23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to inform the House that the Prime Minister is indisposed. He is confined to his bed with influenza and is expected to be there for at least two days.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Mindful of the conditions of the income tax act which allow rebates for education expenses for school children, and mindful also of the far greater expense often incurred for young people in tertiary education, will the Treasurer consider amending the income tax acts to allow rebates of education expenses incurred on behalf of students receiving full-time tertiary education, including those with Commonwealth scholarships?
– I know that the House will be aware that this Government has shown a keen appreciation of the problems of parents and students so far as education expenses are concerned. Since this Government has been in office it has liberalized education conditions to a considerable degree. However, I appreciate the point raised by the honorable member and can assure him that in conjunction with a multitude of other matters on which representations have been received for some relief, this one will be considered also in connexion with the forthcoming Budget.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he was in the House recently when the ingenuous member for Mallee issued an invitation to the Minister for Primary Industry to visit his electorate. After some billing and cooing the kindly Minister replied that he would be honoured to visit such an important electorate. Accordingly, I ask the Postmaster-General whether he has felt the impact of the current upsurge in Sydney to fulfil one’s obligation for the benefit of the community. If so, will he visit Pennant Hills in my electorate and see for himself the need for providing that centre with a new post office? I may add that, probably as one of the inducements to go to the Mallee, the honorable member for that electorate may offer the Minister a sprig of dried fruits and a bag of nibble-nuts, but the electorate of Mitchell has far greater virtues than that. It embraces the oldest settlements in Australia but, unfortunately, the Pennant Hills post office is vieing with the antiquity of the electorate.
-Order! The honorable member should ask his question.
– Finally, I know that the Postmaster-General often wears the Davidson tartan tie, so as an inducement
– Order! I ask the honorable member to ask his question.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: What say, on 16th May, we agree in the morning to provide Pennant Hills with a new post office and go to Ebenezer in the afternoon where the oldest Presbyterian kirk in Australia is holding its anniversary, and offer thanks for the Minister’s beneficence?
– I regret that this is one of the rare occasions when I do not happen to be proudly sporting my Davidson tartan tie. Had I known that the honorable member for Mitchell was going to mention it in his question I would have made sure I was wearing it. The honorable gentleman has invited me to visit his electorate to look at the Pennant Hills post office and he referred to some inducement offered to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, to visit the Mallee electorate. It occurs to me that when I visit Pennant Hills - and I would then be wearing my tartan tie - the honorable member for Mitchell might offer me another inducement which has a background that it shares with tartan.
On a number of occasions the honorable member has raised with me the question of the provision of a new post office at Pennant Hills, and consequently I know the situation there. The post office is conducted in an old building which is not satisfactory. It is a leased building, and I understand that the owner has been asking for some time that we should vacate the premises. So it is not a question of the department’s determining whether or not a new building is required. That has already been determined. It is simply a question, Mr. Speaker, of when we can proceed with the building of a new post office at Pennant Hills, taking into account the many demands on the department for capital works. I do know that the provision of a new post office at Pennant Hills is on the provisional draft programme of works for the forthcoming financial year, but that does not constitute an undertaking that it will be proceeded with, because it has not a very high priority, and whether or not it is proceeded with in this next year will depend on the amount of money available for capital works as determined at Budget time. However, I shall see whether I can make time to meet the honorable member’s request for a visit to Pennant Hills. According to my present programme, I expect to spend the second week-end in May in Sydney, and the honorable member and I might get together for five minutes before then to see whether a visit can be arranged.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour. Has the Minister read the statement of the Richardson committee, expressed on page 6 of the printed report, that the parliamentary salary increases now adopted by the Government were decided by the committee without regard to price and wage indicators? Does he realize the great contrast in principle between those words and the view expressed in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court’s finding in the last judgment increasing margins in Australia, when the court rejected the principle that marginal rates should have relationship to the basic wage? In view of the situation now created, whereby members of this Parliament have enjoyed huge marginal increases, over and above basic wage fluctuations, in 1951 and 1956, and are now to enjoy similar increases in 1959-
– I wish to take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not this question related to legislation currently being debated by this chamber?
– I think that the honorable member for Blaxland is in order.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Members of this Parliament have enjoyed these marginal increases, whereas marginal workers have only enjoyed increases much less in comparative value in 1947 and 1954.
-Order! 1 suggest to the honorable member that he will be out of order in giving information.
– I crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, to ask whether the Minister for Labour and National Service realizes this situation. I now ask the question: Will the Minister ask Cabinet, as a matter of Government policy, to prepare material favorably disposed towards influencing the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to increase workers’ margins substantially in the near future, when an approach is made to the court by the trade union movement on this question, so as to achieve wage justice for a most important section of the Australian workers?
– The honorable gentleman’s question relates to whether the Commonwealth will attempt to influence the court in its judgment - in other words, the question virtually suggests that the Commonwealth should supersede the judgment of the court by the judgment of the Parliament. What we will do, as we have always done, if there is a case that merits Commonwealth intervention - and usually in the basic wage cases the Government does intervene - is to present the facts on which the court itself can come to a conclusion. But it is the court itself that makes up its mind on the facts and decides what should be done, on the basis of the capacity of the community to meet the cost, in the basic wage cases, and what it thinks should be the rightful margins for workers in particular industries and occupations. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the normal practice of this Government would be followed, but the Government would not actively attempt to influence or determine the final action of the court.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. In view of the fact that the very fine quarantine station at Cape Pallarenda, Townsville, capable of accommodating 100 people in comfort, has had only one quarantine suspect in six years, who I understand was ultimately found to have chicken pox, not smallpox, and in view of the fact that this splendid accommodation is looked at so enviously by aged people’s organizations, amongst others, will the Minister say how long it may be expected that this establishment will have to be maintained for possible quarantine use?
– I think it is probable that the quarantine establishment at Townsville will need to be maintained for a considerable time to come. There are quarantine stations in each of the capital cities and, in addition, some subsidiary quarantine stations of which Townsville is one. It should be remembered that Queensland ports are ports of first entry for a great number of ships. I think that about 160 ships a year call at Townsville and many of them are from our near East where quarantinable diseases are prevalent. I think it would be taking a grave risk to abolish a quarantine station until we were certain that the risks of the introduction of epidemic diseases were considerably less than they are to-day. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman is aware that an announcement was made to-day of a fresh epidemic of smallpox in Singapore. I think that the day is still a long way off when we shall be able to abandon a quarantine station such as that at Townsville.
– Does the Postmaster-General know that the Herald and Weekly Times Limited owns and controls the Melbourne “ Herald “, the “ SunHerald”, the Adelaide “Advertiser”, and the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “, and that by virtue of its ownership of the Melbourne “Herald” and the “Sun-Herald” it has virtual control of one television station in Victoria; by virtue of its control of the “ Advertiser “ it has control of another television station in South Australia; and by virtue of its control of the “ Courier-Mail “ and the “ Telegraph “ in Brisbane, it has control of a third television station in Queensland? Is it true that, under the legislation covering television, no one body is permitted to own more than two television stations? If this is true, will the
Postmaster-General examine the share lists of the television stations in the three States mentioned and ascertain whether, in fact, the Melbourne “ Herald “ has a controlling interest in more than two television stations?
– The matters submitted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh have been taken into full consideration, first of all by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which heard applications for stations in Brisbane and Adelaide, and also by the Government in determining the granting of licences. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has said that the Herald and Weekly Times Limited owns and controls the Adelaide “ Advertiser “, the “ Courier-Mail “, and the “ Telegraph “ in Brisbane. That statement is not correct. I am not quite sure of the percentage shareholding of the Herald and Weekly Times in the “Advertiser”. I think it is about 30 per cent, and the “ Advertiser “ has some shareholding in the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. The Herald and Weekly Times Limited owns a 37 per cent, shareholding in Queensland Press Limited of which the “ Courier-Mail “ and the Brisbane “ Telegraph “ are subsidiaries. The “Courier-Mail” owns 17 per cent, of the shares in Brisbane Television Limited, and the Brisbane “Telegraph “ owns 1 1 per cent. Therefore, the Herald and Weekly Times Limited has a 37 per cent, shareholding in companies which hold a total of 28 per cent, of the shareholding in Brisbane Television. This matter has been looked at. It does not constitute a breach of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act, which provide that no person shall control, directly or indirectly, more than two television stations in Australia.
– But does the Minister know that the “ Advertiser “ has given the whole of the public issue to itself?
– No, I do not know that.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Since the Postmaster-General’s Department decided to discontinue country mail services on public holidays, I have had a number of complaints from constituents, particularly those who obtain their newspapers by post, about the inconvenience involved. I ask the honorable gentleman: Is there available any method by which these people can have the services restored?
– Yes, there is a method which could be adopted in order to have restored any service which it can be Shown is an essential one. This is a matter which has been referred to me on quite a number of occasions recently by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and by members of another place, since the innovation was introduced by the Post Office, and I have had a look at it. The position is that, for some time, we have been providing on public holidays a number of services which were entirely uneconomic and for which there was very little demand indeed. Consequently, it was decided that we should have a look at the matter and see whether the uneconomic and unnecessary services provided on public holidays could be reduced. As the result of a careful survey, we find that it is possible to reduce these services in a number of areas. Not only does that reduce departmental expenditure, but also it ensures that the staff of the Post Office, who, under the previous system, were required to attend for duty on holidays, and consequently lost the benefit of the public holidays, are enabled to enjoy those holidays just as do other members of the community.
But, realizing that economy of operation and convenience of the staff must be conditional on the service which the department gives, we at present treat every case on its own merits - that is to say, we take into account the area in which the service may be discontinued, the extent of the holiday, and so on - and we always are prepared to continue a service if the closing of an office on a particular holiday, with the consequent cutting out of mail deliveries, would react against the convenience of the people in the district. There is no hard and fast rule. Individual decisions are made on the facts of each particular case.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, I address my question to the Treasurer. In the Governor-General’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament, it was stated that the Constitutional Review Committee would be re-constituted without delay. I understand that, so far, nothing has been done by the Government parties about this matter. What does the Government propose to do about it, and will something be done forthwith?
– It is not correct to say that nothing has been done by the Government parties, if, by that, the honorable member implies that the Government has not been considering this question. We have given it a good deal of consideration. It is not a simple matter, because, in the first place, I gather that the term of some members of the committee would expire by the end of lune of this year. One former member of the committee is now a member of the Cabinet, and that causes some complication. However, I shall see how far thinking has advanced on some arrangement which would overcome the difficulties and enable the committee to get on with work which the Government is anxious to see proceed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. It has been stated in some quarters that the calibre of Asian Colombo Plan students is not as high as it should be, and it has even been suggested that these students are below standard. I ask the Minister: Has he any information concerning the standard of education of Asian Colombo Plan students which he could give to the House?
– I have heard some criticism based on the proposition that Asian Colombo Plan students are not up to average calibre. I have not figures for the last twelve months, but in 1956 and 1957 - the last two years for which I have seen figures - it appears that the proportion of passes by Asian Colombo Plan students at universities and technical colleges in Australia was actually greater than that of Australians in similar institutions. I am speaking of averages. I am quite satisfied, personally, as to the general average. There are some difficulties, however. Asian students who come here face difficulties associated with a different language and surroundings different from those they have been used to. Here and there we find failures, occasionally rather tragic failures, but on the average I think we have been quite well done by as regards the selection by other countries of Colombo Plan students to come here. The fact that the average of passes is higher than that among Australians is not surprising, because the students are all selected and nominated by the governments of their various countries, and one would naturally expect the students to be of somewhat higher calibre than would be found, on the average, among those who make their own decisions to attend universities in Australia.
– I address a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade. What has been the nature of the representations made to the United States Government in relation to the unjust quotas imposed on imports of Australian lead, which have seriously affected the Australian industry and caused much unemployment in Broken Hill? Has the Minister received any firm assurance from the United States Government? If not, will he consider obtaining more of our oil requirements from non-dollar countries, particularly as oil is in excess supply at present and other countries can buy this commodity much more cheaply than Australia can?
– The honorable member has voiced fears that are entertained by many people in Australia with regard to our future exports of lead and zinc to the United States of America. However, the Minister for Trade is in the United States at the present time, and this is one of the matters that he is discussing with the authorities there. I am sure that when he comes back he will have something to say to the honorable member and to the House on this subject.
– I address a question to the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister. It follows on a question which was previously asked, dealing with the establishment of the Constitution Review Committee. In view of the fact that Commonwealth-State financial relations represent perhaps the most important problem that this committee will be studying, will the right honorable gentleman ensure that no member of the committee takes the one-eyed view that was apparent from the report of the last committee, from which it appeared that certain members are in favour of transferring powers only from the States to the Commonwealth, and not from the Commonwealth to the States? I ask this question because I do not think we can have a proper review of CommonwealthState financial relations if members of the committee adopt such an attitude.
– I shall see that the honorable member’s question is duly conveyed to the Prime Minister for his consideration.
Dismissal of Employee
– I address a question to the Minister for Works. I have previously referred this matter to him, but have not yet received any reply. The person concerned is Mr. V. M. Lalor, who was formerly employed at Moorebank, New South Wales, by the Commonwealth Department of Works. Mr. Lalor is an ex-serviceman who served in World War I. and was decorated with the Military Medal and Bar and the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He has a reference, testifying to his outstanding tradesmanship, from the manager of the Department of Works sawmill in Canberra. He was given a month’s notice of dismissal on 20th March.
– Order! I think the honorable member is giving information.
– I ask the Minister this question: Because of Mr. Lalor’s age and outstanding service to the Commonwealth and the Department of Works, will the Minister reconsider the decision of his department?
– This matter is being currently considered in connexion with other retrenchments that have taken place. I will be discussing the problem with the union and the Trades and Labour Council to-morrow morning, and a decision will be conveyed to the member later.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question: Although the calibre of Colombo Plan students may be as the Minister said in answer to an earlier question, is he aware that the students are worried by the fact that they are at a disadvantage when they return to their countries because they find that they do not receive as great a monetary reward as students who are trained at universities in Indonesia? I refer to a statement by Mr. Sasti of the Students’ Association of Australia in January. Mr. Sast complained then that, due to the English arithmetical system in place of the metric system, which is used in Indonesia, and due to our system of weights and measures, when the students return home they do not receive salaries as high as the salaries paid to students from Indonesian universities.
– I have heard these comments and criticisms before, and I have had them all looked into. We watch quite carefully the question of disabilities of Asian students in this country and on their return home. However, I cannot really believe that there is any criticism worth listening to on the matter of weights and measures. This is something that any intelligent man - and these are all intelligent men - can overcome in a very short time. Generally speaking, what I said before as to the calibre of Asian students and the results obtained by them at universities and technical colleges is true. There is room for comment, I think, in respect of students who are away from their own countries for relatively long courses such as engineering and medicine, which may engage them for periods of three, four, five and sometimes more years. To an extent they grow away from the environment of their own country. That, I think, is unavoidable, but on the whole I know of no criticism of the existing plan of education of Colombo Plan students in Australia that really is causing me, for my part, any appreciable concern. It is something we are watching all the time, and if the honorable gentleman has any particular matters in mind I should be very glad to hear from him.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General a question. As tele vision will not be available in Hobart until 1961, will he say whether in the meantime any plans are in hand to install coaxial cables or booster stations to widen the range of the Melbourne programmes received in the northern part of Tasmania, across Bass Strait? Further, will he arrange for his top television investigation man in Melbourne - I believe his name is Mr. O’Grady - to visit the north-west coast of Tasmania and particularly to investigate the possibility of a booster station on Mr Roland, 30 miles south of Devonport - a matter that I have raised here before - in order to prepare for Hobart television programmes being beamed to the north-west of the island? .Mr. O’Grady was in Tasmania recently but did not visit the north-west coast. The honorable member for Braddon is fully supporting me in this battle to get a booster station on Mount Roland.
– The honorable member for Wilmot has asked me whether there are any plans for putting a coaxial cable across Bass Strait for the purpose of serving Tasmania with a television service. The answer is, “ No “. No such plans exist at present.
– Because they are not necessary and would involve unnecessary expenditure. The honorable member also asked that an official of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should visit the north-west coast of Tasmania to make certain investigations. Officials, not only of the Postmaster-General’s Department but also of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, have made investigations of the various areas, including that to which the honorable member has referred, to ascertain the suitability for reception of television signals. I have no doubt that the area to which the honorable member has referred has already been properly investigated. I undertake to advise him what investigations have been made and their result.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that Australia is one of the very few members of the International Committee on Peaceful Uses of
Atomic Energy that does not maintain a permanent representative at Vienna where the committee sits? Are we likely to lose this seat because of our apparent lack of interest? Is it not a fact that we could establish a post at Vienna for the same money as we are at present paying for ad hoc representation at these committee meetings, and that such a post would be a great help to officers of the Department of Immigration who are now there?
– The general subject-matter of the honorable member’s question has been examined, and is still under examination. I think we are one of not many countries, not necessarily the few, represented on the committee at Vienna which do not have a regular diplomatic post there. It is also a fact that there are quite appreciable numbers of Australian immigration officials in Vienna. However, the general purport of the honorable gentleman’s question, as I have said, is under current examination, and I would not like at this moment to anticipate the result.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health concerning the model act and regulations prepared by the National Health and Medical Research Council in reference to radio-active substances and irradiating apparatus. I ask the Minister: What is the explanation for the fact that so few States have so far passed the model act which was sent to them five years ago, and no State has as yet brought into operation the model regulations which were sent to all of them before the end of the year before last? I believe the position is that the acts remain dead letters until regulations are made under them, and only three States have yet passed the act, two have passed the act and have not proclaimed it, and Victoria has not even passed it. What is the explanation for this very long delay in so important a matter?
– Mr. Speaker, I think in the case of the States which have not yet passed the model act, they have made similar provision under other acts of their own, such as health laws or something of that nature. The question of the long delay, of course, is one which can be fully answered only by the State governments and not by me. However, if I can obtain more information for the honorable member, I shall do so and let him have it.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs describe to the House the form of asylum granted by the Government of India to the Dalai Lama? Is it to be permanent in character? Is the asylum to extend to the Dalai Lama as long as he wishes it? Further, can the right honorable gentleman say whether any nation which is a member of the United Nations organization is taking any action whatever to raise the question of Tibet before the United Nations Assembly?
– I cannot answer the honorable gentleman’s question about the length of stay of the Dalai Lama in India or the asylum that the Dalai Lama can be granted by the Government of India. I am not aware of any statement on that subject having been made. I should be surprised - and this is perhaps only a personal view - if, while ever there remains any risk to the personal and political safety of the Dalai Lama, the Government of India did not extend asylum for as long as is necessary. As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I know of no movement to bring this matter to the attention of the United Nations.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Health a question supplementary to the one asked by the honorable member for Werriwa. With regard to the draft regulations or the model acts governing the use of radio-active materials, which were apparently settled as long ago as 1954 in the first place, has the Government brought them into operation in the Territories under its control, such as the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory?
– In the Territories under its control, the Government has not thought it necessary to proceed to the enactment of the full series of acts and regulations as in the case of the States, because the uses of radio-active materials are governed by the Commonwealth on the advice of the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory, which is, one might say, the chief authority in these matters. The Government has acted in accordance with the advice given by that authority. We have in the Australian Capital Territory, which is the only place where these things are at present relevant, introduced regulations to control the nontherapeutic use of X-rays - for example, for the fitting of shoes, and things of that nature. The control of the uses of radioactive materials is constantly administered by the Commonwealth in its own Territories in accordance with the advice that it obtains from the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister heard of an anti-cancer drug called krebiozen? If so, can the Minister inform the House whether he has any knowledge of the testing of this drug in America or elsewhere?
– This substance is not a drug. The honorable gentleman refers to an attempt to produce an anti-cancer vaccine. Some experiments with this substance have been made in Canada in an attempt to produce an immune serum in horses by inoculating them with extracts of human breast cancer and thereby producing a vaccine which could be used in cases of disease in human beings. The substance is still in the experimental stages. So far, it has been used only for treatment in very advanced cases of cancer where all other methods of therapy have failed. No instances of cure have been reported, although there have perhaps been some encouraging experimental results. It is likely to be a long time, and to require a great deal of further investigation, before anything of real therapeutic value can be produced in this way, if indeed it ever can.
– Can the Minister for Territories advise me when 1 can expect a reply to a question that I placed on the notice paper on 18th March dealing with the setting up of a housing commission in the Northern Territory?
– Information on this subject is being obtained from the Administrator of the Northern Territory, and an answer is expected any day now. I shall then be in a position to answer the honorable gentleman’s question.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Wilmot in regard to the extension of television to country areas. Have investigations been made both in the Nowra-Berry area and on the far south coast of New South Wales into the reception of telecasts? Will the Minister tell the House of the technical arrangements for boosting or stimulating television signals? In other words, will he tell the House of the technical methods of extending the range of television? Finally, if, in the future, officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board come to the south coast in relation to this matter, will the Minister accompany them and discuss it with the people there?
– I am being asked to commit myself to a number of visits to various places in the near future. I should like to make these visits, but I am afraid that I cannot. The honorable member asks whether I know of any investigation into the technical problems associated with the extension of television to country areas, with particular relation to his electorate. This is a subject which has been under consideration by the board’s engineers for some considerable time, and the far south coast of New South Wales has been surveyed for the purpose. I have not in my mind the details of the report made as a result of these surveys, but I shall obtain them for the honorable member. He also asks what technical arrangements are possible to enable a television signal to reach country areas. There are several methods, and the technical problem is not in any way holding up the extension of television to country areas. The translator system, booster system, repeater system and micro-wave system may be used. These systems vary in their costs and methods. I am not in a position now to give the honorable member much detail about them, but I assure him that all are under investigation and that any one of them could be used, according to the conditions operating in the area.
– I ask the Treasurer: Does he know that many people throughout the community contribute regularly from their earnings towards the upkeep of elderly, not necessarily close, relatives who are pensioners, in order to supplement the income received by those people from pensions? Will the Minister agree that this sort of assistance to pensioners should be encouraged to whatever degree the Government can encourage it, and at the appropriate time, when the Budget is being prepared, will he consider allowing such payments, where they are provable, as deductions from taxable income?
– I shall be very glad to examine the suggestion made by the honorable gentleman. It is a good thing, I believe, in this community that people have some sense of obligation to elderly members of their own families, and do not look simply to governments to discharge the obligations which all of us, I believe, owe to those who have done so much for us in their time. Whether something practical along the lines proposed by the honorable member can be worked out is a matter for investigation, and I should be glad to go into it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been directed to the fact that a considerable amount of trouble associated with Asian students is due not so much, perhaps, to a lack of background training or natural ability as to their insufficient knowledge of the English language? Can arrangements be made for an intensive course of training in English for those students who come here without a sufficient knowledge of the language, so that they may compete on more even terms in Australia?
– Yes. Of course, we ask the governments of the Asian countries which send Colombo plan students here to ensure that their nominees have an adequate knowledge of English. The word “ adequate “, of course, is not a precise term. From time to time students do come here with, in practice, an inadequate knowledge of English. In selected cases we give them an intensive short course in English which,
I think, has become known by the undignified title of a “ pressure cooker “ course, to try to bring them up to standard so that they can absorb and get the most out of their courses.
I would remind the honorable member and the House that the great majority of the Asian students in Australia are private students. At the moment I think the number of Colombo Plan students in Australia is well under 900, whereas the total number of Asian students in Australia is about 6,000. Of course, we have much less control over non-Colombo Plan students, if it could be called control. The general public at least tends to think of all Asian students here as Colombo Plan students whereas, in fact, only a small proportion of them are Colombo Plan students.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt for Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish an Australian Universities Commission.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt for Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Education Act 1945.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 15th April (vide page 1261), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I very much appreciate the opportunity of speaking on this bill. I do not intend to take my full time of half an hour because if I did I might be precluding other honorable members from speaking. It is no use my going into the details of this measure because the Richardson report has been fully explained in this House by many honorable members. It would be only tedious repetition if I were to go into the details again.
Three outstanding features of the debate so far on this bill and its two related measures have been the speeches of the three leaders of the parties, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) who is acting Leader of the Australian Country Party. I wish to say at once that I do not agree fully with any of those speeches. I believe that the Prime Minister’s speech made very clear the whole meaning of the Richardson report, and he was able to correct many errors of thought which have been expressed in the press. But as my time is short 1 must point out quickly the things with which I do not agree.
First of all, the Prime Minister made special reference to the wives of politicians. I give politicians’ wives full credit, but I do not think the Prime Minister went far enough. He should have included the wives of hundreds of thousands of citizens in this great country. I think of the wives of primary producers, ministers of religion, union organizers and a tremendous number of others who have played a great part, not only in their husbands’ occupations, but also in other ways in building up this great nation. Some one has said that it is from the fireside, around which linger the recollections of our mothers from the hearthstone and where our wives so often await us. that come all the hope, all the power and all the courage with which we fight the battle of life. All the credit is not restricted to politicians’ wives. In the early days, in the sandswept area of the Mallee electorate in north-western Victoria, the wives of the pioneers played a tremendous part in the history of this great country. And not only there, but also throughout the whole of Australia the wives of pioneers and workers did a grand job and I pay tribute to them here this morning.
Reference has been made to Lord Bruce of Melbourne, or Viscount Stanley Bruce as he is better known. It has been said that it cost Viscount Bruce hundreds of thousands of pounds to be a member of this House. That may be true, but on balance, Viscount Bruce gained from being a member of this House. In the whole picture money is only a minor ingredient in a combination of things that bring to a man the durable satisfactions of life. I pay tribute to Viscount Bruce. He was a great Australian. He played his part valiantly in this country, and Australia is indebted to him. But I do not think that he lost out by being a member of this Parliament. If he had not been a member he probably would have still been a great merchant prince, but he would not have been a world figure or have the title of Lord Bruce of Melbourne. He would never have been a great national figure but would have been in the ranks of the men who have been outstanding examples as successful traders and merchants in this country yet have not achieved one iota of the prominence of Viscount Bruce.
I turn next to the speech of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. When he had concluded his remarks I personally went to him and congratulated him. I told him that I thought he had made a fair statement on this subject. He had not tried to win points from the Government. I would not like to count the number of occasions or the matters on which I have disagreed with the Leader of the Opposition, but if he or any of his colleagues make speeches like that I will be one of the first to congratulate them, as the older members of the Opposition well know, although I do not agree with many of the points he made.
The Acting Leader of the Australian Country Party made his speech following a meeting of the party. He made it with the full approval and the knowledge of our party head, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). He made an excellent speech - so much so that he has received a telegram this morning, which he has shown to me, reading, “ Congratulations on a speech by a patriotic Australian “.
Now I want to move on to other things. I have spoken about Lord Bruce because I intend to take appropriate action at a later stage. Regarding other aspects of this matter, perhaps I should tell this House just where I stand. First of all, I suppose that I am the only man in this Parliament who has called public meetings in his electorate, has hired halls and advertised, to inform his electors on this matter and see what their views are. I called one at Kerang after the Richardson committee was appointed, and I called one last Saturday night at Swan Hill, a big town in my electorate. I am the only man in this Parliament who has called his electors together at a vantage point to speak on this subject. If any other member has called public meetings, let him say so now. I had a fair attendance at the meeting. It was on a Saturday night, which is not a good night for a meeting.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member for Watson must remain silent.
– I called the meeting on Saturday night because Saturday night was the only night available, as I leave my home at 9 o’clock on Monday morning to come to Canberra and return home late on Friday. Some people did not come along because, probably, they had to go to the pictures. I advertised the meeting as follows: -
Report to the electors. Public Meeting. The Member for Mallee, Winton G. Turnbull, will report to electors on current Commonwealth Parliamentary topics, especially the Richardson Report, . . .
– How many came along? Did you get a big crowd?
– Your turn is coming. The editor of the local newspaper very graciously made a news item of the announcement which said in part -
Turnbull wishes all people interested in the Richardson Report to come along.
The honorable member for East Sydney has asked how many came along. There were 22, but they were a very representative gathering. I told these people where I stood with regard to this report and this legislation. In the first place, I told them I was in favour of the increase in electorate allowances. I pointed out that I represent the largest electorate in Victoria. I know that there are some electorates in Australia into which you could put Victoria itself but, in the main, those electorates have only one or two big towns, whereas the population of the Mallee electorate is spread all over north-western Victoria, and the electorate has many industries, including those connected with dried fruits, fat lambs, wool, dairying, cereal growing and all manner of other things. I told them that my car travelling expenses, if based on the allowance paid to local government employees and others, were over £700 a year. That is only a small amount in comparison with the amount that some honorable members claim they should have. My electorate allowance is £800, and on that basis seven-eighths of it is swallowed up in car travel on the business of the electorate. An allowance increased to £1,050 would be appreciated by me, and I shall support the proposal to that effect.
The next thing I dealt with at the meeting was the parliamentary retiring allowances fund. The balance-sheet of this fund shows that the amount paid into the fund by members and senators since its inception in 1949 is £330,432. The amount paid out to all ex-members, ex-senators and widows is £220.060, leaving a credit balance in the fund, of money contributed by members of Parliament - not contributed by the Government - of £110,372, without taking interest into consideration. I repeat, that is the credit without interest on the capital invested. The pay out from the fund in the last full year, 1958, was £31,163, and in the same period senators and members’ contributions amounted to £42,997, showing that for the last full year the contributions to the fund by members and senators were £11,834 in excess of the payout to exmembers of the Parliament and widows - and this, too, without interest on the capital invested.
The point I want to make is that this clearly reveals that if the payout were increased from £31,163, as at present, to £50,000 per annum, this would be more than met by the present rate of contributions, plus interest, plus the increase of 10s. a week in contributions by members recommended in the Richardson report. I am told that, with interest, the fund is £144,000 in credit, so if the payout from the fund were to be increased by £10,000 a year as a result of the retirement of more members, it would be fourteen years before we were catching up to our own contributions and before the Government would be called upon to pay anything. At this stage I am sure that most members of the Parliament would say that they were quite in favour of the added contribution that would become necessary.
Now I turn to the question of salaries. I did not say to my electors, “ Shall I vote against the salary increase? “ What I said was, “ Shall I take it? “ As honorable members know, I am capable of not taking it. The honorable member for East Sydney made an attack on me yesterday about doing a certain thing when a previous rise was before the House. But he was not man enough to say that the honorable member for Mallee was sincere and had divested himself of £1,236 on that occasion. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said later, “ Oh, but you will eventually take this money “. The fact is that I signed a deed of divestment. I refused the money, and I am the only man now in the House who has done so. Perhaps I should not say this, but some people are looking for cheap publicity in this House. If I get publicity I have paid for it - to the extent of £1,236, plus interest.
I said to the meeting at Swan Hill, “ If all my constituents said to me that I must vote against this bill and that I must take the money, I would not do it. There are some principles that are personal to a man. The principle I will follow is that I will not vote against the increases and, as I walk out of the House, metaphorically, take the money “. My electors underestimate me if they think I will do that, and I underestimate them if I think that they would expect me to do it.
I told my electors, “ There is not the slightest doubt that if the Labour caucus approves of the salary increases, there will be a vast majority vote for the rises.” I said, “ Do you think I am going to walk across and vote with a small minority, knowing that their efforts are going to be defeated and then take the money? “ If I thought that the legislation had a chance of being defeated I would probably do that. They said, “ No, we would not expect you to do it “. I can tell the people of Australia, too, that I will not put myself in that degrading position.
The honorable member for East Sydney has been very vocal. The honorable member for Parkes, however, is very quiet. which is quite unusual. I have a proposition to put to both honorable members.
– What is your proposition?
– Of course, the honorable member for Parkes represents au electorate which is not connected with Parkes, the great primary producing area. His electorate is a pocket-handkerchief metropolitan electorate in Sydney. The honorable member for Parkes asks what is the proposition I want to put. Both of those honorable members rise here and say that members should give a lead to the nation in making sacrifices. What sacrifices have these two men ever made? That is what I want to know. What sacrifices are they prepared to make? The honorable member for East Sydney has said, “ I challenge the Government to accept the amendment.” But if the Government did accept the amendment, and there were some sacrifices, he would not be making them. I challenge the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Parkes: If they will divest themselves of this rise, if it is approved, I will be with them.
– I will see you afterwards.
– The honorable member says, “ I will see you afterwards “. Let them say it now. Some people say that we cannot do that because we have to pay income tax on it whether we take it or not. What rot that is! If we sign a deed divesting ourselves of the rise we will not have to pay any income tax on it. That is only a story that can be told to electors who do not know. Will the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Parkes accept my offer - I will not call it a challenge - just to be with me in company and good fellowship? Will they agree or not? If they will, let them say so. Of course, they are silent They want all the money. The honorable member for Corangamite referred to Bob Dyer who says, “ The money or the box? “ Some people want both the money and the box seat for publicity in this House. They cannot fairly have both. That is not in accordance with the principles that I have always been taught. If I do not stand up for those principles to-day, for goodness sake somebody kick me out of this Parliament.
I should like to tell the House something about public opinion on this question. I travel by a train which leaves at 9 o’clock in the morning and gets to Melbourne about 2.30 on- a Monday before I come to Canberra. Last Monday, when we arrived at Melbourne, a member of Parliament with whom I am not very closely associated walked down the corridor. In my compartment, a lady said to a gentleman with whom she was travelling, “ There is our honorable member “. I looked up and saw who it was. The man in the carriage said something and the lady then passed a very disparaging remark about the honorable member. The gentleman again said something and the lady said, referring to members of Parliament, “ They are all alike “. I tried to keep quiet but of course it was most difficult.
I said, “ You have said a very serious thing “. She said, “ I do not think so. I know him pretty well “. I said, “ That is not the point. You have passed a disparaging remark about a member of Parliament and then you have said that they are all alike. I resent that. I am one of them “. I continued, “ I know every member of Federal Parliament personally. A few I do not know very well as they are new and I regard some of them as my very best friends, and as some of the best men that this country has produced. How many members do you know? “ I asked. She was silent. Of course, she did not know many. I said, “ What are the circumstances in which you make such a statement in a public place like this? “ She was dumbfounded. She did not say a word. I said, “ Of course you do not know many members and you are not in close touch with Parliament. That was a terrible remark that you made.” Then she made a tactful remark. She said, “ I don’t suppose I meant it anyhow “.
I hear Opposition members laughing. This is not a joke. I said to this woman, “ I want to talk about it because you don’t know about it. You spoke in ignorance, so of course, you did not mean it.” She was quite a nice lady. A lot of people in Australia are talking about members of Parliament. But what do they know about them? How many do they know? The honorable member for East Sydney is interjecting very violently now. He knows that my challenge to him has put him offside. He knows that he will not accept it. I challenge the two honorable members again. Will they accept my challenge? will they join me in a sacrifice? Of course they will not. They want all the publicity and the headlines in the Sydney and Melbourne papers and they want to take the money at the same time. Everybody in this country should know that. The honorable member for East Sydney is very annoyed about this. I have stated my case fairly and clearly.
Going back to the meeting to which I referred previously, I also said that I was against non-contributory pensions and the use of cars by ex-Ministers. By the time I came back to Canberra the Government had decided to drop these proposals and they do not now come into it.
Summing up, I say that I will vote for the allowances. I will vote for the contributory pension, and as I intend to take the salary rise, I will vote for that. As there is no indication of its being defeated I will be on the side of the majority, and I will not go over and vote with a small minority which is only seeking publicity.
– Honorable members on this side of the House have given this matter eight solid hours of discussion at our caucus meetings and we have spoken about it for several hours elsewhere. We have spoken about it in our homes; we have spoken about it on aeroplanes; we have spoken about it on trains and in our own electorates. This report has been sifted from one end to the other and our leader’s representation of our case yesterday afternoon was the result of a tremendous amount of thought. Various opinions had been expressed, and, finally, we worked out a majority decision on this matter and we stand by it. We have not treated this matter lightly or frivolously, but thoughtfully, both outside the party room and inside.
I want to deal later with several matters that have not been discussed at all. I want to deal with the work of a member of Parliament in various wide fields of service, and to give some of my own personal experience on the financial side. I am not afraid to tell the country my financial position. I will also mention the attitude of the press and the attitude of industrialists.
A lot has been said about the city press campaign. The press should know by now, if it has not known before, what an all-time low it has sunk to in the minds of members of this Parliament and of all people in Australia who still appreciate parliamentary institution. It has been unscrupulous; it has been vindictive; it has been absolutely malicious; it has been untruthful in many aspects. The press has deliberately played on the prejudice of people against members of Parliament and on the ignorance of the electorate as to what we do as members of Parliament. It has even allowed the impression to go abroad that we do not pay for our parliamentary pensions. That shows its dishonesty, and I shall say something about that directly.
It has been a battle, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, between the press and the Parliament. It is very important for Australia to know who is going to win this battle. For my part, it will not be the press. It will not intimidate me into doing things that it wants me to do, nor will anybody in my electorate intimidate me to do the opposite of what I think is right in this Parliament. The press versus Parliament! Have honorable members heard of anything like it before? I have been to fifteen countries overseas, and I have studied the attitude of the press to Parliament. That attitude is worse in this country than in any country that I have visited. The press is intimidatory, insulting and it sets out, one would think, deliberately to bring down the prestige of this place in the eyes of the people. It happens nowhere else in the world to my knowledge.
In considering the pressure from the press on this matter - which has been a boosted thing - I have gone back over the years that I have been in this place. In doing so. I have recalled far greater crises than this. This is not even a ripple compared with what my colleagues and I have been through in this place in the last twelve and one-half years. Consider, for instance, the bank nationalization issue of 1947. I received in my room in this building petitions containing the names of 22,000 voters in my electorate. Of the 35,000 electors in the constituency, 22,000 were on my back wanting me to vote against the bank nationalization legislation. I doubled my majority at the 1949 election and when the fight was all over, the petitions lay eighteen inches deep on my desk. I received also 300 telegrams and 150 letters addressed to me personally. Why - this is. as it were, just a mere ripple caused by a little pebble cast in the fountain, by comparison with the pressures to which we were subjected at that time. Did any one in the Australian Labour Party give way under that tremendous pressure? Not one man. All stood four-square behind our leader in that time of terrific pressure.
Then we had the 1949 coal strike. Has any party ever gone through a greater battle than the Labour Party had then? It was subjected to great pressure on all sides - by the coal-miners and others in the party. I have never had such experiences before. When one of my colleagues sat down after addressing a group of coal-miners, there was not one who clapped, but there were plenty who booed. We had to do so many things then that I thought a Labour government would never have to do in the entire history of the Labour movement. But we came through it by facing up to the situation man to man and standing shoulder to shoulder behind the decisions that we had made in this Parliament. As a result of that pressure on us in 1949, we lost twelve of our best colleagues in the next election campaign. Four of them had been Ministers. They sacrificed themselves for principles - for the right to stick together in what the Australian Labour Party, as a party, believed to be right at that time. Why - by comparison, the present campaign is not even a ripple!
Then there was the Communist Party Dissolution Bill of 1951. What a terrific fight we had to wage throughout the country on that issue against the pressure brought to bear by the press. We stuck together again. How small is the present campaign against us by comparison with those things. I mention them only to emphasize the contrast.
What is the effect of all this propaganda in the electorates? I shall indicate the effect in Wilmot - a sprawling country electorate in Tasmania which embraces half the island. In that electorate, 21 different kinds of agriculture are carried on. There are considerable numbers of coal-miners, hydroelectric workers, wharf labourers, fruitgrowers, about 1,500 or 1,800 industrial workers in the big paper mills at New Norfolk, others in big cement works, and many railway workers. From this electorate, with such a variety of workers, I have received only two letters and two telegrams protesting against the proposed increases of salaries and allowances, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That indicates the extent of the press influence in my electorate. I could quote the experiences of other honorable members on this side of the House in respect of the same thing. I admire the men in this Parliament who are prepared to stand up, with courage and determination, for what they believe are the just provisions in this legislation, regardless of what the press has done or is trying to do.
Now I come to wage justice. We have heard much about this. But fancy the press talking about wage justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker! In all the time that I have been in this place, I have never yet seen one newspaper throughout Australia come out in support of wage justice for the workers of Australia, and say that the basic wage should be increased and that quarterly wage adjustments should be restored. What utter hypocrisy is the attitude of the press towards wages! The press may come out in favour of increased pensions, because that would not affect it so much. But let us have a look at the truth of the matter. Some people say that our salaries and allowances should not be increased until all other sections of the community have received increases. Let us consider that argument. I honestly and sincerelv believe - and I tell my electors so - that justice must begin somewhere. But where? That is the point. All sections of the community are saying to-day that they need financial assistance. All right - where do we start? It must begin with some one. Do the metal trades workers, for example, say to workers in the building industry, “ No rise for you until we get one “ ? Do the ironworkers say to the coalminers, “ No rise for you fellows until we get a rise “ ? Do the waterside workers say to the pensioners, “ No rise for you until we get one “ ? I have never heard of such rot. Where there is a need for injustice to be rectified and justice to be done, the workers in an industry get on the job immediately regardless of what workers in other industries think.
Recently, a unionist with 41 years’ experience of union work, said to me, “ I fought in the Arbitration Court for the Australian Workers Union, Gil. I helped to get the change from a Federal to a State award in Tasmania for shearers and shepherds about twenty years ago. If you fellows do not take this rise, to which you are entitled, you will be very silly.” I replied, “ Am I hearing correctly? “ He said, “ You certainly are, and I shall tell you why “. He told me that, when he fought in the courts of the land for wage justice, he and those who were fighting with him looked about Australia in order to prove some instance in which there had been a wage increase - in any industry, no matter what it was - and that example was used in the court. He continued, “ At present, the workers of Australia have not a peg on which to hang their case, but this will definitely give an impetus to all workers and pensioners throughout Australia who are fighting for wage justice “.
Anybody who is not so utterly prejudiced as to hate parliamentarians worse than the devil can see the truth in that argument. Of course, there is justice in it. If we are prepared to vote for increases in our own salaries and allowances, it is the bounden duty of all of us, and especially of the Government, to see that wage and pension justice spreads in ever-widening circles from this Parliament to every industry in whichCommonwealth awards operate. The Government should not send its representative into a court, as it did a week or two ago, to say that the economy cannot stand a wage increase - and this only shortly after it had said, in the election campaign, that the country had never been more prosperous! We do not want that sort of hypocrisy, and that is the sort of thing that I condemn in relation to this issue. From now on, the Prime Minister must adopt an entirely changed attitude towards wage justice for other sections of the community. It would not be right for me to accept an increase in my salary as a member of this place and be prepared to deny wage increases to others if I had an opportunity to do something for them.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) acted on this issue, as it were. The honorable member for Bass addressed railwaymen on this subject before it came to this Parliament. He received a wonderful reception, without one hostile interjection, from 300 to 400 men. There was not one question at the end of his speech. On the following Monday morning, the honorable member and I addressed the waterside workers at Launceston. We spoke for about a quarter of an hour to 70 waterside workers who had been working on one of the ships there. We had a similar reception again. We were prepared to go straight to these workers, even before we were invited to, and put our case. When the men heard the case explained from our stand-point, it was a different story. Previously, they had heard only the other side. I believe that most fair-minded unionists - especially if one met them personally and explained the issue - would see the justice in this thing.
The Government is now committing itself to a change of attitude on wage claims and justice for industrial workers by bringing this legislation before the Parliament. In its election policy, the Australian Labour Party promised the workers of Australia that a Labour government would intervene before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in association with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Workers Union, to seek immediate restoration of costofliving adjustments to wages. Although that was Labour’s policy, about 30 per cent, of the workers voted for the Government. If they had not done so, the Government would not still hold office. And what about the pensioners? Labour promised the pensioners a 10s. a week increase immediately if it were elected to office. It promised also to double the maternity allowance and to increase child endowment. All these are things for which we on this side of the House have been fighting for years in this Parliament. But what did thousands of pensioners do? They voted for the Government. All right - they cannot have it both ways! How long can they go on rejecting the very things they have been fighting for, as they are doing when they keep the Labour Party out of office? We say that if the people put us in office these injustices will be remedied.
The job of a member of Parliament, in regard to the duties involved, is probably the least well-known of all jobs in the Commonwealth. Just for the record, let me outline some of the functions of a member of this Parliament. All of us here know what jobs we have to do and how we are kept busy all the time, but how many people outside know? The press never gives the people a truthful version of what we have to do. Let me give some details. When we are in Canberra, we have speeches to prepare, involving much reading and research. We have to attend to correspondence that follows us here from our electorates. We have to interview Ministers on all sorts of problems brought to us by the people we represent. We have to attend party meetings. We must have a knowledge of the legislation that is before the House. We lead deputation of persons from our electorates or States who wish to interview Ministers. We must entertain visitors who come here from our home States - and this is becoming a very costly business, although we are glad to see them here. More and more of them come to Canberra each year, rightly so. We say that more and more should come, but the entertaining of them becomes very costly - not that I mind it. Then we have to attend the meetings of the House, listen to the speeches and follow the debates as intelligently as possible.
Then we have duties in the office in our electorates and the home. I combine the two. Correspondence galore is coming in all the time. I have sent out from my own office in twelve years 15,000 letters dealing with problems of the people, and having nothing to do with the election campaigns. Then we have to interview the people who come to see us. They bring hundreds of different kinds of problems. As I have told honorable members on a previous occasion, a lady once came to me and asked me to find a husband for her! We have many varied problems placed before us, as we all know, and many of them are confidential matters. The people entrust us with their confidences.
In continuation of our work in the office and at home we also have to contact Ministers of the Crown in Canberra and in the States. We have to contact heads of departments on behalf of our constituents, and we have to receive deputations at our offices and in our homes. My home is 13 miles out of Launceston, and I can hardly ever take a meal without being interrupted by a telephone call or by a person wishing to see me. There is only one night in the week that I can usually call my own and which I can spend with my family. That is Saturday night. Sometimes I have Sunday night too. I conduct services on Sundays for my church. I engage in that work without, of course, financial reward. I have carried on the work that I did for eight years, as a minister of religion. It is a constant battle to find enough time to meet the people and discuss their problems. Practically every member of this Parliament has the same kind of difficulty. They have very little time to themselves, and practically all their meals are interrupted.
Now let me speak of the work that we do in our electorates. We make regular tours of our constituencies, meeting the people in the cities, the towns, along the roads, in the factories and in the mines. In my own case, I have had twelve tours of my electorate in twelve years. I have met thousands of people whom I would not have met otherwise. I know hundreds of people by their nick-names. This is the way in which we become known in our electorates. This is how electorates can be held. People get to know us personally. We hear of their problems during these tours of the electorates. We meet representatives of organizations, who put their particular problems before us. These organizations include even the municipal councils. We visit urgent trouble spots. A person may ring up and say, “ Come out and see me. There is a death in the family “, or, “ My mother wants a pension.” We might have to go miles to see a person who is bed-ridden and immobilized. We have to attend meetings of all kinds. We attend and conduct film nights. ‘ If a member has a camera, as I have and also the honorable member for Bass, he uses that on behalf of his electorate too. We have to appear before repatriation tribunals, giving advice and information. We attend a wide range of functions. We perform community services in and for many organizations.
The range of problems that we have to deal with as members of Parliament is as wide as the Commonwealth. In the federal sphere it covers the fields of taxation, social services, the Postmaster-General’s Department, repatriation, health, the Army, defence, shipping, agriculture, trade, immigration, employment, Commonwealth-State relations and housing. In the State sphere, which we have to enter when State matters interlock with Federal matters, the various problems cover the fields of education, electric power - hydro-electric power in my own State - roads, health, legal matters, tourism, State social services, housing, fisheries and transport. We even have to deal with problems in the municipal sphere. People come to us for everything. They do not distinguish between State and Federal members. When we are at home in our electorates they look to us for a tremendous range of matters. They come to us in connexion with municipal problems, and my colleagues on this side of the House who represent country constituencies know how close you can get to the people when you are really on the job all the time. In the municipalities we deal with road problems, matters concerning bridges, nouses, drainage, health, streets, rates, even foreshores in cases where properties touch the coastline.
The functions that we have to attend include balls of all kinds for all sorts of organizations, branch meetings of our party, divisional council meetings, farmers’ meetings if we are invited, meetings of sports bodies, agricultural shows, school fairs of all kinds, school break-ups, fairs conducted by churches of all denominations, and naturalization ceremonies - which take up a lot of our time nowadays, and which we are glad to attend.
This gives an indication of the wide range of functions that we are expected to attend and shows why we are hardly ever at home. When we go to these functions we carry a notebook in our pockets and invariably some one presents us with a personal problem. A constituent will say, “ Can I see you for a moment? “ We go outside and listen to his problem. This happens in the middle of an official function, and it happens to every one of us. Yet it is said that we attend these functions only to enjoy ourselves. That will be the day!
I now wish to mention a few personal matters, and I make no apology for doing so. Why are we paid at all? Why have members of the Parliament asked the Richardson committee to examine their salaries? Why is it suggested that we are entitled to a raise? To make us more effective members of Parliament - that is why. That is the only reason, I hope, why we are suggesting that our salaries should be increased. I have been twelve and a half years in this Parliament, and if I thought only of financial considerations, and of what financial gain I could get in my position, I would resign from the Parliament to-morrow. But I have always loved to serve people, and no one could get on very well in this Parliament if he did not love to serve people. It is the main part of our job; it is why we are here - to give service to the people. It is what I have always been used to. It is part of my training and I love that kind of work. I stay in this position as a member of the Federal Parliament for that very reason, but unless some financial help is given soon I will have to consider resigning because of the financial pressure. If it were simply a matter of financial considerations, you could have it! There are plenty of other jobs that one could take if one wished to get rich. There are many other jobs which would allow a person to save something. I may say that in my twelve and a half years in this position I have not saved a penny. I am further behind, and I will tell the House more about that in a moment.
Some critics say that we should make sacrifices, so let us examine this question of sacrifices. What sacrifices do we make? I have worked 85 hours a week in this job for twelve and a half years. What would I get in industry if I worked for 85 hours a week? Let the critics examine that proposition! We are on tap at all hours of the day and night, just as a doctor or a minister of religion is. In desperate cases, people want to see us late at night. What about our health? All the men who have been in the Parliament during the same time as I have have suffered ill health. My health is permanently undermined as a result of my work over twelve and a half years, in the middle period of my life. It is heart trouble. I have spent £350 in two years on doctors and hospitals for myself and my wife, whose health is also permanently undermined as a result of her assistance in the work. What other sacrifices do the critics want us to make? I see my children for brief moments only at the week-ends. For five months of the year I am away from my family. My wife is left to bring up the children, but why should I not have a part in that job? Family life barely exists as such. What further sacrifices can we in this Parliament make, except the supreme sacrifice? That is the only other sacrifice that I can make. Twenty members of the Parliament have died since I came here. They made the supreme sacrifice through their service to the country.
In my time I have fought six elections at a cost of £1,500. After twelve and a half years, I have a mortgage of £2,500 at the bank on my home and car. I have not paid one penny off my home in nine years. In February last, the bank manager called me in and told me to wipe out my bank overdraft by June. I have paid £2,500 off motor cars in eight years and still do not own the car that 1 have! Yet a motor car to me is what a tractor is to a farmer. In twelve years, donations have amounted to thousands of pounds. I have paid £2,400 into our pension fund in ten years. Every month, I pay out of my salary £82 10s. on three items alone, consisting of £33 for taxation, £30 off my mortgage on my car and home and £19 10s. into the pension fund. Is the allowance of £800 enough for me in the Wilmot electorate? Last year I spent £1,300 within the electorate, but I received only £800 towards it. We are asked to make sacrifices. I cannot make any more sacrifices. I have only one more to make, the final sacrifice, and maybe I will make that before I leave this place.
– I want to direct a very few remarks to an amendment which has been foreshadowed concerning the pensions payable to past Prime Ministers. Quite frankly, the intention behind this amendment is nothing less than mean. It is wrong because it is not directed by any principle nor does it support any principle; it is directed purely and simply against one man. In a few more years, if Mrs. Chifley and Mrs. Curtin are still alive, 25 years after their husbands died while serving in this place, would they be excluded from any increase in pension that might be payable to them? If that were done, it would be a grave injustice. This is not a question of personalities; it should not be a question of personalities. If the Labour party were prepared to support this 25 years idea, irrespective of who may be affected by it, I could respect the motives. However, I oppose the suggestion in this instance and would certainly oppose it in another instance which could arise in the case of either Mrs. Chifley or Mrs. Curtin, or perhaps some other person. If Mr. Chifley or Mr. Curtin had merely broken their health while serving here instead of killing themselves, would they have been denied an increase merely because they had left the Parliament 25 years earlier? It is a mean amendment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and nothing less than that.
Individuals do not make good advocates in their own causes. However, the attitude of the press, which has been amply demonstrated over the past month and which has been referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evattt), forces politicians to try to put their own case as best they can. If they do not put their own case, which is not only for themselves but also for this institution as a Parliament, then quite certainly no one else will do it for them, and this Parliament and the institution of Parliament will suffer very greatly.
I want to say quite plainly from the outset that I support the Richardson committee’s recommendations as they have been introduced into the House. 1 further support the method by which a review of politicians’ salaries and allowances has been made. When I first came into this place some three years ago, I thought that perhaps an arbitration court judge, the Public Service Arbitrator and another person with a similar background could be formed into a permanent committee which every three vears could meet to examine politicians’ salaries. Such an arrangement would have a superficial attraction. The members of the committee would be accustomed to dealing with the salaries and allowances of other people in the community. However, quite apart from the constitutional objection, another sound objection arises to this process. The salaries of these people are fixed directly by Parliament. If we gave them the task of fixing our salaries, they would be open to the charge that they were getting a tit-for-tat from the Parliament. That would be a tragedy of the first order and judicial persons should not be placed in a position where they would experience the criticism that has been directed at us in the past month. I would much sooner see the present situation preserved and have politicians take the full responsibility and the blame for their own actions.
The recommendations fall into two parts, broadly speaking - those concerning Ministers and those concerning back-benchers. Concerning the first part, I say only that the decisions of the Ministry are collectively more important than the decisions of any other group concerning this country, and Ministers should not be denied the remuneration that is in keeping with the responsibilities and burdens of their office, which have aged many men well before their time.
The attitude that one would have concerning back-benchers depends in very large measure on the kind of parliament that we expect this to be or want it to be, or that the people of Australia expect it to be. Do we want members who are in the latter half of their lives, whose families have grown up and are keeping themselves? Do we want members who are self-sufficient or are kept by some outside organization in this place for some special purpose? Or do we want a cross-section of the whole community? Do we want some younger people with school-age families and the increased financial obligations that occur during that period of a person’s life? Do we want members with no outside salary and no outside income whatever? Do we want to make it possible for them to come here without placing too great a financial burden upon their families? Surely, we must seek to provide conditions that will make it possible to have a complete crosssection of the community. We want some young people, some a little older, and some with the wisdom and experience of more years, in this place. But we cannot have an adequate cross-section of people in this Parliament unless there is an adequate remuneration which will make it possible for the younger members to support their families adequately, without too many burdens being placed upon them if they have no outside salary or income. Parliament sits for up to six months a year, and very often in country and more remote electorates it is impossible for politicians to get back to their homes for week-ends or for even slightly longer periods when Parliament rises. During the recess, politicians are often away on electorate duties for several days and nights a week. Again, in country electorates this implies staying away from home. The result is that the children of younger members grow up knowing their fathers almost as strangers, and wives lead the life of a widow. Politicians willingly meet demands made upon their own time as part of the obligations and responsibilities of their office, but they definitely object to the penalties which are imposed on their families.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think probably few members of the public realize the very great expense involved in representing many electorates. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) gave a list of his own expenses. I think it would be fair to say that for many members for country electorates, the travelling expenses and cost of running their own cars absorbs as much or more than their entire electorate allowance. There are many other things like postage, accommodation, printing and even in the case of younger members such things as baby-sitters because in the country if a member’s wife is expected to go with him to some function, a young family cannot be left alone. Again, in the country, if there are no other people living nearby, somebody must be permanently employed so that a politician’s wife can play her part in various electorate functions.
Politicians realize, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that their job is not one they should seek to fill merely in order to get a fine income and live comfortably. They realize it is a vocation, but it is difficult to treat it as a vocation if there are many members in this place who are constantly worried by family cares or financial burdens of one kind or another. I quote one extract from the Richardson committee’s report in this connexion -
As one member put it, “ One does not become a politician to make money or to become rich, but rather to serve, to try to achieve objectives that one feels are desirable and for the general good. I believe this entails some sacrifice on the part of politicians. It is they who set the example to the community they are meant to lead and govern.”
Politicians do realize this and believe it even if the public on occasions find it difficult to believe. If we were not here from a sense of vocation, I would say quite plainly and emphatically that the sort of publicity and the attacks to which all politicians have been subjected in the past few weeks, would drive many members out of this Parliament into a more peaceful and perhaps easier and happier life. Only a sense of vocation keeps politicians in Parliament when they are subjected to this sort of scurrilous attack.
A point of view was expressed briefly yesterday, which 1 feel, since I represent a rural electorate, I should answer. It was thought that at a time of falling prices for agricultural products, the time was not opportune to increase politicians’ salaries and allowances. I think it was thought that this was bad especially for a representative of a rural electorate because many rural industries have been going through a difficult period in the past twelve months. Some of them are not out of the wood yet. I respect that point of view, but I cannot agree with it, because an honorable member who is beset by financial worries of one kind or another is of no use to his electorate or to any electorate. One could argue with equal justification that if a certain industry in one electorate is going through a bad time, such as the coal industry, the representative pf that particular electorate should not accept a salary increase irrespective of his needs and the circumstances which have caused difficulty in the industry. That view, whilst sincerely held by a number of members on both sides of the Parliament, is outweighed by the argument I have just advanced.
Finally, I want to say that I could vote against this, bill but I realize quite plainly that many people would be penalized if I did. I believe the report to be just and I support it because of the legitimate needs of many honorable members. There is an obligation on those with some outside means to ensure the passage of these bills. Only in this way will the very real need be removed from those with no other income whose families are making great sacrifices at present. I support the bill.
– As I have, as yet, no right to express an opinion in this House with a vote, I feel I have a particular duty to state from my place in this House, as I have from outside, my views on the bill before the Parliament. I support completely the view that has been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on all the measures that have been discussed. In particular, I support the decisions taken by the Opposition in relation to the basic salary of members and senators. I do not propose to use a great deal of time, nor do I propose to recapitulate what has been said by many honorable members on both sides of the chamber about the work of members of the Parliament, nor do I propose to talk of sacrifices. I knew when I was elected to this Parliament eight years ago that this would be my full-time and only occupation, and it has been just that. I accept that. I like the work, and I hope to be able to continue to give full-time attention to this electorate while the electors consider I am capable of doing so.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there has been a great deal of comment on the attacks that have been made on these proposals, and I agree with the use of the words “ scurrilous “ and “ vicious “ and the other epithets that have been used to describe the campaign of the metropolitan press. Nonetheless, I think that the people are entitled, just as are members of this Parliament, to ask themselves: What is a proper level of salary for a member of Parliament? I think it might be said quite simply. I believe the salary, plus allowances, should be adequate to enable a member of Parliament to meet all the expenses of his representation, to live decently and to save a little. I believe that the salaries proposed in this legislation will do that and nothing more. Whether they will continue to meet those requirements when three years have elapsed I do not know, but I feel there will be need for a further review of salaries when that time has been reached.
– That should be a statutory provision.
– That may be. There may be, and no doubt there are, men in this Parliament in both Houses who have substantial income from property, or from business or professional interests who can afford to belittle the need for an increase in parliamentary salaries. There may be members of this Parliament who may be able to limit their work and limit their expenditure from either the salary or the allowances, but I believe without any hesitation that the member who makes his representation in this House his sole, fulltime occupation and devotes himself to that work, will find the salaries and allowances proposed in this bill no more than adequate to meet the three requirements I have stated - to meet the expenses of his representation, to live decently and save a little. I believe that many members of this Parliament are unable to save anything from their salaries, and have been unable to save anything for a good many years past. That situation should be corrected. The salary proposed in the legislation represents, I believe, the minimum that will meet the requirements of a member in this Parliament under the heads I have mentioned.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to refer, as many other honorable members have referred, to the virulent campaign conducted by certain metropolitan daily newspapers. The extent of that campaign should lead us to be thankful for the fairness and sanity of the country press in this Commonwealth. I intend to quote from the “Canberra Times “ of Wednesday, 25th March, 1959. In an editorial headed “For Services Rendered” the newspaper stated -
To make an accurate assessment of the merits or demerits of the Richardson Committee’s recommendations on parliamentary salaries and pensions, which the Government has agreed to sponsor, it is necessary to study the question as the committee itself studied it. It is not enough to judge the recommendations in terms of facile catchcries such as “more pay for the politicians” or as a “salary grab”. The first premise of the committee’s inquiry is perhaps its most important. It did not regard itself as required merely to bring parliamentary salaries and allowances up to date in the light of movements in the cost of living indices, but to make a complete review and a fresh examination of the entire question.
To do this it began by comparing members’ remuneration with those of other Commonwealth Parliaments and the legislature in the United States, as well as in the Public Service. It invited personal statements from members and Senators and from the public and public organizations, and it heard personal evidence from both these sources, checking claims against facts in 19 formal meetings.
Armed with this information, as well as with comparisons of salaries paid to directors and executives in private enterprise and to professional men, the committee set out to find its working formula. How should members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, whether senior ministers, junior ministers, office-bearers or rank and file members, be regarded in relation to these sections of the community? It did not aim to achieve parity. It considered that there must be in parliamentary service an element of community sacrifice - a willingness to serve for service sake. Thus, while holding the view that the responsibilities of a senior minister, by way of example, could reasonably be held to be comparable with those of “ a senior executive officer of a great commercial or industrial enterprise “, the committee decided that to preserve the element of sacrifice a more valid comparison should be the remuneration of doctors, lawyers and other professional men. With regard to remuneration of rank and file members it paid regard to the fact that they are required to serve their constituents in and out of Parliament, seven days a week, day and night. It did not. however, base salaries on this consideration, it took the view that a member should neither be lured to office by high emolument, nor yet excluded from it by the danger of financial embarrassment. “ The salary of a member,” it reported, “ should be fixed at an amount which is not so low as to deter a man of good attainments and abilities who has no private income from entering or remaining in Parliament.” It left it to the good sense of party pre-selection committees and the electors to safeguard the nation against “ people of poor abilities who have failed in private life “ who will seek election because such a salary would seem to them to be a prize to be coveted.
On the question of allowances, as distinct from salaries, the committee aimed to cover adequately expenses incurred in the course of parliamentary duties which a member would not have to meet from his salary were he in private employment These allowances may appear generous for the average office worker, but the comparison, as the committee shows, would be quite invalid. Allowances for Ministers, it was recognized, must cover entertainment expenses far and away above those required of even top business executives, and the committee recommended accordingly. The mayors of many Australian cities fare at least as well.
Its approach to pensions was on the same basis as its assessment of salaries - that neither ministers nor members should have need to fear financial embarrassment in after life because of having adopted a career which did not offer the same opportunities for accumulation as private enterprise would offer to an employee of similar responsibility. These are the premises from which the committee worked. No generalized denunciation of its recommendations can be said to stand on solid ground unless these premises are also dismissed as unsound.
I believe that that is a very sane article, and one that represents the view generally put by the country press. It is in clear contradistinction to the attitude adopted by many metropolitan dailies. This courageous newspaper went a step further in an editorial on 6th April. I do not propose to read the whole of that editorial, but the passages that I will read are significant, and are a rebuke to the editors and publishers of some of the metropolitan newspapers. The motto of the “ Canberra Times “ is -
For the cause that lacks assistance,
Gainst the wrongs that need resistance
For the future in the distance,
And the good that we can do.
On 6th April, under that motto, the “ Canberra Times “, in an editorial headed, “ A Mirror for Australians “, stated -
Australians generally pride themselves on being able to think things out for themselves, and when they are permitted to do this, they most often reach sound conclusions, but in the process it is not uncommon for sound and fury to posture as reasonable thought, and there are frequent examples of what the people think being very different from noisy expression of what the people are being told to think or what they actually do think.
A current example is the very obvious campaign that is being whipped up on the subject of increases for Ministers and members of Parliament. There is reason to believe that the majority of Australians are looking at this matter somewhat differently to views that are being featured in noisy newspaper campaigns:
And this is a newspaper speaking -
The entire issue is one in which Australians who want to think for themselves will see mirrored for them the shape of their own characters as citizens.
The paper carried on that analogy of the glance into a mirror. In concluding its editorial it stated -
It is easy to disparage the best things in life and to disparage our country, its institutions and our public men whom the people choose, but what is the worth of our country, its institutions and those who serve it? If there is any quarrel, it cannot be with Australia or its institutions, or the men and women who have been elected to public office, but rather with the people who have chosen them. The present issue which reasonable people will find if they look at themselves in the mirror lies between two conclusions; either that the people have chosen well their members of Parliament and that having made a good choice these should be remunerated accordingly, or that they have made some bad choices which in due course they may correct, but if there have been mistakes, it is not the members but the electors who are blameworthy.
As I know that other honorable members wish to speak before the sitting is suspended, I do not propose to continue much beyond that point except to say that I support whole-heartedly the proposals that have been made for increases in the basic salaries and allowances to members of the Parliament, both in this place and in the Senate, and I support the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Australian Labour Party.
In closing, I appeal to the Government, when this matter has been disposed of, to investigate the conditions of employment and remuneration of the other half of the team in the work of representation in this
Parliament. I refer to those ladies who are employed as secretary-typists for honorable members. I believe that the time is overdue when the worth of the work done by those ladies should be recognized by the Parliament. I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) might well arrange for a committee to examine the work that is done by those people, and the remuneration that they receive at present, in order to see that justice is done to them just as it is being done to members of the Parliament.
.- I do not intend to take up very much of the time of the House, because after all my views are, perhaps, known. First, I should like to say that I do think that the sending, a little earlier in the piece, of anonymous letters to a man of very great integrity, was absolutely despicable. That man, with two others of equal integrity had made out a very good report, and it must be remembered that this report was made on the evidence of Ministers and of members of this Parliament and that it should be considered as having been correctly made. Those of us who heard the speech of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) might think that the committee was extraordinarily moderate, and that it should have raised salaries by about £5,000.
I am in entire agreement with one provision in this legislation. If it had been alone, in a separate bill, I should have definitely voted for it. I refer to the proposed increase in the salary of the Prime Minister. No matter from what party he comes, his salary is definitely most inadequate. If this matter had been treated aright, it would not have come up for consideration at this moment. Provision for that increased salary would have appeared on the statute-book long ago.
I am registering my protest against these bills as a whole on two lines. First, during the election campaign it was said by the Government that there was no money to spare for giving any hope of relief to certain people. We were told that the economy, although thoroughly sound, was not in a spendthrift mood. Now, five months later, we find that there is plenty of money available to give us lifts in salary. One of the justifications put forward is that these increases will cost only a very little amount in a big Budget. In my opinion, there can never be two laws, one for the rich and one for the poor. At this time, when we are struggling for markets abroad, when the only hope of keeping those we have and gaining more is by keeping costs down, I feel that it is up to us to show an example.
I can hear honorable members opposite jeering me and egging me on, because they did not like what I said when I spoke first on this subject. The Opposition has shown further rifts over this matter. Its leaders are speaking with two voices. Even its executive and the unions are divided. But one thing is absolutely sure. It is that Opposition members are all rallying at the thought of more money, and for once they are blessing themselves that the Government has a large majority, so that they can say “ No “, and yet take the increases.
I have been told that I am taking this stand because I am wealthy. In fact, Mr. Tripovich, secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party, classes me in the £40,000 bracket. I do not mind saying that that is not the position at all. The whole of my life I have been poorer than the man next door to me but, perhaps because of my Scottish ancestry, I have always found that I could save a little every year. Looked after, that saving does not dwindle. I will admit that at the moment I do not have very much spare time to look after it. But I have always based my estimate of my worth on other facts. I have based it on the amount of money that I was earning before I came to this place compared with the money that I am earning here. On the last occasion, I voted for a salary rise because I thought it was necessary. This time I know exactly in which way I am better off.
I have heard many stories from members on both sides of the House about how difficult it is to do this and to do the other. As I am a father, my heart was deeply touched by one of them. I was told that it would not be possible for one member to educate his children unless he got this rise. That may be as it may be, but there are many other honorable professions in this country. One of them is the Army, and the person who said that to me was suggesting, in effect, that a full colonel in the Army, who has taken years to get to that position, cannot ever educate his children because he receives less money than we do here, without counting our allowance.
I would like to say just one thing about wives. I give the greatest of credit to my wife. She is the greatest of assets to me in the electorate, and she does much work. But I would consider myself as criminal if I did as some people do and allowed her to work herself to death. She does what she can do, but she does not do that. In my electorate, anyhow - perhaps not in others - there are hundreds of councillors and councillors’ wives, shopkeepers and shopkeepers’ wives, who are on many committees. They go out every single night paying 2s. 6d. to support a life-saving club or 3s. to support a football club, and they receive no allowance whatsoever.
It has been said that Ministers cannot do their job properly because they are, perhaps, receiving less pay than some civil servants. During the war, there was a certain amount of mix-up. If units are mixed together, it is part of the law of war that the senior officer takes command. If a lieutenant or even a full corporal of the American Army got mixed up with my company, I as a major would not have said to him, “ Corporal - or lieutenant - you take over. I am senior to you in rank, but you receive more pay than I do.” The spiral will end always in exactly the same position as it is in to-day.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) suggested that those who speak against this legislation - I think possibly he was directing his remarks not at me, but at members of the Opposition - spoke loudly but would go out of the door of this chamber taking the increase. I have said once before that should these rises be approved, I shall give mine to charity. I say now that I mean organized charity. It is a pity that the proceedings are not now being broadcast, because, if they were, perhaps I would not receive any more letters from all over Australia reading, “I am feeling a little ill. If I could have a three months’ sea trip, I would be feeling very much better.” I should also like to say that if this legislation is approved I shall have at least another hour’s work every week, because from now on I shall have to keep very careful account.
I should like to end by saying that I hope that, month by month, when every member receives his pay cheque, he will remember the pensioners, a lot of whom endure acute discomfort and are lacking in food, fuel and clothing, quite apart from suffering loneliness and mental anguish. There are many who suffer mental anguish. I should also like to say that many of these pensioners are of a group which came through the depression when wages were exceptionally low, and it was impossible for them either to save or to buy houses. I also feel that I should recall two little words, which came from a foreign nation a long time ago, and which I have not heard for at least twelve years. We might remember them. Those words are, “ Noblesse oblige “. As I have already said, I shall be voting against all three bills.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- 1 must confess, Mr. Speaker, that I have been led astray by appearances. 1 did not realize, until I heard the speeches in this House, how difficult it really is to live on from £3,000 to £5,000 a year, plus expenses. I looked at the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he was introducing the bill and to me he did not seem to have a very lean and hungry look. I looked at the front benches of my opposition and saw there the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt)-
– They are not in opposition.
– They are on the Government side of the House. If the honorable gentleman at the table would only listen-
– I did, and you said you looked at the Opposition benches.
– I said that I looked at my opposition, and my opposition happens to be the Government. Although these Ministers are a little leaner than the Prime Minister, they do not appear to be suffering in any way from malnutrition. In reality, they look like the lillies of the field - “ Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these “. This is one of the reasons why I came to the conclusion that they were getting along quite comfortably and did not require my sympathy in any way whatsoever.
I have listened carefully to the speeches which have been delivered from the benches opposite. I listened carefully also to a speech delivered this morning from a Government supporter who said that he had no objection to the Prime Minister of this country getting an increase in his emoluments. “ After all “, he asked, “ doesn’t he deserve them? “ Well, how are we to determine what a person deserves? If you determine what a person deserves by whether he is getting as much income as a person who is engaged in hire purchase rackets, then the Prime Minister is being underpaid. If you consider that the Prime Minister’s salary should be determined by what somebody named Henderson on a Sydney newspaper is getting - I do not know what salary Henderson is receiving - I certainly say that, irrespective of what that salary is, the Prime Minister is underpaid. But what is to be the measuring stick to determine what a person’s service to the community is worth?
– You had to decide that when you considered whether you would go with the Australian Democratic Labour Party or not.
– The vacant laugh betrays the empty mind. I know that it is necessary to have some measuring stick to determine the amount that should be paid; but there is a fundamental difference in that respect between the Prime Minister and those who sit with him on the treasury bench and myself. My guide in determining what should be paid to a Prime Minister or a member of the Ministry or myself, is not what Mr. Henderson receives, nor is it what those Ministers receive or would receive in outside employment however great that income might be. My measuring stick is: What do other useful members of the community receive to enable them to live? I am thinking of age pensioners, bricklayers, artisans and other members of the community.
– What nonsense you are talking!
– “ What nonsense you are talking “ the honorable member, the grazier from somewhere in the country, in- terjects. Is it greater nonsense to use as a measuring rod to determine the payment of members of the community that which the lowest in the community receives rather than that which the highest in the community receives? Is it nonsense to say that every member of every Australian family shall have at least a reasonable living before some members of the community shall have luxury? This is all that I am saying, and, of course, it is the fundamental difference between the ideas of members on the other side of the House and on this side. An honorable member on the Government side who spoke this morning said he would not take this rise if it were granted to members of Parliament.
– Will you take it?
– I will deal with that in due course. Does that honorable member and his colleagues say that the person in the community who would use the money, irrespective of the amount, to the best use of the community should refuse it while those who would use it to the detriment of the community accepted it? What an absurd position I would put myself in if I said that. What every member who sits on this side of the House and I desire is that the whole community should advance in common. That honorable member who spoke this morning voted against an increase in age pensions, but to-day he is saying that the Prime Minister should receive an increase. He said that he could not accept an increase because the age pensioners did not get an increase, but he did not add that that was because he and those associated with him voted against the age pensioners being granted an increase.
Every honorable member on this side of the House believes that pensions should be increased. We believe that the quarterly cost of living adjustments of ordinary wages should be restored. We believe that there should be increases in the basic wage and in child endowment which, for nearly half a century, has not been adequately increased. And, of course, the Labour Party would do these things if it were elected to office.
– Why did you not do it when you were in office?
– I was not in office, but I have no doubt, from the way the Government is operating, that it will not be long before I am in office. Of course, I expect these interjections. But as I have already said, members on this side of the House stand for increased emoluments to the rest of the community. We believe that this country should provide a high standard of living not merely for Prime Ministers but for bricklayers too, or a high superannuation allowance or pension for not only members of the Ministry or members of Parliament but also for every member of the community. We are the party who will see that they get these things.
I was interested to hear the Prime Minister, in his dramatic manner say, in effect, “I challenge the Sydney press to print upon its front page the emoluments of Mr. Henderson together with the details of the allowances that he receives and to print beside it the emoluments which I receive and those allowances which are paid to me as Prime Minister and to my Minister for Trade and to my Treasurer “. I should like to see that done. I should like to see more than that done. I should like there to be printed on the same page what the basic wage earner receives in pay and allowances, and what family commitments he has. I think, as the Prime Minister thought about his own suggestion, that that would be a desirable thing. I not only think it now - I have thought it ever since I have been in this Parliament, and on six or seven occasions I have put to the Government the proposition that there be published annually by the Commissioner of Taxation, in his report, the incomes of all men in public positions. I think that that is the desirable thing to do. I think that in a democracy we are entitled to know what other men receive. It is done in other parts of the world. In Norway, you can ascertain from the report of the Norwegian taxation commissioner the income, and its sources, of every taxpayer in Norway.
– But Norway has a socialist government. It is not free.
– You support a nonsocialist Government, a Government which you would describe as free, and you have the right to pretend that you, of course, are suffering from financial disabilities as a result of political service, yet what the disabilities are is not to be made clear to the people of the nation. Of course, the people of the nation are entitled to know the incomes of members of the community.
– Why are they?
– Why are they! If what I suggest were done it would not be a matter of your word against the word of J. Somerville Smith as to who is the recipient of moneys. The facts would be clearly and publicly demonstrated. You would not then have to hide behind a declaration of the Committee of Privileges of this House. Information about your income would be available to the whole of the community, and the integrity of the members of this Parliament would be protected, as would the integrity of the whole parliamentary institution.
– Do not wear yourself down.
– The honorable member advises me not to wear myself down. I have listened to a lot of humbug in my time, but never have I listened to so much concentrated humbug as I have been listening to in this House during the last few days. I know the position from experience. I have worked in the Public Service and outside the Public Service. I have been the recipient of smaller incomes than I receive to-day, and I had to live on them as other people have to live on them, and I do not want to change the position I occupy to-day for any of the positions I had in those days. I remember a statement made by Mark Twain. He once pointed out that, as a writer, he was the recipient of a vast income - an income much in excess of the income he received earlier as a pilot on a Mississippi river boat. He said, according to my recollection of it, “ If to-day I could change my present position for the position of a pilot of a boat on the Mississippi and receive the emoluments of a writer, or if I had to remain a writer at the emoluments I once received as a pilot on a Mississippi river boat, I would remain a writer to-day at the reduced emoluments of a Mississippi river pilot rather than be a Mississippi river pilot at the advanced and enhanced income of a writer “. The position that I, as a member of Parliament-
– What is the point?
– Even if 1 said it all again the honorable member for Canning would not be able to appreciate it; but I will write it down for him. I am just putting before this Parliament my philosophy of life as a Labourite, and I think that it is also the philosophy of life of the vast majority of the people. I say that the only people in this Parliament who have any justification whatsoever for moving for increases in parliamentary emoluments are members of the Labour Party because they, at least, hold that the lowest members of the community, those who are remunerated the least and whose needs are the greatest, should receive some attention. The Labour Party says that the ordinary working member of the community and the recipients of child endowment and all kinds of social services, those in receipt of pensions, whether they be military pensions or otherwise, should receive increases.
– You say one thing and do the other.
– I can understand the honorable gentleman’s indignation. I realize he has a twinge of conscience as a result of which he becomes violently indignant. However, what I have said outside this Parliament I think it is my duty, to say inside this Parliament. I agree, of course, to a great extent, that the press of this country takes up a very illogical attitude when it becomes violently abusive of members of Parliament on the ground, so the press claims, that they are putting their hands into the national coffers and, for their own advantage, levying a toll on industry and on the workers of this country. The same newspapers do not, of course, say anything about the hire-purchase organizations that are levying a toll on the community, or the private banking interests which levy an immense toll upon industry and the workers. They do not say anything about television organizations, or about newspapers themselves, which are reaping vast profits at the expense of the community.
I say that if you are going to determine the remuneration of either the Leader of the Opposition or the Prime Minister by what is received by other persons who are more highly paid than they are, then the sky is the limit because, after all, the man who decides the destiny of the nation, the man who is at the head of its government, is of greater importance to the vast masses of the people than is any other individual, no matter what he may be. If we admit that principle, then we must think that the Richardson committee was a bit ungenerous in its treatment of this country’s political leaders. In reality, the leaders of the Government and the leaders of the Opposition, and the back-bench members of this Parliament, because of the responsibilities they carry, should receive remuneration greater than is received by members of any other section of the community, whether they be bankers, professors, the heads of armies or navies, or persons in high positions in any other sphere, because ultimately the positions that are important in a democracy are the positions of the men who, on the floors of this Parliament, determine the destiny of the nation. But, of course, nobody would say that that should be done. Nobody would say that we should all get more than anybody else in the community. Everybody recognizes the absurdity of that so the whole contention is reduced to absurdity.
We, who live in a democratic community, should advance and progress with the average members of the community. We should not seek to get so far in advance of our army that we lose touch with it altogether. We, as delegates, as representatives of the people of this country, should have a type of existence similar to theirs. Because of those things, I am very reluctant to admit that there has come a time in the history of the country when we cannot give a 5s. increase to the old age pensioner, but we can give £72 per week increase to a Prime Minister. That is so, irrespective altogether of his ability and irrespective altogether of the services that he has rendered, although, because of the great admiration I have for the Leader of the Opposition, if I were the determinant of his salary, I would see that it was in excess of that of the leader of the Government. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, when Labour is in opposition, is much more important than the Prime Minister of this country.
I have said before, and I say again, that I stand for an egalitarian system of society - a system of society in which the burdens are spread as widely as possible and in which the remunerations are as evenly spread as possible. I believe that big noncontributory pensions are not desirable. No means test is applied to such pensions, although it is applied to the ordinary pension. If a man has been able ta save something from his remuneration and invest it so that it provides him with an income, I do not think that he should receive a non-contributory pension. In other words, I do not consider that, because a man has been getting more money than others while he was working, he should get a bigger pension when he ceases to work. The logic of such a proposition does not appeal to me. But it is the fundamental logic of every member on the Government side. It is the mainspring of their political action that the more you get the more you ought to get, and that the less you have, even that which you think you have shall be taken away from you. Because of that fundamental difference, because I do not want to be silent upon an issue such as this, and because I support the attitude of my party, as declared at its caucus meetings, I have risen to make these very few temperate comments.
.- Nobody, I think, is very impressed with the attitude of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) - a vehement, virulent attack on the recommendations of the Richardson report, acceptance of the fruit of the recommendations, and an attempt by tortuous argument to justify that inconsistency. When the Richardson report was first made public and the Cabinet decided to adopt it, in toto, I felt that a wrong thing had been done. I felt that the time for the implementation of these recommendations was particularly unfortunate. I felt, at first glance, that the proposals were excessive, although I bore in mind the fact that no adjustment had been made for three years in the salaries of members and for seven years in the salaries of Ministers.
Altogether, I have felt that this has been a sorry business, equally for Parliament and the press. Neither has gained any prestige among thinking people. But the majority of members felt that the recommendations should be implemented and I began to study the facts and figures available to me as I would study any other proposal that might be brought before the House. I have to confess that when I studied the facts and figures which I will lay before the House before I sit down, my views were somewhat modified although I am still not very happy about the report and believe that it would have been better buried at the bottom of the deep blue sea. I think that honorable members will agree with me because nobody likes to be held up to hatred, ridicule and contempt among his friends and constituents.
The first matter upon which I should like to comment is the considerable gap which exists, as a result of these proposals, between the salaries and allowances of private members and Ministers. I feel that the committee has” too readily accepted popular thinking in comparing the position of Ministers to that of top management in industry and the position of private members to that of junior executives, salesmen, or, perhaps, welfare officers, in commercial organizations. This is a mode of thought that is common in the community. People are familiar with organizations of that kind and they are apt, I think with bad results, to apply that analogy to Parliament itself. It is true that Parliament does consist of two sorts of members. It consists on the one hand of Ministers, with whom I would include the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and on the other hand of private members. But it should never be forgotten that members share with Ministers the responsibility for the framing of policy and this is a very important and onerous responsibility.
I would rather that some of the speeches made in the course of this debate had not been made - those which tended a little to exaggerate the duties of members in the electorate and to give the impression to the public that the parliamentary duty of members is mainly to attend to the individual wants of constituents rather than to policies which they may influence by their advocacy in this place. It is necessary, to-day, that members should give the whole of their time to their work in this Parilament. That is due to two reasons - the advent of the welfare state and the fact that this Parliament is located in the bush, at Canberra. So. in considering the remuneration of members it is necessary to make two assumptions: The first is that membership of Parliament is inevitably a full-time occupation, and the second is that salaries should be such as not to preclude any citizen from service in this Parliament.
As there has been such universal condemnation of the recommendations of the committee, we must face the question of whether the fixation of salaries by a committee such as this is the logical way to deal with this matter. Nobody, not even the most scurrilous section of the press, and not even the most unscrupulous member of this House, has dared to impugn the probity and integrity of the three members of the Richardson committee. But that does not conclude the matter. That committee was, in effect, an expert committee and not an entirely judicial one. It heard evidence from members of this Parliament. It heard evidence from members of the public. It tested that evidence by cross-examination. It verified it by reference to vouchers and other relevant documents. It studied what had happened in parliaments in other parts of the world.
But also the members of that committee approached the problem in the light of their individual experience in various spheres. One may suppose that the chairman had some knowledge of salaries in the upper ranges of the commercial world. One may suppose that the member who is an accountant had a knowledge of salary ranges throughout industry. The third member would not only have had a knowledge of what is happening in the professional world, but, being a distinguished scholar, would know something of the evolution of parliament as an institution. He is one, too, who has devoted a large part of his time to political education, in the non-party sense of the term, informing the public mind on public questions through organizations with which he has been associated.
That was a very well-balanced committee, Sir, and all credit is due to its members for their work. They have borne the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism for the way in which they have discharged1 their great public duty. But that does not answer the question of whether this kind of committee is the right way to determine the salaries and allowances of members of the Parliament. I believe that it would be advantageous, if a committee were appointed for this purpose in the future, for the chairman to be a former judge. That is no reflection upon the chairman of the present committee. It would be a concession to public opinion, because you must consider that you should have a tribunal that is acceptable to public opinion. I believe that this would strengthen the faith that the public would have in it, although the conclusions might not be in any way different and a judge, I am sure, could be no more impartial than was the chairman of this committee.
It has been suggested, Sir, that the Parliament should itself take the responsibility for fixing salaries. I would object to that on two grounds. First, from my own experience, I would not know what was the appropriate electorate allowance, say, for a country member; nor would a country member know what was the appropriate electorate allowance for a city member such as myself. That consideration would run through the whole range of salaries and allowances. No member here would have any knowledge, as to what was appropriate for others. I believe, therefor;, that you must have some kind of investigation and that the Parliament should not take this responsibility itself. The second reason why I would object to this method is that it is, of course, a bad principle that men should be judges in their own cause.
A third proposal has been put forward in some quarters, namely, that this matter should go to the arbitration court. I am not impressed by the argument that, constitutionally and legally, it is impossible for the court to make an award. Obviously, it would not be impossible for the Governto appoint members of the court to a committee in the way in which it appointed the members of the Richardson committee, and it would not be impossible for a committee so appointed to pursue its investigations precisely as the court, on the hearing of evidence, pursues its investigations now. And it would not be impossible for such a committee to make, not a binding award, but a recommendation to the Parliament, such as the Richardson committee has made. But I think that there are fundamental objections to this course, Sir. Would it be appropriate for judges, whose salaries are fixed by the Parliament, themselves then to fix the salaries of parliamentarians? I would think that a bad principle. Again, would it be a good thing that judges of the arbitration court, having fixed the salaries of members of the Parliament - something which is completely sui generis and which has nothing whatever to do with any other kind of determination that they have to make - should be embarrassed by having that case cited in other cases before the court? 1 would think that a great embarrassment to them, Sir. And there are other good reasons why I think that course would not be desirable.
However, there is yet another question. If you believe that determination by a committee like this is the right way to fix the salaries and allowances of members, should it be done on a triennial basis? I believe not, Sir. If it is done on a triennial basis, it may happen, as it happens now, that the fixation of members’ salaries coincides with a particular trend in the economy that is adverse to the decision of the tribunal that is looking at the matter from the standpoint of what has happened in the last three years and What may happen in the next three years. It may so happen that a committee, looking at the salaries and allowances of members from that stand-point, comes to a determination that appears to be a flat contradiction of the state of the economy at the particular time when the determination was made. I believe that that would be highly undesirable and that it would be better that these things should not be done on a triennial basis, but should be done with regard to up and down swings in the economy. So, Sir, I hope that this current determination may last for some time.
I pass on now to the principles applied by the Richardson committee in fixing the salaries and allowances of members and Ministers. The Nicholas committee, which reported in March, 1952, quoted with approval, Mr. Lloyd George, who, in introducing a proposal for the payment of members of the House of Commons in 1911, spoke of “ a sum sufficient to enable a man to live comfortably and honorably, but not luxuriously “. That committee quoted also the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the following effect: -
Public office should not be a means of private profit, but it should not involve such loss or financial embarrassment as to make it difficult for people without private means to enter Parliament or sit in the Cabinet.
The Nicholas committee, having quoted these authorities with approbation, then said - the salary should be such as to enable a young man, a man who has to educate a family, to take part in political life and not to debar a man who, although he may have fitted himself to earn a living, has no private income of his own.
The two Richardson committees repeated that test. The first committee stated -
We do not believe that any one should seek election to Parliament for personal profit nor do we believe that any one should be debarred from a seat in Parliament simply because he cannot afford the financial sacrifice.
The latest committee, in the report that is now before us, states the principle in these words -
The salary of a Member should be fixed at an amount which is not so low as to deter a man of good attainments and abilities who has no private income from entering or remaining in Parliament.
I do not believe that anybody can seriously quarrel with that test. I would add to it, Sir, that salaries and wages actually tend to be fixed not only on account of the economic value of the work done. It is not only a question of the hours worked, the conditions of employment, or the responsibilities that are discharged. It is also partly a question of the traditional regard in which some particular employment is held, which gives it a traditional place in relation to the remuneration paid to others in the community. I would say, Sir, that the position of a member of Parliament in the community is traditionally regarded as being very similar to that of, say, a moderately successful professional man - if you want to reduce the principles of the Richardson committee to something that is more tangible.
I have not time to give details as to the actual recommendations of the Richardson committee, except to sum them up in this way: The basic salary of members is to be increased, compared with the adjustment made three years ago, by £400 - an increase of 17 per cent. The basic salary of senior Ministers is to be increased, compared with the adjustment made seven years ago, by £1,000 - an increase of 45 per cent. This, together with their basic salary as members, will give them a total basic salary of £6,000 a year. The basic salary of junior Ministers is to be increased, compared with that of seven years ago, by £500 - an increase of 26 per cent. This, together with their basic salary as members, will give them a total basic salary of £5,000. Of course, both members and Ministers receive expense allowances as well.
How do these increases compare with what has happened to other people in the community? In March, 1952 - at the time of the Nicholas report - the basic wage was £10 10s. a week. In October, 1955 - at the time of the first Richardson report, it was £11 16s. a week. In March, 1959, it was £13 ls. a week. If my arithmetic is correct, the increase between 1952 and 1959, which is relevant to Ministers, has been 19.5 per cent.; and between 1955 and 1959, which is relevant to members, it has been 10.6 per cent. These increases are relatively less than the proposed increases for Ministers on the one hand and members on the other, which I have just indicated. That must be faced as a fact.
As regards age and invalid pensions, these have increased between 1952 and 1958 from £3 7s. 6d. to £4 7s. 6d. This represents an increase of almost 30 per cent. Between 1955 and 1958 they increased from £4 to £4 7s. 6d., an increase of 9 per cent. Of course, it must be borne in mind that before the end of the year these pensions and the basic wage may be increased, and it will be another three years at least, and perhaps six years, before parliamentary salaries are again reviewed.
I come now to what is most interesting and relevant to honorable members. I examined what has happened to the salaries of professional and commercial men in the same income brackets as members of this Parliament. First, I examined the relationship between the salaries of public servants and members at the time of the last Richardson committee report, three years ago, and at the present time. It will be remembered that the Metal Trades Award, which was made in November, 1954, applied the formula of a two and a half times increase in margins over the 1937 level in that industry, and that this triggered off a series of long-overdue adjustments in margins generally. The most important repercussions was the Commonwealth public servants’ margins case. Here the dates become very important. At the time when the first Richardson committee reported, in October, 1955, this case had not been concluded. Public servants receiving salaries of £1,850 - closely comparable with the then existing salary of £1,750 for members - had been conceded by the Public Service Board a salary of £2,498, this being very closely comparable with the Richardson committee’s recommendation in September of £2,350 for members. But four months later, in December, 1955, the public servants, having appealed to the full Arbitration Court, were awarded £2,763, a figure remarkably close to the £2,750 now recommended for members, three years later, by the present Richardson committee. I understand that another application by the public servants is now pending before the Public Service Arbitrator.
Next I take another group of people in the relevant bracket, university lecturers After a long period in which their salaries remained static, they were adjusted in 1956 and again in 1958. These dates correspond closely to the dates of the first and second Richardson reports. In 1956 senior lecturers were given an increase to £2,150, as compared with the members’ increase to £2,350. In 1958 the salaries of these lecturers were increased to £2,600, while the Richardson committee now recommends an increase to £2,750 for members. I understand that salaries in comparable brackets, paid by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, have increased proportionately to a far greater extent, over the period, than the salaries to which I have just referred.
I come now to the field of commerce. In November, 1958, the Australian Institute of Management made a survey of salaries paid to employees in a sample group of 52 manufacturing companies, as between the years 1957 and 1958, showing the increases in various ranges, including the £2,000 to £3,000 a year bracket. Taking all the types of salary earners within that bracket, the average increase was approximately £106. The indications are that in the two preceding years the increases were perhaps half as high again. It seems reasonable to conclude that over the threeyear period the average increases were of the order of £300 to £400.
In conclusion, let me say at once that I am in no way attempting to compare the relative worth of services rendered by members of Parliament and of the work done by public servants, senior lecturers at the universities or business executives and company secretaries. I am merely saying that these are people in the same income brackets, and that their emoluments have increased pari passu with the increases recommended by the Richardson committee.
I shall now pass on rapidly, because my time is very limited, to the question of parliamentary pensions. I have listened closely to this debate and have not, so far, heard a fair presentation of the situation. What I will say is entirely factual and members may draw their own conclusions from it. I have studied the relevant legislation and I have informed my mind with information from persons able to advise me and who have some knowledge of the matter. This is the situation as I see it. Members’ pensions at present are fixed at the rate of £12 a week for members who have served for at least eight years or in three Parliaments. The contribution by members is fixed at £4 10s. a week.
The first comment I make is that this is the only scheme in Australia, designed to provide pensions for members of Parliament, that has been constructed on an actuarial basis. Secondly, it is built on the basis that 40 per cent, of the amount of the pensions is payable out of members’ own contributions, and the balance of 60 per cent, is payable by the Treasury. Thirdly, it has to be based on certain assumptions which, in the event, could be proved false. The assumptions were that members entered Parliament, on the average, at the age of 45, that the average parliamentary life of a member was ten years, and that the average expectancy of life of a man of 45 in Australia is 27 years. These are refined guesses, but bona fide assumptions as to what will happen. We cannot just assume that every member comes into this House, serves for the minimum period of eight years, then goes out at the age of 45 and draws a pension until he is 80. The actuarial assumptions represent a refined guess.
On the face of it, such a scheme is fair to the taxpayer. For example, the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme contemplates a ratio of 29 to 71 between contributions made by the employees and by the Treasury. A large employer in private industry would make a similar contribution in respect of the superannuation of senior employees in the comparable salary brackets; a small employer would normally contribute less. But there are two special considerations that must be taken into account in considering the parliamentary retiring allowances scheme. The first is that, though the ratio between the contributions of members and the Treasury is fair, it is true that members’ pensions will, on the average, continue for seventeen years, whereas in the case of other pension schemes, assuming that the pensioners retire at the age of 65, they will continue for only seven years. This means that the Treasury will pay out a much larger total sum in respect of members’ pensions, just as, indeed, members themselves must contribute more heavily to meet the situation.
However, a substantial countervailing argument can be advanced. When a member, having served in the Parliament from the age of 45 to the age of 55, returns to private life, if he is a professional man he will have lost his practice and’ not a little of his skill, and he will be no longer a young man. His earning capacity will have been substantially impaired. If he has been engaged in business, he will suffer a similar severe handicap. On the other hand, a private citizen at the age of 55 can still command a high income from that time until he reaches the age of 65. Between 45 and 55 his skill and experience will normally increase rather than diminish. If at 55 he leaves his existing employment and accepts another post, he will probably do so in order to get a better salary. While it is true that he will surrender his pension rights and probably recover only the amounts of his own contributions, he will do this for the calculated advantage involved in securing a larger salary.
The second special consideration that applies to the members’ pensions scheme is the high rate of pension paid to a member’s widow, namely five-sixths of the member’s pension. This is much higher than is the case in other occupations where, in the past, the old rule of thumb has resulted in one half of a person’s pension being payable to his widow, though the modern trend is to increase this proportion.
The committee has recommended that members’ pensions be increased from £12 to £18 a week, an increase of 50 per cent., and that their contributions should be increased from £4 10s. to £5 a week. On the face of it, this would destroy the actuarial basis of the scheme, and I believe that the Richardson committee’s report should have contained the expert opinion of an actuary on this aspect. But what, in fact, has happened in other schemes in which inflation has eroded the value of the originally stipulated pensions, which have had to be increased to keep pace with the declining value of money? So far as the Commonwealth public service superannuation scheme is concerned, the value of each unit of pension was increased in 1947 from £26 to £45, while the contributions by the employees have remained at the same figure per unit since 1942. So, the principle has been accepted that the Treasury has borne the burden of inflation, as presumably the Richardson committee contemplates it should do in the case of members’ pensions. Nevertheless, it must be concluded that the recommendation of the Richardson committee is, when all the circumstances are taken into account, quite generous. I must add my own personal opinion, after studying a matter which has not engaged my attention so vividly before, that self-employed people in the community are those who are suffering most. They have no employer to supplement their life assurance premiums, and I believe that more substantial tax concessions in respect of such premiums should be given.
The conclusion I come to after going into these matters in some detail is that the Richardson recommendations are not as much out of line as on first impression I believed they were. If we pay regard to the fact that members’ salaries have not been adjusted for three years and may not be adjusted for another three or six years - who knows? - then, looking at what has happened to incomes in the comparable brackets, for which I have given figures, the recommendations of the Richardson report can be justified. So far as Ministers are concerned, not being a Minister I have no means of judging, but if the recommendation in respect of members’ basic salaries is right, it seems reasonable to conclude, as far as one can test the matter from an investigation such as this, that the recom mendation relating to Ministers is not very far out of line, although, as I said at the outset, I believe that the gap between Ministers and members should, in the interests of Parliament, not perhaps be as great as it is.
I believe that the allowances for members and Ministers has created more public disquiet than the basic salaries themselves. Some things are easy to test for oneself, but they are little things. Nobody knows how much it might cost a Minister to live in Canberra, if he has a home here or if he comes here frequently for Cabinet meetings. I would not know how many Cabinet meetings are held in a year. One cannot test those things. But when one finds things like a non-contributory pension, which has now been shorn off, and the use of cars by certain retired members, which has now been shorn off, and when one looks, for example, at Ministers’ travelling expenses, which have risen from £5 5s. as recommended by the Nicholas committee to £12 for senior Ministers, though one does not know what their expenditure may be, one feels that perhaps they are excessive. However, when we look at the report as a whole and are able to test it in some important respect and find that it tallies with what has happened in the rest of the community, we can assume only that these things, some of them looking wrong, may be right.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to speak briefly on this matter. So far, in the discussions that have taken place, I have not spoken in public on it but I feel that it is necessary to say something in this place on the matter which has assumed very great importance not only to the Parliament, but to the people. My view of the Richardson report is that it is indefensible and unacceptable and that in this form it should be rejected. I accept the view that there should be an increase in the electorate allowance and in the retiring allowances for members, but I feel that the main body of the report is indefensible and unacceptable.
I adopt a standard to judge the report which is a standard that I have not always by any means achieved myself, but I view the report as a report of men who take a very different view of the kind of society they want from the view that I take and, I believe, the view that the great majority of my electorate takes. I am not speaking of the probity or sincerity of any of the members of the committee. 1 know one of them personally and have known him for years, i know that he is a man of probity and sincerity, but it is not a question of that. He happens to be of a very different social point of view and has a different set of standards from my own point of view and standards and from those of the people whom I represent. I see this report, therefore, as a report of men who accept inequality, who accept wide margins of income between one person and another, and who accept the general conditions of this society in which we live, but I feel that my function in this House is to work for a change in this form of society. Therefore, I cannot accept a report which expresses the essential social values of a society that I feel 1 should work to change.
The social values of the Richardson report are also the social values of this Government and of the press - the social values of inequality. This report is perfectly consistent with everything the Government does, lt governs so that those who have much can get more, lt has not made any sincere attempt, I believe, to change the distribution of income in this country in favour of those who have little. This report is a perfectly good example of its general attitude on all matters. Every member of Parliament is in the top 2 per cent, of income earners. We are, therefore, in the same class as company directors, pastoralists and the top professions. Being in this class, I do not believe that there should be a further distribution of income in our favour and in favour of this class of which we are a part.
We can see the situation we occupy by looking at the size of a number of incomes. First, it is proposed that the Prime Minister should have an income of £14,350, some of which is tax free and some of which will be spent for a purpose that no doubt an outside person on the same income would not use his money for. The Deputy Prime Minister is to receive £9.150; senior Ministers and those classified with them, £8,350 to £8,550; junior Ministers £7,100; and members £3,600. We must contrast those incomes with the income of a pensioner, who receives £227 10s. a year, or a basic wage earner who receives £670 a year, and there are many of them. If we take the average wage as being £1,000 a year, we are certainly not understating or overstating it; it is approximately of that order. Many thousands of people are trying to keep families on £1,000 a year, as well as on £3,600. Therefore, I would think on the size of income, if we accept the kind of social standard that I had expressed-
– Where do you get the £3,600 as income?
– The honorable member can check it, if he so desires. I added together the salary and the allowance, and in doing so I mentioned that persons in that position in Parliament spend some of the money in a way which they would not do if they were outside, and allowance can be made for that. Some of it is tax free.
The second point is that of margins. I have spoken about the size of the salaries. If this report were put into effect, the Prime Minister would have a margin above the average income of £250 a week. Senior Ministers would have a margin of not less than £150 a week and junior Ministers a margin of £120. A member of Parliament would have a margin of £30. To my mind, they are very substantial margins and very definite evidence of inequality. This inequality is more than I am prepared to accept.
The other aspect which we should examine is the rate of increase of incomes in recent times. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) spoke about this. Having examined the size of incomes and the margins between them, let us examine the rate of increase. The position broadly is that since 1952, the basic wage has risen by about 30 per cent., the average wage has risen by 34 per cent, to 35 per cent., and the pension rate has risen by about 30 per cent. Let us look at the proposed increase in members’ salaries if this report is adopted and the rate of increase in those salaries since 1952. The rate of increase in the Prime Minister’s salary will be 81.25 per cent. Not only is it so much greater in terms of cash than the increase of pensions, but the rate of increase is almost three times the rate of increase of pensions.
The rate of increase of the Deputy Prime Minister’s salary will be 50.9 per cent., and that of the Treasurer 50 per cent.
– Is that after tax?
– No, before tax.
– The pensioners do not pay taxes.
– They would if the honorable member for Hume had his way. The other rates of increase in the circumstances I have described will be: Senior Minister, 44.4 per cent.; Junior Minister, 28.5 per cent.; Leader of the Opposition, 85.7 per cent.; Deputy Leader of the Opposition, 100 per cent.; Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, 100 per cent.; Deputy Leader in the Senate, 33.3 per cent.; and a private member, 57.14 per cent. If allowance were made for taxation, the rate of increase would not be much different. Not only is there a very great difference between the salaries and a great difference between margins, but there is an equally great difference also between the rates of increase compared with the incomes of other sections of the community. I fail to see how any one could support a measure of this sort while supporting the Government’s social service and wage policy over the past ten years.
The report, Mr. Deputy Speaker, has been prepared by businessmen who have the same social and economic values as those of the Government. Moreover, the report has been drawn up in such a way as to isolate it and its recommendations from the general community. Those who doubt that statement can confirm my opinion by a study of the carefully worded paragraph at page 6 of the Richardson committee’s report, which states -
In our judgment, our function was not to take the existing rates of salaries and allowances and bring them up to date in the light of movements in cost of living indices and average rates of earnings since 1951 or 1955 as the case might be.
In other words, the Richardson committee has said, “We have not paid attention to increases in the cost of living, and these increases to be granted to members of Par:liament are not suggested because the cost of living has increased “. The committee is isolating its decision from that of arbitration courts and industrial tribunals which are being asked from time to time to make decisions based on changes in the cost of living. If the committee’s report or this measure are cited by an advocate for employees -as a precedent for an increase in wages, the arbitration courts or tribunals will say “ No; the Richardson committee specifically stated that its report was not to be used for that purpose “. The recommendations in the report have been determined by the special position of a member of Parliament and express the privilege of that position which is that of a special social status or class. This report has not been introduced because of any change in overall economic conditions. It has been introduced for a totally different reason. The report on salaries for members of the State Parliament of Victoria was even more specific.
However, I believe that although this report will not be admissible in arbitration proceedings for legal or technical reasons, it must have a terrific moral impact on the community if it is adopted. I fail to see how the Prime Minister can support an increase in salary of more than £70 a week for himself without making a substantial increase in pensions. I fail to see how the Deputy Prime Minister can accept £50 a week for himself above the standard upon which he has been living for several years without also asking his advocates in the arbitration courts to support an increase for the workers as well. But that is a moral problem that the Prime Minister and his deputy can wrestle with in the next few months.
A lot has been said about the press campaign on parliamentary salaries and allowances. For once, the Government and its supporters have been under a barrage of press criticism, but the press campaign is really a campaign against the Australian Labour Party. It is directed to put the A.L.P. before the sights and to throw the responsibility in this matter on the Labour Party. No doubt the supporters of the Government would sooner forget the criticism that has been levelled against it because supporters of the Government generally accept the sort of social order of which these large salaries are a part. No Liberal Party supporters could be expected to react as adversely to a vote by his representative for such large salaries as one would expect a Labour supporter with a different set of social values to do. The press campaign which has been so generally directed, and so specifically directed in intent, is a campaign which is believed by the newspapers - some of them openly and definitely - to be a greater weapon against Labour than anything else. The press has a right to say wha it likes and it generally does. But it is an organization which has been assisted by this Government. That is seen in the growth of its monopoly aspects, and the transfer to the press of television licences when we know that there is interlocking control between some units of the press which have received these licences. The legislation of this Government has helped substantially to build up the press. It has the same social values as those of the Government. I was astounded to hear the Prime Minister criticize the press when it is an organization exactly the same in intent, value and purpose as the one he leads himself.
This legislation also brings into question the position of members of Parliament. I have been in this place for over three years. When I said that previously, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) said that that was as long as I would be here, but I do not hear any interjections of that sort now. The members of Parliament have been called into question by this campaign, but my experience is that they are as serious and diligent and do a job for the community as high in quality as that performed by any other group with which T am associated or of which I know. The standard of members of Parliament is as high as that of any other section of the community. It is important for the Australian Labour Party that the Parliament and members of Parliament should be held in high regard. It is not so important for our political opponents and for the press, because Labour stands for a policy which would mean that the National Parliament and the State parliaments would have to exercise a great deal more power in the community. The people will not be prepared to agree to their parliaments exercising this power unless they trust them. It is in the interests of those who want to keep power where it is - in the hands of business organizations, including the press - to have the Parliament and politicians held in ill-repute. I sometimes think that our political opponents and the press have a similar interest in this regard, because they both want to keep power away from this Parliament. Of course, it is in the interests of the Australian Labour Party that the Parliament and its members should be held in high repute. Therefore, I believe that it is in our interests to take a stand on this matter which would give us credit in the eyes of the people, and that we should avoid at all times creating an impression that we are in Parliament for what we can get out of it. I think that we should try to create just the opposite impression.
I should like to say something about the attitude adopted towards this legislation by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser). They are opposed to the recommendations in the Richardson report because they fear that the implementation of the recommendations could lead to a general increase in costs. However, if there were no danger of that happening, I think that they would be prepared to accept these increases, but they would never agree to the principle of increases for employees generally. They do not want to see increases given to the people whom they employ, because they fear that it would lead to an increase in costs. But I remind those honorable members that there are two sides to this economic problem - the question of costs on the one side and the question of demand on the other. If wage-earners can get a little more income they can buy a little more butter, meat and wool, although, having in mind the price of wool to-day, I am amazed how any worker can buy a woollen article.
This is not just a problem of costs, of depression mentality, the kind of thing that caused incomes in the 1930’s to be cut and that led to 500,000 becoming unemployed. This is a matter of demand and decent standards of living, and as an economic problem it has a different bearing on different sections of rural industry. Perhaps the wool industry, because the major portion of its product is sold overseas, is satisfied to see a low wage structure, knowing that it will reduce costs of production in the industry. But the same low cost structure would have a different impact on other sections of rural industry. The dairying industry, the meat industry, and the fruit industry are examples where the greater proportion of the output of the industry is sold in this country. Those industries depend on the wage-earners having decent incomes in order to be able to buy their products.
So in my view the argument submitted by some honorable members opposite, who represent country electorates, is particularly one-sided. It is an argument that cannot be justified on the ground of economics, justice, or morality. Two of the honorable members that I mentioned earlier come from sheep-producing areas, I believe.
A lot has been said about insincerity with regard to this matter, but the press has made no allegations of insincerity against one particular group of members of Parliament. 1 refer to members of the so-called Australian Democratic Labour Party. Throughout this business they have been given favorable press publicity. There has not been one word of criticism against them. Members of that party have said that they intend to vote against the recommendations contained in the Richardson report. But I remind the House that their leader in another place, Senator Cole, appeared before the Richardson committee for one and onehalf hours. What did he do? Did he oppose these recommendations? Did he say that he was against an increase of salaries and retiring allowances? I have reason to believe that he strongly advocated an increase in the remuneration for his own position to something like that of a junior Minister, arguing that he represented 10 per cent, of the Australian community. I believe that he strongly advocated an increase in salaries, but outside the committee he immediately began to fight against the increases. He and other members of his party are said to be men of honour and sincerity. They will oppose these recommendations; they will speak against them; they will vote against them; but if the legislation is passed they will accept the increases in order to continue the fight for justice. That was the position outlined by Senator McManus, as reported in the Melbourne “ Herald “ last Monday.
I understand that my predecessor in this place, Mr. Keon, has written a letter protesting violently against the exclusion of former members of Parliament from the increase in retiring allowances. He has violently stated his opposition to clause 13 of the bill that we are now discussing. He wants a retiring allowance of £18 a week, not £12, and he is a member of a party that says it is opposed on principle to this legislation. I bring this matter to the attention of the House, not because I think that sincerity or insincerity can be correlated with parties, but because I think that this particular party has been receiving very favorably biased treatment from practically every newspaper in Australia.
– Who was the honorable member’s predecessor?
- Mr. Keon. I cannot understand why the Minister for Social Services should need to ask that question. I mention the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labour Party to these increases in order to put the record straight.
In conclusion, I wish to say that in my view this report is indefensible and unacceptable. I believe, therefore, that it should be rejected. I hold those views because I believe in a fairer distribution of income among the lower income classes, and this legislation cuts right across that principle. If we are to start anywhere with a re-distribution of income, let us start at the bottom and work up, rather than the other way round. I believe that members of Parliament must work to raise the standards of Parliament. I believe that we can raise those standards by setting an example and increasing salaries on the lower levels, rather than by accepting the recommendations contained in the report. I believe that there must be an increase of wages and pensions in this country. If this report causes the Government to feel a moral responsibility to increase pensions and to refrain from using the machinery of arbitration in order to oppose the granting of wage justice to workers generally, then some good may come from the report.
Mr. KILLEN (Moreton) L3.34].- I do not propose to offer any wearying recapitulation of the various points that have been mentioned during the debate on this bill and on the bill to follow this one, or to advert in any shape or form to the bill that we discussed last night. 1 have a few views that I regard as reasonably respectable, and that I mean to put in regard to the private member of Parliament. But before I put them, 1 should like to spend a few moments dealing with some of the points made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). He has said of the Richardson committee’s report that it is indefensible and unacceptable.
– Hear, hear!
– The flute obligato, the honorable member for East Sydney, agrees with him. I think a reasonable test of the egalitarianism of the honorable member for Yarra will be made when it comes to a vote on this bill. Is that egalitarianism to be defined in terms of a condemnation of the Richardson committee’s report in its entirety, or is it to be considered as being directed against those things that he dislikes, putting to one side those things which meet with his approval? When the vote on this bill is taken, it will be very interesting to see into which lobby he will walk - if I may use a House of Commons expression.
His suggestion that there has been projected into the Richardson committee’s report a sense of social values, I find so much hysterical nonsense. I ask the honorable gentleman whether his sense of equality is to be drawn to the stage where members of Parliament are to receive the basic wage, or is it to be drawn still further to the point where they find themselves in receipt of an amount of money comparable with an age or invalid pension? Surely the palpable absurdity of that argument is readily apparent. Then the honorable member turned on the executive heads of this country. He said that here was a widening of the social gap between the lower stratum of society and what have been styled the tall poppies. 1 have always regarded it as grossly unfair that the executive head of a department should find himself in an inferior financial position to that of the administrative head of the department. The doctrine of minis terial responsibility is still alive, and if an error is made in a department it is not the administrative head who suffers and who must answer to Parliament and to the people; it is the executive head who must answer. The honorable member for Yarra, in his denunciation of this report, invoked the argument that it was necessary to build up the prestige of members of Parliament and. ironically enough, he included members of State parliaments, although he is a member of a party that is committed to the abolition of State parliaments.
May I put those rather casually made observations of the honorable member for Yarra to one side and turn to what prompted me to come into this debate? As I say, I am not offering recapitulation of the various points that have been made, but I want to express in this House my anxiety at one thing that has come out of the Richardson committee’s report, and its consideration by the press and by the people of this country. Tt is this: The parliamentary institution - that is. this institution - has been damaged, and whatever one’s own anxieties may be concerning oneself, I hope that it will be an intelligible point of view to profess an anxiety for the respect and integrity of the institution. One of the reasons why the institution has been damaged is that people have regarded the Richardson committee - in particular, the manner in which it worked - with a measure of suspicion. This Parliament is charged with the responsibility of determining the salaries and allowances of its own servants. Section 48 of the Constitution seems to be quite clear on that point, and I would be the last person to suggest that there should be any divesting of Parliament’s authority in this matter.
Nevertheless. I am emboldened to suggest that possibly there is a far better way of Parliament’s being informed as to the position of members and of those who sit in another place. One of the cogent and, to my mind, completely understandable criticisms that have been directed against the Richardson committee is that it conducted its inquiry in camera. Right from the outset, I made my attitude of mind clear. I said I believed that greater facilities should be provided for public hearings. Quite obviously, it would be impracticable for a committee of this character to meet in public, but would it be impracticable for a duly constituted body, that is to say, a royal commission, to sit in public, not to fix salaries and allowances, but as a means of informing this Parliament and the people of Australia? A royal commission would have power to subpoena, and counsel assisting it would have the right to examine witnesses on oath. More importantly, it would enjoy the full protection of an ordinary court of jurisdiction.
– All those conditions apply to this Parliament.
– That may well be. I am looking at this matter prospectively and with a hope that in future this parliamentary institution will not be damaged in the manner in which it has been damaged in recent weeks. Any committee that meets in camera is immediately suspect in the minds of thinking people. My attitude of mind on this matter is simply this: Apart from those issues which relate to the defence and security of one’s country, the less there is of committees meeting in camera the better. Beyond that, there is another result of value that might come from such a form of gathering information. It would enable people to be informed of the duties of a member of Parliament and of what Parliament does. Some people may say, “Is that completely necessary? “ I shall give three or four illustrations of the need for it. This is a paragraph, not taken out of context, of an editorial in the Brisbane “Truth”, of 29th March, 1959-
How their hearts must have bled when they learned that Parliamentarians needed not only more pay but more free travel, more free postage, more free telegraph facilities, more free board and lodging in Canberra, more free transport!
There are two falsehoods in that passage - “ more free board and lodging in Canberra “ and “ more free postage “. I am in the habit of paying for my stamps - admittedly it comes out of my allowance - and I am in the habit of paying for my board and lodging in Canberra.
– And your local telephone calls.
– Precisely, yes. When I raised this matter with one of the members of the editorial staff of this news paper, it was suggested to me that I was taking a purely literal view of the phrasing. I said to him, “ How can you have more of something if you are not already getting something? “ He said, “ That is not the proposition at all “.
That is one illustration. The second is from a letter written to a Brisbane newspaper and signed jointly by four people. It reads -
We consider that a fair and just salary for federal politicians would be the present basic wage.
Would any person with two wits to rub together seriously suggest that a member of Parliament could effectively, conscientiously and properly discharge his duties on the basic wage? That sort of arrant nonsense has permeated and distorted public opinion with the result that this institution has been grievously weakened. Again, I wish to refer to a letter written by an individual to a newspaper. I do not question the right of people to write letters to newspapers but I do expect that, upon great issues, they should make some effort to inform their own minds. This sentiment was expressed in that letter -
Salaries for members should be fixed before the election and those who consider them inadequate should not stand.
Prima facie, that is a most attractive argument. I invite honorable members to imagine the sort of an election campaign that would be fought on the issue of salaries. Suppose it was a case of the Prime Minister versus the Leader of the Opposition, and some individual came into the contest and said, “ I will not take one . penny of public pay”. People would say, “This is a fine display of public spirit”, although they might be completely unaware of the fact that he was supported by some wealthy patron or trade union or some vested interest, if you like, and he would be returned. T move on to another illustration of the need to inform people of what, precisely, members of Parliament live on. T have a letter written to me by a woman who suggests that, unlike members of Parliament, she does not receive any financial assistance in sending out her Christmas cards. It might be said that this is a very trivial suggestion, but it is illustrative of the raging ignorance in the minds of many people.
A few weeks ago I had a young couple in this House listening at question time. As honorable members all know, at the end of question time a number of Ministers rise and move out of the House to go about their duties. As I took this couple out to afternoon tea one of them said to me, “ Is the Prime Minister finished for the day? “ I assured them that such was not the case and that he might well be here until 11 o’clock or 11.30 o’clock at night. The young lady said, “ Can we go to meet him? “ Not wishing to disclose the fact that I did not command ready entree into the right honorable gentleman’s office, I fell back upon the lame excuse that he was busy receiving a deputation. Then she said, “Is there any possibility of meeting some of the celebrities of the Opposition? “; and she mentioned the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. In that case I did not like to disclose the fact that the right honorable gentleman had never said to me, “ Well, Jim, your friends are my friends “.
Considerable concern has been injected into this debate regarding the attitude of the press. I want to make this definite statement: I believe in the freedom of the press, but I do not believe in freedom for the press. I believe that there is a definite distinction between the two. The gentlemen of the Fourth Estate have a duty to perform equally as have members of Parliament. But they cannot discharge that duty if they are going to interpret their freedom as licence. I will give the House an illustration of licence in this matter. On Wednesday, 4th March last, at 1.20 p.m., I placed in the hands of the acting editor of the “ Sunday Mail “ in Brisbane, a full copy of the submission which I gave to the Richardson committee. The House will recall I mentioned earlier that I believe that proceedings of committees such as this should be in the open. Nothing was censored from that statement, nothing was deleted, nothing was added. It was a document consisting of three and three-quarter foolscap pages of single-spaced typing. The treatment given by the “ Sunday Mail “ to this statement upon a matter which, I was informed, was of great public interest, was to take hold of one paragraph out of the entire statement that had a news value, and to feature that paragraph only.
I say to Mr. Maude, the editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, who protested this morning that no private member of Parliament had risen to speak their minds on this matter, that surely our cynicism is quite understandable when a private member, weeks before the Richardson committee’s report was made public, handed to a newspaper a copy of the submission which he gave to the committee and it met with treatment of that sort. I say that without any malevolence, but with some warmth of feeling.
Finally, I wish to make this comment: I have been a little saddened by the intellectual dishonesty of some sections of the newspapers in Australia which have persisted in linking together members’ salaries and allowances. I have here an illustration from the “Courier-Mail”, of 26th March last, listing members’ new salaries and allowances. Would that newspaper be prepared to publish the fact that in the three years I have been in this Parliament my electoral allowance has been hopelessly inadequate? This is not something which is a figment of one’s imagination; it is something which can be documented and audited to meet the most respectable of inquiring minds. But this form of intellectual dishonesty does not encourage my affection for some newspapers and their treatment of a matter which involves this great parliamentary institution. Since I have been in this House, my electoral allowance, I have found, has been hopelessly inadequate. I ask my friends, the honorable members for Deakin (Mr. Davis), Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) and Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), what I am to do in these circumstances? Am I to go on eating into my salary in such a way that my indebtedness must be perpetuated? Am I to cut down what I regard as being a reasonable discharge of my electoral duties? Is some one going to suggest seriously to me that I should wipe out contributing to all organizations? I asked the Richardson committee to give members statutory protection in that matter. Is some person going to advise, “ Cut out your postage “ ? I say quite openly that in such circumstances, no matter how deep one’s convictions upon any issues might be, I could not hope to continue as a member of this Parliament.
Two hundred years ago, Edmund Burke, that fount-head of clear thinking, wrote in his letter to the sheriffs of Bristol -
I hope there are none of you corrupted by the doctrine taught by wicked men for the worst purpose and received with the malignant credulity of envy and ignorance, which is that the men who act upon the public stage are all alike, all equally corrupt, all influenced by no other views than the sordid lure of salary and pension.
Burke’s hopes, as expressed to the sheriffs of Bristol, would receive little encouragement in this country. The cynical regard for Parliament and its institution is such as to make one believe that genuine conviction and desire to render public service are degenerate motives. Unless that attitude can be altered, this parliamentary institution will disappear.
– I share to a great extent the feelings of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) that it may have been well if this inquiry had been conducted in public. I share also the feeling of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) who spoke of the necessity for having this inquiry conducted by persons who were not, themselves, receiving emoluments at the discretion of this Parliament. I think perhaps this last criterion could be satisfied by doing what this Government did earlier, that is, by appointing to the commission and preferably as its chairman, a judge of a State, or, better still, a retired judge of a State, who would have the necessary prestige and experience.
I think there is one solid justification only for these measures. That is, that the payment of members must be sufficient to allow a member who has no private means to discharge effectively his duties in this Parliament and the duties incidental to his membership. Now, Sir, as the honorable member for Moreton said a moment ago, we all know that if a member really discharges his responsibilities in this Parliament and to electors, the amount of allowance is quite insufficient, and he has to trench into his salary for electorate purposes unless he has private means.
Much has been said about expenses in the electorates, and I shall not repeat it at great length. I regard such expenses as necessary expenses and, furthermore, expenses which, as I think the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) said, are to be welcomed as enabling a member to keep in touch with his constituents and to perform his duties properly. I also believe that there are other expenses connected with the work of this Parliament, which are very proper if the work is to be done efficiently. Although such expenses are not necessarily incurred in a member’s electorate, they doubtless often have reference to the needs of his electorate. They are expenses incurred by a member in relation to special investigations into problems which come before this Parliament. Participation in such investigations is to many of us a not unpleasurable duty; but that is not the point. The point is: Is our work of value to the nation and of value to the Parliament? I believe that much of the work which has been done by honorable members outside this Parliament’s bounds, and outside the bounds of their electorates, is the proper function of members of a National Parliament, and has often proved of great value to the country.
Now, Sir, this work cannot be done without a reasonable expenditure of money. I think that it is inevitable that the member should not be given a special travelling allowance when he is engaged on such work, because such a provision, desirable as it may be at first sight, would be almost impossible to administer. This has to be covered by means of a lump sum. I think that it is perhaps no coincidence - and this is something on which honorable members may take thought - that those people who on the Government side have played the biggest part in parliamentary committees of all kinds have been people of some private means. I say this not because I believe that those members are better than others, but because they have, through some accident, more facilities than others, and have used them. That, Sir, is right and proper; but we should not be debarring a member who has no private means from having those same facilities. Here, perhaps, lies part of the explanation why the greatest amount of committee work that has been done in this Parliament has been done on the Government side and not on the Opposition side, and it may be that the fault does not lie as much as some of us would sometimes think on the individual member of the Opposition. I believe there is this justification - a sufficient justification, and I think the only justification - for the increases in salaries embodied in this bill.
It is necessary that members of this Parliament should have the security which enables them to give their vote without fear and without thought of personal consequences. If the Parliament is to work, and if this democracy is to work, we have to have that kind of independence. It is no use saying that a person who has no other means than his parliamentary salary will bc entirely unfettered by financial considerations. Therefore, very properly, the Parliament has provided a system of retiring allowances that do afford a member reasonable independence so that he may exercise his judgment. But there is one feature of this system which has escaped public attention, one to which I should like to direct the attention of the House. That is, that the money hitherto paid out of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund has been provided by nobody else but members themselves. You can argue whether or not the scheme is generous, but you cannot argue against the figures which embody now, I think, eleven years of experience. They are set out in the last report of the Auditor-General at page 20. I commend it to honorable members for reading, and I hope that the press will publish the facts contained in it.
These facts are, that during the operation of this scheme from its inception, members have contributed out of their own pockets some £309,000 whilst the total benefits paid to members under all heads are £194,000. So members have contributed in total a very considerable amount - I think, from inspection, something like 70 per cent. - more than has been paid out. All the money that has been paid out - and more - has been contributed out of the pockets of members themselves. You cannot say that this scheme is over-generous or undergenerous. I have not yet told the whole story because, in addition to this amount held in credit, there is an amount of £43,000 of interest which has been earned by the fund, and most of it - though not all - has been earned on the subscriptions provided by members from their own pockets.
Tt will perhaps be said, Sir, that when you look at this from an actuarial point of view - and I have, of course, taken the precaution of reading the last actuarial report on it - eleven years’ experience is not quite sufficient, because the fund is accumulating liabilities. Because of the peculiar assumptions made by the actuary, which are entirely arbitrary and which seem to have been falsified by the effect, I do not think that that is so. With the permission of the House I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a compilation made for me by the staff of the Parliamentary Library showing the yearly transactions of the fund since its inception. The document is as follows: -
I shall refer to the transactions of the last two years. During 1956-57, the total payments made to members under all heads were £29,000. The contributions in cash made by members amounted to £43.000. In addition, there was an amount of £9.000 of interest earned on the accumulated funds which nearly all, though not all. belong to members. For 1957-58 the position is virtually the same. The outgoing is £31,000 and the income £43,000 plus, in this case, £11,000 interest because, naturally, the accumulation is getting higher and members’ contributions continue to exceed the aid to members.
If one looks at this purely from the actuarial point of view, without any contribution from the Government at all, it would seem, projecting these figures, looking at what has happened after various elections, and remembering that you accumulate, as in all these things, towards a plateau maximum which does not further rise, one would say that it looks, for the foreseeable future, as if members will continue to pay into this fund more than they take out.
– The contributions are based on arbitrary assumptions.
– As I pointed out, the actuarial assumptions are exceedingly arbitrary. The report shows how arbitrary they are and they have to be measured against the experience of eleven years. Even taking the worst possible assumption for the next three, four or five parliaments - for the next twelve or fifteen years - the amount paid in by members will substantially exceed the amount paid out to them. That being so, I feel that this scheme, which is an insurance scheme run among members, and one under which members are paying in more than they take out, cannot be described as a generous scheme but as a very wide one because it does give to the member the necessary freedom of action, the feeling that he does not jeopardize his family’s living if he offends those who may affect his reelection to this Parliament. I think it is, for that reason, an essential part of the proper functioning of a parliament which contains, as I think it should contain, people who have no private means. 1 do not want to reiterate what I said last night. Although there should be margins, I believe that some of the margins here provided are unhealthily large. I shall not go back over that ground. I regret, as I believe all honorable members regret and the community should regret, the way in which this matter has monopolized the public stage over the last three or four weeks. During those three or four weeks vital things have been happening in the world outside Australia. There have been much more important issues. We are a national parliament. The press, I think, has done a disservice to itself, to the Parliament, and to Australia in inflating this issue to the extraordinary degree to which it has been inflated. We must preserve, of course, the freedom of the press. We must preserve its freedom to criticize. It should have that freedom and Parliament should not be too thin-skinned in regard to it. But, on this occasion, I feel that this matter has been inflated out of all proportion.
The feelings that have been exacerbated may be real feelings. But one of the worst features of the press over the past ten years has been its proven ability to take an incident which is, in itself, of small consequence, and inflate it into one of great consequence. In this way, the press makes people turn their attention to less important things when they should be reserving their attention for more important issues. This is the real charge of sensationalism which can be brought against the press and the dreadful part about it is that the charge cannot be brought against the press unless it be brought also against each one of us. We are participants in this error of judgment - in this lack of sense of proportion.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 5 to 10 -
Section six of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ One thousand seven hundred and fifty “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Two thousand two hundred and fifty “;
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “ Two hundred and fifty “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Five hundred “; and
by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words “ Nine hundred “ and inserting in their stead the words “ One thousand “ .
Section seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ Seven hundred and fifty “ (first occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ One thousand five hundred “;
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ One thousand seven hundred and fifty “ and inserting in their stead the words “Three thousand two hundred and fifty “;
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “ Two hundred and fifty “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Five hundred “; and
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “ One thousand “ and inserting in their stead the words “ One thousand five hundred “.
Section seven a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ Three hundred and seventy-five “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Five hundred “.
Section eight of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ Seven hundred and fifty “ and inserting in their stead the words “ One thousand five hundred “; and
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “ Two hundred and fifty “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Five hundred “.
Section nine of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words “ Five hundred “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Seven hundred and fifty “; and
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - “ (2.) There is payable to a member of the House of Representatives who is in receipt of an allowance under the last preceding sub-section an allowance, in respect of the expenses of discharging the duties of his office, at the rate of Two hundred and fifty pounds a year.”.
Section ten of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ Two hundred and seventy-five “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Four hundred “;
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “ Three hundred and twentyfive “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Five hundred “; and
by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words “ Two hundred and seventyfive” and inserting in their stead the words “ Four hundred “.
Sections proposed to be amended -
– (1.) There are payable to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives allowances at the rate of One thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds a year each. (2.) There are payable to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives allowances, in respect of the expenses of discharging the duties of their respective offices, at the rate of Two hundred and fifty pounds a year each. (3.) There are payable to the Chairman of Committees of the Senate and to the Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives allowances at the rate of Nine hundred pounds a year each.
– (1.) There is payable to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate an allowance at the rate of Seven hundred and fifty pounds a year and to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives an allowance at the rate of One thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds a year. (2.) There is payable to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate an allowance, in respect of the expenses of discharging the duties of his office, at the rate of Two hundred and fifty pounds a year and to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives an allowance, in respect of the expenses of discharging the duties of his office, at the rate of One thousand pounds a year. 7a. - (1.) There is payable to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate an allowance at the rate of Three hundred and seventy-five pounds a year.
– (1.) There is payable to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives an allowance at the rate of Seven hundred and fifty pounds a year. (2.) There is payable to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives an allowance, in respect of the expenses of discharging the duties of his office, at the rate of Two hundred and fifty pounds a year.
There is payable to the leader in the House of Representatives (not being the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition) of a recognized political party not less than ten members of which are members of the House of Representatives and of which no member is a Minister of State an allowance at the rate of Five hundred pounds a year.
– (1.) There are payable to the Government Whip in the Senate and to the Opposition Whip in the Senate allowances at the rate of Two hundred and seventy-five pounds a year each. (2.) There is payable to the Government Whip in the House of Representatives an allowance at the rate of Three hundred and twenty-five pounds a year. (3.) There is payable to the Whip in the House of Representatives of each recognized political party which has not less than ten members in that House, but not including the Government Whip, an allowance at the rate of Two hundred and seventy-five pounds a year.
– I have a suggestion that I wish to put to the committee, Mr. Chairman. As I mentioned at an earlier stage of the proceedings, the Opposition intends to move a number of amendments, and I think that it will be easy for honorable members to understand the position if I just give the background to the matter. The Opposition entirely approves of the basic allowances to senators, and members of the House of Representatives, which are provided for in this bill. That is the decision of the Australian Labour Party, and effect has been given to it by the party in the division that has just concluded. The bill provides also for allowances to officers of the Parliament and leaders of parties other than the Government parties. The present rates of these allowances are prescribed in sections 6, 7, 7a, 8, 9 and 10 of the principal act, and the new rates are prescribed in clauses 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of this bill.
I propose to move a number of amendments dealing with the allowances for officers of Parliament, and for leaders and deputy leaders of parties other than the Government party. The amendments are all on the same basis. They each limit the amount that may be fixed to a certain maximum figure. They envisage that the amounts to be given will not be regarded as being fixed amounts, but that they should be determined by the Government - nominally by the Governor-General - and should not exceed the maximum prescribed. I do not think I need elaborate the proposal. I have mentioned it previously. I ask for leave to move these several amendments as a single group.
– I do not know what is happening. I have not been able to hear the right honorable gentleman. I ask one question in order to clear the matter up. Is it right that the Leader of the Opposition is moving an amendment regarding the pensions?
– No, not the pensions. Not at all.
– I am afraid I could not hear the right honorable gentleman.
That clauses 5 to 10 be amended as follows. -
Clause 5, paragraph (a), omit “ ‘ Two thousand two hundred and fifty ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Two thousand Two hundred and fifty ‘ “.
Clause 5, paragraph (b), omit “ ‘ Five hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 5, paragraph (c), omit “ ‘ One thousand ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than One thousand ‘ “.
Clause 6, paragraph (a), omit “ ‘ One thousand five hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the GovernorGeneral less than One thousand five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 6, paragraph (b), omit “ ‘ Three thousand two hundred and fifty ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Three thousand two hundred and fifty ‘ “.
Clause 6, paragraph (c), omit, “ ‘ Five hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 6, paragraph (d), omit “ ‘ One thousand five hundred ‘ “, insert “’ an amount to be determined by the GovernorGeneral less than One thousand five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 7, omit “ ‘ Five hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 8, paragraph (a), omit “ ‘ One thousand five hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the GovernorGeneral less than One thousand five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 8, paragraph (b). omit “ ‘ Five hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 9, paragraph (a), omit “ * Seven hundred and fifty ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Seven hundred and fifty ‘ “.
Clause 9, paragraph (b), omit “ Two hundred and fifty “, insert “ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Two hundred and fifty “.
Clause 10, paragraph (a), omit “ ‘ Four hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Four hundred’”.
Clause 10, paragraph (b), omit “‘Five hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Five hundred ‘ “.
Clause 10, paragraph (c), omit “‘Four hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ an amount to be determined by the Governor-General less than Four hundred ‘ “.
.- Mr. Chairman, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has moved a number of amendments. He gave an indication last night of their substance. The Opposition is seeking to reduce the amounts provided in this legislation as increased salaries and allowances for Ministers, certain office-holders of the Parliament and leaders of parties. The amendments, as I understand the position, all embody the one principle. They seek to apply that principle to a number of items contained in the bill. The Government has already quite clearly indicated its view on these matters. I think the parties have, by vote, already revealed that there is an overwhelming majority supporting the viewpoint advanced by the Government on these matters, and we cannot accept the amendments moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted by the fifteen amendments moved together (Dr. Evatt’s) stand part of the bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G.J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 14th April (vide page 1 175), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 9 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 10 (Additional benefit to Prime Minister).
– I move -
At the end of the clause add the following sub-clause: - “ (2.) The additional benefits to Prime Ministers created by this section shall not apply to any person who at the time of the passing of this section shall have ceased to occupy the position of Prime Minister for a period of 25 years or more.”.
I referred to this matter in a general speech I made earlier. The Opposition objects to the extreme retrospectivity of this proposal and believes that the conditions of parliamentary service 25 years ago have no relation to those existing to-day.
– The Government quite clearly cannot accept the amendment, and I hope that the Parliament will give short shrift to it. The principle espoused by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), if pursued, would affect a number of widows of former Prime Ministers as well as the very distinguished former Prime Minister of this country who gave great service, who in the course of this term as Prime Minister undoubtedly suffered so far as his personal affairs were concerned, and who has left a name honoured in the list of great Prime
Ministers of this country. No one will be taken in by any suggestion that there is a line of policy or principle in the Opposition’s amendment. It is pointed quite directly at a former Prime Minister who happened to have led governments from this side of politics. One cannot conceive of it having been moved had the Prime Minister in question been a former Labour leader. We should not merely do justice in this matter but should give the generous recognition that is due from this Parliament and this nation to a very distinguished Australian who would be affected by the amendment.
– I want to say now, as I said in substance the other day, that this is not aimed in any personal sense at the distinguished gentleman at all. The amendment will not affect widows; it is limited to the actual occupant of the position of Prime Minister.
– The principle, if applied, would affect widows.
– The principle might, if you applied it, but the amendment does not apply to widows. Great care has been taken to avoid that. I personally feel bound to say that although more than a generation has passed since Viscount Bruce was Prime Minister, he was regarded by the Labour Governments of Mr. Chifley and Mr. Curtin during the war years, when he was still High Commissioner, as a man doing a great service to Australia. I could not say less than that and to that extent I think I should add what I have said. I appreciate the Minister’s point of view, but this is the point of view of the Opposition.
.- I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). It is not unusual for the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to try to distort the intention of the Opposition. The amendment, if it is carefully read, indicates exactly what the Opposition proposes. I have no hesitation in saying that I think a payment such as that proposed for Viscount Bruce is indefensible anywhere in this country before an Australian community. The Government has declared against the principle of noncontributory pensions.
– We have not.
– Or the Parliament has.
– We pay them to High Court judges.
– The point is that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer and other speakers have made it quite clear that the extension of the scheme of noncontributory pensions proposed in the Richardson report has been abandoned by the Government.
– Not in the case of Prime Ministers.
– The Government is not proceeding with it, with the one exception, which is in respect of ex-Prime Ministers. Why should Viscount Bruce receive an additional £1,800? There was not a contributory pension scheme in existence when he was Prime Minister and he has not contributed one penny piece to this pension. Why should he be covered by this scheme? I resent very much the suggestion that he be made a charge on the scheme contributed to by every member of this Parliament.
– This will not come out of that fund; it will come from general revenue.
– The Treasurer says that it will not come out of the fund. The fact is that provision is made for this pension in the same legislation as that which deals with the contributory scheme of members of this Parliament. If it has nothing to do with our contributory superannuation scheme, why is it contained and provided for in the legislation that deals with the contributory scheme to which every honorable member contributes?
To pay this amount to Viscount Bruce, the scheme has to be made retrospective for 30 years. Payments to widows of former members of this Parliament are not to be made retrospective. The widows of former Ministers are not to be given any benefits under this legislation, but for Viscount Bruce, it is proposed to make the legislation retrospective for 30 years. What would happen if a trade union wanted an award of the Arbitration Court to be made retrospective for one month, let alone 30 years? The records will show that time and time again in this Parliament, the Labour Opposition has endeavoured to get justice for pensioners by having social service benefits made retrospective merely for a few weeks, but on every occasion this Government has refused to accede to those requests. It has said that is does not approve in principle of making such payments retrospective.
I object to this claim being made retrospective for 30 years. When all is said and done, what is this great work that Viscount Bruce did for Australia in the six years he was Prime Minister? I recollect well his activities because 1 was a member of a trade union in those years working in industry. Viscount Bruce was just as vicious in his approach to trade unions and the workers of Australia as have been the anti-Labour Prime Ministers who have succeeded him. No Labour man could defend such a proposal. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) knew the Government had a weak case, and the Government knows that the people throughout Australia resent this proposal. In an endeavour to defend what the Government proposes to do, the Treasurer said, “ This will affect the widows of former Prime Ministers “. When it was made clear - as the right honorable gentleman already knew - that that was not the case, the Treasurer said, “ The principle is the same “. But it is not the same, in the sense that those people are not going to be affected.
I support fully the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. Not only do I support it here; I will also express my viewpoint elsewhere throughout Australia, wherever I have an opportunity, against this outrageous proposal. I hope the trade unionists and others who have battled in the past to get some form of wage justice will take heed of this proposal and will brand this Government for what it is.
.- I will support this amendment. Certain things have led me to this decision. One is that although two different schemes are involved - a contributory and a noncontributory scheme - I have been thinking of my Australian Country Party colleague, the former member for Moore, and his successor. If this measure becomes law and if the former member for Moore died, his widow would receive £10 a week.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! This measure affects only Prime Ministers.
– I know, but I am making my point.
– The proposal before the committee has nothing to do with the former honorable member for Moore or his successor.
– I ask your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, to make this point: The former member for Moore paid into this superannuation fund from the time of its inception until his defeat at the last election. We have a big credit balance in that fund. If his successor died, his widow would get £15 a week. As we cannot make our pension payments retrospective for even six months, I cannot support a proposal to make a non-contributory fund payment retrospective for 30 years. Therefore, I support the amendment.
– It is with no particular pleasure that I support the amendment on this occasion. The effect of the amendment, if it is carried, will be to deprive Viscount Bruce of an additional amount of pension. I knew Mr. Bruce, as he then was, as Prime Minister when I was a young member on the staff of the Melbourne “ Argus “. I know that he had very high personal qualities and that he carried out the duties of his office according to his lights. He worked very well indeed at the task that then had1 to be performed. He was, of course, bitterly anti-Labour, and he did attempt in the end to destroy the whole system of Commonwealth compulsory arbitration.
But I do not think those are factors which need to be taken into account at this time. We are not having regard to whether a man served one party or another in determining what should be his salary and allowances for service in this Parliament. But I do put it to the committee that every reason that has been given by the Government for singling out the Prime Minister of Australia for a special pension is a reason which does not apply in this case. The whole argument made on behalf of the Government has been that the position of Prime Minister of Australia in modern times is one that is tremendously arduous involving an immense strain, both physical and mental, upon the occupant of that office. The Australian Labour Party has recognized this and has, I think, very fairly and even generously accepted the view that the Prime Minister of Australia stands in a unique position because of the immense strain and the tremendous difficulty of the task he has to perform. We have agreed that some special provision should be made for a man who has to carry that almost unbearable strain for a considerable period of years.
But that would be no reason for giving a similar pension to Viscount Bruce. He was Prime Minister of Australia at a time when Australia did not have a quarter, or even one-tenth, of the obligation that the Commonwealth Government shoulders to-day. Every one of us in this party is aware of that. The population of Australia was less than half what it is now. The Commonwealth itself was confined in its duties and functions to a very limited1 scope indeed. The annual Budget of the Commonwealth of Australia, from recollection, was certainly well under £100,000,000 and probably was around £50,000,000 to £60,000,000 compared with £1,000,000,000 to-day. The Prime Minister of Australia in the 1920’s was not a harried or worried man carrying an unbearable burden.
Viscount Bruce did not suffer in health, physically or mentally, as a result of any undue strain he had to carry. Indeed, those were very easy years - years of high prices when Australia was financed1 by a continuous flow of loans from overseas so that the task of the Government of the time was very simple. As I have said, none of the arguments put forward for applying this pension to the present Prime Minister can apply to the Prime Minister of a completely different Australia and a completely different government over 30 years ago.
– Viscount Bruce is a wealthy man, too.
– No means test is to be applied. So far as I know, it is a fact, as the honorable member for Parkes has said, that Viscount Bruce does not stand in urgent need of money. But that is outside the real point at issue here, because Viscount Bruce did not render service, and was not required to render service, or undergo strain and ordeal, of a nature that would justify singling him out for this very large pension at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. The Government would be branded with the utmost inconsistency if it went back 30 years to give this pension to Viscount Bruce while, in legislation already before this House, it proposes to deprive those who are not still members of the House of the benefits of the increase in the contributory pension, to which all members of the House are subscribing. To give a large increase in non-contributory pension to a man who went out of office 30 years ago, while depriving members who left Parliament in recent years of an increase in their contributory pension, would be an injustice and an inconsistency which could not be justified anywhere. I ask the Government to look at the matter again–
– The pension is justified by virtue of the office held.
– That is not true. The Government at no stage has used that argument. The argument has been that the office held requires and involves such a tremendous physical and mental strain on the occupant. This pension is not given because a man has held a position of honour, but because he has held a position of great strain. That certainly does not apply to Viscount Bruce, who held office in Australia when the Government of the Commonwealth had not one-tenth of its present responsibilities, when the population of the country was only one-half what it is to-day, and when the Budget was only one-twentieth the size of the present Budget.
.- Last Sunday week, I viewed a television session called, “ Meet the Press “. There were two guests on that session. One was the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the other was a Mr. Webster. Mr. Webster is the managing director of Bradford Cotton Mills Limited. He is also chairman of Felt and Textiles of Australia Limited, and he is a director of many other large firms in this country. One would expect him to say that Viscount Bruce was entitled to this pension. But, strange to relate. Mr. Webster said that the recommendation that Viscount Bruce should receive this pension was an absurd part of the Richardson report. That was the opinion of a man whom you would expect to be in favour of the recommendation.
It should be apparent to anybody that if this recommendation with regard to Viscount Bruce were put to a referendum of the people, it would be defeated hands down. Such a recommendation is completely out of favour with the general public. Not one person in 100 would recommend that Viscount Bruce should get a pension of £3,000. Let us face the position. When Viscount Bruce was Prime Minister of Australia, the job was not as onerous as that of the Premier of New South Wales at that time. It is absurd to compare the job of Prime Minister in those days with the same office to-day or during the war years.
Question put -
That the amendment (Dr. Evatt’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I want to make some reference to a provision in clause 10 to which I raise strong objection. Whilst the committee has decided, by a majority of ten, to extend to Viscount Bruce the benefits provided by this clause, I avail myself of a further opportunity of raising an objection to the introduction into the parliamentary superannuation scheme of the principle of non-contributory pensions. If this clause is carried in its present form, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on his retirement will receive a pension, not of £1,200 to which he would now be entitled, but of £3.000, which represents an increase of £1,800. I do not think that is justified.
Let us examine what the Government has done with the report. As I have already said, it has abandoned the recommendation of its own committee for the extension of the principle of non-contributory pensions to ex-Ministers of this Parliament, and with that decision I and other members of the Opposition agree. But how illogical is the Government! Having abandoned that idea and taken unto itself great credit - although that action was taken only after great agitation and pressure from its own supporters and from members of the Opposition - it decides that the case of former Prime Ministers will be different. Although the Prime Minister contributes each month to the superannuation fund only the same amount as is contributed by every other member of the Parliament, he will benefit enormously as a result of this legislation. This is wrong in principle. In the Public Service, if a man receives higher pay he contributes more to the superannuation fund during his working life and as a result qualifies for a higher pension upon retirement. But Prime Ministers are to receive a higher pension without any additional contribution at all.
It is not a question of preventing a Prime Minister from retiring into a position where he could not maintain a reasonable standard of living. That is not involved in this case.
In my opinion, if there is any man in this Parliament who is able to provide for his future, surely it is the highest paid member of it. and that is the Prime Minister. If this series of bills pass through another chamber, he will receive, as Prime Minister, £276 per week. When he is away from his home in Canberra, he will receive a travelling allowance of £105 .a week, because the allowance is paid on a sevenday a week basis, without having to account to anybody for its expenditure. He receives also an allowance that is tax-free. Let us examine whether, as an ex-Prime Minister - which I hope he will soon be - he would be well provided for. Before I pass from his present emoluments, may I refer to the fact that besides the actual money which he receives, he is provided with a free residence here in Canberra and a free residence, Kirribilli House, in Sydney, so there are other considerations that he receives in his position as Prime Minister.
If he were to retire to-morrow, he would be well provided for. He would receive £1,092 from the contributory scheme, to which he contributes exactly the same amount as does every other member, and, in addition, he would get £1,200 a year as an ex-Prime Minister. On top of that, he would receive the £1,000 legacy from the estate of the late Sir William Angliss. So that, without regard to any other income that he might receive from investments, his known weekly income would be £98. I myself think that that is a situation that should not be permitted. If the Parliament believes that Prime Ministers ought to receive a larger pension, let that be taken into account. I think the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that the Government was considering a contributory scheme for additional pensions for Ministers. Let the Government extend that consideration to Prime Ministers, and if the Prime Minister wants to qualify for a higher pension, let him contribute, as he is- well able to do, more from the salary which he receives.
– I want to say only a few words. The decision to pay an additional benefit to ex-Prime Ministers or their widows was taken in 1952. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will, of course, be eligible for that benefit upon his retirement, but eligibility was also extended to Mr. Scullin, who was then alive, Viscount Bruce, Mrs. Curtin, and Mrs. Chifley. Later on, it applied to Mrs. Scullin, after her husband’s death. I do not want to argue the matter, because it was considered very carefully by the Opposition party yesterday. The matter was debated very fully, and the party decided most clearly that it would object to the granting of further benefits to Viscount Bruce, who has been so many years out of office. The party expressly decided, by vote, that no objection would be made in the case of the present Prime Minister. That might be altered in the future. That is why we took action in putting the proposal in relation to Viscount Bruce. I say this, not for the purpose of proposing any motion, but in order to explain to the committee, as I am bound to do, the way in which the matter comes up.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 13 (Application of amendments).
– I think this can be dealt with quite shortly. The clause reads -
The amendments made by sections seven, eight and nine of this Act do not apply in relation to a person who ceased to be entitled to a parliamentary allowance (by death or otherwise) before the date of commencement of this Act, or in relation to rights that arose or arise upon the death of such a person, or of the widow of such a person, whether before or after that date.
We say that is wrong because the clause denies to all those now in receipt of pensions and their dependants, the increases provided in the bill. It is not suggested that the increases cannot be provided, because the finances are in good shape. Secondly, we submit that this proposal is contrary to all previous practice. Thirdly, this proposal is not covered by the Richardson committee report in any way. It does not suggest such a thing. This is being done independently of the report which led to this legislation.
Fourthly, the clause suggests a principle, which will operate in the future, that must prejudice and adversely affect present members and their dependants who belong to the fund. I could mention cases of persons well known to honorable members. Mrs. Ashley, the widow of the late Senator Ashley will be denied the increased benefits, and Mrs. Barnard, Mrs. Drakeford and Mrs. Lazzarini will be similarly affected, as will the widows of all the war-time Ministers. These are people who, in a sense, have vested rights. If the benefits from such a fund are increased it is only right that those rights should not be discontinued, especially seeing that this proposal has no relation whatever to the Richardson committee’s report.
– Defeated members would also be affected.
– That is so, and there are many others. Honorable members must agree that increased benefits should not be provided in this way. If a change in the scheme is to be made at some future time, let us consider it then; but persons who are now receiving benefits from the fund should receive the proposed increases and their rights should not be interfered with.
– A few moments’ thought on the part of members of the committee should convince them that what has been done is sound in principle. However much our natural sympathies may extend to the widows of former members, it should be obvious that there is justice in the course which the Government is now taking. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), I think for very good reasons, did not carry his argument to the point of having it applied to defeated members. Or do I misunderstand him? Is it his purpose that this provision should apply to defeated members as well as to widows?
Opposition Members. - Yes.
– A little while ago the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was arguing strenuously that a provision should not operate retrospectively because different circumstances prevailed in earlier years. This is a superannuation scheme to which members make contributions. Under the former scheme Viscount Bruce did not contribute at all. This is matter of different degree, is it not? If a person contributed £3 a week and received benefits in relation to that contribution and, later, the scheme called for increased contributions, do honorable members opposite suggest that because of increased contributions-
– The Government did that in the past.
– I know that it happened in 1955, but here is a new scale of benefits. I have heard honorable members on both sides talk about the great solvency of this particular fund and I think, as the Treasurer who will have the responsibility for some time, at any rate, to administer this fund for the benefit of the contributors and members generally, honorable members should be aware that although the fund has been operating for about eleven years and on the face of it appears to have built up a very handsome amount as a result of our contributions over that period, the claims on the fund will increase very considerably in the years ahead.
I could mention some worthy individual pensioners now receiving benefits from this fund who were formerly members of Parliament and who may, quite reasonably, have a very long expectation of life, and will go on for perhaps another 20, 30 or even 40 years receiving the pension. Although the scheme has been going for ten or eleven years, some people who are now receiving the pension may go on receiving it without making any further contributions on their part for perhaps 10, 20 or 30 years. In the period in which they will be in receipt of that pension it may well happen that Parliament will increase the rate of contributions to be made by members. Is it seriously suggested that at that point an increased rate of benefit coming from those increased contributions shall automatically apply retrospectively from that point?
At that time the number of beneficiaries may be three, four or five times the total which exists to-day. The point could well be reached at which, out of a Parliament of approximately the same size, the number of beneficiaries had so increased that the current contributions of those in the Parliament at that time could not hope to keep up the benefits to the greatly increased number who would be receiving the increased pensions from then onwards. The Government took this into account and although it has departed from the precedent of 1955, it did so with its eyes open and with some regard to the future solvency of this fund and its capacity to give benefits such as members would expect from it for their contributions.
There may be a disposition on the part of members, even if some reduced benefit to themselves were involved, to pay something additional from the fund to widows of former members. For my part, I am sympathetic to that point of view. We have already indicated that the Government hopes to examine the practicability of a contributory scheme for Ministers, and I should think that if such an examination were made we might very well, on the basis of an all-party representation, cause a committee to be set up under the act to examine this question. I am not prepared, on behalf of the Government to accept an amendment at this stage when we cannot see clearly what it would involve in terms of immediate claims or of the future effect upon the fund. However, I would be willing to examine it in the sort of surroundings of people from all parties represented on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust and examine the practicability of it.
– Does the Treasurer realize that the Richardson committee made a special reference to the position of widows?
– Yes, and I think we all welcome the additional benefits which are now proposed for widows. But such an amendment as is suggested would have very important implications for the fund if it were adopted. So, I would not be prepared to adopt it at this stage. I am willing, however, to have its implications examined by the trust which is representative of the Parliament on this matter, and at a future point of time we might consider it again.
– I think that this clause will operate unfairly, and will produce a number of inequalities. In order to benefit from the fund a member has to serve a qualifying period of eight years in Parliament, or serve in three Parliaments, and has to make the requisite contribution to the fund during that time. This clause provides that the widow of a member who left Parliament only recently, after paying into the fund for many years, is to have no increase of her pension. Yet, if a member who was elected for the first time only a few months ago were to die immediately after this legislation became law his widow would be entitled to £15 a week. I do not think that that is equitable. I can quite understand a Treasury official, for instance, taking the view that the increase should not be payable to anybody who has not been paying into the fund for long, but I cannot understand the proposal that it should no; be payable in respect of the widow of a man who paid into the fund for many years before he left this Parliament. I have had a long association with friendly societies and public actuaries, and I know that they always acted on the principle laid down many years ago that payments out of a fund are regulated in scale by the contributions made to the fund by the persons concerned, and that new subscribers to a fund are not entitled to as much benefit as are old subscribers. This clause is designed to operate in the reverse direction. Under this clause members who were contributors to the fund and lost their seats at the last election will not be entitled to the increase, and neither will the widows of such members.
Let us look at this further. Quite a number of members lost their seats at the last general election and, as they die. their widows will become entitled to the static amount of £10 a week. But senators defeated at the last general election will be entitled to the new increased amount, and widows of such senators will also be entitled to it. Members who were defeated and their widows will not be entitled to the increase. I think the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should1 go into this matter more closely and see what can be done. When we started this fund we were fortunate because it was started soon after the size of the Parliament was increased, so there were very few members who lost their seats at that time, and we were able to build the fund up fairly quickly. But there will be greater demands on the fund in the future, and I hope that further consideration will be given to our claim on behalf of ex-members and their widows.
.- I support very strongly the remarks made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). I am thinking at the moment of members who were defeated in the recent general election - for instance, Mr. Edmonds, the former honorable member for Herbert, who was a contributor to this fund since its inception.
– And paid in just on £2,000.
– He was here when the Chifley Government introduced the legislation establishing the fund. I am also thinking of Mr. Lawrence, the former member for Wimmera, Mr. Bostock, the former member for Indi, and Mr. Leslie, the former member for Moore, who were defeated after having contributed to the fund for ten years.
– And Mr. Watkins and Mr. James, who contributed from the very beginning.
– Yes, but I was thinking mainly of defeated members. Some years ago, when the contribution was increased by 50 per cent., the benefit was also increased by 50 per cent., and the increase applied to those who had at that time ceased to be members of the Parliament, and to their widows. Only a few moments ago, we voted an increase of pension to an ex-Prime Minister, although he had made no contribution to the fund. I agree with that entirely and completely. But now we are turning round and saying that we will not increase the pensions of ex-members who built up the fund to its present strength, and who have caused very little drain on it so far.
I would go further than the honorable member for Port Adelaide, but I hope nobody takes what I am about to say as meaning that I am wishing some ill to anybody. However, if any of the members elected for the first time at the last general election should die after making only a small contribution to the fund, their widows will be in receipt of £3 a week more from the fund than will be a member who has contributed to it for a long time, and the same applies to the widow of such a member who will receive £5 less! That is unfair. We would thereby be creating a distinction between the widows of members. To that I will not subscribe, and I hope the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will have another look at this matter.
The Treasurer has suggested that if we adopted the suggestion that I am making we would upset all sorts of superannuation funds. Well, that is a very weak argument as far as I am concerned. The Government and the Opposition have agreed on this feature of the Richardson committee’s report, and the only people who have disagreed with it are members of the press. This is a retiring allowance that is entirely different from any other known arrangement in Australia, as the committee said. We are not permitted, as are people who contribute to other superannuation schemes, to take out extra units in order to protect ourselves in our retirement, and protect our widows when we die. This is entirely different from anything else, and I support the Opposition’s request that this matter should be further studied before we commit ourselves to an irrevocable decision in respect of people who have contributed so much to the fund. I only hope that the Treasurer will let this particular part of the legislation drop for a while, or give an intimation to the House that it will be closely examined, before we are much older, with a view to doing something for those retired members and their widows.
.- The Opposition’s point of view on this particular issue has been very clearly stated, as it has been on all other issues. The Richardson committee’s report was presented to the Parliament in the form of legislation. One recommendation was that parliamentarians’ retiring allowances should be increased according to a certain scale. But the Government had no recommendation in the Richardson committee report for the present proposal which has been included in a bill which is ostensibly to give effect to the Richardson committee’s report. You cannot find anything in the report which says that there must be a line drawn in regard to who is to get the benefits under this proposed legislation and who is not. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) instanced a case - a supposititious case, and I hope it always will remain so - in which a new member of this Parliament might die at a very early period of his service. His widow would be entitled, under this clause, to £15 a week from the fund, whereas the widow of a man who has retired after long and distinguished service to the Parliament, and to this nation, would get only £10 a week. That would be the case in connexion with the families of Mr. Holloway, Mr. Dedman and Mr. Scully, all of whom had eight years of service as wartime Ministers.
– While he lives, a retired member of this Parliament will get £3 less than would the widow of a member of the present Parliament.
– Yes. I was going to say that whilst the retired members live in happy retirement they get £12 a week for themselves, and their wives, while the widow of anybody who is now a member would receive £15. Once the principle of cutting off benefits is adopted members of this Parliament retiring in the future will find, when they are no longer in the Parliament, that fresh legislation will be introduced giving higher benefits to people who succeeded them in the Parliament. We think that that principle is not a good one. There has been no actuarial investigation of the scheme provided in this bill. The Ministers have made the investigations themselves.
These matters should not have been made the subject of legislation until there had been a complete actuarial examination of the scheme and the trustees of the scheme, under legislation of this Parliament, had had an opportunity of examining it and reporting to their respective parties. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is seised with the importance of issues raised and has offered to investigate the whole question and, maybe, cover it in the legislation which is contemplated to make the recommended non-contributory pensions scheme a contributory one.
– It was thought of long before to-day.
– I do not know whether it was thought of long before today, but we only heard of the noncontributory scheme when we read the Richardson committee’s report. We do not like the non-contributory schemes. I would have been one of the chief beneficiaries had effect been given to the proposal that has been dropped. I do not want to retire from the Parliament; I do not want to be defeated; and I do not want to die too soon. However, if I were to retire or be defeated I would go out at some future period on £21 a week plus another £14 which would have been provided under the non-contributory scheme. I could not feel like taking that money, knowing that the families of people who had contributed to this scheme from the beginning who were war-time Ministers were being ignored because they and other members had not been here on the commencing date of this legislation.
I think there are so many injustices in this scheme, so many inequities, that the Minister would be well advised to withdraw the clause entirely. There is no urgent need for the passage of this clause. The fund is not going broke immediately. It would need an exodus of 60 members of this Parliament at one election to jeopardize the financial stability of the fund. That will not happen in the next three years because we are not going to have an election in that time. Therefore, it would be a good thing to withdraw this clause entirely and take it into consideration with the other scheme which the Minister is producing. Let us have the whole problem of retiring allowances for members and their dependants decided after a thorough and a competent examination.
I think the Government is panicking on this question. My first impression was that some people would get a benefit who ought not to get it. I had in mind the former members of the Democratic Labour Party in this chamber. They are the luckiest people who ever came into the Parliament. They were here for six years, with one exception, but they served in three Parliaments and have gone out entitled ultimately to pensions of up to £15 a week. Most of them are receiving to-day £12 a week.
– Not all of them.
– No, I have said that. Yet, we are injuring other people who are entitled to a benefit. I know that the line has to be drawn somewhere. Unfortunately, there are quite a number of people who were members of this Parliament prior to 1946 who get no benefit. They were on both sides of the chamber. We in this Parliament have been here for ten, fifteen and’, in some cases, twenty years. Mr. Frank Forde gets no benefit from the cur rent or previous legislation. He was in the Parliament for 29 years, a Minister for six years, Deputy Leader of the Opposition for nine years and Prime Minister of this country for seven days.
– What about Mr. Edmonds?
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) mentioned his case. He contributed from the beginning for over eleven years. He went out on current benefits and will be denied any additional benefit. Mr. James, Mr. Watkins, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Chambers, and a number of other people who, unlike Messrs. Johnson and Chambers, were not Ministers during the war period are also affected. I do not like drawing distinctions between Prime Ministers and other Ministers. I believe in the old Roman adage that a leader is only the first among equals. I do not believe in providing all for the men who happen to be in the leadership of the country, while at the same time denying other benefits to people without whose cooperation no Prime Minister could have been a success.
I have made my plea largely on behalf of those whom I have known in this Parliament over twenty years. But there are some people even further back than those who came into the 16th Parliament and later and who have been ignored. If we can go back and give a benefit to a man who ceased to be Prime Minister 30 years ago and who ceased to be a resident of this country 25 years ago, surely we can bring in all these other people whose service to this Commonwealth, whatever party they represented, for quite a long period, was not undistinguished, and generally went with very little reward.
– I am going to ask the committee to support the Government’s proposal in this matter and accept the assurance that I have given that all the problems involved in this matter, and their implications, can be studied, first, by the trust set up under the legislation which, in turn, can report back to the parties represented in this Parliament. I assure honorable gentlemen that we did not come to this decision lightly. Its implications go far beyond the walls of this Parliament. It could affect the solvency and the good standing of the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Fund if we were to adopt principles here which we found we could not, in practice, apply in other parts. 1 am not going to attempt to give all the answers to this problem at this moment. I only give honorable gentlemen my comment and my assurance that this matter is full of financial problems and problems of superannuation principles. 1 urge them not to take the hasty step of rejecting the Government’s proposal now and adopting a principle which we might find quite untenable in relation to people outside this Parliament but which might place in jeopardy the financial stability of the fund which we ourselves have created.
– We accept the assurance. I am sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will carry it out. But I want a little implementation by the postponement of this clause to the date on which the committee reports. Why cumber this legislation with this agreement? It will become a statutory form. The right honorable gentleman says that it raises difficulties. It raises more than difficulties. It raises questions of basic justice. Why not do, by agreement, what we have suggested and omit clause 13 in its present form from this legislation? When Parliament comes back, if there is agreement by the people interested, we can pass the necessary legislation or reject or amend it. To keep it in this form is to tell a lot of people that the door is closed to them and I do not like doing that even for 24 hours.
– What the right honorable gentleman is proposing is that the door is open and that the practice becomes established in the other direction as a matter of statute.
– No, I do not agree with that. Speed is the essence of the arrangement. That is my suggestion. T do no*, want to press this too hard, but I believe that it is the consensus of the committee that this provision should not be in at present. I think that that is the feeling of the committee. Although there arc complicating problems, I do not want to prevent a firm arrangement with the Government that this be treated as not in th2 statute at the present time. It is a very different thing just to put it in the statute and then at some future time, to look at it again.
.- Mr. Chairman, I just want to explain my position very clearly. I gave an illustration earlier of the reasons why I would vote a certain way in a division. I referred to the former honorable member for Moore, and to his position as compared with that of his successor. As we could not get certain provisions dated back six months then, I was not prepared to support the proposal for non-contributory pensions, especially for persons who have been out of this place for as long as 25 years. But that does not mean that I now have to vote for the amendment. I think that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has made a fairly reasonable suggestion, and I realize that there are implications in this amendment.
– Order! There is no amendment before the committee.
– What I did earlier does not mean that I must now support the opposition to the clause. There are certain things which may come out of this proposal and which may be in the best interests, not only of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, but also of the Parliament, and I think that the Treasurer’s suggestion that the whole matter will be very fully investigated is reasonable. I have faith in the Treasurer, of course, and I accept that assurance.
– Mr. Chairman, I think that the clause should be opposed, and that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should adopt the course of withdrawing it. This should not be a matter between government and opposition. It is a matter which affects the retirement fund of all members of the Parliament and should be dealt with by the members themselves as they think fit.
– That is why I have agreed to its being referred to an all-party committee - the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust.
– I think that other things may happen in the meantime. I suggest to the Minister that here is a very clear illustration of the weakness of the clause as it stands: Those members of this chamber who were defeated at the 1958 general election will not receive the benefit of the increases in pensions provided for in this clause, but those members of the Senate who were defeated at the same general election will receive the benefit of the increases, because those senators will remain in the Parliament until 1st July of this year.
– That applies also to those members who retired at the end of the last Parliament.
– It applies not only to members who were defeated. Members of this chamber who retired will be deprived of the benefit of these increases also, and retiring senators will gain the benefits.
The names of some widows who will be affected by this proposal have been mentioned in the discussion on this matter. I suggest that we should bear in mind also the widows of Mr. Archie Cameron, Senator George. McLeay and Mr. Larry Anthony. 1 think that the Treasurer should withdraw the clause and leave the situation as it stands now. The bill should be passed without this clause.
– Mr. Chairman, I hope that the committee will in no circumstances accept the proposal made by the Leader of the House and Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) which means that we should import a new principle into the administration of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. The suggestion is that this matter should be referred to an all-party committee and that, until the all-party committee has had a look at it, the prevailing practice which has been adopted by successive variations of the amounts of the pension payments should be allowed to continue. In the course of the discussion, many anomalies which will be created if the Government’s proposal is adopted have been mentioned. I think that the anomaly pointed out by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) is a fatal one. He has pointed out that if the Government’s proposal is adopted members of this chamber who were defeated or who retired at the last general election will be denied the benefit of the increased pensions, and that senators who were defeated or who retired at the last election will receive the benefit of the additional payments. How can any one with a sense of fairness make such a differentiation between the members of the two Houses? Obviously, the proposal was not properly thought out by the Government before it was brought to the Parliament.
– It was well thought out.
– It was well thought out, and that point was taken into account.
– Wait a moment! Either the Leader of the House means that the Government had indeed thought the proposal out thoroughly and is convinced that it is good, or he means what he said earlier - that he is not sure, and that he is prepared to have another look as it. Which doe9 he mean?
– I said that I am prepared to have this proposal examined by an all-party committee, and I am open to persuasion, if it can establish that this is not the soundest course to follow. But 1 think it is the sound course to follow.
– These are contributory pensions that we are considering. Why vary the thing in the meantime if the Minister is really sincere in suggesting to the committee that there will be an early opportunity to alter it? If this proposal is not to be adopted as a firm proposal for the future, let us not adopt it now, even for a few weeks or a few months. That would be an absurdity.
– The Opposition has been told that the proposal will be considered in the future and that if it is feasible and practicable it will be adopted.
– Let us have an injunction on it.
– It has been considered for years. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, why not let us have an injunction on it? Let the position remain as it is at present until the all-party committee has had a look at it and all the facts involved in this proposal which the Treasurer can put forward. In the meantime, if the proposal is adopted now, it will involve considerable hardship and injustice. The Richardson committee, which we were told was the umpire, and the report of which we are told we should accept, put it forward that the present pension was inadequate and unfair in relation to the services rendered by a member of the Parliament and in relation to the upkeep of his widow and dependants. That is the position that the committee put. It did not put it that this would apply to those who left the Parliament in the future. It put it that that was the present position in respect of those who had left the service of the Parliament.
– It said that the contributions should be increased by 10s. a week.
– It said, in effect, “ If you want increased pensions, 10s. a week will finance them for you in the future “. They considered what amount was needed to do justice to members of the Parliament and their dependants and they said that an additional contribution of 10s. a week would provide it.
– That is not what they said.
– That is my understanding of it. If the honorable member disagrees, he may say what he thinks.
This may not be of great importance to any one who is in this chamber at present, but it will be of great importance to members of the Parliament and their dependants in the future, and it is of great importance to those of our colleagues who have left us in recent months. Therefore, I hope that the Parliament will continue to debate and consider this matter until a proper report on it is received. Withdrawal of this clause is in no way important to the Government. In no way does it affect Government policy. The contributory pensions scheme belongs to the Parliament and is controlled by members of the Parliament. Reproach has been hurled at members of the Parliament in connexion with the salaries proposal and it has been said that we are concerned about no one but ourselves. It would be very unfortunate indeed if we gave the impression, even to colleagues who have left us only in the last few months, that we have concern only for ourselves and that we have none for them or for the widows and dependants of those who have recently died.
No reason that satisfies my mind - and, I hope, no reason that satisfies the minds of other members of the committee - has been advanced to indicate why the pro cedure should be suddenly changed at this time without any recommendation from anybody who is concerned with the management of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. No recommendation has been received from the Richardson committee which, in my opinion, should not have had to deal with it, or from the trustees appointed by me Parliament itself to control the fund. If there is to be any change, let the Government put its proposals to the representatives of the Parliament before it asks the Parliament to accept a change. In the meantime, let the Minister either withdraw the clause or suspend its operation. Otherwise, let the committee have an opportunity now to defeat it.
.- One attempts in this chamber to interpret the phraseology used in bills. In most cases it is fairly simple.In cases where it is complicated, we are usually assisted by an explanation by the Government. In this case I must confess I am thoroughly confused, and I do not intend to vote for a clause unless I understand it. Clause 13 of this bill states -
The amendments … do not apply in relation to a person who ceased to be entitled to a parliamentary allowance (by death or otherwise) -
They do not apply, apparently, so far as we have been able to understand it, to members who were defeated at the last or a previous election. The clause goes on -
It does not say “ or will arise “; it simply says - or arise upon the death of such a person, or of the widow of such a person, whether before or after that date.
I repeat that I am thoroughly confused as to what this does mean. Does it refer to a member who has qualified to receive the allowances, having been defeated at a previous election, or docs it apply to a member who is deceased or to the widow of a member who is deceased? What application has it to the recommendation on page 43 of the Richardson committee’s report. That reads, in paragraph 115 (d) -
That where a Member or ex-Member entitled to a pension dies and is survived by a widow she be entitled to a pension of £15 a week or a refund– and so on. The confusion in my mind is shared, I think, by others. I cannot decide whether this clause refers to a person who ceased to be entitled to a parliamentary allowance, or who ceased to be entitled to a parliamentary allowance upon his death, or whether it refers to his widow, or whether it refers to the widow of a member covered by the relevant recommendation of the Richardson committee.
I suggest that the Minister might clarify this matter, so that we may be able to see the position in proper perspective.
– The operation of this clause is quite simple. The benefits recommended will apply to persons who are members of this Parliament and who are contributors henceforth under this scheme. It does involve the anomaly which has been pointed out, as between those members of the House of Representatives who were defeated and certain senators who will go out of the Parliament in the middle of this year. But those members who have been defeated have been in receipt of a pension, in cases in which they were qualified to receive it, from the time of their defeat, whilst the senators in question have been contributing up to this point of time and will be called upon to pay additional contributions. It may well be said that they are the lucky ones and that the others are unlucky, but in any scheme there must be a cut-off point.
What is being put to us is that we adopt for ourselves conditions which no government, so far, has been willing to apply in the case of our own Commonwealth Public Service.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– It has a lot to do with it, because honorable gentlemen opposite arc, in effect, while professing great concern about the public purse with regard to other matters, and suggesting that certain things should not happen–
– It is our own fund.
– It is not your own fund, except to the extent that it does not call for some supplementation out of general revenue. The point I am putting is that the adoption of the Opposition’s proposal would undoubtedly mean a very heavy additional contribution to this fund out of general revenue. In other words, the fund would not be a solvent fund.
– Until this review.
– Oh, no. Consequently, I say it would be unwise to follow any other course at the moment than the one proposed. It should not take long for the kind of review which has been mentioned, and that review might establish that we could work out some satisfactory arrangement for former members and their widows, or merely for their widows - because there may be a half-way house in this matter. There may be a case for some increase for widows which does not go to the full extent of what is recommended for future contributors. There are various possibilities, but until they are looked at I suggest that we should adopt the course proposed in the bill, and I suggest that the vote be taken on it now.
– It has been suggested to me by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) that the Minister in charge of the House might agree to the addition of words to this effect, “ Providing that this clause shall not come into operation until the recommendation of the allparty committee is received and the House has adopted it “. In other words, keep it in the bill if you like, but subject to that defeasance clause. It can then come out if the all-party committee is opposed to it. This would protect the existing position.
– If the committee - that is the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust - comes to some other conclusion, and the Parliament adopts that other conclusion, there is no practical problem about making such payments as the Parliament decides upon. Had there not been this report and these recommendations for additional contributions, the current pensioners would have gone on receiving the rates which they had expected, so no hardship is occurring, from their point of view. There could be very real detriment if we wereto have in operation certain principles which, on examination, we found we were not prepared to incorporate in legislation. I am going to ask the committee to adopt the legislation as it stands and I am willing, as soon as honorable members are ready to undertake the task, to have the trust examine the implications of any other proposals which are made.
.- I am not at all satisfied, because clause 13 of this bill cuts across the recommendation of the Richardson committee in respect of widows of members and ex-members. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) shakes his head. I am not a lawyer or a professional man, but I believe I am able to understand the Queen’s English. Apparently this clause could apply to the ex-members for Wimmera, Indi, Moore and Herbert. The Richardson committee recommended that if such an exmember died his widow should be entitled to a pension of £15 a week.
– That is provided for in the legislation.
– The Minister says it is provided for, but clause 13 of the bill states that the new benefits shall not be enjoyed by a widow, or by the children after the death of a widow, of a person who ceased to be entitled to a parliamentary allowance before the commencement of the legislation. Parliamentary allowances, in my understanding, are members’ salaries. The new benefits would not apply to members who were defeated last November, because they are not in receipt of a parliamentary allowance at the date of commencement of this act. They cannot be. Therefore clause 13 cuts rights across the recommendation of the Richardson committee in respect of the widow of an exmember who has been in receipt of a pension. I am not prepared to accept at the moment the explanation of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), or the criticism implied by the Minister for Labour and National Service in shaking his head at my argument.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the bill be read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 92
– I think the forms of the House are now being correctly complied with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.22 to 8.30 p.m.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 14th April (vide page 1186).
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section five of the Northern Territory Representation Act 1922-1949 is amended -
– I move-
Omit paragraphs (a) and (b), insert - “ by omitting sub-sections (1.) and (1a.) and inserting in their stead the following sub-section: - (1.) The member representing the Northern
Territory may vote on any question arising in the House of Representatives.’.”.
The bill that is before the committee seeks to limit the voting power of the member for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives to matters that relate solely to the Territory. I direct the attention of honorable members to the provisions of this clause. I do not want to canvass the details of the arguments that have already been advanced, because I covered most of the ground in my second-reading speech. I want to emphasize, however, that the provisions of the clause as it now stands, and which I seek to amend, will be of no earthly use to the people of the Northern Territory. The Government’s proposal would limit me completely to voting on matters affecting the Northern Territory and would bar me, or any other representative of the Territory in this chamber, from voting on many matters that vitally concern the electors of the Territory. I would be prevented from voting on income tax laws and similar vital legislation on which, of course,I have not the power to vote at present.
If I had already had the voting right which the Government proposes to confer on the representative of the Northern Territory, in the last ten years I would have been able to vote on only seven occasions. Most of the measures solely affecting the Northern Territory in that period were of no great significance to the Territory. Possibly, no more than one or two would be of any significance at all. The others generally were designed to amend in a minor way some existing law of the Northern Territory. Therefore, the limited right proposed in the clause - if it can be called a right at all - is useless and insignificant and does not affect the status of the member for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives.
I would have expected that the Government would have introduced an amendment which would be at least a step towards granting at some future date a right which the people of the Territory have so frequently and rightly demanded. There is no constitutional barrier to giving the member for the Northern Territory, whoever he may be, the powers that I have sought for so long. For the benefit of honorable members I shall read section 122 of the Constitution which relates to this situation. That section has this to say about the Parliament’s powers to make laws for the Northern Territory and its representation -
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.
The founders and fathers of the Constitution envisaged a set of conditions such as we have in the Northern Territory to-day. They had in mind the exceptional circumstances that might arise in relation to the Territory concerning the numbers of electors who constitute the average Australian electorate to-day. I concede that we have only about 9,000 electors in the Northern Territory. I concede also that the average Australian electorate has about 40,000 voters, but I believe the founders of the Constitution had that situation in mind when they inserted section 112.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) relies on numbers as the basis when assessing the Territory’s right to full or even partial representation in the House of Representatives. I remind the committee that it is 37 years since the original legislation granting partial representation to the Northern Territory was passed by the Parliament. In that 37 years, there has been no worth-while amendment to that act. To all intents and purposes, the position of the representative of the Northern Territory in this chamber remains as it was 37 years ago. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who was the Minister for Labour and National Service, gave an indication of the Government’s objection to a change last year. I think the Government’s real objection to granting full representation to the Northern Territory in this chamber does not lie in numbers. It lies in the fact that I, who represent the Northern Territory now, am a member of the Opposition.I shall read to the committee a statement made by the Treasurer when he conferred with members of the
Legislative Council of the Northern Territory last year in Canberra. The right honorable gentleman said then -
I assure you I do not speak as a matter of political expedience or from any party viewpoint, but I think it is unfortunate that there should develop a tradition of party representation from an area such as the Northern Territory. I think it would be in the best interests of the Northern Territory if the representative from that part of Australia could give us in this Parliament quite objectively the views and problems of his electorate not coloured by party bias.
I feel that the Treasurer put his finger on the Government’s real objection to granting any further extension of the voting powers of the member for the Northern Territory. The limited concession that is proposed in this bill is put forward as a measure of reform to satisfy the demands of the people of the Northern Territory, but which in effect accomplishes nothing at all. At present, the residents of the Northern Territory are neither new Australians nor old Australians; they are what might be called partAustralians, but if my amendment is carried, they will have the status of full Australians. That is the purpose of my amendment. I want to do away with this situation in which the people of the Northern Territory are not full citizens of Australia but are, in effect, only part-time citizens of Australia. That is wrong.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall take my second period now. What I am seeking on behalf of the people of the Northern Territory is no less than their natural right. It will not cost anything to grant them that right. Citizenship is a birthright, and it should not be necessary to fight for it in this country. In bitter struggles our ancestors won for us the right to citizenship, and that right should come to us automatically, without our having to struggle, agitate and demonstrate in an effort to achieve our goal. I do not concede that I am one whit inferior to any member of this place, or any resident elsewhere in Australia, when it comes to applying the standards of citizenship. The only crime that I and my fellow residents of the Northern Territory appear to have committed is that we live in an area with a population smaller than that of the average
Australian electorate. I resent my inferior status in this Parliament, and I assure the Government and all honorable members that I will not rest until this stigma has been removed, and if my amendment is passed it will be removed. It is high time that we accepted the fact that we in this country are all Australians. There are no distinguishing barriers or boundaries. The Opposition’s request is a reasonable one, and I commend my amendment to the attention and support of honorable members.
– The arguments concerning the amendment now before the committee were traversed in the second- reading debate, because the clause now under discussion is the only operative clause of the bill. It is the whole substance of the bill. The Government’s proposal is that whereas at present the honorable member for the Northern Territory has no voting rights of any kind in this chamber, he will, if this bill is passed, have the right to vote on any law that relates solely to the Northern Territory. He will also have the right to vote on the disallowance of any regulation tabled in this chamber relating to the Northern Territory. So the bill makes a distinction between no voting rights of any kind and a limited voting right. The amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), if passed, would give him exactly the same voting rights as all other honorable members.
The first question that might be asked is: Why is it that the honorable member for the Northern Territory is in a different position from other honorable members in this chamber? The honorable member has himself quoted section 122 of the Constitution, which provides that in the case of Territories, the Parliament - that is this Parliament - may allow the representation of such Territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms that it thinks fit. So, obviously, the framers of the Constitution envisaged the possibility that after the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia there might be Commonwealth Territories, and they also foresaw that those Commonwealth Territories might be given representation here of a kind different from the form of representation that was laid down for the States of Australia and for the residents of other parts of Australia. Section 122 of the Constitution clearly envisages special arrangements in respect of Commonwealth Territories, and it clearly envisages that those special arrangements, whatever they may be, should be such as Parliament itself should decide were fit and proper. That is the particular problem to which we apply ourselves this evening - what are the appropriate arrangements to make in respect of the powers of the honorable member for the Northern Territory in this chamber, the voting rights of the honorable member in this chamber?
So far as the functioning of the House is concerned, the member for the Northern Territory is, as all of us are, the representative of a constituency. Like all of us, he has his duty to his constituency, to represent it, to see that the particular interests that arise in his part of Australia are fairly represented to the chamber. But besides doing that, every member in this chamber shares in two other responsibilities. One is the making of laws, which apply not solely to his constituency, but to the whole of the Commonwealth and to all the people of the Commonwealth. In the making of those laws honorable members, coming as they do from various constituencies, have the same voting power. The other responsibility that is in our hands relates to the formation of governments. If after an election this party or that party has a majority of supporters on the floor of the House, it forms the government. That is the way in which the decision of the electors of Australia is transmitted into political action - a counting of heads. That is how governments are formed. Then, as we all know, if it should happen that there should be a defection of some of the supporters of a government, so that the government can no longer command a majority on the floor of the House - can no longer muster the votes that are necessary to carry legislation that it considers vital - that government goes out of office. So each of us has this additional function of not only representing a constituency, not only making laws in respect of the whole of Australia, but also of deciding the fate of governments in Australia.
Let us, then, consider the Northern Territory, but not as a Territory with its own constitutional problems, because those constitutional problems are being tackled by this Government in other measures that are before the Parliament and which relate to the constitutional arrangements made inside the Territory itself. Let us look rather at the functioning of this Parliament, and the way in which the functioning of Parliament is related to the formation of governments and the rise or fall of governments.
As every honorable member knows, the Constitution and the electoral laws lay down very strict provisions regarding the division of the whole of Australia into electorates, and although, in State legislatures, it is quite common to have a weighting of votes to give greater power to remote areas, country electorates, or mining electorates, under the Commonwealth Constitution and the Commonwealth electoral law there is no such weighting. Indeed, there is the most careful provision to ensure that there is a numerical evenness, almost a uniformity, among the electorates. It is prescribed that the number of electorates shall be decided by such and such a process. Then when that number is decided, another little piece of arithmetic is performed, which gives you the quota of voters which may be in each electorate. It is also laid down that there shall not be a greater variation from that established quota in each electorate than is prescribed. The result of that is that in Australia to-day there are uniform electorates ranging between the smallest, with 31,000 voters, and the largest with 65,000. I think the average is about 42,000, and there is a provision that if the variation becomes too great there will be an immediate adjustment so as to make the electorates as nearly as possible equal to each other.
That is the deliberate intention of the Constitution, and it is the pattern on which this House is formed. Against that background we look at the Northern Territory. I ask honorable members to look at it not as a territory with its constitutional problems, because those constitutional problems are being dealt with in another way. Look at it as a constituency of this Parliament. It is a constituency which consists of 8,000 electors. Against those principles, so clearly established in the Constitution, do we give to the representative of a constituency of 8,000 voters precisely the same power as belongs to the representative of what might be called the normal Australian constituency, which is roughly five times that size? The founders of the Commonwealth took care in the Constitution to produce evenness of representation on a population calculation. To depart from that would be to upset a principle that has applied since federation and that still applies in the working of this Parliament.
That is the only reason why, at the present time, the Government finds itself unable to agree with the view presented by the honorable member for the Northern Territory that he, representing 8,000 voters, should have exactly the same power in deciding the fate of governments and in making laws for the whole of Australia as is enjoyed by the representatives of constituencies which are numerically five times as strong. That is the simple position. Tt is not a matter of lack of sympathy with the rightful aspirations of the Northern Territory. Nor is it a suggestion that the people of the Northern Territory are under any sort of a stigma. Rather is it a recognition of the standard and established pattern of parliamentary government in the Commonwealth of Australia. We on the Government side have tried to extend, as far as we feel justified in doing at the present stage, the voting powers of the member for the Northern Territory. Whereas, as I said previously, he now has no power to vote in this Parliament, in future he will have a limited power to vote. He will be able to vote on laws which relate solely to the Northern Territory, and in respect of the disallowance of regulations which apply to the Northern Territory. But in the vital matters of deciding who governs Australia and whether a government stands or falls, we say that it would be contrary to the principles of the Constitution to allow him the same standing as that of representatives of other constituencies of much greater size. That is the simple position, as we see it. Therefore, much as we may sympathize with the aspiration of the people of the Northern Territory to take a greater share in the affairs of the whole of Australia, we cannot accept the amendment and will vote against it.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). I congratulate him on his persistent fight to achieve reasonable self-government for the people of the north, and on his campaign to see that they have a voice and a vote in this, the National Parliament. It is clear that the Government is not sympathetic. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has said so. He said that it was a matter of counting heads. He seems to be more concerned with the political implications of the strength of parties than with the overall problems of Australia. He has adopted the attitude that there are insufficient people in the Northern Territory to-day to justify having a member with full voting rights and that that is a static condition which will not change, and that consequently the honorable member for the Northern Territory should not be clothed with power equal to that of other honorable members to record a vote on all matters affecting the nation.
I join issue with the Minister on that attitude. He has pointed out that the number of people enrolled in the various electorates varies from 31,000 to about 67,000. There is quite a substantial variation in those numbers. I put it to the committee that the 8.000 people who are eligible to vote in the Northern Territory to-day should not be overlooked. There is a population of 20,000, and many of these people will become voters in the future. This is not a static situation. More people will go to the Northern Territory, unless the Government intends to write off that vast area, which is so important to Australia. We all believe that the population of the Northern Territory will grow. It must grow, and if it is to grow, its representative should be provided now. not at some time in the future, with a vote in the affairs of this nation.
Why should he be given a vote? In the matter of the security of this country, surely the north is vital. Not only is the north vital to the rest of Australia, but also the rest of Australia is vital to the north. The honorable member may have a say in the future in some aspects of the government of the Northern Territory, but surely it is important to the Northern Territory that effective foreign and defence policies should be followed in order to secure the north for the people of the Northern Territory. I think that that goes without saying.
To deny the honorable member for the Northern Territory a vote in matters affecting the security of the nation is to deprive the people of the north of a say in the affairs of the Government of this country. It should also be remembered that the people of the Northern Territory, like other Australians, pay their taxes. The old cry, “ No taxation without effective, full representation “, has been taken up by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and it may well be repeated. Surely, matters affecting our economy are vital to the north, and surely the honorable member for the Northern Territory is entitled to a say in regard to budgetary proposals affecting the whole nation, because the financial and economic policies followed by this Government have a bearing on the affairs of the Northern Territory.
Another important matter is transportation. Surely, the honorable member for the Northern Territory should be entitled to say what type of transport policy should be determined by the Commonwealth for the north of Australia. His voice should be heard when the railhead reaches the boundary of the Northern Territory not only in respect of the pattern of transport to serve the Territory but also on behalf of the people whom he so ably represents in this place. When one considers the question of security and of the economic affairs of this nation, transportation is most important and the honorable member should be entitled to a vote on these vital matters on behalf of the people in his area. It is important that in this place there should be a person who understands the needs and requirements of the people of northern Australia. He should be able to speak here as an equal with representatives of other areas, not as a junior partner voicing an opinion and restricted to voting on only minor matters. He should have a full right to vote on important matters such as I have just mentioned.
Decisions which are made in Canberra vitally affect the Northern Territory and, therefore, the honorable member should be given full authority to speak for that area and to vote on what is proposed. 1 regret that the Government, after the persistent campaign of the honorable member among the people in the Northern Territory and his continued advocacy for their welfare and advancement should be rewarded in such a grudging and parsimonious manner.
– It is a mere sop.
– That is so. It seems to me to be nothing more than an attempt to satisfy, to some extent, the clamour of the people in the north. Members on this side have often commented on the fact that people in the north feel their remoteness and the fact that they have not an effective voice in this Parliament. They are not able to express their point of view by vote. These anomalies should be corrected by the Minister, and I suggest that he should rise above the small, petty, political, partisan attitude and give to the honorable member for the Northern Territory an effective vote in the affairs of this nation. That vote will affect all of Australia, for be it remembered, in the final analysis, what happens throughout the whole of Australia is important also with regard to the north of Australia. I support the amendment.
– I do not suppose there is any one in this House who has a greater sympathy for any movement which makes for the decentralization of government than myself, since 1 have been actively associated with a struggle to secure self-government for northern New South Wales for something over 40 years. I must say that I noted with regret that a remark by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and apparently by the leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) in regard to certain implications in the voting responsibilities of this House should have been represented to mean that the desires of the people of the Northern Territory are being blocked for the simple reason that the granting of full voting powers to their representative in this House would merely give one more vote to the Labour Opposition. I think that is a most unfair and unreasonable summing up of the purpose and intention of what I heard the Minister say to-night. The Minister simply pointed to the great disparity between the number of electors in the average constituency in this House and the number in the Northern Territory. It is not fair or reasonable to expect that the representative of the Territory, which has only 8,000 voters, should be given equality with those who are elected on the average basis of approximately 40,000 voters.
It is quite true and worth remembering that the Constitution provides that there shall be a minimum representation of five members irrespective of numbers for the original States. That was put in the Constitution at the beginning of federation to protect the smaller States in point of population such as Western Australia and Tasmania, particularly from the impact of the larger and more populous States. Nevertheless, it is quite true that in Tasmania the number of electors required to elect a member to this House is, speaking from memory, something of the order of 31,000 as against a maximum number of 67,000. But between an electorate of 31,000 in one particular State and a total membership of 8,000 in the Territory is a very wide gap indeed. I would say that what the Government has put forward is fair and reasonable in that it extends the voting powers of the representative of the Northern Territory in this House, and it does foreshadow, which I hope I may see in my lifetime in this Parliament, the creation of a new State of Northern Australia. I look forward to that day, but I think that the visions and desires of the people of the far north will not be assisted by twisting a perfectly sound and reasonable remark for party advantage. We all realize that the Northern Territory must continue to progress.
I remind honorable members that the last State admitted to the United States of America prior to the recent granting of statehood to Alaska and Hawaii within the last few months was, I think, Nevada, which, at that time had about 110,000 inhabitants among whom were something like 50,000 or 60,000 voters. When our far north has a population approaching the 100,000 mark and it acquires such diversity of interest and people to justify statehood, I believe that this Parliament in its wisdom and exercising powers as were exercised by the Imperial Parliament in respect of the colonies, will grant selfgovernment to the people of the far north.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has dilated at length on the importance of the north, and I am very glad to know that he is so seised of it, as I am sure most, if not all, the members of this committee are seised of the great importance of the north, and also seised with some feeling of profound regret that the rate of its development was for many years less under the Commonwealth than it was under the aegis of the State of South Australia. Now the time has arrived when this Parliament has absolved itself of a great deal of the reproach, and is putting large sums of money into the Northern Territory. It is not only doing that; it is also pouring large sums of money into various activities in co-operation with private organizations, for the development of the material and other resources of the Northern Territory.
I would be more than pleased to agree to a proposal for granting to the Northern Territory the fullest powers of selfgovernment which would be consistent with the federal contract under which this Commonwealth is formed, placing upon the new States, under, say, something like the Financial Agreement, certain responsibilities which States alone can discharge. I would be more than pleased if the Northern Territory were in the position to discharge these responsibilities, to join in equality with the States; but, until such time as that happens, I cannot see that it would be consistent with the terms of the federation itself that there should be brought into this House any representative for the Northern Territory to exercise the same powers which I or any other member representing a State exercises at the present time. I wish the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and the people associated with him, well in the move that they have made. I congratulate him upon his pertinacity, and I trust that that will continue until the happy culmination of his efforts, when we will greet the representatives of the Northern Territory on full terms of equality as the representatives of perhaps the eighth State of the Commonwealth.
– I support the amendment so ably moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and seconded so well by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). I think that the arguments advanced by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) do not hold water, Mr. Chairman, and indeed they can be refuted quite easily.
The Minister has stated, and reiterated, that the only reason for limiting the voting powers of the member for the Northern Territory is the numerical smallness of the’ electorate. He has said that a member representing at the most, some 8,000 electors, should not be given equal voting rights with the representatives of electorates in the States, the average number of whose electors varies from 40,000 to 44,000. He asked a question, and answered it in the negative. He asked: Should the member for the Northern Territory, representing some 8,000 electors, have the power to decide the fate of an Australian Government? He answered that question by saying that definitely the member should not have that power.
When speaking to this amendment, the Minister contrasted the size of the electorate of the Northern Territory with the size of the electorate of Kalgoorlie and the size of the average electorate. He pointed out that the Northern Territory has an electoral enrolment of 8,000, and said that the electorate of Kalgoorlie had an electoral enrolment of 31,000. In fact, I think Kalgoorlie’s enrolment is something like 32,300. He said that the electorate of Lalor had some 65,000 electors; in fact, its enrolment is more than 67,300. I point out that, while the Minister says that a member representing 8,000 electors should not have the same voting rights as a member representing 31,000 electors - a difference of 23,000 - he is quite happy that the represenative of Kalgoorlie, with 32,000 electors should have equal voting rights with the representative of the electorate of Lalor, with 67,000 electors - a difference of 35,000.
The Minister has said that a member representing so few electors should not have, by his vote, the power to destroy or defeat a government. But the bill itself gives the member for the Northern Territory the right to vote on any measure solely affecting the Northern Territory. So, in point of fact, if the numbers were nearly even on these measures, the member for the Northern Territory could defeat the Government by his vote. If he could defeat the Government by his vote on a limited number of measures, why not, indeed, give him full power to vote on all measures that come before this Parliament?
The Minister referred to the position created by the Constitution. I should like to remind the Minister that section 24 of the Constitution provides as follows: -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
The Constitution had already laid down that the number of senators shall be equal for each of the States. The section continues -
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner: - (i.) A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth–
That is, the whole country - as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators:
Thus giving the quota for an electorate. The section continues - (ii.) The number of members to be chosen in each State–
And it was State electorates to which the Minister was referring - shall be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
The section concludes with the following provision: -
But notwithstanding anything in this section, five members at least shall be chosen in each Original State.
Under that constitutional provision the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1953. Section 25 of that act deals with redistribution, and that is the section to which, presumably, the Minister was referring when he adverted to the quota set for an electorate. I remind the committee that section 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides as follows - (1.) A re-distribution of any State into Divisions shall be made in the manner hereinbefore provided whenever directed by the Governor-General by proclamation.
Such proclamation may be made -
The point I want to make is that the Minister is seeking to relate the provisions of the Constitution, dealing with the electorates provided within the boundaries of States, to the power of the Commonwealth to create electorates, such as the ones it has created in territories of this Commonwealth, and the power of this Parliament to provide for the representation of those electorates on the basis that it thinks fit. Section 122 of the Constitution, to which the Minister also referred, makes perfectly clear that this Parliament has the power, the right and, I suggest, the duty, to grant full voting rights to the member for the Northern Territory. The Minister read that section to the committee, but I shall read it again. It 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.
Having quoted that section 1 remind the committee that the provisions of section 24 of the Constitution, and of section 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, refer entirely to electoral divisions created entirely within the boundaries of States. So I suggest the Commonwealth has power under section 122 of the Constitution to give the member for the Northern Territory full voting rights without having to have regard to the number of electors within theboundaries of the Territory. The Minister has said - and 1 think quite reasonably - that this is not a matter of party politics. The Constitution lays it down that representation may be allowed on such terms and in such conditions as the Parliament thinks fit. I suggest that if the Minister is serious and sincere, as I believe he is, in saying that this is not a matter of party politics - not a matter of seeking to gain advantage here or in some other place - he should let the Parliament decide. Let there be no division in this chamber on party lines on this measure which the Minister says is not one of party politics. I know there are men on the Government benches who have visited the Northern Territory and have considerable knowledge of that Territory. I believe they would prefer to be able to vote so that the member for the Northern Territory will have full voting rights in this Parliament. I think that that time should no longer be delayed. I invite the rebels who were in evidence earlier in the day to make a day of it and vote with the Opposition to carry this amendment and give the member for the Northern Territory - an electorate which has been represented here for some 37 years - the right to vote on equal terms with every other member of this chamber. I suggest that power to do this exists because no limit is imposed under the Constitution.
When it is claimed that it should not be possible for a government to be defeated by the vote of the member for the Northern Territory, representing only 8,000 electors, let me remind the committee that the fate of any government may be decided by a handful of votes in any one electorate of the Commonwealth. So what nonsense it is to talk of limiting the rights of the people of the Northern Territory! I am not so much concerned with the member for the Northern Territory as an individual. He is still on the pay-roll whether he has a vote or not. I know how strongly he feels about this matter. But I believe that the slight on the people of the Northern Territory should be removed by support for this amendment.
– It has been an exhilarating experience to listen to the members of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party defending the cause of equal electorates. After all. their history in this country has been completely to ignore the idea of “ one vote one value “ as applied to the electoral boundaries of State Parliaments. I do not know why the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). who is absent from the chamber, could not have stayed here on this occasion. Having listened to the honorable member for New
England (Mr. Drummond), I thought perhaps that a change of heart has occurred in the Liberal Party and the Country Party.
I want to pay a tribute to the work of my honorable friend from the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and my honorable friend from the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) who. in the period 1 have been in this Parliament, and before that time, have put before the Parliament and the people of Australia the demand for equal rights for the people they represent and for themselves as parliamentarians.
Let us consider the proposition put forward by the Minister - that there are only 8.000 voters in the Northern Territory. This is the Minister - and the Liberal Party is the party - that speaks of humanitarian rights. Yet, in the course of his speech, not once did he mention the 16,000 aborigines of the Northern Territory who are just as entitled to be represented in this chamber by a full voting member as any other person born under the Southern Cross. The total of 16,000 aborigines - we have not accurate statistics - probably includes 6,000 adults who ought to be voters and who ought to have some say and be represented in this Parliament. Those 6,000 aborigines in addition to the 8,000 people already on the roll in the Northern Territory make a total of 14,000 citizens. Yet they are considered not to be entitled to be represented by a full voting member in this Parliament because other electorates have 31,000 and up to 67,000 voters!
What is the actual position in relation to the membership of this Parliament? The State of Tasmania has about 180,000 voters. It is represented in this Parliament by ten senators and five members of the House of Representatives - fifteen parliamentarians with full voting powers. They can become Ministers of the Crown. On important decisions of state, such as that now being made in the Senate, they have full voting rights. A total of 180,000 divided by fifteen gives, I think 12,000. So, for every 12.000 Tasmanians there is one fully fledged and accredited parliamentarian. But there are at least 14,000 adults in the Northern Territory yet their representative can vote in this place only on matters which solely concern the Northern Territory. Surely a parliamentarian from the Northern Territory should be able to exercise a vote in this Parliament equal to the vote of any other member Even on the grounds of simple arithmetic the member for the Northern Territory should have every right to act in this place as an equal to the rest of us.
What anomalies are being created and defended in the arguments that have been put forward on the Government side of the chamber! Let us assume, for a moment, that the member for the Northern Territory became a member of the Cabinet. In Cabinet he could contribute to the making of policy decisions by casting a vote which would be the equal of any other. But when the matter on which he had voted in Cabinet came to the House to be authorized by legislation, he could not vote on it. That is one anomaly which is being perpetuated in this legislation.
There are dozens of matters upon which the member for the Northern Territory ought to be able to vote. To-day, the House made a decision on pensions for parliamentarians - pensions towards the cost of which the member for the Northern Territory contributes equally with every other member. The vote on that measure affected the spending of the money which the member for the Northern Territory contributes to this co-operative undertaking in which he is equal to every other member. Yet he had no vote on the measure! The member for the Australian Capital Territory had no vote on it either. In the election of the Speaker - the person who under this legislation will determine the issues upon which the honorable member for the Northern Territory may vote in the House - that honorable member has no vote. He has no vote in the election of parliamentary committees such as the Printing Committee, the Library Committee, and the Public Works Committee. But he can sit on those committees as an equal member. What anomalies are being perpetrated in this proposed amendment to the act!
This legislation is simply the result of another delusion such as we saw represented in the amendment to the Northern Territory Legislative Council legislation. Why cannot the members of the Liberal Party face up to things and treat human beings as human beings and one man as one man. and not worry about whether he represents the same number of people as members from other electorates?
Not only is the member for the Northern Territory the representative of the people of that Territory in this chamber, but he may be regarded as their State member and their senator as well. Indeed, he is their State Parliament. He is the only member who can speak for them as State parliamentarians and senators speak for the people of other States. Far from being deprived of special facilities and power in this chamber, he should be given special power and rights. He represents a special relationship between his constituents and the Parliament, and also the Government. Therefore, I disregard all the arguments that have been put forward by Government supporters.
As a member of this Parliament, the honorable member for the Northern Territory ought to be treated as the equal of other members. He has the same job to do in representing his constituency. The duties that devolve upon him are identical with those which devolve upon other honorable members in this place. I understand that the honorable member is likely to go overseas as a representative of this Parliament and this country to the Interparliamentary Union meeting where, I have no doubt, he will be regarded as an equal and, if matters come to a vote, will have an equal vote. What nonsense it is that we should deprive him of a full vote in this chamber!
Therefore I earnestly support the proposed amendment. I am very disappointed that there are not more people in the chamber this evening to take part in this debate and that successive members from the Opposition side have had to make their contributions, hoping that somebody from the other side would get up and support the Minister. This is indicative of the attitude of honorable members opposite. When it comes to fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy they pay their respects by staving away.
.- I have followed with great interest the debate that has taken place on the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), and I have been somewhat surprised at some of the views that have been expressed. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has based his objection to the amendment entirely on certain provisions of the Australian Constitution that have relation to States, and
States only. One finds, on examining section 24 of the Constitution, which was referred to by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), that it was the number of people in the Commonwealth that had to be considered in fixing the, quota mentioned there. I ask honorable members just to visualize what the position was when the founders of the Constitution drew up the particular sections which have been referred to by the Minister. At the time, there were six colonies, which became the six States. South Australia then included the Northern Territory, and the whole of the people of South Australia had representation in the Federal Parliament. Through their representative, they could exercise an effective vote, whether they lived at Darwin or at Adelaide. At that time, every person in what was then the State of South Australia had effective representation in the National Parliament. At the moment when the South Australian Government ceded to the Commonwealth that portion of Australia now known as the Northern Territory, the people in that Territory lost their civil right, as Australians, to effective representation in the National Parliament. I think it is fair to say that the founders of the Constitution, who, at the time when they drew it up, were actuated by the most democratic of thoughts, never dreamed that the sections of the Constitution which have been quoted here this evening would be used as a reason for depriving citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia of an effective vote in the National Parliament.
So separation of the Northern Territory from South Australia has not meant that the people who are prepared to pioneer a most difficult part of Australia receive due consideration. The fact that they possess the pioneering spirit and are prepared to do their level best to develop Australia has resulted in their complete loss of franchise in the National Parliament. I think that we, as members of that Parliament, have to view the matter from the stand-point of the democratic civil rights of the people who live in what is now known as the Northern Territory.
We have to consider two aspects of this question. The first is the development of the Territory itself. You cannot expect a territory to be developed unless the people who do the work of developing it are recognized as citizens with the full rights of citizenship. In the Northern Territory, we have an area which, because of its richness in minerals, is gradually but surely attracting population. It is rich in pastoral resources, and large tracts of land have been leased for rice-growing. In that Territory, a number of men and women are doing the pioneering work needed to make it a valuable territory and a source of potential wealth for Australia. But all that they receive in return for their display of pioneering spirit, the hardships that they endure, and the work that they are prepared to do to develop Australia, is the immediate loss of their rights of franchise in the National Parliament.
The second aspect of this question that we have to consider is that the people of the Northern Territory are this country’s first line of defence. If ever we face again the same problems that we faced in 1941 and 1942, the defence of this country will begin in the Northern Territory. We shall expect the people of that Territory to do whatever is necessary and, if need be, to lay down their lives in order to defend a country which is not prepared to give them the franchise in respect of the National Parliament. When we look at the matter from that stand-point, we must take into consideration something apart from the ideas that were expressed in the Constitution in the light of the political and geographical divisions of Australia as they stood at the time when the Constitution was drafted. We are responsible for the Northern Territory and, if we believe in civil rights and democratic liberty, it is pur duty to ensure that the people of the Territory have the right to express themselves on all the matters which affect them, in the same way that the people of the States may express themselves. The people of the Northern Territory are concerned with the defence of Australia. Are they not entitled to have an effective voice in that matter? They are concerned with the development of Australia. Are they not entitled to express their views effectively on that matter? All the national matters which we have occasion to debate in this chamber from time to time are equally as important to, and have equal effect upon, the people of the Territory. They must obey the laws that we pass. They must pay the taxes that we levy. They must do all the things that this Parliament says shall be done by the citizens of Australia. Yet we deny them the right to have an effective say in the enactment of the laws which they must obey!
There is only one other thing that I desire to say, Mr. Chairman. I want to impress upon honorable members as firmly as I can the fact that we are a nation that is proud of its active participation in the fight to establish the right of every adult to a vote and the acceptance of the principle of one man one vote and the principle that the people shall be able to determine the questions which affect them. That fight has been an extremely long one, and it has been fought in every State of the Commonwealth. When we read the history of the respective States, we find that the first thing that the adventurous pioneers who came to this country in the 50’s of last century fought for was the right to vote in the selection of the people who would pass the laws that the citizens would be compelled to obey. I suggest to this Parliament, and to the Commonwealth Government, which describes itself as a democratic government, and which claims to believe in civil liberties and civil rights, that 8,000 people, spread over a vast area almost as extensive as the northern part of Western Australia, should not be deprived, merely by reason of their small number, of the right effectively to express their views through an elected representative with an effective vote in the National Parliament.
If we believe in democracy, it is our duty to see that its principles are extended by the legislation that we enact here to the citizens in the far-flung places of the north who are doing a wonderful job for this Commonwealth. They should not be penalized because they are prepared to go out into the wide open spaces and develop this country. They should not, for that reason, be deprived of the right effectively to express their views in the National Parliament. I sincerely hope that that democratic sense of justice which maintains that every person 21 years of age and over is entitled to vote will be given effective expression in this measure so that the people of the Northern Territory may have the right to express their views through their elected representative in this place in the same way that citizens of the States express their views through the honorable members who represent them.
.- Mr. Chairman, I am not without sympathy for the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) - not on account of the arguments with which it has been supported, but on account of another argument that I shall advance in a moment. I have not been impressed by the argument of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) that we should give effect to the principle of one man one vote and thereby give a vote in this place to the member who represents the Northern Territory. After all, the average enrolment of voters in electorates in the rest of Australia is 42,000, and the number of voters in the Northern Territory is 8,000 - roughly one-fifth. If you gave a full vote to the member for the Northern Territory, you would, in effect, be giving a full vote to one-fifth of a man. So I am not impressed by that argument.
Again, it is said that in the event of war the Northern Territory might well become an important theatre, and for that reason a vote should be given to the member for the Territory. Well, I suppose that in a future war there might be fighting across the North Pole, and on the argument that I have just outlined it might be suggested that the United States of America should occupy that area and give a vote to the Eskimos. I am not impressed with the argument that because a particular area might become a theatre of war the people who live in it should be represented in Parliament.
There is, however, a very important argument that could be advanced. This area has remained stagnant for well over half a century. It is true that it is beginning to be developed now, to some extent, because of the increase in mining activity and because of other developments in recent times. But it has stagnated for a very long time. Any one familiar with its history is aware of the fact that a succession of Commonwealth governments has done rather less well than even the Government of South Australia did when the area was under the jurisdicition of that State. I should have thought that perhaps an important argument in favour of giving a vote to a member representing the Territory was this: If he is to have a vote in this House it will become important to both parties in the Parliament to have one of their members representing the Territory. As the Minister has pointed out, if you give this vote, then a man representing 8,000 people could turn a government out of office or put a government into office.
The member representing the area would have very considerable power. A government, feeling that it might go out of office if it could not win the seat for one of its supporters, might well be disposed to spend a good deal of money in that part of Australia. Nothing, of course, could advance the development of the Territory more. The only problem is that the present honorable member, who represents the Labour Party, has been returned unopposed, and the vote for the Labour Party is so overwhelming in the Northern Territory that the possibility of development in the way I have suggested is not very great. It is only when the numbers are fairly even, so as to provide for a real contest between the parties, that you will have more money spent in the Territory. If it is going to be a blue-ribbon Labour seat, and if no Liberal can ever win it, quite obviously the Labour Party, if it were in power, would not need to spend any money there, because it would have its candidate returned in any case. When the Liberal Party is in power it would not consider it worth while spending, money there because it would not win the seat in any case. Perhaps, therefore, the people of the Territory should consider whether they should split the vote a little more evenly between the two parties. They would have a member in this House with a vote, they would have a real contest between the two parties, and money would be spent on development. That is a matter for the people of the Northern Territory to consider.
So. I am not entirely out of sympathy with the amendment, and I merely suggest that the people in this area might arrange for a more even balance between the supporters of the various parties.
– What about the electors of Bradfield?
– The Government does not need to spend money in Bradfield, and perhaps the people of Bradfield should consider the situation in the light of the remarks I have just made concerning the Northern Territory. It is most important that the Northern Territory should be developed. When reference is made to the fact that its population is only 8,000, I am reminded of the fact that one small division in my electorate contains 8,000 people. Yet there is no comparison whatever between two or three suburbs in my electorate and the vast area of the Northern Territory, with its great problems of development, particularly with regard to transport, the cattle industry, mining, tropical agriculture and other fields. There is no comparison whatever. To suggest that the 8,000 people in my electorate correspond in any way to the 8,000 people in the Northern Territory would be absurd. There is every reason, therefore, why these people, who have such a task to perform, should be better represented than those living in, say, the suburbs of the capital cities. Perhaps better representation would greatly enhance the prospects of development in that area.
There is no doubt whatever that the Territory does need an infusion of new blood. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory knows, it is impossible to develop the area more intensively without much better transport facilities than are available at present. He knows, for example, that the Barkly Tableland could be much more closely settled if there were a railway or some means of moving cattle or sheep - if it is possible to run sheep there - to the seaboard. He knows that closer settlement of that area is intimately bound up with transport.
I, personally, know that the people of the Territory need to be shaken up a good deal. Two or three years ago I had the experience of going through the Northern Territory, across the stock-route on the Barkly Tableland, on a motor cycle. The first thing I saw on entering the area was a sign, “ We want nothing. We have nothing to sell. We give nothing away “. It did not make the Territory’s welcome any warmer. But I found that this notice is typical of the mentality of the people there. When 1 arrived at the police station at Rankine River, the wife of the police officer there, seeing that I was on a motor bike, inferred - very naturally, of course - that I was a Communist. She broadcast the information over the pedal radio that a Communist was coming through and should not be welcomed - and I was not welcomed. I had some conversation with the manager of Bunette ] Downs station. He did not invite me to sit down. He realized, I presume, that I was a Communist. At Anthony’s Lagoon I was told that there was plenty of camping space outside. I had my camping equipment with me, and I camped in the wide open spaces.
I mention these things because they are diverting in themselves, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I am not usually taken for a Communist, and the hospitality of the wide open spaces was a new thing to me. These people in the Northern Territory suffer from xenophobia. They are remote from ordinary civilization. Having considered their methods of running cattle, 1 believe that they are in a very backward state indeed, and I feel that the best thing for the Northern Territory would be a thorough shake-up. There should be far more people there, far more progressive people, and people without the xenophobic outlook adopted by those that I happened to meet. I want to see the Territory develop. I want to see far more people there, with far more progressive methods of animal husbandry and a different attitude from that which has been prevalent for so long, “ What was good enough for our fathers is good enough for us, and we do not want to see any new people coming here. We regard these mining people as breaking up the old traditions “.
These desirable results cannot be achieved unless better transport facilities are provided and there is a real shake-up. I can well imagine that the amendment moved by the honorable member, if it did result in a real contest between the two parties, could easily result in the expenditure of more government money in the Northern Territory.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has left the chamber. I was interested to hear what he had to say with regard to new States.
His statement in this connexion was something of a diversion because he was discussing something that does not come within the purview of the Commonwealth in order, apparently, to make points against the proposal that we are putting up, which is within the purview of the Commonwealth.
I want to make only a passing reference to the actual substance of the new State that he proposed. I wonder what federal seats are conterminous with the proposed State of New England. I assume that only the electorates of Richmond, Cowper and New England itself would be in that State.
– Also Gwydir and Lyne.
– Yes. The point is that so far as this Parliament is concerned, there would be no increase in the representation. The honorable member for New England and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), even if new boundaries were drawn around their electorates and a new State created, would presumably come from very much the same federal constituencies within that State to represent their people in the Federal Parliament. So, the State of New England would add nothing to the existing federal representation, except in the Senate, of the people of New England, whereas this proposal is something different. The Commonwealth Constitution is very careful to protect the integrity of the States against action by the Commonwealth. The sections which relate to new States and to what we may do with territories surrendered by States or territories which have been acquired in other ways, are very close together. I point out that the Northern Territory is a territory which was surrendered by a State; Papua and New Guinea are territories which have been acquired in other ways. I draw the attention of the honorable member for New England to the buttressing of State power against Commonwealth action about new States. Sections 123 and 124 deal with it specifically. Section 123 says -
The Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of the Parliament of a State, and the approval of the majority of the electors of the State–
Not just the people in what would be the State of New England, but all the electors of New South Wales - voting upon the question, increase, diminish, or otherwise alter the limits of the State, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed on, and may, with the like consent, make provision respecting the effect and operation of any increase or diminution or alteration of territory in relation to any State affected.
Section 124 says, carefully -
A new State may be formed by separation of territory from a State, but only wilh the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States cr parts of States, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the States affected.
Contrast that with what we may do in the Northern Territory, which is set out in Section 122. This section says -
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State-
South Australia surrendered the Northern Territory - 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.
Actually, this Parliament could provide, even if the Northern Territory had only 500 voters or 200 voters in it, that it should have a full voting member, because the requirement is simply what this Parliament thinks fit, and that enables us to determine the representation.
– The Parliament could provide for a senator.
– Yes, presumably provision could be made for the appointment of a senator also. The procedure of the equality of States need not be followed. The procedure for the appointment of ten senators for each State could be varied so that instead of having ten senators, the Northern Territory could have only one. There are, however, a number of considerations which show that a lot of questions were given thought by those who formulated the Commonwealth Constitution. One sees, I think, incorporated in the Constitution some of the best thinking on what might be called political and moral questions. I personally think this is a snag at the moment on which some of the claims of the Northern Territory to representation stumble. Section 25 speaks about the provision as to races disqualified from voting. Referring to the quotas by which we arrive at the size of parliamentary seats, it says -
For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.
It is quite dear that, if we reckon the people of the aboriginal race in the Northern Territory as being on an electoral roll, we have an entirely different size of constituency than exists to-day where the 8,000 people about whom we are speaking are largely Europeans. The non-inclusion of aborigines in a State is not of much significance numerically, because they would not add very greatly to a State’s quota or give it any additional seats if they were counted. But in the Northern Territory, in the existing balance of population anyhow, they are a very significant group. If the people of the Northern Territory wished to have a broader sympathy from the people of Australia in the claims which their representative has been putting for- 0 ward so skilfully to-night, many broad sections of Australian public opinion could be mobilized on their behalf if they were equally concerned about the representation of the people of aboriginal race in their Territory as they are about their own problems.
I want to stress that what the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is saying to-night is something which is entirely a matter for the judgment of this chamber. The Minister is not bound to consider quotas of electorates throughout the Commonwealth when determining the representation of the Northern Territory or the representation of the Australian Capital Territorly. I think that the case of the Australian Capital Territory is as strong as that of the Northern Territory, but the position of the Northern Territory is rather sadder than that of the Australian Capital Territory. I think that the electors of the Australian Capital Territory, many of whom come here and sit in the seats behind the green ropes, have far more influence on the Government of the Commonwealth than have the people in most constituencies, who vote every three years. I often think that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) must in many ways have the most difficult seat in the Commonwealth. Whereas in some of the outlying electorates we may perhaps bamboozle the electors with floods of oratory, he must very often have to consider that in front of him when he goes compaigning are many of the technical experts who deal with the problems of the Commonwealth such as taxation and who have a far more intimate knowledge of these problems than most honorable members, and certainly far more than the average elector.
– It is a very intelligent electorate.
– Yes, I would think that, judging by the representative it sends to this place. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) made some observations on the Northern Territory being a Labour seat. I do not think that the seats which are at the moment Labour-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am concerned at the serious anomaly that exists in the representation of the people of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The fact that they have not a full voting member in this chamber is not justified. We are all Australian citizens, no matter where we reside in this continent. All the citizens of this Commonwealt comply equally with its laws. That may be said of the residents of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory as well as those in the constituency I have the privilege to represent.
I have in my hand the electoral roll of the Northern Territory. Each of the persons named in this roll is subject to the same laws as I am, yet their representative in this chamber is denied a vote and consequently they have virtually no voice in this legislature. No doubt the electors on this roll include many ex-servicemen. They would be vitally affected by amendments to the Repatriation Act and its administration. Yet, their representative in this Parliament has no vote on such items which are so vital to his electors. The fact remains that if a returned soldier moved from the Northern Territory to Oodnadatta, in South Australia, he would have a voice in this place through his representative. Surely, this situation is not in accordance with true democratic principles. There are people in
Darwin who helped to defend it and Australia when Darwin was under attack during the Second World War. Those people suffered more than most of the residents in other parts of the Commonwealth, yet they have no voice in the future of the continent they suffered so much to defend. That is not just. Every adult in Australia who comes within the provisions of the Constitution should have the right to full expression of his or her citizenship. That right is given to every other man and woman who has reached 21 years and who complies with the electoral laws. In all the circumstances, I believe we should take action to remedy the electoral position of the residents of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
I compliment the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for the excellent manner in which he has advanced the claims of the people in the Territory he is privileged to represent. I am deeply concerned about the limitation that is placed on his voting powers, and I believe those anomalies should be corrected. I remind honorable members that the residents of this national capital, the city of Canberra, and all electors in the Australian Capital Territory are similarly denied a voice in the laws by which they are governed. We tax the residents of both these territories, yet they have not the full rights of citizenship and a voice in matters that are so vital to their welfare.
I pay a tribute to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), who has distinguished himself in his representation of this electorate. We are fortunate to have men of such calibre representing both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. How frustrating it must be for those gentlemen and those they represent to know that they are denied the right to exercise a vote on legislation which is of vital concern to them. I join with other honorable members in saving that the time is long past when the relevant provisions of the law should be amended so that these people who comply with our laws, pay taxes and suffer hardships as they do in the Northern Territory in developing its wide spaces, may have a voice in this legislature. I warmly support the honorable member for the Northern Territory in his claim for a more effective voice in the chamber.
– I feel much more in sympathy with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) than with the views of the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). I admit that this is a difficult problem but one does not cure an injustice by perpetrating a greater one. Let us admit that the people in the Northern Territory naturally suffer some sense of grievance and deprivation. But what are we to do about it? Do you create a greater injustice by giving to 8,000 people the same voice in the conduct of this Parliament as we give to 50,000 people in my electorate or the electorate of most honorable members in this chamber?
– What about the aborigines?
– The point is well taken and I shall refer to the aborigines later. At present, there are some 8,000 people on the roll of the Northern Territory. Are we to give them the same vote that we give to 50,000 odd electors in my electorate or any other?
– The Liberal Party does worse than that in South Australia.
– I do not believe it is right or equitable to give this sort of disproportionate value to the vote. If we adopted the suggestion of the Opposition in this regard we would cure one injustice but only at the price of creating a greater injustice. The Government has taken a reasonable view in this matter. It and its predecessors - the present Government should not claim all the credit - have seated in this chamber representatives of the various Commonwealth territories, or some of them. But those representatives get a voice and a vote on questions that specifically concern the territories they represent. It may be said that that is not enough. What more would the Opposition do?
One solution that immediately suggests itself is that we shoud have one member with full voting rights representing all the territories of the Commonwealth as one constituency. In that way all the Territories of the Commonwealth, when lumped together, would be worth one vote in this chamber. Superficially that is an attractive suggestion, but it is not a suggestion that commends itself to me, because I believe that if we adopted that system we would have members here who did not know thoi constituencies, because those constituent would be too far-flung and their interests far too diverse. I think that such a syste would be a disservice to the people in the Northern Territory and to the people in the Australian Capital Territory, because although technically their representative would be getting something in the nature of a fair vote, the people of the Northern Territory would be getting less than a fair voice through their member and their interests would not be as effectively represented as they are now.
An alternative suggestion, and one that has some attraction, is that we should have some kind of liaison committee that would look specially to the interests of the Northern Territory. That committee would not be an effective legislative body but would inform the House on matters concerning the Northern Territory, and would keep all honorable members in touch with affairs in the Territory. As I have said, that suggestion has some superficial attraction. Suppose, for example, that we had a committee - a select committee - meeting in times of recess - not necessarily in Canberra - and comprising the honorable member for the Northern Territory, the Minister for Territories, two or three members from each side of the House, and perhaps - this would be in line with British practice although not so much in line with Australian practice - the secretary of the Department of Territories or some officer of the department. There would also be a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory on that committee. That suggestion would; make some immediate contribution to the situation, but it would have one bad effect. It would stunt the growth of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, a body whose authority we hope to see expand and go on from the present transition phase to the stage where it conducts more fully a legislative programme. However, that suggestion of a liaison committee has some merits. It has its pluses and its minuses. I do not think that we should create such a committee unless the people of the Northern Territory want it. If they want it, it might be an interim measure that we could adopt pending the time when the Northern Territory reaches full statehood.
These are difficult questions. I think that the proposition put forward by the Opposition does cure an injustice, but only at the price of creating a greater injustice, a more glaring anomaly. I confess that I do not see any perfect solution. At the present time, I do not see any better solution than that which has been adopted by the Government, although I concede that it is not a perfect solution. After all, the member for the Northern Territory may not have a vote on all questions. But would that matter? Would that have any practical effect in this present Parliament? In view of the large majority on this side of the chamber, it does not seem to me to be of very much consequence in the next three years whether the member for the Northern Territory does have a vote. In another parliament, a more evenly divided parliament, perhaps a vote for the member for the Northern Territory could have some important consequences.
Mr. Chairman, there remains the very grave anomaly referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle. What are we to do about the aboriginal inhabitants of the Northern Territory? We know that the electors of the Northern Territory would not at present want to give full citizenship rights to the aborigines. I do not think that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) would advocate that they be given full citizenship rights at this moment and made voters. However, I should be grateful to hear his views on that subject.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I fully support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). I listened with interest to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and I appreciate the difficulty that he was trying to skate around. He made a remarkable statement that it would make no practical difference if the member for the Northern Territory were given full voting rights in this Parliament. I never thought that we were judging a question of this great importance in that way. That is not the correct way to look at the situation. The honorable member for Mackellar says that because there are 47 members on this side of the chamber and 78 members on the Government side, that is a valid reason why full voting rights should not be given to the honorable member for the Northern Territory,
The only thing that this bill does is to permit the member for the Northern Territory to have a vote on legislation that relates solely to the Territory. He is also allowed a vote on any motion for the disallowance of a regulation made under an ordinance of the Northern Territory and on any amendment of such a motion. I have been informed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory that if he had had those powers over the last seven years, he would have exercised a vote only seven times.
– Ten years.
– I thank the honorable member. He would have voted seven times in the last ten years. That is all that this legislation would have allowed him to do. So, if there is no further amendment to the legislation in the next ten years and the honorable member is still here - I hope he will be - he will have the privilege of voting seven times in those ten years. How utterly ridiculous it is to regard that as a beneficient gesture! The Government’s refusal to give full voting rights to the honorable member for the Northern Territory has the effect of disfranchising voters of the Northern Territory in matters of taxation, defence, postal services, social services, repatriation, agriculture, and, of course, land settlement, which surely must be a very important feature of the development of the north in years to come.
– There is none at the moment.
– Well, we can hope for a change of government; then land settlement will be encouraged. Because all these are matters which affect the whole of Australia, the electors of the Northern Territory are disfranchised in this Parliament’s consideration of them. Now the representative is to be allowed a vote on matters affecting the Northern Territory. If a cyclone destroved half of Darwin, and some legislation was introduced to effect rebuilding, he would h° allowed a vote, because the legislation dealt solely with the Nor thern Territory. My real criticism is based on the fact that the Northern Territory people are disfranchised in regard to daytoday matters which affect every one of them.
.- In the absence of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) one is reminded of Nevil Cardus who, referring to bowlers who toiled very hard but failed to take wickets because catches were dropped, said that their efforts were recorded in heaven, where they do not go by results.
– You mean that they toiled, but they could not spin?
– Yes, they toiled, but they could not spin. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) made one remark upon which I want to touch. He put forward an argument which I feel is weighing with the Government. It was that the character of the representation of the Northern Territory is Labour at the present time. The honorable member for Bradfield said that the Northern Territory was a safe Labour seat. For thirteen years it was represented by Mr. Blain, who was not a Labour man and whose voice was always opposed to the Labour Party. When people speak, as the honorable member for Bradfield did, about a seat being safe because its representative was unopposed at the last election, I remind them that although the Labour Party was unopposed in Kalgoorlie at the election of 1955, the seat was lost to the Labour Party in 1958. So there is nothing to determine that any constituency shall irrevocably attach to any particular party. I am reminded that the electorate of Moore is another case in point.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made certain valuable suggestions. He did touch upon the question of the aborigines and the representation of other territories. I feel that the question of the representation of other territories is important. I do not want to develop it as a theme, but since this Parliament can determine that the territories are represented upon any terms that we think fit, if we thought at the present time that the aborigines of the Northern Territory or the natives of Papua and New Guinea, by reason of lack of education oi for any other reasons, could not form a fully competent electoral roll, it would still be competent for us to lay down the terms of their being represented in this Parliament. Even if we have doubts about numbers in respect of the Northern Territory, we have no reason to have any doubts about numbers in respect of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
I say again that the whole of the thinking of this Parliament on the primitive people for whom we are responsible would be transformed, as the thinking of the Parliament of New Zealand was transformed when the Maoris were given representation in it, if we elected, no matter how - we can lay down the conditions of election - an aboriginal spokesman from the Northern Territory and native and European spokesmen from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. These may be questions for the future, but I think it is important that we should be considering them now. After all, the French, who are a logical people, have worked out a system whereby the Cameroons and other overseas territories of France, including a territory as remote as New Caledonia, are proud to be represented in the metropolitan parliament, the Chamber of Deputies in Paris. In the face of the mounting ideological significance of race relations, we should be thinking of the representation in this Parliament of the people of the aboriginal race and the people of any other race for whom we have responsibility, including the natives of Papua and New Guinea.
– I want to say only a few words about this amendment. Honorable gentlemen opposite have been working very hard to justify it, and I would just like to deal for a moment with some of their arguments. In the first place, they have been trying to say that there would be no legal barrier to what they are seeking. Irrespective of whether or not that is so - and I imagine that the question is open to some doubt - I am sure that it would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution for us to accept the amendment, because, after all, the plain intention of the Constitution is that representation should be on a basis of the representation of adequate numbers of the population. Let us imagine for a moment - this, of course, is a speculative exercise - that it was decided that Cape York Peninsula or the north-west of Australia would be better developed if it were separated from its parent State and made a territory of the Commonwealth. Would it be seriously considered, as a sensible proposition, that the separated territory should immediately be given full representation and voting rights in the National Parliament, whereas in fact it might contain, perhaps, only 3,000 or 4,000 voters? The plain fact is that acceptance of this amendment would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. In my view, it would also be contrary to common sense, because, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has pointed out, there are only about 8,000 voters in the Territory. Honorable gentlemen opposite talk about the present arrangements being contrary to the fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy and develop that as an argument. They say that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has to be, in a sense, a State member as well as a Federal member, but I really believe that this is a gross overstatement because, as it will be recalled, the Territory now has a Legislative Council. The next argument is that residents of the Territory have been deprived of an effective vote. If this amendment were carried, the effect would be not to give them an effective vote but to give them a vote five times more effective than those of the electors in any other electorate of the Commonwealth. If we are going to talk about the fundamental principles of democracy, I would think that this would do some considerable injustice to those principles.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) went a little further on this occasion, but with all respect to him I think he was giving way to rhetoric rather than to reason. He said that the people of the Northern Territory were unable to express their views in this House. I point out to the honorable member that they are perfectly able to express their voice and views through their representative on every matter which comes before this Parliament. Of course, they are not able to have a vote exercised on their behalf.
– Therefore their representation is not effective.
– They can express their views effectively. The honorable member for the Northern Territory will be able to vote on matters which relate solely to the Territory. 1 say that the Territory is progressing steadily towards the democratic goal because, in fact, it now has its Legislatvie Council. The effect of this bill will be to give the Territory’s representative in this House increased powers. For those reasons the Government cannot accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the paragraphs proposed to be omitted (Mr. Nelson’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committe divided. (The Chairman- Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Ayes . . . . 56
Noes . . . . 33
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– As chairman, I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk.
– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While the Clerk was reading the report I heard a number of interjections made by honorable members. May I suggest that it is quite out of order that any member should interject when the Clerk of the House is reading a statement to the House?
– The honorable member is right. That is a contravention of the Standing Orders, and I ask honorable members to observe the Standing Orders.
Report - by leave - agreed to.
Taxation in Papua and New Guinea - Newspaper Reports - Import Licensing - Timber.
Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On 18th March I directed the attention of the House to what I believe are the dangerously mistaken methods used in imposing income taxation in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The large number of communications that I have received from the Territory since then confirms my worst fears about the way in which the views of the local residents have been brushed aside. The Canberra steamroller has been moving a little more slowly as a result of this public opposition, and I wonder whether this is the reason for the tactics of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in informing the House this week that he proposes to introduce taxation measures into the Legislative Council of the Territory on 20th April, and that the debate will be resumed next June, lt is pretty obvious that the bureaucrats made up their minds a long time ago that the Territory was to have this tax imposed, and so far as they are concerned that is the end of the whole matter. They will listen politely to anything the inhabitants have to say, but nothing will be changed.
Naturally, one suspends judgment on the proposals until they are known, and 1 am not saying that the bureaucrats are wrong in their conclusions that the taxes should be introduced; however, 1 am saying that they may be wrong, because there has been no adequate public investigation made on the spot. 1 am saying that even if they are doing the right thing, they are doing it in the wrong way.
The Minister passed the whole mater off rather airily when he replied to me previously. He said -
No new decision is to be made on the question whether or not the people of Papua and New Guinea are to be taxed.
He went on to say that, of course, they had been paying taxes for years, and that the Government was just reviewing the methods of raising revenue to ensure that it was raised more equitably. These are phrases beloved of the bureaucrat, and they cloak an attitude straight out of “ Alice in Wonderland “.
The introduction of income tax is a major step in the history of any community. There is no more personal relation between an administration and the citizen than that which concerns the income tax department. There is no tax of which the citizen is more acutely aware, and probably none of which he is more resentful. No community is ever quite the same again once this step has been taken.
How wrong the Minister is in thinking that this is just a routine matter is shown by the angry and widespread reactions which the proposals have aroused in the Territory. The uncertainty about income tax is already having a stifling effect on development. Worse still, the residents have been left with a feeling of injustice. They feel, in a way they have never done before, the sensation of being subject to a dictatorship which is 2,000 miles away. All members of this House must remember that we are breaking a cherished principle of democratic government by imposing taxation without representation.
The people of other federal Territories have spokesmen in this House. The people of Canberra, for instance, who are right on the spot and can easily make themselves heard on any question, have nevertheless been granted a spokesman in this Parliament. So have the people of the Northern Territory, as was ably demonstrated by the member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in the debate this evening. But one of our most faraway Territories - Papua and New Guinea - has no such representative in this Parliament.
In the circumstances, it is most essential that the people of that Territory be given every opportunity to state their views on this vital matter before anything is done. Yet they have had no opportunity of stating them. A departmental report was considered adequate to meet the case. The report, to which I referred in my previous remarks on 18th March, has on it the hallmark of the blissful seclusion of Canberra, and shows a complete unawareness of many of the difficulties of living in the Territories.
The residents of Papua and New Guinea challenge the report on a number of points. They say, first, that because of their isolation their expenditure cannot be judged by mainland standards. They are under constant pressure to return to Australia, especially when their children reach school age, or when medical attention is required. They must give their families higher standards of living than in Australia, in order to compensate for their isolation and for the climate. They question the official figures showing the expenditure on the nonnative population as £3,500,000 a year, and they dispute also the Treasury’s contention that it is entitled to recoup this expenditure in full by taxation. They point out that such a practice is not adopted in respect of the residents of the Northern Territory. They claim, in addition, that, under the Administration’s proposals, they would be paying more tax per head on the average than the people of Australia pay, although they do not receive any form of social service benefits.
I know that there is to be a debate in the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea on the proposals. But that body has a majority of government nominees, and the only real protest that the elected minority can make is to resign. When the minority members threatened to do this, the Assistant Administrator, Dr. J. T. Gunther, pointed out that this would simply leave the public with no representation at all in the discussions.
I put it to the House that we cannot afford to have in Papua and New Guinea the atmosphere of frustration and resentment which the handling of these proposals has aroused. I think we all agree that this Territory is both our front line of defence and, because of constant visits by representatives of the United Nations, our administrative shop-window. We desperately need goodwill and a spirit of cooperation among the white residents in an area which, it can quite reasonably be said, may be our next battle area.
To introduce income tax to any community without arousing ill will is admittedly no easy task. Nevertheless, if the Administration persists in its present bulldozing methods in the face of public opposition, I think it will have failed Australia. In this critical era, the maintenance of morale in the population is paramount. I believe that these are reasonable people and that if the Minister can show that the taxes are just and necessary they will be accepted.
It is time for statesmanship in the territories and I appeal to the Minister to throw away the official approach which has already had such unfortunate consequences and which, in the ultimate, will bring no credit to this House. I appeal to my colleagues in this House to ask themselves what they know of this measure. I feel that the answer will be, “Very little”. I suggest to honorable members that they should ask for some discussion on this subject so that we may be better informed and so that we who will probably have to accept the responsibility of imposing this form of taxation can ensure at least that the people shall have a fair deal and that they shall be able to state their case publicly. There should be some form of debate or method of discussion in this House of the proposals which, we understand, are to be introduced on 20th April, which are to lie in the Legislative Council, and which are to be submitted to debate on 20th June. I ask my colleagues to look at this situation and say whether we, as a responsible House, should not be taking far greater interest in the matter than we are doing.
.- Mr. Speaker - (Quorum formed.) Do I still get ten minutes?
– The honorable member’s time started when he was called.
– I want to voice concern over the conduct of a certain section of the Australian press. I think that my point of view on this matter has been amply justified by all members of the Parliament thinking the same way concerning the events of the last few days. I am speaking to-night because to-day an article appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ signed by the editor, Mr. Angus Maude. The article was entitled “ The Prime Minister and the Press “ and, in a box, it gave the record of Mr. Angus Maude. It gave his scholastic attainments. He is an M.A. This information was produced because, it was stated -
Mr. Menzies referred sneeringly in his speech to “ anonymous “ press critics.
Members will note - Prime Ministers “ sneer “ and editors “ comment “. The first time that Mr. Angas Maude came under my notice was on 17th November last. Honorable members will recall that a lady wrote to “ The Sydney Morning Herald “ challenging its motives in its policy dealing with the last general election. In this letter, this lady, whose name was given publicly afterwards, challenged the reason why the paper, the policy of which was directed by Mr. Henderson, had a great aversion to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). This letter was not published but Mr. Maude wrote back to the lady challenging her remarks. In his letter he said -
I thought perhaps I should inform you that the editorial policy of “The Sydney Morning Herald “ is my responsibility, and that none of the directors knows what is going to be in the “ Herald “ leading articles until he reads it at his breakfast table next day.
I am quite certain that not one member of this Parliament or another place will believe that. No only do we not believe it but the “ Daily Telegraph “ does not believe it. The “ Daily Telegraph “ published a cartoon which is ample evidence that it does not believe Mr. Maude. Mr. Maude arrived from England only five months ago. Can any one believe that a paper with the traditions of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ would allow a newcomer to direct its policy in a federal election? No. I say this because I want to place some doubt on the credence that one may attach to Mr. Maude.
In the article published to-day, Mr. Maude described the speech of the Prime Minister in this House as “ a violent attack on the press “. I have read the speech again. The Prime Minister was trenchant, but not violent. Mr. Maude also questioned what he called the Prime Minister’s somewhat unworthy personal attack on the individual executives of the newspaper companies. What had the Prime Minister said? He had challenged the executives of the papers to publish their salaries, emoluments and perks. Was that unworthy? But this paper impugns the honesty and integrity of 184 members of this House and another place. Apparently, you may attack members of Parliament. They are fair game. But if a member of the press is attacked, that is not fair game. That is unworthy.
Every member of the Parliament knows that the presentation of the Richardson report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was slanted and misleading. In the present article in which the newspaper defended itself, Mr. Maude continues with the same poisonous pen that has appeared throughout leading articles of the last few issues. He chides the Prime Minister for not having entered into a controversy in the press before this matter came to Parliament. Does he think that the Prime Minister has to indulge in press controversies before legislation comes before the National Parliament?
This man is politically experienced. For five years he was a member of the British Parliament. Why did he leave? Why did he leave England? Was the pay too small, or for what reasons did he come out here? He says that to-day’s article is intended to keep the record straight. In it he suggests that he had given fair treatment to Mr. Norman Cowper, a very honorable man. Here is the fair treatment that he gave to Mr. Norman Cowper: Mr. Cowper wrote a very sober intelligent and helpful letter to the paper. It was given prominence with his photograph. But Mr. Maude adopted an unprecedented method. In the middle of that letter he interposed his own comments. No decent journalist does that. Not only did he interpose comments in that letter, but he published alongside it a leading article, somewhat of the Nasser type. I invite honorable members to read the leading article and see what a scurrilous thing it is. This was once one of the best papers in the British Commonwealth. Today, it is going down and down. But this is not all.
In the same period of which I am talking the paper made reference to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).- The honorable member may not be photogenic, but this paper attacked him and published a photograph showing him in a very unfavorable light. You may recall the staring eyes, which it may have been thought were suggestive of some one making a salary grab. Somebody in that newspaper must have directed that the honorable member should be given the staring eyes treatment. This is no longer a first-class national newspaper, when it parodies members of Parliament by the use of unfortunate photographs. Only two days later, we saw a photograph of the honorable member which showed his normal, pleasant, good-looking appearance.
We see here a newspaper, with all the standing of the “Sydney Morning Herald “, sinking to the level of the Communist “ Tribune “ under the editorship of Mr. Maude. But that is not all. We saw also the pictures of Sir Frank Richardson which it published. Sir Frank is an ordinary business executive and a normal kind of gentleman, but, during this controversy, alongside some of the letters on the subject - some of them were genuine and some were of the rat-bag kind - there appeared photographs of Sir Frank Richardson dressed in a topper and a morning suit. What a stage the degradation of this firstclass newspaper reached! What stratum in society was the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ appealing to by attempting to bolster up its case with photographs like these?
The same newspaper, in an article in to-day’s issue, states that we suggest, in our criticism of the press, that it has no right to attempt to influence public opinion by comment. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its indulgence. I think that this is an important matter. The article in to-day’s issue states that we suggest that the press has no right to influence public opinion by comment. We did not say that. We believe in fair comment. The article goes on -
This is a view held by all Fascist and Communist dictators, but it has no place in a democracy.
What is behind that statement I leave to honorable members to establish for themselves. It is true that Communist dictators control the press. But they control it by the means that the “Sydney Morning Herald “ has adopted - by slanted reporting, misleading statements, and the like.
I think that the comments made by the Prime Minister were quite fair. There is no yardstick by which you can judge a member of Parliament, a Prime Minister or a Minister. The Prime Minister suggested that the executives of the “Sydney Morning Herald “ should place their cards on the table and reveal all their salaries, emoluments and perks. I think that that is quite fair. Why should that not be done? That suggestion does not constitute an unkind attack on this newspaper. It is, as I have said, quite fair. It is common knowledge, as has been indicated by this lady who was present, and who knows Mr. Henderson, that there has been a personal feud against the Prime Minister on the part of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. That is common knowledge, as I have said. But the ugly part of it, Mr. Speaker, is that, under the protection of the freedom of the press, a powerful organ of this kind is used for a vindictive and spiteful attack on people who cannot answer back.
I raise these matters because I have been a reader of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ for many years, and I have found its line growing increasingly bitter. Is it because we have coming out here now gentlemen like this Mr. Maude? We could perhaps describe him as an angry young man. We have gained enormously from some of the British migrants, who have done much to assist this country, but here is one migrant who is introducing into Australia a very ugly kind of yellow journalism.
.- Mr. Speaker, I also should like to make a few comments about the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. I take strong exception to this newspaper using parliamentarians as a yardstick in relation to age and invalid pensioners. Let us just have a look at the salaries of some of the chiefs of this newspaper - these people who are supposed to be so concerned about the welfare of age and invalid pensioners. I am led to believe, on good authority, that Mr. Henderson receives a salary of £30,000 a year, plus perks, and* that Mr. Angus Maude receives a salary of £9,000 a year, plus perks. This is the first time in the four years that I have been in this Parliament that I have agreed with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but I did agree with him the other evening when he challenged the executives of this newspaper to publish details of what they received in allowances and salaries. I notice, however, that that challenge was entirely ignored. 19 it not true, as has been remarked in this Parlament before, that the newspapers have always endeavoured, and always will endeavour, to mould public opinion by ridiculing parliamentarians, because, if they were to build up parliamentarians, the value of their editorials and opinions would not be regarded very highly by the public? Let us just have a look at the way in which the newspapers treat parliamentarians. They ridicule the party leaders, and particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), by cartoons. There is not one man in Australia who has been more ridiculed in press cartoons than has the Leader of the Opposition. Yet, if anybody attacks the press or is thought to besmirch or ridicule any one connected with it, these people are the first to squeal like stuck pigs.
Last week, in all sincerity, I asked a question about the payment of alimony to the wife of a certain newspaper proprietor. I asked that question only because I thought it was complete hypocrisy for the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ to use parliamentarians as a yardstick in relation to age and invalid pensioners. I sincerely believe that, in the next Budget, this Parliament should make provision for very heavy taxes on high incomes from £2,000 upwards. That would affect every parliamentarian as well as the editors of newspapers. But, if we were to do that, Mr. Speaker, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ would come out with an editorial, in its usual hypocritical style, claiming that we were interfering with private enterprise and incentive.
– Restricting investment!
– Restricting investment, and all the rest of the poppycock that we have become so accustomed to hearing over the years. This is just typical of the form of these newspapers. I recall that, during the latter part of Mr. Chifley’s sevice in this Parliament, the press ridiculed him and, by implication, suggested that he was a fellow traveller. Let me tell Mr. Fairfax, and all his family, that not one of them is fit even to clean the boots of a man like Mr. Chifley was. This press ridicule has been going on for many years. Let us hope that the Parliament will always reign supreme against these insidious monsters that try to capture public opinion.
.- Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a subject that is far removed from newspapers. I propose to quote a letter that I wrote to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on 25th March. I realize that the Minister is now overseas, but 1 did expect to get some sort of reply.
– You would never get his reply within ten minutes.
– I did not expect to get it within ten minutes, but I thought that the Department of Trade would make some effort to give me a reply. I wrote to the Minister -
You may recall that on the 11th March. 1959, in answer to a question by the Member for Pt. Adelaide, relating to Import Licensing generally, you stated - “ I assure the Honorable Member that import licensing is administered not merely on the Department’s judgment of what is fair, but in the closest consultation with representative groups from business and industry.”
I may say at this stage that contradictory replies are sometimes given. On one occasion a person who seeks an import licence may be told that a licence for the import of a certain commodity cannot be given because the commodity is manufactured in Australia also. At another time, a person is told that import licensing is not a form of import control or a method of protecting Australian industry, but is designed to control the balance of payments.
My letter went on to say -
In view of this, I would be pleased if you could supply me with some information concerning the following matter.
I believe that on or about 25th February, 1959, quotas relating to the importation of timber from dollar areas were increased by 15 per cent, in respect of the licensing period ending 31st March, 1959. Was this decision taken at the request of any particular body of timber traders? Also, what were the grounds for the decision and was the native timber industry of Australia given the opportunity for consultation before this action was determined, having regard to the fact that in some States at least, timber production is well below available log volume?
I think it is fair to say that the Australian timber industry to-day needs some more practical support from this Government. The Australian timber industry is a greater contributor to capital investment and the employment of labour in Australia than that section of industry that is concerned with the importation of overseas timber. It is regrettable to see each year slight increases being granted in the amounts of timber that may be imported, when we have the materials in Australia, produced by our own people, which could well do the job.
I want to take the House back to an occasion two years ago when the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and I raised this question during an adjournment debate. Some time later, on 19th March, 1957, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) referred the matter of timber tariffs to the Tariff Board for examination. A public hearing commenced in Melbourne on 27th May, 1957. The board’s report was printed on 22nd April, 1958, and tabled in the House on 14th May, 1958. The Minister for Trade informed the House that the Government accepted the recommendations of the board, particularly those dealing with interstate shipping freights, with particular reference to Western Australia and Tasmania, because those freights were not operating in the best interests of the industry, having regard to the lower freight rates available for shipping from the Baltic countries and Canadian and American ports. He went on to say that details of a further inquiry to be held would be announced at a later date.
Following that, delegations met the Minister in Sydney in June, 1958, and on 6th March the report came under Government consideration, but to my knowledge no results have yet been announced to the public or to the timber industry. I suggest that some very quick action should be taken on this matter, if not by the Minister who is overseas, then by the Minister who is acting for him. Action must be taken quickly in the interests of the Australian timber industry. In my own State the mills are not operating at full capacity. Timber is being piled up while, at the same time, overseas timber is being imported and being used in place of the Western Australian timber. I know that in South Australia certain objections are raised to the use of Western Australian timber. This dates back to some quarrel between the two States in the post-war years, when certain circumstances made it impossible for us to supply South Australia with sufficient timber. However, I contend that this Government has a responsibility to do something about the matter, otherwise the Australian timber industry, especially in my own State, will find itself in an even worse condition.
.- I would not have spoken to-night but for the remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). The honorable gentleman is entitled to wax indignant, as he did, about the treatment of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at the hands of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. The honorable member said he believed in fair comment, but he certainly was stirred by what he had read, written by a new Australian named Angus Maude. I remember the honorable gentleman, and other honorable gentlemen on the Government side of this Parliament, voting some years ago in favour of a resolution to the effect that foreign interests - the term was used by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and it meant in this particular case English interests - must not be permitted to hold more than 10 per cent., I think, of the shares in any Australian company controlling broadcasting or television stations. I wonder whether the honorable member for Hume proposes that no Englishman shall be the editor of any Australian newspaper. There is a custom in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ organization, a long-standing practice, that to be the editor of that journal, you must have been recently imported from England. It is almost literally true that over the editorial door of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ hangs a notice “ No Australian need apply “.
I have met Mr. Maude. I found him a very interesting personality. I do not think that he knows the Australian scene sufficiently well to be able to say that what he writes should not be subject to some supervision or censorship by people like Mr. Henderson or Mr. McLaughlin, but I am not in a position to challenge him on his claim. However, I was interested to hear the honorable member for Hume say that he believes in fair comment. Now, what does he mean by fair comment? I have never heard him or any other member of this Parliament rise in the cause of fair comment and attack the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ or any other newspaper for the venom, the viciousness and the vindictiveness which have literally oozed out of every article and every comment on every Labour leader in every election campaign that has been held since the Labour Party came into existence. I have never heard any honorable member on the Government side say that the attacks on the right honorable member for Hunter, the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in recent years or when he was Minister for External Affairs, were fair or measured or reasonable.
– There was an exception in 1943.
– Yes, there was an exception in 1943, and I know the reason. The proprietors of all newspapers and all business interests in Australia felt that not only their lives but also their properties were endangered, and so they were prepared to back the Labour Party at that time for the protection of their lives and their properties. But as the Japanese moved further back to their bombed islands, of course there was a change in tone of the newspapers, as there was a change in the tone of judgments of the High Court of Australia. If you want to read the history of the Pacific war, read it in the Commonwealth Law Reports, in the judgments of the High Court.
We were attacked in those days, and we have been attacked since, vigorously, bitterly and unsparingly. We do not complain about it. It is inevitable when the protagonists of any progressive party want to try to reform the existing conditions of the social order. We know that we will not have the support of the press in doing the things we want to do. The press of this country can no longer claim that its journals are journals of record. They have long since ceased to be so. The newspaper organizations represent branches of industry. The directors who control the banks are the same directors who control the newspapers and the big business interests. Money power controls the lot, and the Labour Party, wishing to change society, meets with the uncompromising opposition of these people.
I have never heard the honorable member for Hume, for whom I have very great respect personally, and whose friendship I hope I enjoy, attack the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ when it has misrepresented our point of view or distorted the statements of our leaders.
– Several times!
– You have done it?
– Well, I, unfortunately, have not read it, although the “Sydney Morning Herald “ is one of my favorite newspapers. I must read the columns of that organ more carefully in future. I used to, because for a long period I feuded with Mr. Henderson and a lot of other people. But I have never heard the honorable gentleman say that it was fair comment when the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ attacked us because we advocated socialism or a change in the capitalist order. The honorable member has his predilections, his prejudices and his phobias. He believes in capitalism and all that it stands for. Any attack on the Labour Party or its representatives, of course, is fair comment. But at least he is beginning to see the light. I hope for the purposes of his own education that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ will continue to attack the Prime Minister. We will then find other honorable members rising in protest against these very unfair attacks to which the Prime Minister has been subjected for a very long time at the hands of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and other newspapers. The right honorable gentleman is joining our ranks; he is amongst the maligned. I am glad to see that some members of the Australian Country Party are prepared to rush in and defend him where his own followers in the Liberal Party are so strangely silent.
The press, the broadcasting stations and the television stations of this country are all passing under the one control. What I am afraid of is that the Parliamentary institution will be so denigrated that if economic conditions get bad we will find demands arising in his counry for a de Gaulle to come into power to take over the Parliamentary institution so that the interests for which the newspapers stand may benefit or may be protected against rising public indignation. The honorable member for Hume has started well; I wish him luck in his Pilgrim’s Progress. I hope that he will have a few adherents to his cause and that more time will be taken on the adjournment of the House in airing the views that he has expressed. I hope to see him rise in this House and move a motion, with the support of every member on the Government side, to the effect that no Englishman shall be allowed to edit a metropolitan daily newspaper, so as to bring the attitude of the Government into line with the earlier resolution moved in regard to the control of broadcasting stations.
.- It would not be very difficult to work back through the various editors of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, past and present, with their faults, foibles and good qualities, through the timber industry in various aspects, to the timber industry in New Guinea and back to the original subject raised by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), which is the question of income tax in New Guinea. That is the subject on which I would particularly like to talk for a few moments.
I do not know whether the Commonwealth Government is being wise at present in imposing this form of taxation without far greater preparation of the peoples both of Australia and of Papua and New Guinea. It has been well known throughout the centuries that the British Commonwealth has developed in spite of governments. If any government could claim that it has really assisted in the development of this country, it would be either of two. It would be that of Stanley Bruce, which saw the greatest period of development that Australia had seen up to the end of the last war, or it would be the government in the period from 1949 to the present time, which has seen our greatest period of achievement and development. In that time, to a large extent, development has gone on not because of governments hut in spite of them, although with some encouragement from them. In the main, development has taken place through the individuals who have been prepared to go out to gain some reward for a particular achievement on their part. That, not only in the present period but in our past, has been the history of New Guinea.
We claim that New Guinea is a territory of the Australian Commonwealth. But has there been so far a reference to our Commonwealth Parliament, other than one raised outside the Parliament, on this question of applying a tax in that Territory, which is a very important part of Australia? lt is some years since I raised in this House the question of the possible representation in this Parliament of the people of New Guinea. I believe that in many ways they have a greater right - or at least an equal right - to representation than the people of the Northern Territory. Whilst they have a slightly smaller European population, they have a vastly greater population of human beings. If the comparatively small population of the Northern Territory in terms of Europeans is entitled to a voice in this Parliament, then I believe that the voice of almost 1,000,000 people should be entitled to be heard in the Parliament that is considered to be the Parliament of our Commonwealth and of our territories.
Sir, I do not know what the answer to that argument is; 1 would dearly love to hear it. I do not know what the taxation proposals will do to the incentive of the individual who goes to New Guinea. We take off certain export duties and we encourage the companies that are there. We take off certain income tax and we encourage some, possibly most, of the individuals’ who are there. At the moment I do not know exactly how this personal income tax will be applied. To whom will it be applied? Will it be applied throughout the whole of the Territory? Will we be able to impress on the people there that they will get considerable benefits from this? There is another question that I would like to ask. I may be wrong on this, too, but
I do not think that 1 am. Is it not true that some of the best strains of sugar cane in Australia come from New Guinea?
– Why do we not let them grow it?
– That is the whole question. In view of what we intend to do now, what will be the position of the sugar industry in New Guinea? I believe that that will be a very lively question and 1 should hate to be answering it on behalf of either a State government or a particular political party. I know full well that the non-Labour parties, through a gentleman named Rankins, were given the opportunity at one stage of introducing the sugar scheme as it is at present accepted in the Commonwealth. They rejected it and the Labour Party took it up, and stayed in power in Queensland for a very long time as a result. Quite frankly, I do not know what this legislation will do to the sugar industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales if it is applied, but I wish that somebody in this Parliament had told us before going to the great trouble of putting us in the embarrassing position that I think we will be in.
.- It is very pleasing lo a member of the Australian Labour Party to hear expressions of concern from Government supporters about criticism by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. We in the Labour Party, especially in New South Wales, feel that a greater enemy of the workers in New South Wales is the “ Daily Telegraph “. In fact, the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour Party has banned the purchase of that newspaper by all its members.
– How stupid!
– I do not agree; but whether it is stupid or not, that is the decision of the party. Personally, I still consider the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ is far superior as a newspaper to the snivelling “Daily Telegraph “. which has been bending over backwards to keep on side with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and this Government. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has expressed some fair criticism; but when we start to criticize the press, we should be consistent and criticize the whole of the press of Australia. Let us consider the position of the editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, Major Angus Maude. Before he came to Australia, Major Maude was a Conservative member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, where the Conservative Party is akin to the party represented by honorable members on the Government side in this House.
– 1 do not agree.
– Perhaps not, but the fact is that he represented the same field of thought in Great Britain that honorable members on the Government side represent here. Major Angus Maude was one of the five rebels who resigned from the Conservative Party in Great Britain over the party’s attitude on the withdrawal from Suez during the crisis. We know that the present Prime Minister of Australia, who was sent to the Middle East as an envoy, returned from his mission with a story that started the invasion at Suez which was supported by Major Angus Maude. At that time the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was opposed to the British landings in Suez, but ten months later, when Major Angus Maude was the editor of that newspaper, it supported the American landings in Lebanon and the British landings in Jordan. This Government also supported that policy, so that in many fields of thought, particularly on foreign policy, Major Angus Maude and this Government think alike.
The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was critical of a matter which has just been discussed by this House to the point of decision. The “ Daily Telegraph “, however, was one of the few newspapers in line with the thoughts expressed in this House. As a matter of fact, it was pathetic to see the moderator in the Meet-the-Press television session, Mr. David McNicol, when a business-man was interviewed on the proposed increases of parliamentary allowances. When the business-man was asked what he thought of expenses at the rate of fifteen guineas a day to be allowed the Prime Minister, the moderator bent over backwards figuratively to stop that line of discussion. He said, “ Don’t you think that £4 a day for the private members is adequate? “ The business-man said he thought it was not enough, and that private enterprise could allow £6 a day. Mr. McNicol tried to defend the Prime Minister on all points. The “ Daily Telegraph “ has covered up on every point for this Government.
If the Government and its supporters are sincere in their criticism of the press, they must criticize all sections of it, because it is not the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ alone which is trying to get control of affairs and force its opinions down the throats of members of this Parliament.
– It is not nonsense. It is fact. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said he had been criticized for years by the newspapers. Honorable members on this side of the House have been ridiculed by the press. In that regard, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ is no worse than any other newspaper. I fully support the statements of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I would rather read the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ than any other newspaper. On some points, it pushes its own barrow, but what newspaper does not do that? However, I think we should be consistent and if we criticize one newspaper we should criticize the lot.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
On what dates and with what results have the Commonwealth and. the States consulted or corresponded on extending the provisions of the 1952 Rome Convention to damage caused by all aircraft to third parties on the surface?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
The Prime Minister communicated with State Premiers on a number of occasions prior to 1952 and views of State governments were given considerable weight in preparing instructions for the Australian delegation to the Rome conference.
Subsequently New South Wales and Victoria, in 1952 and 1953 respectively, enacted legislation dealing with surface damage by aircraft. The Prime Minister last wrote to State Premiers on 15th May, 1953, seeking State views on extending the principles of the convention domestically. While the views of State Governments varied most
States expressed the desire to await Commonwealth legislation on the matter. The Commonwealth recently gave effect to the Rome Convention by the Civil Aviation (Damage by Aircraft) Act 1958. It is proposed to raise the matter again with State governments concurrently with the question of extending the principles of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959 to intra-state carriage.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What was the number of primary votes cast in favour of each political party in each electoral division at the 1958 federal elections?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The tabulated information sought by the honorable member is rather long for inclusion in this answer, but I have handed him a statement giving the information.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590416_reps_23_hor23/>.