way of approaching the problem was to define a field of government in which full responsibility could be given. Now, this Government has already done so in the field of local and municipal government in the Northern Territory. We have prepared and introduced legislation in the Northern Territory for the creation of local government councils. The city of Darwin has a city council exercising municipal authority. It is wholly elected, and it has total command over its own revenues and its own activities in the defined municipal field. Some of its revenues come, of course, in the form of grants from the Government; but there is a case of a field of government being defined and a locally elected body being given full responsibility in that field. If I understood the honorable member for Wills correctly, his question was: Could not something of the same kind be done in respect of the Legislative Council? What I would suggest to him and the House is this: Already we have in the Northern Territory a whole structure of government corresponding to the structure of a State government. We have a department of lands, a department of mines, a department of education and so forth. We have the structure of a State public service. We have a legislative body which makes all the laws, without exception, which apply solely to the Northern Territory, and under the laws which it makes the appropriate functionary makes regulations applying to them. We have that structure of government. One deficiency in it at the moment - and I repeat what I said to the House before, that this is a matter still under study - is that in the Northern Territory there is not yet a separate Budget; but, with that exception, the Northern Territory has already a structure comparable to a State government. The difference, of course, is that the ultimate responsibility in regard to the functioning of that legislature and the functioning of that administrative machine still comes back to this Parliament, which is a superior legislature over the subordinate legislature which exists in the Northern Territory.
The problem is: Do we attempt to cut up the Administrative functions into little compartments and give them to a fully elected or largely elected legislative council, or do we retain this complete and whole structure of government and apply ourselves to the problem of what measure of representation can be introduced in the management of government in that particular field? I prefer the second method - the method provided in this measure - and not the cutting up of separate little chunks of functions for the Northern Territory people to run. I prefer to retain the whole structure of a State government so that ultimately when, as I hope and as I am sure many members of this chamber hope, the Northern Territory, or a new northern State, attains full responsible government, it will have the whole of the machinery of government waiting there.
Taking that view, we have applied ourselves in this bill to the particular problem of what interim arrangements we should make while we are still progressing towards responsible government for the Territory. The submission of the Government, after very careful consideration, is that the proposals made in this measure for changes in the structure of the Legislative Council, for the creation of an Administrator’s council, for alterations in the relationships between the Legislative Council and this Parliament, and some of the subordinate measures, are the farthest we can go at the present time. There is room for differences of opinion on whether our judgment has been exercised in the right way, but I ask the House to believe that we have exercised our judgment with the sincere purpose of going as far as we can go in the Northern Territory at present. It is a question of striking a balance between having too great a control of the Northern Territory by the Parliament, and of retaining sufficient control at a time when this Parliament still votes the greater part of the funds of the Northern Territory.
Now, I shall defer, if I may, Sir, the remarks that I might make on the question of the composition of the Legislative Council, to which considerable attention has been given, until the committee stage, as they might more properly be made when the honorable member for the Northern Territory moves the amendment he has foreshadowed.
There is one other matter with which I wish to deal, which was raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The honorable member thought that some of the objections to the proposals in respect of the nominated nonofficial members might be overcome by an amendment to clause 8, which deals with the manner in which these members may be removed from office. The honorable member suggested that, whereas at present it is proposed that these nominated nonofficial members may at any time be removed from office by the GovernorGeneral, it might be better to provide that they may be removed from office only by resolution of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. The main lines of his argument were that the proposed provision left the members subject to the caprice of the Minister or the caprice of the executive. I agree that, this calls for rather closer examination.
The thought in our minds when we prepared this section was not that this was a means by which a member could ruthlessly and very quickly be removed from office if he followed his own inclinations. It was intended to enable the removal of a member who became disqualified under other provisions of the act. For example, if he became bankrupt, if he became insane, if he were committed to prison on a criminal charge, if he accepted certain contracts from the Government, or in any other way became subject to disqualification for membership, this was intended to be a means by which he could be immediately removed from office. If we have that narrow purpose in mind, I would suggest that it is better to rely on the action of the executive rather than expose such a member to delays, and to the perhaps undesirable publicity of a full debate in both Houses of the Parliament. However, 1 should like to assure the honorable member for Mackellar that I have noted his suggestion very carefully. I think it requires further examination and if he will permit himself to forgo any credit that might attach to the person who actually moves the amendment at the committee stage, I suggest that we have further discussion on the matter, and if it is found necessary to have an amendment of that kind it may be introduced at a later stage of the proceedings in another place.
I commend the bill to the House, and i think that other points which have been raised in the debate might more usefully be covered in committee.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Nelson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee: (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1956.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses1 to 7 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “ (2.) The Legislative Council shall consist of -
– I move -
Omit proposed sub-section (2.), insert the following sub-section: - “ ‘ (2.) The Legislative Council shall consist of-
The object of this amendment, of course, is to alter the composition of the Legislative
Council from that set out in the bill. The amendment proposes twelve official members and twelve elected members, one of whom shall be elected Speaker. This amendment is in line with a request made by the legislative councillors at their conference in Canberra in July last when, as a compromise and as one of their minimum demands, they sought certain reforms. After their original proposal was not agreed to, they suggested a compromise, which was their minimum demand, and which I feel any member who has any thought about these matters will agree is reasonable. I shall read the demand as contained in the report of this meeting between the legislative councillors and Government members and advisors. The meeting was held in Canberra on 24th and 25th July, 1958. The alternative proposal was as follows: -
The point is that the councillors on that occasion wanted twelve men on each side. They wanted twelve nominated members. They did not care about how they were composed. ‘ The three non-official nominated members could remain as part of that body. But they considered that twelve elected members was the minimum number. I think it is a reasonable demand, and I thought at that time the Minister agreed that it was reasonable.
At no time, of course, did the councillors ask for full State rights. They did not ask for a fully-elected Legislative Council, although I feel sure that they would have been entitled to favorable consideration of such a claim. However, they agreed to the minimum possible demand, although they were criticized in some parts of the Northern Territory for the modesty of their demands. I think the House will agree that the demands made on that occasion were modest and reasonable. Of course, I know that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) said earlier in the debate on this bill that he thought the demands were most unreasonable. He thought it was unreasonable for the electors to ask for even a majority-elected council. But I remind the honorable member that he voted on a memorable occasion for a majority-elected council.
– I do not think it is unreasonable. I think it is a good thing to ask for it.
– Then I take it that the honorable member supports this amendment. I repeat that on a previous occasion he supported an amendment calling for a majority-elected Council. I hope he will be consistent on this occasion and vote for the amendment.
Of course, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) assures us that the measure before the committee is only a transitional measure. Well, the people of the Northern Territory have had some experience in the past of transitional measures. It is twelve years, of course, since the last amendment of the constitution of the Legislative Council took place, and it is 37 years since the last major amendment of the Northern Territory Representation Act was passed. Therefore, of course, the residents of the Territory become a bit wary when we talk about transitional measures in this Parliament. They rather feel that one step at a time of a decisive nature is much better than these transitional steps. I express the feeling of the people when I say that once a step has been taken such as is recom mended in the main bill before the committee, it will be a very long time before the next tentative step is taken. That is why we are a bit wary of transitional provisions.
The honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes), of course, expressed a fear that if a majority-elected council or a fully elected council were set up, the laws of the land could be lightly changed. He said that investors coming to the Northern Territory wanted a measure of stability in the laws of the land for the protection of their investments. That, I agree, is a reasonable proposition, but I remind the honorable member and the Minister that even with a majority-elected council or a fully elected council the rights of investors are completely protected because the power of veto remains in this Parliament. The Commonwealth Parliament can veto any legislation designed to change lightly the laws of the Northern Territory. I would say that on this score at least the arguments against a majority-elected council cannot be considered as soundly based.
We are told, of course, that the council and the residents of the Northern Territory have not sufficient experience in the government of their own affairs. Let me say, Mr. Chairman, that this is a weakness not only of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, but also of this Parliament. In this regard let me cite two glaring instances. The first has reference to a piece of legislation that was passed in this Parliament and has been completely ineffective. I refer to the Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Act which was passed about five years ago, and under which not one piece of business has been transacted. The second instance refers to a piece of legislation that should have been put through this House, but which the Parliament or the government of the day has omitted to submit to it. I refer, of course, to legislation in connexion with soldier land settlement. In the Northern Territory no provision has been made for the settlement of exservicemen on the land. Every other State has introduced legislation of this kind, but the Commonwealth Government has omitted to provide in its own Territory for exservicemen who were obliged to defend not only the north but also the rest of Australia during war-time. It is not only the Northern Territory Legislative Council that might be considered remiss in matters of this kind. The parent Parliament itself must also accept its share of blame.
The Commonwealth Parliament has also failed to live up to its responsibilities in the matter of granting assistance in the fields of mining and prospecting. It has granted assistance in certain directions, of course, but not under the mining development scheme. Although I know it might be said that this scheme comes within the scope of the Legislative Council, the fact remains that the responsibility for providing funds to implement such a scheme rests with the Federal Parliament.
The interests of the Commonwealth taxpayer are protected under the terms of my amendment, because although provision is made for twelve elected members and twelve nominated members, one of them will have to be elected as Speaker, and the power of veto still remains in this Parliament. Therefore, the interests of the taxpayer will be amply and adequately protected, and I commend that part of the amendment to the committee.
I would like to refer also to the election of the Speaker. At the time when the representatives of the Legislative Council and the Government met in July last, both the Minister and the Administrator agreed that it was undesirable for the Administrator to act as President of the Council, as he does under the existing set-up.
– I agree.
– The Minister agrees now?
– I still agree.
– Notwithstanding that, this measure seeks to perpetuate the same injustice or anomaly. This is a matter that could quite easily have been covered by the legislation. I believe it is a glaring anomaly. The Minister himself admits that it is wrong, and the Administrator agrees that it is wrong. Nevertheless, the situation is to be perpetuated.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman, with the concurrence of the committee I shall take my second period now. The Government has agreed that this is not a desirable feature of this legislation. The Administrator, at the present time, acts as President of the Council. He has a deliberative as well as a casting vote and the Council feels - and apparently so does the Minister - that it could be embarrassing to the Administrator himself and the Council. The Administrator sits in judgment and initiates legislation. He is also called upon to administer that legislation.
I feel that quite a useful purpose would be served if the Government were, even at this late hour to accept the amendment to provide for the reconstitution of the Council along the lines that I have suggested. After all, of the twelve nominated members, three whom I have mentioned can be selected from without the civil service in the same manner as is provided for in the parent legislation. The only effect would be that the elected members of the council would be in the majority. Outside of that, if the Minister thought that certain opinions were not represented on the council representation of them could be included in the nominated section. I feel that the reasons for having a majority elected council have been adequately canvassed in the second-reading debate. They are known to all and I commend the proposed amendment to the committee.
– The Government is unable to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). In explaining the reasons why we cannot accept it, I should like, if I may, to tell something of the process by which we arrived at the proposal contained in the bill itself. At the meeting between the members of the Legislative Council and the representatives of the Government in June, 1958, there was no firm commitment to adopt one proposal or another. The object of the conference was to explore the various possibilities and the results of our discussions were summarised in a series of statements, not in a series of undertakings or resolutions.
One of these statements recorded the fact that some members of the Legislative Council had suggested an arrangement for twelve elected members and twelve appointed members. That proposal did attract our very careful attention and was given very close examination. I should like the committee to appreciate this point: In that suggestion the principle was enshrined that there should be a body of elected members and a smaller body of appointed officials. It was recognized that there had to be appointed officials because it is necessary for them to act in much the same way as Ministers act in this chamber, in explaining the operation of their departments, answering questions, and piloting bills relating to their administration. It was also suggested that there should be a number of non-official nominated members.
After the conference we started, conscientiously to examine how we could apply the principle of having a Legislative Council with these three components in it. The basic fact is presented by the size of the total electorate in the Northern Territory, and the way in which voters are distributed.
At the election of March, 1958, twelve months ago, only 6,653 voters were enrolled in the whole of the Territory. I am prepared to believe, from information given to me, that if there had been a full enrolment of every one entitled to be on the roll, the figure might have risen as high as 8,000 and that there is a total possible enrolment in the Territory, at the present time, of about 8,000.
At present, following a practice which is customary in the States of Australia, there is a certain weighting of votes in the country areas so that the number of voters in the constituencies in remote parts of the Territory is rather smaller than the number in the constituencies in and around Darwin. At the 1958 election, the enrolment for Darwin was in the three thousands whereas in constituencies such as Tennant Creek and Stuart the enrolment was as low as 349 and 457. With a total constituency of only 8,000 to be divided into twelve, you either have to reduce the remote electorates to a mere handful of voters, or the big centres of population such as Darwin or Alice Springs - particularly Darwin and the areas surrounding it - will necessarily have a preponderance of members. More than half the voters in the Territory are in and around Darwin. If you divide 8,000 by twelve you get a figure somewhere in the six hundreds, if my arithmetic is correct, in an equal division of electorates. You cannot reduce the remote electorates below 300 or 400 or you would get pocket boroughs. On the other hand, with an equal division of voters, the bulk of the members would be produced by small Darwin constituencies. We hesitated over that one.
There is another aspect of this problem of the smallness of the electorates. I refer to the difficulty of finding candidates. Because the Northern Territory population has a large component of officials a very large number of people who are entitled to vote are disqualified from becoming candidates for election because they are in government employment. So the size of the constituencies from which candidates may be drawn dwindles down to a very few thousand.
I am sure that all members with electoral experience know how difficult it sometimes is to find suitable candidates, even in constituencies of tens of thousands. The difficulty in the Northern Territory - and I say this without disrespect to any person in the Northern Territory - would be to ensure, not just twelve candidates for twelve different electorates, but enough candidates to provide a contest in twelve electorates; to get about 30 candidates coming forward to give the electors an opportunity to make a real political contest. I think one has to accept that as one of the facts of the situation.
Having examined the matter, we came to the conclusion that twelve elected members were more than democratic processes could stand at the present state of enrolment in the Northern Territory. The first process in our thinking was to try to calculate the largest number of elected members that we thought the present constituencies could stand without either producing the result which would come from small pocket boroughs, or which would give a preponderance of power to one part of the Territory. Rightly or wrongly, our judgment was that eight elected members was about the number that the Territory could stand. Whether that judgment is right or wrong, it was made in sincerity, on an examination of the figures’ available.
Having made that starting point, we tried to construct the membership of the Legislative Council in relation to it. We reduced the number of official members to six. This is the limit set by the necessities of administration. There are certain senior officials without whom it would be difficult for the council to function. Then we added to that what seemed a due proportion of three non-official nominated members.
At this stage I want to say something, if I may, about these non-official nominated members. It is the Government’s intention that they should be persons of independent mind who will exercise their independence and not be subject to instruction from the Government. The position in which we have placed the Administrator as the representative of the Government, compared wtih the situation in which he was previously is that, whereas, at the present time, the Administrator can rely on an official majority - and except in the most extraordinary conditions he will never lose his official majority - under the new proposal the Administrator and the official members will always be under the necessity of obtaining some votes from the nonofficial membership of the council, either from the elected members or from the nominated non-official members.
– Who will hold the balance of power?
– It may be that the elected members will hold it. There is no assurance that the nominated members will always vote with the Government. It may mean that the elected members will get out of their habit, which is a bad habit, of regarding themselves as an opposition simply because they are elected. I am sure that it will be a much healthier council if the elected members can get into a habit of mind in which their own principles and their own ideas on any proposals before the chamber guide their conduct and make them feel not bound to act in a bloc simply because they happen to be elected. The joining of the non-official and the elected members will provide a total of eleven non-official members who will find their own groupings on grounds of principle and not solely on the ground that one lot of people happen to be elected and the others appointed.
– Have the officially nominated members tended to vote as a bloc?
– They have shown an almost invariable tendency to vote as a bloc. I think it is an undesirable feature in the functioning of the council at the present time that, repeatedly, there are elected members on one side and official members on the other as though that were a political division. Of course, it is not real political division. The real political divisions in the Northern Territory are not as sharp in party terms as they are down here, but they should run with many more criss-crossings than the fact that some members are elected and some appointed.
As for the appointed non-official members, as I say, we hope that they will be people of independent mind and that they will exercise in their duties their judgment in an independent way. We see this proposal as an attempt to extend the representative character of the Legislative Council. These people, even though appointed, will be representatives of the community. They will not be agents of the Government or of the Administration.
We feel that this device, which is completely consistent with the pattern set in the discussions with the Legislative Council, will produce a result which will make for a better Legislative Council and one which certainly will place the Administrator and the official members under a constant necessity of obtaining support from some other members in order to carry a measure. We hope that sometimes they might find that support among the elected members and sometimes among a mixture of appointed and elected members, and that always they will be able to gain sufficient support so as not to have to rely on the official majority.
.- I am not completely satisfied with the explanation of this very tricky piece of legislation given by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I feel that there has been an amazing and fine distinction drawn between the official and non-official members. I would say that it is a completely unreal and nebulous division between these two groups of people. I will read how they are to be appointed. Six nominated official members of the Legislative Council at Darwin will be appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Administrator. The other three nominated non-official members will be appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Administrator. There is no difference whatever in the way these gentlemen will be appointed. Here we have a ridiculous distinction, in my opinion, between official and non-official. To my mind, it would be like comparing night and darkness. I cannot see any reason at all for it.
An interesting point is that under the present regime there is an Administrator, seven official members and six elected members. Putting it into its cruellest form, this gives the Government a majority of eight to six - that is, two in favour of the Government. Under the new regime, this bill provides for ten government nominees and eight elected members, which still gives the Government a majority of two. The Government is ensuring, by the arithmetic it has brought into the bill, that it still has the reins of complete power in Darwin. This talk about having to get support from some of the elected members for certain measures does not impress me. I cannot see how it will work out in that way.
One of the troubles at Darwin is that members of the Legislative Council feel there is an inexorable grouping of elected members and government members. They automatically fall into line. That is unfortunate, because if the Government wants to get anything through the Legislative Council it can do so without any difficulty. With all due respect to the gentlemen at Darwin, I think the Legislative Council is a glorified debating society. It has very little power to do anything. It cannot do anything of a constructive nature in the area. The real power to take any action is still in the hands of the Commonwealth Government at Canberra. It can veto anything it does not want carried at Darwin. These people at Darwin must feel terribly frustrated. I am glad that we do not feel so frustrated in this Parliament, even though there are 47 members in the Opposition and 78 on the Government side. Although the proposal is to increase the number of elected members from six to eight, members of the Opposition here wish that the number should be increased to twelve. With twelve government nominees and the Administrator, the margin would be very nicely balanced.
I feel that the amendment has a lot of common sense in it. Maybe our proposal is ten years too soon. The Australian Labour Party legislation is nearly always ten years ahead and the people are not ready for it. However, we are proposing twelve elected members at Darwin. I guarantee that within ten years the number will be increased to twelve. If this Government is still in office in ten years’ time - God forbid - it will be taking action to increase the number of elected members to twelve. If anybody interested then turns back the pages of the Commonwealth Parliamentary records he will find that in 1959 the Labour Party moved that the number of elected members should be increased to twelve. Although we know that when this amendment is put to the vote we will be overwhelmed by the 78 antagonists on the Government side, at least we will have the satisfaction of knowing that we are making history for the Northern Territory by this amendment which my colleague moved tonight. We call on the people of the Northern Territory not to despair. This Liberal Party-Australian Country Party Government will not be in office for ever and when a Labour government is elected the people of Darwin will get what they are seeking in a proper democratic way.
I realize that the Minister might have some difficulty in agreeing to an extra four seats being provided in such a small electoral area. In the Northern Territory 6,000 voters are spread over a tremendous area and we have to justify the suggestion in the amendment to create four more electorates. I admit that it will not be easy. If there were two at Alice Springs and another one at Darwin that would take care of three ot the four. The fourth could be either Katherine or Batchelor. We believe that that area should be divided. The Minister should not worry about giving representation to electorates with a small number of voters. In the north-west of Western Australia are several electorates with a small number of voters. In one electorate there are about 550 electors, and they elect a member to the Western Australian Parliament. He gets paid the same as his colleagues in Perth. That is good democracy. There are other electorates with 600 and 700 voters, and they have a representative in the State Parliament.
– That is the Minister’s home State.
– That is so. I am not talking about Darwin or a Legislative Council with not much power, but about a genuine State government, some of the members of which represent as few as 550 electors. So the Minister should have no qualms of conscience.
– On my calculations I am prepared to go as low as about 300 electors.
– The Minister admits that he is prepared to allow 300 electors to have one representative. That is real democracy. So I do not despair entirely of our amendment. If the Minister has the will and the heart to support our amendment, he can easily overcome the practical difficulties.
The Northern Territory is a large area with a scattered population. We can never expect that electorates will be large numerically unless the great pastoral estates are cut up and more people are permitted to live on them. I should like to see that happen, with more ex-servicemen settled on the land so that we can build up the population of the Northern Territory. Because of the slow expansion of population in the Territory, unless we are prepared to be over-generous with respect to the number of electors in an electorate it will be years before the Territory will get the justice that it deserves. The people of our far-flung north have my full sympathy. They have the full support of the Opposition in their battle for justice, and they have a very able representative in this place. I shall say more about him when we are debating a later measure. In conclusion, I concede that some commendation is due to the Minister for the way he tackles the problems of his department.
– Order . The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has admitted that the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is ten years too early. I think it is an excellent idea to look to the future, but let us wait a little while before attempting to bring about these changes. I agree that this proposed amendment is eight or ten years too early. We are dealing with something that is happening to-day. I commend the honorable member for Wilmot on his vision, and I hope that he will be in this place ten years hence. Then we can discuss this matter again. He is projecting his thoughts into the future, but we are dealing with the realities of to-day, and if the Labour Party believes in equal numbers in each electorate-
– Very well. The Opposition has proposed that there should be twelve members on the Legislative Council. It says, in effect, that the major representation should be given to Darwin, with six and three-quarters members out of the total of twelve. It proposes that one or two members should be given to Alice Springs and that the remaining members should be distributed throughout the rest of the Territory. That would mean that the main body of representation would be in Darwin. I do not think that any one could agree to that proposition, however much they may like Darwin, because Darwin has a drifting population. Darwin’s population is largely made up of public servants who are only there for short periods of time. How could a population of that kind elect the best members to the Legislative Council?
The Labour Party’s amendment is unreal at this stage. I have no doubt that in eight or ten years’ time - I hope it is less - this amendment would be an excellent suggestion, but we are dealing with the present, not the future. Let us not give Darwin and Alice Springs the main representation on the Legislative Council. Let us distribute representation throughout the Territory. Surely the Opposition does not mean that representation for the Northern Territory should be determined by the vote of public servants in Darwin and Alice Springs. I should like to see representation distributed widely throughout the Northern Territory.
Therefore, as admirable as this amendment is, let us consider it in, say, five years’ time. This Government will still be in power, and then we on this side of the chamber will be delighted to support such a proposal.
.- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) has complained that the Opposition is ten years too early with its amendment. From my examination of Australian history I think that the honorable member is just 110 years too late. I have gone to the trouble to ascertain the population of the various colonies at the time they were given responsible or representative government during the last century. Let us take Western Australia. In 1870, the total population of Western Australia was 25,135. Western Australia had a Legislative Council of eighteen, twelve of whom were elected and six nominated. That was in the home State of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) just on 90 years ago. The population was only a few more than the white population of the Northern Territory to-day, and if we include aborigines - they should always be included and counted as an integral part of the community - the population of the Northern Territory is much higher.
If we turn to Queensland, which is perhaps more relevant, we find that in 1859 the population was 23,520. Dealing with Queensland the “Australian Encyclopaedia “ states -
When separated from New South Wales the population of Queensland was approximately 23,520. Brisbane, with a population of 5,400, was named the capital. The Parliament was to con sist of two Houses, the lower (Legislative Assembly) consisting of members elected by manhood suffrage for a five-year term-
That is a good provision - and the upper (Legislative Council) comprising members-
This sounds more in tune with the honorable member for Calare - nominated by the Governor for life.
So in fact all we have to do is turn back the pages of our own history and we find support for the very conservative requests of the people of the Northern Territory, requests that they should have on their Legislative Council the same number of elected members as nominated members. Our approach here is completely out of date. It is far from being unrealistic; I say it is so completely conservative that it is not worthy of a Parliament composed of the people who sit here.
– They existed on their own revenue.
– Not necessarily. There were many things which were not within their power. They were still defended from overseas.
– But they existed on their revenue.
– Order! There should be no interjections.
– The honorable member was making a better contribution sitting down than he did when he was standing up.
We cannot afford to allow the whole development of any section of the Commonwealth to be stultified by this simple definition of where the money comes from. As a Victorian, it is part of my national duty to contribute to the development of the Northern Territory. But, as a reasonable sort of person in a reasonable kind of place, it seems to me so easy and not beyond the wit of man - even man controlled by this Government - to resolve the question of the division of powers. I see no problem in it at all. That is why I say that honorable members opposite are approaching this from a completely unreasonable viewpoint.
The Minister points to the particular difficulties of elections. Let us be a little more imaginative in our approach. Is it necessary to divide the electors into areas? Could not we use some system, perhaps of proportional representation with some district representation, and so break it up? Why should the public servants of the Northern Territory be prevented from sitting on the Legislative Council? What is the particular deficiency of a public servant that he should be debarred from winning this badge of citizenship?
– It would have disqualified the Minister.
– Yes. Membership of the Public Service of Victoria cost me several resignations to contest elections, and that cost me a lot of money.
This is completely within our own power. There is no question of the Constitution or anything else; it is for us to set the standard for the rest of Australia to abide by. In this regard, public servants of the Northern Territory should have an integral place in the community. It is to our advantage to encourage them to stay there permanently and to play an active part in the community life, lt is our duty to give them an opportunity to play such a part. Therefore, I think that the arguments from this side of the House have completely removed the objections raised by honorable members opposite. The amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is logical, and is supported by examples from our own history. We have demonstrated that we have a complete faith in the ability of human beings to work together democratically, whether they represent 600 people or 60,000 people. Thousands of years ago, representatives were assembled in Athens to make a collective decision. Even perhaps in the Northern Territory, where the Government has not taken any especially good steps to extend the wireless service, in these days of fast transport and communication by telephone and radio, distance is no object when it is applied to this kind of transaction. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that, with his background, it is almost time he applied a little more of an experimental attitude to the development of representative and responsible government in the Northern Territory.
– I have listened with the greatest interest to the impassioned pleas of Opposition members for a wider form of direct representation in the Northern Territory Legislative Council. I have not taken any part in this debate previously because, having studied the measure, I felt that the Minister in all the circumstances had gone as far as experience would prove wise. As characterises the whole of his administration, he has approached the entire subject with sympathetic understanding far beyond the ordinary. It is a long call from the day when a Minister for the Interior could say that not even a policeman could be married without having his personal and written consent. Step by step we have gone forward.
Listening to the pleas for greater selfgovernment for the Northern Territory - a cause for which I have the keenest sympathy - 1 can say only that I wish that those gentlemen who have some influence with the Premier of New South Wales would impress upon him the desirability of giving the same measure of representation to 700,000 people in northern New South Wales. I hope that when the opportunity comes they will be equally impassioned in support of the splendid principles they have so eloquently upheld here to-night.
I recall a gentleman who came here in the early days of Canberra. I say this following the remarks of those who cavil at the Minister’s suggestion that it was not wise to place upon those who are temporary Territory residents, perhaps as public servants, too much of the responsibility of saying what is good for the people who are scattered over the wide 500,000 square miles and who have peculiar problems which they alone, I believe, can fully understand. The gentleman I refer to is A. P. Herbert, who came here when he was at the height of his powers. Speaking of Canberra, he said that he stood and watched the rays of the setting sun fall across this beautiful valley and he thought that in a few years it would be peopled by politicians, public servants and pressmen; most cities suffer that at the end, but what of the future of a city that commences with it!
Nobody has a higher regard for public servants than I have, but I can see a great difficulty in a case such as this with a limited population where loyalty is divided between what they feel they ought to support in the administration and what they feel is desirable locally. I have suffered much from the concentration in one great city of too many people who have understood too little of the problems of the farflung parts of a great State. With all those points in mind, I do not lack sympathy for the people of the Northern Territory. But I say that the Minister is wise in approaching this matter, as he said, with a transitional provision in the legislation. Let us consider what is involved. The business of being trained for the responsibility of government grows as a tradition and out of experience. I suggest that the transition period forecast by the Minister is good. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) rather implied that he supported it when he said that in ten years’ time the Legislative Council would be of a different type, as the population had increased and as the experience of the legislators and their sense of responsibility in continuity had grown, and this would lead to a far more responsible and experienced approach to the problems. As the life of a parliament of any kind extends, the parliament gathers a degree of wisdom and understanding of statecraft, and that is essential if government is to be responsible and effective, particularly representative government.
The proposals of the Minister, in my opinion, face the realities of the situation. I know if the provisions of this legislation were offered to the people of northern New South Wales as a transitory step towards becoming a full State, they would jump at it and be very glad to have even this. I might say that that would be the reaction of 700,000 people; in this instance we are dealing with 8,000 people. I think the Minister has been wise in what he has done. The intermingling at this stage of people who are representative in the elected sense with people who are appointed in the official and non-official sense, with the impact one upon the other, can bring about a better understanding, first, of the problems involved in effective and sound administration. That is something in which an Administrator drawn from the Public Service is remarkably efficient. The other point is that he will understand, as an Administrator and a public official, the point of view of the fellow who has to take the rough and tumble of life. So while one side gains by a knowledge of the principles of administration and why they should be followed, it will also be mellowed in a point of view which might be too rigid if it were not for the elected members.
I have kept silent in this debate not from lack of sympathy, but because I did not want to waste the time of honorable members in a discussion when I felt, on mature consideration, that the Minister had done all that was reasonably possible and a great deal more than might have been expected. I am glad the Opposition looks forward to the day when it can have perhaps the eleventh State of Australia in the Northern Territory.
– The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has emerged as an advocate of the guided democracy. He joins that illustrious company with President Soekarno as a person who, in these days, feels that the average Australian living in the Northern Territory lacks the capacity and understanding to govern himself and have regard for the wellbeing of the people of Australia. It ought to be known and accepted at the outset that the people of the Northern Territory do not seek to run Australia, its defence services, its posts and telegraphs or its customs and excise. They seek only to run the internal affairs of the Northern Territory. To hear the Minister for Territories comment that it is necessary in this transition to have a majority of nominated representatives on the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is startling because it comes from one who is given occasionally to progressive thought and expression.
The Minister betrayed his own cause when he referred a few moments ago to the fact that the elected representatives vote on one side of the Legislative Council while the nominees vote in the opposite way, diametrically opposed to the elected representatives. Does that not itself indicate the inherent weakness in having a preponderance of nominated persons? Is it not clear that in every other form of society where elected persons assemble, whether it be in an obscure shire council, a municipal authority or a city council, once people have been elected, they fall into their respective groups and parties in accordance with the interests of the people they represent? I say quite seriously to the Minister that if he were to jettison this idea of the guided democracy and allow the people of the Northern Territory to elect their representatives, we would not have this transitional proposal which represents an amazing attitude on the part of the Government.
The Australian Labour Party has come forward with an amendment which, so far as I am concerned, is so modest that it is hardly worthy of the support of this committee. I would have liked to have seen an elected majority on the Legislative Council. I would much have preferred a wholly elected Legislative Council or at least a majority of elected representatives. But the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), ever faithful to the people he represents and ever mindful of the wishes of the members of the Leglislative Council, has brought to the Parliament this amendment for twelve elected representatives to twelve nominees. The Minister has produced his transitional proposal which is designed to keep a nominee majority, but turning back the pages of history to 5th June, 1947, and the report in volume 192 of “ Hansard “, we find the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the present Country Party Whip, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) all voting to give to the Northern Territory away back in 1947, a majority of elected representatives. That was immediately after the war when we faced all the problems that occurred in the transition from war to peace. If they thought it desirable then that an elected majority should be placed in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, how much more, potent and telling is that argument to-day!
It is amazing to find supporters of the Government - including no one less than the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who is an advocate of new States - advocating now that the public servants are not quite the desirable type of persons to form the government of the Northern Territory. What an amazing statement that is! You will note, Mr. Chairman, that in the terms of the bill before the committee, public servants are good enough to form the majority of the nominated persons in the Legislative Council as nominees and dummies of the Minister for Territories; but they are not good enough as free citizens to be elected to the Legislative Council. I think all of us believe that citizens of any sort, whether they are public servants or those engaged in business, should be able to take their place in the elected corporations of this country if they can gain goodwill and support. The suggestion that they are not worthy is startling.
As to the question of progress, I think the committee will decide that this measure does not represent transition or progression, but retrogression. It is to the discredit of the Government that it should bring this proposal forward at this time. The reasonable suggestion made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, which represents the viewpoint of members of the Legislative Council, is such a modest and reasonable proposal that the Minister should accept it graciously and give it an opportunity to work. For my part, I am sure that it could not fail. Nothing would be lost by such an experiment. The Northern Territory would have a chance to prove whether the arrangement would work.
I would prefer to see a wholly elected Legislative Council because, in the long run, the Minister is supreme. This Government is supreme. If the Legislative Council failed in some way to do what was necessary in the national interest, this Parliament would be in a position to correct it. The Minister has already expressed the view that as few as 300 voters would be sufficient to elect representatives. I suggest to the Minister that a scheme could be evolved so that the structure of the Government in the Northern Territory could be so arranged in electorates that it would win the support of all the people in the Northern Territory. We have not performed any remarkable feats in the past in matters of government. Here and there in the Territory I have found among some sections of the people reluctance to accept responsibility. If we give to the people of the Northern Territory a chance to play their part in the government of the Territory, I feel sure that democracy will bloom there just as it has done in every other part of Australia. The people of the Northern Territory are no less Australian and no less vigorously democratic than people in other parts of Australia.
I commend the proposal made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I suggest to the Minister that it is worthy to be given a trial to see how it works, in the interests of the people of the north, who ought to know their own business, and in the interests of the nation generally.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has moved the very modest amendment that the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory should consist of twelve official members and twelve elected members. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) apparently persists in the amendment which this bill proposes, namely, that the council should consist of the Administrator, six official members, three non-official members, and eight elected members - that is, of ten appointed persons as against eight elected persons. The provision proposed by the bill is in substitution for the present provision - which has existed for the last twelve years - that the council shall consist of the Administrator, seven official members and six elected members - that is, eight appointed persons against six elected persons. The Government’s proposal will make no difference to the present position. There will still be a majority of two appointed persons over the elected persons.
– You see no difference between official and non-official appointees?
– They are still appointed.
– They are not under instructions.
– It may be that they are not under instruction, but their appointments can be terminated at the will of the Minister. The objection we have to the Government’s proposal is that there still will be a majority of persons appointed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and at the same time persons who are in Commonwealth employ will be prevented from being elected. It would not matter so much if, to counterbalance the people who were appointed but were not under instructions, officials could be elected. But everything has run one way hitherto and will continue to run one-way. The very modest proposal is that the numbers of elected and appointed persons should be equal.
The argument which is advanced to preserve the Commonwealth Parliament’s tutelage over the Legislative Council is that the Territory is still financially dependent on the Commonwealth. We ought to remember that citizens in the Northern Terrritory, of whatever race, pay the taxes fixed by the Commonwealth Parliament for citizens in every part of the Commonwealth.
– Subject to special concessions in relation to Northern Australia.
– Precisely. There is a zone allowance which applies to persons in the’ Northern Territory, for geographic reasons, not because of their status. It applies also to portions of Queensland and Western Australia. Many of the remote tropical areas of Australia have concessional privileges under the income tax acts, but they are quite minor. All other taxes are borne absolutely equally by Australian citizens, whether they reside in the Northern Territory or within the States. In addition, of course, there are certain taxes, rates and fees very appropriately paid by people in the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth which are paid by citizens of the States, not to the Commonwealth, but to State governments or to municipal authorities.
In this connexion we often overlook the extent to which all the State governments are dependent on Commonwealth payments. I propose to read to the committee tables given in the last report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, presented to the Parliament six months ago, which compares, in respect of the year 1956-57, the Commonwealth payments to the States with the taxation which the States raised themselves. It is as follows: -
Honorable members will notice that the Commonwealth provided Western Australia with three and a half times the sums which it was able to raise itself and South Australia and Tasmania with two and a half times the sum they were able to raise. Should we say that South Australia and Western Australia and Tasmania are not to govern themselves? Should we not, in logic, say that the Commonwealth should appoint a majority of the members of those State legislatures? Do not let us be fooled by the argument that self-government must always be determined by economic viability. If the degree of economic viability or taxability is to be the test, no State in Australia is entitled to elect a majority of the members in its parliament.
– That is not a strong argument.
– lt is as strong as any argument advanced from your side. The Minister need have no fear that any ordinance which the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory might pass, if our amendment were carried, would be beyond recall, because there are most elaborate provisions in the bill for superintending, revising and repealing any ordinances which the Council passes. No ordinance can become law unless the Administrator assents to it. The Administrator does not have to assent He can withhold assent, or he can refer the matter to the Governor-General. In some cases, he has to refer the matter to the Governor-General. If a matter is referred to the Governor-General because it has to be referred to him, or because the Administrator chooses to refer it to him, the GovernorGeneral, in turn, can give or withhold his assent.
Where an ordinance is assented to by the Administrator or the GovernorGeneral, or where assent is withheld by the Administrator or the Governor-General, the ordinance or the fact of the withholding of the assent has to be made known to this Parliament. We can disallow the ordinance, or we can decide that the ordinance shall have effect. So, Sir, whatever ordinance is passed by this Council, we still have this triple tier of superintendence.
– You do not want to develop the habit of governing by veto?
– I say that if you are going to exercise a veto, you should do so frankly, openly and honestly. You should let the people of the Territory have the opportunity to express their will. At least let them have a 50-50 opportunity to do so. You are condemning them to perennial subservience. Their Legislative Council can never express its will against the Government, which will exercise a vicarious veto. You have an Administrator who can vote against their elected representatives.
– I disagree with you completely on that.
– Well, you are very obtuse in this matter.
– No, I am not. You want to say to the Government that the council should act as a full legislative body.
– I am trying to say that it cannot act as a full legislative body because the majority of people on it, under the Minister’s amending legislation, will still be appointed persons - the Administrator, the official members and the nonofficial members. These non-official appointed members will be removable at the wish of the Minister without any reason having to be given for their removal.
– I think you are exaggerating that position.
– The provision will enable you to do that.
– The intention is that these three non-official nominees shall be independent people.
– That may be the intention, but it is not what the bill says. The bill permits the Minister - and the present Minister would probably be the first to admit that he could be succeeded by less wise Ministers-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The argument that the economic dependence of the Northern Territory on the rest of the Commonwealth should deprive it of responsibility or representative government in its true sense has been amply disposed of by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr.
Whitlam). I want to continue, briefly, to encourage the Minister to make a more dynamic approach to the matter of finding candidates for the Legislative Council and of having a parliament, as such, rather than this pseudo-parliament which we call the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. The Minister has pointed out that the size of the Northern Territory is one of the disqualifying features, that the scarcity of candidates is another disqualifying feature, and that the smallness of the representation involved is another - although he has stated that he is prepared to accept quite low numbers in the electorates? I remind honorable members of an instance from our own history 100 years ago in respect of Queensland. This is recorded in the following words: -
By the Order-in-Council of June 6, 1859, Denison–
The Governor-General at the time - was authorized to divide the new colony–
That is, Queensland, which, in size and population, was almost equivalent then to the present-day Northern Territory, the population being some 23,000 - into electoral districts, to nominate, with the advice of his Executive Council, a Legislative Council, and to issue writs for the election of members to the Legislative Assembly. Sixteen electoral districts were created: fifteen members were nominated for the Legislative Council, and twenty-six members were allotted to the sixteen electorates.
What has happened in the case of the Northern Territory? At this stage we have to come to the sorry conclusion that out of a population of some 20,000 people in the Northern Territory we cannot find enough people to undertake the responsibility of being members of the Legislative Council. Of course, this may well be so, because what is the objective of being a member of a legislative council which is, in effect, simply a rubber stamp for government decisions? It is not a responsible body, it is not the kind of institution which would induce one to sacrifice time, and perhaps money, at great personal inconvenience, to take part in its activities. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that he is creating his own difficulties by his continuance of what one might term simply the old colonial style. If the study of history - in whichI understand the Minister himself is proficient - will stimulate and encourage him to a more adventurous attitude on this question, I am sure the various problems in the Northern Territory will be solved.
.- When my first period of ten minutes expired I was trying to answer some of the interjections made by the Minister. He sought to draw a distinction between the present constitution of the Legislative Council and the constitution which he is proposing in this bill, by saying that three of the appointed members of the council will now be non-official members. He said that they would not be under instruction. I point out that, pursuant to subclause 2 (b) of this clause, any of these members may at any time be removed from office by the Governor-General - that is, by the Minister.
Now, Sir, the bill still does not cure the present position. Over the last twelve years, there has been a majority of appointed members on the Legislative Council. If the Minister persists in his amendment, and the Government supports him. we shall still have a majority of appointed members on the Legislative Council. He insists that persons who are subject to direction, such as the six official members, the Administrator - who is naturally carrying out Government policy - and the three non-official members, who can be removed if they do not carry out Government policy. will all be in a position to veto any proposal which the elected members put up - and this despite the triple safeguards of assent by the Administrator, assent by the GovernorGeneral, and tabling in this Parliament.
What disappoints me about this legislation is that we are taking such small, such tardy, such timid steps to give selfgovernment to the Northern Territory. This is all the more remarkable when we consider that within the last twelve months the United States Congress has conferred full statehood on the Territory of Alaska and the Territory of Hawaii - and Alaska and Hawaii are not contiguous to the 48 States which previously.- formed all of the United States. Hawaii is not even on the North American continent. The Northern Territory, on the contrary, is part of the Australian mainland. It is the least developed and most vulnerable part of the mainland. It would be appropriate to follow the lead of the greatest English-speaking federation - the greatest federation in the world - the United States, by giving something closer to statehood to the Northern Territory in the very year that the United States is incorporating those two new States.
I draw a further parallel. The British colonies throughout Africa and South-East Asia are governed by legislative councils. In every case there is a majority of elected members in these British colonial legislative councils. We are withholding from the Australian Northern Territory the degree and the type of representation which Britain has permitted in every one of her colonies in South-East Asia and Africa.
The obnoxious features, the anomalies, are all the more apparent, all the more stark, when we realize that we prevent public servants from standing for public office in the Northern Territory. Most of the people who have gone to the Northern Territory since the war have gone from the six existing Australian States, and while they were in those States they were permitted to exercise the full franchise. They were permitted to vote for bodies that were wholly representative of the electors and were able to stand for election to those bodies. Once, however, a public servant accepts any post in the Northern Territory he is deprived of the full value of the franchise and is deprived of the opportunity to stand for public office. He cannot hold public office except under instructions from his employer. That is all the more deleterious to the development of the Territory when we consider that it will be developed principally and perhaps solely by public capital and public enterprise. There is a good case in many ways for saying that the south-eastern shores of Australia - in other words, that part of the coast between Newcastle and Wollongong and around Port Phillip Bay - can be well developed by private enterprise with capital raised in Australia or coming from overseas. No such claim can be made for any part of the Australian tropics, and above all for the Northern Territory. If the Northern Territory is to be developed, it will be developed by public investment and by public enterprise, and therefore by public servants.
The people who are going to the Territory to develop it will not be able to stand for public office. They and the other people who are attracted there will not be able to elect a majority of the body which alone can initiate laws for the Territory, There are plenty of ways in which the ordinances of the Territory can be vetoed and annulled, but they can be originated only by this council. The council is condemned to have a minority of elected persons, and public servants are excluded from the council even though they are responsible for the development of the Territory more than for the development of any other part of the Australian mainland or the dependencies.
.- 1 wish to make only one or two comments. The Legislative Council was established originally in the days of the government that preceded the present Government, but provision was not made at that stage for an elected majority. Nor does Labour’s present amendment provide for an elected majority. So the only disagreement between the Government and the Opposition is as to how quickly the elected component of the Legislative Council should be enlarged.
I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), but I think that some hard things have been said about people who are nominated by the Government to the council. It is quite wrong to suggest - the history of all legislative councils, even in colonial days, shows it to be so - that, merely because a man is nominated or is an official member of a council, he is a puppet of the Minister who nominates him. That is quite an unfair attack to make on people who give public service and who are nominated by governments, usually because they have special technical qualifications. When developing territories, it is sometimes necessary to have on these councils people who have special technical qualifications.
I am nominated by this Parliament to the council of the Australian National University, but I deny that in some way or other that makes me a stooge. Ministers for Agriculture have nominated farmers and others to various agricultural boards, but those Ministers would be surprised to learn that some of the people they nominated and who turned out to be their most vehement critics were regarded as being their stooges. Although we disagree with the Government over the speed with which the elected element of the Northern Territory Legislative Council should be enlarged, I feel that one must be fair to the people, many of whom are not official people, who have been nominated and who have given good service. I do not think the mere fact that they were nominated means that they can be written off as puppets.
Question put -
That the sub-section proposed to be omitted (Mr. Nelson’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I want to mention just a few things in passing. One matter concerns the right of nominated or elected members to call for special meetings. Under the existing provisions, the elected members have to be unanimous in their desire for a requisition to the Administrator for a special meeting. They have to secure the consent of nominated members to join with them in forwarding a special requisition. After the passage of this bill, the same provision will apply, and if the elected members desire to requisition a special meeting of the council they will still have to secure the consent of one of the nominated members before they can succeed in a requisition for a special meeting. 1 feel that the elected members themselves, of their own number, should, if they consider an issue of such importance that it demands the immediate attention of a meeting of the council, be able to demand a special meeting. I ask the Minister to consider this provision with a view to an amendment at some later stage when the bill reaches another place. I think the matter is important and deserves favorable consideration by the Minister.
It is with considerable hesitation and many misgivings that I raise in this chamber now the matter of fees, allowances and travelling expenses for members of the Legislative Council. As honorable members may or may not know, elected members of the council receive very small remuneration for the services that they render on the council. I think they receive about £100 for their attendance at council meetings. It is true that they receive an allowance for the time that they are actually sitting and travelling, but the allowance for the overall duties they perform is about £100 a year or a little more. I feel that the Government could be generous in this matter and give something more to these members, who devote a considerable amount of time to their duties and make great financial sacrifices in attending meetings. The low remuneration can and does prevent many from offering for election. I think the Government should look into this matter with a view to making extra provision along these lines.
There is no provision for elected members to use trunk line facilities for telephone calls. They have to write to the Administration when they transact business on behalf of their electors. The process is slow and often a telephone call would expedite the business considerably. I ask that special consideration be given to extending this privilege to them. They are allowed nothing for stamps or for the expenses they incur in travelling through the electorate. The Government could be generous and review all the allowances and privileges in the light of the experience that has been gained. There is no need to appoint an outside committee to do that job. I think that the Government could well do it itself. The Minister would be specially qualified to conduct such an inquiry, and as a result of such an inquiry a considerable improvement in the conditions of elected members would be brought about.
– I refer to clause 12, which proposes to amend section 4ka of the principal act. The committee will remember that the Minister, speaking of possible amendments to a previous clause, said that one of the reasons for providing that the Government should have power to dismiss a non-official member of the council was that it might be necessary to dismiss him for some routine matter, such as his becoming bankrupt, ceasing to be a British subject, or something like that. Clause 12 of the bill provides a convenient way of carrying out the Minister’s intention, and the draftsman has suggested that it might be possible to achieve this by amending sub-section (2.) of section 4ka. That provides that an elected member of the council vacates his office if certain things happen. It would be possible to amend that section to provide that an elected or non-official member of the council vacates his office if the certain things happen. I put that suggestion to the Minister, who has very generously agreed to the consideration of this amendment in another place. The draftsman has sugges ted that this might be an appropriate means of bringing about the amendment in conformity with the wishes of the Minister, as he has expressed them in this chamber. I ask that he give consideration to an amendment along these lines when the bill is in another place.
– I rise just to reiterate the assurance I gave previously to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that the amendment he has suggested will be examined quite carefully in consultation with him, and that if the Government should reach the opinion that the amendment can be made, it will be made in another place. I should also like to assure the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that we shall give the same careful attention to the suggestion he has made for an amendment of the provision regarding the summoning of special meetings of the council. As regards fees, allowances and travelling expenses, I can inform the honorable member that a sub-committee of Cabinet is already giving attention to these matters. If this legislation is passed, it will be a question not only of fees, allowances and travelling expenses of Legislative Councillors. We shall have to consider also the provision for members of the Administrator’s Council. They, of course, will b.; obliged to give up a much greater part of their time than are ordinary Legislative Councillors. I can assure the honorable member that a sub-committee of Cabinet is examining both of these matters.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– As chairman, I present the report of the Committee of Privileges relating to a matter raised by the honorable member for Capricornia on 17th March, 1959, together with the minutes of proceedings of the committee.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct the attention of the House to the dismissal of persons employed by the Commonwealth Department of Works in New South Wales. This matter was brought forward by the Labour Council of New South Wales, building trades group. On Friday, 20th March last, there were 32 dismissals at Moorebank, near Liverpool, and a similar number of employees were transferred from Moorebank to Richmond and St. Mary’s. Mr. James, who was in charge of the Commonwealth Department of Works in New South Wales, informed a union deputation on 20th March that there was no shortage of money, but that the policy of the Government was to hand out the work to private enterprise. The number of employees had been reduced to 1,770, although Mr. James admitted that the post-war employment figure was 3,800. Although there is no shortage of money, these retrenchments have been carried out.
The fact is that the cream of the work is being handed out to private industry, while the dirty jobs are being handled by the Department of Works. The dismissals are not being made according to the Labour principle of last on first off. Instead, the department has introduced a system based on relative efficiency. The trade union movement says that the department has no way of proving relative efficiency. For instance, an employee might be quite efficient at a certain job and not efficient at another one. On the other hand, the employees concerned may be good allround men. We found that a man who had. been an employee of the Department of Works for twenty years had been dismissed. He was a union delegate. Another employee who was dismissed had been in his job for fifteen years and was a delegate for the Builders’ Labourers Union. Yet another man had been in his job for thirteen years and was the delegate of the Building Workers Industrial Union. Employees with much shorter periods of service were retained in their positions.
Another point that was brought forward by the building trades group of the New South Wales Labour Council was that men were being transferred from Moorebank to places like Richmond and St. Mary’s on two days’ notice. Anybody who lives in Sydney and knows anything about those areas will realize that the 32 employees who were transferred from Moorebank to St. Mary’s and Richmond might just as well have been sacked, because it is an impossibility for them, if they live in the vicinity of Liverpool, to get to work, at places like Richmond and St. Mary’s by 7 o’clock in the morning.
A request was made by the union for special transport to be provided, but the request was refused. The building trades group had no alternative but to call meetings of the men. As a result a telegram, to which no reply has yet been received, was sent to the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) on 20th March last, in the following terms: -
New South Wales building unions demand withdrawal of dismissal notices sent to 32 building workers employed by Commonwealth Department of Works. Those to be dismissed include men with seven years’ service, others offered transfer to impossible locations which, in effect, means additional retrenchments. Failing a satisfactory reply unions propose to consider industrial action to protect workers concerned. Unions demand Commonwealth Government to take action to ensure building workers security of employment in Department of Works. Seven job meetings have carried protests. Workers condemn Federal Government policy of wage increase for Parliamentarians whilst workers are being sacked. Union also very dissatisfied with wages and conditions of Commonwealth Department building workers which are far behind those received in the comparable New South Wales State Government departments.
I repeat that, to date, no reply to that telegram has been received from the Minister.
Later, on 31st March, there was a further meeting of the New South Wales building trades group, when the following resolution was adopted: -
That the New South Wales Labour Council arrange a deputation to the Minister of Works requesting the withdrawal of all retrenchment notices to building workers and storemen employed by the Department. Also that the deputation protest against the policy laid down by the Commonwealth Public Service in respect to retrenchments. Further in the event of the Minister refusing to mee* the union’s request the disputes committee recommend to the New South Wales Labour Council that a 24 hour stoppage of building workers employed in New South Wales be organized as a protest against the proposed retrenchments. Further, that representatives of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party be requested to raise on the floor of Parliament the question of retrenchments within the Department of Works.
The position is becoming worse each day. The system of relative efficiency is being used, in many instances, to victimize men who have had good service with the Department of Works. As I have indicated, men with periods of service of 20 years, 15 years and 13 years are being victimized, although it is practically impossible for the department to prove that this system of relative efficiency is fair. Surely, if a workman has been employed for twelve months he should be given the opportunity of permanent employment. There should be evidence of good faith, and workers should not be thrown aside, as the Department of Works is doing. I hope that the Minister will consider this matter and that he will restore the system of day labour in the Department of Works, as well as the principle of “ last on first off “.
I ask the Minister to consider the position of the men who have been retrenched. 1 ask him also to consider those who have been transferred from St. Mary’s to Richmond. I suggest that transport should be made available for these men to travel between their homes and their new place of employment. If this is not done, we might as well be realistic and say that the number of dismissals is not 32 but is closer to 60.
.- On Tuesday of this week I addressed a question concerning Tibet to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) as Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. Some honorable members may recall that I asked him whether the Government contemplated any move to bring the Tibetan issue before the United Nations Organization. The Minister said in his reply that no such move was contemplated. For a host of reasons his reply makes good sense, and I want to point to one or two facets of it before I develop the point that I wish to put to the House this evening, lt is quite understandable that a relatively small power such as Australia should not adopt the role of a busybody, the role of some pragmatic nation, in world events. I suppose it is quite reasonable to suggest that Australia should not present herself to the people of Asia as some white power wanting to interest itself in Asian affairs.
To-day, the honorable and learned gentleman elaborated on the Government’s attitude regarding Tibet. If I may presume to take up a few minutes of the time of the House, I would like to give what I believe to be the viewpoint of many people in this country with regard to Tibet. One can fairly say, I think, that events in Tibet in the last week or so have pointed to a characteristic pattern, a pattern of events that we have in recent years identified with aggressive international communism in many countries. Some people, paying scant heed to historical facts, would have it that Tibet is essentially under the sovereignty of the Chinese, that is, the present Chinese Communist regime. As I understand the historical record, Tibet, aided and encouraged by British intervention, claimed its independence in 1913. Then, in 1950, a year after the Chinese - that is, the Nationalist Chinese - had declared their sovereignty over Tibetan territory, the Chinese Communist forces moved into Tibet, and since 1950 Tibet has, in one way or another, been under the complete control and direction of Peking. It is perfectly true that, in 1951, an agreement was signed between Tibet and the Chinese Communists, but it is also perfectly true that to-day that agreement, along with the great majority of other agreements made with those who subscribe to the Marxist concept, has been brutally and viciously smashed.
The Chinese Communists have described events in Tibet as simply a manifestation of internal strife, an act of imperialism, an act fomented by fascists, and finally as monstrous interference by outsiders. The simple truth of the matter is that what has happened in Tibet has been an attempt by a peaceful, simple and freedom-loving people to regain their liberty, an attempt that has been crushed in a brutal and extremely vicious fashion. I would hope that this House will not think me unduly cynical when I say that if we generated in this country, among the people and the press and, I suppose, the members of this Parliament, an interest in what is happening in Tibet equivalent to only 1 per cent, of the interest that we are now showing in other matters, we would at least be discharging a reasonable conscience in the matter.
What distresses me is this: Here we see Tibet acting as the Hungary of Asia, and one wonders where world opinion is. On 25th March of this year, in the House of Commons, a Mr. Teeling addressed a question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with regard to Tibet. The extract from the “ Hansard “ report is as follows: -
Mr. Teeling asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the last statement by Her Majesty’s Government in 1943 denying the unconditional recognition of Chinese sovereignty in Tibet, if he will state Her Majesty’s Government’s present policy with regard to such recognition; and, in view of the possibility of danger to world peace arising from recent incidents in Tibet, whether Her Majesty’s Government will consider the position in that country being brought before the United Nations.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs replied as follows: -
I would refer my honorable friend to the statement made by my predecessor in reply to questions in this House on 6th November 1950. He said, “ We have over a long period recognized Chinese suzerainty over Tibet but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous.” This is still Her Majesty’s Government’s position. Our present information does not suggest that there is any threat to world peace arising out of the unrest in Tibet. Nevertheless we shall continue to study closely any reliable information which may emanate from that area.
In the last few days the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, has said, among other things -
We are concerned and interested in what happens in Tibet, and we cannot ignore things or look away.
I have just cited the attitude of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom Government; and in Mr. Nehru’s statement we see in very bold relief the broad attitude of the Indian Government. One may ask where the responsibility lies in this matter. We have a situation in which Tibet has become the Hungary of Asia, as I said before. Thousands of people have, quite obviously, been killed and confined in various forms of imprisonment and have suffered all kinds of indignities. Where is world opinion?
Coming back to the reply to the question I asked of the Attorney-General, I agree that it is, possibly, not the role of Australia to initiate a move to bring this matter before the United Nations. Nevertheless, I think the very least we can do is to condemn what is happening; and I believe there is one move that we may well take to show our concern regarding this matter. There is at present in this country a Communist Chinese trade delegation. I believe that the least we can do is to tell the members of that delegation to pack their bags and get out of the country. We have the spectacle of a simple, freedom-loving people having enforced upon them the characteristic control of those who subscribe to the Marxist-Leninist concept of things. Lenin said that the shortest road to London and Paris lay through Peking. What has happened in Tibet has built a vital bridgeway on that road to London and Paris. I think we delude ourselves if we believe that that road is of no significance to this country, because the road is open also to Australia. If we per,!st in being indifferent to this situation there can be no regrets on our part if we receive our just deserts.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [11.101. - I support entirely the remarks made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). In Tibet we are seeing another act in the drama whereby the Communist machine rolls over and subjugates free peoples. Sometimes they are peoples that lie within the formal ambit of Soviet authority, as in the Ukraine. Sometimes they are people who were independent and whose independence is now being forgotten, such as the peoples of the Baltic States. Sometimes they are people whom we remember, but remember too little, such as the people of Hungary. Now there are these people of Tibet.
Let us no: mink that these things are of no concern to Australia. The road from Moscow to London may lead through Peking, but as the honorable member for Moreton says, it may also lead through Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. We cannot afford to stand and see these little people picked off one by one, because we are ourselves a little people on the edge of the Asian sphere.
What has happened in Tibet? We know that in 1951 this agreement was reached under which Tibet retained its internal autonomy, but made its foreign policy subject to that of Communist China. From that time on, the Communist machine endeavoured to infiltrate the life of Tibet. In 1956 there were substantial revolts as the Communist vice clamped down; but the Communists took the course of endeavouring to work with the Dalai Lama and they set up what is known as a preparatory commission with the Dalai Lama as chairman to bring about the modernization, as they called it, of Tibet.
But the Tibetan people resisted communism.In 1957, after the revolts - quite considerable revolts - in Tibet, there was a retreat again, or a tactical retreat, and the Communists said that Tibet was not yet ready for communism. But all this time they were only tactical retreats. The Communists pressed on until, only a few weeks ago, they issued an order which the Tibetans interpreted as meaning that the Dalai Lama was to be put under surveillance in Peking. As a result, this new revolt flared up. The Dalai Lama escaped by reason of the fact that the Tibetan people were loyal to him, and he is now in India. We must be grateful that he has been given sanctuary in India and hope that from there he will obtain further access to world opinion.
It is instructive to see how the Communists themselves treated this matter. In their communique from China of 28th March last, they spoke of the Dalai Lama as having been abducted. They maintained the pretence that the Dalai Lama was not acting of his own free will, but was, as they said, under the control of imperialist elements. Now the Dalai Lama has escaped. The Dalai Lama is obviously in a position in India where he can act of his own free will. Nobody is going to say that Mr. Nehru is condoning people who are abducting the Dalai Lama and keeping him under control and away from his own people. The falsity of the Chinese lying propaganda will now be exposed.
– Is the honorable member going to hear Billy Graham?
– I think it is a little tragic that honorable members on the Opposition side of the House, whose lives are in danger equally with the lives of other Australian people, are inclined only to laugh. 1 think it is a shame that the Opposition rnernbers are not taking the matter with the seriousness it deserves. They are not typical of all Australians, I hope, nor indeed are they typical of opinion in Asia.
It does not behove us to take the leadership in these matters, which are Asian matters, but it does behove us to offer to the Asian people who are taking the initiative the sympathy and assistance of the Australian people in their resistance to Communist aggression. I think I should read to the House a statement which was made by Dr. Ismail, the Foreign Minister of Malaya, a few days ago. He said this -
We have not had much information about what has been happening in Tibet, but it is clear now, as the Communist regime in China admits, that there has been a revolt in the country. It is also clear that the revolt has been suppressed by strong force. The situation appears to be very similar to that of Hungary. The Chinese Communists, in spite of all their professions of being a peace-loving people who support forces of liberation, have shown once again that they can be ruthless.
As an Asian people believing in the principles of United Nations Charter, we are firmly opposed to the use of force and we must deplore the use of force in Tibet. As upholders of United Nations Charter we must deplore the failure to allow the Tibetan people to exercise selfdetermination. Our attitude on the developments in Tibet will be similar to that we took on Hungary.
That is the pronouncement of an Asian leader. It is a pronouncement which deserves the support of the Australian people and the Australian Parliament. We should be taking every measure within our power to show our disapproval of what these ruthless Chinese Communists are doing. This is a crime like the crime against Hungary. A people is being snuffed out. A religion is being attacked. Communism is typically once more on the march, and as one of the prospective victims we ignore this at our peril.
– I thinkthe subject raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is worthy of a few words. The House knows that in certain societies, certain people like the Dalai ‘Lama really speak for their people. There was an entirely childish broadcast by Dr. Peter Russo, in which he spoke about the method by which the Dalai Lama, who is, in the doctrine of the particular Buddhists of Tibet, a reincarnation of the Buddha, was identified and selected, and he used that as a contrast with a western democratic State to undercut the position of the Dalai Lama as spokesman for the people of Tibet.
I venture to suggest that every member of this House has always known in his heart that Archbishop Makarios spoke for the Greek Cypriots and very reluctantly the United Kingdom Government has been driven to accept that position. By the same criterion, I say that the Dalai Lama speaks for the people of Tibet and that Dr. Peter Russo would have ridiculed anybody who had said that, because the vast majority of the people of Australia do not agree with the religious tenets of Archbishop Makarios as a Greek Orthodox Archbishop, therefore somehow or other he cannot be representative of the Greek Cypriots. He always was, and the Dalai Lama is the spokesman of the people of Tibet.
Deep traditions surround that position. It is not a question of agreeing with the doctrine. Every valid leader of a country exercises his leadership by consent. The consent that puts us here is expressed in ballot-papers. The consent that makes the Dalai Lama the leader of Tibet is a consent of religion and of the whole social organization of the theocratic kingdom of Tibet.
I agree with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that this is a savage form of imperialism. There is no question about my opinion of what the Communists are trying to do. Communism is a claim to control the mind. It claims to be an ideology; that all other forms of thinking are false ideologies; that theirs is the right one. That is a form of imperialism if it means taking over the resources of another people, and the people of Tibet are a people quite distinct from the Chinese, and with a distinct language.
Ordinary imperialism is the taking over of the resources of the government of a country. The most total form of imperialism is to cut a people off from their past, to deport them from their own country, to interfere with their religious institutions and beliefs, first by penetration, hoping to use the spiritual authority of certain spokesmen as a means of controlling a country and, failing that, seeking to extirpate and eradicate their thought.
Those who are inclined always to imagine that it is progressive, somehow or other, because the Communists claim themselves to be progressive, not to apply the same critical standards to them as should be applied to any other people’s imperialism, will not deplore what is taking place in Tibet. But the standard by which we should judge this action is that no one has a right to interfere with and control peoples without their consent. That is true in Cyprus and it is true in Tibet. Half the time, the moral authority of everybody who speaks on these matters is destroyed by the fact that very often, where it is convenient, they themselves abandon the standard. The moral authority of Mr. Nehru, I think, was weakened by events in Kashmir. The moral authority of the West in regard to Hungary was weakened in Egypt. The same may be said of other countries. But that does not alter the fact that we, as a parliament, ought to stand for the right of a people to get the form of government to which they consent. If it was fair enough in a colonial territory which theoretically was not a matter for the United Nations, for Mr. Rossides to be accepted by the United Nations as the lieutenant of Archbishop Makarios and spokesman for the Greek Cypriots, then it is fair enough that the treatment of the distinctive people of Tibet by Communist China, a matter which world communism is pretending is internal to Communist China, ought to be raised at the United Nations, too.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Why do Trans-Australia Airlines not operate intrastate services in Victoria?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
The Australian National Airlines Act does not authorize Trans-Australia Airlines to operate purely intrastate services within Victoria. Before such services may be operated it would be necessary for the State Parliament to refer the necessary power to the Commonwealth Parliament and for the Commonwealth Parliament then to amend the Airlines Act. In addition Trans-Australia Airlines would require an airline licence issued in pursuance of the Victorian State Air Navigation Act before it could engage in purely intrastate operations within Victoria.
Pollution of the Sea by Oil.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following replies: -
February, 1957 - fifteenth conference of the Australian Port Authorities’ Association which was held at Hobart, adopted subcommittee’s report and a draft of a model; State bill was circulated to all members. 1 8th-1 9th July. 1957 - permanent committee which met at Melbourne decided that the sub-committee should formulate a revised draft bill acceptable to all States and subcommittee, which met on 24th-25th September. 1957, prepared a revised draft bill accordingly. 27th-28th March, 1958 - permanent committee met at Melbourne and considered the revised draft but referred the draft with their comments thereon back to subcommittee for further consideration.
September, 1958 - sub-committee’s reports and a revised draft bill were considered by the sixteenth conference of Australian Port Authorities’ Association which was held at Cairns and agreed to. Conference - (a) authorized the permanent committee to take all necessary action to finalize matter insofar as interests of Australian Port Authorities are concerned in conjunction with relevant Commonwealth authorities in accordance with the principles set out in the subcommittee’s reports and draft bill, and (b) urged all authorities concerned to arrange at the appropriate time for the issue of legislation and regulations as recommended in the draft bill and reports of subcommittee. 19th-20th March, 1959 - permanent committee met at Melbourne and accepted an offer of the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales to prepare a draft bill (to cover all States) which it is proposed will be presented at the Premiers’ Conference for simultaneous placing before State Parliaments.
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
In how many cases in each of the last five years have age pensions, invalid pensions and other benefits been suspended because the recipient entered a mental hospital?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The information sought by the honorable member is not available in respect of New South Wales or South Australia. In Queensland the information is available only in respect of age, invalid and widows’ pensions where payment was collected at a post office. The combined figure (age, invalid and widows’ pensions) for the other States for the years inquestions is as follows: - 1954, 618; 1955, 664; 1956, 690; 1957, 699; 1958, 690. In the States for which these figures are available, the total number of pensions at present in force is 223,468, as against 641,349 in the Commonwealth. Hence, by applying this proportion and increasing the figures for the various years accordingly, an estimate may be obtained of the total number of pensions suspended in the Commonwealth owing to the recipient’s admission to a mental hospital. As unemployment and sickness benefits are cancelled on the beneficiary’s admission to a mental hospital, there is no figure available for these benefits.
m asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
When will he introduce amendments to the Fisheries Act to comply with the recommendations made at the conference of Commonwealth and State fisheries officers in Canberra last July?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
An amending Fisheries Bill is at present being drafted and provision is being made in it to cover the recommendations of the conference of Commonwealth and State fisheries officers.
s asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Licences issued up to 31st December, 1957, 2,123; (b) licences issued during 1958, 8,498; (c) licences issued during January and February, 1959, 1,816.
Broadcasting in Northern Territory.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590409_reps_23_hor22/>.