23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. McIVOR presented a petition from certain electors in the States of the Commonwealth praying that the House will take immediate steps to increase social service benefits for mothers and their children.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question without notice. Can the Minister give the House any detailed information about the recent conference in New Zealand of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization? Could the Minister prepare a paper on the conference for the information of the House and for prospective debate? Does the Minister think that two or three days is sufficient time for such a conference to last? Is not some more lengthy consideration required of the matters dealt with by the conference?
– The Seato conference, of course, is a confidential conference held behind closed doors for the greater part. A communique was issued at the end of it, and I shall be very glad to relay it in full to the right honorable gentleman and to other honorable members who may care to see it. Without rehearsing the contents of the final communique, I can say with truth that the meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, was a most valuable one. I do not think that any of the previous four meetings of Seato were more valuable than this meeting. It suffered to an appreciable extent by the absence, which was universally regretted, of Mr. John Foster Dulles, who unfortunately was unable to be present at a Seato conference for the first time since the originating meeting in Manila in 1954. I tend to agree with the right honorable gentleman that the time of three days - three full days it was - is rather too restricted a period for such a conference. It is my intention, with the agreement of the Government, to endeavour to arrange in the future that the meeting shall be held over four, if not five, days. The opportunities for personal contact are limited in the three days, which are very fully occupied with the formal business oi Seato, leaving insufficient time for the many private contacts which, I think, appreciably make for the usefulness of the Seato connexion.
– I ask my question of the Minister for Territories. Is it the intention of the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea to introduce into the Legislative Council this week a bill to impose income tax on the residents of New Guinea and Papua? If so, is this the result of this Government’s decision? Further, will the report made by civil servants on this subject be made available and an opportunity given for debate by members of this House?
– There has been so much misunderstanding about this matter that I hope I can answer the honorable member’s question by making two or three rather simple explanations. The first explanation I will try to give is in relation to the exact nature of the decision made by the Government. As honorable members know, the budget of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is financed partly by a grant from this Parliament and partly by revenues raised locally. Over the past ten years, the total expenditure has quadrupled and local revenues have also increased fourfold, so that whereas ten years ago a little over £1,200,000 was raised, to-day about £5,000,000 is raised locally. Practically the whole of the £5,000,000 being raised at present comes from import and export duties levied under the Papua and New Guinea customs. The decision which the Government has taken and which can be put into effect only by legislation in the Territory is to abolish export duties altogether, to make some downward adjustments in import duties and to introduce income taxation. The income taxation will be introduced at a level very much below the level of income taxation in Australia, and the concessional deductions which will be allowed will also be on a far more liberal scale than is known in Australia and will take account of the special conditions in
Papua and New Guinea. It is a decision to change the method of raising revenue - not to introduce some new notion of taxation and not to attempt to increase the total burden of revenue-raising that falls on the Territory.
The second explanation I should like to give relates to the processes by which the decision was reached. First of all, as I promised this House, a basic review of the methods of raising revenue was made by officers of the Department of Territories and other Commonwealth departments, in association with officers of the Territorial Administration. They produced a document which was devised as a departmental document for purely official purposes, but in order to draw on as wide a level of experience as I could, arrangements were made for that document to be tabled in the Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. For more than seven or eight months now that document has been public property and has been subject to comment. Before reaching its final decision - the decision which I have explained to this House - the Government took into account not only the facts and figures that had been produced by its own departmental officers, but also every set of facts and figures and all the arguments that had been adduced by the interested parties in the course of discussion over a period of some months.
Consequent on the taking of the decision by the Government, the Administrator will introduce not another document as has been suggested in the press, but the legislation which will give effect to the decision. That legislation will be introduced on 20th April. The debate will be adjourned so that the legislation may be studied by people in the Territory, and the debate will be resumed in June. If the Legislative Council passes the legislation, the new taxation will come into effect. I would respectfully suggest to the honorable member, Sir, that while this legislation is before the Legislative Council for the Territory, this House itself should not attempt to intervene in the debate.
– My question without notice is directed to the Prime
Minister. If he has not already done so, will the right honorable gentleman consider legislating for a provision that will enable members and ex-members of the Parliament who will benefit from any increased pensions or allowances that may be proposed and who, in conscience or for any other reason, real or unreal, feel unable to accept the increase, to refund them to the Treasury?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for the suggestion to which I will give the closest possible attention.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister any comment to offer concerning the alleged differences of opinion between the chiefs of staff of the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force concerning the use of Hercules aircraft?
– The first comment I want to make is that I was staggered when I saw an article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ yesterday containing such an allegation. I was very pleased indeed to see the allegation categorically denied by the chiefs of staff of the Army and the Air Force. I know of no conflict. I have consulted my colleague the Minister for Air and there is no conflict whatever over this matter. As a matter of fact, all that the Army requires of the R.A.A.F. in relation to the brigade exercises at Mackay is being provided by the Air Force in respect of the C.130. Other questions in connexion with this matter should be directed to the Minister for Air.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by stating that recently television station ATN produced a play entitled “ Johnny Belinda “ with an allAustralian cast. This play proved to be very popular with the viewing public, and also proved beyond shadow of doubt that when Australian artists are provided with the opportunity, they are equal if not superior to the artists of any other country. Will the Postmaster-General consider a request of all other television stations that they follow the example set by station ATN in producing more all-Australian plays?
– I have seen the production to which the honorable member has referred. Arrangements were made for it to be shown here last week. I agree that the production by ATN was a very laudable one and its example is something which could be followed, and I know will be followed, by other stations which are actuated by the same desire and will continue steadily to build up the use of Australian talent.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. It has been reported that visitors to the Speaker’s gallery in the Canadian Parliament are provided with charts showing the seating plan of the House. This enables them to take a greater interest in the proceedings. Will you arrange for an investigation to be carried out, to see whether a similar facility could be provided for visitors to the public gallery of this House?
– I assure the honorable member that I will consider the matter that he has raised, and I will advise him in due course of any decision reached.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that some Victorian members of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia have forwarded to the registrar of the Commonwealth Industrial Court statutory declarations concerning certain events which occurred during the 1958 union election conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, and suggesting that action be taken under section 171 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– Is the honorable member referring to the election at Yallourn?
– No. This was in connexion with the union’s Australian elections late last year.
– In New South Wales?
– And Victoria. If this is a fact, what consideration has been given to these submissions, and what decision has been arrived at?
– Some allegations have been made - I believe by members of a particular political group - to the effect that there had been some wrongful action in connexion with the holding of the Federated Ironworkers Association’s ballots, particularly in Wollongong and in some parts of Victoria. Some statutory declarations were obtained from most of the individuals concerned. An investigation was carried out by my department. I have gone through each of the statutory declarations presented - or at least those that had been presented two weeks ago - and, on the advice of the department, I came to the conclusion that no cause exists for recommending to the Attorney-General that further action by the Commonwealth be taken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, and it is supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Will the right honorable gentleman consider preparing and making a statement to the House on the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, showing precisely what progress has been made by that organization since its establishment?
– Yes, I shall endeavour to do so. One is restricted a little because the business of Seato is conducted in secret and, by agreement, all that is made public are the final communiques at the end of each annual ministerial meeting. However, I will see what can be done in the direction that the honorable member suggests.
– Will the Prime Minister confer with Mr. Speaker with the object of ascertaining whether it is possible to investigate in any way the very serious allegations, including that of bribery, which have recently been made through the press by a certain Mr. Somerville Smith? If there is no committee of this House which could conduct such an investigation, will the Prime Minister see whether it would be possible, or worth while, to bring this gentleman to the bar of the House to elaborate on these allegations of bribery, which reflect in a very adverse manner, not only on the members of this House, but also on the House itself?
– Allegations of bribery, perhaps, fall into two classes. Sometimes allegations are made by responsible people in circumstances that call for investigation. Sometimes they are made quite chronically by people who are irresponsible and who are seeking only for publicity by the making of them. I decline to treat any allegation made by this gentleman with any seriousness at all. His history is well known to honorable members and I would not regard myself as justified in asking the House to take up any time with him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it the practice of Soviet legations to send throughout the countries in which they are situated voluminous and unsolicited correspondence addressed to refugees or migrants from iron curtain countries? Is it a fact that, in the absence of a Soviet legation in Australia, this correspondence has been addressed to migrants in Australia by the Soviet Legation in New Zealand? Will the Minister investigate and report to the House on the nature and extent of this practice? Is it a fact that, so far from this correspondence being welcomed by its recipients, it is usually received with disgust and apprehension? Finally, if a Soviet legation is to be established in Australia, will the Minister take steps to see that it is not made a centre for such undesirable practices?
– Yes; the Soviet Legation in Wellington has been, I think for some years, the centre for the sending out of Communist propaganda to a number of addressees in Australia. These are not by any means confined to migrants. Members of my own department, amongst others, are constant recipients of this material, a good deal of which I have seen from time to time. I must say that in my judgment it is remarkably deficient in what one might call ideological sex-appeal, and I would not see any very great reason to protest very strenuously against it. So far as the potential Soviet diplomatic post in Australia is concerned, there is an accepted international practice that diplomatic posts restrain themselves in respect of the dissemination of ideological propaganda in the countries to which they are accredited, and I would certainly expect the Soviet Government to be well aware of this convention and to abide by it. I made no such stipulation with Mr. Firubin when I had a number of discussions with him in Queensland not very long ago on behalf of the Government, but I would think that the situation could be left in the way that I have described it. I would not expect the Soviet diplomatic post here to go beyond the normally accepted limits in that regard.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the distress caused to patients in the St. George district hospital, Kogarah, one of the largest hospitals in New South Wales, by low-flying aircraft approaching and1 departing from Kingsford-Smith aerodrome? Is he aware, too, that large schools and the technical college in thi same vicinity suffer much distraction from these aircraft? I know that this matter has been raised on a number of occasions, and I ask the Minister whether he will examine the possibility of more of these aircraft being diverted out over Botany Bay.
– I shall be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place and get a full answer to it. I must point out, however, that an aircraft can hardly come in to land without flying low.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army, with reference to the Minister’s recent statement that a battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment is being equipped with Australianmade FN .30 rifles. Will the remainder of the permanent Brigade Group in Australia be equipped with these Australian-made weapons as soon as they become available? Will the Minister also give consideration to the provision of a small number of FN .30 rifles to each unit of the Citizen Military Forces at the earliest possible date, so that units may become partly familiar with this new rifle before it becomes available for general issue to them?
– The reply to the first two questions asked by the honorable member is, “ Yes “. I think he knows that the first priority for the FN rifle is the fitting out of the infantry brigade group. In addition to that, some rifles are supplied to each of the commands so that at least samples of the rifles are available. I hope that before very long we shall be able to supply at least some rifles to the more important units of the Citizen Military Forces. I agree with the honorable member that as soon as it is possible, the FN rifle should be available to the C.M.F., not in full quantity at once, of course, but so that they may be able to become accustomed to it.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Army a question supplementary to the one he has just answered. Will the Minister comment on reports that the British Army is now being equipped with a Britishproduced 7.62 mm., selfloading rifle, which is said to have super seded the Belgiandesigned FN weapon? Will he indicate the relative merits of the new British weapon and the Australian FN rifle? Will the honorable gentleman also express his view on whether or not the new British rifle is superior in any way to the one with which the Australian Army is now being equipped?
– As I understand the position, the United Kingdom authorities have adopted the 7.62 FN rifle, as we have. As a matter of fact the refinements which are now embodied in this rifle as against the original model manufactured were tried out in Great Britain. I am unaware of any other rifle with which the United Kingdom is experimenting. All the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries have adopted the FN rifle, and this rifle, as we know it in Australia, is, at the moment, in course of production in the United Kingdom.
– By way of explana tion I preface my question to the PostmasterGeneral by saying that I have been told, and I have heard people telling others, that television stations, or booster stations for television, will be built at Mr Macedon, Bendigo, and other vantage points in Victoria. I ask the Minister: Have any decisions been made in this regard that would lend credence to such statements?
– The honorable member refers to certain statements with which I have dealt several times in this House, and, by way of explanation, to other inquiries within recent months.
– I heard the statements only yesterday.
– The position is that, as I informed the House previously, this matter is being considered by the Government but no decision has yet been reached.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: Has the Government definitely decided to continue the subsidy to Australian rifle clubs on the same basis as in past years? Further, will the introduction of the FN rifle have any influence on the future planning of the Australian Rifle Clubs Association?
– There is no present intention to deal with the question of subsidy but, of course, there will be matters for consideration as a result of the FN rifle being issued to the Citizen Military Forces, particularly in relation to the manufacture of ammunition. I think that was well understood. As soon as I am able to give the honorable member any definite information about this matter, which I am currently considering, I will let him know.
– My question to the Minister for Territories is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Phillip. In view of the very far-reaching fiscal effects on our territories of the measures which are now in contemplation, will this House, having a responsibility in this matter, have any opportunity of debating this aspect, before the measures become territory law?
– So far as anything is in contemplation at the present moment, it is not proposed to put proposals before this House. The constitutional method of introducing such proposals is legislation in the Legislative Council for the Territory. Of course, the forms of the House do provide other opportunities for discussing the subject besides the consideration of legislation, and that is a matter for the House itself.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether, in view of the development of nuclear warheads and atomic missiles generally, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, the FN .30 rifle and other so-called conventional weapons are worth the money Australia is expending on them.
– Without going too deeply into this matter, I think it is a wrong conception that, as a result of the development of nuclear weapons, there is no place in defence for conventional weapons. Indeed, in my opinion, there will always be a place for conventional weapons, as I believe also there will always be a place in defence for ground troops.
– I direct a question without notice to the Treasurer, which I preface by pointing out that under the present income tax and social services legislation only 5 per cent, of retiring allowances is taxable income. In a recent Taxation Board of Review case it was held that, on reemployment in the education department, school teachers are not entitled to that tax concession. Will the Treasurer investigate the matter and see whether something can be done to remedy what appears to be an injustice? I suggest that, surely, the reaching of retirement age gives the right to the benefit, and not the nature of subsequent employment.
– I shall be pleased to examine the matter brought forward by the honorable gentleman. I am not familiar with the circumstances, but now that he has raised the issue I shall have it fully examined.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question without notice. Precisely what did the right honorable gentleman mean when he said two days ago that when diplomatic relations between Australia and the Soviet are fully restored the Russian mission in Canberra will not be frightfully large? Will he say what would be the size of the mission if it were frightfully small? Finally, was “ frightfully “ the proper word to use in the context of his statement, or did he intend to use the word “ frighteningly “?
– The honorable gentleman’s question does not seem to be a very intelligent one. I think it can be most shortly and effectively replied to, Sir, by my saying that when I was talking to Mr. Firubin on behalf of the Government about these matters - and we discussed, I think, all matters relevant to the restoration of the two diplomatic posts - I suggested to Mr. Firubin certain limits of personnel that would apply both to the Australian post in Moscow and to the Soviet post in Canberra. These limits were in due course agreed to. I also said at the same time that I believed that Australian interests in this regard had been effectively safeguarded, and I now repeat that statement.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. I desire to know whether, in view of the Government’s declared intention to implement the recommendations contained in the Richardson report on parliamentary allowances, he will state whether it is proposed to grant any increases of social service payments, including war pensions and repatriation benefits, in the forthcoming Budget, and whether it is intended to make any such increases retrospective to 1st March, as is proposed in respect of the payments with which the Richardson committee’s recommendations deal.
– The honorable member was, himself, for some considerable time, a Minister in a government. I was in Parliament, myself, at the same time, and I seem to remember that all Budget proposals were introduced at Budget time in the most orderly fashion. Whatever is to be in the next Budget will be produced at the right time and discussed at the right time by Parliament. In the meantime, the honorable member will be bitterly disappointed, I know, to be told that I propose to introduce the legislation on the Richardson report at 8 o’clock this evening.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information to give the House about rumours of the spreading of armed resistance from Tibet to the outlying provinces of red China?
– No; I have no information on that subject. I have seen press references to the possibility, but, so far as I am aware, up till this morning at any rate, we have had no information in that regard.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen, or has his attention been directed to, an editorial appearing in this morning’s issue of the “ Canberra Times “ expressing some criticism of statements made by the Minister on figures relating to employment and unemployment?
– Order! Is the honorable gentleman’s question based on a newspaper report?
– No, Sir. I am asking the Minister whether he will consider the views expressed.
– If the honorable gentleman’s question is based on a newspaper report it is out of order.
– It refers to a newspaper editorial.
-The question is out of order.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to advise the House whether his department has investigated the merits of what is known as a “ postal clearing service “ which I understand operates most successfully in Holland and other countries as a self-supporting postal department, providing a uniform accounts system with the object of simplifying monetary transactions?
– I am afraid that I do not know whether such an investigation has been made. I shall find out and advise the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the Minister for Trade, in representations that he has been making to the United States Government, has made representations against any American policy of assisting distressed or backward areas or whether he has been careful to exclude such a request?
– I cannot tell the honorable member with any precision what the Minister for Trade has been doing, although I have had a few cables from him. However, I should think that, in the course of the many discussions that have taken place, this particular point would be most important, but whether he has raised it or not, I do not know. However, he will be back in a week or two.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the recent Seato conference, some of the delegates to which are now in Australia, highlighted the great advantage of the free exchange of service personnel - Army, Navy and Air Force - between Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States of America, and others of our friendly allies. In view of the great cost of equipping the Australian services, will the Minister give serious consideration to stepping up this exchange of service personnel so that Australian servicemen may have the advantage of studying modern equipment of American and other forces, and also of the free exchange of ideas?
– The question covers quite a large territory. I am perfectly in agreement with what the honorable member has said about the desirability of this interchange of service personnel, and the assistance that it is to our men. We do practise it, as he would know, but the extent of it depends on two things. The first is the advice that comes to me from the various chiefs of staff as to what the services need, how many men should go, and from what particular branches of the services they should be selected. The second thing on which the extent of this interchange depends is the capacity of our allies, and particularly the Americans, to fall in with our requests to them.
The honorable member may have noticed that the Americans will be making quite a big air move down here from the Far East within the next few days, and also there will be substantial units of the American fleet here about the time of the Coral Sea celebrations.
The answer to the last part of the question is, “ Yes, I will keep it in mind “.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen a report which states that the Canadian Government is subsidizing to the extent of £2 a ton coking coal sold by that country to Japan, thereby undercutting the export prices of Australian and United States coal and creating huge markets for the export of Canadian coal. If the report is correct, does the right honorable gentleman agree that, in all probability, the Canadian Government has followed this course in order to relieve unemployment in the coal industry and keep Canadians in employment? In view of the tremendous amount of money being spent by the Australian coal-mine owners on the mechanization and automation of the Australian coal industry - a process which must eventually displace more men - will the Prime Minister examine the report in order to see whether a similar export subsidy could be extended to coking coal available for export from Australia to any country, including Japan, thereby proving the Government’s interest in the Australian coal-mining industry?
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable member; nor, of course, have I given any consideration to what its implications may be. But now that he has directed my attention to it, I will certainly look into it as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. I ask whether the Minister, in his discussions with Mr. Firubin. indicated that the move ment of Soviet diplomats in Australia would be -frightfully limited, or limited at all.
– That was one of the matters which was discussed, and it was mutually agreed that the travel and movements of diplomatic and non-diplomatic personnel would be subject to complete reciprocity. In other words, any limitations put on Australian personnel in Russia would be imposed on Russian personnel in Australia. That was definitely agreed.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Will he say whether figures relating to employment and unemployment which he has published this week are published in such a way as to be basically misleading?
– Certainly not. Properly read the figures are not basically misleading. The statistics that were published do no more than purport to show the monthly changes in the figures. They are statements of fact. There is no comment. It has been stated, of course, that, because they are monthly figures, they do not show the annual changes. To that extent there has been a misunderstanding by those people who have claimed that, basically, the figures are misleading. Because of the comment that has been made, I want to make it perfectly clear to the House that except as to the figures I have not changed, either in substance or in form, any part of the monthly releases of employment figures that have been made. In the OctoberNovember period of each year, the dates by which the releases for the following year will be made are set, and the releases are made upon those dates as far as is practicable. Leaving the figures out of it, the form and the actual substance of the releases were settled many years ago, and were adhered to by my colleagues. Frankly, I think it is the best possible way in which to present the monthly changes in the employment figures.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air and concerns the mobility of Royal Australian Air Force fighter aircraft. Is it a fact that during the recent move of Sabre aircraft to
Malaya very careful planning of the proposed route had to be undertaken, and in one case the aircraft landed with only five minutes’ fuel left in their tanks? Could Meteors or Vampires have gone to Malaya by the same route? Is it a fact that the Lockheed Hercules transport aircraft, recently delivered to the R.A.A.F., could quickly and cheaply be modified for inflight refuelling of fighters? Would not such modification greatly improve the mobility of the R.A.A.F.?
– It is quite correct that very careful planning was required of the movement of the two fighter squadrons to Malaya. It is also true that the Hercules transport aircraft can be fitted to act as in-flight refuelling tankers, and that the necessary equipment can be supplied comparatively cheaply. However, tankers themselves are of no value unless we have aircraft fitted for refuelling in the air, and that would require very considerable modification indeed. Such matters have been contemplated for the future, and it is possible at some time in the future they may be introduced.
– Last Thursday, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith asked for information regarding the accommodation for the press in this building. I can now supply the following information. Press representatives occupy 22 rooms on this side of the building, and I have ascertained from Mr. President that they occupy eight rooms on the Senate side. The rooms on this side have a floor space of 4,786 square feet, and those on the Senate side 1,292 square feet.
Prior to 30th June, 1950, rent was charged for the rooms on a daily basis at the rate of 3s. a square foot per year of 313 days, but rent was charged for periods of parliamentary recess only.
Rent payments for the rooms were discontinued after 30th June, 1950, by order of my predecessor, who held the view that the press was here by grace and not by right. He further considered that if people pay rent they have tenant rights, and the press should never have a tenant right in this place.
I have had investigated the rent payable for comparable accommodation in Canberra, and I find that at the lowest rate, which is 12s. 6d. a square foot per annum, the area of 6,078 square feet occupied by the press in this building would, elsewhere in Canberra, cost £3,800 per annum. This figure, of course, does not include cleaning services, heating, maintenance and the cost of electricity and power, which the press at present receives free of charge.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 9th April (vide page 1068) 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).
.- The Opposition takes no objection to these measures, but I want to avail myself of the opportunity to pass a few comments about the competition of Japanese goods with goods of Australian manufacture. I have received representations from pottery manufacturers, manufacturers of Australian toys, and other people who are suffering the effects of competition from Japanese manufacturers. It is alleged, and I believe this to be true, that labour conditions in Japan are not the equivalent of labour conditions in Australia. If, by virtue of concessions granted by this Parliament to Japanese interests, Australian employers and factory owners are facing unfair competition, it is high time that the Government shouldered its responsibilities-
Order! I think the honorable gentleman is making a statement. The only question before the committee at present is that the prefatory notes be agreed to. The honorable gentleman may make his comments when the committee is dealing with Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 3).
– I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman, but I thought that I would take this opportunity to make my comment
– Am I in order in referring to a specific item at this stage? I wish to refer to item 320 (c) (2) (a).
– In which proposal is that item?
– It is in Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 2).
– That item has already been passed.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES.What is the committee dealing with at present?
– The committee is dealing with the prefatory notes only.
Prefatory Notes agreed to.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 19th March (vide page 840), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
.- The Opposition offers no objection to this proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
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 (Canadian Preference) 1934-1958 be amended as set out in the Schedule to these Proposals . . . (vide page 836).
Motion - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
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 (New Zealand Preference) 1933-1958 be amended as set out in the Schedule to these Proposals . . . (vide page 837).
Motion - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
In Committee of Way and Means: Consideration resumed from 19th March (vide page 840), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) 1936-1958 be amended as set out . . . (vide page 838).
Motion - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I understand that item 320, dealing with films, is included under several different categories. I do not object to 9.5mm. films being allowed in duty free, but I should like to know why I have always been asked to pay a duty of 5d a lineal foot on a film that was sent to me as a present by another nation at the time of the 1956 Olympic Games. That film was a present to me as chairman of the Olympics on behalf of the Australian Olympic Federation and it could have been declared a noncommercial film in the same way that 9.5mm. films are declared to be of educational character and are admitted free of duty.
– Order! Is the honorable gentleman addressing himself to Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Amendment (No. 1)?
– I am addressing myself to item 320 (c) (2) (a), which seems to occur under all of the proposals. When the matter was originally raised, I asked whether we could talk on it and I was told that proceedings were being taken only to a certain stage.
– That was under Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 2). The matter you are dealing with has already been discussed and agreed to.
– It was included in Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 2) and is also in Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 3). I take it it is also included in the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Amendment and in the Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Amendment.
– Perhaps I can simplify the matter by explaining to the honorable member for Chisholm that no change in customs duty or customs practice concerning cinematographic films is contemplated by any of the measures now before us. The sole purpose of including the reference to cinematographic films is to make it quite clear that only films having a width not exceeding 9.5 mm. are covered. If the films referred to by the honorable member were previously free of duty, they are still free of duty; if they were dutiable, they are still dutiable. The duty has not been altered by this measure.
– The film was given to the Olympic Federation, but was not allowed in duty free.
– Does the honorable member wish to proceed?
– Not if you say I am out of order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921- 1958 be amended as set out in the Schedule to these Proposals . . . (vide page 839).
Motion - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Resolutions including resolution relating to Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 1) agreed to on 9th April reported.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Hasluck do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
Mr. OSBORNE (Evans - Minister for
Air) [3.29].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I do not propose to make a secondreading speech as the subject matter was covered by my remarks on the resolutions.
– I do not know whether I am in order now, but I want to make some comment on the duty on films, to which a reference is made in item 320 (c) (2) (a). All I wanted to ask was, on a question of principle-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! That matter is dealt with in the next bill.
– The schedule to this bill goes to item 400, and I am dealing with item 320. Does this bill deal with the schedule introduced last year or in February or March of this year? I ask this, Mr. Speaker, so that the House may know what it is doing.
– I suggest to the honorable member that it would be more appropriate for him to avail himself of his opportunity to speak on this matter when the next bill is before the House.
– Mr. Speaker, 1 feel that the position is becoming ridiculous. Honorable members do not know what is before the House, although several of us have tried to find out. Surely we are entitled to an explanation by the Minister as to the items we are dealing with. I do not know whether we now have before us item 78, which deals with new duties on almonds. I think a number of honorable members are interested in the subject. Our difficulty is that we cannot find out, apparently from anybody, what is before the House at the moment.
– I point out that the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), representing the Minister for Customs, moved the second reading of the bill, the billwas distributed to all honorable members, and the subject now under discussion is that bill. The bill is the Customs Tariff Bill and it contains a schedule which shows under Divisions IV., V., VIII., XV. and XVI. certain amendments to the schedules of the principal act. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) will find the subject of almonds included in item 78 of Division IV., so I assume that he is at liberty to speak on the subject if he wishes to do so now.
– Are we dealing with Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 2), Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 3), Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Amendment (No. 1), Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Amendment (No. 1),
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Amendment (No. 1), or Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 1)?
– This bill gives effect to Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 1) only.
.- I am very glad to have the information from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) that the bill deals with item 78, which provides for new duties on almonds. The almond industry has had a very difficult time in the past eighteen months and it was perfectly obvious that, unless some appropriate action were taken to protect this valuable industry, it would go out of existence. The price of the imported almonds became so low that it was well below the cost of Australian production. I am sure, therefore, that every primary producer growing almonds welcomes the action of the Government in carrying out its policy of giving to Australian producers and manufacturers adequate protection, taking into account the relative costs as between countries. I therefore want to pay a tribute to the Minister for Customs and Excise, the Government and the Tariff Board which investigated this matter on realizing the difficult position of the primary industries and taking such effective and prompt action to provide for remedial relief.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
Mr. OSBORNE (Evans - Minister for
Air) [3.37].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill deals with amendments to the schedule of the principal act concerning agricultural products, groceries, textiles, felts and furs, cement, china, glass and musical instruments and some miscellaneous items.
– I wish to refer to Division XI. - Jewellery and Fancy Goods. As I have said, as chairman of the organizing committee of the Olympic Games I received a present, which apparently is classified as fancy goods, from a certain nation at the conclusion of the Olympic Games. This was in the shape of 4,000 feet of cinematograph film. According to the schedule, one can arrange so that 9.5 millimetre film can come in free as prescribed by departmental by-laws. I would suggest to the Minister that he consider other films as well, particularly 35 millimetre films which apparently cannot come into Australia free, even if they are a gift such as the one to which I have referred, unless they come within departmental by-law No. 116, which reads in part -
Films, including religious films, in respect of which a certificate is issued by the Commonwealth Chief Film Censor that such films are of an educational character and, where appropriate, are also religious films, provided that the importer - declares on the face of the entry for films (other than religious films) that such will not be used in connexion with television; and if a person, firm or company registered under Commonwealth or State law as a distributor or as an exhibitor of motion pictures, declares on the face of the entry for films, that such will not be screened for commercial purposes in picture theatres.
The first hurdle in that particular case was that the censor had not declared the film an educational film although I presume that the Minister, in such an extraordinary case, would have the right to override a departmental ruling of that nature if he so desired. The regulation states that the film may be admitted if a person, on the face of it, guarantees or declares that it will not be used for commercial purposes. I was told that my guarantee was not sufficient. The guarantee of the Australian Olympic Federation was not sufficient either. No one wanted to use the film for commercial purposes. 1 had not even seen it. I was told that the final windingup committee took it as part of the assets of the Olympic Games. It was essentially a present sent to me as an individual as chairman of the organizing committee and not as an asset. Finally, it was given to the film division of the National Library.
I did not particularly want the film, but 1 hold, as a matter of principle, that if those concerned would not accept my guarantee or that of the Australian Olympic Federation - and they would not accept it from the Victorian Educational Centre - why should it be handed to the National Library? I still do not know what principle was involved or why that action was taken. Further, the winding-up committee had no authority over it and I have not been able to find out what was in their minutes, because the representative of the Australian Olympic Federation has not been able to get a meeting to check on the minutes of the winding-up committee. lt seems strange when a gift is sent in those circumstances to a body like the Olympic federation, first, that their guarantee will not be taken and, secondly, that the censor’s opinion, which is only that of an individual, after all, will not be reconsidered by the Minister. I suggest that there is something wrong in principle.
On another occasion, an undeveloped film which was specially purchased and was brought here to record colour at night time for one of the official films of the Olympic Games was charged duty. The film had to be sent back to Germany to be processed and duty was charged on it again when it was returned in its developed state. If the Australian Olympic Federation had been getting anything out of the profits one would not have accepted that double form of duty, as it seems wrong when applied in the circumstances I have indicated. Actually it was a matter between State and Federal authorities, so we did not worry much about it because one of the governments had to pay it, but there seems to be something radically wrong with either the regulations or the acceptance of the guarantees concerning films which come into this country.
– in reply - I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to what the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has said, but on my understanding of the situation, the position is that before any declaration by the h’onorable member could be accepted or even considered, he had to get over the first hurdle which was that the film must be declared by the Commonwealth Chief Film Censor to be an educational film. The censor did not so declare it.
– Could not the Minister for Customs and Excise override that declaration?
– I think not. The terms of the by-law must be followed and it provides that such a film must be declared by the Commonwealth Chief Film Censor to be an educational film. If the censor did not so declare it, the Minister could hardly try to overcome the difficulty by directing the censor to declare the film educational.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill, read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I would like to ask the Minister whether the by-laws which refer to the items covered by this bill cannot at any time be over-ridden by the Minister. How is it that in regard to the censorship of books the Minister can review what the censors have done, although he cannot do so in relation to films, or, apparently, any of the items covered by this bill?
– In reply - The answer is that the censorship of books is carried out by the Minister for Customs and Excise, in one respect directly under the Customs Act, and in another respect under regulations proclaimed for the purpose under the Customs Act, and that this act and these regulations do not provide for the admission of books under by-law. With regard to the admission of films, the question is whether certain films are dutiable or not, and the
Minister has the power to waive the duty, under by-law, if the conditions of the by law are met. The situation is different with regard to books.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first and second time.
Bill reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- Does the term “seagoing vessels “ include aircraft?
– Under this bill it refers to ships only.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9th April (vide page 1051), on motion by Mr. Downer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition will not oppose this legislation for the reasons given by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) in regard to departmental convenience and cost. It is true that the issuance of certificates, the compilation of the necessary information on which they are based, and the manual work involved, are quite costly. A diversion of manpower from what is now an unnecessary undertaking is involved and, of course, the labour power concerned can be better used in other spheres. I do not agree with the language of the Minister, with due respect, in regard to the history of our aliens legislation. In his second reading speech, he said -
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.
That is correct only to a very small degree. When World War II. broke out, we had a number of aliens in this country and, unfortunately, we had no aliens act. When the situation became difficult, particularly after Japan had delivered her blow at Pearl Harbour, the internment camps as we called them in this country, were filled with people about whom little or nothing was known, and many unfortunate citizens who should never have been interned at all were interned because of the exigencies of war. We had a most unfortunate record in that respect. I think we interned about 16 per cent of our alien population. In Britain no more than 1.6 per cent were interned. Despite the fact that Hitler’s armies were on the Channel and only 20 miles from the English coastline, the authorities in Great Britain interned only the aliens who lived in the counties around the area of threatened invasion.
– But we let out most of ours.
– Yes. I had quite a lot to do with that, as the chairman of the Aliens Classification Advisory Committee, on which quite a number of distinguished citizens served, including the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), Mr. Justice Dovey of the Supreme Court Bench of New South Wales, and Mr. Justice Barry of the Supreme Court bench of Victoria. Both of these judges were leading barristers at that time. I am very pleased, too, to see in the precincts of the House to-day, advising the Minister. Mr. Noel W. Lamidey, who was the secretary of that committee. The work that that committee had to undertake was most important, but it would have been unnecessary had there been aliens registration legislation on the statute-book when World War II. broke out. It was because of what happened to so many unfortunate people in this country; because of the lessons we learned through the whole period of the war, and because we found that most of those persons who were interned in the interests of national safety simply for the reason that not enough was known of them, should never have been interned at all, that the Chifley Government was inspired to enact the first Aliens Registration Act. The act was passed in 1947. At that time objections were taken to our requiring aliens to register, and some police authorities, notably that of New South Wales, wanted to assume the responsibility of registering aliens. It was our view, as a government, that aliens should not be introduced to Australian life through a police station, that they had had enough of police stations and police states in Europe. So we made the Department of Immigration the registration authority. That position has obtained until now, and much good has been done by the department.
So, Sir, I make my point that the legislation was not a useful device at all. It was a very necessary and desirable piece of legislation in the interests of the aliens themselves. It is true that it was in part intended to assist in policing the movements of these people about whom little was known. That was forced upon the Government because of some criticisms of immigration at that period which were neither proper nor fair. The Chifley Government did not have an easy task in implementing its immigration policy in the early post-war years. It was criticized by quite a number of people, some of whom were then on the Opposition benches and who sought to score political advantage, although to the leaders of the Opposition of the time, both of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, all credit ought to be given for their complete co-operation and support. But certain sections of the press were attacking the new arrivals on various grounds of alleged unsuitability and some were even suggesting that we were allowing Communist spies to infiltrate the country. Some also suggested that we were allowing in Nazi war criminals. All sorts of propaganda was put forward to try to discredit what we were doing, and the Ministers, and myself in particular as Minister for Immigration, were subject to a good deal of sniping and smearing criticism. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was the first chairman of the Immigration Advisory Committee appointed by the Chifley Government, after he had gone, with others, on a fact-finding mission through Europe to try to bring numbers of non-British citizens to this country. I express again my indebtedness to him for the very great assistance he and his committee gave to the government of the day in the preparation of its immigration scheme. It would not have been possible to bring all those aliens to Australia if it had not been for the work of the Haylen committee. The honorable gentleman was associated in that task with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), and him I thank again also.
Four hundred and ten thousand aliens are now registered in Australia. I am advised that 162,000 aliens were naturalized in the post-war period until August, 1958, that we are naturalizing aliens at the rate of about 50,000 a year, and that the rate is increasing. I think I can speak for all of my colleagues, and possibly for all members of the House, when I say that we hope the time will come when there will be very few aliens in Australia. We hope that they will all have acquired Australian citizenship and British nationality in the shortest possible time. But we cannot compel people to take our nationality and citizenship. They have the right to decline to accept our citizenship, if they so desire. We are all rather proud of the Australian girls. 10,000 in all, who married American ex-servicemen and, for many years after going to the United States, retained Australian citizenship in most cases. It is not an easy thing lightly to discard the citizenship of the land that bore us. But there would be great advantage to Australia if all the aliens who came here to make this their permanent home accepted the responsibilities and duties of citizenship as well as accepting its advantages and privileges. The rate of naturalization can be influenced, I think, greatly by the churches, trade unions, and various societies that become interested in the welfare of our alien population. The Minister has described the term “ alien “ as harsh, unlikeable and old-fashioned, but it is one thing to dislike a word and another to suggest an acceptable substitute.
– What about “alien” and “ Aussie “?
– “Alien” and “ Aussie “ are not the best terms to use, either, although “Aussie” is a very good term, of course. However, the term “ alien “ is the only appropriate one I can think of that we can continue to use. One is either a British subject or an alien. In America one is either an American citizen or an alien. The only time that anybody discovered that an alien could be a British subject was when an Imperial Conference found an answer to the conundrum. When the question of Irish citizenship was raised after the establishment of Ireland as a republic, the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), then Australian Minister for External Affairs, and the then Prime Minister of Canada found some formula - it seems absurd but it works - whereby a British subject is not an alien when he is an Irish citizen. There the situation stands.
If the Minister can find a better term, let us have it. I do not think there is anything objectionable or reprehensible in the term “ alien “ or would wish to have it altered. We coined the term “ new Australian “ for all the new arrivals. That was a generic term intended to comprehend a British subject from Malta, the United Kingdom, Cyprus or any of the dominions, as well as an alien from Europe, America or any other country. The term “ new Australian “ was intended to try to avoid those reprehensible and objectionable appellations, “reffo”, “dago”, “pommie”, “ bait “ and all the rest. I do not like the term “ new Australian “ to be applied to those who cease to be new Australians. I think that a person is a new Australian until he becomes a naturalized citizen. After that he is an Australian entitled to all the rights that any other Australian is entitled to.
I make these observations in regard to the history of our aliens legislation so as to put the record straight. The Minister will probably be able to tell us, if he cares to do so, in this debate, just what action is being taken to encourage the other 410,000 new Australian citizens who are aliens to-day to apply for naturalization and to be naturalized as Australian citizens. There is a complaint from time to time that the process of naturalization takes too long. There was an earlier complaint that the cost of naturalization was too great. The
Government, very rightly, I think, reduced the cost from £5 to £1. The period of waiting is, I understand, still as long as nine months. I think it could be shortened, particularly for those who have been in this country for a very long time.
I draw the Minister’s attention, as I have already drawn that of officers of the department, to a situation in regard to New Zealand which is rather insulting to this country. Because we decided to have our own method of naturalizing people - although we did not depart from the required period of five-years’ residence in this country - which differs from the New Zealand method, it has happened that in quite recent times, Australian citizens going to New Zealand, because they were not born inside the British Commonwealth, were required to register at a police station as if they were still aliens. One old and highly respected citizen of this country, who is now 70 years of age and who came to Australia at a very early period of his life, went to New Zealand and was required to attend a police station before he was allowed to move as he desired throughout that dominion. I think that was a most objectionable happening.
– He was born outside the Commonwealth but had resided here many years?
– Yes, he was 70 years of age nearly all of which time he resided in Australia. It is most objectionable that people such as this man should be treated as if they were ex-enemies or aliens who were in some way or other undesirable and not to be trusted.
I wish to mention other types of people who are not covered by this bill who want to come to Australia from Europe or from China. I refer to Russian emigres as well as displaced persons who, for some reason or other, do not meet the requirements of the department in respect to health or some other condition. I wish to digress to the extent of asking the Minister for his favorable consideration to many requests, particularly for the reunion of the families of such persons. This applies also to people in Southern Europe who are at present debarred from coming to Australia, to join their relatives here. I ask the Minister to do something to help them. We are facing a pretty difficult situation in this part of the world. We have a small population and we need to encourage all those who want to come here from Great Britain, from the European continent, from the United States and from those other places from which we are prepared to take migrants provided, always, of course, that housing is available and that the policy of full employment is maintained. We have to build the population of this country as quickly as we can.
Our great misfortune is that European settlement started here about 100 years too late, or about 100 years later than we, to-day, wish it had started. If European settlement had started here when settlement commenced in the United States, we would have been a very great country by now. But we had to wait for the transit of Venus and for Captain Cook to be sent to the Pacific Ocean, ostensibly to watch the sun and the stars, but actually to discover this new south land. We are, in effect, a by-product of the American Revolution. If the colonies had not revolted, Great Britain would not have looked for some other place to send her social undesirables. Had Australia been built up 100 years earlier, we might not have the problem we are confronted with at the present time of increasing our population and of developing our country at a pace which is proceeding far greater than that in any other part of the western world but it is still not fast enough.
We all take pride in our achievement and I think we are all very happy at the results of our current policy of population building, but we fear that perhaps we may not have enough time in which to complete the process of making this country as secure as we would want it for our descendants and for people who would wish to join with us in making it what we hope it will one day be, a very great partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is a great country now in its own right, but it is not as powerful as we would wish it to be; and that fact is being driven in on us so very often.
There is not much else I would like to say about the bill. I agree with the Minister that the registration certificates at this moment serve no useful purpose. But when they were first introduced they served a very necessary purpose, and I think the people who received them were glad to have them so that they could save themselves from difficulty and annoyance and, may be embarrassment. It was certainly a useful and good thing for them to be able to prove that they were welcome citizens to this country and that they were regarded as an acquisition. It is true that their children, even as much as they themselves, were regarded as very useful acquisitions to this country.
Up to date our migration scheme has produced 282,620 United Kingdom migrants - or that number have come here. They represent 43 per cent, of the total number of assisted migrants from all sources, and this is desirable. We have to try to help the people from Britain to come here, but we cannot be biased and foolish about the question of British migration. We will take all we can of them and we should encourage all we can to come here, but at the same time we have to bring people of goodwill and good character here from any part of the world where we can get them if we think they can be easily assimilated and will make good citizens. I asked the Minister a question on this very matter the other day and he replied to it in the proper spirit and put the position very well. I am sure that honorable members support his view.
We wish the bill a speedy passage. Other members on the Opposition side of the House wish to say something about it, and when the second-reading is carried we will facilitate its further passage both here and in another place.
.- I wish to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) on the introduction of this bill, the purpose of which is to abolish the certificate of registration. Australia to-day, per head of population, is the most sought after country in the world. More people from overseas are wanting to come to Australia than to any other country. One reason for that is that we are a free country. We allow our citizens, whether they are aliens, Australian-born, or naturalized citizens, to move about freely without having to carry in their pockets photographs or certificates of registration or any other form. That, Sir, is in direct contrast to the position in the iron curtain countries, where a man may not move about without his photograph or some evidence of identity, and always in the fear that somebody completely unknown to him will demand his papers and, if they are not satisfactory, arrest him. The great freedom that we enjoy here is one of the attractions of Australia to other people.
I think that the Minister is to be congratulated on this bill, which seeks to do something that, though perhaps small in our eyes, is large in the minds of many people. It will remove the differentiation between three groups of people - the Australian-born, the Australian-naturalized, and aliens. Up to the present, aliens have been issued with certificates of registration which they have had to produce if so required. In practice, such people have never been asked, or expected, to carry these certificates about with them, and it is very seldom that they have been ever asked to produce them. It is very pleasing to note that the Minister is taking steps, through this measure, to have the use of the certificates abolished.
For the benefit of aliens themselves, certain information is required for statistical purposes. That information is available from the Department of Immigration, having been provided both at the time the alien embarked for this country and the time he entered this country. Recently, I had before me the case of an alien who was killed in a motor accident. His friends knew nothing about him. They did not know the identity of his next of kin, whether he had made a will, or to whom his property was to be forwarded. However, all that information, or as much of it as the migrant had supplied to the department, was available in the department, and similar information would be available in other cases of the kind.
Another feature of the measure which will be of great interest to taxpayers is that it will lead to a substantial saving in costs, and the Minister is to be commended for this saving.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) asked why more immigrants were not being naturalized. I point out to the honorable member that more and more immigrants are applying each year for naturalization. One of Australia’s requirements is that before immigrants may be naturalized they must have a reasonable understanding of the English language. For many people, Sir, it is extremely difficult to acquire an understanding of English. In any event, I am not so sure that it matters terrifically, although it is, of course, greatly to the advantage of immigrants that they should learn the language as quickly as possible. Many immigrants, particularly the wives of European immigrants, possibly owing to the customs of the countries from which they come, have had very little education. Even though the husbands may acquire a reasonable knowledge of English within a short time the wives, particularly the elderly ones, sometimes find it almost impossible to acquire a sufficient knowledge of the language. However, their children go to our schools, readily learn our language, and act as interpreters for their parents. I think that it is asking rather much to expect people who have not had an early education to learn a language as difficult as the English language - and we must admit that it is a difficult language, because not only is there pure English, but there is also English as we speak it in Australia, English as it is spoken in the United States, and the ordinary slang that is spoken in the factories and in daily life generally. So I suggest that, in interpreting this provision, we should take into account the background of the applicant and the work in which he is engaged, and stipulate only that he have a sufficient knowledge of the language to enable him to get on in his particular occupation. I think the fact that the children learn our language rapidly, and are able to interpret for their parents, gets over the main difficulty.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also spoke about the need to re-unite families. With that sentiment I wholeheartedly agree. I believe that if we have accepted into Australia a married man who becomes successful in this country and is able to provide a home for his wife and family, even though the wife or another member of the family may not come up to our educational or medical standards, we should do everything possible to re-unite the family in Australia.
I believe we must approach the immigration problem from the point of view of what is best for the world in general. We cannot look at it purely through selfish eyes. We cannot say that we will take only immigrants of the highest possible educational and medical standards. I believe we have to be prepared to take what we may describe as the average run of immigrant. Naturally, all countries want as immigrants people of the highest educational and physical standards. We have to play our part in a solution of the world problem of settling people who are now living in overcrowded countries. I want to commend the Minister and the Government for agreeing to take a share of what are described as the “ hard core “ cases. Those displaced persons, for ten years or more, have been in camps in Germany, Austria or other places and they find themselves in the position, perhaps because one member of the family cannot meet normal standards required by the various countries, that the whole family has virtually been condemned to remain in one of these camps for the rest of their lives.
I am very glad to say that we have been prepared to accept a share of these difficult cases. We cannot be expected, of course, to take the lot, but I certainly think we should take our share. I believe that the Government is to be commended for setting a lead to other countries and letting them know that we are not unmindful of the hardship and suffering of these families who have lived in camps for ten years or more.
So I should like to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this bill. I ask the House to give it a speedy passage because I feel that it is further proof that we, as Australians, are going to keep this country free and to remove from our statute-book anything that savours of registration or any kind of certificate of identity. So I say to the Minister, “ Congratulations upon the introduction of this bill “.
.- As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said, the Opposition will do all in its power to expedite this small bill. But in case it may be thought that, in dealing with it too speedily, we are allowing it to go through by default and without appropriate comment, we are using the leisurely time until the dinner suspension to make some comments on immigration in general as well as the specific matters referred to in the bill before the House.
I support the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) in getting hold of the word “ alien “ by the scruff of the neck and having a look at it. As the great dramatist W. Barry said, this is one of those dark and difficult words that creep into conversation. The phrase “ There is an alien at the door “ is something one expects in a television thriller. It connotes some wickedness, some malefactor, some desire to perpetrate a tort as the lawyers call it. I am pleased that the Minister, amongst his other reforms, is attacking the migrant words that are creeping into this country and is having them assimilated into good English in due course. There are a lot of other spheres in which the same thing could be done but, at the moment, I am talking about immigration.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, the reason for the certificates was a genuine protective one during the war. Large numbers of new people had flooded into this country which had not for many years previously seen immigration on a big scale. Between the two wars we had been in a period of isolation. Consequently, there was a good deal of narrowness of progress and narrowness of appreciation of the problems, the difficulties and the horrors associated with the Hitler regime and the flare-ups that caused consternation in Europe. With this early influx - and a later influx - of aliens of all types, it was a protection to have a certificate or a card, as we all had during the war years for identification purposes. We did submit, as a community, to regimentation. We had to have our cards, our tickets and our licences. All of these things were part of the ultimate regimentation for a war effort.
However, I believe that now is the time to drop those certificates and to have a look at the question of passports generally. If we are ever to have one world in which we can walk freely as was designed by the Creator, so that civilized man may have full intercourse with other races, there should not be these vises, passports and the interminable paraphernalia of travel which becomes almost as weighty in an aeroplane as overnight luggage because one can get from here to England in such a comparatively short space of time. Much valuable time of the traveller is taken up with the stuff required by the immigration departments in various parts of the world. So let us give a lead, as we have done so often in immigration matters, and clear up these etceteras - this paraphernalia which is of no real significance any more.
I congratulate the Minister on getting rid of the aliens registration certificates. It fulfilled a purpose. But as he said in his short second-reading speech, the dossier on the immigrant is clear. It must be kept because, in respect of people who come into the country, the rule of law must be upheld. The word “ dossier “, of course, is another dark and dirty word because it connotes something wicked - not in its original French but certainly according to the translation that is given to it in literature to-day. All those things which concern the immigrant’s future are recorded. Under this bill, the Aliens Act is not repealed; the legislation merely removes the certificate as being unnecessary. We are getting it out of the road, like autumn leaves that have been swept up and burnt. It is finished with and we do not want it.
Then the question comes: How far can we take this in the early days of immigration? I suggest that we should be bold and remove the certificate altogether. It is a little card that can be dropped. I know that some people would say, “ How are you going to recognize these people? Supposing they get into trouble, a card provides them with some sort of quick identification before they are taken to a police office or a call is made to the Department of Immigration when it is realized that they speak with an accent or say they are not Australians.” I think that the answer to that question lies in the speedy assimilation of the immigrant into this country.
The Minister for Immigration made the alarming statement that 410,000 aliens - for want of a better word - have not accepted naturalization, and only about 150.000 have been naturalized. I do not think that that is entirely the fault of the immigrant. The naturalization process, unwieldy although it is, has been enlivened since the very heavy, mid-Victorian and ancient practices of the past. But it still does not move fast enough. It does not get through the numbers fast enough. The necessary research and looking over - the maturing period - seems to be all too long. One of the reasons why immigration has not been speeded up is that applications for naturalization have not been handled quickly enough.
Years ago, if you wanted to become naturalized you placed an advertisement in the classified section of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ or the Melbourne “ Age “ or the “ Argus “ in those days and said to the world that you were prepared to become naturalized. The Home and Territories Department in due course, would post a certificate and Bob was your uncle - and of course to-day he is the Prime Minister. Since then, we have found it necessary to do something more dramatic because of the great influx of foreigners into this country. After studying the American system of naturalization we tried it for a while but it was a bit too flamboyant for us - the curtains and muted music and the judges charging the aliens with all sorts of directives which they might have taken to be threats, because they had been handled by so many harsh courts in the past. We selected a process which I think is splendid. That is to integrate immigrants into the community through the ordinary municipalities. I daresay that the Minister knows from his own experience - and private members know well from their experience - how simple, how friendly and how really effective are the naturalization ceremonies performed by the various mayors in the municipalities.
I have been at functions at which naturalizations have ranged from 300 to only a few and always the friendliness has been there. The charge is clear that they are to drop their ancient affiliations with the land of their birth. and that they are accepting a new order, a new monarch and a new country to live in. The urge to assimilate is there and there is an economy of words in the charge delivered by the mayor or his deputy. Then there is the little function of afternoon tea and the meeting with citizens after. This all puts them on their first faltering steps to become Australians. In my electorate all this has been extremely useful in assimilating these people. There has been a tendency, because of their shyness, their natural habits, and their fears in relation to education and qualifications of speech, to clotter and keep away from the ordinary people. It is not true that the immigrant does not want to mix, nor is it essentially true to say that the Australian does not want to mix with him. But the old Anglo-Saxon phlegm, “ If he does not want me, I don’t want him “, results in a sort of frozen-over situation.
This Minister and his predecessors have created a bridge across which a man or woman who accepts naturalization can be led to the Australian landscape by friendly hands in an atmosphere of officialdom which is watered down with the kindliest of sentiments and deep friendliness. I think that upon the migrants themselves now lies the obligation to reduce that figure of 410,000 unnaturalized migrants to something under 100,000. There may be some means available to the Minister for Immigration, who has administered his portfolio very successfully, by which he could increase the willingness of migrants to say, “ I am prepared to make the change “, and so accelerate the rate of naturalization. This is something which makes a great deal of difference to them. Are those 410,000 aliens frightened to become Australians? Are they frightened of the provisions of our laws relating to national service? What is the idea? Are they trying to make money and get back to the country from which they came? We hear a hundred and one rolling and rumbling rumours that develop because the aliens themselves have shown a disposition not to become naturalized. But it is not entirely their fault. That is a matter that ought to be seriously considered, and perhaps the Minister will have some answer on it when he replies to the debate.
As the position stands at the moment, we have in this country 410,000 people, most of whom could be naturalized at once, who have not applied for naturalization. We have 150,000 who have been naturalized, and, I think, 5,000 a month who are likely to come forward for naturalization. Is that the figure?
– It is 50,000 a year.
– That is near enough. That is a point which I offer as having some relevance in showing the way to the assimilation of the newcomer by taking the dossier away, by removing the card, and by indicating that this is a part of the world in which moving about and living are simple. It is just a matter of the interchange of work and ideas, as well as of movement, between people. This will give migrants their first taste of easy-going democracy and a promise of the things they love so much - the opportunity to get a job, the right to spend their money the way they like, and the chance to settle down and not be pestered by so much of the old, conventional European checking and counter-checking of their lives and their way of life.
That leads me to mention the hard-core cases of prospective migrants in other parts of the world, about which we have already heard something. This has a relation to this matter. I wish to mention particularly the legalistic attitude towards people who are not able to learn the English language. I think that at present there is a tendency to be very easy on those seeking naturalization who, because of age or lack of education, are not able to get their tongues round the jagged English words that we use. Even though they find it extremely difficult to speak English well, they can at least get an understanding of the language. If you have an understanding of the English language, you have an understanding of English justice, culture and traditions. I think that we could possibly stretch a point for those who are the parents or grandparents of new Australians and young migrants, who are potential Australians, and that we should break down the purely legalistic barriers which suggest that a migrant who cannot talk the King’s English - perhaps I should say the Queen’s English - should not be naturalized. We in this country have a curious resistance to hearing a foreign language spoken. For some reason that is inexplicable to me, passengers on trams, trains and buses are often heard to say of migrants, “ Why do they not speak English? Why do they speak their own lingo? If a country is good enough to come to, it is good enough for the newcomer to speak its language.” I do not doubt that if the Minister and I were in Russia as migrants we should both forget about speaking Russian and speak the language of our native land if we came together. Our judgment in this matter is a little too harsh.
The simple bill that we are now considering meets with the Opposition’s approval. By introducing this measure, the Minister is helping to break down the barriers that separate new and old Australians. He is getting rid of something that was useful in war and is now superfluous. This leads me to mention again the point that has already been made in relation to increasing the rate of naturalization by some dramatic means which the Minister may be able to conjure up.
We should adopt a more human attitude towards the elderly people who are seeking naturalization in order to be with their relatives who have come to this country. By seeing that the hard-core cases in the camps in Europe are treated with sympathy, we should extend the feeling that there is nothing alien in our approach to migration. These people are in a desperately sad condition. They are living in misery and disease and their ties with their relatives have been broken. All those things have been heaped, one on top of the other, on the remnants of humanity in European camps, and they are in tragic circumstances indeed. Many are diseased and suffering. Some of them are very ill, and the health laws of Australia deny them admission to this country. Others are deranged in other ways. They are incredibly mixed up. These people are the incredibly unfortunate victims of the terrible war from which we emerged not so long ago. In assessing the factors governing a decision as to whether we should bring them to this country, we should look at the problem, not as a matter of admitting aliens, but as a matter of doing a merciful act and this country has always been generous to the people of other countries. I hope that when I say that, in the matter of immigration, we are holding the golden lamp behind the door, honorable members will not think that, in some strange way, I am speaking of the Richardson committee’s report.
Finally, I congratulate the Minister on the manner in which he has taken hold of this business of aliens by removing a naughty word and making people who are a worthy addition to the population of this country feel even more at home. The Australian Labour Party congratulates him on it.
Mr. MACKINNON (Corangamite) which removes some of the restrictions mentioned by previous speakers, deals with what is possibly one of the most objectionable features of the introduction of new people to Australia a feature which leaves a nasty feeling in the minds of migrants. I should like to join with other honorable members in thanking the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) for his sympathetic insight and his imagination as exhibited in the way in which he has gone about his work in administering the Department of Immigration. I think I may say, Sir, without in any way offending his pride, that he is a worthy successor to others who have held the position of Minister for Immigration in previous administrations.
Immigration is a most important subject for this country. Our future survival will probably depend on immigration, and this subject is not one that can be treated lightly. So I think that we shall do something for posterity if we can discover or suggest any methods by which we can continue to increase the flow of migrants to Australia, and any means by which we can assimilate them into our population in order that they may become part of the Australian nation.
The Minister and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) discussed the unfortunate word “ alien “. We talk of one who has the rather difficult task of dealing with people who are mentally deranged as an alienist. We talk about alienating a person’s affections. In fact, the use of the word “ alien “ and its derivatives suggests that people who are unfortunate enough to be described by the generic term “ aliens “ are not desirable people. So, bearing in mind the capacity which the Minister possesses, I suggest to him that here is an opportunity for him to explore the depths of his imagination and devise or invent a better term which may be applied to these people.
We all know that the Department of Immigration prescribes a fairly exact and thorough security check of intending migrants before they come to Australia. To that extent, it would appear that the certificate of registration is obviously redundant, but there is one point which occurs to me and which has not been mentioned in previous speeches on this bill. Some migrants cannot speak English, and they may at times find themselves in awkward situations in which they may have to prove their identity. In view of this, it might be of benefit to them if the Minister - again exercising his imagination - could devise some means of providing them with a simple document stating, “ I am so and so, I live at so and so, and I am a resident of Australia “. In this way, the language problem, which could prevent these people from establishing their identity satisfactorily, might be overcome. I suggest it just as a thought, and as something which may perhaps be of value to people who have almost no knowledge of the English language.
As we have been discussing migration on a fairly broad basis, I should like once more to compliment the Minister on his recent statement concerning the provision of prizes for essays on the subject of Australia, to be competed for in schools throughout the United Kingdom. I feel that one imaginative approach that we can bring to the subject of immigration is to appeal to youth, particularly the youth of the United Kingdom. Some consideration might be given to making a similar appeal to the youth of certain other European countries. I think particularly in terms of such countries as Germany, the Benelux countries and the Scandinavian countries, from which we could draw vast numbers of highly desirable immigrants, who would become in the future most valuable and progressive Australian citizens.
We have seen the results of past appeals to youth. We had the Fairbridge farm scheme, which embraced certain youth; and we had the Little Brother scheme, which took in a slightly older age group. Under those schemes a number of splendid citizens have been brought to Australia and they are already taking an active part in Australian public life on the highest level. It is a pity that those schemes have not been expanded. To a large extent I suppose those schemes depend on the energy of some committee or some organizing person. There can be no denial of the fact that both the movements I have mentioned have contributed in no small measure to the development of this country.
The position of people from European countries is different. If we are to appeal to the youth of European countries it may be necessary for us to have some form of liaison staff in those countries. They might have small classes in order to instruct or inform the prospective immigrant children, or their parents, of the conditions that they are likely to find in Australia. No matter how valuable to Australia is the migration of families, particularly large families, I think that if we can we must balance our migration programme by continuing to appeal to the youth of other countries and also, if possible, by expanding the methods that we are using to attract that type of migrant. We need not confine ourselves necessarily to Europe. We have had indications recently that we could draw, to a certain extent, on the population of the United States of America or possibly of Canada. But we must remember that in the past people who have thought of migrating have always viewed the United States as the golden land. History - and fiction - has so pronounced the success of people who have migrated to God’s own country - the United States - that the average person in many European countries pictures New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other American cities as places where the streets are paved with golden dollars. I suggest that by the spread of propaganda and by intelligent use of migrants already in Australia, who in the main have been extremely successful, we could conduct a campaign along similar lines in countries that have supplied the bulk of our migrants to date. We should thereby attract more migrants to Australia.
I introduce those thoughts because I believe that the Minister has already shown his capacity to investigate new methods. He has already been able to appreciate the value and the possibilities latent in suggestions, and I would hope that perhaps, with the assistance of his departmental staff, he could be able to work up various approaches along the lines I have suggested. Those approaches would not only continue to bring a satisfactory type of migrant to this country, but would extend the scope of migration to include a greater percentage of youth of both sexes. After all, they are the people who will be here for a long time. They are the people who will be far more readily absorbed into our national life than older people. It is a well-known fact that older people find great language difficulty which young people overcome almost immediately.
I support the bill. I know that it will have a speedy passage through this House, and I thank the Minister for the imagination that he has shown in bringing down this legislation.
.- I agree that this is an excellent amendment to the Aliens Act. I commend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) on bringing this measure forward. As I have said before, both in this House and outside, 90 per cent, of all legislation introduced into this House is agreed upon by both sides. It is the 10 per cent, upon which there is disagreement that makes the headlines in the press.
Under the act all foreigners who land 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. They are then issued with a certificate of registration. The bill before the House will do away with that certificate of registration. When the Aliens Registration Act was introduced in 1939 it was thought to be a very necessary device to police the movements of people about whom little was known. It also gave some measure of protection against what were termed undesirable strangers.
This bill retains the provision that an alien must register and must supply a photograph of himself. I do not think there is any risk in abolishing the certificate of registration. I think we must realize that since the war the Department of Immigration has set up facilities in overseas countries whereby the background, health and security risks of persons wishing to come to this country may be inquired into. Even visitors to the country are investigated. In other words, where previously no check on foreigners could be made until they were almost at our shores, now they are investigated before they leave their homeland. That is a revolutionary departure from previous procedure and is one reason why the act is being amended. We are now receiving information about our migrants before they leave their homeland - even before they leave their homes. That, of course, is an excellent thing because they can be observed and investigated in their own environment. The officer concerned deals with the intending visitor in a friendly manner, not as a police officer. I commend these officers for the work they have done overseas, living away from Australia for years and doing a mighty job in selecting migrants who wish to come to this country.
The Minister has often helped us when, for various reasons, folk overseas have not been permitted to enter this country. We have been able to give him evidence, perhaps, that he did not have at his disposal before and he has often been able to agree to let people, who originally were rejected, come here. These people have been everlastingly grateful to Australia for permitting them to come here. This applies particularly to the parents of migrants already in this country. I have had many instances of this in my electorate. It is difficult to realize the full extent of the goodwill created by the revised decision.
Interestingly, we have in Australia today several groups of citizens, and we all belong to one or other of these groups. The first group is the Australian-born citizen. The second is the British settler or people from other British countries who have come to live in Australia as Australians. The third group consists of naturalized Australians, totalling just over 160,000, who are contributing tremendously to our cultural, economic, social and religious life. In the fourth group are the people whom we know as unnaturalized citizens, and they number approximately 410,000. This group may be further divided as those wishing to naturalize, but who have not yet completed their five years’ residence; those not wishing to be naturalized, even if they stay here until they reach 100 years of age; and those not qualified to naturalize for reasons other than length of stay in Australia. The Minister has informed me that about 200,000 of the unnaturalized citizens, who are eligible for naturalization, have not taken out naturalization certificates. I certainly hope that the number in this group will diminish far more rapidly in the future than it has in the past.
I wish to mention now the word “ alien “. I do not like it at all. It is unfriendly, harsh and divisive, but I do not know what word we could use instead of it.
– We could call them new citizens.
– These are people who are not naturalized and who perhaps will never be naturalized by their own choice. I think that the word “ alien “ could very well be excised from the legislation and perhaps the words “ new citizen “ put in. lt may have been all right in the old days when we spoke of foreigners and aliens as if it were the normal procedure, but the world has closed right up in the last ten or fifteen years. It is one world now, and let us make it one world in fact as well as in theory. One way of doing so is to remove words of this kind from the dictionary, as far as they relate to our settlers. I am sure that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), judging by the tone of his address which we enjoyed this afternoon, would agree with me on this point. This measure, small as it is, is a start in the right direction. It will break down much of the unfriendliness contained in the word “ alien “, and will soften its harsh meaning. I hope that one day it will not appear at all in our legislation. The aim to remove unnecessary encumbrances and to create goodwill among our new citizens is most laudable.
I should like to read a passage from the Minister’s second-reading speech. It shows what aliens must do, and I am rather inclined to think that we are still too harsh in our attitude to them. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said to-day, there is still an element of the police state about the legislation. The Minister made quite clear what these folk called aliens must go through, apart from any requirement contained in this bill, when he said -
Lest some people may tear 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.
I do not know whether he has to notify the department if he has any children. The Minister continued -
He cannot, subject to certain exceptions principally in favour of alien women on marriage, change his surname without the consent or 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.
Those requirements remain in the act, but I think a few of them could be revised. I know that the Minister wants to see the great immigration revolution in our country go smoothly ahead and to have all unsavoury requirements removed from it, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wants now, and wanted when he was Minister, and as all of us on this side of the House want. I feel this still savours somewhat of the police state, but it is not a police state in the true sense. I have been reading a lot of books recently about the police states in the world to-day, particularly in east Germany. This is not nearly as bad as what is happening in east Germany, thank goodness, but we are a democratic country and claim to uphold certain principles of freedom. I feel personally that there is a need to look again at the legislation to see whether we can make it a little easier still for these people.
Some of the people whom we still call aliens have been here for twenty years. They are good citizens and have leading positions in the community. They are respected by the business people, trusted by every one, and in good financial and social positions, but they are still aliens and must still go through the procedures that I have outlined. Maybe we should distinguish between people who have been here for twenty years, who are of good character and who have never at any time shown anything but friendliness to our country, and those who have been here for, say, only six months and whom we do not know completely. I put that suggestion to the Minister. I should like now to mention the slowness of naturalization. Of course, each migrant has his own choice to make, but I still cannot quite understand why 200,000 of them do not wish to become naturalized Australians.
– They have not the £1 to put in.
– I do not think that that is the reason. The Minister could say a lot on this subject; he knows it better than we do.
– They do not like the Minister.
– There is also the possibility that they do not like the Government, and that they are waiting for a Labour government to take office before they become naturalized.
– They would never be so uncharitable as that.
– At any rate, it is still hard for me to understand. We have taken many of them out of prisons and away from a life of destitution, misery and fear. We have taken them from a hell on earth, if books that I have read recently are to be believed. We have given them refuge, a free country to live in and all its facilities for living.
Probably, in the last analysis, the difficulty of many migrants is that they cannot change their allegiance. That is a terrific step for anybody to take, and I have said so at naturalization ceremonies. I have told them that they are in the same position as I would be if I went to Holland and decided to become a Dutch citizen. I would have to renounce my allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and that would be a great decision to make. Probably that is one reason why so many immigrants are not seeking naturalization. Be that as it may, I hope that more and more of them will accept the full status of Australian citizenship and gain all its benefits, which include the right to vote at municipal, State and federal elections.
The naturalization ceremonies themselves leave nothing to be desired. They are efficiently arranged and in Tasmania they are performed by the wardens of municipalities who are equivalent to shire presidents in other States. The atmosphere at the ceremonies is always friendly. In Tasmania, we try to have State and Federal members of Parliament present. Members of the Country Women’s Association always supply supper of very high standard. The Minister for Immigration has eliminated red tape from these ceremonies, and I compliment him and all the officers of the Department of Immigration and our civic leaders for the way in which immigrants are being received into Australian citizenship.
I have noticed that in our naturalization ceremonies speakers often make a big play on what we are giving the immigrants. I rarely hear any one say what the immigrants are giving to us. It is obvious to the immigrants themselves what they are gaining from Australia; but we should realize that they are giving us something of incalculable value. The immigrants have shown us the value of family solidarity. In case of sickness among immigrants, other immigrants of the district help them to an amazing extent irrespective of who or what they are. I have seen what they have done in Tasmania in cases of accident, death or sickness. The immigrants give help as a solid bloc. This family solidarity is worthy of emulation. The immigrants have given us a new conception of family life, Mr. Chaney.
– Order! The honorable member should not use an honorable member’s name in addressing the Speaker’s deputy.
– I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was saying that this new conception of family life is something of immense value to Australia. We might well study also their attitude to work and employment. They are loyal workers. They show us that it is important that we should do our work wholeheartedly and to the best of our ability. I believe that immigrants generally have given Australians a new attitude to their work. They have also given us an example by their thrift. Many immigrants have shown us that it is possible to buy a home or a motor car even on the basic wage. They do it by careful budgeting and simple living while not stinting themselves. So, new Australians have taught us a new attitude to savings. They have also given us an example of old-world courtesy and graciousness. They are courteous, gracious people and I can say personally that I have learnt much from them. They have a love of simple things and have taught us to love simplicity. The immigrants are not natural capitalists at all. They are socialists rather than capitalists. They love the simple things of life. They do not like extravagance. They have shown us that the greatest happiness comes from simplicity of living.
The immigrants have taught us also a love of the arts and the culture of Europe. We are a young country in comparison with the European countries. These people have brought with them a love of the arts, drama and beauty which we would do well to emulate. They have brought with them also a love of the home. If we look at any immigrant’s home we find that it is distinctive. I know that they have certain ideas about decorating the home which are different from ours, and I am not comparing the homelife of Australians with that of immigrants in a critical way. I simply say that migrants have a touch about their home life that perhaps we could study with advantage. Generally, they are neat, clean and tidy. They have shown us that the home is a place of family living. I like to tell migrants at naturalization ceremonies that these are some of the things that they have given us. I would like to see all migrants become Australian citizens so that they can share with us our responsibilities and duties as a nation. I commend the bill which has the approval of the Opposition.
.- The bill before the House seeks to amend the Aliens Act. It has been introduced by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), and all of his many friends must have been delighted indeed to hear the warm words of commendation and congratulation which have been expressed on both sides of the House during the course of this debate concerning the administration of his department.
The bill is a short one. Its main purpose is to dispense with the necessity for an alien to have a certificate of registration. It has been suggested by some speakers that in the early days of the operation of this act a certificate of registration was necessary, but it is generally conceded, as I understand the course of the debate, that there is no longer any necessity for these certificates to be issued by the Department of Immigration. The department keeps comprehensive records regarding immigrants. It is still necessary for every person coming to Australia to register, to notify change of address and to do many other things that are prescribed in the relevant legislation. It is felt, therefore, that we need no longer say to an alien, “ You must produce your certificate of registration, otherwise something may happen to you “. In accordance with our concepts of justice in this country, proceedings should be taken only against persons who commit positive offences. A failure to produce a certificate of registration, therefore, does not appeal to us as something that should be classed as an offence. If the records of the Department of Immigration are sufficient to afford full knowledge of a person who comes into this country, and if there is sufficient control over him, there is no reason why an immigrant should have to be in possession of and be required to produce a certificate of registration.
The removal of this kind of provision may be contrary to the bureaucratic spirit that is found in certain places. It is commonly thought that this bureaucratic spirit is responsible for the insistence upon documents being issued and documents being produced. It is a very wholesome thought indeed that officers of the Department of Immigration are not so imbued with the bureaucratic spirit as to require the issue of yet one more document, and a document which, in these days, is unnecessary. It is also pleasing to note that what originally was in the nature of a police provision is no longer necessary as a police provision and can be abolished.
For these reasons, this measure may be described as a healthy piece of legislation. It appears to be even more healthy when one considers the Minister’s statement that considerable savings will be effected in the administration of his department. The Minister is to be heartily commended on his ability to bring about such savings. It is not always realized that Ministers are striving to achieve this end.
A good deal has been said during the course of the debate concerning the term “ alien “. Perhaps the Minister himself provoked much of the comment that has been made on this aspect, because he himself described the term as harsh, unlikeable and old-fashioned. Of course, something may be old-fashioned while still not being entirely wrong. I understand that in America the term “ old-fashioned “ is used with regard to something that is quite likeable. However that may be, I would remind the House that many words, in the course of continual use, change in meaning, and the debate has rather suggested that the word “ alien “ has acquired some derogatory connotation. I am not entirely sure that this is so. The House may be interested to know that in the days of the Romans the word meaning “ stranger “, which we commonly use nowadays without implying anything sinister, was synonymous with the word meaning “ barbarian “. I would hardly like to think that we should substitute the word “ barbarian “ for the word “ alien “. The truth of the matter is that the word “ barbarian “ has acquired, over the years, a meaning quite different from that which originally attached to it. It seems that whatever word we substitute for “ alien “, even if it be the word “ stranger “, before very long that word will acquire some sinister meaning.
In the years before the war, migrants coming to this country to escape the terrors of Hitler were called foreigners, or refugees. It was found after a time that the use of these expressions was greatly resented. These words were thought to be unkind words. It was considered that we were being ungenerous in using such expressions, and that we could not hope to make these people feel at home in this country if we used these so-called harsh words to describe them. As a result - and, personally, I think advisedly - the term “ new Australian “ was brought into use. I consider it a magnificent term. When we apply it to a particular immigrant, we are more or less saying to him, “ You are new to this country, but as soon as you arrive here you are treated as an Australian, and we regard you as an Australian “. I personally cannot conceive of a finer title. Yet one hears complaints nowadays that if a person is described as a new Australian the inference is that there is something wrong with him. Speaking again for myself, I do not regard the term “ new Australian “ as being in any sense a slander on any person. On the contrary, I cannot conceive of a term which confers a higher degree of honour.
The term “ alien “ is well recognized in law. We are dealing here with matters of law, and I fail to see why we should be mealy-mouthed about the term. If one delves into the law one finds that there are alien friends as well as alien enemies. These people who are coming to this country to make new homes are alien friends, and there is nothing wrong with such a designation. I cannot agree with the honorable member who interjected during the course of the debate and said that “ new citizens “ would be an apt term. A newly arrived alien has not acquired citizenship in its true sense.
At one time aliens, under the law of England, which law was adopted also in Australia, laboured under very great disabilities. They were not allowed, for example, to hold land. If one were to look at the naturalization papers of the middle or latter years of last century, one would find that one of the reasons given for applying for naturalization was a desire to hold land. Nowadays, by virtue of the statutes which have been passed in order to improve the position of a person who is not yet a citizen of this country, most of these restrictions have gone, but there are still certain vital restrictions on him. For example, he is not entitled to vote; he is not entitled to become a municipal councillor; he is not entitled to become a member of Parliament; he is not entitled to exercise a right to sit upon a jury; he is not entitled to become a member of the Public Service. These are all vital rights. If honorable members care to check on these matters they will find that the laws of the Australian States make these various prohibitions on the non-naturalized Australian.
Consequently, it is of importance to emphasize that those persons who are able to accept naturalization because they have the qualifications should exercise that right. It is a very important matter. Naturalization gives them the right to do these various things which make them citizens of Australia in the fullest and truest sense. I see no reason for apologizing for the term “ alien “, particularly to the person who, as one speaker instanced, remained here for twenty years, and did not exercise the right to acquire full citizenship and become an Australian in the truest sense of the word.
It is true that the fact that an immigrant must give up his allegiance to his native land may make him hesitate. But after all, I suppose, the greatest thing that he ever did, which must have made him hesitate more than anything else, was his initial step of leaving his native land. To leave his native land and come to a new country was a tremendous step to take.
Surely it is a very much smaller step, once he has become a member of the community, become assimilated, been here for a period of time, been enjoying the benefits of the Government of this country and paying in return the taxation that has to be paid, to take out Australian citizenship. Those of us who have had experience of naturalization ceremonies - I suppose that includes all of us - know the great joy shown by persons who have been admitted to Australian citizenship and become British subjects. It is just as though there has been a rebirth and a new life is ahead of them. They fully appreciate their admittance into the Australian community. It is a very great thing for them. The Minister is to be congratulated also on the fact that he sees that naturalization ceremonies are conducted in such a way that the people who are present can take part in the great joy of the occasion. It is one of the great days of their lives.
It is true that this is a comparatively small bill, but the opportunity has been taken during the debate to consider quite a number of points relating to immigration and the position of migrants. The Government’s policy of continuing to bring out immigrants in very large numbers is undoubtedly one that is essential for the development of this country. I believe that both sides of the House are in full agreement with regard to that. The policy is being carried out in such a way that it is not having any serious economic effect upon the resources of this country. On the contrary, the immigrants are so adding to the work force, and their various skills are of such great value, that by their efforts we can more than sustain the additional burden which might otherwise fall upon the community. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has pointed out that these people in many instances are people of culture. They are fine people who, upon being assimilated into the community, will have a great deal to add to its welfare. Therefore, from whatever point of view one considers immigration, it is a matter which looms large in Australian life. It is of tremendous importance to us all and, once again speaking personally, I am most happy that the Minister who is in charge of it is able to carry it out in the way in which we all would want him to.
.- Tn speaking in support of this bill, may I first congratulate both the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) and the originator, I believe, of the present immigration scheme of this country, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It is important, I feel, to note that the Government is implementing fully the policy that was laid down by the Deputy Leader when he was Minister for Immigration. Therefore, we on this side of the House cannot do other than support the present immigration policy. From time to time we hear criticism of the number of migrants to this country. I feel that the term “ migrants “ can be applied to all people coming into the country and that there is nothing of a derogatory nature in its meaning. But some criticism of the immigration policy that is voiced from time to time is fair and just, in view of the growing numbers of unemployed in the community. Although that criticism is levelled against these people coming into the country, the real criticism of unemployment should be levelled against the Government because it is responsible for the financial and economic policy of the nation. It should not allow migrants as a whole to be criticized for something for which they are not responsible. We older Australians should not be critical of the new Australians, but we should be critical of the older Australians because of their failure to provide full employment and those other conditions which members on this side of the House regard as basic requirements of our people. We must examine the question of immigration and how we can improve it by our joint criticisms and constructive thinking, because honorable members on both sides of the House, and the people they represent, are all most vitally affected.
The Minister is to be commended for bringing this measure before the House in an endeavour to remove the term “ alien “ which is regarded as obnoxious, and also to abolish the certificate of registration. I have a copy of the certificate before me now, and I am certain that if honorable members had to observe some of the conditions it contains, if they were new Australians or new Americans or new Britishers, or immigrants from any other part of the world, they would take great exception. For example, one paragraph reads -
Your children, if not British subjects, must apply for a separate certificate when they reach the age of sixteen years.
Another condition laid down is -
You are required by law to notify the Department of Immigration if you change your address, occupation or employment. Pre-paid post cards may be obtained for this purpose from the Department of Immigration or any Post Office.
The fact that they have to notify change of address, employment or name tends to make these people feel that, to some extent, they are still living in a police state. If we are to assimilate them into the Australian community and get them to understand the Australian and British way of life, then we must try to impress upon them that they are not living in a police state but in a free country where they can move about unhindered within the requirements of the law and the economic situation as it might affect them.
The bill is somewhat in the form of an experiment by the Minister to encourage those 410,000 people living in Australia who have not yet made any attempt to become naturalized Australians. I have worked with immigrants who have been in Australia since just after World War I. They came here during the depression years and although they have resided in Australia ten, fifteen or twenty years or even longer some have made no attempt to become naturalized. I would not support this legislation if it were to be applied only to such people. Nothing that any government or any legislation can do will encourage them to become Australians. They have possibly retained their original nationality because they wish to dodge several responsibilities which we as natural Australians have to accept. I refer to serving on juries, our voting rights - a matter which we as Australians regard jealously and consider to be one of our major Tights - and the fact that they might have to serve this country in time of war. If this measure were an attempt to compel those people to become naturalized. I would not be prepared to support it.
The reason I am supporting it is that it can be used as a means to encourage immigrants who have arrived in recent years to feel that they have not moved from one police state to another. But as I said before, if the certificate of registration were retained they would be justified in feeling that that was the case. Honorable members from both sides of the
House have visited countries overseas. Those on the Government side have probably had the privilege of moving in the upper strata. I visited overseas countries as a member of a trade union delegation and wherever my colleagues and I moved we had to show our passports. If we stayed at an hotel for one night we had to produce them. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that this sort of requirement gets under one’s skin. One is made to feel that he is under continual observation. I, personally, began to take exception to it. People in the Soviet are frequently required to produce their identity cards on demand. On one occasion a demand was made of me to produce my identity card. I did not relish having some one wanting to know who I was.
T am pleased to know that certificates of registration are to be abolished and that it will be sufficient for the Department of Immigration to have in its possession all the information available about immigrants. I feel that this experiment is worthy of support; and the Australian Labour Party is giving its support because it is part and parcel of an attempt by the Minister to encourage immigrants to become Australians. Not only should this be done but other means of encouragement also should be offered to these people to become naturalized. When people in overseas countries decide to come to Australia they leave the place of their birth and in many cases they are unaware of the conditions to which they will come in this country. If they contract sickness and have to go to hospital for medical attention, under the present obnoxious medical benefits scheme they will receive no help whatever. Some might have had a recurring complaint before they came here and this will completely debar them from help under the medical benefits scheme. Features of this sort should be examined closely by the Government and altered so as to give these people a better chance of being assimilated into the general way of life in Australia.
My experience from naturalization ceremonies has been that people who are prepared to accept Australian citizenship are not only anxious to do so but also very proud of the fact when they become Australians. It is very touching to see complete families, an elderly mother and father and sons and daughters all being naturalized at the same ceremony. I have seen some of these people prior to being naturalized, with tears streaming down their faces. It is a major step for them to renounce their allegiance to one state or sovereign and accept that of another. Personally, I should not like to be in that position, but they are taking the major step of beginning a new life in a new country and becoming subject to its laws and conditions. Because this measure will encourage more of these immigrants to do so, members on this side of the House support it.
Many other points could be brought forward in support of this effort to encourage naturalization. One is to try to stop various national groups from congregating together. Honorable members know of Polish groups or a Greek club or an Italian or German group. The people in them still try to retain their national grouping, and I feel that the Minister should try to break them up, not forcibly but by trying to impress upon these people the fact that they are no longer Germans, Poles or Italians but aTe in the process of becoming Australians. The Minister should try, by every means at his disposal, to bring about the breaking up of these groups on a voluntary basis and as an alternative encourage the members to join Australian clubs. At the present time, in some football clubs, some of these national groups are causing trouble. They get a little heated. They do not seem to be able to take the knocks in their games as well as Australian players do.
– Our fellows get a bit heated, too.
– That is when they are playing the barbarian game of Australian Rules. I do not want people to misunderstand the position as far as Australian sport is concerned. Some Australians act like barbarians as they fight and tear at each other when they play Rugby League or Union. But all jokes aside, the fact that these new Australians are taking part in Australian sport is important because this is one excellent way of teaching them to become good Australians.
I do not wish to labour the point to any great extent, but I feel that this measure will be one means of breaking down the obnoxious practice of referring to immigrants as “ aliens “ foreigners “, “ d.p.’s “, “ migs “ and even “ new Australians “. These expressions have developed by way of habit and in relation to the circumstances under which these people came to Australia. I feel that if this legislation can help us to impress on them the necessity for them to be Australians, and to act as Australians and blend themselves into the community, it will be doing something for these people and for Australia as a whole.
.- The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) made quite a good speech, and I congratulate him on it. My only regret is that he was so misguided as to describe that fine Australian game, Australian Rules football, as a barbarian game. He obviously did not see the grand final last year in Melbourne, when Collingwood was very fortunate to overwhelm that magnificent team the Demons.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! It is the Aliens Bill that the honorable member should be dealing with.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I disagree with the honorable member for Newcastle’s assessment of this fine Australian game, and I must also disagree with his criticism of new Australians for grouping together in Greek clubs and other places in which their own language is spoken. I cannot agree that new Australians should be criticized for pursuing such methods of finding relaxation. My view is that new Australians go to such clubs because there they can speak their own language and have a taste of the old customs, ways and manners of the countries they have left. They find such relaxation enjoyable, and they have to meet with their former fellow countrymen in order to be able to enjoy it. I am sure that if the honorable member for Newcastle were to go overseas he would seek the company of Australians or at least of Englishspeaking people, while he was in a foreign country. So there ought to be no criticism of new Australians for pursuing the activities to which the honorable member refers.
All we can hope, Mr. Speaker, is that these people will be accepted into the Australian community as rapidly as possible, and in such a way that the pressures which lead them to associate in such clubs will evaporate, and they will be able to find all the relaxation, comradeship and friendship that they need in the Australian community generally. Until they are able to have that advantage we must not criticize them for gathering in clubs and other places. I have been in many of these clubs as a guest, and I cannot imagine a better way to spend a couple of hours than to spend it in, say, a Greek club, sipping Turkish coffee. Far from criticizing new Australians for going to such clubs, I envy them that retreat, because, especially in the last few weeks, such places of retreat might have been very welcome to any member of this Parliament.
The bill can receive nothing but the absolute approbation of the House. It is a fine piece of legislation, but not merely as an example of the draftsman’s art, because in actual extent the bill is not large; in the thought and purpose behind it, however, the bill is such that no better piece of legislation has been before this House for a long time.
As the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) pointed out in his second-reading speech, there are about 410,000 unnaturalized foreign-born people over the age of sixteen years in Australia - a great number of people who must be given some particular provision. As the Minister pointed out, this number is of course not static. It will continue to grow unless the rate of naturalization increases. Here we are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand it is a longstanding part of the Government’s policy to eliminate all differences between the foreign-born resident who is not naturalized, the Australian-born citizen, and the naturalized citizen. Of course, as the differences between those classes are resolved, and we have a situation in which there are no differences between them - if we can imagine such a situation - then we will have eliminated to a great degree the motivation towards naturalization in the mind of the foreign-born resident.
The dilemma, therefore, can only be resolved by giving greater inducement to immigrants to become naturalized. In order to give them greater inducement to do so we can do two things principally.
The first is to try to achieve the complete acceptance of immigrants by Australians. The second is to emphasize - successfully - that naturalization does not necessarily rupture the contacts which the migrant may wish to continue with the land of his birth. Acceptance by the Australian community has the corollary that the migrant must fully accept becoming an Australian. So, on the one hand we are saying to 410,000 foreign-born residents, by this measure, “ No longer must you carry with you at all times, and be prepared to produce at any time, an alien’s registration certificate “. That is a document which marks the bearer out as different from other people in the community, because these other people do not have to carry anything unless they choose to do so. The alien, on the other hand, has been obliged to carry this document. So this new provision is a big step in resolving the differences between naturalborn Australians, naturalized Australians and aliens resident in Australia. So the legislation is, I believe, a fine piece of legislation because it must inevitably tend to increase, on the one hand, the feeling in the migrant himself that he is being accepted whilst, on the other hand, by removing the necessity for him to carry a certificate, it will remove the necessity of his showing such a document. The result will be that there will be fewer people in the general community who will become aware of the fact that the migrant is still an alien. From that point of view alone the bill is a major piece of legislation on the part of the Government, designed to eliminate some of the differences I have mentioned, as far as the Government can eliminate them legislatively.
But alongside what the Government can do it is most necessary for the community as a whole, through voluntary organizations, particularly the Good Neighbour Council and the multitude of organizations which it represents, to aid immigrants to become accepted. The Good Neighbour Council and its associated organizations is doing truly magnificent work, but they must extend that work even beyond the wide bounds that it now covers. They must extend it into every house and place of work and place of business before we will reach the stage where there is complete and absolute acceptance of the immigrant from the very first day that he walks down the gangplank.
Already an immigrant is treated in some respects as a full Australian citizen as soon as he walks off the ship that brings him here, because he is immediately eligible for a number of social service benefits. Another way in which we regard him as similar to the Australian citizen is that from the day he arrives here we permit him to pay taxes at the same rate as everybody else pays them, and I think there could be no better welcome to immigrants than to say to them, “ As from to-day you are on the same basis as any other Australian. You pay the same taxes at the same rates.”
In order to achieve complete elimination of any subconscious or any other kind of resistance to the acceptance of immigrants that may exist in the makeup of Australians, we have to do more. I am pleased that whatever the present degree of resistance may be it is a mere fraction of what it was before the war. The degree of resistance to acceptance of immigrants may generally be discovered in the way in which the term “ new Australian “ is used. This term, as I understand it, does not appear in any legislation or any other official document. I believe it was coined in order to divert people from the use of possibly derogatory terms like “ D.P., reffo, Bait “, and so on. It has achieved its purpose in that people no longer either use such terms or think of new Australians as being people to whom they should be applied. The term “ new Australian “ was introduced as a very respectful term. Unfortunately, the very term “ new Australian “, with the passing of the years, has tended to draw to itself a less respectable meaning.
– I do not know why. I am not here to solve your problems; only to tell you what they are. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) is the one who is always saying that he knows all about everything from apple to zebra. At this stage, I am only in the process of stating the problems, not the answers.
The term “ new Australian “ itself, as I mentioned, has acquired, to a great extent, a less respectable meaning. The nonAustralianborn people - in other words, the immigrants who have come to this country - are beginning to object to the word “ new Australian “. It seems to me that the Department of Immigration should do one of two things: Either it should attempt to rehabilitate the words “ new Australian “ into a perfectly respectable and proper terminology; or, alternatively, it should find yet another term. Which is the best course to adopt will, I think, require a decision of the Minister with the advice of his departmental officers. Which it is to be, I do not know. But something has to be done about this term “ new Australians “.
There is another word which requires attention. These words may be small things but they constitute barriers to the acceptance of immigrants by the Australian community. I refer, now, to the word “ assimilation “. The word “ assimilation “ seems to me to imply everything that I think it ought to imply - assimilation into our Australian community of the new arrival. Unfortunately, there is a residue of feeling about the word “ assimilation “ on the part of some nationals. The word “ assimilation “ had an unfortunate history in certain parts of Europe in the pre-war days. For instance, Hitler was talking about assimilating a certain community into the great German Reich. Many of these people still have a residue of feeling against the word “ assimilation “ and they would prefer “ integration “. I know that “ integration “ does not imply anything nearly as precise as “ assimilation “. But it is the association with the past which some new Australians find objectionable.
– Would the word “ absorption” be any better?
– I think it might be. I am grateful for the suggestion because I feel that in relation to the terms “ new Australians “ and “ integration “ one of two things has to happen: Either new words must be selected and inculcated in the mind of the public generally, or there must be a very properly conducted advertising scheme by the Government, the Good Neighbour Council and associated organizations, to rehabilitate the words complained of - “ new Australian “ and “ assimilation “.
I cannot emphasize too strongly my view that new Australians ought to have amply demonstrated to them wherever possible that the mere fact of naturalization is not to be taken in any way to imply that they ought to lessen their ties of love and affection with their old country. Naturalization might be described almost in terms of a civil contract. The immigrants undertake certain duties, responsibilities and obligations and, in return, they receive rewards, privileges, and protection.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pearce) adjourned.
Sirring suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask the indulgence of the House to raise a matter of procedure of interest to all honorable members. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) proposes to introduce three bills this evening. They all are related to the recommendations of the Richardson committee, and it would, I feel, meet the convenience of honorable members if the House were to have on the first bill - the Ministers of State Bill 1959 - a general second-reading debate covering all these measures. At the conclusion of the debate, separate questions will, of course, be put in relation to each of the bills, and further debate could take place at the second-reading stage of each of the second and third bills if honorable members wish to speak further to them. I suggest, therefore. Mr. Speaker, that you permit the subject-matter of all these three related bills to be debated on the motion for the second reading of the Ministers of State Bill.
– -Is it the wish of the House that the debate on the second readin? of the Ministers of State Bill shall include the subject-matters contained in the associated bills to be introduced?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from making his speech on the second reading of the Ministers of State Bill without limitation of time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) 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 Ministers of State Act 1952-1956.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In accordance with the announcement made by my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), a little earlier, and in accordance with the agreement of the House, I propose not to confine my remarks to the one bill, but to discuss the whole of the matters covered by the three bills which have been referred to. And that, I am sure, is desirable, because they all arise from the one investigation, the one report, and the one series of determinations by the Government.
It is not, Sir, for the first time that the Parliament has had to consider its own emoluments, its salaries, its allowances and its superannuation benefits, because, of course, under the Constitution of this country as it still stands, the salaries of members of the Parliament - then called allowances - were fixed at an amount of £400 per annum. But they were fixed until Parliament otherwise determined, and, as everybody here knows, that means that Parliament can from time to time, as it thinks appropriate, determine these matters. On this occasion, as on two prior occasions, it was decided that a committee quite outside of Parliament - but a knowledgeable committee - should investigate these matters and make recommendations to the Parliament through the Government. This is the third occasion on which that has happened and, as on every prior occasion on which there has been a change of salary or allowances - going back for over half a century - there has been a remarkable uproar, largely fermented, as 1 will indicate later, by sections of the press, and, to a large extent, based upon an unwillingness or an inability to understand what the duties of members of Parliament are and what the duties of Ministers are. This, after all, tonight, is an opportunity, which I would not willingly have missed, to enable at least some hundreds of thousands of people in Australia to learn that there are two sides to this question, and 1 regard my responsibility this evening as a responsibility to see that the Parliament’s side of this matter becomes known to thoughtful people who, in our experience, will always come down with a sensible judgment if they have the materials before them.
In order to begin this exercise, Sir, I think I should point out something that most honorable members are familiar with - that this, of course, is not the first occasion on which this kind of thing has happened. When this Parliament began, 58 years ago, the payment to members of the Parliament was £400 a year. That was in 1901. In 1907, it was increased to £600 a year, and there was an enormous press agitation. I think it was at that very time that some talented writer coined the great phrase about a salary grab, to which, of course, people of even greater genius have since added such expressions as “raiding the Treasury “. The payment to members was increased to £600 a year in 1907, and that increase was violently opposed by, among other people, the very newspapers that have fermented and led the agitation against the increases now proposed. The payment fixed in 1907 stood until 1920 - after the first world war. There had been a great world war, with all its economic consequences. There had been all the inevitable inflationary pressures of a great war. Yet, in 1920, when a proposal was brought forward by the then government to raise the amount to £1,000, the agitation surpassed even that of 1907. That agitation came from the same people, the same very wealthy interests, and was directed to the same object.
In 1932 the depression was on, and this Parliament reduced the £1,000 in accordance with the Premiers’ plan. I think it must go on record that that was the first and only time when these great newspaper interests approved of what Parliament was doing. Between 1932 and 1938, as the depression lifted, certain gradual restorations were made by Parliament until, by 1938, the sum of £1,000 had been completely restored. That was greeted with a volley of abuse, of course.
In 1947 the amount was, by legislation, raised to £1,500. We had a very spirited argument in this House on that occasion, which I have taken the opportunity to reread in order to refresh my mind on it. Once more there was a violent press campaign, directed not to one point that exercized my mind and those of some other people in this House at that time - that wage pegging was still in existence - but directed to the eternal proposition that you must never increase the salaries of members of the Federal Parliament because - let us face it - we are not worth it.
In 1952, following a report, further improvements were made. There were improvements again in 1956, and now we have the current proposals. There may be some honorable members in this House - I am sure there are - who have never previously encountered these somewhat wintry blasts, but I can assure them that they are no colder to-day than they were in the past, that they go on and on, and if anybody took the trouble to investigate the nature and source of the press campaign since 1907, he would be irresistibly driven to the conclusion that if these gentlemen had had their way, members of the Federal Parliament would still be paid £400 a year, because no improvement of their salaries has ever been lucky enough to secure the benediction of the press.
I refer to that matter of history because it is very important that we should understand the existence of this classical contest that has gone on between the members of Parliament who, if I may say so on behalf of all honorable members, have been elected by the people to sit in Parliament and to administer the government of the country, and those who, elected by nobody but themselves, undertake to assume control of the affairs of the country. It is a classical contest.
On this occasion I have followed the press campaign with great interest. I can assure all honorable members that I have not lost much sleep over it, but I have followed it with a certain academic interest. I have become accustomed now- well, I did many years ago- to all those rather contemptuous expressions that are used by some newspaper critics. But on this occasion an unbridled attack - I should refer to it at once - has been led in Sydney by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and its somewhat curious satellites- I think that is a courteous term - and in Melbourne by the “ Herald “. I want to make an attempt to assist public thought to achieve a balanced judgment in this matter. I know that from the point of view of the press that will be a futile attempt, but I hope that I will be understood by a good number of people in this country.
In the main, what people have learnt about this matter has been derived from newspapers such as the ones that I have mentioned, and I want to say something about the campaign of each of those two newspapers in plain terms and, I hope, with that restraint which characterizes me. I have a clear duty to my fellow members in this Parliament, and I am not unwilling to discharge it. I have a clear duty to the whole institution of Parliament to put this matter in its right perspective. Sir, I have referred to the classical contest between the press and Parliament. Who interprets public opinion? Who influences public opinion? Who gives effect to public opinion? Is it Parliament, freely elected, known man by man and woman by woman, and representative of the people? Or is it the press, selfelected, anonymous, and in some cases representative only of the wealth and whims of a few? In that contest Parliament must win if parliamentary government is to be preserved.
Those are preliminary remarks, and I hope that they will be regarded as by no means irrational. I believe that they go to the root of this matter. So now T shall look at this campaign, which has influenced so many people and, for all I know, has influenced so many honorable members The line adopted by the Melbourne “ Herald “ has been almost impossible to follow, although on the whole it has done its utmost to whip up feeling against private members of the Federal Parliament. It has been almost friendly at times to the improvements now advised by the Martin committee in Victoria but, of course, they were made in reference to the Parliament of one State, and therefore they have much more appeal to the Melbourne “ Herald “ than recommendations made with respect to the much more important Parliament of the nation.
It was, I think, on 18th January that I announced the appointment of a committee to inquire into parliamentary salaries and allowances. On 19th January, following the announcement of the appointment of that committee - an independent committee appointed to examine parliamentary salaries and allowances, a committee against which, and against any member of which, no word has been spoken or could be spoken to impugn their independence or their probity - the Melbourne “ Herald “ published a leading article. I am sure that honorable members would be grateful if I recalled the terms of that article to their minds. The Melbourne “ Herald “ stated -
In announcing the appointment of an independent committee to report on Parliamentary salaries and allowances, Mr. Menzies is choosing the fairest way of answering those members of the two Federal Houses who have been suggesting that another increase in their pay is merited. The principle of periodic and independent reviews is sound.
If rates are to be reviewed early in the threeyear life of each Parliament, as Mr. Menzies suggests, it should follow that the findings of the committee are followed throughout this term, and are applied in their entirety.
– Who said that?
– The Melbourne “Herald” on 19th January, 1959. Then it concluded by saying -
It is right that parliamentary service should be adequately rewarded, and that its expenses should be periodically reviewed. But restraint in demands for privileges, and a lead in accepting the umpire’s decision, are expected from the nation’s elected spokesmen.
These, Sir, were the words - on the whole, rather pious words. But who gave the lead in rejecting the umpire’s decision? The same newspaper! When the report of the umpire was made, this very newspaper became highly critical and indeed almost vitriolic. So far from recommending that the umpire’s decision should be taken, this very newspaper argued that there should not only be frank debate, which everybody welcomed, but far-reaching amendment. Oddly enough, the newspaper still said on 30th March of this year -
Sir Frank Richardson and his colleagues examined the whole question of parliamentary rewards very closely. The higher rates they recommend for the Prime Minister, senior Ministers, and. the Leader of the Opposition might well be justified. There is good reason to question some of the other increases.
When I read that, it was one of the few occasions in my life when I felt that I almost had a pat on the back - it was high time my emoluments were increased. I began to feel almost like the managing editor of a newspaper.
The statement would convey to any reader the impression that those who control the Melbourne “Herald” had a quarrel in particular with the salaries of private members and that there was no quarrel really with what was proposed for people like myself. But in the great campaign to lower the prestige of Parliament, and correspondingly to increase the authority of the press, this newspaper succeeeded in contradicting its own attack. It has a representative at Canberra, who wrote and published, not only in the Melbourne “ Herald “ but in the “ Sunday Mail “ in Queensland, an article about the recommendations concerning myself, which up to that time I had thought were being rather pleasantly received. For complete dishonesty, this article will take a lot of beating. I want to say this quite plainly: It is high time that it was understood by some of these people that those who live by the sword are liable to perish by the sword.
This man made two points in particular. The first was that, under the recommendations, the Prime Minister is to be given a total salary of £10,000, but that as he will get an additional £4,000 odd in special allowances, he will be receiving more than the Prime Minister of Great Britain. This was put in headlines. As the writer well knew, that story was completely untrue. The Prime Minister of Great Britain does, I believe, get a net salary of £10,000 sterling, which I would have thought was a very modest salary for a man carrying his responsibilities in the world. But does the “ Herald “ suppose that he maintains No. 10 Downing-street and Chequers and discharges all his representational duties out of that salary? Of course not! Every child knows that other financial arrangements are made about these places and that substantial entertainment expenses are met on behalf of the Prime Minister of Great
Britain. However, it was thought fit, in order to stir up public opinion, to pretend, quite dishonestly, that by comparing my salary - or my projected salary, because I have not got it yet - and allowances with somebody else’s salary, omitting his allowances, passion would be aroused.
A second aspect was developed by the same gentleman. It was a second fantastic untruth. He offered to drop a crocodile tear over the Governor-General. Sir, I am sorry to have to refer to this and I do so with the greatest goodwill to the distinguished Governor-General of Australia. This man dropped a crocodile tear. He said, “ Isn’t this terrible; the Prime Minister of Australia is to be given £10,000; that is all the Governor-General gets, and that is what he was getting in 1901 “. He even achieved the great skill of referring to it as a unique industrial anomaly. I do not need to tell my distinguished friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), or anybody else who has been in office in this country, that it is quite true that the salary of the GovernorGeneral has stood at £10,000 since 1901. It is equally true, though this writer suppressed it, that that salary is free of tax, whereas the Prime Minister’s salary is, of course, like anybody else’s, taxable.
It is also true that ever since 1901, instead of changing the salary itself, every government in succession has accommodated the Governor-General’s office to the changes that occur by carrying on the Estimates more and more of the expenditure that the Governor-General has to incur. The total vote to-day of that kind is just on £50,000. I do not object to it; I think it is quite right. For the comparable items which might be related to the Prime Minister’s allowance, the total would be certainly not less than £17,000 or £18,000. But the newspaper, so desperate to create a false impression in the public mind, set out to tell these two absolutely cracking lies in order to stir up public opinion.
Having said that - I hope with great moderation and restraint - I will turn to the other champion dealing with us - the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. Judging by recent experience, this newspaper understands the art of monopoly better than, perhaps, anybody else in the country. I say this quite plainly and I hope that many thousands of its readers may hear or read what I say about it: It has conducted a completely vicious and misleading campaign. I admit that its reputation for accuracy has steadily declined in recent years - certainly whenever I have had the misfortune to be in the way. Its antipathy - I was going to say to my Government, but I think I should say to any government that happens to be in office - is well known. But, day after day, it has published leading articles on this matter. These articles have a singularly undergraduate quality in their thinking and expression, but at any rate they lose no opportunity to cry down the quality of the Federal Parliament. Sir, I hope I will be allowed to say this, and I hope that people will ponder over it: I have not observed that any of the rich men who control this newspaper have offered themselves for parliamentary service or have come out of their comfortable anonymity so that the people may see them and judge them.
One of the most unctuous opinions repeatedly expressed by this journal is that we should not seek to attract able men to Parliament by increasing salaries, since parliamentary service is a vocation to which men and women should not be lured by money. Sir, perhaps I can speak with some authority about this matter because I do not think my worst enemy would think I did not have some sense of vocation in this matter. My six years as Opposition Leader with a parliamentary salary of £1,000 for the most part and an Opposition leader’s £400 a year with no travelling allowance or electorate expenses, cost me a substantial proportion of my savings - with the complete approval of this newspaper. Sir, I believe in Parliament as a vocation which involves sacrifices, sometimes of money, almost always of family life and of the helping of the future of children. The present recommendations for members will make none of them rich. They mean simply that they will not be or become so financially embarrassed as to have their public capacity affected.
But, Sir, I have always heard - I have been credibly informed if that is the right phrase - that the leaders of the press had a sense of vocation themselves sufficient to make them regard themselves as the Fourth
Estate. How do those gentlemen of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ regard their own vocation? There is a quite simple test by which the general public can determine the good faith and merit of the “ Sydney Morning Herald’s “ opinion. Let that newspaper publish on its front page in respect of its managing director - whose name I think is Henderson - his salary, the expenses of all kinds paid on his behalf by his company, a short summary of the benefits by way of concessional shareholdings which have come to him, and a precise amount of his superannuation benefits, both in terms of capital and income. Let them not weary in well-doing. So that comparisons may be fair and assist the judgment of their readers, let them also publish similar details in respect of their next two most highly paid executive or editorial officers. Then let them publish on the same page - and without benefit of interlarded comment - the corresponding figures with which, if they have read the Richardson report, they are quite familiar, for the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade of the National Government. The readers of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ would then, Sir, have an opportunity of addressing themselves to the important question somewhat overlooked in this context: Which trio has the more responsible task in this nation?
Now, Sir, having said that, I want to turn to one or two other aspects of this matter. First of all, it has been said - and said by people of repute whose opinions respect - that the time for these proposals is nol opportune; that it may lead to some impact on the basic wage, or inflation or something of that sort. I respect that view. It is a circumstance which the Cabinet itself discussed very elaborately before we appointed a committee. All I want to say about it is this: The proposal to which effect is now being given is a proposal that the salary and allowances of members of this Parliament should be dealt with every three years, at the beginning of each Parliament, and that the decision should endure, except for some quite phenomenal or catastrophic circumstances, for the whole of the period of three years.
Perhaps it is overlooked that in some States the basic wage is adjusted on the cost of living every quarter, but in the Commonwealth jurisdiction there has, in effect, now developed a practice of an annual review of the basic wage. Therefore, the basic wage or some aspect some material aspect of wages will be under examination every year, and therefore every year will be a year in which it is the wrong time to deal with the salaries and allowances of members of Parliament. We do not do it this year, but we do it next year. But next year, the same business is on. Honorable members will understand quite plainly that if you are to refuse to have parliamentary salaries and allowances dealt with because in the same year there are wage investigations, then parliamentary salaries and allowances will not be dealt with at all for many years to come. That is my answer to those who, quite honestly, feel that this is untimely. It always was untimely, by the way. I do not remember any occasion on which somebody did not find it possible to say that the time was not ripe. But a matter of this kind cannot be left indefinitely. It is not decent to say to members of this Parliament that year after year, whatever comes or goes, they are not to have their emoluments and their expenses adjusted. It would be a monstrosity.
Indeed, Sir, I think I ought to permit myself this remark: There are still a few people in Australia who look back to what they believe to be the good old days when members of Parliament were not paid at all. I say this as somebody who, I would have hoped, was notoriously not greedy on these matters: Unless there were payment of members of Parliament and that payment was adjusted from time to time in the light of the demands of members of Parliament if we went back to the old days there would be no Labour Party except by great sacrifices on the part of trade unions and people outside to enable them to come here. Payment of members of Parliament was one of the earliest reforms advocated in then nineteenth century, and a very good reform it was since it enables Parliament to be made up of a general crosssection of the country and not of people who are the paid representatives of some group and of people so well off that they do not need to be paid at all. That is not true parliamentary representation. We have in this House representation of every kind and class of activity in the country, and it is a good thing for Australia that that is so.
I apologize for being so long, but the time must not be begrudged that will enable the other side of this controversy to be made known.
Let me say something about the salaries and allowances that have been recommended for members. The committee has recommended an increase of £400 a year in the salaries. Now Sir, whether that figure is right or wrong is, after all, a matter of judgment after consideration of the facts. It is not a matter of prejudice. It is not a matter of guesswork. It ought to be a matter of judgment on the facts. It has nothing to do with principle; it has nothing to do with conscience. What the increase ought to be is a matter that can be determined only with a knowledge of the evidence on which the committee acted. How can we know what the evidence was? Honorable members of this House, of all parties, laid material before the committee and gave confidential information. They are not going to have that information published to the world.
– I do not mind if my overdraft is published.
– No, but that is because your bank manager is familiar with it already. These things are not to be made matters of public notoriety. I have not seen the material put forward by any honorable member, nor has any newspaper writer. The committee saw this evidence, and the committee formed its judgment on it. Somebody might have said that the increase should be £200. I would have thought that in all the circumstances nobody could decently have suggested less than £200, having regard to the events that have occurred. Somebody might say £200; somebody else might say £250, and, indeed, somebody might say £500. The committee has formed its judgment and has said £400 and this is the recommendation, mark you, which has brought down the major volley of abuse, the recommendation for the increase for private members. It has been said, “ I do not mind about the Ministers “, and “ Of course the Prime Minister ought to be paid more “, but private members? No!
Somebody had the impertinence to say that this committee had sat secretly, that there was something furtive about the whole business. Furtive! The commitee was appointed1 and a public announcement made. The committee then sat. It advertised to the public that it would be glad to receive evidence from members of the public, either orally or in writing, and it invited every member of both houses of this Parliament, by circular, to offer such information as they cared to. Not only were various members of the public interviewed, at their own request, by the committee, but - and I state a conservative figure - no less than 1,500 written communications were received by the committee from persons other than members of Parliament. Every one of those communications was read; every one of them was laid before the committee. Therefore the committee had the material before it on which it could apply its mind to the decision. What it did was to set out to establish a standard which would enable men of ability and without private means to offer themselves to Parliament and to remain in Parliament. Does anybody quarrel with that as a standard? Does anybody in Australia want to have a national Parliament - remember that this is the great Parliament of the country - from which men of ability without private means will be excluded for financial reasons? The question has only to be put to answer itself.
Now, Sir, I have stated the position as regards salaries. Of course it has been said, not here but elsewhere, “ The federal committee was hand-picked “. Well, I suppose it was. I suppose every committee that is appointed, without being elected by somebody, is hand-picked. I suppose the newspaper editors and their right-hand men are hand-picked, since I have no reason to believe that they are elected by anybody. Therefore, if “ hand-picked “ means “ chosen “, we plead guilty - they were chosen. But, as I said before, I have not read or heard of anybody sufficiently bold to accuse the three prominent citizens who sat on the committee of dishonesty or of indirect motives or of intellectual incompetence.
It is very interesting that the Victorian Government appointed a committee which recently made a report. I do not think there was one man on the committee who could be accused of being - what is the expression - a great business tycoon. They seemed to me to be well known, highly regarded, respectable, normal citizens, and they made a report. The interesting point is that, despite the material difference in responsibilities between the Parliament of the nation and a parliament of one State, that committee made recommendations certainly no less adequate than the ones that we are considering, and in some respects even more so. But I have not so far read any attack either on the membership or on the report of that committee.
Now, Sir, apart altogether from salaries, the Richardson committee made recommendations regarding increases in the electorate allowances of members. There has been an enormous amount of misleading comment on this matter. I just want to make one or two remarks about this aspect. I know that every honorable member is aware of these facts, but I am sure that many people are not. Of course this practice of publishing members’ salaries and allowances, adding the two together and calling the result the salary, is a clever little trick.
– lt is quite dishonest, quite fraudulent, but I find that people are misled by it. I wonder what would happen if some of the people who practise this little trick had their own expenses added on to their salaries and the totals published as their salaries, Dear me, I can hardly imagine the consequences of it! Of course, electorate expenses are granted in order to cover electorate expenses. They are granted to recoup a member of Parliament for the expenditure which he must incur if he is going to be a conscientious and competent representative of his electorate. Of course, the expenses vary from place to place. How can you do more than establish a sensible average in matters such as this? I will undertake to say that there are honorable members in this House, with large, rambling country electorates, who spend far more in attending to their electorates, going from place to place, driving their cars, paying their hotel bills, attending to their correspondence and paying postages, than they get under the existing allowances.
I thought the committee did a very sensible thing in regard to this matter. Realizing that all this argument about allowances was grossly misunderstood, it set out to classify some of the items on which members have to spend money. It mentioned donations, subscriptions, accommodation, travelling expenses, postages and other matters. I am not going to take up time in reading that part of the report. I only hope that most people will ultimately read it. But, having looked at it and considered it. who are we to say that the sum that is calculated is wrong? How would I know? Take my own case, as Prime Minister, with a major responsibility for Cabinet decisions. How on earth would I know what the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has to spend, or the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), or the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne), in the course of a year in representing their particular electorates? The committee, I think, directed its mind to that with the greatest possible care, and it has made recommendations. Apparently, we are invited to reject these recommendations, not in favour of a carefully calculated sum but in favour of a mere guess, a mere uninformed guess, as to what the amount should be.
Now, Sir, the next point that I want to mention - it also has a bearing on this matter - was mentioned by the Richardson committee in its report for I think, the first time. It is very well for people to affect to sneer at members of Parliament - the very ones whom they elected to this place as the best available candidates not so long ago! But most members of Parliament have the great privilege of possessing a wife, and everybody who has sat in Parliament for any time at all knows that his wife works as hard as he does in the representation of the people. I marvel from time to time at the labours that are undertaken by our wives, some cynic may say in our interests, but I prefer to say in the interests of the discharge of our public duties. The committee has pointed this out. Is the point of view that that does not matter? How can the wife of a member of Parliament or a Minister discharge her public responsibilities and at the same time do what she would like to do about the bringing up and educating of her family? This is a matter of far more than money. This is the sacrifice that is made by people who go into Parliament, and the whole future of the sons and daughters of very many members of Parliament has been affected by the fact that there has been no opportunity to give them the close parental consideration that would normally be given in the ordinary household. I do not want to be like some of these critics and convert everything into cash. I will content myself by saying that I think a parliamentary wife is worth something, and that it would be a great pity if a member of Parliament did not receive a degree of remuneration which enabled his wife to do these things in the public field while, at the same time, discharging her duties as a wife and as a mother.
I turn now to members’ pensions. This committee did a valuable service in this respect because it pointed out - many honorable members more familiar with the details than I am may have realized it already, but it certainly pointed out to mer among others - that this parliamentary pensions scheme, so far from being something for which the taxpayer assumes complete responsibility is, in an uncommonly high degree, contributory. You know how people are so willing to sneer about these things, saying, “ Oh, yes, they have pensions and they pay practically nothing for them “. That is a lot of nonsense. I have yet to hear of any superannuation scheme outside Parliament under which an employee, if we may so describe ourselves for that purpose, pays 10 per cent, of his salary into the superannuation fund. The committee pointed this out, and said - I am sure that nobody could seriously disagree with it - that therefore these pension benefits ought to be improved, that a slight increase in the payments by members would enable that improvement to be made, and that under anything short of abnormal circumstances, the fund would be, as it is to-day, extraordinarily solvent. I do not think it is very good English to say that something is “ extraordinarily solvent “, but it means, presumably, that there is a pretty substantial credit balance, thanks to members contributions. The present recommendations will still leave the parliamentary pensions scheme much more onerous to contributors than any outside scheme of which we have knowledge. But I do urge that the people should1 understand that although there has been a whipping up of opinion on this matter, the parliamentary pensions scheme is in fact one for which members themselves carry a degree of responsibility greater than that which people in superannuation schemes in any other walk of life that I know of are called upon to carry.
One question that arises at once is whether the pension benefits should be made retrospective. I use the word rather loosely. The question is whether those who, having gone out of Parliament and are already drawing parliamentary pensions, should have the benefit of these improvements. There is no recommendation on that point by the commitee. The Cabinet is of opinion that in these circumstances, as there will be additional contributions and additional benefits in future, the contributory pensions now being paid ought to remain on their existing footing and that the increased pensions ought to have only a future operation.
Now, Sir, having said that, I turn to the great problem of Ministers’ salaries. I do not propose to say very much about it. No man is much of an advocate in his own cause; I very much prefer to do what I have been doing so far, that is, to advocate the cause of members of this Parliament. But, of course, Ministers’ salaries were bound to be reviewed. I hope that everybody in Australia will understand that when the first Richardson, committee was appointed and made its report in 1955 the Cabinet expressly excluded from its terms of reference the salaries of Ministers and parliamentary officers, because we felt that at that time in some particular circumstances we had to show a little restraint on this matter, without denying to members their right to a review. In the result, seven years of great economic changes and stresses and all kinds of circumstances have gone by since the salaries of Ministers in this Parliament were looked at, and I would think that somebody would need to be a pretty mean Australian to come along at this stage and say that they ought not to be reviewed on this occasion.
Sir, in the result, the committee has looked at this matter. It has recommended two things about Ministers, one an increase in salaries and the other a series of non-contributory pensions for Ministers with a minimum period of six years of service as Ministers and a maximum period of ten years or more. We have given a great deal of thought to this. We shrewdly suspect that the committee regarded these two things as being in parallel and recommended them both, thinking that they supplemented each other. But we had many discussions and we quite freely reached the conclusion that to introduce these pension payments for people other than the one exception, that was originally established years ago in regard to a Prime Minister, would be wrong. We thought that it would be a good thing if, instead of having non-contributory pensions for Ministers, we applied ourselves to the task of seeing whether some suitable contributory scheme, quite distinct from the members’ fund, could be worked out. Of course, that will take time. Therefore we say nothing more about it except this. We are not legislating for non-contributory pensions for Ministers on this occasion.
Sir, I had no idea, when I stood up, that I was going to speak for an hour, and it seems fantastic to have to refer, before I sit down, to one magnificent item - motor cars - because the committee made a recommendation. I do not know why; it is not a very great matter. But it was to the effect that anybody who had been Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition or Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House for five long, weary years was to have for three years after he left Parliament the benefit of an official car, no doubt for public and official functions. Well, it is one of those little things that have attracted so much attention from some people that one would think it was almost earth-shaking. In fact, there has been so much argument about it that anybody who stands a chance of being a beneficiary from it would, if he is like me, sooner be without. Therefore, we drop it. It flutters to the ground like a dead leaf. It is gone. I hope that that knowledge will give everybody great comfort, and I part with it, myself, with no sorrow at all.
Mr. Speaker, I conclude with the hope that the Australian public, now having heard, in an imperfect way and by no means exhaustively, the case for their elected representatives in Parliament, will consider that case with care and will determine it with their usual judgment.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) 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 Parliamentary Allowances Act 1952-1956.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to parliamentary retiring allowances.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1166).
.- The House has now returned to the bill to amend the Aliens Act 1947-1952. This measure causes us to turn our thoughts back to the early days of migration, and it also makes us realize that migration has now become an integral part of Australian life. Ten per cent of the present population of Australia is represented by migrants.
– Order! I ask honorable members to resume their seats and to remain silent.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Migration is playing an important part in the development of Australia, and it is a subject which is now regarded as nonparty. The early impact of migration on this country was rather severe and emphatic. Before World War II., and immediately afterwards, Australia was regarded by people from other countries as being a somewhat immature country because of its vast spaces. Before the advent of fast modern means of transportation byair, when Australia was five or six weeks by sea from Europe, there was not the present ready communication with other countries, and we were unaccustomed to hearing strange tongues and seeing other fashions in clothes. We were isolated in this part of the world. Before the war I lived in Europe on a number of occasions, my visits there lasting from nine -to twelve months. I returned to this country wearing clothes that I had purchased overseas. I wore them quite unselfconsciously when I arrived in Australia, because I had become used to them; but immediately I began to walk down an Australian street I became conscious that my fellow Australians were looking at me with some curiosity. That was the kind of thing that happened in Australia before the war, and for some time immediately after the war, because Australians in general came in contact with so few people of other nations.
It is easy to appreciate, therefore, what the early immigrants under the present immigration programme, begun in the postwar years, had to suffer because Australia’s isolation had kept us from becoming used to strange accents and the dress of the people of other countries. It is well for us to remember now what an ordeal it must have been to those immigrants to land in a strange country, thousands of miles away from their own people, and after the dreadful experience they had had, and be unable to speak our language.
The early influx of immigrants to Australia in the post-war years arose from reasons that were part humanitarian and part practical. We had a responsibility to offer shelter to people who were homeless; we had the objective also to develop our population and our resources. In return for that shelter we obtained from the immigrants their skills and their culture. Many of us have probably forgotten that in those early days the immigrants who found shelter in Australia were under a two-year contract to the Government. People in the professional classes in their own countries came here and did heavy manual work during the two years of their contracts. They contributed tremendously towards the production of our essential heavy industries. Let us face the fact that in the post-war years Australians were glad of help in doing the heavy work that had to be carried out in the iron and steel industries, the cement industry and the building industry, to- mention a few. Because of the doubting Thomases when the immigration programme began in the post-war years, Australia was divided early on the question of immigration; but, after the new settlers had turned to and helped us rebuild our peace-time industries in the rehabilitation years, Australians began to accept these new people as desirable citizens, to feel that the immigrants were great assets. As more and more migrants came here and learned our language and became familiar with our customs, the desire grew in Australia to have these people as citizens.
In those early days of naturalization ceremonies there was a great degree of coldness in our acceptance of these people as fellow citizens. They went through legal formalities in the courts in order to be naturalized; but that stage passed and naturalization ceremonies developed into warm gatherings of citizens. In my own electorate, where there are some 10,000 immigrants, naturalization ceremonies have developed into big public meetings - splendid gatherings, sympathetic gatherings, gatherings where Australian friends of the migrants come along and join in. The ceremonies include renditions by choirs, rotary addresses, and addresses from politicians. Perhaps that is a way of breaking the immigrants in to the great Australian tradition of saying a few words on every possible occasion, but it is quite obvious that the applicants for naturalization welcome that kind of ceremony instead of the old type cold, formal ceremony.
Australia’s immigration policy since the war has been very successfully administered, under a succession of sympathetic and capable Ministers. The policy was instituted by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), as Australia’s first Minister for Immigration, and credit should be given to him for the enthusiasm with which he tackled the task in those early days. The policy has been carried on in the same way despite changes of government. I have found the Department of Immigration ever ready to cooperate in regard to cases that are brought to its notice. The department has never overlooked the fact that, whilst the immigration programme must be run with production line efficiency, it must still reveal a warm and human understanding, because practically every migrant has his own problems, his own difficulties to overcome, his own temperament, and his own character. The department, in dealing with such complex matters, has proved itself to be one of the most efficient of our government departments. Its broad outlook is indicated by the results achieved.
As a result of the constant watchfulness of the department and its desire to make the position of the migrant easier, to make him feel that Australia wants him and is sympathetic to him, the law has been amended from time to time. The department has shown that it is ready to listen to proposals put forward by people who are studying the problems of migrants all over Australia, like the people in the Good Neighbour Councils and various other migrant organizations which are represented each year at the Australian Citizenship Convention. Recently alterations were made to legal provisions under which a naturalized immigrant could be deported to his former homeland. The continuance in the law of these provisions placed a stigma on naturalized Australians in comparison with Australian-born citizens. It seemed that they were regarded as second-class citizens, because they were deportable. The constant (Scrutiny of the Department of Immigration in its efforts to make the lot of the migrant easier has led to the deletion of such provisions. As the years go by it becomes apparent that the administrative techniques of the department are by no means static, and that the department is endeavouring to make the migrant feel that Australia wants him to remain here, that Australia is friendly towards him.
Many people in Australia believe that everybody who comes to settle in Australia should become naturalized. To a great degree the rate of naturalization is as much an Australian responsibility as it is the responsibility of those who come here. It is only natural that older people who come to live here, although they become part of our community and pay taxes like everybody else, still feel a link with their own former homeland and are reluctant to take the great step of changing their nationality. Frankly, I am not worried if they do not become naturalized, so long as they are good citizens and contribute to our economy and our production, and bring us their arts and their skills. While we feel that we should like them to become naturalized that is not the most important thing, because their children are growing up here, eating Australian food, wearing Australian clothes, saluting the Australian flag and becoming Australians. If the older immigrants commence talking nostalgically about the old country and what it was like - perhaps as the years go by they have forgotten the hardships that they endured, and time makes memories softer than the actuality was - it is certain that their children will shrug it all off. They do not take the same notice as the older people do for their roots are in Australia. This was proved during the first world war when the offspring of Germans and other nations who had come to Australia enlisted in the Australian forces. This country takes people and does some very great things for them. Often even the older people who go back to their home country after years here find that the old land has not the same attraction for them after they have lived in Australia. So, I believe that this Aliens Bill which takes away the necessity for the registration certificate is just another link in the chain of friendship that this country is forging with the migrant.
– in reply - I thank honorable members opposite for the goodwill that they have shown to this bill and to the Government generally, in this debate. Listening to it here, at the table, this afternoon, and to the interesting variety of views that were expressed, one had a picture of the House as a true, deliberative assembly. Since we are talking about things foreign, perhaps I can use the language of continental symbolism by saying that the chamber, this afternoon, reminded me of one of those peaceful lakes that some of us know in the north of Italy rather than the turbulent Mediterranean squalls which sometimes encompass us all.
My friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in opening the debate this afternoon on behalf of the Opposition, gave a very interesting dissertation on the origin of these certificates of registration. I had hoped, when I was discussing this matter in my secondreading speech, that the honorable gentleman would not misinterpret any remarks of mine as being a reflection on his own long and historic administration.
– You are the best Minister since.
– That is very nice of you to say so. I think that my honorable friend knows what I myself and many others on the Government side feel with regard to his administration. On more than one occasion I have referred to the distinguished service of the honorable member for Melbourne to this country when he was in my present position. But as I think honorable members generally will agree, inevitably, in a young progressive country such as this, circumstances change. I suspect that the honorable member for Melbourne is a great admirer of change himself. Of course, as circumstances change, administrative practices must alter with them.
We had an illuminating discussion in this debate, arising out of some observations of mine on the word “ alien “. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rather defended the use of that word, and so did my colleague, the honorable member for
Balaclava (Mr. Joske). However, as becomes this form of legislation, I was glad to hear the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) take my point of view in my noises of disapprobation of the continued use of this word. I agree with what the honorable member for Parkes said about “ alien “. It always reminds me of an unfriendly, snarling dog. You never quite know what it is going to do to you. There is something sinister and ominous in the sound of this word. It is perfectly true, as I indicated in the broad, in my second reading speech, that it is used in Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States of America. But ever since I have been in office, Mr. Speaker, I have been trying to think out some suitable alternative. That has not been easy and, frankly, as yet I have not been able to arrive at one that would be sufficiently all-embracing and satisfying.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked me, if I was going to reply in this debate, to say what action the Government was faking to encourage and quicken the whole process of naturalization. As it is a matter of some importance. I propose to take up just a little time of the House tonight in answering the question of the honorable member for Melbourne. To begin with, as the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) pointed out with great truth, of this total of 410,000 aliens who are over sixteen years of age in this country, only 200,000 are eligible, at the moment, for naturalization. The remaining 210,000 have not been here for the statutory qualifying period of five years.
Again, the House may recall that only two or three weeks ago I announced that the Government had abolished the capitation fee for naturalization. The fee was originally £5. Then, two or three years ago. it was reduced to £1. Now, the Government has abolished it altogether. This, although in itself not a very large thing, will come to be regarded, I hope, by our foreign residents those people who are qualified already for naturalization as some added inducement to throw in their lot finally with us as Australian nationals
I would also like to tell honorable members that whenever an immigrant becomes eligible, through length of residence in Australia, for naturalization, he or she receives a written appeal from me, over my facsimile signature, indicating the advantages of Australian citizenship and expressing the hope that he or she will join us in this great venture. We have also abolished the former practice of having to give notice of intention to become naturalized. A foreigner who is resident here can make application after four and a half years. We have also modified certain residential qualifications to meet cases in which an applicant served with the Australian forces or with other allied forces in World War II., providing that they were under a British command.
We have also a very valuable rule, which I do not think is sufficiently widely known, whereby the spouse of an Australian is able to become naturalized virtually without any delay at all. At the moment, the only bachelor member whom I can see in the House is the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson). However, if in their wisdom in their excellent discretion - some of our bachelor members decided that the time had come to marry some attractive Italian. German, or Dutch girl, when they brought the young lady to these shores and set her up in their home, they could invite her to share Australian nationality with them, as well, no doubt, as many other things, with a minimum of delay. This, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, is a quite valuable aid to speedy naturalization.
In this matter, Sir, I think I should refer, too, to the excellent work of the Good Neighbour Councils, which are one of the really worth-while ancillary movements in Australia’s immigration programme and campaign. I cannot pay too high a tribute to the splendid work which the unselfish men and women who comprise these bodies continually do. The Good Neighbour Councils run well devised publicity campaigns and try to point out to our foreign residents here the advantages of naturalization. As the House may recall, the Government itself gives to the good neighbour movement an annual subvention of £30,000. We are instituting also, Mr. Speaker, a system of field officers, which I announced in January at the annual Australian Citizenship Convention here. This is a novel proposal which I believe will assist quite materially in this matter when it is put into operation. It will be part of the duties of these field officers to mingle with migrants as freely as they can and to point out to them some of the practical advantages of full Australian citizenship. Finally, Sir, in reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I would point out that I myself, in speeches in various parts of the country and in observations in this chamber, am constantly alluding to the positive advantages of citizenship which so many of our present alien residents are so well qualified to enjoy.
Now, Sir, I should like to refer very briefly to one interesting observation made by the honorable member for Parkes in his amusing and very pointed speech. The honorable member directed the attention of the House to the cumbering mass of formalities which are in the way of international travel, and which those of us who belong to my own generation, of course, have become so accustomed to. I sympathize with the honorable member very much in his plea for the abolition or at least the considerable mitigation of travel formalities. Honorable members in this House who are virtually a generation older than I, would well remember the relative freedom of travel which characterized the world before 1914. It seems to me, Sir, that if our ancestors had the ingenuity so to arrange matters that they could move about the world without a mass of documents, passports and letters of identity, in a state of comparative untrammelledness, then surely the ingenuity of our own generation may in due course be able to lower at least some of these man-made barricades, even if we cannot sweep them all away. Nevertheless, in expressing that hope, I think it is only fair to point out that, with the world as it is now organized, there would be very many great administrative difficulties in the way of abolishing passports. It could be done, of course, not by unilateral action by a country with a relatively small population, such as this, but only by widespread international agreement. I would inform the House, also, that it turns out that 99 per cent, at least of alien residents here have passports in their possession. They enter Australia on passports and, quite naturally, they place a high value on them as a means of personal identification.
During the debate this afternoon, Sir, various speakers, including, I think, my friend, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, referred to what are called the hard-core cases. As honorable members may recall, I announced about two months ago that, as an experiment, Australia was taking 60 of these difficult to re-settle cases in order to see how they could be accommodated and fitted into the Australian way of life. I should like to assure the House that the Government looks on this matter with great sympathy and with a real apprehension of the human poignancy of the situation. I say unequivocally that if this first experiment proves successful we shall feel ourselves better equipped and much more competent to do more for these hapless people. I feel, also - and I hope honorable members will agree with me when I say this - that Australia, by virtue of our larger numbers and our increasing prosperity, is now in a position in which we can be less inhibited, more generous, and more internationally co-operative in some of these great issues of humanity.
Our achievements in the migration field under various governments have undoubtedly been spectacular since 1946. It is good, indeed, that we approach these matters in a spirit of self-examination and of some measure of self-criticism. If we start to become self-satisfied, selfcongratulatory, and complacent, about migration, the danger signals will indeed be going up. At the same time, while we admit that one can always do better and that always, perhaps, in some directions, one should do more, let us not forget that in the last thirteen years we have seen perhaps the most spectacular increase in Australia’s population that our national history has known. Our population has risen, in round figures, from 7,400,000 in 1946 to 10,000,000 in March of this year. I remind the House that no fewer than 1,400.000 of this great increase in population were migrants from countries overseas. T think, Mr. Speaker, that we can claim, also, that Australia has displayed in the last thirteen years a more consistent immigration policy than perhaps has any other country of immigration. We have kept our policy on a much more even keel than has our sister dominion of Canada, with its peaks and troughs, and also, I would think, than have the United States of America, Brazil and some of the other South American countries with big immigration programmes, and this is something of which all of us, irrespective of party, should be proud.
In concluding this debate, I would say to the House that, in whatever way we look at immigration, in every single aspect of it, we are dealing with a series of problems which need the continual exercise of imagination, resourcefulness and a persistent willingness to try new methods, with no strict adherence to convention and precedent. Always, Sir, ours must be a policy enveloped in humanity. I would say to all honorable members that the motto of this Government in the fields of migration must ever be “ Forward! “, attracting new people to Australia while they are still willing to come.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19th March (vide page 866), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, the bill before the House, together with a companion bill dealing with the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, was introduced before the Easter recess. When introducing this bill, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) stated that it was a serious attempt on the part of the Government to amend the present act in order to meet the demands of people who had been forced to content themselves with limited citizenship rights of this country for a period of 37 years.
Before I proceed to analyse the bill, I should like to give a brief history of the Northern Territory Representation Act. I think I should do that so that honorable members may realize the progress, if it can be called progress, that has taken place in the Northern Territory over the last 37 years with regard to representation. The Northern Territory Representation Act was passed by this Parliament in 1922. That act was only brought into being as a result of very serious disturbances and demonstrations in the north at that time. Prior to 1922, the Northern Territory had no representation at all, and a cry went up: No taxation without representation. As a result of the agitation that took place at that time, more than a score of men, residents of the Territory, went to gaol rather than pay taxes. They were completely in sympathy with the drive to secure some limited form of citizenship rights for the people of the Territory. History has shown that the stand taken by the people of the north at that time was right. Their stand was just, because following the demonstrations that took place in 1920, the Commonwealth Government eventually enacted in 1922 the Northern Territory Representation Act. That act, with very minor amendments, has remained in force until the present day. After almost 37 years, the people of the Northern Territory again became restive because no substantial progress or concession had been made to allow them some further measure of representation beyond the very limited measure that they now hold.
History repeated itself last year, and following further demonstrations in the Northern Territory, certain members of the Legislative Council walked out of the Council. In this Parliament, I proposed for discussion as a definite matter of urgent public importance the agitation that was taking place in the Territory. Now we find that the Government, after a series of demonstrations and agitations, has had another look at the legislation. The whole history of this matter demonstrates the Government’s complete lack of sympathy towards the residents of the Northern Territory. This Government is completely out of touch with feeling in the Territory on this matter. Surely the people of the north are right. Surely they deserve some additional measure of representation after waiting 37 years. Nobody can say that they are impatient. Nobody can say that they are unreasonable. Thirtyseven years is plenty of time for any government to make up its mind about granting further rights to citizens. Following the agitation that took place in the Territory last year. the Government has reviewed the act and has introduced some minor reforms in order to keep the people quiet, but I hope that this bill will not be expected to satisfy the people of the Territory for a further 37 years.
I propose to quote from the Minister’s secondreading speech, to indicate the attitude and the thinking of the Government when it set about to do something with respect to the needs of the Territory. The Minister said -
Both inside the Territory and outside it there are people who represent that it is undemocratic for the citizens of any part of Australia not to be represented by a member with full voting rights. At first sight this view may have an appeal, but it ignores certain facts relating to the composition of the House of Representatives. The number of members to be elected to this House is determined according to population, and the number of voters in each electorate is fixed, in conformity with conditions set down in the Commonwealth Constitution and the Electoral Act, in order to make electorates approximately equal to each other. The numerical strength of electorates may not fall below or rise above certain limits. As a result of the observance of these requirements of the law the average number of voters in the normal electorate at the time of the last election was 44,136. The number of voters for electorates ranged between 31,000 and 65,000. In contrast with these figures, the number of voters enrolled in the Northern Territory at the same election was less than 8,000. It is contrary to the conditions on which the House of Representatives has been constructed that a member representing a constituency of less than 8,000 should have the same power as a member representing over 40,000.
The Government performs some remarkable acrobatic feats when it comes to justifying legislation presented to this Parliament. If honorable members consider this bill and analyse the reasons advanced for its introduction and justification, bearing in mind at the same time the legislation that was passed only last week, the Government’s complete reversal of form, so far as the basic reasons for the legislation are concerned, will be obvious. I remind honorable members that, when the Government passed through this House a bill amending the constitution of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, the Minister laid down that it would be wrong, because of the number of electors, to allow a re-alignment of electoral boundaries. He said that a predominance of power would be given to
Darwin and that a re-alignment of electoral boundaries would be unjust.
– That is the Minister’s opinion against the Commonwealth Constitution. The Commonwealth Constitution lays down principles for this Parliament.
– I will come to that later. It does not matter, of course, whether “ one vote one value “ has any meaning at all in the Northern Territory Legislative Council; but the Minister has superimposed on the elected members three nonofficial members who will not owe their seats to any electorate and who will not be responsible to any electors.
The principle of varying electorates is observed throughout the Commonwealth. In the federal sphere, there may be some justification for trying to arrange the boundaries so that the strength of one electorate will be as close as possible to the strength of another electorate. But that is not a principle of parliamentary government in Australia. This is illustrated by the method of electing representatives to the Senate, which is a very important part of the Parliament and which is vital to the functioning of government. Tasmania with a population of 709,000 has the same electoral voting power as New South Wales with a population of 3,700,000. This means that an elector in Tasmania has about five and a half times the voting strength of an elector in New South Wales when issues are decided in the federal Parliament. It may be said that that is the position in the other House, but the other House is a part of the Commonwealth Parliament. Federal electorates vary from time to time. At the present time, one federal electorate has a voting strength of between 67,000 to 68,000 electors, while another has a strength of under 30,000 electors.
– No electorate has less than 30,000.
– I stand corrected, but it is not much over 30,000.
– At this moment an electorate of 31,000 has the same voting power as an electorate of 68,000. I know that the Minister will say that that will be adjusted later, but that is the present position. This principle applies to every State Parliament in Australia. With the possible exception of Victoria, all States have varying electorates.
The electors of the Northern Territory were far better off 50 years ago than they are at present. Before 1911, in the days when South Australia controlled the Northern Territory, the South Australian Parliament allowed the residents of the Northern Territory to have two full voting members in the Legislative Assembly as well as full voting rights in the Legislative Council. Now, 50 years later, the Northern Territory is far worse off than it was then. Some positive steps should be taken to allow us to catch up the leeway and to give us a feeling at least that we belong to Australia.
In the election for the first federal Parliament, the candidate with the highest number of votes in Tasmania polled 4,700 votes. One of the notable persons in Australian political history, King O’Malley, won his seat in Tasmania with a total of 3,940 votes. Although the Northern Territory falls far short of the average Australian electorate, a case has been made out on the figures that I have just given. The theory that a person must reside in an electorate with 40,000 electors before he can become a citizen of Australia is wrong and most certainly unjust. A progressive territory, such as the Northern Territory, with 10,000 electors could produce more than an electorate of 40,000 in some other part of Australia, but still would not have a member in this House with full voting rights. Again, the people of the north could be entitled to half a vote on a voting strength of 9,000 and the people of the Australian Capital Territory could possibly be entitled to three-quarters of a vote because they have 10,000 or 15,000 more electors.
– But Canberra produces nothing.
– Canberra people are in the same position as residents of the Northern Territory which does produce something. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has introduced a bill to give to the people of the Australian Capital Territory the same rights as this bill gives to the people of the Northern Territory. If the Minister’s argument on production is taken to its logical conclusion, of course, the Northern Territory should be going further and further up the representation scale while the Australian Capital Territory remains static. I do not know how close the population of the Territory must come to the average number in an Australian electorate before the Commonwealth Parliament will concede that we are entitled to the rights of citizenship. We could arrive at the position where 30,000 people resident in the Northern Territory would not be entitled to a vote because the average Australian electorate is 44,000.
A person’s citizenship rights should not be assessed on his residence in a particular area, but on his obligations to the nation and on how he discharges those obligations. The residents of the Northern Territory are obliged to pay income tax at the same rates as those applying to the rest of Australia, with the exception of the provision of a zone allowance, which applies equally to the north-west of Western Australia and the north of Queensland. In many instances, residents of the Northern Territory pay more taxes than people in other parts of Australia. For instance, they pay more sales tax per head than the residents of the southern States. This peculiar situation arises because sales tax is levied on the landed cost of the commodity. Goods arriving in Darwin are transported over 2,000 miles and freight charges are added to the cost of the article before sales tax is assessed. In this instance, we have people paying sales tax on the commodity and on freight over a distance of 2,000 miles whereas in the cities, the people pay sales tax on a chief Australian port basis which, in effect, is uniform throughout Australia.
The residents of the Northern Territory are required to fulfil their military obligations in the way of compulsory training in the same manner and form as are those who live elsewhere in Australia. They are obliged to obey all Commonwealth laws except when they do not have a particular application to the Territory. Like the residents of Papua and New Guinea, who have just had income tax legislation foreshadowed, the residents of the Northern Territory have no tax concessions to encourage them to develop the area. That will be different, of course, in the case of New Guinea. I do not say that the measures that have been taken concerning New Guinea are wrong. I think they are right. There should be tax concessions to encourage the development of the remote areas which have lagged behind other parts of Australia. There should be some concessions to compensate for the disadvantages. That is the standard on which persons should be judged when we come to decide whether or not they are entitled to citizenship rights
It is said that persons go into the Northern Territory solely for their own advancement and profit when, in fact, they are actuated by the pioneering spirit. They are prepared to face many hardships which residents in other parts of Australia do not have to face. The presence of these people in the Northern Territory has a vital bearing on the defence of Australia. They are the shield. They are developing the area not only for themselves but also for the benefit of the rest of Australia and for its security. In the Second World War, the north was the first part of Australia that was attacked. Unless people are encouraged to go there and develop the country, what incentive have they to protect it? The residents of the Territory should have the same facilities and rights as every other person in Australia because they have the same obligations. lt has been said that if the honorable member for the Northern Territory had full voting rights in this Parliament, he would hold the balance of power and possibly would be able to defeat the government of the day in certain circumstances. If the parties in this Parliament were ever so closely aligned that one member held the balance of power, would not that situation express the wish of the Australian people? The member for the Northern Territory would not be alone in holding the balance of power. Would not any single member of this Parliament in those circumstances hold the balance of power and decide the survival or dissolution of a parliament? Nevertheless, we were informed seriously by the Leader of the House, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), when representatives of the Legislative Council met representatives of the Government at Canberra last year that that was the reason why the Government of the day would not give these rights to the member for the Northern Territory. TheGovernment would not have that honorable member holding the balance of power. As I have said, if that position arose it. would be at the wish of the people of Australia.
The bill before the House provides that the member for the Northern Territory shall have a vote on any measure solely affecting the Northern Territory. That might sound worth-while, Mr. DeputySpeaker, but if I had had such a vote over the ten years I have been a member of thisParliament, I would have been able to exercise it on only seven occasions. That is far from being a reasonable concession; in fact, it is no concession at all. The Government might well have paid heed to a suggestion that the member for the Northern Territory should be allowed at. least a vote on all matters affecting the Territory. That would have permitted him to vote on certain vital measures which have come before this Parliament periodically. He could vote on such matters as taxation and customs duties and all those measures which vitally affect the everyday life of the community of the whole of Australia. But under this bill the member for the Northern Territory will have no such rights. He will be able to vote on measures enabling the Legislative Council to act on some particular lines, but he will have no say in the day-to-day legislation that affects his everyday life.
This bill gives to the member for the Northern Territory no worth-while reform at all. The same could be said of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory who is to be given rights similar to those proposed in this bill. In addition, this bill makes no provision for the member for the Northern Territory to vote in this Parliament on the election of officers of the Parliament. He will have no say in the election of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees. He will not be counted when a quorum is called. The bill is a pretence that the Government is making some worth-while concession to the residents of the Northern Territory when, in fact, it is making no concession at all. I object to a fiddling proposal of this sort. 1 object to anything but a full vote in this Parliament. As a resident of the Territory, I am also discharging my duty as a resident of Australia and should have an equal right with every other honorable member to vote.
The House has just debated the Aliens Bill, which gives certain rights to alien immigrants. It is a fact that whereas an alien can come to Australia, reside here for a few years, take out citizenship rights and make laws for the good order and good government of the country, residents of the Northern Territory cannot acquire citizenship rights in any circumstances. Even aliens against whom residents of the Territory fought in the last war, such as Italians or Germans, can come into this country and, after a certain period of residence here, qualify to become the masters of people who live in the Northern Territory.
As I have said before, no matter how long the residents of the Territory live in this country, even if it be for 50 years or more, they have no means at all of qualifying for the rights that they would enjoy as full citizens of Australia. I believe that this state of affairs is preposterous. If the Commonwealth Parliament expects the people of the Territory to shoulder their obligations as citizens of Australia, then it should give them the rights enjoyed by citizens of Australia.
The bill makes no reference at all to the request of residents of the Territory for Senate representation. The bill seeks, of course, to justify the present state of affairs in the House of Representatives, in which a member has a voice but no vote. It is suggested that the Northern Territory is being given some worth-while concession by being allowed to send a member here to speak about matters that affect the Territory. It is said that the member can possibly influence legislation in this Parliament. I have never yet been able to influence any measure after it has been brought before this Parliament, but that is the theory behind the legislation. However, the Parliament denies to the people of the Territory similar rights with respect to the Senate. It refuses to allow them to appoint a senator to put the case for the Territory in that chamber, although the legislation that passes through this House ultimately has to pass through the Senate as well. We say that there is no constitutional bar to the grant of Senate representation. In this regard, I shall quote the remarks of Senator O’sullivan at the time of the conference to which I have already referred, which took place last year between members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council and members of this Government. On that occasion, Senator O’sullivan quoted the terms of section 122 of the Constitution, which reads -
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
It is clear that the Parliament has constitutional power to allow representation in this House and the Senate, on terms which it might prescribe. In the case of representation in the House of Representatives, it has decreed that the member shall have no voting rights whatever. With regard to the Senate, I contend that the Parliament should at least allow the Northern Territory to elect a senator who would have similar rights to those enjoyed by the member for the Northern Territory in this House, and who would be able to present a case in that chamber in the same manner as the member for the Northern Territory can present a case here.
I remind the Government that agitations and demonstrations such as have occurred previously can and will take place from time to time. I believe that the Government had a glorious opportunity, after 37 years of trial and error, to bring before this Parliament something really worth while with relation to representation of that area. When the Minister claims that there would be a public reaction against such a proposal, I remind honorable members that last year, when there was certain agitation with regard to this matter, not only was the whole of Australian public opinion behind the residents of the Territory, but also the press of Australia swung behind them, when they demanded a greater say. not only in the control of their domestic affairs, but also in the decisions of this House.
With a view to testing the feeling of the members of this Parliament, Mr. Speaker, I propose to move an amendment in the committee stages. I merely foreshadow the amendment at this stage. Let me say that if no representation other than the limited kind of representation that they have at present, or that they will be given under this bill, is granted to the people of the Territory, the Commonwealth can hardly expect people from other parts of Australia, where they are treated as citizens, to go to an area in which, as soon as they have crossed an imaginary line, they are immediately shorn of those citizenship rights. I say this is foolish and wrong. I believe it is unwise to persist in this view that until we have a population of 40,000 we are not entitled to anything further. I say that we should give the people some encouragement. Give them these rights and it will not be long before there are 100,000 or more people in the Territory, willing and able to do their share towards the development of the Territory, in the interests of Australia as a whole.
– I wish to support my colleague, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), in his denunciation of this very timid measure. I can understand the feelings of shame on the part of Government supporters, none of whom is rising to say anything about this measure. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has represented his electorate with dignity and distinction, to the extent that he can do so with the limited powers that he enjoys, and he has made a plea to-night for the Government to adopt a more venturesome stand. He has indicated that the balance of the National Parliament would in no way be disturbed by the grant to him, as the member for the Territory, of full rights to speak and vote here. Xe me suggest that similar remarks apply with regard to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser)
It is true, as the Government claims, that as yet these honorable members do not represent as many people as do the other members of this House. But, as was pointed out by my colleague in another debate a few nights ago, there is really no greater difference between his constituency and the smallest constituency in Tasmania, than there is between that constituency in Tasmania and the largest in one of the other States. It would really not have represented much of a jump for the Govern ment to go further than it has done, giving the honorable member by means of this bill - and later, by means of another measure, giving the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory - full voting rights in this House. “
Although much has been made of the additional concessions being granted to the honorable member for the Northern Territory in this bill, the honorable member himself has pointed out that even if he had enjoyed these extra voting powers during the last ten years, he could have exercised the vote on only seven occasions. Honorable members can see, therefore, how slight is the concession that is now being granted. The honorable member is given the opportunity to vote only on matters relating solely to the Northern Territory, and, as we know, there have been very few acts of this Parliament devoted solely to the Northern Territory and not relating to the rest of Australia as well.
– How long has that condition, existed?
– That condition has existed for a long time. I am not arguing about that. Here we are being told that a great remedy is being applied, when in fact it is very little remedy at all. It will give to the member for the Northern Territory on an average one vote or less on behalf of his constituents in. a whole year. That is how little is being given in this measure. My friend who has just interjected is one honorable member who has been to the Territory on numerous occasions. He knows and has spoken of the unbounded prospects that exist there. If the Territory has unbounded prospects economically, why does the Government not take the lead and give its representative unbounded opportunities politically, or at least the same rights that are possessed by every other honorable member? He has full rights in our political party. His vote counts for as much in the caucus of our party as does the vote of anybody else. I have no doubt that when the representative of the Northern Territory was drawn from the Government parties, he took part in the deliberations of his party without any cutting down of his rights. His vote was counted not as a half vote, but as a full vote. In this House, unfortunately, it is not so counted. I understand that there is nothing to prevent the honorable member for the Northern Territory from being a Minister of the Crown. In other words, he could be given full administrative powers over a department of State, but he is not given voting rights in this House on all measures that come before it.
I hope that some of those honorable members who speak so freely and, I think, so genuinely, about the prospects of the Northern Territory will be moved to support the amendment, which the honorable member for the Northern Territory has foreshadowed, to give him the right to vote on any question arising in the House. I hope that when the question is put some honorable members opposite will see their way clear to join us on our side in trying to ensure that the member for the Northern Territory - not because he is a member of the Australian Labour Party, but because he represents a majority of the people of the area - is given full voting rights in this House. I hope that the amendment will receive a little support from the Government side of the House and that the back-benchers there will show themselves to be a little more courageous and a little less cautious than are the Minister and the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has advised as follows: - 1.-
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Average number in infants’ classes, 37.2; (b) average number in primary classes, 38.3.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister representin? the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Tamar Yacht Club a red coloured yacht 35 feet long, formerly owned by a Launceston man and allegedly sold to a person in Sydney; if go, will the Minister investigate this incident?
– The Minister for the Navyhas supplied the following answers: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590414_reps_23_hor23/>.