25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Thursday evening last, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) left Australia to attend meetings of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council, the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He will be away until 12th October. During his absence I will act as Treasurer.
This morning the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) left on the first stage of an overseas visit, primarily to attend the Commonwealth Medical Conference which will be held at Edinburgh in the early part of next month. He will return on 31st October. In the absence of the Minister for Health the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) will act as Minister for Health. He will also represent the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in this chamber over that period, as has the present Minister for Health in the past.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry make a statement giving details of the value and quantity of exports from Australia of strategic and other items of trade to Soviet Russia, Communist China and other members of their economic groups during the past three years?
– There is no need for me to make a statement giving such details because the Government has an established procedure under which any goods considered to be of strategic importance are not exported to any of those countries.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister seen a newspaper report which indicates that medical students are being discriminated against in that a disproportionate number are being called up for national service training? Is this report true? What is the position of medical students with regard to national service training?
– My attention has been drawn- .
– Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: Is it in order for an honorable member to base his question on a newspaper report?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– My attention has been drawn to a statement alleged to have been made that there was discrimination against medical students at the University of New South Wales and that they were now being drafted or conscripted into the Army. The fact is that there can be no discrimination. In the first ballot about 40,000 young men of the age of 20 years were eligible to be registered and of that number about 20,000 were balloted in and became eligible for call-up in due course. Of that 40,000 one in every two students who registered, including medical students, could have been balloted in and so become liable for call-up. There is nothing unusual about this. In the long term it will be found that in the medical group or any other group the chances of being called up will be no different from anyone else’s, although in the short period there may be a disproportionate number of any group balloted in. Medical students themselves cannot have been discriminated against at present because the National Service Act does not permit discrimination. Nor does the method of balloting out or balloting in, due to the birthday dates, permit discrimination. As to the final part of the question, medical students are entitled to deferment. The truth of the matter is that up to this moment no medical students have been called up. Therefore it can be said that they have been neither conscripted nor regimented to go into the Army. The article referred to is based, I believe, upon a figment of someone’s imagination.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General and invite his attention to section 89 (5.) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which reads -
The amount fixed by the Board as rental deduction upon an officer assuming occupancy of quarters shall not be increased during the period of his occupancy by reason of his advancement in salary otherwise than by promotion.
Will the Postmaster-General advise the House what justification there is for increasing the rents of resident postmasters whenever an increase is granted in margins or the basic wage? If the Minister acknowledges that these rent increases are irregular, will he take steps to rectify the position and arrange for reimbursement of postmasters who have been overcharged irregularly?
– The requirements of the Public Service Act would be observed by my Department when determining the rentals to be paid by its employees. However, there could be a slip. If the honorable gentleman will give me details of the cases that he has in mind, I will have an investigation made. If any incorrect procedure has been followed I will see that an adjustment is made.
– I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the worldwide gathering which will assemble in Canberra in April of next year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the siege of Tobruk. Will the Minister consider issuing a special stamp to commemorate this occasion, which is of great significance to many Australian ex-servicemen?
– I appreciate the significance of this anniversary, but I am afraid that I cannot hold out any great hope for a commemorative stamp. We are able to issue only about half a dozen commemorative stamps in each year, and the programme for next year has already been determined. It had to be determined well in advance because of the changeover to decimal currency on 14th February 1966, which will involve a tremendous printing job. We receive many requests for the issue of special stamps and it has been necessary to lay down certain principles.
Two such principles are that anniversaries will not be commemorated unless they are at least 50th anniversaries, and that 18 months notice must be given of a request for a special stamp. It takes that length of time to deal with the design and printing programmes associated with the issue of a special stamp.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Immigration a question. Is it a fact that Australia is in danger of losing the opportunity to stage the 1966 World Pentathlon Championships because the Minister has refused to grant visas to athletes from East Germany? Is he aware that Australia’s application to stage the championships was granted on condition that athletes from all countries would be given unrestricted entry? I ask whether the Minister will agree to review what appears to be a most unreasonable and unsportsmanlike decision.
– No-one would wish more than I do to avoid being an obstructionist where sporting events are concerned. I can assure the honorable gentleman of that. However, the decision in question was made necessary by a particular international situation and by attitudes to it that have had to be adopted, not only by the Australian Government, but also by the governments of other like minded countries.
– In a brief preface to my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Housing, I wish to remind him of the magnificent contribution that members of the Salvation Army have made in two world wars and to point out that members of this organisation have done magnificent work in my particular area of north Queensland. I now ask: Can the Minister give the House any information about the stage reached in discussions between representatives of the Department of Housing and the Salvation Army concerning benefits that may accrue to exservicemen of this organisation under the war service homes scheme, which is administered by the Department?
– My Department is not at present engaged in discussions with representatives of the Salvation Army although representatives of that organisation have made representations to me, to the Government and to a large number of members of the Parliament who have recently been sent a circular letter. There is a number of other bodies, including the Young Men’s Christian Association, which are in a position fairly similar to that of the Salvation Army, having had representatives accredited to the armed forces in war time. The whole position was looked into by the Labour Government in 1945. It examined the situation and, in the light of considerations then applying, resolved not to include representatives of this group of organisations in the war service homes scheme. Over the years, similar representations have been made to successive governments by much the same bodies, both directly and through the Returned Servicemen’s League. On a number of occasions, the question has been examined and on each occasion the government concerned has not seen fit to include these people in benefits under the war service homes scheme.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. I ask: Has the Army made any evaluation of the new Swedish S type tank, which has been developed after intensive research? Is the Minister aware that this tank has qualities superior to those of the Centurion Mark X, which has been described by Australian tank experts as being nearly obsolete? Is he able to say whether it is correct that the Swedish tank has a silhouette 30 to 50 per cent, lower than that of any other tank, weighs only 36.5 tons compared to the Centurions 51 tons, is better armed, is fast and amphibious and is equipped with a Rolls-Royce engine? If no evaluation of the Swedish tank has been made, will the Minister arrange for one to be undertaken to ascertain whether this new tank is suited to Australia’s special requirements?
– I am not aware of the particular tank of which the honorable gentleman speaks, but I shall be happy to get the information that he requests. However, I say now that there has been a very wide evaluation of tanks suitable for the
South East Asian area, and the Army intends to buy for this purpose during the current three year programme a light, air portable tank. It is not the one that the honorable gentleman has mentioned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. According to Press reports, the ballot for the new call-up for national service has now taken place. It has been stated that those who have missed out in the ballot will be notified in about two weeks time and that those who are to be called up will be notified in about one month. As this delay in notification causes considerable anxiety to many young men and their families, is there any substantial reason why the birthday dates drawn in the ballot cannot be publicised? If this procedure is undesirable, can the method of notification be accelerated?
– In the Press statement that I issued relating to the latest call-up for national service, I tried to make it clear that I hoped all of the notices would be sent out within the period of one month. Some notices are now going out and others will go out progressively within the period of a month, both for those young men who have become liable for call-up and those who have missed out in the ballot. As to whether or not we can publish the birthday dates, already I have made it clear that it would be unfair to various groups of people to do so. If it became obvious that a man, who had a birthday on a certain date, had been balloted in but had not been called up, he could become subject to all sorts of criticism. It would be unfair to him. Secondly, it has been found through long experience in the Department, that if birthday dates are published it gives too many opportunities for those who are anxious to evade military service.
– That is a grave reflection.
– Maybe it is a reflection on those who want to get out, but we have no wish to help them. Finally, I was asked whether or not this other method would be a better one. I point out, as I pointed out to the honorable member for Bowman, that there are at least 20,000 young people who remain liable to be called up. In these cases we face a great number of administrative difficulties such as whether they are eligible for deferment or exemption. We have found it would be impracticable in these circumstances to overcome the difficulties. We are doing our best to shorten the time in sending out the notices. I think the honorable gentleman will find that on this occasion the period has been considerably shortened.
– I ask the Minister for Housing a question which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Dawson. Is it correct that Salvation Army representatives who served in the First World War are or were eligible for advances through the War Service Homes Division whereas those from the Second World War are not? If there is a difference in the rights of the representatives who served in the two World Wars, what is the basis for it and why is it being continued?
– There is some difference in treatment between the people concerned in World War I and World War II. Of course, the circumstances also were very different. When the war services homes legislation was redrafted and amended suitably in 1945 to meet the World War II situation, the Government of the day, after examining the circumstances of all those who had served, decided that the persons mentioned by the honorable member would not be admitted to the benefit’s. I have not readily at my command the considerations which led to this conclusion, but the Government of the day certainly was faced with a different set of circumstances from those of World War I. I think that there were very few of these people who served in World War I who actually benefited from the war service homes provisions.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact, as reported in several newspapers, that £500,000 will be spent on Italian marble for the new National Library building in Canberra?
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised this matter because I myself read a somewhat heated comment in one oi two newspapers about this terrible proposal to spend half a million pounds on Italian marble for the National Library. As not infrequently is the case, this was quite untrue. The fact is that tenders were called for the supply and setting of stone for cladding the exterior walls, and tenderers were invited, before making their tenders, to have a look at the types of stone which had been put out on a trial site. There was a plain indication that there would be a domestic preference. No tenderer provided in his tender for external marble to come from Australian sources. The fact is that the total contract price for supplying and fixing stone to the Library building was £485,000, and of that amount the sum payable for Italian stone and the freight on it from Italy was not £500,000 but £55,000.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question which is supplementary to the question asked by my colleague, the honorable member for Hughes. Are West German athletes being permitted to come to Australia without hindrance? If so, why are we differentiating against East Germans? Are East Germans to be visited with all the sins of all Germans? Is it not time that, as far as sport is concerned, the war was over? Why did this Government a few years ago welcome the war criminal Krupp and why does it not welcome all German athletes?
– This is a fairly wide coverage for a question directed to a Minister for Immigration. Actually the matter is one of international affairs and comes within the purview of the Minister for External Affairs. But if the honorable member really wants to cover some country, let him go and have a look over the Berlin wall. He will see a very different situation on the East German side from that on the West German side. That the honorable member should raise this matter reflects no credit on him. Whether or not West German teams will apply to come to Australia is a purely theoretical question. The East Germans know the regulations and know the situation in relation to coming to this pentathlon. I hope that they will have enough sense and enough moderation to abide by the regulations. Then, perhaps, we shall have them in Australia.
– I direct to the Minis ter for Primary Industry a question with reference to the economic survey of the dairying industry undertaken some months ago by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Was a comprehensive survey carried out in the dairying districts of all States of the Commonwealth? Has the survey been completed and will a report be available at an early date?
– The report is now being processed by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and I hope to have something available for honorable members in the very near future.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question which is supplementary to that which was asked by the honorable member for Wills. During the 1956 Olympic Games the honorable member for Chisholm was chairman of the executive committee of the organising committee of the Games and I was happy to serve under his chairmanship. On that occasion people came to this country from Communist countries and non-Communist countries alike, and the German team consisted of representatives of West Germany and East Germany. I ask the Minister: Why are East Germans not eligible to come to Australia now, when a team from Communist Russia can come?
– Let me say that on the previous occasion the Germans came as a combined team and they can come this time as a combined team.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. He will recall that before we entered the jet age the then major public transport vehicle, the train, pampered those who wished to indulge their whim for fresh air by providing non-smoking compartments. Will he, after consultation with his colleague, the Minister for Health, consider making it obligatory for all airlines within Australia to set aside a block of seats for non-smokers, so that those of us who do not enjoy smoking may travel and, on occasions, eat without sharing involuntarily the addiction of those who depend upon the pernicious weed?
– As a non-smoker I can sympathise with the honorable member who has evidently, on a number of occasions, sat next to a heavy smoker when taking a meal. But there are many problems relating to the question of smoking in aircraft. For example, one cannot very well tell one’s next door neighbour to go outside for a smoke. However, I will take this matter up with my colleague in another place. I do not think it is possible to set aside seats in aircraft for non-smokers, because there would be too many difficulties in ascertaining who smoked and who did not, but I will get a reply for the honorable member.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Air a question concerning the use of helicopters. He is no doubt aware that recently a Greek ship went aground on Leschenault Reef, some 50 miles north of Fremantle. I ask: Are helicopters with winching facilities available in all States of Australia for rescue work, if needed? If such helicopters are not available will he take steps to see that at least one helicopter is always available in each State of the Commonwealth?
– No, helicopters are not available in each State of the Commonwealth. The main reason why helicopters have been purchased by the Royal Australian Air Force is for use in the defence of Australia. They are employed sometimes, where possible, in a secondary role for search and rescue purposes but we must not on any occasion allow their main role, the defence of Australia, to be subjugated to that of search and rescue. If a helicopter is available when needed and is easily able to get to the place where it is required for rescue work, we use it for that purpose, but we cannot station helicopters all round Australia for search and rescue work when their major role is that of defence.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy: Has he seen a report that Vice-Admiral Sir Frank Twiss is investigating sites in Australia for a FarEastern naval base to replace the Singapore base? Is this report correct?
– I was fortunate enough to be talking to Vice-Admiral Twiss this morning and he expressed some surprise that he had been so grossly misreported. What he had said, in effect, was that he was in Australia on a routine liaison visit to as many naval establishments as possible. He did not refer once to the matter reported in the Press, and therefore I repeat he did not say he was in Australia to take the opportunity to look at such sites in this country.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I feel that in a democracy it is important that the general public should know who are the leading figures in the various political parties. I ask the right honorable gentleman: As it would appear that ordinary citizens have difficulty in finding out who are the members of the Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia, could he supply that information to the House? Could he tell us-
– Order! I must point out to the honorable member that the Prime Minister is not responsible to this House for any one who is a member of the Liberal Party.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service read recent comments of a leading industrialist that a crash programme is needed to expand technical education, with particular reference to an increase of the number of apprentices and that the Federal Government should make grants to technical schools as it does to universities? Can the Minister say whether any action has been or is to be taken along these lines by the Government?
– l, do not think my attention has been directed during the last few weeks, or at any rate the last few days, to a statement by a leading industrialist that we should have a crash programme of technical training. Naturally I receive comments about crash and other types of programmes from time to time. The
Government has done a great deal in the last few years for technical training and technical education. For instance, we are making available 2,500 technical education scholarships. A sum of £5 million each year is being made available for capital works for technical schools and £5 million for science blocks in schools, which, after all, are necessary for preliminary training before the undertaking of technical work beyond the schools. Recently the Government decided also to appoint a committee, which has become known as the Wark committee, on higher technical training and technical education. We will receive continuing advice from the committee.
On the apprenticeship side the honorable gentleman knows, I am sure, that we have in some trades and occupations shortened the field of apprenticeship training and have granted apprenticeship allowances and payments to technical students and apprentices who come from country areas. So I think it can be said, in answer to the honorable gentleman, that a great deal has been done. As to whether we need a crash programme, I cannot agree that we do. Most highly industrialised countries need a permanent programme to handle problems related to education and training skill. I am certain that it is a permanent programme rather than a crash programme that is needed.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Health. Did the Government inform the people of Australia, when introducing the relevant legislation in 1953, that membership of a registered medical benefits fund would ensure contributors of coverage of 90 per cent, of the amount of accounts for medical services, with only 10 per cent, to be paid by the contributors themselves? Does the 1964-65 report of the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health show that the coverage for medical services provided by medical benefit funds is now to the extent of only 68 per cent., with 32 per cent, being paid by contributors out of their own resources? Has this deterioration of coverage been noted? What proposals has the Government to prevent further deterioration of coverage and a reversion to the original objective?
– For my own knowledge I will have to look into the matters raised by the honorable member, but I can assure him that the operation of the Commonwealth health service has assisted tremendously in minimising the costs of individuals who consult medical practitioners, and that the Australian people are much better off because of the legislation which has been introduced by this Government. However, I will look into the details given by the honorable member and provide him with a detailed answer in due course.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister, who will be aware of the decision of certain universities to raise drastically the academic standard for matriculation. As this decision has important consequences for secondary as well as tertiary education and for society generally, and as there is considerable difference of opinion about it, I ask whether the Government has been consulted in this move either directly or through the Australian Universities Commission. As the new standard will directly affect the sphere of technical education as envisaged in the Martin report, is it intended to apply these matriculation standards to technical colleges, or will a pass at the Higher Certificate or some other standard be acceptable for entry?
– I really know very little more about this than what I have seen in the Press. To the best of my knowledge we have not been consulted on this matter, although it is possible that the Universities Commission did hear something about it. Whether it did or not I do not know. But how far this matter - which, at the moment, is within the control of the New South Wales authorities and is, I understand, being looked into by the New South Wales Minister for Education - will affect other matters is something on which I should like to make a precise inquiry and produce a precise answer. I will do that and have the answer circulated.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the uncertainty about the continuance of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority in its present form, or some other form, after completion of its present job, and also in view of resignations from the Authority consequent on this uncertainty, will the Minister say whether the Government has any firm plans for setting up a national development authority, with powers similar to those vested in the Snowy Mountains Authority, to undertake irrigation and power projects elsewhere in Australia after the present Snowy Mountains scheme is completed in about 1974? Does the Minister realise that some such assurance is necessary to stop the serious drift of key men from the Snowy Mountains scheme? I point out that my friend, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, is also vitally interested in this matter.
– The honorable member’s question obviously relates to a matter of policy. I have repeatedly informed the House that this matter is before the Government. When we make a decision, an announcement will be made.
(Mr. Wentworth, having directed a question to the Minister for External Affairs) -
-Order! The honorable member is now making comment.
– I rise to order. I ask that the question be ruled out of order. It is inviting comment and is purely-
– Order! The honorable member’s question is based on comment and is out of order.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Can he say when 1 may expect an answer to question No. 1084, relating to the rights of Aborigines, which has appeared on the notice paper since 19th May this year?
– Without prior notice, it is difficult to answer a question like this. I can assure the honorable member that I will look into the matter to see whether he can get an early reply. Some aspect of policy may be involved and that may be delaying the provision of an answer.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is it correct that tenders have been called, or will be called in the near future, for the construction of either a broad band line of communication or a coaxial cable link between the eastern States and. Perth? If so, what stage has been reached with the tenders? Are there, at this time, any estimated dates for the commencement and completion of the system? Finally, would such a system assist materially in providing television services for areas, such as Kalgoorlie, within a reasonable distance of the system?
– I cannot be precise about the date. I believe that tenders are still current. They were called on a worldwide basis and, therefore, a substantial amount of time had to be given in which overseas tenderers could reply if they so desired. Nor am I sure how close to Kalgoorlie the route between Adelaide and Perth will be. I would have to investigate this matter in some detail before I could answer the latter part of the honorable member’s question.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement by Ferranti Ltd. in England in answer to matters raised in this House last week? If so, has the Australian Government suffered by refusing to buy Ferranti computers? Did Ferranti offer a discount to the Government in order to maintain good customer relationships? Has the Government taken any steps to prevent a similar situation arising in future contracts associated with defence?
– In answer to the first part of the question, I have seen the comments by Ferranti Ltd. The Marconi computer is a newer one than that of Ferranti. It was developed later and, therefore, incorporates a number of newer devices. Before we made a decision we sent ,to the United Kingdom to look at the Marconi computer the same advisers who had originally recommended the Ferranti computer system. Not only did they look at the Marconi computer but they also had the advice of officials in the United Kingdom defence establishments. When our advisers came back to Australia they had no hesitation in saying that the Marconi system was at least the equal to the Ferranti, and had many additional operational advantages. The answer to the second part of the question is “ Yes “. In reply to my suggestion, Ferranti Ltd. offered us a discount. However, I should like to add that the saving that we got by taking the Marconi system was nearly twice as valuable to us as the discount offered by Ferranti.
The third part of the question related to what we are doing about this matter for the future. I should say that we have looked at the general way in which we negotiate contracts dealing with large developmental defence projects. We have had some measure of success in that we have been able to get two clauses written into contracts of this nature. The first one states that the company agrees to have a warranty put into the contract to limit the company to fair and reasonable profits. Secondly, if in the course of producing these units the profits are found to be higher than that, we have a profit sharing arrangement on a sliding scale under which we receive a share of the extra profits.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. He will recall that, when replying on behalf of the Government to a motion which I moved in this House in April with regard to balanced development, the Minister for Labour and National Service indicated that the Prime Minister had agreed to preside over a special meeting of State Premiers in order to reach agreement on action to achieve more balanced development. I now ask: Has such a meeting taken place? If not, what progress or arrangements have been made to bring about such a meeting? Finally, when can we expect such a meeting to take place?
– I would have preferred notice of this matter because this was some little time back. My recollection is that, on the official level, discussions between the Commonwealth and the States are proceeding. When those have been brought to some coherent form and have achieved some result we will take it up on the ministerial level.
– Mr. Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does th: honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr. FAILES__ No, Sir. I made a statement which I wish to amplify. In the debate on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill on 15th September I made a statement which was published on page 913 of “Hansard” of that date. The report states -
But now I find that the constitution of the Australian Wool Industry Conference can be altered by a simple majority.
Although the statement is correct, it is misleading because it does not explain that it refers to a special occasion provided for in clause 31 (2) of the constitution of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Clause 31 (1) of that constitution lays down the normal procedure for amendment of the constitution and specifies a majority of two-thirds.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 18), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- If this Bill becomes law, we can expect that at the end of the year the Government will list it among a record number of Acts which the Parliament has passed on its initiative during the year. This will be just another indication, we shall be told, of the Government’s industry and the Parliament’s good works. In fact, Sir, this Bill is nothing but a small piece of legislation. It is about the shortest piece of legislation that is possible and the most trivial in nature. The second reading speech of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) was - I will not say trivial - extraordinarily brief. This situation flows from the fact that the Government was so anxious to put certain bills through both Houses before it lost its majority in the other place at the end of June that it was responsible for some very sloppy and shoddy draftsmanship of the first Commonwealth Electoral Bill this year.
There is no excuse for the Government’s having overlooked the very small omission which this Bill is designed to correct. It concerns only the renumbering of one section of the Electoral Act. Parliament, I must confess, failed to spot the omission. There is, however, some excuse for private members failing to spot it. Honorable members will recall that the first Commonwealth Electoral Bill this year came up for debate at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 25th May. The debate concluded at 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning - I stress morning - 26th May. Parliament went into recess at 8 o’clock that morning.
Parliament is now being asked to correct the Government’s oversight on that occasion. Honorable members on this side of the chamber think it is only fair that Parliament should take the opportunity to make a more thorough study of the legislation which was introduced earlier this year, at which time the Parliament was denied an opportunity to scrutinise it properly. It may even be that in the ensuing four months, there have been second and more democratic thoughts on voting systems among Government supporters, and perhaps even among members of the Minister’s party, the Australian Country Party. The Opposition proposes to give honorable members an opportunity to amend the provisions of the Bill concerning the voting age. On 18th August last my colleague, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), asked the Minister -
In view of the fact that conscripted national service trainees under 21 years of age are to serve overseas, is it the intention of the Minister to amend the Electoral Act to grant them the right to vote? If not, why not?
The Minister replied -
Any alteration in the electoral franchise is a matter of Government policy. It is very strange that when the Electoral Act was being debated in this House only during the last sessional period, the honorable member did not see fit to bring up this question.
Sir, the Opposition is complying with the Minister’s suggestion. We will raise this matter at the committee stage of the debate. I shall be moving an amendment at the conclusion of my speech to cover it in the second reading stage so that the Bill can be redrafted, if necessary, to give the Minister the kudos of having introduced this very important reform.
– Order! It would be preferable for the honorable member to move his amendment now.
– I am very happy to do so, Sir. I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for votes at eighteen years of age and for votes to be as nearly as possible of equal value.”.
The Australian Labour Party has in this Parliament for many years advocated the suffrage for eighteen year old citizens. There is some indication that members of the other parties represented in this Parliament are coming to adopt the same point of view. The Young Liberals at their annual New South Wales convention on 24th July last voted in favour of legalised abortion and a reduction in the voting age to eighteen years. They are the actual phrases in the order in which they appeared in the “ Sunday Telegraph “, the official organ of the Australian Liberal Party in New South Wales.
Early last month the Young Country Party conference had before it a proposition that the voting age should be reduced to eighteen years. It is impossible to find out what happened to the motion. The Parliamentary Library does not keep records of the proceedings of the Australian Country Party. This lack may be due to the deficiencies of the Library; it may be due to the deficiencies of the Country Party. It may be that the motion has never been reduced to writing because the Country Party does not use that form of communication, or it may be that the Government has kept the Parliamentary Library too short of funds to deal with resolutions and reports of the lesser political parties.
The Minister himself has had to deal with this matter recently by way of a recommendation from the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. Early in July the Advisory Council urged the Minister to lower the present voting age in the Australian Capital Territory to 18 years. At a meeting of the Advisory Council last night a letter from the Minister in reply to that recommendation was tabled. I shall read it in full so that honorable gentlemen may see both the specific and the general objections which the Minister has to the proposal. It reads -
Anything other than a uniform age would cause inconvenience and confusion to young voters moving to or from the Territory.
To overcome this, it was suggested I might seek the support of my colleagues to a uniform franchise age of 18 years throughout Australia, but even this does not recognise the full extent of the problem.
The franchise age for all State elections is also 21 years, and it would again cause confusion and misunderstanding if the Commonwealth were to lower the age without similar and uniform action being taken by the respective State governments.
I believe that the Minister grossly underestimates the native intelligence and educational qualifications of people of 1 8, 1 9 and 20 years of age in the Australian Capital Territory and, indeed, in all parts of Australia. They would not be confused by different voting ages applying for the election of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and for House of Representatives elections or for Senate elections, if residents of the Territory were given a vote in the election of senators. Young people would not be confused at all.
This Parliament should not wait until all the States catch up on electoral reforms. If this Parliament had to wait until every adult - irrespective of sex, education and property - secured a vote for every State House of Parliament, it might have to wait for a very long time indeed. The founders of the Constitution did not wait for the State Upper Houses to forgo the property franchise before they laid down the franchise for the Senate. Had they done that, we still would not have adult franchise for the Senate, even for men, because there is still a property franchise for the Legislative Council in South Australia. I notice that the latest member to come to this chamber from that State agrees with me. He could no longer tolerate the inequitable and undemocratic franchise which prevails in respect of the House of which he was a member. The first Commonwealth Parliament did not wait for the State Parliaments to grant votes to women before granting them in elections for both Houses of this Parliament. It never used to be the case that the Federal Parliament, in applying some electoral reform. waited until the States also applied that electoral reform.
There are good reasons why the Australian Labour Party, the Young Liberals and the Young Country Party are seeking the franchise for persons on turning 18 years of age. Four years ago this Parliament fixed the minimum ages for marriage. ‘The ages are now 18 years for males and 16 years for females, as long as they have their parents’ consent. The Parliament conceded that all males and females of 18 years were entitled to marry, if their parents saw fit, and that there was no need to obtain the permission of the courts of law. As we know, the age at which people marry in Australia is getting lower; people are marrying earlier. Again, in Australia everybody, on turning 18 years, is entitled to secure a licence to drive motor vehicles.
– The relevant age is 17 years in Tasmania.
– In some States the age is lower than 18 years. But everybody of 18 years is entitled to have a licence to drive motor vehicles. Everybody of 18 years is entitled to repair to hotels and other licensed places. Everybody of 18 years is required to pay income tax. In fact, persons of a younger age are required to pay taxation if they have an income. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), in a question, raised the fact that persons well under 21 years of age are required to serve in the armed forces. In all these respects, people under 21 years are required to accept the responsibilities of people over 21 years.
The age to which people remain at school is very much higher now than it was at the time of Federation or even two years ago. People are better educated and more mature now, than they ever were before. It would not be an exaggeration to say that most people of 18 years now are as well acquainted with the political issues which come before this Parliament as were people of 28 years before the Second World War. For those reasons, in Committee, we shall be moving an amendment to effectuate the wishes of all the political parties which are represented in this chamber.
The other amendments which we shall move deal with the principle of one vote one value. It is true that this question was agitated during the debate on the Common wealth Electoral Bill on 25th and 26th May. In the late hours of the 25th and the early hours of the 26th, members of the Government parties, with a couple of principled and courageous exceptions, were dragooned into voting for proposals which, for the first time, would encourage a gerrymander in elections for this House.
There is some reason to hope that honorable members opposite may have taken a different view in the meantime. Even members of the Country Party showed very clearly in the debate on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill last week that they regard wool growers as being of equal value. Thus, in the view of the Country Party, the graziers represented by a few metropolitan Liberal members were entitled to no greater vote on this economic matter than were the humble wool growers who support the Labour Party and the Country Party in the electorates in which the wool is grown. Therefore, one would hope that, as a matter of principle, the Country Party would now believe that there should be one vote one value on all of the matters coming before this Parliament and not merely on matters concerning this, the greatest of our primary industries.
Still more, however, it might be thought that members of the Government parties might be influenced by the debates in the United States Senate early last month. Honorable members will recall that in the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill last May and, in fact, in debates going back to the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech in opening this Parliament at the beginning of last year, members of the Labour Party placed great stress on the principles laid down by the United States Supreme Court. Over the space of two years that Court had insisted that the principle of one vote one value should be applied, first of all, in primary elections to choose party candidates for the United States Congress; secondly, in elections for the United States House of Representatives; and thirdly, in elections for both Houses - not only the Lower House but also the Upper House - in all the State legislatures. The arguments propounded by the United States Supreme Court were dismissed by honorable members opposite.
The Minister for the Interior, in particular, resorted - as did his leader, the
Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) - to the argument that the Australian House of Representatives is more evenly, fairly and equally distributed than are most other legislatures in the world. The Minister himself, in answering a question asked by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) on 1st September, once again used this argument. He said -
I and others . . .
That is the order in which he put it - have said repeatedly in this House that probably there is no country with more equality of voting than Australia.
It seems to me to be an extraordinarily perverse argument to use in favour of legislation which will promote inequality to say that at present we are more equal than other countries. The Minister says this in introducing legislation which will bring about the same position in this House as, he says, has obtained for many years in parliaments in other countries.
The United States Senate had before it proposals which would get round the United States Supreme Court’s decision. I regret to say I cannot quote from the official record of the debates in the United States Senate. The United States “Congressional Record “ is a very full record indeed when one considers the number of documents and arguments which are incorporated in it by leave. Here again the fault is entirely that of our Parliamentary Library. Either the Library does not think it is of sufficient consequence for us to have available the United States “ Congressional Record “ or the Government deliberately keeps the Library short of the necessary funds. One would think it to be essential that the “ Congressional Record “ of the largest federation in the world would be available for reference by members of the Federal Parliament in this country, whose Constitution is so largely based on that of the United States. I have to rely, therefore, on reports of the Senate debate appearing in the “ New York Times “ and in the weekly edition of the “ Congressional Record “.
Senator Dirksen, the Minority Leader, the leader of the Republican Party in the United States Senate, proposed that the voters in any State should have the right to decide at a referendum whether one house of a legislature might be apportioned on bases other than population, that it might take into account, in particular, geography. In all fairness to Senator Dirksen, however, I should point out that he proposed that in any such referendum there should be an alternative proposal put to the people for a distribution for such house of the State legislature on an equal basis on the principle of one vote one value. He proposed also that within two years of every United States census any existing distribution on a geographic - or, as our Minister puts it, a territorial - basis, together with a proposal for an equal distribution on the principle of one vote one value, should again be put to the people of the State.
In the context of these proposals by Senator Dirksen a debate took place from which I shall make brief quotations. Senator Mondale, a Democrat from Minnesota, said -
The controversy here is not between rural virtue and urban iniquity … but between those who believe that men are entitled to equal representation regardless of their position, and those who feel that certain citizens should be given a greater influence in government than others.
– The honorable member for Bradfield made a much more interesting speech on this subject.
– I would hope that the honorable member who has just interjected would support the honorable member for Bradfield on this. The honorable member for Bradfield has shown a consistent attitude, and always a courageous attitude. No Country Party members are prepared to take part in this debate. They have been told that the less they say on electoral matters the better for them. There are a few members of the Liberal Party in the chamber, and they all represent city electorates. The former Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) disagrees with me, but I pay tribute to him because, although a member of the Liberal Party representing a country electorate, when he was in charge of the distribution he sought to preserve the principle of one vote one value. He says - as I am sure all members of the Liberal Party who represent city electorates would say - that men are of equal value whether they live in the city or the country, that they are of equal value whatever their occupations may be. In other words, he says that men should be equal in making the law as well as before the law. 1 turn again now to the debate in the U.S. Senate. Senator Case, a Republican, said -
The real issue here is: Shall less than a majority be able to control majority actions in the state legislatures.
– What relevance has thisto an amendment which seeks to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18?
– This relates to the second half of the amendment 1 read. If the honorable member thinks that what 1 am saying has no relevance to it let him take a point of order and see how long he will last. I now wish to quote Senator Douglas, a Democrat, who said that the purpose of what he called Senator Dirksen’s “ abominable proposal “ was to withdraw the right of the individual not only to stand equal before the courts of the land, but to stand equal before the legislatures which make the laws of the land. He said that Senator Dirksen’s aim was to let private utilities and big financial interests retain the veto against the interests of consumers, wage and salary workers and the general body of citizens through control of one house of a legislature.
In good time - that is, in the midst of a legislative session, at the decent hour of 4 p.m., instead of, as on thelast occasion, at 4 a.m. - honorable members will have the opportunity to say whether they believe that voters should be equal in choosing the House of Representatives and in deciding whether all voters should have an equal say in determining what sort of legislature will make laws and what sort of legislature will control the government which administers laws and makes decisions. The amendment which I have moved, if carried, will give honorable members a proper and calm opportunity to reconsider the decision which was rushed through the House on the last two days of the autumn sessional period of this year. It will give them an opportunity of saying whether people in the cities are, in fact, to be regarded as being just as valuable as people in the country. Not more valuable. The electoral laws have hitherto never provided for any voter to be regarded as more valuable than another. Honorable members will have the opportunity to decide whether city voters will still be regarded as just as valuable as country voters. The amendment I have had great pleasure in moving will give honorable gentlemen the opportunity to reconsider a matter which they determined so hurriedly, and at such an inconvenient and improper hour, a few months ago.
– Is the amendment seconded?
.- I second the amendment. This Bill comes before the House because of a drafting mistake in the legislation that was introduced earlier this year, resulting in certain sections of the Act not being renumbered. This Bill gives members of this Parliament an opportunity once again to expose the blatant gerrymander of electorates that will be possible under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
The Act now directs the Distribution Commissioners to make full use of the provision in relation to the 20 per cent. margin over the quota in favour of country electorates. The Australian Labour Party opposed this provision when it was introduced because it represented in our view a backward step in our democratic procedures.
– It does not do that.
– If the Minister thinks that I have said something that I should not have said, he may correct me later. Let him say whether my next statement is correct. If the quota for an electorate is 45,000 electors, country electorates will have only 36,000 electors and city electorates will have 54,000 electors. If the quota is 50,000, country electorates will have 40,000 electors and city electorates will have 60,000 electors. This means in effect that city voters will have only two thirds the voting strength of people voting in country electorates. The vote cast by a person in a city electorate will be worth only two thirds of the vote cast by a person in a country electorate. This means - this is important to us on this side of the chamber - that in order to win an election after a redistribution under the existing legislation the Australian Labour Party would have to obtain 53 per cent. of the votes cast. If that is not a gerrymander I do not know what is.
The essence of democracy is that the will of the people shall prevail and that each vote shall have, as near as practicable, equal value. The amendment of section 19 changed a principle that had existed in the legislation for 63 years and which during that time had been considered satisfactory. There had not been any complaints about that provision. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) emphasised that the provision in relation to the 20 per cent, margin had always been in the Act. He was correct, but prior to the recent amendment of the Act there was only a discretionary power to apply the 20 per cent, margin. The factors which the Distribution Commissioners must now consider are community of economic, social, and regional interest; means of communication and travel, with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness and distance; the trend of population changes; and the density or sparsity of population of the areas of proposed divisions. The Minister might consider these changes not to be significant as far as the procedure of the distribution is concerned, but if all of these factors are as innocent as the Minister would have us believe, why was it necessary to amend the Act? The Minister did not come out in the open when the Act was amended. As a matter of fact, he did not say much at all. I suppose his second reading speech on the earlier Bill to amend the Act was almost as short as the speech he made on the Bill that we are now debating. He did not say much about this matter in the Parliament, but in the Murwillumbah “ Daily News “ of 15th June 1964 - this is the family newspaper - the following report appeared -
The Minister for the Interior, Mr. J. D. Anthony told a Country Party dinner at Murwillumbah that, in carrying out the proposed redistribution of the Federal seats, he would make sure fewer people were required to elect representatives in country areas than in the cities. He said, “ Australia’s electoral system was the finest in the world but lacked territorial representation. Representation was now based on population, not area, with the result that power in Parliament was confined to the heavily populated areas.” Mr. Anthony said, “ The task of electoral reform was probably one of his worst jobs as Minister for the Interior, and one on which his political future hinged.”
It will be noted that the Minister complains that representation is based on population and not on area. In other words, he complains that Parliament is elected by the people and not by pigs, cows, sheep and trees as would be the case if representation was based on area. What the Minister did in the earlier legislation was reverse the principle of one vote one value. He resuscitated something that had been virtually dead since its enactment. I refer to the 20 per cent, margin provision. The Consitutional Review Committee examined this matter thoroughly and agreed that the principle of one vote one value had been properly applied. It said so in its report. It went even further and said that the principle had been properly applied since Federation. The Committee reported that in its view the provision should be tightened up. It proposed that the permissible variation from the quota of 20 per cent, should be reduced to 10 per cent. More importantly, it recommended that this reduced variation should be written into the Constitution. The Committee believed that such an amendment of the Constitution would be a satisfactory alternative to writing into the Constitution a Bill of Rights, such as is written into the American Constitution.
I remind the House that the Constitutional Review Committee was representative of both sides of the House. Members of the Committee included four members of the Liberal Party, two members of the Country Party and six members from this side of the House. Its decisions to which I have just referred were unanimous. In paragraph 328 the Committee reported -
The Committee concluded that the absence of constitutional guarantees in the Commonwealth Constitution had not prevented the rule of law from characterising the Australian way of life. The Committee believes that as long as governments are democratically elected and there is full parliamentary responsibility to the electors, the protection of personal rights will, in practice, be secure in Australia. The Committee has not chosen, therefore, to recommend the writing into the Constitution of a charter of individual liberties. Instead, the Committee considers it appropriate, at this stage of Federal history and having regard to recent and contemporary world events, to recommend a constitutional amendment to protect the position of the elector and the democratic processes essential to the proper functioning of the Federal Parliament.
In paragraph 329 the Committee reported -
Thus, the Committee concluded that it should recommend the inclusion in the Constitution of provisions ensuring the regular review of the electoral divisions of each State and also accord near uniformity to the value- accorded to the votes of the electors for each of the States.
In paragraph 330 the Committee reported -
One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters so securing for a political party greater representation than it should have. In all its forms the device is thoroughly subversive of the democratic process. In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the government of its choice and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of people who comprise the electors of the Commonwealth.
The Government has thrown to one side the viewpoint of the Constitutional Review Committee. It has ignored the Committee’s recommendation. I do not know whether the Minister has had a change of heart in regard to this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) suggested that the Country Party might have had a change of heart in view of the fact that it supported in the debate on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill the principle of one vote one value notwithstanding the size of holdings. The report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review contains an interesting table, at page 49, which shows that in the last three redistributions -those of 1937, 1948 and 1955- the size of an electorate fell more than 17i per cent, below the quota only once. That was the electorate of Kennedy in the distribution of 1955. The size of electorates has been more than 15 per cent, below the quota in only three cases in those three redistributions, more than 12± per cent, below the quota in only six cases and more than 10 per. cent, below the quota in only seven cases. This influenced the Committee in reaching some of its conclusions. Of 317 divisions examined during the course of those three redistributions, in only seventeen cases have the Commissioners departed from the quota by more than 10 per cent. That adds weight to the amendment that has already been moved on behalf of the Opposition and to another amendment that will be moved in the committee stage.
The provision for a variation from the quota of 20 per cent, was never abused by the Commissioners. Even so, the Constitutional Review Committee thought it desirable to have another safeguard. It thought there should be written into the Constitution, not a permissible variation of 20 per cent., as provided in the Electoral Act, but a variation of 10 per cent. I repeat that the 20 per cent, provision was never abused by the Commissioners, but through the Act as it now stands the Government, in effect, has directed the Commissioners to go directly against the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. Obviously, the
Government has learnt a lesson in gerrymandering from the experience of the South Australian Liberal Government. Over the years we saw in South Australia the worst gerrymander known in any country of the Commonwealth of Nations. There is a Labour Government in South Australia now, but it had to get 56 per cent, of the votes before it could become the Government. Under the legislation that is now on the Commonwealth Statute Book, the Labour Party will have to get approximately 53 per cent, of the votes before it can be elected to office as the Government.
Other Liberal and Country Party Governments in Australia are taking a lead from the gerrymander that has been proposed by this Government. A gerrymander is already happening in Queensland under a Country Party Government. One is under way in Victoria, and we have had advice in the past few days that there is a Bill before the Parliament of Western Australia which will, in effect, produce another gerrymander under a Liberal-Country Party Government.
This Government is moving away from democratic principles in this field, although, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated when moving the amendment before the House, action is being taken in the United States of America to stop gerrymanders. Gerrymanders were occurring in some States of the U.S.A. and the United States Supreme Court actually ordered a redistribution based on the principle of one vote one value. The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Warren, had this to say -
Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests … To the extent that a citizen’s right to vote is debased, he is that much less a citizen. The weight of a citizen’s voice cannot be made to depend on where he lives.
This Government is prepared to debase the value of city votes to two-thirds the value of country votes. While the Administration in the United States of America is trying to preserve the principle of one vote one value, this Government has deliberately enacted legislation to destroy that principle, which is the very foundation of democracy. Therefore, the Opposition has moved the amendment which provides that votes shall be as nearly as possible of equal value. Interesting rulings have been given in other countries on this matter. In February 1961 Mr. Justice Budd of the High Court of Ireland defined a democratic State in these terms -
A “ democratic state “ is one where government by the people prevails. In modern usage of the words 1 believe it to be correct to say a “ democratic state “ denotes one in which all citizens have equal political rights. . . That equality is not maintained if the vote of a person in one part of the country has a greater effect in securing parliamentary representation than the vote of a person in another part of the country.
This Government has done just that. It has given a vote in the country a higher value than a vote in the city. To that extent, it is destroying or assisting to weaken our democratic way of life. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, to whom I referred earlier, also said -
While it may not be possible to draw congressional districts with mathematical precision, that is no excuse for ignoring our Constitution’s plain objective of making equal representation for equal numbers of people the fundamental goal for the House of Representatives. That is the high standard of justice and common sense which the Founders set for us.
I remind honorable members that our Constitution was based on that of the United States. Our House of Representatives is similar to the American House of Representatives. Section 24 of the Australian Constitution reads -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth. . .
If the Commonwealth Parliament is to be elected by the people of the Commonwealth, it is immaterial where the people live. The Constitution states that the Parliament shall be elected by the people - not by pigs, cows, sheep or trees. The Government denies that this is a gerrymander, but some of the Government’s own supporters who have a conscience have said that this is a gerrymander. I direct attention in particular to the remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) in this Parliament on 26th February 1964. Discussing the Electoral Act and proposals to amend the legislation disclosed in the Governor-General’s Speech, the honorable member for Bradfield said -
I have noticed that anybody who reads the two together will see the significant differences. All this means is that there will be a differential. It means that the Distribution Commissioners will take into account a number of factors other than those taken into account in the past and the differential of 20 per cent, will be used to give greater representation to rural areas.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Bradfield continued -
This is a gerrymander through the back door. It is nothing less.
The honorable member for Mallee agrees with that.
– No, no.
– I thought I heard the honorable member say “ Hear, hear “. The honorable member for Bradfield also said -
I cannot block this.
Then he added in a Churchillian phrase -
I shall speak against it in the party room, I shall speak against it in this House and I shall vote against it in this House, because I believe it is nothing but a blatant gerrymander. Honorable gentlemen in the corner to my right may smile.
The honorable member was referring to the members of the Country Party and they are smiling now. Then the honorable member for Bradfield continued -
I cannot stop this, it is true. But I can speak very clearly and very bluntly in this place and elsewhere. Most people understand what I say when I speak. I shall make it clear that this is nothing but a blatant gerrymander, and there will be no mistake about it by the time this matter comes to a vote in this House.
The honorable member for Bradfield showed great courage in doing that although it might be said it is not courageous to do something that is right. However, he felt this was a gerrymander and he said so. As a matter of fact, he was in good company not only because he was supporting members of the Opposition but also because he was supported by a majority of people outside the Parliament, the electors themselves. Professor Crisp, of the Australian National University, also spoke on this matter and had this to say about the gerrymander -
At a time when the world badly needs some shining examples of democratic integrity in such matters, it is to be deplored that so distinguished a political leader as Mr. McEwen should be persistently pressing for the statutory building-in of a virtual 20 per cent, gerrymander in favour of Commonwealth rural seats.
Nobody who is honest about these matters can find fault with the remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield, Professor Crisp, or the other people who have spoken out on this blatant gerrymander. That is why
I say the Opposition is pleased to have another opportunity of debating the Act. The amendment to the Bill now proposed enables us to do that. It also provides for what we think should be contained in the Act.
I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned that this legislation was steamrolled through the House during the early hours of the morning, after an allnight sitting, and in the dying hours of the last sessional period. Honorable members did not have the opportunity of giving full thought and consideration to it. It was forced through because it was feared by the Government that if it did not go through before the end of June there would be a chance of its being defeated in another place after 30th June when the new Senators took their places in the other chamber and the Senate would be more evenly divided. I draw attention to the fact that honorable members on this side of the House are not acting against the interests of country representation when we propose the amendments that have been moved. After all, we have as much right to speak for the rural areas as has either the Country Party or the Liberal Party. As a matter of fact, we on this side have more members representing country interests than does either of the Government parties.
– One would never think it.
– The Minister says: “One would never think it “. We believe in representing them on the principle of “ one vote, one value “. We do not want the value of their votes to be any greater than the value of votes in the city. We have 22 members representing country electorates.
– You never hear them.
– They spoke on the wool measure that was before this Parliament only last week, and they voted the right way, whereas some honorable members on the Government side of the House did not vote the right way. Some members opposite voted against the wool grower. I think the Minister will agree with that. He remains silent. As I have said, 22 members on this side of the House represent country electorates. They include the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor), the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Harding), the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer), the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). All those honorable members are on this side of the House, and they all represent country electorates, whereas on the Government side there are 20 members of the Country Party, if I remember correctly, and, I understand, 20 members of the Liberal Party who represent country electorates.
The history of this measure goes back quite some way. When the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) was Minister for the Interior, he advised the House in 1962 that, as required by the Representation Act, the representation of the States had been determined and it had been shown that the members of the House of Representatives should be reduced by 2 to 122. Surprisingly enough, there was no opposition then from the members of the Country Party. On 10th April, the Minister announced the appointment of the distribution commissioners. There was still no opposition from Country Party interests; but on 4th October 1962, when the Minister presented the report of the commissioners, all hell broke loose in the Parliament. The members of the Australian Country Party were up in arms then because the redistribution was going to operate against them and would mean that they would lose some seats. It did not matter, of course, that the redistribution was going to operate against the interests of the Australian Labour Party. The members of the Country Party were not concerned about us. They were concerned only because the proposed redistribution would affect the interests of the Country Party. Because of their concern, we found that shortly afterwards, the then Liberal Minister for the Interior was replaced by the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who is a member of the Country Party. From then on, the Country Party tail has been wagging the Liberal Party dog. If members of the Country Party had been worried about the loss of seats by the Australian Labour Party, they would have taken some action on the occasion of the 1955 redistribution but, as that redistribution was detrimental to the interests of the Labour Party, they did not bother taking any action. It was only later, when their own party was affected, that they took action along the lines I have indicated.
It is interesting to quote some of the things that were said about the results of that redistribution. For instance, in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 17th November 1962, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) is reported as having said - lt was crazy and cockeyed that Queensland should have its representation in the Federal Parliament under the recent redistribution reduced.
I remind honorable members that this was said after the results of the redistribution were known, not when the redistrubution was proposed. It was only when it was known that the redistribution would adversely affect the members of the Country Party that this comment was made.
Again, in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 20th November 1962, under the heading “Attack on Redistribution Dismays Government “, this comment appeared -
The slight hopes that the Liberal Party may have had that its coalition partner, the Country Party, would accept the current proposals for redistribution of electoral boundaries were dashed by the outspoken attack by the Country Party Leader and Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, in Brisbane on Friday.
Similar reports appeared in the Press throughout Australia. There is no need for me to cite any more. The present Minister for Shipping and Transport, who was formerly Minister for the Interior, had this to say about the redistribution -
At the very least, one would have thought that the objections on the wider grounds should have been taken before the Commissioners embarked on their task, when it became obvious, after the tabling in this House of the Chief Electoral Officer’s certificate on 22nd February, that a redistribution of the existing system was imminent. To await the outcome of redistribution and then to say in effect that whatever the Commissioners did under their terms of reference could not be right because legislation under which they operate needs changing, would be an argument that could lead the public to feel that, like the fox in the fable, the individual advancing it had suddenly found that the grapes were sour.
That is true because, as the then Minister for the Interior said, these people had not taken any action until the results of the redistribution were known. As a result of his statement he was removed, as we know, from the position of Minister for the Interior. He became the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the present Minister for the Interior, a Country Party member, took his place.
In view of the shortness of time, I do not propose to deal with the question of youths voting at the age of eighteen years. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition dealt with that very thoroughly. I shall content myself with saying that we feel that these lads should be given a vote. If it is good enough for them to be drafted to fight for this country, then it is good enough for them to be given the right to vote at elections. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has given very sound reasons why that should be so. I conclude by saying that I strongly commend to the House this amendment which will get over the gerrymander that this House adopted during the closing hours of the last sessional period of this Parliament.
.- The debate has grown out of the introduction by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) of a Bill that is designed to make a small amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to rectify the form of numbering that was adopted when the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965 was passed by the Parliament towards the end of the autumn sessional period. The Minister stated in his second reading speech -
The Commonwealth Electoral Act was amended last session and in so doing section 91b was amended and restated in a form which altered the numbering of the sub-sections. That amendment necessitates a consequential amendment to paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.) of section 83.
That is the whole essence of the Bill that is now before us. However, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has seized this opportunity to move certain amendments. Of course, he has a perfect right to do so.
Copies of the following amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill were distributed to honorable members -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for votes at eighteen years of age and for votes to be nearly as possible of equal value.”.
After the honorable gentleman moved that amendment, probably he started to think things out and suddenly realised that when the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965 was before the House in the autumn sessional period the Australian Labour Party had moved an amendment which provided for a variation of 10 per cent, in the quota. Probably he thought to himself: “ We are not too consistent in using the words votes to be nearly as possible of equal value ‘ when we were agreeable earlier to a variation of 10 per cent. I had better change my amendment.” So within the last 10 minutes we have had circulated copies of new clauses to be proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The following new sub-section is proposed in section 19 of the principal Act - (2.) for the purposes of the distribution it shall be so arranged that votes shall be as nearly as possible of equal value-
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition used those words in his first amendment - but the Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, provided that in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less.
So the honorable gentleman is probably thinking that he has saved himself the humiliation of having brought to the attention of the House the inconsistency in Labour thought in the autumn session, which was a few months ago, and now. Other amendments are to be proposed, too, but that is the main one. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) has not thought the amendment relating to the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 years to be sufficiently important to speak about. If the Labour Party had so desired, it could have reduced the voting age to 18 years during two world wars when it had the power to do so.
– It did so during the last war.
– It could have lowered the voting age all round and not only for those who went away to the war. When a man goes overseas to serve his country, whether he has been called up or does so voluntarily, he should do so with the same purpose in mind. Probably the only difference between these two classes of men is that one goes with a little more enthusiasm than the other. There have been a lot of irregularities in what has been said by the two honorable members who have spoken on behalf of the Opposition, and I rise chiefly to refer to those points of irregularity.
It has been said that the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965 was rushed through at the end of the last sessional period at a certain hour in the morning. I have always been opposed to late sittings and to what I describe as legislation by exhaustion. So to some extent I agree with the honorable gentlemen when they say that the legislation should not have been passed at that hour. But I do not agree that there would have been any difference in the result if it had been passed at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Any member of the Labour Party who has been in this House for any length of time must agree with me on that point. The time at which the legislation was put through did not make any difference to the end result. As a matter of fact, when I first came into this House I got my greatest opportunities to speak at between 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock in the morning. The present Government was not in office then; Labour was in office and I was a member of the Oppsition. I can recall the expenditure of millions of pounds being approved at those early hours. Of course, honorable members were not very attentive to what was happening. The result then also would not have been any different if the legislation that was passed had been passed at 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
That is the way this Parliament works. I can recall going home on a train some time ago and a lady speaking to me about some amendment that had been moved by the Opposition. The same sort of thing was said to me when Labour was in office, too. On this occasion the Bill had been held over and the Press had stated that a vote would take place just before 6 o’clock on the following Tuesday, as happens in many cases. She asked: “How do you think the vote will go? “ This matter was of vital importance to her. I replied: “ I don’t think at alt. The vote has already gone.” She looked at me in amazement and asked: “ What do you mean by that? “ I said: “ In all the years that I have been a member of the Parliament practically nothing has been decided by a Labour government or a coalition government in the House. All these things are decided at the Party meetings.” Anybody outside the Parliament who thinks otherwise ought to make a closer study of politics. I can well understand that people outside the Parliament do not realise that this sort of thing happens. Many members of the Parliament were not particularly aware of that fact before they came here, as they demonstrated in some of the early speeches they made.
The honorable member for Stirling said that the Government rushed through the initial legislation because it knew there would be a change in the Senate and it might not be able to get the Bill through that House. The honorable member spoke about one vote one value. When he referred to the Senate, this thought came rocking back to me: “ Is the Senate elected on the basis of one vote one value? Are there the same number of senators per head of population in Tasmania as there are in New South Wales?” Of course there are not. It is heavily weighted in Tasmania’s favour. Tasmania has only a fraction of the number of voters for each senator that there are in New South Wales.
– They are entitled to them.
– I support this. The States that are struggling for their existence as against the bigger and wealthier States have to have some political weighting in their favour so that we can build a great Australia. I believe also that within the States the electorates that are struggling for survival should have some weight in their favour as against the might of the cities. If honorable members agree that Tasmania should have a weighted advantage in the Senate, they should agree also that certain electorates within the States should have a weighted advantage - because we want to build up Australia, not the cities.
The honorable member for Stirling said also that members of the Australian Country Party did not make any move in the original redistribution proposals. They had looked to see who the Commissioners were, the Bill was before the House and members of the Country Party agreed with everything. But the moment they found out that the proposed redistribution was not quite suitable to them they started to cry to high heaven against it.
– That is right.
– Did not the Labour Party do the same?
– Did not the members of the Labour Party complain that in Western Australia and some other places they had not been given a fair deal? Could the Country Party have thrown out the proposed redistribution if it had not the support of the Opposition? These are questions that honorable members opposite should think about. Opposition members are blaming the Country Party for throwing out the proposed redistribution. It was the Country Party and the Labour Party that threw it out. There was not a vote on the matter. If my memory serves me correctly, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) put up a proposition in regard to, I think, New South Wales. Then members of the Labour Party spoke, members of the Country Party spoke and the Prime Minister said: “Well, it seems to me from what honorable members have said that it is of no use going any further.” Then the whole redistribution proposal was thrown out. But the Labour Party is not playing fairly when its members come into this House and blame the Country Party for rejecting the proposed redistribution, because they themselves rejected it. Now they have changed their opinions to meet the occasion.
It has been said that a number of rural electorates are represented by members of the labour Party. In a speech I made the other day, I said that Labour Party members did not represent very many rural electorates. But when the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer) read out quite a list of these electorates, I had to think again. I realised that 1 had made a mistake by saying “ electorates “. I told the honorable member for Grey that I would raise this matter today and I asked him to be here. I asked him what chance he would have of representing Grey on behalf of the Labour Party if the towns of Whyalla and Port Pirie were not in that electorate. Similarly, what chance would the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) have if the town of Kalgoorlie were not in his electorate. What chance would the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) have if the city of Broken Hill were not in his electorate? If the city of Bendigo were not in the electorate of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), what chance would he have of holding that seat for the Labour Party? What chance would the Labour Party have in the Australian Capital Territory if voting were confined to the rural population and the electors in Canberra were excluded? The Labour Party would not have any chance.
– There are no rural areas in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Yes there are. Apparently the honorable member for Scullin has not travelled much in the Territory. There are quite a number of primary producers in the rural areas.
– Sheep and cows.
– The honorable member should not be so derogatory about the poor cow; he likes his drop of milk. Any honorable member who has a close look at the reports made by the Commonwealth Electoral Office on the results of voting in electorates and sub-divisions will find that what I am saying is true. For instance the electorate of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) extends into a city and the honorable member gets most of his votes from the suburb of Sunshine, not from the rural areas. In every truly rural electoral sub-division the Labour Party polls very poorly. It is only because of industrial centres such as Whyalla and Port Pirie that the Labour Party is able to hold on to so-called rural seats by a small margin. I would not have brought this matter up except for the fact that an opposite point of view has been put forward which is illogical and incorrect. These matters must be watched very closely so that the facts are presented.
Why did the Country Party object to the proposed redistribution? Let me give honorable members an instance in support of our arguments. As honorable members know, I represent an electorate in Victoria named Mallee.
– Where is that?
– The electorate of Mallee covers the whole of the north west of Victoria. I thank the honorable member for Darebin for his interjection which has given me the chance to tell the people just where this great electorate is. The Mallee electorate covers more than one fifth of Victoria.
– That is not very big.
– It is a large electorate for the State of Victoria although it is not big compared with some electorates elsewhere in the Commonwealth, such as Kalgoorlie and Kennedy. No-one realises that better than I do. But the electorate of Mallee is a very large electorate in Victoria. It comprises 18,500 square miles whereas another electorate in Victoria covers only 4i square miles. This discrepancy is hard to comprehend. But this is not the whole story. In the proposed redistribution, as the member for Mallee, I was to be given three more sub-subdivisions. These were the subsubdivisions of Cohuna, Mitiamo and Pyramid Hill. As I have said, the electorate already consists of over one fifth of the area of Victoria. If each Victorian electorate were the same size as Mallee, there would be fewer than five members representing Victoria in this House, whereas there are 33 members from Victoria. Under the proposed redistribution I was to be given three more sub-subdivisions which would have meant that the electorate would have extended from close to Echuca to the South Australian border. Clearly it was about time something was said and someone made a move. The Country Party, of course, plus the Labour Party, made that move and the redistribution was thrown out. That is what happened.
The Australian Labour Party is giving an absolutely wrong idea about this matter. It says that votes should not be given according to the number of trees, sheep, cattle and rabbits, etc., in an electorate. Of course votes are not given on that basis. No-one is foolish enough to think that. But after all, trees, cattle and sheep contribute to the economic stability and strength of the country. What is the reason for the large number of electors in our cities? The answer is that factories attract people. If there were more factories in the country we would have many more rural dwellers and it would not be necessary for country electorates to cover such large areas.
What is the objective of the Country Party in saying that country seats - not Country Party seats - should be given the benefit of a one fifth variation from the quota? Somebody said to me the other day: “You have a great job as a member of Parliament. Are there ever any vacancies? “ The answer of course, is: “Yes, at least every three years, there are vacancies and nearly anyone can nominate “. So every seat that the Country Party holds can be contested by the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, the Australian Democratic Labour Party or any other party, every three years. The Country Party has not any special hold on these seats, except of course, that it has a great policy. The Country Party has emphasised on many occasions in this House that its interest is in country seats, not necessarily Country Party seats. Naturally, the Country Party wants to make country seats Country Party seats if it can, but because Australia is a free country any party has a chance to have its candidate elected as the representative of a country seat.
Why does the Country Party wish country seats to have a better political representation? The Country Party said a long time ago - we say it today, too - ‘that the only way to obtain decentralisation is to decentralise political representation. The rest of the talk about decentralisation is only a catch cry for politicians and others. In the category of “ others “, I include those men in the community who want to keep people in the cities. What happens if an industry in a certain electorate wants to move elsewhere. Let us take, as an example, the electorate of my friend the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). What would happen if a certain industry in his electorate wanted to move to Swan Hill? What would the man who keeps the corner shop and the man who provides food and clothing for the workers in that industry do straightaway? They would go to their member of Parliament and say: “ We don’t want that industry to move to Swan Hill. Forget decentralisation. This is our living. We want the industry kept here.” Of course, as self preservation is still one of the first laws of the universe, the member concerned would help those people to keep that industry in the city. There is no doubt about that. I would not blame the member for that. After all, if a member is ambitious and if he thinks he can do something for the people of Australia while he is in Parliament the first thing he has to do is stay in Parliament. He says: “ I think my policy is good. I want to stay in Federal Parliament. People will not vote for me again if I allow this industry to move from the city.” So he acts accordingly.
I return now to the question why the Country Party wants increased country representation. The answer is simply that the Country Party is seeking to overcome the great drift from country areas to the city. The Country Party wishes to decentralise the population and decentralise industries which, concentrated in the cities, have a stranglehold on the development, the future and the economy of Australia. It is because of this stranglehold that more and more people are leaving country areas and going to the cities.
– Break it down.
– Opposition members interject whenever I make this statement. They direct all sorts of derogatory remarks against the Country Party. But I have heard Labour men say in this House that there should be decentralisation, that our cities are too large, and that in wartime, one atomic bomb would be sufficient to destroy our industrial and administrative centres. Does Labour know of a better way to decentralise? I have spoken on this subject many times and I will do so again. When I spoke on an earlier occasion, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said indignantly: “ What is the honorable member for Mallee thinking about? Does he think that people will move to country areas if more members of Parliament come from the country than from the city? “ He also said: “ Factories will not move to country areas, because rail freights are too high “. My policy of decentralisation applies to both the State and Federal spheres. I had the opportunity to answer the assertion of the honorable member for Fremantle that rail freights were too high because the debate had then reached the Committee stage. The answer is very clear. If political representation of country electorates, in both the State and Federal spheres, were strong enough we would soon bring the rail freights down. That difficulty would soon be overcome. There is no difficulty that we could not overcome for the good of Australia. We should cease regarding some seats as Labour seats and others as Liberal or Country Party seats. They are all Australian electorates and the people elect members to do the best they can as their representatives.
I want to deal with the 20 per cent, variation either way. The honorable- member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) gave some figures on this aspect, and I suppose they are right. He said that if the quota were 45,000, country electorates would have 36,000 and city electorates 54,000. If the quota were 50,000. country electorates would have 40.000 and city electorates 60,000. This would favour the country areas, and I strongly support it. We would then have a chance to go ahead with our policy of decentralising the population for the good of Australia. All sorts of quotations have been cited on this subject. Abraham Lincoln has been mentioned. On the last occasion I spoke I used one of his famous quotations.
– That was before my time.
– And before the honorable member’s knowledge too, I think. Abraham Lincoln said that democracy means the greatest good for the greatest number. What does that mean? It means that if, through decentralisation, people move from Melbourne to country areas, the greatest good will be done for the greatest number of Australians. We would not then have a conglomeration of people such as we have in the electorate of Bradfield which the honorable member who interjected represents. That is what the quotation means.
– He also said: “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people “.
– He said that, but he did not say in what proportion. The principle of the greatest good for the greatest number is clearcut and cannot be challenged. After all, I am not using one quotation by Abraham Lincoln against another of his quotations, but I am bringing his quotation into some focus by pointing out that when he said “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, he did not say in what proportions. Despite the opinions of those who have interjected this afternoon, I say that one of our urgent requirements is the decentralisation of our population. If we cannot convince those who are already in the cities that they should move to country areas we should try to stop people in country areas from going to the cities in the future. Migrants with country interests should be encouraged to settle in country areas instead of taking jobs in factories and other places in the cities. I know that we want better water supplies and many other things, but they all depend on greater political representation.
When I listen to some of the speeches that are made in this place, it seems to me that some members of Parliament think that there are elements in the community which have more influence on decentralisation than politics. But decentralisation is a political matter. 1 believe that the principle adopted in this Bill is the only chance we have of achieving some balance in the distribution of our population. It gives members of the Parliament a chance to do what they should do for the present needs and the future progress of the Commonwealth of Australia.
.- As the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said, this is a simple Bill, and I think we have just heard a very simple speech from the honorable member. Before I present my arguments in support of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), I want to deal with a few of the remarkable theories advanced by the honorable member for Mallee on the integrity of members of the Australian Country Party and the question of equal representation. Every honorable member must have been moved by his defence of the policy of the Australian Country Party of loading country electorates, particularly when we remember how the Country
Party members reactedlast week to severe criticism of their attitude to such matters as sheep and wool. When the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill was before the House members of the Country Party defended the principle of one vote one value. Their attitude on redistribution varies according to the interests that are involved. Their policy has no firm basis. The way they vote depends on their own personal welfare and their own interests. This was shown during the debate on wool last week.
The honorable member for Mallee advanced a remarkable theory. He said that the principle of one vote one value is not being observed in the Senate because each State elects the same number of senators. Of course, this is not so. Senators are not elected to represent people; they are elected to represent States. The principle of one vote one value is being observed in the Senate because each State has 10 representatives in that House. A study of the Constitution will show that the Senate is a house of review - or at least it was until the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party obtained control of it. The senators do not represent people; they represent the States. The honorable member also said: “ Why should we not discuss legislation in the dead of night? We have the numbers and we can put through legislation at any time.” He added: “ If we have the numbers and if we decide to put a bill through at any time, what right have the people who elected us to hear the debate on electoral redistribution or any other matter at a reasonable hour?”
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I did not make the statement that the honorable member alleges I made.
– Order! No point of order arises.
– I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Mallee said that the time at which legislation is debated does not matter because it would be passed at any time. I ask the honorable member: Why does a man rob a house in the middle of the night? Why does a burglar operate in the dark of night? Why does a man try to commit a vile crime in the dark of night? They do this because they do not want to be found out. In the political sphere, when this Government and its supporters do not want to be found out they have a debate at one, two or three o’clock in the morning and, like burglars, they hide their crimes from the public gaze, hoping that no-one will notice what they have done. That is why the Opposition has moved its amendment to this Bill. In doing so, it hopes to bring into the light of day the snide approach of this Government to the gerrymandering of electorates in the face of public opinion in order to preserve the withering Country Party representation in this Parliament.
Let us have a look at the arguments of the honorable member for Mallee. He said that people are leaving the country districts. Can we blame them when we look at the men who represent them in the Parliament? Who would not leave town when he saw the type of men who are elected to represent country districts? The honorable member said that people are going to the cities because Australia is being taken over by the factories and workshops. He said that we must decentralise. Members of the Australian Country Party have spoken of decentralisation for generations, but they have not put even a secondhand shop in a country town. This is the measure of their insincerity on this question. But the honorable member will not try to bring people back to the country districts by establishing workshops, factories and industries there; he will bring them back by offering them the attraction, at best bargain prices, of increased Country Party representation. His cry will be: “Live in my district of Mallee and you will have three votes instead of only one if you live in the city “. What magnificent 1965 atomic age thinking this is. To attract people to the country districts, the honorable member believes, we should offer them, not work and decent living conditions but a loaded vote to let them have a feeling of importance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and think that they are worth three of any city dweller. Did you ever hear anything so silly in all yourlife? This is the opinion of the honorable member who is supporting the gerrymander that this Government seeks to foist upon the people.
The honorable member for Mallee asked why the Labour Party opposed the 1962 redistribution. I will tell him. It was because the Labour Party itself, under that redistribution, would have lost the seats of Dalley and Watson in New South Wales, Scullin in Victoria and Stirling and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. We, as an Opposition, quite sincerely believed that this was unfair and unjust to a Party that represents roughly 50 per cent, of the Australian electorates, and the justice of our claim was recognised by newspapers and people from one end of this country to another. The Labour Party had every right to oppose the elimination of seats, which would have denied to Labour hard won representation in this Parliament.
But what did the Country Party do? One of its representatives, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), and other members of the Cabinet appointed the Distribution Commissioners who were to draw up this proposal. Their names were approved without any opposition whatever. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), and the Deputy Prime Minister offered no objection to the men. They had chosen the Commissioners for the task. As the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) said a few moments ago, it was not until the redistribution proposals came back to the Government that it decided that they were not just and fair because one or two Country Party members were affected. The result is that today the former Minister for the Interior is all at sea in the Department of Shipping and Transport because the Country Party insisted that he should shift over to that ministerial office so that it could control the important portfolio of the Interior and thereby, I think, remedy some of the mistakes that he was supposed to have made at that time.
This is not idle talk. We all have vivid recollection of the debate in this Parliament in which the clash occurred between the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and the Deputy Prime Minister. Listen to the words uttered by a member of the Country Party in this Parliament, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), when speaking on constitutional review on 1st April 1965. He made what 1 believe to be a charge against the integrity of the Distribution Commissioners. He said - 1 am not casting aspersions al the commissioners, but let anyone who talks about gerrymandering examine the Western Australian situation.
The Country Party had lost a seat or two. He went on to say -
What evidence went before the distribution commissioners in Western Australia? Does anybody know? I do not know. All I know is that there was something wrong with the redistribution in Western Australia, and as a member of this Parliament I will be hard to convince that there was not something wrong.
What a vile charge, Mr. Deputy Speaker, against the men who could not answer back, whose responsibility it was to see that an impartial redistribution was brought in and whose appointment was made with the approval of the man who led the Party for whom that member spoke. Who will ever forget that scene in the Parliament when the honorable member for Bradfield made a brilliant speech on the manoeuvrings of the Country Party and its adroitness in trying to foist the redistribution, by a common gerrymander, on the people? Who will ever forget the scene when the Deputy Prime Minister literally snarled at the honorable member for Bradfield when he made the statement? Who will ever forget the interjection of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), now at the table, and who will ever forget the scene when the honorable member for Bradfield was brought into this Parliament later in the day to tender, as it were, an apology for his conduct to the Deputy Prime Minister? The only thing I can say about it was that he made a better job of the apology than he did of the speech. This is the situation. On 1 st April 1 965 the honorable member for Bradfield said this -
I think that there is much to be lost by having dirty hands in this matter.
Mr. Anthony interjected and said
There will not be any dirty hands.
Then the honorable member for Bradfield said - lt should be assured through the Constitution that there will not be dirty hands in this matter. I would prefer assurances in the Constitution to assurances by Ministers. If the Government attempts to gerrymander then, inevitably, it will be met by reprisals on the other side. This is greatly to be avoided.
That statement is a pretty strong challenge from a committed supporter of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Government on the integrity associated with the intentions of the Country Party. But that was not enough. I will read from the “ Hansard “ report again. I remember this day well. It will long live in my memory as the day when the
Country Party was found out by one of the Government members and had to answer for it in this Parliament. The Party really did not like it. At page 546 of “ Hansard “ of 1st April 1965, following that episode, the honorable member for Bradfield came into this Parliament - and no doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you with your excellent memory will recollect this - and he said -
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. Shortly after the sitting was suspended for lunch, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) expressed to me his resentment at what he believed to be a slur that I had cast upon him. I wish to make it clear that I had no such intention. When I spoke about a gerrymander, I meant simply the proposed introduction of certain amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which would have the effect of overweighting the interests of one section of the community. That is what I meant by a gerrymander.
When I spoke about propaganda in favour of undue weight being given to area, difficulties of communication and so forth, I did not mean that I thought the Minister himself would be twisting the arms of the distribution commissioners.
To say the least, he was suspicious. He continued -
I referred rather to the kind of propaganda which the Leader of the Country Party (Mr. McEwen), for example, has directed at the people in general and which, no doubt, the distribution commissioners themselves had had ears to hear, again emphasising area, difficulties of communication and so forth.
That is one of the best kinds of apology - to drop what one could call a dirt cart - that I have heard for a long time. At that stage Mr. McEwen interjected and said -
What did you mean when you spoke of intimidation by Ministers?
The report continued -
– I did not.
– Yes, you did.
– I will explain precisely what I meant. I meant that the Leader of the Country Party expresses himself in very forceful language and, when he expresses himself in that language and speaks about the necessity for the recognition of the disabilities suffered by country members, that is apt, perhaps because of his position and his weight in the community, to have a considerable influence upon those people who hear him, including the distribution commissioners.
For what other reason do honorable members think he said it? That apology clearly states for all to see that the Deputy Prime Minister was not satisfied that the electorates were sufficiently loaded against the people of Australia and were being forced to return Country Party members irrespective of the votes given to them. I say to the honorable member for Mallee that the statement sets out the position clearly for all to see. It is no use the honorable member denying that this redistribution would have been accepted had there not been the interference by the Country Party, and the honorable member for Gippsland and certain other honorable members in particular.
Having said so much, why does not the honorable member for Mallee explain to this Parliament why he defames honorable members opposite on the question of one vote one value, speaks of democracy in the wool industry in connection with the wool reserve prices plan and demands the acceptance of the principle of one vote one value - with which I agree - but sacrifices his principles in relation to electoral boundaries because he seeks to be elected here, in effect, under false pretences. There is no doubt that the Country Party has one policy for sheep and another for people. That is the situation.
I deal now with the question of votes for 18 year old people. The honorable member for Mallee asked: Why did the Labour Party, during two world wars, not give such people a vote? I tell him that because of the incompetence of his Party, the Labour Government was very busy giving those people equipment, for the simple reason that his party did not have any for them. To bring the honorable member up to date with his constitutional history I will read to him what the Labour Party did for people under 21 years of age in the war years. I refer him to the Commonwealth Electoral (War-Time) Bill - Act No. 27 of 1943. The Labour Party at that time did not have a clear majority in this House. This was an Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral (War-Time) Act 1940, and was assented to on 2nd July 1943 and the date of commencement was 30th July 1943. It was left to a Labour Government, in wartime, to give to people under 21 years of age, who were fighting and dying on battle fields in various parts of the world, the things which a Liberal Government which has been in office since 1949 will not give them under this Bill. I ask for leave to incorporate in “ Hansard “ a section dealing with men serving in the forces.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– We can see that the Government does not want this to be revealed to the public.
– Read it to us.
– I will bring the Minister up to date. He is so busy dodging around so that he will not have to give a vote to the people in the Australian Capital Territory that I should read this to him. The Act is the Commonwealth Electoral (WarTime) Act. It gave to servicemen under 21 years of age the right to vote in elections. The conditions for this are laid down and I shall read one or two for honorable members. The Act states -
For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section a qualified member of the Forces means -
a member of the Forces who is not under the age of 21 years;
a member of the Forces who is under the age of 21 years and is serving or has served outside Australia; or
a discharged member of the Forces who is not enrolled as an elector of the Commonwealth and who -
is not under the age of 21 years; or
is under the age of 21 years and has served outside Australia.
Here for all to see is the Act by which a Labour Government gave a vote to men who were fighting and dying for this country. A Liberal Government would not do that even in a time of great crisis. That Act has been allowed to lapse.
– What has the honorable member for Mallee to say about this?
– What about the honorable member for Mallee, that great defender of servicemen and others? Of course, he will tell me that it is wrong to give the vote to people under 21 years of age. He will apologise to his electors for not allowing me to incorporate the document in “Hansard “; he will say that it can readily be referred to in the books containing the acts of the Parliament. It is obvious, however, that honorable members opposite do not want these things to be known to the people of Australia. They do not want the people of Australia to know that Labour gave young servicemen a vote - something which the Government they support denied to servicemen.
The Minister for the Interior argues that we cannot have a minimum age of 18 years for voting at Commonwealth elections and a minimum age of 21 years for voting at elections in New South Wales or somewhere else. But we cannot expect much from the Minister for the Interior. People in the Australian Capital Territory of all ages do not have the right to elect a member who can vote in this Parliament. What chance is there of anyone in the Territory, whether he be under 21 or over 61 years of age, getting an effective vote? What really matters in that the Minister does not agree with the principle. The Liberal Party claims that it has the young people’s vote, that the Liberal Party is the Party they clamour for and the Party they will support. If that is the case, why is the Government running away from giving a vote to the 18-year olds at this time?
I have spent a little more time than necessary on the honorable member for Mallee. It is unfortunate that he is so ill informed on matters of principle as they apply to voting. He misleads the Parliament in that likeable way of his, and it is time that he was brought up with a round turn. He must be made to realise that we have an obligation to servicemen and that there is a need to protect the people of this country against electoral manipulation by the Country Party. In the debate on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill the defence by members of the Country Party of the principle of one vote one value would do credit to Abraham Lincoln or the greatest democrat who ever walked, but the House can see how they run for cover when these issues are under consideration.
I turn now to the Country Party’s principles in relation to redistribution of boundaries. If members of the Country Party were moved by the highest motives to reject the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1962, to which the Prime Minister and others were parties, how is it that this great spirit did not move them in days gone by? Why did they not oppose the electoral legislation which was introduced in 1955? Did it suit them not to do so, or were they more just in that year? I will tell the House precisely why they did not oppose it. They did not oppose it because no Country Party seats were affected. That being so, their principles remained intact. After the Distribution Commissioners presented their report in 1955 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), in a speech reported on page 1309 of “Hansard*” of 31st May, 1955, expressed the high sounding principles of the Country Party in this way -
However, we have to accept the decision of the referee, and I think that, on the whole, the Commission has done a fairly statesmanlike job.
Not one Country Party seat was affected, so the great democrats accepted the decision of the referee. What a change there was in 1 962 when they were prepared to defame the integrity of the Distribution Commissioners and others. They were prepared to defame everyone connected with the redistribution because some tinpot Country Party member would have disappeared from the Parliament, in the interests of democracy. That is the situation.
I have mentioned these matters to show - the people should realise this - that when redistribution of boundaries occurs again the Commissioners will be at the point of a political gun - another Country Party gun. The Country Party has acquired a lot of “ Gunns “ in recent times. The Commissioners will be told that they must draw the boundaries in a certain way. The discretion which they used so justly in days gone by will have been taken away from them. This Government is determined to gerrymander the electorates. That must be accepted. The Press from one end of the country to the other has publicised that. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) agrees that this is a gerrymander. The Government is condemned from one end of the country to the other because, for the first time in history, it has foisted or is about to foist an electoral gerrymander in the Commonwealth field on the people of this country. If the Government intends to do this, why does it not show a little justice to the people under 21 vears of age and give them a chance to pass judgment?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment which seeks to give a right to vote at 18 years of age and for one vote to have, as nearly as possible, one value. I have already dealt with the matter of one vote one value and the fluctuating principles of the Country Party. Why will not the Government give a vote now to a person under 21 years of age?
– Why did not the Labour Government do so?
– It did: The honorable member should have been here earlier. I read out what we did because I was not allowed to incorporate a document in “ Hansard “. If the honorable member wants to enlighten himself, he should read the report of my speech. Why will not the Government give the vote to people under 21 years of age? This morning the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said that 20,000 boys will be conscripted and dragged from their homes. This is evident because people will not volunteer in enough numbers to fight for a country run by a Government such as this. These boys will be dragged from their homes and jobs to fight in Vietnam and other places, in all kinds of conflicts and wars. They will be conscripted by the most ruthless and unfair ballot in any country in the world. The Government conscripts young men, drags them from their homes and sends them away to fight in the paddy fields of Vietnam, yet it refuses to give them a say in the government of their country. The Government says: “You are young enough to be conscripted to fight and to die. We want you, body and soul, but you have no right to vote for or against the men who are responsible for your welfare in this country and other parts of the world.” In our time nothing more disgraceful has been introduced into this Parliament than the legislation to conscript young men to fight in all parts of the world, while they are denied the right to vote.
The Minister for the Interior, young man that he is, will shortly vote against giving a vote to men whom he expects to risk death in defending him and those sitting behind him in this place. This is a shocking state of affairs; it is scandalous in the extreme. If the Government will not go the distance and give every young man under 21 a vote, at least it should give a vote to those who will be expected to be prepared to die for this country in the not far distant future. Why should not they have a vote? They have the right - and the obligation - to pay taxes, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said. They can get married; they can get a licence to drive a car; they can be conscripted into the Army and they can carry the burden of war at home and abroad; yet they are denied what is a fundamental right in every democratic country. I ask the Minister for the Interior to explain to the 20,000 conscripts who are about to enter camp as a result of this scandalous ballot system, the fairness of which I have grave reason to doubt in many respects.
Why will not the Government give them the vote? Why will those opposite - particularly the honorable member for Mallee - who are so anxious for this country to go to war and so anxious to see young men put into the Army to fight for this democracy of ours, line up and vote against this legislation? The Government should ponder upon these things. What is it afraid of if it gives the vote to young people under 21? Does it believe that they will vote against it? If the young people are as bright as the Government insists they are, I think they are almost certain to vote against it. What young man with a bright future, with brains and with intelligence, could look at the members of the Government and believe that he was intelligent if he voted for them? The fact of the matter is that the Government is afraid that the young people will vote against it. They realise that there is no security under the present Administration and that ultimately they may well end up in an army in some foreign part of the world, fighting for things about which they know nothing. In addition, the Government realises the danger of the young people wanting a change of government, so it seeks to deny to them the right to vote. Wherever you might be, in whatever part of the world, you have a fundamental right to vote if you are over 21 years of age. By what remarkable process does one become the brightest person in the land at the age of 21? What is the difference between one’s intelligence at 21 and at 18? On what basis was this decided? Was it picked out of a barrel, too, or is it just the result of a judgment made by some public servant at the time? Let the Minister for the Interior justify his refusal to accept the Opposition’s proposal. Particularly, let him justify it to ex-servicemen.
My time is limited, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to dwell further on the measure itself. I have endeavoured today to show the people of Australia what has been said in a previous debate in this Parliament and to remind them again that, hidden behind this minor change in the electoral law. are the broader implications of the greatest gerrymander in political history, which has been designed exclusively to maintain in this Parliament the declining numbers of the dying Australian Country Party. The substance in what 1 say is shown by statements that have been made by honorable members who sit on the Government benches opposite. If I had time, Mr. Speaker, I could read to you the headlines in newspapers from all over Australia which indicate the pressure that the Country Party has brought to bear on the Liberal Party to bring about this gerrymander. I feel sorry for the Liberal Party but it deserves all it gets while it puts up with the Country Party. The Liberal Party, though it is a willing conniver at these proposals, may become a victim of them. If they ultimately mean that it will lose some seats to the Country Party, that will serve the Liberal Party right.
At this late stage, I congratulate the honorable member for Bradfield on his recent speeches on electoral legislation. I congratulate him on having brought the Deputy Prime Minister to book by letting the people of Australia know that this campaign for electoral change has been spearheaded by the right honorable gentleman and that, as I have said, it is designed to keep the members of the dying Country Party safe in their places in this Parliament. I support the amendment that has been proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I shall support those amendments that are to be submitted by the Opposition in Committee. I join with my colleagues on this side of the House in condemning the Country Party and the Government generally for foisting this monstrous gerrymander on the people.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been grossly misrepresented. I have been misrepresented about 15 times by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), but I shall not, of course, deal individually with every one of those matters. I want to deal particularly with one instance. The honorable member for Grayndler said that certain people - of course, they were imaginary people - on the Government side of the chamber were hanging back in giving their services to their country. He added to this statement the words “ particularly the honorable member for Mallee “. I shall not go further with that. I say only that if what the honorable member said about that was true, everything he said was true as the very basis of truth would have changed. As to the other 14 matters on which he misrepresented me, I want only to ask those people who may have heard his speech and who may not have heard mine please to consult “ Hansard “.
.- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) talked great sense when he quoted me with approval but he also talked a great deal of nonsense. What is this Bill about? It is designed to insert in the Commonwealth Electoral Act certain words in substitution for other words. Clause 3 of the Bill reads -
Section 85 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.) the words “ paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) “ and inserting in their stead the words “subsection (1a.) “.
There has been a great deal of debate on this simple matter, which merely represents a draftsman’s amendment. The measure has been introduced simply because the Parliamentary Draftsman, in error, omitted some detail from an earlier measure. However, this Bill has provoked debate on the whole matter of the redistribution of electoral boundaries. Considering that this matter has been fully discussed within the last year or two, in the words used the other night by my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), this is rather like a cold chump chop. However, as this debate has been provoked, I should like to say a few words on the matter.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has had much to say in rather the same strain that was evident in the previous debate. I do not think it is worthwhile occupying the time of the House in going over the matter again. He quoted, as he thought, Abraham Lincoln, but 1 thought that he had in mind either Jeremy Bentham or John Stuart Mill. What Lincoln did say was that one cannot fool all the people all the time. It may well be that the Australian Country Party has discovered this. I want to say a little about’ the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill that has been proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). His amendment is designed to omit from the motion the words “ the Bill be now read a second time “ and to insert other words. It is in these terms -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for votes at eighteen years of age and for votes to be as nearly as possible of equal value.”.
The honorable member for Grayndler has quoted an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act which was made during the Second World War. Indeed, he sought leave to incorporate in “ Hansard “ the relevant part of the amendment. When he was requested to give the gist of the provision, it appeared that that amendment was not so far reaching as might have appeared at first sight. In fact, it did not relate to all persons under the age of 21, but dealt only with those under the age of 21 who had been called up for active service in the armed forces. The amendment which has been submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and which we are now considering is designed to give the right to vote to all persons of 18 years of age and over. This is clearly a different matter. Giving the right to vote to young men of 18 who are on active service is quite different from giving the same right to all young men of 18, whether on active service or not. The honorable member for Grayndler glossed over the very substantial difference. However, 1 propose to discuss this matter seriously, because it deserves serious consideration and not just the cursory kind of attention that is devoted to it in association with a measure such as the one now before us.
I would be opposed to giving the right to vote to all young men and women of 18 years of age. Why? It may be that a government could gain some political kudos by giving such young people the right to vote. They might, indeed, at a subsequent election, vote for the party that had been responsible for giving them the privilege of voting. But this, I think, is an irresponsible way of dealing with a serious issue of this kind. The fact is that most, though not all, young people of 18 have not yet really assumed the responsibilities of citizenship. Few of them have married. Few of them have come in contact with the problems of saving, of trying to acquire a home, of caring for children or of all those other things that bring responsibility to any citizen. For this reason, Sir, I would be against treating as full citizens young men and young women of the age of 18. This is not, of course, to deny that some may have these responsibilities and may have learned the hard facts of life. But the majority have not.
The matter would be quite different if the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were designed to give the right to vote to young men who had been called up in the forces for active service. I would heartily agree with the giving of the right to vote to them. Indeed, I would go further and say that I believe that the right to vote should be given to all young people of 20 years of age, because they are the people who are or who may be called up for service overseas and who may have to carry the full burden of citizenship. At the age of 20, many young people have experience of the responsibilities of life that would induce one to suppose that they take a serious view of the issues that confront this country. However, this is not the nature of the amendment. So I find myself in a dilemma. I am greatly attracted to the latter part of the amendment which seeks to provide that votes should, as nearly as possible, be of equal value. But I cannot accept the first part of the amendment that provides for votes for all young people at the age of 18 years.
I am in a difficulty. The only thing I can do in these circumstances is to abstain from voting at all on the amendment. If I voted in favour of it I would be voting for the part with which I agree and the part with which I disagree. If I were to vote against it, the opposite would be the case. So I must abstain from voting on the amendment that has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I regret that I have to adopt this course because I would very gladly have voted for the latter part and I would very gladly have voted for giving the franchise to all young people at the age of 20. However, that is the way it has been drafted, and I can only record my vote on it as it is drawn.
I feel that I should not delay the House because my views on the matter of one vote one value are very well known and indeed have been quoted extensively in the course of the debate. Therefore, there is scarcely any need for me to repeat them. I do not, for one moment, retract those views. I believe it is quite wrong that we should give votes to sheep, acres, rocks, stones and trees. I believe that this is a gerrymander which has been written into the statute books. I have never concealed my belief that this is so.
I regret that my neighbours who sit in the corner of the House have seen fit to be inconsistent in voting this way in regard to electoral redistribution and to adopt a different course in respect of the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill. These inconsistencies happen. I suppose that selfinterest is the explanation. I regret that this is so. The House has voted for the gerrymander we have and no doubt will have for a very long time. As far as I can see ahead, in the words of the poet Wordsworth, we will be whirling in earth’s diurnal round, with rocks and stones and trees sitting in the corner. This is regrettable but inevitable in view of the political power my friends have been able to exert. I have never concealed my disgust at this situation. I do not think that anything the honorable member for Mallee has said in any way cloaks the reality of the situation. I leave it at that. I need not go over it all again. I must abstain from voting on the particular amendment that has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- As one of the few members who stayed the distance into the hours of the morning in May last to record a vote against the iniquitous amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965, I want to associate myself again with the members of the Australian Labour Party who are fighting for electoral justice. We are making an effort to improve the Commonwealth Electoral Bill by inserting an additional clause which will give some touch of respectability to it. It is true that the Bill was pushed through the House by sheer weight of numbers and not by logic, in the small hours of the morning. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said, it was pushed through the House under the cover of darkness. To quote a Biblical phrase which I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will permit, it was a case of a thief in the night.
The Bill was pushed through the House because of its wickedness and because so many members of the majority wing of the coalition Government were ashamed of it. At least the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) was prepared to speak out against it. Other members of the Liberal Party hung their heads in shame because they were afraid to speak up. However, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has asked again that we amend the Electoral Act to provide for votes to be as nearly as possible of equal value. That was the gravamen of the speeches made by members of the Labour Party during the debate on the Electoral Bill in May of this year. We realise that the Australian Country Party is determined by any means - not fair but certainly foul - to impose its will on the coalition Government and to remain in existence in the electoral sense by any means possible. The Country Party wants to exist in the political field although it realises that if honesty prevailed in electoral distribution it would almost disappear from the scene. Perhaps it would be a good thing for Australian politics if it did.
– That is a bit weak.
– I do not think so. I believe it is a fairly honest observation. I think that quite a number of members of the Liberal Party would agree with it. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) was certainly frank, not in this House, but in the safety of his electorate in Murwillumbah, when he disclosed his intentions by saying what he thought on electoral representation and redistribution. He made it quite clear - and we are indebted eternally to the “ Murwillumbah Times “ for publishing his speech - that he was prepared to father a gerrymander in the interests of the Country Party and to give votes to sheep and goats rather than to individuals.
That principle is involved in the Bill that we are being asked to amend at the present time. It provides that there will be a variation of 20 per cent, under or above the quota. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) quoted figures earlier, which I think are worth repeating. He said that if the quota struck by the electoral commissioners is 50,000 in a State, with the application of the 20 per cent, variation, the electorate of Griffith would be increased to 60,000 and the electorate of Maranoa would be fixed at 40,000. It would make the elector who lives in Windorah one and a half times the value of the elector who lives at Woolloongabba and the elector who lives in Betoota one and a half times the value of the elector at Bulimba. That is not very fair because the electors in Woolloongabba and Bulimba certainly showed very great political astuteness in the choosing of their representative. Modesty forbids that I mention who he is.
– Would that have been in 1958?
– I had an overwhelming majority of votes in the primary count in the 1958 election, but owing to the provision of the Electoral Act which insists on persons filling in every square on the ballot paper and not necessarily giving consideration to how the squares are filled in, I went under by a very short head, in Randwick terminology.
– They were astute.
– They showed their good judgment in the 1961 election in no uncertain way. There was no need to have recourse to the counting of second preference votes. As I said earlier, it has been suggested that the Country Party, desirous of maintaining or even worsening the gerrymander under which we live at the present time, fears that it may disappear from the scene if this gerrymander is not maintained. Under this system, it is possible to have a minority government. Recent history shows this to be true. As late as 1961, we saw a minority government come into being in this Parliament. Owing to the arrangement of the electorates - the drawing of the boundaries - the combined forces of the Liberal Party and the Country Party had a majority of two members in this Parliament; but the majority vote throughout the nation was overwhelmingly in favour of the Australian Labour Party. The Opposition - the Labour Party - represented the vast majority of the Australian people but failed to gain office because of the arrangement of the boundaries. This produced a minority government.
That experience, I believe, forced the Leader of the Country Party to insist upon the Prime Minister’s acceding to a proposal for an alteration in the Commonwealth Electoral Act and in the way in which boundaries are drawn. It is true that the Prime Minister did mention the matter of electoral boundaries in his policy speech of 1963, but nobody in his wildest dreams would have thought that the Prime Minister, with a reputation for electoral honesty and decency in elections, would have been prepared to accept this proposition that has been foisted upon him by the minority and insignificant Country Party. But he has bowed to its will. To his shame, he has accepted this proposition. When he leaves this place, he will go out with a stain on his character for having accepted the domination of this very minor part of the coalition.
Some time ago the Constitutional Review Committee, consisting of members of all parties, was appointed to review the Constitution, and it did a very thorough job. In several respects members of the Committee disagreed but on one issue they were unanimous. They considered the matter of elections and recommended that a variation of 10 per cent, from quotas be permitted. That was some years ago, and since then communications have been improved and the way of life has changed. I believe that even now we should be prepared to go further than the Committee recommended and accept the proposition advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. But the Government still insists on a variation of 20 per cent., and I have illustrated just what that means in various electorates. It is weighing down the city electorates and giving the country electorates an unfair and undue advantage.
When I left this place last week after listening to the debate on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill, I thought that I had seen a great conversion and a great renewal of faith on the part of members of the Country Party. I had heard them speak in favour of the principle of one vote one value for the wool producers of Australia. At no time during that debate were they prepared to give to the grazier who had 300,000 sheep any greater consideration than was given to the grazier who had 300 sheep. All were of the same value. As the Country Party insisted on this provision in that Bill, I thought that, like St. Paul, they had seen the light and had been converted. I thought that the Minister for the Interior, who is a member of the Country Party, had given away his evil thinking and his evil ways and had abandoned the principle of mere territorial representation - of grains of sand, as it were, as against men in the cities - and had been won over to the principle of one vote one value. But today I see him sitting mute, as are so many members of the Government parties, and I realise that he has lapsed back into his former ways and that he is still persisting in a policy of variation in value of votes.
I admire consistency, and if a man believes in the weighting of votes to give certain advantages to a certain section, this should apply throughout his thinking. But we find that in May last members of the Country Party believed that there should be a variation in the value of votes; that last week they believed that all votes should be equal, and that this week they believe that votes should not be equal but that a variation should apply. It is quite hard to keep up with such thinking and it creates confusion in the minds of members, because there is no consistency of policy or of thought,. I suppose it is just one of the evils of the third party in the Parliament today.
A point has been made that a reason for giving an advantage to country electorates over city electorates is that country areas are struggling to bring about decentralisation and struggling for development. Let me concede that point for the sake of debate, and ask why does not the Country Party support the proposition advanced by the Australian Labour Party that the area in Australia struggling most for development should have in this Parliament a representative who has a vote. I refer to the Northern Territory. But the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who is in charge of the Northern Territory, and the Minister for the Interior, who administers the electoral laws - both members of the Country Party - insist on the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) being denied a vote in this Parliament. I think that that completely refutes the argument advanced by Country Party spokesmen in this debate that struggling electorates need to be developed and consequently should not be required to have the same number of electors as do city electorates.
– That is weak.
– I agree with the interjector from the Country Party that th argument advanced by the party spokesmen is a very weak one. The Country Party has been noted for gerrymanders. I refer to the action taken recently in the State of Queensland. Prior to the advent of the Country Party Government led by Mr. Nicklin, there was a weighted voting system, which had been introduced by a Labour government to give consideration to remote country electorates and more or less produce equality. Far western parts of the State were given an electoral quota of 4,000, and the other parts of the State were given a quota of about 10,000. But with the accession of a Country Party government to office, the first thing that was done was to send an urgent telegram to Sir Thomas Playford, then Premier of South Australia, requesting him-
– Order! I hope that the honorable member will relate this to the Bill.
– I fully intend to do that.
– He is now dealing entirely with a State instrumentality.
– Quite so. I shall be leading back to this Bill.
– The honorable member should get back to it quickly.
– The telegram requested Sir Thomas Playford to come to Queensland to discuss decentralisation and industrial matters. He came along and in a very short space of time we had a bill before the State Parliament to redistribute electorates. All the far western country areas peopled by those whose produce the beef and wool that is exported from that part of the State lost their representation. Their quotas of 4,000 were raised to 8,000 and the western country seats as such disappeared. It was a shocking exhibition on the part of the Country Party Government, which denied to these grand producers in the far western areas of Queensland intimate representation in the Parliament of that State. So there is a variation in the thinking of the Country Party, and it is hard to keep up with it.
I believe the proposition advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) to give votes to all those who are 18 years of age and over is reasonable. The Australian Labour Party demonstrated its belief in this principle during the war years when it introduced a bill - which became an Act - to make provision for servicemen to vote at 18 years of age. That was the initial step in a policy which the Labour Government under Mr. Chifley, had it remained in office after 1949, would have extended. Had we remained in office the policy of the Labour Party would have applied and the voting age generally would have been reduced to 1 8 years. But, as you know, Sir, it is hard to introduce complete reform in time of war, and that wartime measure was only the initial step.
I realise that the Bill we are debating is a very short one, but it represents confusion on the part of the Parliamentary Draftsman. I think that condemnation of the Minister by this House for the way in which he handled the Bill is called for. It was his job to know whether there were any errors in the drafting, but it is quite evident that part of the fault was the haste with which the former measure was debated. It was debated in the small hours of the morning, when many honorable members were so tired after a strenuous week that it was difficult for them to concentrate on intricate legislation. It is easy to understand why the general rank and file of honorable members did not detect the mistake on the part of the Draftsman, but it should have been detected by the Minister, who had the Bill for weeks and held up its introduction until Parliament was due to go into recess.
I hope that the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Labour Party will be carried, because it is a very reasonable amendment. As the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said, it is one amendment although it deals with two matters. Thefirst objective of the amendment is to give the vote to persons of 18 years of age which, in this modern day, in this jet age, is a reasonable’ proposition. Do not let the old men who comprise the Government decide that youth must not be given its chance to vote for, although it is conscripted to fight for, the future of this country. The second objective is to ensure that there is a degree of decency in the elections we hold and to uphold the principle of “one vote, one value “, a principle espoused by the reformers in England in the closing days of last century. Let us carry on the fight today and do what we can to bring about a state of honesty in representation, pure democracy in this country and a fair deal for all voters - equalisation, if I may use that term, in the principle of voting. I hope the amendment is carried.
.- I want to make a few comments on this measure. Never, since I have been in this Parliament, have I sat in the House for a couple of hours and listened to so many downright lies being told by the Opposition.
-Order! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker. I have never before, in such a short space of time, heard so many inaccurate statements made by members of the Opposition trying to bolster up an extremely weak case and support a very unfair attack on the Country Party. This, of course, has been the prime objective behind the speeches of Opposition speakers in the House this afternoon. They have used this debate to launch an attack on the Australian Country Party. That is fair enough in politics, and we are prepared to admit any mistakes we might have made, providing the statements made in attacking our party have some foundation - which I say very few of the statements made today by members of the Opposition had. Let us consider a couple of those statements. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) talked about “ electoral justice”. Those were the words he used. He accused the Country Party of inconsistent thinking. What about the inconsistent thinking of the Labour Party on this very subject? What action did the Labour Government of Queensland take when it was in power? There were tremendous differences in the numbers of voters in electorates in Queensland - not just differences of a couple of thousand voters between country and city electorates, but differences of many thousands. When a Labour Government was in power in Western Australia it actually wrote into the electoral legislation a mandatory provision that there should be a difference. Does that represent consistent thinking? All through the debates on similar measures last May and in previous years, as well as in today’s debate, we have heard members of the Labour Party talk about “one vote one value”, but the Opposition does not really support that policy. An amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition will provide that - in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less.
They say in their speeches that they believe in the principle of “ one vote one value “ but the foreshadowed amendment shows that they are in favour of a ten per cent, differential. How could anybody who puts such an amendment on record claim that he is in favour of every vote having an equal value?
The Opposition is using this debate, as it used similar debates, as a means of launching an unfair attack on the Country Party. Once again in this debate we notice the very silent voice of country members of the Australian Labour Party - the very silent voice. It is noticeable for its absence. Some honorable members opposite say very proudly that they represent country areas of Australia and that the Country Party is not the only party with members representing the country. But where are their voices when their colleagues say “ one vote, one value”? They are silent.
– I will be heard tonight on this.
– The honorable member for Bendigo says he will be heard tonight. He may be heard, but he will not say anything worth listening to. Where are the honorable members for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), Herbert (Mr. Harding), Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) and Kennedy (Mr. Riordan)? Where do they stand on this issue? I have been extremely disappointed at the response to this issue from members of this Parliament of the Liberal and Labour Parties who represent rural constituencies. They have allowed themselves to be dictated to, in my opinion, by the Party machine, and have not been game to voice their opinions on this most vital subject - and it is a most vital subject, Mr. Speaker. The Australian Country Party feels very proud of the fact that it is being attacked so often and so consistently on this vital matter of principle.
The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and the members of the Opposition are virtually setting themselves up against the members of every other Parliament in the world.
– This is right. They are setting themselves up as better judges than the members of all other Parliaments in the world. Not one country which is of reasonable size and has a reasonably democratic form of government has equal numbers of voters in its electorates. This is the case in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and New Zealand. It is also the case in the various Australian States. In some of those States Labour Governments have been in power from time to time, and what have they ever done about enforcing the principle of having equal numbers of voters in electorates?
Another phrase used by speakers this afternoon was “ Government by the people for the people “.
– Hear, hear!
-“ Hear, hear “ says the honorable member for Batman. To me this phrase means that we should take notice of what the people of Australia think on important matters. I want to cite the results of a gallup poll taken on this very subject in May of this year. These are important results and should be on the record. I think the Distribution Commissioners should take these results into consideration when making their redistribution, instead of just listening to a lot of political humbug from members of the Australian Labour Party. In this gallup poll the people were asked: “Do you think all electorates should have the same number of electors or should country electorates have fewer people than electorates in the big cities?” This question was asked in May of this year when an important debate on this matter was being conducted in this House. The answers are set out in three groups. One group is headed “ all the same “, meaning that the electorates should have the same number of voters. The number of people who answered “ all the same “ represented 37 per cent, of those to whom the question was put. Then there were 39 per cent, who considered that country electorates should have fewer voters, and 24 per cent, were undecided. I am not suggesting that there was an overwhelming vote in favour of fewer electors in country electorates; what I am saying is that there are great numbers of people in Australia who support the stand that the Country Party has taken on this issue, and who support the decision of the Government in bringing in its amendments to the Electoral Act. I have not said that a great majority of those asked considered that country electorates should have fewer voters. But, as a matter of fact, 39 per cent, said so. On the other hand, however, only 37 per cent, said “all the same “. In other words, the people who had an opinion on the subject were divided about 50-50.
– They were only city people.
– The answers from people in city electorates and country electorates were given separately, but the figures were almost exactly the same. Of the Australian Labour Party voters who were asked, 42 per cent, said the electorates should be all the same, 35 per cent, said that country electorates should have fewer voters and 23 per cent, were undecided. Liberal-Country Party voters leant slightly the other way, with 32 per cent, for “all the same”, 45 per cent, saying that country electorates should have fewer voters and 23 per cent, being undecided.
Another very interesting fact emerged from the poll. The people who thought that country electorates should have fewer voters were asked: “If city electorates each have 50,000 people, how many should each country electorate have?” The answers given were to the effect that country electorates should have 25,000, or only half the number in city electorates.
– They thought that the honorable member was going to represent them, and they knew he could not handle any more.
– The honorable member knows that his brother lives in my electorate and is very glad that he lives there and not in the electorate of Wills. He tells me this every time I go down to Yea. He says how happy he is to have me representing him and not his brother. But to get back to the point, I contend that the results I have cited show that the Australian Country Party is in tune with a great number of the Australian people, and the Government is also in tune with the thinking of the people of Australia. After all, what we are here for is to interpret the wishes of the people and to apply them as best we can. I say again that the members of the Australian Labour Party and the honorable member for Bradfield, and perhaps the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), have set themselves up as being better judges than most of the members of the Parliaments of the other democratic countries of the world, and also of the Australian State Parliaments. They maintain that they are right in this matter and that the Australian Parliament is practically the only one in the world that should not provide for differentials between city and rural electorates.
Great play has been made by Labour Party speakers on the suggestion that the Country Party has been inconsistent in that it supported the principle of one vote one value in connection with the proposed wool reserve price plan referendum while it does not support the principle in connection with electoral redistribution. For a start, of course, these two matters are not related. One has nothing to do with the other, and entirely different principles apply in respect of them. In addition, we did not support any principle of value of votes in connection with the proposed referendum; it was the Wool Industry Conference that stipulated the principle that should underlie the voting.
– The honorable member supported it by his vote.
– In any case it will not be one vote one value in the reserve price plan referendum. One of my colleagues has just reminded me that it was the wool growers’ parliament that decided how the voting should be conducted, but in any case it is not on the principle of one vote one value. People producing fewer than ten bales of wool do not get a vote. They are left out of it.
– There are 30,000 of them.
– As my friend from Moore says, there are 30,000 of them. This certainly means that not every wool grower is to get a vote. But as I have said, the two matters of electoral redistribution and the proposed referendum are not comparable, even in principle, and in fact the Country Party has not been inconsistent at all on these issues.
That is all I wanted to say on that subject. I think I have made some pertinent points that the Commissioners should take into account when they are cutting up Australia into electorates. Let there be no doubt at all that it appears to me, after listening to the tone of this debate, a great pity that the attacks made on the Country Party for its stand - and I realise they represent good political tactics - have had to be based on such consistently inaccurate statements. It is a shame that that has had to happen. I am sure the Distribution Commissioners will not be confused or misled by the inaccurate statements that have been made by the Opposition.
This is a most important subject. We believe in having political representation spread around Australia in order to get balanced development. No matter what anyone says, it is the allocation of finance that tells. As my friend, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), pointed out in his speech, it is claimed that industries will not go to country areas because freight rates are too high. This is true; there is no doubt about it. But, as he said, if there were more representatives from country areas in the Parliament there would not be such a big differential in freight rates and freight rates would not be such a big burden on country areas. His point was well made. While we are not putting forward a proposal that rural representation should be dominant in the Parliament, we say that any party that supports a redistribution that will completely eradicate rural seats, no matter by which party they are held, is not worth its place in the Australian political scene. However, this is what the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) put forward. He said that some tinpot member was going to lose his seat in New South Wales. He was referring to our colleague, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan). Apart from the personal insult - let that slide - the Labour Party was supporting the abolition of an electorate - completely wiping out a country voice in this Parliament. Do honorable members opposite think that this would be a good thing for the development of Australia? Of course they do not.
I have with me a map of Australia. Above the Tropic of Capricorn are 375,000 people; below it, 10,600,000. Three or four members of the Parliament represent the area north of the Tropic of Capricorn; 120 represent the area below it. Does anyone think that if 120 members represented the area north of the Tropic of Capricorn and only three south of it, the area north of the Tropic would not be the subject of greater development by now? This underlines the principle that country representation - a voice in the Parliament - is important to the development of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Peters) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– I present the following paper -
Economic Inquiry - Report of Committee (Volumes I and II and Index).
I am not proposing to move that the paper be printed because, as honorable members will understand from a glance at the bulk of the report - a bulk that is not at all out of place - a number of minor corrections and alterations of form have come up on revision for incorporation. These, of course, are being dealt with. None of them involves substance. They will not affect the reading of the report by honorable members. But it does seem to me that when the paper comes to form part of the Parliamentary Paper series it is desirable that it should be in its final corrected form. Therefore, I intend, if the House will agree, to present the report later in its final form in substitution for what I present today. On that occasion I will move that the paper be printed. Even then, I would value some discussion at that time with the Chairman of the Printing Committee because some arrangements are in hand for publishing this in book form, as he will understand. I have arranged for the report in the form in which I have presented it to be circulated to honorable members. Now I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– On 13th February 1963, I announced the appointment of a Committee of Economic Inquiry, consisting of Dr. J. Vernon - now Sir James Vernon - Professor Sir John Crawford, Professor P. H. Karmel of Adelaide, Mr. D. G. Molesworth and Mr. K. B. Myer. These are all men of distinction in economic and business affairs; they have devoted immense effort and much time to their labours, and have produced a report of great significance. Some suggestions made by the Committee are not acceptable to us, but this does not qualify our deep appreciation of the Committee’s work.
In reading the report, honorable members will have in mind the terms of reference. They are set out on page 1 of the report, and I therefore do not need to refer to them in extenso. They sought an inquiry into and a report upon many questions of fact and of tendencies “ having in mind that the objectives of the Government’s economic policy are a high rate of economic and population growth with full employment, increasing productivity, rising standards of living, external viability, and stability of costs and prices”.
We were asked by the Chairman, before the terms of reference were finally settled, to add a clause that would enable the Committee to suggest “steps which appear to be necessary or desirable to conform with and further the objectives of the Government’s economic policy “. This, for reasons which will appear later in this statement, the Government refused to do. But it did add to the terms of reference the final clause -
The Committee will report the conclusions reached by it as to the bearing which all or any of the matters so ascertained have upon the achievement of the economic policy objectives above stated.
I mention these matters at the outset, because it is necessary to have them in mind when considering some aspects of the report. For the truth is that, in addition to an exhaustive and most valuable examination of the facts involved in the terms of reference, the Committee has in fact, m many instances, offered its opinions or suggestions on matters of policy. We have no feeling of resentment about this. Indeed, we should perhaps have realised from the beginning that a group of talented men charged with this task would wish, having made their statistical and other investigations, to examine the bearing of the results upon the general economy and thus to offer opinions or suggestions. But it will at once be seen. Sir, that the report, because of the facts concerning the terms of reference which I have just related, must be read and evaluated subject to two reservations.
The first is that, in a free and self governing country, policies will be political. Under the party system, opposing political parties will, not infrequently, have opposing policies. In no case is a political policy the product of purely expert opinion on technical matters. It must cover a wide area of localities and circumstances. It must be flexible enough to meet the problems of international and domestic change. It is commonly pursued and applied in the light of much accumulated experience and political judgment.
Secondly, it follows that, when it deals with statistical or technical or objectively economic matters, this report is entitled to and will be studied with profound respect. My own Government will derive great value and assistance from it. But where the report makes what will doubtless be regarded as advices on political policies, such advices must be regarded, in the wellknown legal phrase, as obiter dicta, and not as possessing some binding authority. No government, from whatever side of the House it may come, and indeed no parliament, can abdicate its own authority and responsibility for national policy. It will welcome the assistance of experts, but its tasks will take it far beyond the limits of economic expertise. Political policy in a democratic community does not depend upon purely economic considerations. I will come back to this when I have something to say about the various proposals made by the Committee for the establishment of advisory bodies in various fields. But at this stage it might perhaps be useful to offer a general view. That general view may be illustrated by a particular example in relatively recently Commonwealth history.
In the early -1940’s, proposals were submitted to the Australian Agricultural Council which, as honorable members know is a ministerial body, for the establishment of an institute of agricultural economics, with wider functions and powers than the present Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and with complete freedom independently to carry out and publish the results of research into a whole range of matters affecting primary industries. These proposals were rejected, as my friend the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will recall, for reasons which were admirably ably summed up by the present permanent head of the Department of Primary Industry when he made his presidential address to the annual conference of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society in Sydney in February 1963. I quote his words -
Governments were asked to finance an organisation removed from political control which could report on the matters of policy but let the chips fall where they may. It is not hard to imagine Governments shying away from the concept of a body which was committed to publish all its reports and advice on policy but whose findings could be used in evidence against Governments which did not adopt them. On matters of fact there could be little argument, political or otherwise, against immediate publication; on matters of policy it could quite often happen that the published report of the independent authority presented only half the story. To be realistic, Governments-
We are speaking about Governments from both sides of the House - have political convictions which might not always be in line with the philosophy espoused by the Institute. What the protagonists of this scheme were really supporting was a system where policy should be guided only by expert advice when policy is often a compound of a number of factors, only one of which can necessarily be expert advice.
– Now the Prime Minister is getting ready to throw out the report.
– So far I have proceeded, I venture to say from the ocular demonstration, with the great approval of those on the other side of the chamber who have had experience in these matters.
– We will see whether we agree with it.
– The honorable member never agrees with his leaders. I do not care a hoot whether he disagrees with me. He is looking forward to a government of economists, and will profess to be one.
It will, of course, at once appear to honorable members that, if the only problems in dealing with economic policy in a nation were purely technical, Parliament, which is not technical, and a Cabinet which is not technical might as well hand over to a group of technicians. In such a case democracy would have ceased and a technocracy would have begun. In this matter, of course, my views are in common with those of the real leaders on the other side of the chamber. We hope and believe that these observations, which it is necessary to make, will not be misunderstood or resented by the Committee which has served us all so well.
When honorable members look at the magnitude of the volumes which I place before them, they will at once realise that to invite Parliament to discuss the report too soon would be to ignore the importance and complexity of the report and to ask Parliament to summarise and absorb in a few days matters of such moment as to require prolonged examination. Since the Government received this report, members of the Cabinet have devoted to it weeks of study and Cabinet itself days of discussion, and even now I would say that we are not in a position on many of the matters examined by the Committee to offer definitive views or, in some cases, useful comments.
At one stage we thought we might try to produce a precis or summary of the report in order to help not only honorable members but the public generally to appreciate the matters involved.
– When is the Prime Minister going to put on the black cap?
– Does the honorable gentleman not want to hear about this? A precis for him would need to be childishly simple. This is notorious. Every time he opens his mouth he proves it.
– Where is the report, anyhow?
– It is here, Sir.
– The honorable member for Wills will restrain himself.
– Let the honorable member have a copy of the report. He says: “ Where is the report? “ I have tabled it.
– The Prime Minister does not understand the report.
– I could never aspire to the honorable member’s profound intelligence. I admit myself his humble inferior, but at least I have devoted weeks to studying this report. He has devoted weeks to thinking only of silly interjections. We have decided that to try to produce a. precis of the report would not be practicable. Any summary which was brief enough to be read would be open to the criticism that some matters dealt with by the Committee had not been included. Any summary which strove to avoid this criticism would tend to become so long that it would become too long and not adequately readable. What we must, I think, face up to is that this report, the result of most valuable and painstaking and conscientious examination, has a magnitude both in scope and detail never approached by any former inquiry. It would not achieve its purpose if any of us yielded to the temptation to take individual observations out of context. It is therefore, we think, important that, the report having been tabled - I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will agree with this - Parliament should have a full opportunity of reading it and considering it before any debate on its contents occurs. It would be doing less than justice to the Committee and its report if we were precipitately to engage in arguments which did not arise from a full opportunity for consideration and judgment.
However, in tabling the report after a period of time in which the Government has had a chance of examining and considering it, I will make some observations which may be helpful. I do not, of course, propose on behalf of the Government to make any dogmatic remarks. But I will take two examples which will serve to illustrate the differences which exist between a purely economic approach and the necessarily wider and more complicated approach of the political policy maker. One is migration. On this, the Committee has suggested that the net immigration target should not be raised above 100,000 a year, at least until the late 1960’s.
We, while respecting the reasons submitted by the Committee, are bound to take into account a variety of factors. The contribution made by migrants to the development of Australian resources depends upon more than overall numbers. The higher the percentage of wage-earners - and particularly of the types or skills that we need - the less important will it be to restrict overall numbers. Migrants of the type we want are not equally available from year to year. Circumstances in what I will call the “ supplying “ nations will vary from year to year, and so will the emigration attitudes of the Governments of those nations. Add to this that the building up of our population by migration has enormous significance for the growth and security of Australia and for that business confidence which promotes investment and expansion, and it will be clear that the Government cannot accept an artificial ceiling on migration for a term of years. We will therefore continue our present policy of securing as large a flow of migrants as Australia can usefully absorb, and of deciding the target number each year.
My second example has to do with the problem of economic growth. I had something to say on this in my policy speech before our last election. I said -
We will press on with growth in no timid or fainthearted way. We believe, and confidently expect that over the next five years, given good government, growth should at least equal a total increase of 25 per cent, in the gross national product, in terms of constant prices.
What I stated there was a belief that, given certain fundamental conditions our economy, drawing upon its known resources, energies and capabilities and obeying its ordinary initiatives, was equal to adding a full quarter to the “real” national product over a five year period.
The Committee, however, goes a good deal further than this. Its approach in fact is basically different. It appears to set up a certain rate of growth, measured statistically, as something very like a ruling purpose for economic policy - although, to be sure, it recognises that the achievement of this growth rate should not be pursued to the detriment of all other objectives. It suggests that a growth rate of 5 per cent. per year is possible but difficult; a good part of the report thereafter is devoted to the question of how the difficulties might be overcome. In the process, a thesis appears to be developed that this 5 per cent, growth rate will be achieved only if there is a conscious diversion of resources from some areas of activity to others. Amongst these preferred areas of activity, manufacturing industry is given high place.
But this view of things leads on to some considerations of the very first consequence. By what means is this diversion of resources to be accomplished? Indeed, as a matter of basic policy and interest, are we disposed to engage in a large scale diversion of resources - in defiance, as it were, of the distribution that would occur if the normal demands of the community and the corresponding initiatives of producers were to be given free play? After all, we are a private enterprise economy. In such an economy, the demands set up by the people who are the buyers are the normal stimulant for increased industrial investment and activity. What the Committee appears to have had in mind is that those demands should, where necessary, be re-directed. Now, in individual cases we would not care to deny this. We have ourselves, in pursuance of our own economic policies, taken action now and then to reduce the demand for some particular commodities in order to meet some inflationary position; and no doubt any government would continue to do so. But to essay a widespread re-direction of resources within the economy to achieve some pre-ordained statistical result is a very different matter.
It seems to us that the Committee has, particularly in the light of its so-called projections in Appendix N - to which I will later make some reference - predicated a degree of planning and direction of the economy which in our opinion would not be either appropriate or acceptable in Australia.
I can illustrate this by saying something about its proposals on the use of taxation for the purpose of diverting resources to selected purposes. The Government is a “ protectionist “ government and has a firm belief, well justified in the light of events, in the significance and future of manufacturing industry. I do not need to elaborate that. But when the Committee develops its theories we must sound a note of warning.
For example, it proposes, that to encourage manufacturing industry, there should be programmes involving various incentives and more generous depreciation allowances. Now all of these, no doubt, have merits which deserve proper consideration. We have, in fact, had some of them under scrutiny.
But, setting aside the possible - or, some might say, the probable- -long term benefits, their immediate result would be to. diminish our revenues. And particularly now when the burden of defence expenditure is not only large but growing and at a time when employment is not only full but in some occupations over-full, this would confront the Government with a choice between deficit budgeting - at a ‘time when inflationary pressures are high - and increasing other taxes. The Committee, though no doubt it realised these matters, also proposes that the Government should increase its taxation anyhow more than its expenditure in order that by this means - that is, surplus budgeting - saving for public authority expenditure should increase.
Along with this it suggests that there should be various tax concessions for business. This leads to the clear inference that, as there must in its view be increased taxes for a variety of purposes, these should fall largely upon personal incomes or upon consumer goods. It seems to us, however, that if there were to be a series of increases in personal taxation, this could very well reduce savings and thereby reduce investible capital, as well as demand. Quite conceivably, therefore, it could defeat the purpose which the Committee appears to have in mind, which is to increase investment in industrial enterprise.
T emphasise that we are not offering dogmatic views. On the contrary, we will continue to give the deepest consideration to what has been put before us by so powerful a Committee. But we do want to take this early opportunity of saying to the House that taxation policies are affected by many considerations. Some of them are economic; some of them, particularly at the present time, are international; some of them are domestic. No government can, in pursuit of a general theory, abdicate its responsibility for a taxation policy which may well vary from year to year according to circumstances of inflation or stability or recession or, as we now know, from a large and growing diversion of resources to the defence of the country, the preservation of its futures and the giving of appropriate aid to other countries, particularly those which are facing the acute problems of new independence and a search for economic autonomy.
I now turn to the views expressed by the Committee on investment from overseas. The general approach of the Government to such investment was stated by me, on behalf of the Cabinet, in the policy speech of 1963, as follows-
Investment from overseas countries has taken an important place in’ our economy. Over the last fifteen years it has amounted to over £1,500 million.
This investment has produced great advantages, but under some circumstances produces problems which need to be handled with care and understanding. As, from a national Australian point of view, we would wish to see new capital from overseas employed for the great purpose of develop.ing new industries or extending existing ones with all the benefit of overseas skills and experience, we will always -have a particularly warm welcome for new capital designed to these ends.
We also believe that fears and misunderstandings are least where there is an Australian participation in shareholding and management, and most when there is no more than a mere change of ownership without more. There is, we believe, a growing recognition of this in the minds of intending investors.
I quoted that because it is sometimes forgotten that that was the view of the Cabinet, as expressed by me in 1963. Nobody would quarrel with it today.
The terms of reference to the Committee invited a factual assessment of the significance of overseas investment in the Australian economy. The Committee has gone beyond this. It has offered a view that it would be in the best interests of Australia if, for some years ahead, new capital from overseas could be limited to the level of recent years, that is, about £150 million per annum. It has proposed selective controls on overseas investment and suggests a consultative body to advise the Reserve Bank on the administration of such controls.
We express no opinion on these suggestions at present. We have been making the necessary preparations for a full Cabinet review of the problem, the practical difficulties of which, I hope, we all recognise. We will, when all Ministers have been able to participate in it, make a considered statement of policy on these matters. But, so that no prejudgments one way or the other may arise from the Committee’s report, I should issue a warning note. The Committee itself says that overseas investment has been “a powerful force assisting the growth of the economy “. That is right. It acknowledges that increases in population, productivity and employment in the postwar period would have been hard to sustain without it.
– What does the Minister for Trade and Industry say about it?
– He agrees with every word I am saying, if that is of any interest to the honorable member.
– He mentioned selling a bit of the farm every year.
– The honorable member will never read the report. He will live on a few slogans. So I continue with this considered statement about the report. So far, I would think we were all on common ground.
– Hear, hear!
– Oh, the boy is at it again. The report goes on to. raise two major questions, the answers to which are of great importance to all of us on both sides of the House. The first is: Will the cost of servicing overseas investments become unduly onerous in our balance of payments?
– That is the end of the common ground, is it not?
– How does the honorable member know? Listen to him. He is the only fellow who understands these things. The second major question is: Is there a danger of having too great a proportion of the ownership of enterprises in Australia in foreign hands? We need not worry about this. These are two decidedly important questions. That is why I said, although the honorable member was so busy talking that he did not hear, that the answers to these are of great importance to all of us on both sides of the House. It is not my purpose, in this statement, to give definitive answers to these questions. The Government will certainly continue to face them, and will seek to arrive at balanced judgments. As to the first question, the Committee says that the costs cannot so far be said to have represented a serious balance of payments problem. But it is apprehensive about the future.
– I bet it is.
– May I repeat, for the benefit of one or two honorable members opposite, that the Committee says that the costs so far cannot be said to have represented a serious balance of payments problem, but it is apprehensive about the future. It has made a statistical projection, commencing with the year 1959-60 - because most of these projections begin in that year - which leads it to the conclusion that, by 1974-75, the servicing of overseas investment will become a severe burden on the balance of payments. We do not brush this problem aside. It will be considered and dealt with. But in the meantime one comment must be made, so that a proper perspective may be achieved. It can be calculated that had the assumptions used by the Committee, as from 1959-60, the beginning year, been borne out - their assumptions, that is, in respect of earnings on capital invested here and profits retained in Australia - and given the actual capital inflow that has taken place, the amount of income payable abroad, on their projection, in the past five years would have been of the order of £860 million. But, in fact, we know from statistics already published that the amount of income actually payable has been about £250 million less than this. As honorable members will see, the point of this comment is, not that we ignore the problem or its possible magnitude, but that, as the Committee in its report said, very wisely, “ attempts to forecast in quantitative terms the behaviour of the economy 10 or 15 years ahead are extremely hazardous, can prove positively misleading, and are almost certain to be inaccurate”. There is one, so far, in which the inaccuracy is £250 million.
The answer to the second question, that relating to the foreign ownership of Australian enterprises, is also one not to be hastily arrived at. As I indicated on behalf of the Government in the policy speech of 1963, we much prefer what might be called developmental investment to takeovers of existing enterprises involving a mere change of ownership. But again, the Committee’s report, based upon its statistical projections, must be read with some reserve. Thus, the Committee, starting its calculations with 1959-60, with a figure of 25 per cent, of foreign ownership of Australian companies, calculated that by 1964-65 the percentage would have risen to 34 per cent. But in fact, because the circumstances do change, an estimate for 1964-65 based on the Committee’s own assumption makes the proportion less than 24 per cent. In other words, it has fallen since 1959-60. None of this is, of course, to say that projections ought not to be attempted as aids to thought and exposition. What I have said is by way of warning - for the reasons stated by the Committee itself - against regarding statistical prophecies as having some binding or even highly persuasive authority. The circumstances change from time to time, both internationally and domestically, and it is the task of statesmanship to deal with them as they arise, and, of course, to anticipate them if possible.
Nothing I have said subtracts from the central truth, on which the Committee and the Government are at one, that capital inflow, in the long term, is not to be regarded as the solvent of balance of payments difficulties. As a Government, we pay constant and positive attention to increasing our export’s and to the trend and nature of our imports, so that, while we welcome the arrival of that really productive capital which a developing country needs, we should not become so dependent upon it for our overseas balances as to threaten our own national control over our national development and resources. I said earlier that I would make some reference to some of the Committee’s particular recommendations for the appointment of special independent commissions or councils. It will be sufficient for my purpose to mention two of the most significant, because one cannot cover the whole of this ground. The Committee has suggested the setting up of a Special Projects Commission with the power to investigate proposals for major developmental projects, to advise governments on them, and to publish its findings. True, the Committee perceived that there were, and are, difficulties in arranging for projects involving the agencies of more than one government. This fact has substantially affected our own methods of dealing with such problems over many years. But the Committee believes that these difficulties - . . might be largely overcome if an independent Special Projects Commission were created with power to investigate proposals for major development projects. The Commission would need a skilled staff to carry out cost-benefit analyses, which we consider a necessary basic step in project planning. The Commission should investigate projects at the request of the Commonwealth or State Governments, or on its own initiative. Finally, and most important, the Commission should be required to report to the Commonwealth Parliament on its activities each year, giving details of investigations requested, those completed, and the stage reached with those uncompleted.
Now I point out that the Commonwealth Government has available to it some extremely expert advisers already, such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Snowy Mountains Authority, and other bodies forming part of or serviced by the Department of National Development. The point of distinction is that these agencies, in relation to any special project, advise the Government and enable it to conduct informed discussions with the relevant State or States, which also have experts of great ability and experience.
The Special Projects Commission suggested by the Committee is an entirely different thing. It is to investigate projects at the request of the Commonwealth or State Governments or on its own initiative. It is to report to the Commonwealth Parliament so that its views will be publicly known and may come to achieve a degree of authority. To the extent that this result came about, both Commonwealth and State Governments, whatever their party complexions, would find themselves subject to pressure, and even’ coercion into the adoption of policies or projects which, between them, they might not select at all. Add to this that all projects involve the expenditure of public funds, some of them on the grand scale. I do not believe that any government, responsible for its own budget and conscious of the impact of its own budget upon economic policy generally, would be content to transfer authority in these fields to an independent body acting on its own initiative and with no responsibilities to the government of the day.
I may tell the House, if it needs to be informed, that my own Government, at an earlier time, gave the closest thought to suggestions that have been made for some kind of development commission and rejected the idea, substantially for the reasons that I have just mentioned. I find it difficult to imagine that another government drawn from the present Opposition would take any different view.
The Committee has also suggested the formation of an “ Advisory Council on Economic Growth “, with a wide charter and powers, which “would be of material assistance to the government and to the community in general in the making of economic decisions”. These words clearly contemplate - as indeed does the nature of the suggested Advisory Council - that the views of the Council would be published from time to time and that those views would be designed to advise the Government in relation to the making of what must be, though of course related to economics, high decisions of political policy. We unhesitatingly reject this idea.
– Is the Prime Minister accepting any of this report?
– When the honorable member has read the report he will be able to answer that question. He is all right. He is a great education authority. He should get busy reading the report.
– The Prime Minister is politely rubbishing this report.
– My politeness might well be imitated by the honorable member. In the Australian democratic system of government based upon the consent of a free community, no government can hand over to bodies outside the government the choice of objectives and the means of attaining them in important fields of policy, particularly when such bodies would, through the power of publication, come to exercise what I have described, I hope not extravagantly, as a coercive influence upon governments. There is a very great difference between the appointment of a special committee, like the one whose report is now before us, and the giving of publicity to its views, because such an appointment is purely ad hoc; it is set up, as was the Brigden Committee many years ago, to give us all the benefit of a close and primarily factual review of the economy as a whole. To have such a body continued in one form or another as a standing body of what would come to be regarded as authoritative advice would have the dangers I have described. Political policies cannot be based upon pure economics and, for the sake of the adequate handling of international problems, of defence, and of social and industrial justice and progress, we hope they never will.
The Committee’s terms of reference included an inquiry into the availability of credit. Its chapter on this subject concludes with a paragraph proposing a full-scale study of the credit system. I should say a word about this. As honorable members will understand, inquiries into the monetary and banking system of a country are major matters. They involve investigations of a long and closely detailed kind, not only within the main elements of the banking system and other financial institutions, but also among those interested in, or affected by, money and banking, which means, of course, virtually the whole community. Such inquiries, fascinating though they are to many, should be initiated only when there are very strong reasons for doing so.
– Are they not?
– No. A glance back at history here and elsewhere would show that they have arisen only in particular situations calling for far-reaching investigations. We are not in any such situation now. Indeed, if there is one broad conclusion to be drawn from the review which the Committee has made, it is that on the whole our monetary system has functioned pretty well.
Furthermore, we would have the greatest reluctance in proposing an inquiry which could or might be taken to portend further major changes in the banking structure. For a period of 15 years beginning with the banking legislation of 1945, there was great turmoil and contention and much parliamentary debate in that area. Our 1959 legislation, which separated the Corporation banks from the Reserve Bank, appears to have proved its own merit, not least by achieving a settlement of large issues. We would not wish to raise doubts as to the continuity of the existing legislative arrangements.
The Committee has made various proposals which affect tariff policy. So far as the Tariff Board is concerned, it is clear that certain of the proposals are far-reaching and probably contentious, going beyond an evaluation of actual protection and bearing on protection policy. Perhaps I might, with advantage, because I do not want to answer all those questions, state again what I said here in the House when I announced our decision to institute the inquiry. I said then -
The Government wishes to make it clear that it has the firmest intention of preserving the full independence of the Tariff Board as an advisory body established by Parliament, its system of open and public inquiry and its high public standing and prestige. These things are of the very essence of the Tariff Board system which has, over many years, served Australia well and has won admiration and respect overseas.
The Tariff Board is, to repeat, an advisory body. It is not a policy-making body - although its recommendations necessarily have a considerable influence on policy - and it is not an executive body. Its principal and best-known function is to consider, on reference from the Government, applications for protection by way of tariffs or bounties or, alternatively, proposals for the reduction of such protection. It also has power on its own initiative to review existing duties, to conduct inquiries on certain matters and to report to Parliament.
But tariff policy as such is the responsibility of the Government, Only Parliament can enact tariffs; only the Government proposes tariff legislation to Parliament.
The Committee’s observations on protection and the Tariff Board should and will be examined against the principles which I have just stated.
I conclude by expressing the hope that it will not be thought that, because we have found it necessary to single out some important matters for special comment - and in some cases for Government decision - we are intending to qualify the value of this report as a whole. On the contrary, and to take only a few examples, the report will prove, and is proving, of great value to us in the consideration of such matters as research and development, decentralisation, the application of research to primary production, rural credit, the form of the tariff, and the role and functioning of the Tariff Board. In all of these a great deal of work is being done, and will be all the better done in the light of the Committee’s report. We acknowledge the value of the Committee’s observations on export promotion, in which field we have been and are greatly assisted by the confidential and therefore frank advice given to us for some years by the Export Development Council.
There are many other matters covered by the report. They are all being put in study by the relevant Ministers and, where necessary, by the Cabinet, and can be dealt with as they arise in debate. I will not overload an already long statement by trying to mention them all. The whole report is such that we would not wish honorable members, or the the public generally, to pay attention to special parts of current interest, while neglecting the whole.
I therefore conclude by repeating that although, as it seemed to us to be necessary, I have indicated some queries and perhaps some criticisms, we are convinced that every part of the report will deserve the closest study. It will provide all interested persons, whether technical or not, with a compilation of economic information unequalled in my time in this Parliament. It is a fortunate country which can enlist in its voluntary service men of such experience and distinction as those who constituted this Committee.
I present the following paper -
Economic Inquiry - Report of CommitteeMinisterial Statement21st September 1965.
Motion (bv Mr. Hulme) proposed -
That the House take note of the Papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– by leave - I and my colleagues have listened with great interest to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). As the right honorable gentleman properly observed, this report is a very significant and important document. It will be as important as he indicated in the life of this Parliament and succeeding Parliaments. It is a report which must be studied by all members of the Parliament and by many people outside the Parliament who have a right to express their opinions on a document of this importance. If we are democrats at all, we are bound to consider the judgment of an informed and intelligent public opinion. There are very few people in Australia who will not be influenced to some extent at any rate by the recommendations contained in this report and by what the Government does about it. The Prime Minister, in my view, decided correctly mat the report should be considered by this Parliament after a reasonable lapse of time. There is no reason why consideration of the matters contained in the document should be expedited. It would be a good thing if a period of three or four weeks were to elapse before the matter is debated in this Parliament. I am sure the right honorable gentleman will agree to that course.
There is much in the report with which the Opposition agrees. There is a great deal, too, with which we disagree. But whatever we might have to say about the contents of the report from our view, we are equally interested in the observations of the Prime Minister as indicating the opinion of his Government on the report. I would agree with the Prime Minister that in respect of some matters, the Government of the day must take the ultimate responsibility for policy decisions. That was our contention with regard to banking and defence, rural industries, tariffs and the rest. But there was a lot in the Prime Minister’s statement tonight, indicating the Government’s view, on which we would like to offer observations later.
One particular matter I shall mention in this connection is overseas investment in Australia. Do not think me chauvinistic or ultra-nationalistic when I say that we in the Australian Labour Party believe in Australia for the Australians. We do not believe in Australia being exploited by overseas interests. On this question, which is of great significance to us all, we do not agree with the policy of the Government at this particular moment. Whether the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) agrees with the Prime Minister is a matter for dispute and difference, but we think that the Country Party is nearer to us with regard to overseas investment than it is to its Liberal Party colleague in the Government. I do not want to say any more except that on these questions all of us think deeply and feelingly. Moreover, we are not the only people who think deeply on them. All the rest of the eleven million fellow Australians outside this Parliament are thinking about these problems too.
I conclude by saying again that this is a most important document. All those who have subscribed their signatures to it have rendered a great service to Australia. We owe a debt to them - not merely to the Chairman but to all of them. We are proud that they have given of their time, their talents and their great abilities in formulating something which will be monumental in the life of this country.
Sir ROBERT MENZIES (KooyongPrime Minister) - by leave. - I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) about the adjournment of the debate. I simply want to say that we will resume the debate on a date which is mutually convenient to him and to me, so that everybody will have an opportunity to study the report and speak on it.
Debate resumed (vide page 1078).
.- It is often said that the Devil quotes scripture for his own purposes. What is meant actually is that the Devil misquotes scripture for his own purposes. You, Mr. Speaker, would be horrified if his satanic majesty rose in this chamber and started quoting scripture for devious purposes of his own. Before the sitting was suspended I was horrified when members of the Australian Country Party misquoted a great advocate of democracy, Abraham Lincoln, in vindication of their attack upon the basic ideals of democracy. Abraham Lincoln said -
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth in this continent a great nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
I emphasise: That all men are created equal. He continued -
We are engaged in a great civil war to show we, a nation so conceived or so dedicated shall continue to exist.
I remind honorable members of the Country Party that he also said in conclusion -
We here under God should dedicate ourselves to the proposition that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln also said -
The doctrine of self-government is right, absolutely and eternally right.
He said -
When a man governs himself, that is self government; but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is despotism.
The proposition that is put forward in this House and supported by honorable members of the Country Party is not that they shall govern themselves but that each person who lives in a country electorate shall govern one and a half people.
– Hear, hear.
– Such is the egotism and conceit of the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), who spoke today, that they consider that, as members of the Country Party, their capacity to govern this country is the equivalent of that of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) combined. Boiled down, that is what their argument means. They say: “ We will reduce by 20 per cent, the quota in the country areas and we will increase by 20 per cent, the quota in the city areas”. If a quota of, say, 50,000 is decreased by 20 per cent., it is reduced to 40,000. If a quota of 50,000 is increased by 20 per cent., it becomes 60,000. Therefore, they argue that 40,000 voters in the country are equal to 60,000 in the city. In other words, Country Party members argue that 40,000 electors in Mallee are the equivalent of 60,000 electors in Kooyong or 60,000 electors in Curtin. That is their proposition. They say: “Too true; of course my vote should equal one and a half times that of the Prime Minister. Of course I am entitled to have upon the destiny of this country, upon the government of Australia, upon its future development, upon its defence and upon the welfare of its people at least 50 per cent, more sway than a man like the Prime Minister of this country “. That, of course, only shows that the proposition is an absurd one.
I started off by saying that Abraham Lincoln said: “ Four score and seven years ago …” Three score and five years ago, or thereabouts, we of this country of Australia welded six separate States or colonies into one great nation. That nation, like the nation of America, was also conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are equal. For the first time in the history not only of this country but of the world, a full democratic equal voting power resided in every individual irrespective of wealth and irrespective of where he lived, and this was written into the Constitution. The ideal underlying the Constitution of Australia was government of the people by the people for the people. A little later there was also included something which no other country in the world, unfortunately, had included in its voting rights - the absolute right of women to vote. We led the way again. We were the first of all the nations in the world to give women the right to vote.
– And we have always rued the day.
– The honorable member for Watson apparently has had experiences different from mine. I want to make it very clear that I believe in the right of every individual to have a vote, and I believe in the principle of one vote one value. I believe in what was inherent in the Constitution of Australia, as given to us at the commencement of this century.
I believe, too, that that was not given to us because we had operating in those days a system of democracy in the governments in New South Wales, Victoria and other States of the Commonwealth. We did not have democracy then. In those early days there were only legislative councils. Some of them were nominated by people who were in authoritative positions; others were elected on a property franchise by people who, in many respects, were not as good as the bushrangers who wandered through the forests of Australia. That type of government operated in Victoria. But, despite the fact that we did not have here an example of democratic government to guide the founding fathers of our nation, those who went to the convention that resulted in the framing of the Constitution gave us a democratic basis such as no other country of the world had had up till that time.
– The amendment does not support it.
– My friend, the honorable member for Mallee, would destroy that basis. In misquoting from Abraham Lincoln’s speech, the honorable member for Mallee said: “ Ah, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the greatest good for the greatest number but if you translate the words ‘ greatest good for the greatest number’ as understood by the honorable member for Mallee into common Australian language, they mean: ‘ More votes in the country and less votes in the city areas’.” I certainly do not agree with that proposition. Never in the history of this or any other country has progress been so great or so rapid as under democratic government. It was democratic government that inspired activity, that caused Australia, which consisted of a number of wheat farms and cattle runs, to become a great manufacturing nation and to have an ever increasing population engaged in secondary industry. If the system of government that had operated previously - a legislative assembly dominated by a legislative council elected upon a restricted franchise under which the wealthy alone were able to vote, or dominated by a legislative council that was a nominee House - had been allowed to continue, this country would not have progressed as it has during the last 60 years. If that system had been allowed to continue, we would still have been hewers of wood and drawers of water for the rest of the world. Australia would still have consisted of cattle stations scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land, and of vast wheat areas. There would not have been in the coastal cities, the State capitals or the cities of the hinterland those industries that have enabled the absorption of a rapidly increasing population that now consists of more than 1 1 million people.
– Does the honorable member believe in congestion?
– I believe in Australia having an increasing population. I believe that, if Australia had not had a system of government that encouraged an increase of population, not only would we not have had development but also the security of the nation would have been imperilled. It is only the numbers, and the strength and power and wealth that those numbers pro duce, that will enable this country to create a system of defence that will successfully keep the people of Australia free and independent in a world that is rapidly becoming over-populated and in which those who occupy congested areas are casting envious eyes upon space in any country that is relatively unpopulated. It is because of these things that I rise to-
– Which things? I have been waiting to hear the honorable member say something definite.
– Order! The honorable member for Scullin is getting too far away from the Bill.
– As I have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, the only objective of the Bill is to increase the control of the Australian Country Party over the government of this country. The Country Party believes that each of its members is equivalent to two or three members of any other party that is represented in this House. Each member who lives in the country suffers from the delusion that because he happens to live at, say, Boort he has talents that a person who lives in Brunswick does not possess.
– That is only natural.
– I want to make it quite clear that the man who is the next door neighbour to the honorable member for Mallee in the town of Boort came from Brunswick. When he lived in Brunswick he was just as good, just as intelligent and just as capable as he is now. So it is not a question of where one lives, what one does, how much money one possesses or how many sheep one is responsible for. We of the Labour Party maintain that it is the individual who counts. All men were created equal, and all men should be treated as equals.
– The honorable member has said that before.
– I have said it before. It is worth repeating. The only time when I think that all men are not equal is when I look at the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). I am straining my views considerably when I take in everybody and admit that all should have a right to a say in the government of this country. The vast majority of the people are such that they will counteract, and have counteracted down through the ages, the reactionism of people like the honorable member for Parkes. 1 made it clear earlier that I did not intend to take up very much time on this subject. I merely desired to take advantage of the opportunity to point out, first, that Abraham Lincoln stood for the things for which we stand and that the things for which we stand are based upon humanitarianism and the desire to achieve what our friend, the honorable member for Mallee, suggests should be the objective of all good government - the greatest good for the greatest number.
Democracy, as opposed to totalitarianism and dictatorship of every description, has justified itself down through the years. We in Australia should not go back to the dictatorial methods of the past. We should not be taking steps backward; we should be taking steps forward. We should be examining our system of government to see in what respect it does not fully reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of the people. To secure a system of government that will reflect the views of the people we should do all in our power to overhaul the existing system. We should not be guilty in any circumstances of a gerrymander of electoral boundaries that is in the interests, not of the people of the country, but of members of the Country
PaTty. We should not be guilty of a gerrymander that will not result in our populating the outback, in decentralising our industries and in attracting more industries to Australia, but which rather will restrict industry in the metropolitan area and in country areas as well.
Honorable members opposite sought to justify the Commonwealth Electoral Bill by suggesting that it would lead to a decentralisation of population and industries, and that if we gave country areas 20 politicians where they now have only ten there would be an exodus from the towns to the country; in other words, that vast numbers of people would go to live in Boort if instead of there being one member for Mallee there were two members for Mallee. That, of course, is utterly absurd. There has been no period when the development of country areas has depended upon Country Party members. During the Second World War, despite the trials and tribulations, and despite the energy which had to be devoted to fighting the foreign foe, the Curtin
Government decentralised more industries in a couple of years than Liberal PartyCountry Party governments had decentralised during the previous decade.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the Bill, which does not deal with decentralisation.
– The Bill does not have anything to do with decentralisation? Well, I am glad that you, Mr. Speaker, have told me that because the honorable member for Mallee and other Country Party speakers who preceded me seemed to think that this was a bill to promote decentralisation. I agree with you, Sir; it is not a bill to promote decentralisation. It will not lead to the decentralisation of the population or of the industries of this country. All that the Bill will do is to take a step towards despotism, totalitarianism and the destruction of the principle of one vote one value as well as the principle that all men are created equal. I oppose the Bill with just a little vigour.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order! Is the Minister speaking to the amendment?
– Yes. I am speaking to the amendment. When the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965 was being drafted earlier this year, the need for a consequential amendment of section 85 was not noticed. As a result, that consequential amendment was not made. This was unfortunate because the amending measure now before us has provoked a debate which is completely redundant. Honorable members opposite have been getting on to their old hobby horses and rehashing exactly the same arguments as were put forward when the electoral measure was debated in the last session. Virtually nothing new has come out of the discussion today. The House resolved the matter some months ago. The amendment to section 91 (b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act was purely for administrative purposes. Its purpose was to make it clear that where a postal vote is being recorded outside Australia, an elector for a State or Territory, in addition to other persons referred to in the section, is authorised to act as a witness. As a result of that amendment, it was necessary to amend also section 85 which deals with postal votes. That amendment was not made.
Today the Opposition has taken this debate as an opportunity to make accusations against the Government. It claims that amendments made to the Commonwealth Electoral Act some months ago were for the benefit of the Government and for gerrymandering purposes. This matter was debated fully in the House and I believe that the people of Australia fully understand the situation.
– The legislation was gagged through the House.
– The honorable member opposite interjects that the Bill was gagged through the House. Let me remind him of some of the facts. The debate took place on the last day of the autumn session of this year. It commenced at 9.30 in the morning. There was no limitation whatsoever on the second reading debate; I allowed any member in this House to have his say. The second reading debate continued through until the. evening when I spoke in reply. The Bill then went into Committee.
The controversial part of the Bill was the amendment to section 19 of the Act, and any Opposition member or any Government supporter had the opportunity to speak on that. That amendment, naturally, was of great interest, and I allowed honorable members to debate it for as long as they wished. That debate continued until 1.30 in the morning. After section 19 had been disposed of, other matters brought forward were merely irrelevant. The House was anxious to adjourn, nevertheless the Bill was not finally passed until 4 a.m. and it was 7.45 a.m. before the other business of the House was finished. So Opposition members cannot make the accusation that they did not have a fair chance to debate those clauses in which they were genuinely interested.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) came into this debate this afternoon as one of only two proposed Opposition speakers. I made it clear in my second reading speech that this .Bill proposes a purely consequential amendment to an administrative alteration of the Act, but of course honorable members opposite had to get on their hobby horses and exhibit their pathological fear of a gerrymander through alterations to section 19. The legislation passed earlier this year made no alteration in substance. The whole purpose of the amendment was to have uniformity of interpretation by the redistribution commissioners in the various States when carrying out a redistribution. Although the new paragraphs that were included had always been applied to some extent in carrying out a redistribution, there were occasions when the principles involved were not applied to the same degree in some States as in other States. I pointed out examples of this during the course of my speech.
The Opposition had to bring some new matter into this debate today. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done this by moving an amendment to lower the voting age. Some weeks ago, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) asked me a question on this matter. I replied that I thought it unusual that he should raise the question because not one person in this Parliament had brought the matter up during the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill which was before the House in the previous sessional period. Today honorable members opposite are looking for anything to debate. The honorable member for Grayndler has brought this matter up because he has been strongly opposed to the Government’s national service conscription scheme. He is trying to raise the emotions of the young lads who have been enlisted.
The age at which a person shall be eligible to vote is a matter that governments have to determine. The age that has always been accepted by the Commonwealth - it is purely an arbitrary age - is 21 years. Throughout the world, the variation is from 18 years to 23 years. Quite a number of European countries still keep 23 as the voting age. There would be difficulties in this country if the Commonwealth were to reduce the age from 21. First of all, there would be confusion amongst young people about their rights because in all the States the voting age for State electrons is 21. Incidentally, that is the voting age for local government elections also: I believe that any alteration in the voting age or, indeed, in voting hours, should only be made only after consultation with the States so that there will be a uniform approach to this problem.
The second point that I want to draw out is that in four of the States of Australia, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, South
Australia and Tasmania there are joint rolls. The States and the Commonwealth share the cost of preparing and printing the rolls. If the Commonwealth were to have one voting age and the States another, different rolls would be needed and greater confusion would be created. The age of qualification for voting coincides with the legal age of majority in Australia and that is why. the age of 21 years was selected. A recent gallup poll showed clearly how young people and adults feel about the voting age. I should like to read from a newspaper report dated 19th August 1965. Under the heading “21 Young Enough to Vote “ the item stated -
Most young people, aged 15-20, agree with their elders that 21 is young enough for them to vote, the Gallup Poll says.
The question put to 1,500 young people throughout Australia was: “ At what age do you think young people should be able to vote at elections?”
Eighteen months previously, an Australia-wide cross-section of 1,600 adults was asked the same question. Answers compare closely:
The poll showed that 21 per cent, of the youths and 23 per cent, of the adults thought that young people should be able to vote at 18 years, and 64 per cent, of the youths and 69 per cent, of the adults considered that 21 was the correct age. When the opinions were split up amongst the various political groups, it was found that 70 per cent, of supporters of the Liberal and Australian Country Parties favoured 21 as the legal age for voting and 60 per cent, of the supporters of the Australian Labour Party favoured this age. If the Australian Labour Party is so moved on this subject it should propose to the electors that the earlier voting age be allowed. It has never done so during any election campaign. The honorable member for Grayndler said that during the war members of the Services under the age of 21 years who were serving overseas were allowed to vote. I note that only those serving overseas were allowed to vote. No-one in the Services under the age of 21 years who was serving in Australia was given the privilege of voting.
– The right to vote was given also to those who had returned.
– That is correct, but such a person had to serve overseas first. At that time, youths were enlisted at 18 years of age. Today, conscription is applied at 20 years of age. Any person who is con scripted now ‘ would be unfortunate to be sent overseas before he reached the age of 21 years. By the time he had been trained and sent overseas he would be entitled to vote. The circumstances now are considerably different from the circumstances during the war years.
Opposition members raise the theoretical principle of one vote one value. But immediately they agree that “ as near as practicable” means a variation of 10 per cent., the principle they espouse is completely negated. They cannot believe in one vote one value if they allow a variation of 10 per cent. The point to be determined is the level at which “ as near as practicable “ can be considered to be one vote one value. This was clearly brought out in the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. The Committee asked the experts who make the redistributions to give their opinions. It sought the opinions of the Chief Electoral Officers and the Surveyors-General of the States who have carried out this work. The great preponderance of opinion among them was that a variation of one-fifth above or below the quota was as near as practicable for these purposes.
– No, they did not.
– Yes, they did, and the honorable member would know this if he read the report.
– The variation was 10 per cent.
– No, the Committee recommended 10 per cent., but the experts who understand the problems involved suggested a variation of one-fifth. What did the American Supreme Court think the variation should be? It thought that the bench figure should be 15 per cent. It felt it could not go below 15 per cent. What opinion did the American Supreme Court express in the Georgia case, in which it ordered a redistribution? The variation between the largest electorate and the smallest electorate was 38 per cent. So it is evident that there is a difference of opinion on this matter. Certainly there is no agreement between those who have studied the problem that there can theoretically be one vote one value.
I was very interested to read a newspaper report of the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who has recently announced that he will not contest the next election. The electorate of Kennedy is one of the gigantic electorates in Australia. We have been trying to point out to the House that there are grave disabilities in servicing these large country electorates and, for that matter, in servicing most country electorates. The honorable member for Kennedy said at a Press conference that he was compelled to retire from Parliament because he could not endure the physical strain of meeting the demands imposed by his. electorate.
– Eighteen other people want to take his place.
– That may be so, but this is the opinion of a man who has the experience of representing the electorate and who knows of the disabilities. Any honorable member who represents a country electorate must agree that he suffers more . disabilities in providing adequate representation for his electorate than does an honorable member who represents a city electorate. 1 am sure that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) would agree with me on that point. This is why the Distribution Commissioners are allowed to use their discretion when deciding on a variation above or below the quota.
Strong support for the argument that some variation should be allowed is derived from the fact that honorable members generally believe that the size of the Parliament should be increased. They believe this because the duties of a member of the Parliament and the demands made upon him are increasing each year. The increased work should be shared among more members. This is the very reason why we are having a redistribution. The members of the Australian Labour Party believe in this. If they felt so very strongly about the subject of the amendment they have moved to this Bill they would have raised the point during the last Senate election campaign, but they did not. They could have asked the electors for a mandate on this issue, but not a word was said about it. Opposition members are merely playing politics. They are seeking to excuse their long absence from the treasury bench and they are trying to create the impression throughout the electorate that there is something indecent about the way in which the Commonwealth Electoral Act has been administered. I say once again that the Australian electoral system is second to no other in the world and I hope it always remains so.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority .. .. 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority .. ..11
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “2A. Section 19 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - (1.) In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall take the quota of electors as the basis for the distribution. (2.) For the purposes of the distribution it shall be so arranged that votes shall be as nearly as possible of equal value, but the Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, provided that in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less.’.”.
I want honorable members, if they have copies of the Commonwealth Electoral Act before them, to look at the new section 19 that was insertedlast May and to compare it with the section that it replaced. The Minister has suggested that the measure passed last May did not provide for a gerrymander, but I suggest that one must look at both sub-sections of this section. Sub-section (1.) reads -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall so determine the proposed Divisions that each Division contains a number of electors’ not exceeding, or falling short of, the quota of electors by more than one-fifth of the quota.
When one comes to sub-section (2.), one sees the qualifying provisions which are entirely different from those in the original section 19. Sub-section (2.) of the present section provides -
. the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Division, to -
I ask the Minister why, if it was not proposed that this new section would be more or less an instruction to the Distribution Commissioners that they were to apply the 20 per cent. margin, it was necessary for the amendment to the Act to be made in May. If, as he tried to suggest, it did not alter the existing situation, why was it necessary? I think he must agree that the amendment was made for some purpose. The report that I read at the second reading stage from the Murwillumbah “ Daily News”, which is run by his family in his own electorate, clearly indicates what was in the Minister’s mind in June 1964, when he complained about the representation of country as compared with city electorates.
In his address at the conclusion of the second reading stage of the Bill, the Minister said that nothing new had come out of the debate on this measure, but I point out that quite alot of additional information has come out of the debate. When the previous measure was before honorable members, they had not a proper opportunity to consider and debate it. Honorable members will recall that that measure was before the Parliament not only in the dying hours of the last sessional period but also in the early hours of the morning when honorable members had been up and attending to their duties most of the night. As a consequence, they had not an opportunity to deal with the measure adequately. Indeed, it was steamrollered through this chamber because the Government wanted the Act amended prior to 1st July, when a new Senate came into being, for it was known that the Senate would then be more evenly divided. There was some fear that if the previous amending measure did not go on the statute book before that date, there would be a danger that it would not go on at all.
If this amendment is carried, there will be no possibility of a gerrymander, as there is in the Act as it now stands. The Australian Labour Party has been consistent in its attitude on this matter. Since legislation to amend the Act was mooted, we have always insisted that a gerrymander was proposed. We on this side of the Parliament have been supported in this view by some honorable members on the Government benches, including the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), who is at present pouring a tale of woe into the ears of the Minister. The honorable member himself said that the previous measure was designed to make possible a gerrymander and, in the debate on this Bill, he has said again that a gerrymander is proposed. If I heard the honorable member correctly, he said it was a gerrymander that was here to stay for some time. If it is not a gerrymander, the Minister can tell us what it is when he replies. 1 put some figures to the Minister earlier in the debate. He said that he would have something to say about them, but he did not do so. If the quota is, say, 45,000, in the country areas it will be necessary to have only 36,000 electors, and in the city areas there will need to be 54,000. If the quota happens to be 50,000, it will mean that in the country areas it will be necessary to have only 40,000 electors, while in the city areas 60,000 will be necessary. In effect, the city vote will have two-thirds the value of the country vote. The Minister said that he would comment on those figures, but he did not do so. As the Act stands at the present time, the Labour Party, before it can become the Government, will have to. get 53 per cent, of the votes of the electors of Australia. A similar type of gerrymander existed in South Australia under the Liberal Government. In order to overcome that position, the Australian Labour Party had to get no less than 56 per cent, of the votes. Obviously it is a gerrymander.
The foundation of democracy is that the will of the people shall prevail and that each vote shall, as far as practicable, have equal value. Under the present legislation the Minister wants the Distribution Commissioners to apply a 20 per cent, margin. If they were to apply a 10 per cent, margin, the position would be nearer to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which examined this question very thoroughly, lt felt that the principle of one vote one value had been properly applied during the seven distributions that had taken place since the Federation, but it considered that the provision should be tightened up. The Committee proposed that the permissible variation of 20 per cent, as provided in the Electoral Act should be reduced to 10 per cent. It wanted not only amendment of the Electoral Act, but also a permissible percentage of 10 per cent. The Committee considered the provision was so important that it should be written into the Constitution. That recommendation is to be found in paragraph at page 47 of the Committee’s report.
It believed that such an amendment to the Constitution would be a satisfactory substitute for a Bill of Rights such as that written into the American Constitution.
The Committee which was responsible for this very important report consisted of six members from this side of the House, four members of the Liberal Party and two members of the Australian Country Party. It was a unanimous report. I have not the time to quote exactly what the Committee said in this regard, but it wanted the Constitution altered so that the 20 per cent, margin which then existed could not be applied. The Minister in his remarks a little while ago questioned the decision of the Committee. He said that the Committee was wrong in the recommendation it made and that it had gone against the views of certain experts. Whatever the Committee recommended, it did so after considering fully the information that was placed before it. It must have had very sound information before it to have made that recommendation.
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock).-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It appears that because the order of leave is to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-62 as amended by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1965, instead of being to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act in respect of a matter that is particularised, this opens up the whole debate on a matter that was fully discussed in this chamber some time ago. For my part, I advocated adoption of the principle of one vote one value and voted accordingly when this matter was previously before the House. I want to be consistent and I shall do the same again, but there is no need for me to go through all of the reasons that were then expressed and to reopen the whole debate. I propose to vote for the amendment but I do not propose to occupy any more of the time of the Committee in explaining my reasons, because they were fully explained by me when the matter was previously before the House.
– Mr. Chairman-
– Mr. Chairman-
– I call the Minister for the Interior.
– Is the Minister going to gag the debate?
– We will see what the Committee thinks about it.
– The call would ordinarily go to the Opposition, but if the Minister desires to speak he has the right to speak.
– I desire to speak.
– I call the Minister.
.- I wish to keep the Committee only for a couple of minutes. We are rehashing a matter that was fully debated earlier in this chamber. This provision of the Commonwealth Electoral Act was fully debated and the debate was allowed to continue until there were no further speakers.
– What is wrong with doing it again?
– The honorable member for Grayndler, who asks: “What is wrong with doing it again?”, is one of those notorious members who, at the end of each session, rise and complain because of the amount of legislation that comes forward. Yet, today and tonight, they have been completely wasting the time of the Parliament in debating legislation the subject of which has already been resolved in this chamber. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) clearly pointed this out a moment ago. He said that he had no intention of speaking further on this matter because he had fully expressed himself when the matter was debated previously. So did every member of the Opposition. There has been absolutely nothing new in relation to this provision. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) has contributed nothing but platitudes and redundancy. I do not like saying this, but nothing new has been added.
– He did not speak to this amendment last time.
– The only new matter of substance that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has brought forward relates to the age at which people may vote. As there is no further point in debating the matter, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . ..11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr Webb’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 2c.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 2c. Section 39 of the principal Act is amended by omitting from subsection (1.) the word ‘ twentyone ‘ and inserting in its stead the word eighteen’.’’.
If the amendment is carried, it will have the effect of giving to all citizens of 18 years of age and above votes in elections for both Houses of this Parliament. I apprehend there will not be too many speakers to the amendment because the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) moved the gag after only one honorable member had spoken to the previous amendment. He castigated us then for moving something that had been moved last May. He gagged the debate on that occasion as well. The only speaker to that amendment this time had not spoken on the previous occasion.
This amendment introduces new matter. It is moved largely because the Minister himself, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) last August, said that the Opposition had not taken the opportunity of urging votes for persons of Army age at the time amendments to the Electoral Act were last debated. Accordingly now that through his earlier precipitousness and incompetence this Bill has had to be introduced, we have taken the opportunity to move an amendment to give effect to his suggestion. I point out that this Bill would never have come up for debate before the House if it had not been for the fact that the Government and, particularly, the Australian Country Party supporters of the Government were so anxious to secure amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act before the Government lost its majority in the other place at the end of June. The Bill was put through between 11 a.m. on the secondlast day and 4 a.m. on the last day of the sessional period. It is because of this precipitous treatment of the legislation that the Government has had to bring in a bill to tidy up a point which it had overlooked and which it gave no time to private members on its own side or the Opposition side to detect.
The amendment to bring in the suffrage at 21 is supported by the Australian Labour Party, whose policy has included this plank for many years. It was supported by the Young Liberals who, at their New South Wales convention in July, to quote from the “ Sunday Telegraph “, “ voted in favour of legalised abortion and votes at 18”. I have quoted the exact sentence. It was also supported by the Country Party organisation of young people in August. It is supported by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. It is, in fact, supported for many good reasons, apart from the fact that the Advisory Council and the bodies for the three parties represented in this chamber have all declared in favour of it Young people can marry at 18. They can hold driving licences at 18. They can repair to hotels at 18.
– They cannot do so in Western Australia.
– I thought they could do so in all States, but I stand corrected. In all States except Western Australia young people of 18 can repair to hotels. Young people of 18 or younger have to pay taxation. Young people under 21 can serve in the armed forces and, in fact, can be compelled to do so. It seems perfectly reasonable that young people should have a vote for the legislature where the laws for the security of the country are principally made.
The increase in educational opportunities and the raising of educational standards have meant that young people today are better educated on political matters and, in fact, on all economic and social matters, than were their forbears. I gave longer arguments on this in my second reading speech on the Bill. The Minister said that he was not going to conclude the second reading debate but, immediately he had spoken, one of his colleagues moved the gag so that the technical opportunity which was still left to other members to speak by the Minister’s having spoken merely to an amendment was denied honorable members by one of his colleagues. However, the Minister did refer to the proposition that the gallup poll had shown that most people, including most people of the relevant ages, were not in favour of reducing the voting age to 18. That is an interesting argument to hear from the Minister who, on all other electoral matters, has disregarded the gallup poll. The gallup poll has shown that Australian people of all ages and of all political persuasions are in favour of the principle of one vote one value in the electoral laws. The gallup poll shows that Australians want to have equal voting rights. Australians do no van* voters t« ^ H’ discriminated -i-i«t on the basis of their occupation or their residence. They believe there should be equal rights for all people in making laws, as well as equal obligations on all persons in obeying laws. If the Minister has such great faith in the gallup poll as regards the voting age then he might put this matter to a referendum. It does not require a referendum. However, this would be the democratic and the effective way to find out what the people thought about the proposition.
On many occasions the Australian Labour Party has suggested that there should be a vote at a referendum to ensure that the Australian Constitution is made proof against gerrymanders. Government members voted to deny the people that opportunity. The necessity for making the Constitution proof against gerrymander is shown by the fact that the Minister has introduced and the Parliament has passed a statute to promote gerrymanders.
– Order! May I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he is covering the ground of the amendment which has been rejected by the Committee, rather than covering the matter before the Committee at the moment.
– Sir, I was referring to referenda and gerrymanders to prove the point that the people ought to have a say in these matters. On the question of the voting age being reduced from 21 years to 18 years, as all political parties have urged, clear proof could be had if a referendum were held. The carrying of it would not only require this Parliament to give the vote to all persons aged 18 years or older but also, if the question were suitably phrased, every State Parliament would be required to accord the vote at 18 years for both upper and lower houses of State Parliaments. The Opposition believes very strongly in the will of the people prevailing. We are certain that the state of education and responsibility of persons of 18, 19 and 20 years is now recognised to be such that they should have the vote.
.- The question before the Committee is whether young people of 18, 19 and 20 years are really people. Last year this Parliament legislated for conscription of the 20 year old men of Australia to carry out the duties imposed upon them by the foreign policy of this Government. I think it is to the continuing disgrace of the people that they failed to realise what were the full implications of this legislation. Since World War I it has been traditional that young people could enlist at the age of 18 years. It was quite consistent with that tradition that many young men were in the firing line at 19 years of age. Many young people saw service in the firing line before they had reached the age of 19 years. It has been the custom in this country to impose upon its young men the last and ultimate demand that a community can make upon its members; that is to fight on the battlefield and, if need be, lay down their lives.
Young men have had commissions conferred upon them and have commanded other Australians in the field. I think the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) received a commission when he was about 21 years of age. At that age he commanded 20 or 30 Australians on the battlefields of France. I think honorable members opposite would agree that people who are compelled to perform such duties, who have that obligation imposed upon them and have shown that they have the capacity to perform in that way are entitled to exercise their judgment on political matters. It is flying in the face of history and acting against the lessons learned in the last few years to deny them that opportunity.
Honorable members opposite are again indulging in the ancient, conservative and traditional practice of tinkering with the electoral laws of the country in order to retain their own political power. It has been the long history of politics and of democracy to try continually to extend the suffrage so that those people who have to live under a government shall have a substantial say in the way it is elected. Many gimmicks operate in Australia today which prevent democracy and the will of the majority from prevailing. A restricted franchise is foisted on the community and sustained by the Australian Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. This is true of municipal elections and of legislative council elections in three States. At least in Victoria, and I think in two or three other States, plural voting is still sustained over a large area of local government. That is mediaeval; it belongs to the middle ages. It is a kind of trickery which should not exist in the modern Australian community.
After long years of struggle, many of the property qualifications have been removed from the balloting systems of Australia. Generally speaking, the suffrage is democratic, particularly in elections for the Lower Houses of the State and Federal Parliaments. But it is still a blot on the policies of the Liberal Party and the Country Party that they do not believe in adult suffrage for the elections of all the Parliaments of Australia and that in every instance in which adult suffrage has been introduced it has been introduced against very serious opposition–
– On what clause is the honorable member speaking?
– I am speaking to the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and which is designed to expand the suffrage to include the young men whom honorable members opposite are calling up and sending overseas to do the duties of honorable members opposite on the battlefields of Vietnam and other places. If it is good enough to give votes to young men and if they are capable of carrying out public duties, then equally young women are capable of exercising the franchise.
There has been a long and continuous struggle in democracy in an effort to expand the suffrage to include everybody. If we turn back the pages of history to the beginning of this century, we find that people with points of view similar to those of members of the Government parties were the ones who resisted votes for women and insisted on plural voting and restricted franchises for legislative councils.
– I point out to the honorable member for Wills that the matter before the Committee is the lowering of the voting age from 21 years to 18 years. The honorable member should not make a speech of general comments about the voting rights of various people and various factors in regard to State and local government.
– With due respect, Mr. Chairman, I point out that the amendment moved on behalf of the Labour Party is designed to expand the franchise in order to give more people a say in the politics of the country. I believe that it is in line with the whole struggle for democracy, which dates back to 1832, the year of the first expansion of the suffrage in Great Britain for two or three centuries. There has been a continuing struggle in Australia. It was one of the first to adopt adult male suffrage. It was one of the first to give votes to women. I believe that we can give votes to the young men and young women of Australia at the age of 18 years, particularly in view of the fact that the community has expanded its education services and communications are now adequate to keep people informed politically. This is a logical derivation from Australian democratic history.
However, I am not the least bit surprised at the resistance movement by honorable members opposite. I am not the least bit surprised that this amendment should be resisted by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who has used every trick in the parliamentary trade to prevent us speaking. I refer to his misrepresentation of the way in which we spoke on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill earlier this year. I also refer to the fact that he consistently applied the gag through the early hours of the morning. I hope that some correction will be made in the records of the Parliament to show that he did not even pay us the courtesy of giving a proper account of those events. I refer to page 2100 and the following pages of “Hansard”, which show that he continually gagged the debate on amendments similar to those that have been before the Committee tonight. That is the way in which the Country Party has attempted to foist this legislation on the people of Australia. I believe that, generally speaking, this tinkering with the electoral laws is fundamentally unethical. I hope that the people of Australia will take the same action as the people of Victoria took in 1952, when they almost completely annihilated the Liberal Party and the Country Party on this simple question of the equality of electorates.
.- I wish very briefly to associate myself with the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and which seeks to give votes to people of 18 years of age. Earlier tonight the Minister for Interior (Mr. Anthony) implied that I had made certain mis-statements in regard to votes for servicemen. I have not heard any reasonable explanation from him of why this amendment will not be accepted by the Government. Let us assume that he does not believe in this principle. He has stated that it is not reasonable. By the remarkable process of depending on a gallup poll, he has stated that the members of the public do not want it. I ask him what excuse he has tonight for not refusing to servicemen who are being called upon to defend this country - even those who are fighting in Vietnam at this moment - if they are under 21, the opportunity to vote. This great loyal Government refuses to give them a vote.
– This is not the honorable member’s amendment.
– The amendment applies to the word “ twenty-one “ and it seeks to entitle people of 18 years of age to enrol and to vote. It is true, as the Minister stated, that under the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act the Labour Party did give a vote, as I mentioned today, to servicemen who were serving outside Australia or who had served outside Australia. That Act is to be found at page 90 of the volume of Commonwealth Acts of 1940. At least the Opposition, which was the Government at that time, did give to servicemen who were fighting or had returned from service, the opportunity to vote if they were under 21 years of age. Why does this Government deny to that section of the 18 year-olds the right to vote?
On the broad scope and the broad appeal of the whole question, what justice is there behind a government and a Minister refusing to extend the right to vote to servicemen whom the Government is conscripting in a time of peace to go abroad to fight? The Government is prepared to send Australian men anywhere in the world to fight for this country, but it will not extend to them, if they happen to be under 21 years of age, the right to vote and to decide whether this Government should be in office and responsible for calling them up. No wonder it does not want to give the under 21 year-olds a vote. It does not want them to be able to vote, for the simple reason that it realises that among the people today who are under 21 years of age are many thousands who will be conscripted by this Government and who would vote against the Government which introduced the conscription legislation if they had an opportunity to do so. Servicemen everywhere who are under 21 should realise that the Government is denying them a vote because it realises that it would not remain in office and able to conscript them and send them abroad once they had an opportunity to register a protest against that legislation. That applies to everybody, under 21.
As I mentioned this afternoon, it is despicable in the extreme to insist that a man defend the country and yet not extend to him at least the same consideration that was given in the wartime legislation of the Labour Government. What would be the position of the Labour Party if it were in office now and the Liberal and Country Parties were in opposition, and we, as a Labour Government, were denying a vote, to servicemen under 21 in Vietnam? What would be the position if we were denying the right to vote to men who had been called up by us to fight? What would the loyalists on the other side say? They would say that we ought to be cast out of office. However, because the Government is doing these things today it accepts the position as part of the routine of government. It is denying to men who at this very moment are training to fight, and who may give their lives, the right, fundamental in any free society, to vote for or against the Government and any legislation that it might bring in.
I should say, Mr. Chairman, that there is no more contemptible section of electoral legislation today than that which the Minister is supporting by opposing this amendment. He is refusing to give to all people under 21 a right to vote, with particular emphasis on that section of the community which is giving the most at this time - those young men who have been called up for armed service by this Government. Is it any wonder that there is great discontent among the people because of the Government’s attitude towards all manner of things, particularly electoral reform? What is wrong with giving young people under 21 a vote? Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister of Great Britain at 23 or 25 years of age. Had a government such as this been in power in Britain, Pitt the
Younger would probably still have been waiting, at that time, because of the age limit, to get into Parliament. Why should not the people be allowed the opportunity to vote for such young people who seek to enter Parliament? Why should not young people be allowed to vote if they are under . 21?
Mr. W. A. Nielsen, who is now the Tasmanian Minister of Education, was ejected to Parliament at 21 years of age and elected Whip at the same time. In other words, he brought off the double at an age which this Government, if it could, would probably provide was too low for eligibility to vote. This shows that young people should not be denied the opportunity at an early stage to prepare for parliamentary life or for the responsibilities associated with representation. I bring these matters to the attention of the Minister in order to show that there is substance in the arguments of the Opposition. What age qualification does a person need to have a vote in the referendum on the wool reserve price plan to be held as a result of a bill that was passed by this House last week? If a fellow is 18 years of age and has 300 sheep will members opposite deny him the right to vote as they are denying it to the men they are calling upon to die abroad for this country? I would like the Minister to tell me whether an 18 year old who has 300 sheep or 10 bales is entitled to vote on the wool reserve prices scheme. If he is, what is the justification for allowing a man to vote in the referendum on the wool scheme but not allowing a man called upon to die for his country to register his vote for the political party of his choice?
These are matters which the Minister should answer. Do not tell me that people under 21 do not own 300 sheep or have 10 bales. The only thing is that they are small farmers and probably vote for the Labour Party. The Country Party would not know them. If a person under the age of 21 is entitled to vote in the referendum on the wool scheme, why should he not be allowed to vote in elections? These are matters that the Country Party does not like. It is of no use citing the results of gallup polls. Those figures are produced here only when it suits Government supporters to produce them. They have no relevance to matters where the lives of men are concerned and where the right to vote at elections of the Parliament is concerned.
It is the responsibility of the”Minister to give a more substantial reply to the matters that we have raised than he has given tonight. If it is right to deny the right to vote to a man under 21 years of age, why do we tax him? Why do we call upon these young people to enter into certain obligations in respect of the welfare of this country? If it is wrong for a person under 21 to vote, should he be permitted to drive a motor car or to enter a licensed house? Does the Minister contend that persons between the ages of 18 and 21 are not sufficiently intelligent to register a vote or to make a reasonable assessment of the issues involved? Does the Minister contend that people between 18 and 21 years of age who are attending universities are not sufficiently intelligent to vote on matters affecting this country? Surely in this enlightened age there can be no justification for denying a vote to people under 21 years of age - for denying them the right to decide who shall govern them and administer the country and their affairs. A boy of 1 8 may marry. If it is good enough to allow him to accept that responsibility, why does the Government say that he cannot accept the responsibility of marking a ballot paper? These are matters that require an answer.
I sincerely hope that the Minister can answer the matters that we have raised, because so far no reasonable explanation has been given for the Government’s opposition to the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). The Minister challenged the Labour Party to submit a proposal to this Parliament that all people under 21 years of age be given the right to enrol and vote. He said that the Government parties had never had an opportunity to vote on the issue. I challenge honorable members opposite, many of whom are ex-servicemen and who say that they stand for the rights of servicemen, to stand and be counted on this issue. If they do not believe in a vote for people under 21 they do not believe in a vote for the servicemen who they are sending abroad. They do not believe in a vote for the people defending this country. They are casting aspersions on the intelligence and integrity of everybody under 21 years of age. Let the Minister answer the matters that 1 have raised. It is almost 11 p.m. At thislate hour the Government’s actions represent a shady manoeuvre designed to hide its administration from the light of day.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . ..11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Whitlam’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 4.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be added to the Bill- “ 4. Section 106 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - 106. In printing the ballot papers to be used in a House of Representatives election -
the order of the names of the candidates on the ballot papers shall be determined as follows: -
the Divisional Returning Officer shall, at the place of nomination, immediately after the close of nominations and before all persons present, make out in respect of each candidate a slip bearing the name of the candidate, enclose each slip in a separate blank envelope of exact similarity and deposit the several envelopes in a locked ballot box;
the Divisional Returning Officer shall then shake and rotate the ballot box and shall permit any other person present, if he so desires, to do the same;
the ballot box shall then be unlocked and an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, other than the Divisional Returning Officer, shall take out and open the envelopes from the ballot box one by one; and
the candidate whose name appears on the slip enclosed in the envelope first taken from the ballot box shall be placed first on the ballot papers, the candidate whose name appears on the slip enclosed in the envelope next taken from the ballot box shall be placed next on the ballot papers and so on until the placing of all the names has been determined;
where similarity in the names of two or more candidates is likely to cause confusion, the names of those candidates may be arranged with such description or addition as will distinguish them from one another; and
except as otherwise provided by the regulations, a Square shall be printed opposite the name of each candidate.’.”.
Section 106 of the Principal Act reads -
In printing the ballot-papers to be used in a House of Representatives election -
the names of all candidates duly nominated shall be printed in alphabetical order according to their surnames;
The Minister for the Interior may say that I have rehashed this matter time and time again. I admit that I have done so. I point out, however, that for 10 years the Labour Opposition rehashed the easing of the means test for pharmaceutical and medical benefits, and eventually we were successful. So I intend to rehash this proposal tonight. This is the fourth occasion on which I have brought this matter up. If I am here for another 10 years, I shall bring it up another 10 times. Nobody should object to justice being done.
I contend that a candidate whose name occupies the top position on the ballot paper undoubtedly has a marked advantage over other candidates. It is perfectly true that the Australian Labour Party took full advantage of the placement of names on the ballot paper in alphabetical order in Senate elections until the system was altered in 1939 by the Menzies Government. It is interesting to note the remarks of the Mr. Perkins, the Minister in Charge of External Territories at the time, who was in charge of the legislation. In his second reading speech he said -
The Bill further provides that the order in which the respective groups are to be placed on the ballot papers shall be determined by a draw publicly conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Officers immediately after the close of nominations. This, it is considered, will provide a much more equitable method of determining ballot paper placement than the existing system of arrangement by alphabetical calculation, inasmuch as the chances of each and every group will be fairly and squarely equalised. The adoption of this proposal will remove entirely any advantage or any handicap that may be derived merely from the possession of a particular name and, in consequence, will act as a restraint on any tendency that might develop in the selection of candidates of placing a premium on those nominees whose names happen to commence with an early letter of the alphabet.
He further said -
It is provided in the Bill that the system of determination of placement by draw shall apply also to the names of the candidates at House of Representatives elections. If this proposal is adopted the Divisional Returning Officer will, in each case, at the close of nominations, publicly make a draw, and the names of the candidates will appear on the ballot papers as so drawn. The justification for the proposed method lies, it is believed, in its strict fairness. Each candidate will be given an equal chance as far as ballot paper position is concerned, irrespective of the name he bears. If his name commences with the letter A he will obtain no greater advantage or suffer no greater handicap than if it commenced with the letter Z.
It was proposed to make the alteration applicable to House of Representatives elections, but for some inexplicable reason the alteration in regard to that House was withdrawn at a later stage.
Let me quote to honorable members some pertinent figures regarding the advantages to be actually gained by a candidate having his name at the top of a ballot paper. In the 1958 Federal election, the Australian Democratic Labour Party contested 40 electorates in New South Wales. In 15 of those electorates, its candidates occupied the top position on the ballot paper. Of a total of 612,538 formal votes cast in those electorates, the D.L.P. candidates gained 55,343, an average of 9.03 per cent. In the remaining 25 electorates in New South Wales contested by the D.L.P. in which its candidates did not occupy the top position on the ballot paper, of a total of 1,063,749 formal votes cast, the D.L.P. candidates gained 51,472 votes. This represents an average of 4.83 per cent, as against 9.03 per cent, when the D.L.P. candidates were at the top of the ballot paper.
In the 1958 Federal elections, the Communist Party contested seven electorates in New South Wales. In three of those electorates, its candidates occupied the top position on the ballot paper. Of a total of 118,585 formal votes cast in those electorates, the candidates of the Communist Party gained 8,150 or 6.78 per cent. In the remaining four electorates, of a total of 171,363 formal votes cast, the Communist Party candidates gained 6,020 or 3.57 per cent. So, in the electorates in which the D.L.P. occupied top position on the ballot paper, its candidates polled an average of 9.03 per cent, of formal votes cast, but where its candidates did not occupy the top position, they polled an average of 4.83 per cent, of the formal votes cast - a difference of 4.2 per cent. Where the Communist Party candidate occupied top position on the ballot paper he polled 6.87 per cent, of the formal votes cast. Where he was not in top position, he polled 3.57 per cent. - a difference of 3.3 per cent.
Now I shall give some figures in relation to the 1963 Commonwealth elections, using results as printed in the newspapers on 2nd December 1963. The official figures have not yet been printed. In 1963, the D.L.P. contested 31 electorates in New South Wales. Its candidates occupied top positions on the ballot paper in 20 of those electorates. Of a total of 770,454 formal votes cast in those electorates, the D.L.P. candidates gained 58,414 or 7.58 per cent. In the remaining 11 electorates in which the D.L.P. candidates were not in the top position, of a total of 530,221 formal votes cast, the D.L.P. candidates polled 23,213 or 4.37 per cent. So, it may be readily seen that where the D.L.P. candidate held top position on the ballot paper he polled an average of 7.58 per cent, of formal votes cast compared with an average of 4.37 per cent, of formal votes cast when he did not occupy top position. The difference here is 3.21 per cent.
I shall give two other notable illustrations in regard to the 1955 and the 1958 Federal elections. First, I will state the case of Clancy who was a Communist Party candidate in the electorate of Banks in the 1955 and 1958 general elections. In 1955, Clancy occupied top position on the ballot paper. Of a total of 41,875 formal votes cast, he polled 3,356 or 8.01 per cent. In 1958, when Clancy’s name was not in the top position, of a total of 48,701 formal votes he gained 1,634 or 3.35 per cent. The difference was 4.66 per cent.
The second illustration concerns my own electorate of Watson. In the 1961 election the D.L.P. candidate was a Miss Mary Nappa, whose name did not occupy the top position on the ballot paper. Of a total of 36,294 formal votes, she gained 1,081 or 2.97 per cent. It is interesting to note that this lady bad resided in the Mascot electorate for practically the whole of her life. She was well known, had workers at the booths and distributed posters and pam phlets. In the 1963 election the D.L.P. candidate was a chap named Atkinson. He was a resident of Manly and was not known in the electorate. He was not advertised by any propaganda or posters and had not one solitary worker at any polling booth. He polled 2,136 votes compared with 1,081 votes polled by Miss Nappa in the previous election.
I am sure that any honorable member on the Government side of the chamber who is truthful would admit that these arguments show that there is an advantage in being at the top of the ballot paper. I know that the Minister must say that there is no value in this position, but that is a ridiculous argument. Every honorable member knows that an advantage can be gained from the alphabetical position.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) said that I would accuse him of rehashing an argument that he has submitted on a number of occasions. This is quite true. I accuse him of doing so. He has raised this matter on two or three occasions and has been effectively answered by my predecessor, who is now the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). When this subject was last debated I gave reasons for not agreeing with the honorable member. I did not deal with the cases he raised because I had not bad time to analyse them closely. However, I gave reasons for my belief that there is little advantage in holding any position on a ballot paper for a House of Representatives election. I was prepared to accede that there was an advantage in the position on the ballot paper for a Senate election. The whole philosophy in the House of Representatives election should be that the voters are informed so that they may cast an intelligent vote.
– Then why is there a ballot for positions on the Senate paper?
– I explained that to the honorable member on the last occasion. A candidate for an election to the Senate has some difficulty in becoming known personally to the electors. He submits himself to an election that covers the whole of the State. The election for a candidate for the House of Representatives is confined to a much smaller area and it is the responsibility of the candidate to make himself known so that he will attract an intelligent vote. I believe the votes cast at House of Representatives elections are informed and intelligent. The honorable member for Watson wants to substitute for the present system a method of drawing to determine positions on ballot papers. He wants to adopt a method of chance. If his suggestion were adopted a candidate would be elected to the House of Representatives by chance. I do not believe that there is much advantage in occupying the top position on a ballot paper, because the Australian people have accepted the principle of names being set out in alphabetical order. In every form of election throughout the country, with the exception of the Senate election, names of candidates are listed in alphabetical order. As I have said, these arguments have been answered and I do not intend to canvass them again.
This debate started at 3.15 this afternoon. The Bill sought to make a slight machinery amendment to rectify an omission by the Draftsman when a previous bill was before us. If I had known that the debate on this Bill would take so much of our time I doubt very much whether I would have introduced the amendment. We have a lot of legislation to deal with during this session and I know that honorable members at the end of the session will complain that they have not had enough time to debate legislation. The debate on the voting age was justified, but there can be no justification for debating again the other matters that were raised. They were resolved when electoral matters were debated on the previous occasion. Accordingly, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be added (Mr. Cope’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Anthony) - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The number of residential leases granted in 1924 in the four suburbs nominated, together with the average unimproved value adopted after reappraisals in 1944 and 1964, are set out below -
m asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The number of business leases granted in 1924 in the suburbs of City, Griffith and Kingston, together with the average unimproved value adopted after re-appraisals in 1944 and 1964, are set out below -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
When it was decided not to accept the recommendation for these three projects, sketch plans had been prepared for Earle Page College and sketch plans were in the course of preparation for the Hytten Hall extensions. Planning had not commenced on the Newcastle hall of residence.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Did he make statements at the meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in July 1964, and June 1965, about the progress of Australian overseas territories towards independence such as were made by the former and present Prime Ministers of Britain about British colonial dependencies? If not, why not?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
No, there was no occasion to do so.
m asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650921_reps_25_hor47/>.