29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members or the House or Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens or Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction.
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 340,000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilised in Light Water Reactors overseas.
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram.
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers.
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us,
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Les Johnson, Mrs Child and Mr Kerin. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under Section 82 J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to S ISO is $50.00 below the 1956-57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether non government or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already over crowded and understaffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future, are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1973-1974 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates. by Mr Crean and Mr Oldmeadow.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectively showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Holten Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored in those areas where the greatest inconveniences and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Holten.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Australian Government to recognize de jure the incorporation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania does not in any way benefit Australia or the Australian people;
That the occupation of these mentioned Baltic States by the Soviet Union was and remains illegal under international law;
That the citizens of the Baltic States in their homelands are brutally deprived of personal, civil and religious freedom by the Soviet Union.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament will speedily revoke the decision of the Australian Government to recognize de jure the incorporation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the Soviet Union and place the question of oppression of human rights in the Baltic States before the United Nations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The Humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will forthwith do all things necessary to return to the States of the Commonwealth all moneys raised by way of taxes and excise on petroleum products
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kerin.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
– My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade. I ask it of him in his position as the Treasurer elect. Does he still believe, as he told this House last Wednesday, that unemployment in Australia today is ‘absolutely trivial’? With unemployment in Australia rising at the rate of 1,000 a day and the official seasonally adjusted figures for October showing 190,000 people, including school leavers, out of work, does he believe that is absolutely trivial? Has he been told that the Minister for Labor and Immigration is forecasting that unemployment will show a big increase in the next few months and that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is forecasting that 300,000 Australians will be out of work in January? Is that absolutely trivial? Is the Australian Labor Party still pledged to full employment, and if so, is the Deputy Prime Minister pledged to full employment? For the benefit of all those union members who are and will be unemployed, school leavers and vacation student workers, will he state what level of unemployment has to be reached in Australia before it ceases to be absolutely trivial? The words used by him, on page 3766 of Hansardhe uses the words quite clearly- were: . . . unemployment in Australia is trivial in comparison with unemployment in other countries- absolutely trivial.
The question relates to Australia. Is unemployment absolutely trivial?
– I remind the right honourable gentleman that such a long question would require a long answer. Time after time I am asked to request Ministers to make their answers short, but as this question could require a long answer, the Minister would be entitled to answer it accordingly.
- Mr Speaker, I have no intention of making a long answer to such a trivial question. The right honourable gentleman, who purports to be a potential Prime Minister of this country, began by asking me a question in which he said he was quoting me exactly and that I had said that unemployment in Australia was absolutely trivial. He then referred to Hansard and he by doing so showed that he left out of what he said over and over again in all that long preliminary that you, Mr Speaker, regarded as so long to be almost inadmissable and what he in fact quoted from Hansard- that is, that I was saying that unemployment in Australia was trivial compared with most other countries, and that is exactly what I did say. I did not say that unemployment in Australia was trivial. From the point of view of Australia and the Australian people who are out of work, unemployment is not trivial, can never be trivial.
– Why did you say it?
-I did say that and you quoted it from Hansard. You gave yourself away by quoting it, which shows how incapable you are of doing anything straight. I do not know whether it comes from your advisers or whether you do it all yourself but it would be a miracle for me to make up my mind which it is because you perform exactly the same way every day of the week.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Is there a very substantial public subsidy to civil aviation? If so, does this mean that the airlines can and do charge fares well below economic levels? Does this not make it easier for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd to grant outrageous salary increases to pilots and to pass the cost on in increased fares? Is there any reason why the Government should provide civil aviation as a social service? Are there not higher priorities? Will the Minister give consideration not only to terminating the 2-airline agreement but also to reducing the Budget appropriation for civil aviation to zero so that all expenditure on airports, air safety and so on is borne solely by those who use the air services? Can he say whether cessation of the Government assistance to Sir Reginald Myles Ansett will have the support of the low government expenditure parties opposite?
-It is perfectly true that the civil aviation industry is heavily subsidised by the Australian Government. For example, last year expenditure in civil aviation was $ 140m and revenue was $75m which clearly shows that a subsidy amounting to $65m was required. This has been the position over a long period of time. The Government has adopted as a policy an 80 per cent recovery program in which we are looking at an increase in air navigation charges from 10 per cent to 15 per cent annually. Notwithstanding this increase the cost represents only approximately 4 per cent of the total operating charges of an airline. In the case of general aviation it represents an even smaller percentage of operating costs. In respect of some of the training and small commuter aircraft it is as low as about 2 per cent. As far as the Government’s priorities are concerned, the Government does have priorities more important than civil aviation. I refer to the Department of Social Security, the Department of Health and other departments which have been increasing their benefits and payments to people who really need assistance. Because we heavily subsidise civil aviation- at the moment we are recovering only about 54 per cent of total cost of it- it is possible for airlines to operate and charge fares well below an economic level. We estimate that something in the vicinity of the first $6 of every fare charged is paid by the Australian taxpayer. This in itself is unfair in our opinion. That is why we are going for the 80 per cent recovery. We want to make the industry more self supporting and self sufficient in providing services to the people.
I would love to be able to tear up the 2-airline agreement, but the friends of Ansett on the other side of the House have really tied the agreement up. It is absolutely watertight. Honourable members opposite and Ansett made sure of that. The agreement is worth millions of dollars every year to the Ansett organisation. The previous Liberal-Country Party Government, on the eve of the last election- I think it was one of the last pieces of legislation it put through- extended the agreement for another 5 years. The right honourable member for Lowe, who is interjecting, is one of the guilty men.
– Yes, I am.
-When you were Prime Minister, one of your Ministers would have resigned over the agreement except for Ansett ‘s interference with you.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Has his attention been drawn to the dispute which has disrupted mail deliveries from Lane Cove Post Office, thereby causing substantial inconvenience to an estimated 30,000 people within the area serviced by that post office? Has this dispute been caused by a black ban placed on the post office by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia on account of the employment at that post office of 4 persons who refused to join the union? Have negotiations to settle the dispute been underway, and if so, is the Minister in a position to advise the House of the present state of these negotiations and the likely date of resumption of normal services from the Lane Cove post office?
-This is a matter that has been brought to my attention. It is the subject of discussions between the Postmaster-General and union representatives. I hope to be in a position to advise the honourable member on this matter later this day.
-I address a question to the Prime Minister as the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this House. Is it a fact that the Palestine Liberation Organisation charter can only be understood as calling for the elimination of Israel as a sovereign independent state? Is it also a fact that Australian policy supports the survival of Israel as a sovereign independent state, and that this was again stressed by our United Nations Ambassador last week? As the PLO and Australian policies are obviously incompatible, and since support for the PLO, whether positive or passive, can only encourage the intransigence of that organisation, can the Prime Minister say why Australia abstained from, rather than opposed motions at the United Nations which unreservedly supported the PLO position? Will he confer with the Foreign Minister with a view to ensuring that the Australian view is asserted more positively on questions affecting the Middle East and that, in particular, we vote as well as speak in line with our clearly established principles?
-There have been many motions before the United Nations and its specialised agencies in the last few weeks concerning the Palestine Liberation Organisation. If honourable gentlemen wish to have the precise text and votes, then I would ask them to put questions on notice. I take it that the honourable gentleman is referring to the main resolution on the rights of the Palestinians on which a vote was taken on 2 1 November. We abstained, in good company, because the resolution was directed only to satisfying the aspirations of the Palestinians and did not mention Israel. In his speech, the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Laurence Mclntyre, emphasised Australia’s adherence to resolution 242 as the only basis for lasting peace in the Middle East, reaffirmed our strong desire that Israel’s rights, as well as the rights of other States in the area to continued existence within recognised and secure boundaries be acknowledged by all parties to the dispute and declared our preparedness to accept the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, provided this is what the Palestinians wanted. I take this opportunity again to assure honourable members and the Australian people that the Government has every confidence in the positive, firm and clear manner in which Sir Laurence Mclntyre has consistently and frequently stated the Australian Government’s position on these very difficult matters.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and is prompted by a report in the Press today that he intends to visit Paris during his forthcoming overseas trip. I ask the Prime Minister whether he has received an official invitation from the French Government or from the Prime Minister of France to visit that country.
– I arrived back in Canberra only 20 minutes ago and I could not give an answer to the question.
-Could the Minister for Minerals and Energy comment on the Australian Government’s recent negotiations and discussions with the Japanese Government concerning uranium and beef? Is it a fact that the Australian Government approached the negotiations and discussions on a proper professional and businesslike basis and without thought of blackmail as is being advocated by members opposite?
-I deprecate the linking of the supply of uranium to Japan with the supply of beef. As a matter of fact, the Japanese, like the Australians, can be led but they cannot be driven. There was an excellent response in all major sections of the Japanese Press on the return of Prime Minister Tanaka to Tokyo and it was stated there how greatly they appreciated the fair and reasonable treatment which Japan had received in respect of energy supplies. It was further stated that in return it was incumbent upon the Japanese Government to consider more favourably the resumption of meat purchases from Australia and also some modification of motor car exports.
– 1 address my question to the Prime Minister, representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state which will absorb Israel and that the PLO has never retracted its demand for the destruction of the State of Israel? Will Australia call on the PLO to state, in the United Nations and elsewhere, that it accepts unequivocally Israel’s right to exist as an independent nation within secure and recognised boundaries? Will the Australian Government also call on the PLO to denounce and act to prevent the use of violence and terrorism so that the basis for peaceful negotiations with Israel can be established?
– I have just stated the Government’s adherence to resolution 242, which covers these matters.
-Is the Minister for Defence aware that a Bailey bridge has been used for some time at a town called Candelo and has recently been replaced by a permanent bridge? Is the Minister also aware of the fact that another bridge near Moruya was recently swept away by floods? Can the Minister outline the procedures that should be adopted to use the Bailey bridge leaving Candelo for the Moruya situation?
-This matter has been brought to my attention and has been considered by the Department of Defence. It would be difficult for me to make a decision and to authorise the replacement of the bridge unless I had full knowledge of what was required by the State Government in this respect. I suggest that the proper course would be for the Minister for Lands in New South Wales to ask the Premier of New South Wales to communicate with the Prime Minister in relation to this matter. If it were taken up at this level I would be happy to reconsider the matter.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. It is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Gwydir on 2 1 November and is about wheat. As the current world price of wheat is in excess of $4 a bushel, will the Government reconsider the request of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation to increase the first advance for wheat from $1.20 a bushel to $ 1 .80 a bushel? Since this is not a handout to wheat growers, why will the Government not increase the first advance to wheat growers?
– The Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture will answer the question.
– The policy of the Government is well known. The policy with respect to quotas is well known. In effect, there will be no restriction on the growing of wheat under the stabilisation scheme.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. He will be aware that many local government councils in Australia are wondering when they will receive their cheques as a result of the special and generous assistance which is being given to them by the Australian Labor Government after the evaluation of their needs by the Australian Grants Commission. I know that the Bill has been through the Parliament. Has it yet received royal assent? Will the Minister please outline the procedures from this point?
– The relevant legislation passed this House on 14 November. That date is significant because the Appropriation Bills were still being debated in the Senate at that time. This legislation forms part of the appropriation legislation. Those Bills have been passed now. I understand that the Senate has also passed this Bill. I understand that messages notifying royal assent will be available today. If that is the position, we should be able to give all the grants to the appropriate State authorities within 7 days. State Authorities will make the payments to the relevant local government authorities. Telegrams will be forwarded to all secretaries of the regional conferences advising them.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I suggest to him that he was incorrect in his answer to the Leader of the Opposition about the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. United Nations resolution 242 in no way deals with the PLO. Therefore, is it a fact that this Government has consistently failed, both in this Parliament and in the United Nations, to call on the PLO to renounce violence and terrorism, and has it not failed to call on the PLO to renounce its expressed intention of destroying Israel? Will the Prime Minister now state, without qualification, that his Government opposes the PLO’s policy aimed at the destruction of the state of Israel?
– The answer to the first two questions is no. The Australian Government has always been opposed to any proposals to destroy the state of Israel.
-Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware of recent criticism by Queensland’s Deputy Premier of the Australian Government’s housing policy? Despite the fact that this attack is probably linked to the forthcoming State election in Queensland, can the Minister give the House details of the funds flowing to Queensland for housing, in comparison with the allocations by the previous Federal Government?
-I have heard some comments during the Queensland campaign. It is possible that they are linked with the election. The decision of the Government to make an extra $8m available to the Queensland State housing authority was taken on 11 October, which was well before the date on which the election was announced. In the last 6 weeks $14.5m has been made available to the Queensland Housing Commission, which brings the total for the year to $35.4m. The honourable gentleman asked, in effect, whether that is making allowance for inflation. Let me say that the best that the Liberal-Country Party Government could do in its last year of office was to give $ 1 5.4m. So this Government’s contribution is a very significant improvement indeed. The funds recently allocated- the additive of $8m- will provide an extra 900 contracts, 400 of which are in Brisbane. In addition to that, $2.3m will be used to acquire suitable sites where they are needed for urgent housing commission activity.
-Will the Prime Minister explain to the House the basis for his allegation that the Government has been misled by the statistical advice received from the Treasury? Is the honourable gentleman aware that the central statistics are collected not by the Treasury but by the office of the Special Minister of State? Is he further aware that the Opposition Parties, using published Government statistics, issued major economic policy statements in April and July warning of the inevitable increase in unemployment and decline in private sector activity which, of course, has now taken place?
– I have not said that the Government has been misled by statistics or that it was misled by statistics coming from the Treasury. What I have said is that the statistics available to governments in Australia are not sufficiently comprehensive and prompt. I have said, moreover, that the relevant departments, and of course the Treasury is among them- the Department of the Special Minister of State is another and the Reserve Bank is a third- will have to provide more comprehensive and prompt statistics. It is quite clear that there has not been sufficient comprehensiveness or promptitude in the provision of statistics to the Australian Government on, say, liquidity or employment. The system needs to be speeded up. None of us is impressed by the fact that the Opposition in its daily pronouncements, has presaged every form of gloom and disaster imaginable. It would be possible to base any forecast for now or the next 10 years- any eventuality- on something that the Opposition has said at one time or another. It was due to the Opposition’s lack of foresight in Government that Australian Government statistics and indices have not been sufficiently comprehensive and prompt.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration, refers to the income maintenance scheme through which employees retrenched through the policies and actions of the Government have received the average weekly wage for a period of 6 months. Is the Minister aware that this 6-month period is now ending for the first batch of these people? Will the Government continue the income maintenance scheme until at least June 1975 in order that the effects of certain restrictive actions on imports recently announced by the Government can be assessed and also in order that the general economy of many country towns in particular will be maintained for the Christmas period and the ensuing 6 months?
– Yes, I am aware of the fact that the time has expired. The original period was from July last year until July this year. The Government decided that it would be extended further until, I think, 24 January.
-Yes, 18 January 1975. The honourable member knows all about it; I do not know why he asked the question. That means that anyone who applies up till 18 January next year will be entitled to the full 6 months income maintenance from the time of his application. If it is felt by the time that the deadline of 18 January is getting near that it is proper to extend the scheme for a further 6-months period the Government, of course, will look at the matter sympathetically.
– But it is here now.
– It does not expire until 1 8 January.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Overseas Trade is prompted by his recent overseas meetings. Could the Minister indicate to the House the extent to which overseas economic pressures are now affecting the Australian economy?
– The honourable gentleman must have heard the urgency motion moved last week, which is being repeated today in another form. But there has been considerable progress on the Opposition side. Last week it was ignoring, dismissing, giving no credence whatever to the possibility that anything that happened outside Australia could possibly have affected Australia. Last week it was only the Government; the Government alone was the cause of it all. This week in another urgency motion the Opposition is saying that I am exaggerating in saying that external forces have had any effect at all. I am not going to take up too much of question time except to bring out that contrast and to say: Listen in for the urgency motion and get the full story.
-I ask the Prime Minister: In view of his equivocation this morning with respect to Australia’s stand on the attitude that it will take with respect to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, its use of violence and its attempts to destroy Israel, will he advise the House as to whether or not he subscribes to the attitude taken on the Arab-Israel dispute as pronounced by Bill Hartley, a fellow-member of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party, or does he concur in the view as pronounced by Bob Hawke, who I understand is also a Federal Executive member of the ALP and who seems to hold almost completely contradictory views to those of Mr Hartley?
– I subscribe to the views expressed on behalf of the Australian Government by Australia’s permanent representative to the United Nations during the debate on the question of Palestine in the General Assembly on 21 November. I ask that the speech by Sir Laurence Mclntyre be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
It is more than twenty-seven years since the General Assembly first turned its attention to the question of Palestine. In the two years following the adoption in 1947 of its first decision on the subject the Assembly tried and failed to create two independent States within the boundaries of the former British mandate. The recognition of the State of Israel and its admission to the United Nations was solemnly endorsed by this organisation, and Israel took its place as a member of the international community albeit without boundaries agreed under a proper peace settlement.
From then onward the word Palestine almost disappeared from out lexicon for more than twenty years- except as a convenient way of identifying the Arab refugees displaced from the beginning of the hostilities of 1 948. The question of Palestine became in turn the question of the Middle East, with all the unhappy consequences that still remain with us, until the re-emergence only a few years ago in decisions of the General Assembly of the concept of self-determination for the Palestinians, that is the Arab people of the former British mandate of Palestine. This, Mr President, is what we are discussing here.
There is an element of irony in the fact that the General Assembly once again finds itself in its position of twentyseven years ago- considering the possible establishment of two independent states within the area that constituted the former British mandate of Palestine. Mr President, we must only hope that whatever we may decide here will not merely prolong and exacerbate the intractable situation that the United Nations and all of us individually have had to cope with it in the Middle East for a quarter of a century, with all its constantly recurring crises and all its agonies for the countries and peoples of the region. We must hope that it will help to open the way for that just and lasting settlement that we have all longed for and sought by one means or another. A settlement that will give an assurance of the kind of peace that will enable all these talented people of the Middle East to live and work together in harmony among themselves and with the rest of the international community.
So there is not much point in going back over the past and reviewing whatever errors and omissions there may have been in the last twenty-five years on the part of any of the parties concerned. What we now have to consider is the reality of the present, and we have to consider it in the light of the great and pressing need for a final settlement in the Middle East.
And this, Mr President, is why my delegation has listened with more than ordinary interest to this debate. We have listened to the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Mr Arafat, and have heard that the PLO, as supported by the heads of state of all Arab governments, represents the Palestinians and all their aspirations. Whatever reservations we may have about methods employed in asserting those rights to self-determination and a recognised place in their original homeland- there is clearly a new and vigorous spirit, a new sense of destiny among the leaders of the displaced Arabs, a new confidence in their rights to selfdetermination and independence within a Palestine state of their own.
My delegation has taken note of all this, and we say that if the Palestinians want to create a state of their own alongside Israel, we will accept this. It is in harmony with what the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs said on the subject in his statement to this Assembly on 7 October last, when he recognised the concern of all Arab states, along with the rest of us, that the Palestinians should have proper treatment, permanent homes and secure hopes for the future. It accords also with the Australian Government’s attachment to the principle of the right of peoples to self-determination and independence if this is what they desire.
Mr President, my Government is also firmly attached to a second principle- that of respect for the sovereignty and independence of states and the duty of all states to do nothing to threaten or undermine the right of any other state to exist and to enter into normal and peaceful relations with its neighbours. As applied to the Middle East, this means that we believe in the right of all states in the region, and I include Israel, to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. In the course of the same address to the General Assembly that I referred to earlier, the Australian Foreign Minister affirmed that ‘The existence of the state of Israel has to be accepted, it has to have assurance that as a permanent condition of life it will be secure and accepted by its neighbours.’
In other words, Mr President, my delegation still believes in the fundamental lightness and fairness of Security Council Resolution 242, as reaffirmed by Resolution 338. And this leads in turn to a third principle to which the Australian Government is strongly attached- the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes. Australia still looks, as it always has looked, to the parties that have to find a way of living together in the Middle East to find that way themselves, peacefully, by negotiation, whether through the Geneva Conference machinery or among themselves. We strongly urge all the parties concerned to turn to negotiation. When a new state emerges from a negotiated agreement, alongside Israel in the former Palestine, among those parties, Australia will be prepared to accept it and to deal with it on a basis of equality. But we believe that any attempt to impose on the region a solution which does not accord with the provisions of Resolution 242 will hinder rather than help the search for a just and permanent settlement.
It is on the foregoing principles, Mr President, that my delegation will base its attitude to any definitive proposals that may be put before the Assembly under this item.
-Does the Treasurer recall the representations I made to him last month following an approach to him by the Minister for Agriculture seeking the establishment of a fisheries development loan fund of between $2m and $3m initially within the Department of Agriculture? Is the Treasurer in a position to state the result of his examination of this suggestion, which is designed to give urgently needed financial assistance to fishermen and fishing boat builders in order that our fishing industry can be upgraded by the purchase of more modern vessels and equipment, thus enabling our fishing industry to, among other things, compete with foreign fishing fleets around Australia’s coastline?
– I have discussed this matter with my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, and negotiations are taking place about it. I cannot give a detailed answer at this point but I shall supply the honourable member with the necessary information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Will he distribute in this House the paper on indexation prepared by his Department in which it is argued that wage indexation in itself must be inflationary and the more rapid the indexation the more rapid the inflation? Now that the Miners Federation in the United Kingdom has destroyed the social compact there and the air pilots have done the same thing here and have both shown that the concept of a social compact is a farce against society, will the Minister, in all decency, ensure that the Government’s proposal to urge the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to introduce indexation is reconsidered by the Government and an opportunity given to debate the concept in this House?
– I do not know anything about the paper that the honourable member talks about.
– I did not think you would, but you can look for it.
– I cannot respond to that; it would not be proper in this place. This is an odd sort of situation in which I find myself, Mr Speaker. The honourable gentleman invents some paper that does not exist and asks will I look for it. The answer is no.
– My question is also addressed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I ask the honourable gentleman: Is it a fact that the Regional Employment Development Scheme has the support of all members of this House? Is it also a fact that this Scheme, which I might say is the product of the Minister’s sensitive and compassionate mind, has been widely accepted by all State instrumentalities?
-Yes, it certainly has. Local governing bodies from all over Australia have written to the Government or to me- I suppose in my Department that means the same thing- saying how much they appreciate the Government’s attitude towards this very important matter. We are getting the complete and absolute co-operation of all local governing bodies. Every week we are receiving scores and scores of letters from local governing bodies, sending in well thought out projects to be incorporated in the program. I repeat that I am receiving the full co-operation of all members of the Parliament. Members from both sides of the Parliament have been extremely helpful and extremely responsible and have contributed in no small measure to the success which the Scheme now turns out to be.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I preface my question by saying I am sure that the Minister is aware of the problems and difficulties that are facing primary producers. I ask the Minister: Will he have consultations with his colleague the Minister for Social Security to see whether the Act can be altered to allow a primary producer who loses his income and cannot obtain employment to be eligible for social service benefits?
– I am one of the few people in the Parliament who know something about primary industry. I was born on a dairy farm and spent most of my life on the land. At a fairly early age I went into the pastoral industry and there gained a first hand knowledge of what happens. At one time I did contemplate studying for the cloth, but I decided that there was more money in dairy farming. I was disappointed.
– One pastoral activity to another.
-Yes, one pastoral activity to another. You go to the top of the class. I can remember the time when I sold milk for 5d a gallon and eggs for 4d a dozen. So do not let anybody talk to me about rural industries and make it appear that I do not understand and have full sympathy with rural people. My heart is in the land. I have always had a deep sympathy for people on the land. To suggest that I have changed just because I have gone off the land temporarily is incorrect. I will certainly take the question seriously. I will talk with my colleague the Minister for Social Security, and if there is any merit in the suggestion it will be adopted.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. The question concerns the publicity campaign being conducted by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria which has as its aim convincing the people of Melbourne that the proposed Newport powerhouse is necessary and desirable. Is the Minister aware that in advertisements in Melbourne newspapers the SEC claims that the proposal for the Newport powerhouse has the support of the Federal Ministry of the Environment and Conservation? Can the Minister inform the House whether this statement is factual?
– I do not usually read advertisements, but my attention has been drawn to a series of advertisements in the Press on this question. The suggestion in them is a fairly remote conclusion to draw from the Press statements that I have made on the question of the potential air pollution arising from the powerhouse at Newport. I issued a couple of Press statements in August last suggesting that there were some doubts about the safety of the power station, in view of its potential to increase photochemical smog. After this aroused the anxieties of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, the Commission invited me to come and have discussions with it, and I did so. In the course of those discussions we discussed only this one issue. We did not consider the total environmental consequences of the proposed power station. The discussions were related purely to this one issue of the possible increase in photochemical smog associated with the proposed power station.
We came to the conclusion that although it would be safe in certain weather situations there were other situations in which not enough data was available for us to be sure that there would not be a danger of photochemical smog occurring. That was the essence of the Press statement I made on 6 October. I repeat that I have at no time considered the total environmental consequences. Even in that last Press statement I did not say that I endorsed the proposal. We simply agreed that more information was required. I do not quite understand the logic of drawing the conclusion from those sons of discussions that I support the proposed Newport power station. On the evidence presently available I certainly do not.
-I address my question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Did the Minister say on Monday evening last when addressing the Australian Workers Union that he sees nothing of great appeal in the capitalist or mixed enterprise system in which he asserted we are now living? Did the Minister say that he is still a democratic socialist but that he had to wait temporarily until the system could be changed? Having those factors in mind, will the Minister explain what changes should be made to the system and how and when they might be implemented?
-Yes, I did talk to the Australian Workers Union. I made remarks very much along the lines- not exactly, of course- as the honourable member put them. I never read precisely what is on a prepared paper. I always embellish it, add something to it and make it a bit better. If I find that I can improve on it impromptu, I always do. Of course I am a democratic socialist. I am very proud of that. I have been proud of it for all of my life- some 50 years now. I hope that the day will come when we will have a system of democratic socialism in Australia.
It is true that I said that we could not introduce democratic socialism immediately. I did not say that we will have to wait temporarily. I said that we will have to wait indefinitely because I could not imagine that it would be possible in the present climate to get the necessary referendum carried to give the Australian Parliament the power to introduce democratic socialism. If the honourable member wants to know what is needed to make it possible, let me say that we will need to alter the Constitution in such a way as to give the people the right by plebiscite to decide which industries are to be brought under public control or ownership. If the people were prepared to alter the Constitution in that way so that as each industry became a burden upon society at large we could then submit the proposition to the people by way of a referendum, I believe that would be the ideal situation. I could nominate some industries right now which would be first-class candidates for being put by referendum or plebiscite to the people to determine whether they should be brought under public ownership or control.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister have a thorough examination made of the Australian
Constitution to ascertain whether there is any bar to any State government passing legislation to perpetuate itself in office without any form of election taking place? Will the Prime Minister also ascertain whether there are any means by which legislation proposed in Victoria, and already enacted in Queensland and New South Wales, whereby a conservative political base is expanded by legislative means in order to deny to the people the opportunity to elect governments, can be prevented?
– I can state with certainty that there is nothing to prevent any State government introducing legislation, and that there could be no challenge to any state legislation extending the term of office of any State Parliament or either House of a State Parliament. The one exception is New South Wales where, about 1950, the Labor Government introduced and secured the passage of legislation which limited the life of the Legislative Assembly to 3 years unless that law were subsequently amended with the approval of the voters of New South Wales at a referendum. New South Wales, therefore, is the only State where there is any constitutional limitation on the term of office of a parliament. The British Parliament, from which the State parliaments derive, has no constitutional limitation on the term for which it can last. There have been many cases in which the British Parliament has passed a law extending its own term of office, the most recent being the parliament which was elected in 1935 for 5 years and which was extended until 1945. So there is no limitation whatever on the power of any State parliament, except that of New South Wales, to extend its term of office.
The honourable gentleman asked me also about the electoral systems of the States. I believe there is no limitation in any of the State constitutions concerning the principles upon which electorates in their parliaments are to be distributed. What is being done now by the Liberal Government in Victoria may be unconscionable or even monstrous, but it is perfectly constitutional. Nor in fact is there any limitation in the Federal Constitution on methods of distributing the electorates in the House of Representatives. The only provision is that the number of electorates in each State shall be proportionate to the population of the respective States. For very many years, there had been legislation stating that the number of electors in divisions for this House should not exceed or fall short of the average number of electors for the divisions in a State by more than 20 per cent. The Government introduced legislation to reduce that disparity to 10 per cent. It passed the House of Representatives 3 times. It failed to pass the Senate 3 times. It has now been passed at a joint sitting following a double dissolution which was based on the first 2 refusals by the Senate.
A referendum was put to the people at the Federal election in May which would have introduced the principle that there should be as nearly as practicable the same number of people in all electorates in this House and in each of the State parliaments. The referendum would have written into the Australian Constitution in respect of the Federal Parliament and the State parliaments the provisions which the United States Supreme Court, in interpretating the United States Constitution, has applied to the Federal Congress and all the State Legislatures. The referendum was carried in New South Wales. It was almost carried in Victoria. But it was not carried in the other 4 States, nor by the electorate as a whole. If that referendum had been carried there would have had to be democracy in all the State parliaments in the way that we have been able to achieve it statutorily in this Federal Parliament. I regret to inform the honourable gentlemen that the State parliaments, except that of New South Wales, can extend their lives for as long as they like and that there is no constitutional limitation on their capacity to malapportion or gerrymander the electorates constituting each State Parliament.
– Pursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960-1973, I present the fourteenth annual report of the National Library of Australia for the year ended 30 June 1974 together with financial statement and the Auditor-General’s Report on those statements.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. On Thursday the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’, over a garbled account of something which I said in the Party room, printed the headline ‘A Liberal backs Labor’. Sir, may I say that is entirely untrue. What I said in the Party room rather followed in some respects the line taken by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland. So far from backing Labor I consider the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) the personal architect of Australia’s present economic disaster. If he were a man of honour he would resign rather than find scapegoats in his Party and in the Public Service.
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that when he is making a personal explanation he has to say only where he has been misrepresented. He does not have to be like a stringray and put a little sting in the tail.
– I have finished, Mr Speaker.
Mr CREAN (Melbourne PortsTreasurer) Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I want to make one or two references to certain things which have appeared in the Press and which were said over television in the last few days. First, I shall read from the ‘Financial Review’ of Friday, 22 November. An article appears under the name of Mr Brian Toohey with the description: ‘Crean goes quietly’. This is a prime example of the mixture of fact and fiction which it seems is becoming the standard of reporting. I think the implication is supposed to be that every man has his price. This extract goes from page 1 to a later page and it states:
Apparently Mr Whitlam was also aware of the fact that Mr Crean would have to stay on as a Minister if he was to collect his full ministerial pension. A Minister needs 2 years in office before he can draw his full pension. This comes up at Christmas for Mr Crean, which means that if he really wanted to he could resign then, giving scope for a new election to Cabinet and a reshuffle.
First, I want to say that I was responsible more than a year ago for introducing legislation into this House to abolish the ministerial pension. Even before I became a Minister I was qualified for all the pension entitlement that I can ever receive. I simply say that this is an example of the standard of reporting. Because there would be too much to quote fully I refer particularly to 2 people. One is named Kelly who writes in a newspaper called the ‘Australian’ which once had the chance to be a great paper but is certainly receding from that position. The other gentleman is named Forsyth who writes for a paper called the ‘Telegraph’ which nobody ever thought was great. These are the sorts of people who will take less than half the truth, put it as though it is the whole truth and they do not have enough journalese sense to know that it then becomes almost anything but the truth.
The other types of incidents to which I want to refer are those which seek to bring one’s family into certain political events. There are 2 examples which have appeared in the newspapers. One article purports to describe an incident which took place between my wife and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). This is an incident which never took place. Both parties will indicate that. Yet one of these journalists says that because the report came from an impeccable source he is prepared to print it. No denial has been made of the second incident. At least there has been no indication of a denial in the Press. On Thursday night the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) spoke during the adjournment debate on my behalf. I am not normally an emotional man but I think I would have been a little too emotional on Thursday night to do what my colleague, the Leader of the House, did for me. That evening a television station put over a flash news item based on a telephone call. The item suggested that one of my sons had rung up the television station and had used language which I have taught my sons not to regard as the cream of the English language. Why would any television station base a news item on a telephone call without checking the source?
I have had to suffer a certain amount in the last several weeks. I do not mind so far as my position is concerned but I resent it when my family is brought into it. I resent the innuendoes. I think all honourable members will concede that they would be hard pressed to find any occasion in a period of more than 20 years when I have said anything personal about anybody in this House. I resent some of the comments which have been made about me. I think it is time editors of newspapers took a stand on the keyhole reporting which passes for representation of the facts in this place. I have always believed as a good democrat that the pen should be mightier than the sword but when the pen begins to be used as a sword we are destroying the freedom that the Press claims to want to have.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Loans (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill 1974.
Loans (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill 1974.
Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1 974.
Local Government Grants Bill 1974.
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs I bring up the report on the present conditions of the Yirrkala people, together with the minutes of proceedings of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members may recall that on 18 July 1974 the House agreed by resolution that a Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs be appointed with terms of reference identical with those approved for a similar committee during the 28th Parliament, and that on 23 July 1974 the new Committee, by its own motion, resolved to complete a task which had been initiated by the previous committee. That task was to examine the present conditions of the Aboriginal people at Yirrkala and the carrying out of the recommendations which had been made on 29 October 1963 by the House of Representatives Select Committee on the Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak, as Chairman of the Standing Committee, upon certain aspects of the report.
While at Yirrkala the Standing Committee made 2 promises to the Aboriginal leaders. The first was that the Committee would send its report to Yirrkala as soon as the rules of Parliament would allow. The second was that the Committee itself, in some representative form, would go back to Yirrkala and discuss with the people what the Committee had said and recommended. The Committee hoped that by doing so it would break the long chain of visits to Yirrkala which, as far as the Aborigines are concerned, have never had any identifiable result. The worst discourtesies are often unintended, and the Committee was made aware how deeply Aboriginal feelings must have been offended in the past by the uncounted number of official and other visitors who- often without warning- arrived at Yirrkala, quizzed the people hurriedly, asked for all manner of information and help, and then vanished, usually never to be heard of again except by distant report of things they had said or done to affect their hosts, often against their interests. In the hope that it will make for a decisive break with the past, the Standing Committee has arranged for copies of its report to reach Yirrkala as soon as possible after this, the moment of its presentation to Parliament. Honourable members will appreciate the reasons why the report could not be sent at any earlier time. In further keeping with its promise, the Standing Committee has agreed that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and myself, as Chairman, should go to Yirrkala as soon as possible.
Mr Speaker, I feel a need to say that every member of the Standing Committee ended the examination of the present conditions of the Aboriginal people at Yirrkala with a sense of regret that 10 years had to pass before any Parliament or Government after 1963 took up the recommendation made by the Select Committee in that year that the House from time to time, by means of a standing committee, should examine conditions at Yirrkala and monitor the carrying out of the Select Committee’s recommendations. I am not sure, of course, but it is at least possible that had such a committee been in being over the decade 1963-1973 some of the anxiety of the Aboriginal people might have been mitigated, and some of the problems which now face them and governments alike might have been less difficult.
I must not fail to say that every member of the Standing Committee also ended the examination with a heightened respect and deepened admiration for the Aboriginal people because of the dignity and forthright honesty of their testimony before the Committee. We hope that our better insight into the life values which the Aboriginal leaders are trying to protect and maintain will be evident in the terms of our report. I trust that these remarks will not be interpreted merely as conventional expressions of goodwill because that would devalue the sustained and patient effort made by both sides to reach a meeting of minds on some problems of extraordinary difficulty to which no-one at present has the precise answers.
The Aboriginal people of north-east Arnhem Land had to learn how to adapt themselves, at least in a measure, to foreigners of different outlook and custom long before Europeans intruded on them. They did so very successfully but without surrendering their own integrity and identity. It was perhaps this experience, protracted over several centuries, which may explain 2 qualities forcefully borne in upon the understanding of the Standing Committee- the remarkably tolerant attitude towards other life styles, coupled with an insistence, at least among their leaders, on maintaining their own traditional ways. But the people of today face difficulties which have no real precedent and lie beyond the range of any experience they have ever had.
I invite honourable members to reflect for a moment upon the differences of scale, rate and complexity in the technological and industrial revolution which has burst upon these people compared with anything that went before. There have been innumerable examples in tropical Australia of small scale ventures by Europeans investing modest capital for development at a leisurely rate with fairly simple technology and minimal labour forces. All too often the effects on neighbouring Aboriginal societies were catastrophic. At Yirrkala and elsewhere one looks at large scale investment- hundreds of millions of dollars compared with hundreds of thousands of dollars- already producing a handsome return and necessarily involving an enormously complex technology. It was impossible for the Standing Committee to avoid the conclusion that the Aboriginal people rightly fear the outcome upon the stability and sanctity of their own life style. These matters are dealt with at some length in the report. The experience at Yirrkala will relate to other enterprises of a similar kind which are under consideration elsewhere in Northern Australia or where Aborigines live in a traditional manner.
We have expressed our appreciation to all who assisted in any way, particularly Mr Adamson, the clerk to the Committee, Mr Peter Reece, Miss Andrea Larkin and Professor W. E. H. Stanner, our specialist adviser. I add our thanks to the Australian Government Publishing Service and the Printer for printing our report so attractively at short notice. I thank my fellow committee members of all political persuasions for their hard work and good fellowship. Our deliberations have been a pleasure as well as a duty. I commend this report to all members for their careful study and consideration.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The dangerously misconceived view held by the Treasurer designate that Australia’s high level of inflation and unemployment are derived from external economic events.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-The Opposition Parties have brought forward this matter today because of our serious concern at the recent public statements made by the Treasurerdesignate, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns), a senior Minister who was widely proclaimed throughout the media as the principal architect of the disastrous 1974-75 Budget. He is a Minister who gave his agreement to the destructive ‘across the board’ tariff cuts and who has in fact presided over a serious deterioration in Australia’s balance of trade. The Treasurerdesignate of this country has consistently adopted the propaganda line that inflation and unemployment in Australia are products of the international economic environment or the socalled system. The corollary of this argument is, of course, that neither the present levels of inflation nor of unemployment have resulted from Labor’s economic policies. In fact, the honourable gentlemen has even exceeded this argument by consistently claiming that Labor’s economic policies have been so appropriate that they have held back inflation to around 20 per cent when otherwise it would have risen to 30 per cent.
This is a dangerous and irresponsible approach by a Minister who is to have the primary responsibility for the Australian economy within a period of some 3 weeks. It demonstrates, I believe, an attachment to propaganda and dialectic in place of disciplined economic analysis. If there is a public acceptance of the proposition that Australia’s economic problems are externally induced or that they derive from the system itself, the Government’s capacity to apply corrective policies and the community’s willingness to accept those policies will be dangerously eroded. On 28 July, at the Australian Labor Party Conference, the honourable gentleman delivered a speech which could only be described as a gross distortion in terms of its economic analysis. On 3 occasions he referred to the causes of inflation, and I quote to the House each of them:
The inflation today is private enterprise inflation and it is international inflation.
It is bank-caused inflation at high interest rates. . . . inflation is not the result or the fault of the Government. Inflation is the product of the economic system . . .
On 3 September the Treasurer-designate spoke in the following terms during the course of his Chifley Memorial lecture:
No one, and no government, need do anything but learn to live with inflation.
Yet, in total and complete contradiction to these comments, on 30 May the honourable gentleman claimed that:
Australia with a Labor Government has the opportunity to prove now that inflation can be brought under control …
He was further quoted in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 16 September as having said:
Governments can and must lead in the fight against inflation.
Australia’s future Treasurer clearly has one view on Monday and is quite capable of taking the opposite view on the subsequent Tuesday. It simply depends on whom he is talking to or the last person to whom he talked. It must be understood and emphasised that the Minister has at all times been a senior and principal participant in those basic decisions which have led in this country to rampant inflation and an uncontrolled increase in the level of unemployment. As a member of the Cabinet he agreed to the famous July miniBudget which was introduced as a so-called tough and decisive measure towards curbing inflation. The extraordinary thing was, however, that the next day the honourable gentleman announced that the July mini-Budget was not deflationary; on the contrary, he believed that increased government charges would add to cost inflation.
The future Treasurer, on the subject of wages, has alternatively called for increased wages to protect workers against inflation and then dominated the Australian Press headlines by making so-called tough statements about restraining them. What about the multi-nationals and the flood of foreign money themes? The honourable gentleman was quoted in the ‘Australian ‘ on 30 September as having said:
Multi-national corporations, far from being” sinister, are easier to deal with than some other companies.
The honourable gentleman seems to have forgotten the evils of foreign money as well. Having spent the best part of 2 years turning off the tap he has only recently been touring the world’s financial capitals, cap in hand, endeavouring to raise funds.
– Did he get any?
-That is a matter for a parliamentary statement which, of course, this Parliament has yet to receive. A reading of the economic pronouncements of the honourable gentleman must lead to total confusion in the minds of the Australian public. In a short period of time, he appears to have become the Government’s economic trampolinist. He is all things to all men- an alleged friend of business and at the same time the darling of left wing radicalism. If he speaks to the Labor Party he blames the system and private enterprise. If he speaks to business he talks about the importance of the private sector and the need for Australia to produce its way out of inflation.
This matter of public importance has been brought forward today to discuss the question of imported inflation and the so-called system. The Opposition Parties totally reject both arguments. We believe they are irresponsible and dishonest. The Deputy Prime Minister has an opportunity today to discount them or to re-affirm them. The 1972 Treasury White Paper on the economy concluded that external factors had some impact but that much the greater part of inflation is derived from domestic influences. In spite of official requests and a series of requests by me the Government has refused to permit the Treasury to update that analysis. The Government has argued the monetarist theory of additions to liquidity via the balance of payments surplus- the flood of foreign money theory- but Australia has had a negative external balance during 1974. The Government has argued that world commodity prices have caused domestic prices, particularly meat prices, to increase in response but the food price index is becoming a progressively less influential component of the consumer price index. It has argued that the world oil crisis has forced up Australian domestic costs, but Australia is virtually isolated from international oil price increases and the price of domestic crude oil is fixed. The Government has argued that Australian inflation is simply reflecting the general price rises in comparable countries. That is demonstrably untrue.
Inflation in Australia has increased during the past 12 months at a rate well in excess of that of every comparable world economy in relation to its long term average. Only one country has a higher rate of accelerating inflation than Australia and that is Greece. Japan’s rate of 23.8 per cent is higher than ours. But, Japan, as honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House ought to understand, has had an historical long term inflation rate twice that of Australia. It is now less than twice the Australian rate of inflation. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table based on official Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The table sets out the ratio of each country’s present annual inflation rate in relation to its long term average between 1961 and 1971. The ratio for the total OECD is 3.8. Australia’s ratio is 5.8. The rate of inflation in Australia has accelerated at a rate well above the average. The ratios of the major OECD countries are well below that of Australia. For example, in Japan the ratio is 3.8, in the United States of America 3.9, in France 3.4, in Germany 2.4, in the United Kingdom 3.7 and in Canada 3.8. All economic advice would accept that the extent to which economies have changed relative to their previous trends is the correct method of comparison. This comparison is a conservative analysis of Australia’s high relative rate of inflation. It takes no account of world oil price increases. The OECD has pointed out that around one-third of the recent increases in inflation in oil importing nations arises directly from increased oil prices.
The simple fact is that Australia is not importing inflation; it is exporting inflation. On 20 November, in this House, the Minister referred to income demand rising in 1971-72 because of international factors. At that time the Treasury clearly indicated that this was not a major element of the inflation rate. In fact, the inflation rate was 4.5 per cent at the end of 1972. Of course, the Opposition Parties accept that some proportion of domestic inflation is imported. I emphasise that fact in response to a question answered by the honourable gentleman during question time in the House today. We have never denied that some proportion of the inflation rate in this country is imported. But the proposition that we put is that this is not the major cause.
The major cause of inflation is the policy errors of the present Labor Administration. It is no use claiming that Treasury statistical advice led to the adoption of incorrect policies. The Opposition’s major economic policy statements, issued in April and July this year, clearly identified the future down-turn in employment and private sector activity. These are 2 major problems which are bedevilling the economy and this Government at the present time. I challenge the honourable gentleman to tell the House today during this debate just how and by what mechanism inflation is being imported into Australia. If he believes that it is, he should spell out what the transmission mechanisms are and what are their relative influences. I also challenge the honourable gentleman to demonstrate how unemployment in Australia results from external economic events and not from this Government’s imposed credit squeeze and its decision concerning tariff reductions. In spite of the fact that a significant number of OECD nations have incurred a down-turn in economic activity, none of them have unemployment levels significantly higher than their long-term averages. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the unemployment position.
-Is leave granted?
– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Some countries have virtually no unemployment at all. For example, New Zealand has an unemployment level of around 1,000 people, which is . 1 per cent of its entire work force.
– They are all over here.
– I will answer the honourable member’s interjection shortly.
That country, unlike Australia, has suffered the direct impact of world oil price increases. I challenge the Minister to say precisely why New Zealand has not suffered like Australia with skyrocketing unemployment. The Minister should be well aware that the New Zealand Government is deeply concerned by the prospect of unemployment being exported from Australia to New Zealand. As with inflation, Australia is not an importer; it is, in fact, an exporter of its economic problems. If the Minister seeks to make valid economic comparisons- those which have some prospect of forming a meaningful basis for an effective economic policy- I suggest that he reads the OECD’s 1974 economic survey of Australia. That survey said this:
The available evidence suggests that . . . the change in the rate of inflation has been the greatest in those countries where the share of public expenditure has been most rapid.
Australia’s massive acceleration in public expenditure is entirely consistent with that significant OECD report. In short, the Opposition totally rejects the thesis of imported inflation which this Government has sought to bring down to confuse the economic debate which is taking place in this country. On no occasion has the Government attempted to substantiate that proposition with detailed evidence, which the honourable gentleman must know ought to be available from Treasury sources, either to confirm or deny it. I challenge the honourable gentleman to do so now.
– In entering this debate the thing that strikes me the most is the ease with which speakers from the other side of the House openly accuse those of us on this side of the House of an immoral and corrupt attitude. The honourable gentleman says that we are doing something that is wrong. We could be wrong. But he goes on to say that we are deliberately doing this to deceive and to confuse the debate. He finds somewhere in us a significant moral fault. He thinks and argues that we are morally corrupt. I do not think it is necessary to conduct a debate using that language. I am constantly aware of it easily tripping off the tongue of people on the other side of the House who pretend to have a right to be a Minister. Frankly, I have had enough of it and I do not intend to enter into that kind of debate.
We are debating an alternative view of the Australian economy at the moment. The Opposition is trying to say that what is happening in Australia today is almost alone the result of something that is occurring in Australia and that there is some influence from outside. It was only today that the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), the shadow Minister at the table, was prepared to make that admission. He says that there is some influence, but not much. What is happening here, he has argued all the way through his speech, is the result of something that is only Australian. When we look inside Australia to try to find what that is, he is saying that it is simply Government policy, that nothing else is of importance in Australia but the Government. This political analysis, which ignores all the economic factors, is a dangerous analyis because it is hiding from the spokesmen of the Opposition as well as from those who lead the Opposition all that an analysis can tell them. On top of that not only is he saying it is the fault of the Government but also that the Government is deliberately doing this to deceive the people. He finds that moral fault and that corruption in the Government. I do not think that kind of approach helps in the solution of this problem at all.
Today, in 1 974, if there is any outstanding feature of the world economy, it is interdependence and interrelationship. Today we are part of a world economy and when something happens on the other side of the earth, particularly in a nation like the United States, it is not long before it is transferred round the world. When something happens in one part of the world which controls the greater part of the world’s energy resources, as does the Middle East, it is not long before it is transferred all round the world. Today we live in a world which is one world and which is one economic system. Not only are those things transferred from one country to another but also we have the same kinds of systems. We have an economic organisation which is the same as that in the United States and in Western Europe.
I have just recently been in 1 1 countries and perhaps I have had the opportunity, which is denied to the spokesman for the Opposition, of finding out what people in other parts of the world think. I find that they, in analysing their own economic situation in the United States or in Western Europe, are using exactly the same terms as we use here. I will quote just a few. If the honourable gentleman would like to find a precis of the comments he will find it in ‘Newsweek’ of 30 September 1974. The statements I intend looking at are representative of the comments of some of the leading minds in the world looking at the same economic problems as we look at. What did they find? George Meany, President of the American Federation of Labor- Congress of Industrial Organisations says:
The most important single step the United States can take to improve the international economic picture is to solve its own economic mess. It must be remembered that one shot actions can compound world wide problems . . .
America and the free world have very great capital needs Tor housing, business expansion and public services, and these legitimate needs should not be forced to compete for capital with gambling casinos.
Similarly, we have long called for strict regulation of the commodity speculators . . .
Mr Meany says that the ‘paper’ deals of the commodity speculators have had tremendous world wide consequences. He continued:
The United States must solve its own economic problems before it attempts to solve the world economic problems.
Mr Meany is really saying here that this is a world situation, that the United States has a crucial situation in it, that the United States has to act in certain ways if the world problem is to be solved and that the solution is long term.
– He is a trade unionist.
-Just a moment. I will tell the honourable member of the statements of a few people who are not trade unionists. There is Saburo Okita, of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Fund, and a leading spokesman in Japan. He says:
Since we are faced with global inflation in which one country’s excessive control could affect other countries, it takes global co-operation to attack the problem.
Through what Mr Okita says is the basic assumption, which in every country but this is taken as the obvious truth, that we are dealing with a world situation and that we need first of all multi-national co-operation to solve it. But no mention of this ever comes from the Opposition. Opposition members are not concerned to ascertain even what is being said and done in other parts of the world. They are simply concerned to say that everything that is happening in this country is being caused by the Labor Government.
– That is a deliberate untruth.
– That is all they want to do. They want nothing but policies, not economic analysis. ‘ Mr Garland- A deliberate untruth.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
- Mr Speaker, I would prefer that he be ignored.
– Withdraw what?
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw ‘deliberate untruth’. The honourable gentleman knows that that is an unparliamentary remark.
– I will withdraw the word ‘deliberate’.
-I refer next to Ernst Mommsen, the chairman of Krupp in Germany, not a trade union leader, I hope honourable members opposite will notice, who says:
The prevention of a world wide recession is the task of the surplus countries. They have to take care that their economic growth does not decline. Efforts should even be made to raise the present growth rates …
Here Mommsen, chairman of Krupp, is pointing out that this is a world problem and it cannot be solved simply by thinking in national terms. Pierre-Paul Schweitzer, chairman of the Bank of America in Luxembourg, says:
The monetary crisis preceded the oil crisis and to some extent was perhaps responsible for it. I think it’s urgent that we return to some kind of international monetary order.
All the time in these areas in other parts of the world, the leading economic thinkers are stressing the significance of the economic aspects of this situation and are saying that an individual country can do practically little or nothing to solve the problem. But no, that is not something that the Opposition in this country wants to recognise.
– Economic isolationism.
– Yes, economic isolationism. The Opposition in this country simply wants to say that there is something terribly wrong here in
Australia; it has occurred alone as the result of something that is happening in Australia, and that something is the fault of the Government. I say that that is a completely deceiving situation.
Not only do the price statistics show how deceptive it is; even the structure of industry and the changes within the structure of industry show how deceptive it is. I have here a document of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing price percentage changes for the year to September 1974. The change for Australia is 16.1 per cent. That of course is high. It is far higher than any of us would want it to be. But what is the position of the other countries shown in this table? We find the following changes recorded: Japan 23.8 per cent; France 14.8 per cent; Italy 23.7 per cent; United Kingdom 17.1 per cent; Belgium 15.6 per cent; Denmark 15.9 per cent; Ireland 17.9 per cent; Finland 16.5 per cent; Greece 24.9 per cent; Iceland 41.4 per cent; Portugal 28.7 per cent; Spain 15.2 per cent; and Turkey 25.5 per cent. The OECD average is 14.1 per cent. The OECD average for Europe is 14.7 per cent and the average of the European Economic Community is 14.5 per cent- all comparable with Australia.
If honourable members look at the causes of this development they will see the reasons for the changes in the rate about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Warringah are trying to interject. The reasons for the changes in the rate are the different impacts upon those economies of the boom in exports in 1972-73 and the capital inflow. Changes in the economic system that have followed are consistent and confirm that. In the case of Australia, there was a far greater export boom in 1972-73 than in any of those countries I have mentioned. The value of our exports shot up by more than $2, 000m in a year. That did not happen anywhere in Europe. That tremendous amount of money was pumped into the Australian economy and hardly any of it was neutralised. At the same time, we had a minerals boom. A minerals boom did not occur in Europe. There was no great minerals find in France, Germany or any other comparable country. But there was in Australia.
What happened? Money from all over the world seeking resources poured into Australia to the extent of $3,200m in a year 1972-73. That did not happen in Europe. Those are the reasons for the difference in the rate. That is why we are being pushed a bit higher now than some of the European countries. But this political analysis to which the spokesmen on the other side of the House confine themselves to try to tell the people of Australia that there is only one thing wrong with the country, and that is the Government, is blinding honourable members opposite to all of these factors. We had a boom in capital inflow of $3,500m in less than a year. None of it was neutralised in those days. Every cent of it was allowed to come in here and push the economy into an inflationary phase. As soon as the Australian Labor Party became the Government it tried to regulate those 2 things and to reduce the rate of inflation. If the previous Government had acted properly and had analysed the situation properly this would have happened a year before. But this Government did it as soon as it was able to exercise control in this country.
As I said the other day when debating this subject, top-ranking economists in Australia like Trevor Swan have expressed the opinion that if the Government had not appreciated the currency and taken other steps to control capital inflow, inflation would be 10 per cent greater than it is now. Having done that and having reduced the inflationary pressures, it is obvious that in circumstances like this there will be certain industrial changes within the country. The striking thing is that the pattern of industrial change in Australia is exactly the same as the pattern everywhere else. I have here production statistics for 1974. They show that, up to the latest figures, even in this period of recession in Australia, 1 9 out of 33 items in the recorded production statistics rose. Raw steel rose by 6 per cent, blooms and slabs rose by 8.7 per cent, tinplate rose by 13.9 per cent and so on. In almost every comparable country the number of rises is smaller than that but they are for the same commodities in which Australia shows rises.
Up to the latest figures falls were recorded in 14 items in Australia. If one looks at every one of the European Economic Community countries in the statistics of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development one will find that the number is about the same, with a dozen commodities showing falls. Not only in Europe but also in Hong Kong, Singapore and wherever else one likes to look, the falls are about the same and they are in the same industries. Pig iron is down 7.3 per cent, clay bricks are down 15.2 per cent, Portland cement is down 6 per cent, floor coverings are down 25.6 per cent, radio sets are down 73.5 per cent, cars and station wagons are down 3.2 per cent, and woollen woven cloth is down 38.5 per cent. These falls are mainly in 3 areas- the textile industry, the building industry and the electronics and automotive industry.
In other countries the falls are more serious than they are in Australia, but they are in the same kinds of commodities. This suggests that inflation is caused by the same kinds of things- by the international flow of funds spent on exports, by international investment and so on- as in 1972-73. But the steps taken to control inflation are the same everywhere. I recommend to the Opposition spokesman that he look at ‘Newsweek’ of 30 September 1974. He will see that Paul Samuelson who is probably the most influential economist in the United States of America says that it is necessary to restrain the economy, it is necessary to have a credit squeeze and it is necessary that interest rates be higher. But, he says, whilst this policy is common throughout the world, it has the consequences to which I have referred in those production statistics. They are the same everywhere. What has happened in Australia is therefore the same.
Samuelson goes on to say that, even though this is necessary, do not let it go too far. His advice to President Ford is:
Don’t encourage the overly tight policies of the Federal Reserve, which have been killing the housing market and gradually increasing the gravity of stagnation.
Don’t think that some puritanical budget-cutting will suffice . . .
Don’t listen to your advisers who claim that bringing unemployment up to 6 per cent and holding it there for a couple of years will restore the economy . . .
This is exactly the kind of thing I have been saying over the last 6 months, not always with the agreement of some of the Government’s advisers. This matter is one of very fine and acute judgment in which the Government can perhaps be wrong. The Opposition can be wrong too, although it may never have occurred to its members. I am suggesting that unless the Opposition can make an analysis of the situation on economic terms and get rid of the simple political stuff it has been pumping out to the House today, it is bound not only to be wrong but also to be seen to be wrong.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Opposition has today brought forward this matter of public importance:
The dangerously misconceived view held by the Treasurer designate - who has just resumed his seat- that Australia’s level of inflation and unemployment are derived from external economic events.
The whole tone of the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) was that none of the conditions in Australia today are his fault. Indeed, he adopted a very injured tone. He was inclined to take up some time in complaining that we have an immoral position and that it is only he who has the moral position.
– Surely this is a debate on the economy.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the Minister had more time than I have and he is just trying to squander my time. He quoted statements of various people overseas in a way that would indicate that they were quotes by eminent people which undercut the arguments of the Opposition. He laid great stress on saying that what we have in Australia today in high inflation and high unemployment is a world problem. He even made some attempt to bolster this argument by referring to the mineral boom of 1970, grasping at straws, and ended with these words: ‘As soon as we became the Government we tried to reduce inflation. ‘ Those words are on the record. At the end of 1972 inflation was 4.7 per cent, and the Deputy Prime Minister knows that full well. His statement was made, I believe, deliberately to mislead. But the point I make in response to all his quotations is that nobody on this side-no leader, no shadow Minister- has said that all the problem is made in Australia. The Government has made that case the foundation of its argument- that we have been maintaining that the problems in Australia are all created in Australia. Point out to me one shadow Minister or leading spokesman for the Opposition who has said so and where it is recorded.
It emerges from the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister that he is not really trying to face up to the reality that Australia has to live with at the present. He is trying only to explain it away. He said at one point: ‘Well, maybe I am wrong.’ I believe he is wrong. But the rest of his speech does not indicate for one moment that he imagines he is wrong. On the contrary, he and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) go round Australia finding scapegoats everywhere. Now it is the Treasury; it was the Treasurer (Mr Crean). They sacked him. They blame the multinationals, the Press, big business, the nervous Nellies of the Caucus, world wide inflation, the Senate, the State Premiers- especially at the moment the Queensland Premier- the unions, the airline pilots, the Caucus and the weather. All those things in turn have been blamed but the fact of the matter is that it is the Government which has the greatest influence- not the only influence- in this country, and it just will not face up to the facts.
Let me quote the comment of an Australian on this. I think the comment is as succinct as any. It was made by Sir John Marks quite recently at the annual general meeting of shareholders of F & T Industries Ltd. He said:
True, we are not the only country in the world to experience inflation. We are frequently reminded of this and consoled with pious observations that our level is about half way up the world scale. Make no mistake about it- most of our inflation has the label ‘Made in Australia’ firmly attached to it. Our economy is quite different to those of most of the countries with which we are being compared. We do not, as yet, have to import substantial quantities of oil; we are selfsupporting in food, minerals and most raw materials; we have a strong secondary industry capable of meeting, if necessary, the greater part of our requirements for manufactured goods.
That gives the lie to all those quotations that were given by the Minister. The Government in fact during its period of office has failed to act when the money supply was too great, as it was in 1973. It allowed our great reserves, which at one stage were $6,000m, to be frittered away. It reduced that buffer we had against the outside world largely by its cut of the tariffs by an unselective 25 per cent. It has actively encouraged increases in wages demands and conditions demands. It built up in this country an expectation that every desire, every ideal objective, could be answered and answered quickly. The Government is the cause of the great cost push inflation and the rising costs in this country which allowed our inflation rate to get to a much higher level than it should have reached. This Government has indulged in business bashing to the point where very few companies in this country today wish to invest. They do not have confidence because they do not know what is around the corner. This position has arisen because of the hatred- I use that word deliberately- of business, which most members of the Labor Party in this place have, both international and Australian business. As a consequence the Government has ruined productivity in this country. It has ruined that confidence which is so necessary to expand the productive sector of this country. I do not mean only the private sector but also the sector that actually produces or attempts to produce a surplus. When Dr Cairns, the Deputy Prime Minister, comes in here and in order to make an argument which he can answer, says ‘You are trying to say that all Australia’s problems are internal’, he exaggerates the charge out of all common sense. No one is saying that. No one is making such an unqualified statement. But I will say that half our inflation rate is caused by this Government’s policies over the last 2 years.
In New Zealand, as we heard earlier, the inflation rate is half ours and, incidentally, the employment figure is less than 1,000 there. There is something that this offshore island can teach us.
It is well known that New Zealand ‘s Labor Ministers privately criticise the Ministers of this Government and their silly policies. Anyone who cares to go there and talk to them will hear it said quite freely. On all these great issues facing the country the Prime Minister is virtually silent and when he does speak on economic matters, what an unconvincing man he is. The fact of the matter is that he is uninterested in economic matters. He is unsure and he runs away from them as often as possible.
The Government has taken a number of steps in order to meet the situation. It has received much criticism from its own back benchers and no doubt Labor Party branches and of course the Press. But the measures that have been takenunfortunately I do not have the time to analyse them as I would like to- have for the most part been ill-timed and spasmodic and in many cases the Government has let golden opportunities pass by. I will mention one of these. The Government had the opportunity before the Budget was brought down to have that conference which was so badly needed with unions and industry to provide a chance to make some sort of a contract, but it threw it away. There was an opportunity to say to the unions, ‘We are prepared to do many things, for example, to alleviate pressure in the area in welfare and to help with other areas if you will moderate your demands’ but it threw it away and it will not come again as easily as it did before.
I have referred to the Government’s attitude of finding blame. It blames everybody. It blames everybody who comes along. Most recently it is the Treasury officials whose dedication surely can hardly be doubted by any member of this House who has ever talked to them. But the crux of the matter is that this Government will simply not face economic facts. It encourages inflation and particularly cost inflation. It has mishandled the money supply from beginning to end. The Prime Minister’s only economic knowledge is expressed in talking about ‘too much money chasing too few goods,’ but he does not even seem to know how to control this aspect either.
The Government has put forward the view that it is trying to enter into some social contract with unions. It has no chance whatever of succeeding the way it is going about it. This matter of public importance has been brought forward today to point out to the Australian people the dangerous situation. It is dangerous because we are being lulled into a false sense of security.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am never quite sure what revelations are released for the listening public when we have debates on economic matters. I think the greatest fault that develops in these debates is the way in which they are exceedingly simplified and excessively confusing. I believe that that has been the general trend of the Opposition, and especially that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in the course of the debate which he initiated to day. This tendency to over-simplify and confuse is not the greatest defect in the development of debate here. Probably misrepresentation is more pernicious, as is the misrepresentation of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in asserting that the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) has stated that the sole cause of inflation and unemployment in this country comes from outside forces. This is an excellent example of what I mean.
I put it to the House that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made it quite clear in the course of the debate, when he quoted a range of statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister, that had he reflected on the speech that had been written for him and understood it instead of merely reading it, then he would have realised that a substantial content of that speech was based on quotations from the Deputy Prime Minister which reflected an understanding of the comprehensive range of forces which are at work in any economy, whether it is a stable or a destabilised one, and whether it is an economy that is or is not suffering from inflation and any other attendant problem that can come with economic management.
There are a range of forces at work at any given time. This was acknowledged again today by the Deputy Prime Minister. Thank goodness at least the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) had the decency and the intellectual self-respect to acknowledge that external forces can affect the performance of a domestic economy. They are, he said, among many forces that can affect the economy. That is exactly what has been said consistently by the Deputy Prime Minister, not only in this House but also in statements which he has made outside the House. But 1 do not want to waste any more time on that point, except to restate for the record that it is foolish to a dangerous degree for speakers like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to stand up in this House and take one small sector of the economy and try to dissect that and to assert that that alone is the sole issue that has to be discussed. Anyone who says that economic management in this country is a simple matter of saying something 3 times and thus making it right- the Deputy Leader of the Opposition adopts that principle; he is Australia’s Alice of economic management- is talking nonsense. Anyone who tries to imply that, ignoring totally the forces that work internationally and which press in on this economy or any other domestic economy, proves that he is illiterate in economic matters.
Let us quickly look at the international situation with regard to Australia and at how substantially influential it is or is not on our domestic economy. The first point I make is that Australia has a very high involvement in international trade. The world is an open market; Australia is largely an open market. We have tariffs and of course we have other forms of protection. We are still involved very heavily in world trade, and in fact exports as a percentage of gross domestic product for this country exceed 1 5 per cent, while imports reach nearly 1 8 per cent. So the immediate impression is that what is happening in overseas countries will have a fairly powerful influence on how the economy of this country performs. For instance, in a situation of international inflation, on the side of imports which are inputs for industry, especially capital inputs, there will be a push on prices and costs of production. So quite clearly there is a de-stabilising effect if there is rapidly accelerating inflation overseas.
Similarly, if a situation arises where exceedingly high prices are paid for our exports, and in conjunction with this a very high proportion of our goods are being exported but we are not importing a commensurate quantity of goods from other countries, then we get a very destabilising influence on our domestic economy. That is exactly what was set in train in the last part of 1972. The problem with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that he believes that if a person who has a large amount of money in his savings bank account can therefore be said to be in an economically sound position, a large accumulation of reserves in the nation’s overseas accounts must be healthy for the national economy. That is utter nonsense. The high level of reserves which we inherited and which continued to build up because of the momentum which had been set in force by the actions of the last Government were, in fact, a reflection of a very unhealthy economic situation. Because of Australia’s unreal and completely irresponsible exchange rate it was a bargain for overseas countries to buy Australian resources in terms of their real spending power. Of course they bought Australian exports. People borrowed money overseas and rushed it into this country to buy up control of Australian resources, because the bargain was on. So we had an enormous accumulation of overseas reserves. All that meant, at that level of over $4,000m, was that money had been pumped into the Australian economy without an equivalent volume of goods and services and it accordingly swelled to a very unhealthy degree the money supply within the country. There alone are some of the forces at work.
Let us look quickly at the international situation and how it impinged on the Australian economy. The year 1972 was bad for world food production. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Africa, India and Asia food production was below normal and so grain prices, particularly for wheat and rice, rocketed. Naturally this country, because among other things it is a great grain producer, suffered- or enjoyed, however you want to look at it- a commodity boom. This is another reason why there were destabilising forces in the Australian economy. These effects filter right through into the domestic market place, too. For example, in 1973 food prices in Australia increased by 21 per cent or were responsible for 47 per cent of the increase in the consumer price index.
Even though we are more fortunate than most countries, we still face the problem of the oil crisis because we have a dependency on oil from overseas sources. Because we are so heavily involved in the international trade economy, what happens to our trading partners in their trade between each other and in their association with the oil supplying countries also filters into this country. The oil crisis had been one of the most destabilising, if not in the longer term devastating, economic effects that has hit the world economy. In fact, the sharp increase in energy prices is undoubtedly the most severe shock that the world economy has experienced since the Second World War. Present estimates are that approximately US$50 billion per annum will flow to the oil producing nations. That alone has an extremely destabilising influence on the world economy. I ask leave to have a table on this very point incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– This table shows the total international reserve assets for various nations. What is significant is the massive movement of reserves towards the oil producing countries. For instance, in the year ending 30 June 1974 Saudi Arabia had an increase over the previous year of 129 per cent in its reserves. In the same period Iran had an increase of 350 per cent in its reserves and Iraq had an increase of over 141 per cent. The point about this is that it created an unsettled situation- a massive move of resources to these countries from other countries. There is a critical international situation with the international banking organisations which are not quite sure whether they can- they have grave doubts whether they can- handle this sort of money that is moving about internationally at the present time. This situation shows every symptom of being extremely volatile and erosive, if not explosive, to nations’ economies. That alone has a significant effect on the Australian economy.
Let us look at the situation with other commodities. The fibre index has been falling continuously and the food index has been moving steadily upwards. The metals index rose from January, peaked in May, and has been moving steadily downwards since then. The ‘National
Times’ key indicators repeatedly, week after week, indicate the very unsettled nature of the international economy, especially where commodities that we are heavily involved in in trade are concerned- commodities which affect our major trading partners. Finally I would like to have incorporated in Hansard a table on money supply.
-Is leave granted? Leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– This table is very important. It shows that in 1973-74 there was a slowing down of the rate of increase in the money supply, in contrast to what happened in 1972 when there was a substantial and irresponsible explosion and erosion.
-The Minister’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Debate resumed from 21 November on motion by Mr Bryant:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Hunt had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not opposing the passage of this Bill the House is of the opinion that the Government’s action in reducing the grant to the State of Queensland by $3, 190,000 is contrary to the best interests of the Aboriginal people of Queensland and that the Government should take immediate steps to grant to that State a further sum of $3, 190,000 as promised in the Budget’.
– I wish to speak, in the main, to the Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill, the second of the Bills which are being debated cognately, but at the outset I wish to say a few words about the first Bill, the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill. In particular, I deplore the way in which this whole issue has been used as a political football. The States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill seeks to advance moneys to assist the welfare of Aborigines. These people deserve better than to be treated as a political football or to have the matters which concern them become a matter of political football kicking in a State election campaign. It is a pity that the debate was allowed to degenerate to this level for I feel that when this Government first became the Government its intentions in this area were at least sincere. I think it is a great pity that it has used Aborigines and the welfare of Aborigines to chastise the Queensland Government on a matter that can only be an opinion.
There are some 80,000 Aborigines in various places throughout Australia- on missions, on pastoral leases, on farms, in rural towns, on State-managed settlements and in cities. They live in varied circumstances. One thing is common to the picture, wherever we look at it, and that is, I am afraid, that it is not a particularly happy picture. They have in the main the same problems that Europeans have, but they have them to a much greater degree. As well, they have problems which are peculiar to them as Aborigines, problems which are not possessed by Europeans. The second Bill, the Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill, is aimed at dealing in the main with those problems which are peculiar to Aborigines as Aborigines.
Firstly, let us look at some of the problems which they share with the European community. Housing is one. They are, in the main, not so well housed as are Europeans- even those Europeans who live in the same areas and otherwise in similar circumstances. Their education does not compare with the education of Europeans, if one measures it by grade against age, by attendance, by the number who drop out or by any way that one wishes. Their health is not so good as the health of Europeans. The Aboriginal population in the area served by the Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth is something like 3.5 per cent of the total population, yet at this children’s hospital something like 13 per cent of admittances are Aborigines. Look at crime. In Western Australia the Aboriginal population provides something like 1 1 .5 per cent of all convictions, yet they are only 4 per cent of the adult population. I would suggest that alcohol is a major contributor to the crime rate among these people. I think it is a measure of the fact that they have real problems which are their problems and which are peculiar to the Aboriginal population. It indicates a people who are not coping with society as they find it.
There are exceptions of course. There are many individual Aborigines who are coping very well and I hope that there will be many more exceptions. The purpose and whole concept of the Bill, which incidentally was a concept of the past Liberal-Country Party Government, is to increase the number of these exceptions so that happily we can one day see a situation where the 2 communities, if they do not become one community, will become equals in all the senses that make one community respect the other.
When talking about equals it is not uncommon for us to refer to peoples as equal in the sense that they are the same. It is nonsense to talk in this way because people are different, individuals are different, groups are different and of course races are different. It is senseless to use the word ‘equality’ if by that we mean sameness. Incidentally, any talk of superiority is meaningless. To say that people are not equal, meaning that they are not the same, does not connote that one group is in any way superior to another. Before one can talk of superiority one has to define in what sense one is discussing the subject. One would have to establish a host of criteria, if one tried this pointless exercise, and one would come down with different measures of superiority applying to different peoples which would tell one nothing and be merely confusing. However, it is not uncommon when someone points out the differences between races for him to be accused of advocating an argument of racial superiority. I am not, and such an argument is nonsense.
It is also quite impossible to go from the general situation in which one may say that one group has an aptitude in a certain respect and another group has an aptitude in another respect and then apply this to individuals because, of course, the groups overlap. However, the society in which we live is essentially a European society and because these people are different they have special problems within it. That is the justification for this Bill and in a sense it is what this Bill is all about.
Society has an obligation to any disadvantaged group. It has an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves and it inevitably runs into trouble with those who will not. There is a need to toughen up all of our social services legislation to endeavour to control the misuse of the legislation and the misuse of the benefits by those who will not. However, what I have just said does not in any way lessen the obligation for society to weigh in, as it were, on the side of those who cannot. I think that surely we should adopt a common approach where there are common problems affecting Aborigines within the European community. But where there are peculiar problems the governments of this country, both State and Commonwealth, should adopt a peculiar approach. This is the practice in other areas.
Only recently I advocated in this House that we should adopt a peculiar approach to assist another disadvantaged and quite different group- the beef industry. I mention this only because it is thought by some that the peculiar situation in which the Aboriginal people find themselves should not be recognised. It is not uncommon to recognise the different difficulties of different groups. Minority enterprises and small business investment companies have been set up in the United States for just this purpose. This technique is not dissimilar to the one used in the administration of this Bill to give loans to Aborigines. It is an attempt to help the Aboriginal people to stand on their own feet and to hold their heads high.
The Australian Labor Party has been adventurous in its policies for Aboriginal people. In fact, it has been over-adventurous, and this has been conceded by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). Unfortunately the Labor Party’s policies have had 2 negative results. One negative result has been loose administration and the other, which perhaps partly results from this, is the so-called white backlash, something that has been very adverse to the Aboriginal people, something that has set the cause of Aboriginal affairs back, something that must surely be regarded, on any reasonable assessment, as damaging to what I believe is a common cause of honourable members on both sides of this House.
In many ways the Aboriginal people, because they have had to live in a European dominated society, have felt beaten when they have been unable to cope with circumstances that were not the circumstances to which they were traditionally accustomed and to which they were perhaps not genetically adapted. As a result, it has been difficult for the Aboriginal to maintain his selfrespect, to fulfil his need to succeed, and he has had to come to rest on handouts. This has been damaging for him, and my main reason for choosing this Bill to speak to is because it is a provider of opportunity rather than of handouts. That is the essence of this Bill and it is what 1 believe must be the essence of our approach to these people and in fact to all disadvantaged people anywhere in the community. It is an extension of the concept of the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act 1968, and I will quote briefly from the second reading speech of the then Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill 1968 which was introduced at the same time as that Bill. He said that the purpose of the Bill was - … to provide an economic basis which will enable Aboriginals to reduce their dependence upon handouts and become more and more self-reliant.
That is an ideal principle on which to operate and it is an ideal way to approach these problems, in fact all problems of economic dependence and economic disadvantage- to be a provider of opportunity rather than of handout wherever that is possible, and I concede immediately that it will not always be possible.
The Bill makes a number of changes to that situation, and the first one I shall mention is that which toughens up slightly on the administration. The Bill funds various Aboriginal enterprises, but the enterprises that are likely to qualify for funding have been changed from those that have prospects of becoming successful to those that are likely to become successful. A small change, one might say, but perhaps it is not so small. It means that the moneys will be concentrated more on those likely to succeed. If they undertake to accept this assistance and then fail, great damage will be done to their cause, so perhaps it is not such a small point. Authority has been transferred from the Minister to a commission, which will have 2 Aboriginal members. Again, I think this will help the Aboriginal people to see that they are doing something for themselves. It will enable them to see their own success, to feel part of their own success and, for that reason, it is more likely to succeed.
The Bill also provides for personal loans for home ownership. I applaud that, and I am sure all honourable members on this side of the House will applaud it. We believe in home ownership. I contrast what the Government is doing in this Bill with the shift in its policy regarding home ownership generally. The Labor Party, for some reason that I have never understood, seems to think that Australians would be better off in rental homes. At least for Aboriginal people the Labor Party has come to recognise the benefits of home ownership and the pride and care that go with it. In the past the Labor Party has said a lot about paternalism and in particular has criticised the paternalism of the missions. I caution now that we do not substitute for this paternalism by government because it would be equally, if not more, damaging for exactly the same reasons. There is a need to decentralise authority and to allow Aboriginals who are on the spot to make decisions about their own affairs for in that way will they best hold their heads high. In fact, my whole argument rests on the point that there is a need for the Aboriginal to feel that he is a part of what he is doing, to feel pride in what he is doing and gradually to build his own self respect. This Bill will help the Aboriginal succeed when judged by, what are admittedly, largely European criteria. But he is to be helped to do it in ways that will be more akin to the traditional Aboriginal ways. Hence this enhances his chances of success.
What of the rest of the Aboriginal population? What of those who will not be helped by this Bill? After all, this is a very selective measure, and rightly so. It picks out some groups which have possibly the greatest chance of fighting through to the top, of fighting through to success. The home loans will be more general than the assistance provided to business enterprise. In a way the home loans will help Aboriginals to succed on European terms because home ownership and pride in the home are things that the European population values and recognises the worth of in others. The provision of home loans to Aboriginals is one way in which Aboriginals will wear down this white backlash slightly. It will help them to live as Europeans in a European society.
This Bill will do little for the Aboriginal who wishes to be truly tribal, but I think that perhaps he has the least problem. He is succeeding on his own terms in his own way. The home ownership provisions of the Bill will do something- a littlefor the fringe dwellers. These people represent perhaps the biggest group and face the greatest problems because they are being asked to integrate strictly on European terms. Perhaps there is no alternative to this. It will be a long hard road for these people, and I think that the European community will have to be very understanding. I think that the European community has an obligation to be very understanding and to recognise that because these Aboriginal people are different things will be difficult for them.
The purpose of the Bill is to help a people move towards an honoured place in a society that will remain dominated by Europeans. The purpose of the Bill is to help the Aboriginal to help himself. The money to be provided under this Bill will not be a gift; it will be a loan. Consequently, it will not be something that saps the Aboriginal’s will. The Aboriginal people have something to offer the European people. In spite of anything I can do to assist the Aboriginal people, I am a European and as such I will always think as a European. I will never be able consciously to think as someone else. Martin Luther King said referring to another substantial minority that these people will help towards achieving a society ‘where we will come to see that integration is not a problem but an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity’. That is a beautiful concept. It is a concept that will help us to value a minority group among the European population.
-In announcing the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) made a number of remarks on which the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) congratulated him for his generosity. I would not go as far as that but I think that the honourable member for Gwydir ought to be congratulated on the progress he has made in the attitude he has adopted to Aboriginal affairs over recent years. I am sure that the honourable member for Gwydir would not remember with much relish his performance during the controversy surrounding the Gurindji people. I think it is fair to say that he has come a long way since then. I certainly congratulate him for it.
But I think that the honourable member for Gwydir could do a much greater service to Australia and to the Aboriginal people by spending his time trying to persuade his Queensland colleagues- that is, his colleagues in his own Party in Queensland- to tone down their obstructive attitude as far as Aboriginal affairs and co-operation with a central government are concerned. In fact, a former Prime Minister the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) was one of those people who drew attention to the abysmal situation as it existed then and still exists in Queensland, particularly as far as discriminatory laws are concerned. If he had remained in office as Prime Minister a little longer he probably would have got round to legislating to outlaw those discriminatory laws and we would not be in the same sort of impasse situation as the one in which we now find ourselves.
The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) went on to talk about his regret at the subject of Aboriginal affairs having become a political football. I think it is true to say that most of the blame- if ‘blame’ is the right word- for that rests with his colleagues rather than my own because one can look at the record of the Tonkin Labor Government in Western Australia and see that long before there was a massive provision of federal funds in the field of Aboriginal affairs the Tonkin Labor Government had managed to make great strides in terms of Aboriginal policy and Aboriginal welfare. The first step- rather ironically- of the Tonkin Government was to abolish the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and to set up in its place a number of agencies. Most of the welfare activities of that Department were taken over by the Department of Community Welfare. Some of them went to the Community Health Section of the Department of Health. Alongside this welfare network was set up the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority, which anticipated or at least pre-dated the approach that the Australian Government is taking in trying to regionalise Aboriginal affairs. The Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority, which of course has now become a part of the Australian Government’s Department of Aboriginal Affairs, set up a series of offices and headquarters in various regions throughout Western Australia in order to assist the Aboriginal people. As well, a consultative committee was set up to advise the Minister and the Department. Western Australia, under the Tonkin Government, took very great strides in preserving the Aboriginal heritage. I think that the relevant legislation which exists there is probably the best in Australia.
This Bill- the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill is mainly concerned with the provision of money. In effect it nearly doubles the amount of money which the Australian Government is spending on Aboriginal affairs. As far as Western Australia is concerned it provides for the amount granted to the State Government to increase from just over $ 1 1 m last year to exactly $14m this year. That compares more than favourably with the provision in 1971-72, for instance, of $2. 5m. So one can say that there has been a very massive increase in the amount of money which this Government has made available for Aboriginal affairs. Of course, the question we are talking about is far from being simply one of money. But, even though one can say that it is not simply a question of money, I think that one must see that provision of adequate fundsthe mobilisation of an adequate network- as being the first requisite. It was not really until this Government came into office that at least the money was made available. As a consequence of this money being made available other problems have naturally surfaced and emerged. They are probably the more predominant problems, as far as one can see today, and are probably more important than the pure question of money. One will never be able to cure a problem such as this by money alone. The aim of the total offensive as far as Aboriginal affairs are concerned is to try to facilitate the ability of Aborigines to be a selfdetermining, self-sufficient and self-sustaining people along with other people in the community. Of course that will not be done only by providing money. It will need a restructuring and restrengthening of the whole fabric of the Aboriginal community.
I do not want to remind the House of the reasons for the disgraceful situation in which Aborigines find themselves today. Fortunately, plenty of people are now reminding us of the 2 centuries of shame and neglect from which this country is only slowly beginning to emerge. It is well that we are reminded of where the neglect and the shame belongs because it can help us to galvanise ourselves into action to overcome those problems. It does not mean that we should be remorseful and guilty about what has gone before. Nothing much can be done about the mistakes and errors, but they can be instructive and make us more interested to try to do more about the problem today. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) talked about the so-called white backlash. It might be as well for him to remind the whites in our community today of the disgraceful record of their forebears and to remind them that the only reason that tilings are as they are is the ignorance and neglect of earlier Australians. It seems to me that is a far better way of trying to fight the so-called white backlash than trying to hide the measures which this Government is taking and trying to explain them away as if the people who receive the support were not really deserving of it.
I wish to refer to a couple of the sorts of problems which are being tackled by this Government and by the Western Australian Government as a result of the many initiatives which were taken by the previous Western Australian Government and, insofar as it is appropriate, are being continued by the current Western Australian Government or have been taken over entirely by the Australian Government. When people talk about the need for Aborigines to be self-determining one must realise that one cannot just wave a magic wand and expect Aborigines to rise out of the horror of their own situation and to know exactly what they want and how they want to achieve it. It is important that we be absolutely strenuous in our attempts to provide for the Aboriginal groups, whom we are expecting to advise us and whom we are expecting to determine Aboriginal policy, the necessary back-up and support so that they are able to give us advice and be able to determine their own destiny. This is one of the areas which can easily be overlooked. It is fair enough for people to say: It is not our problem any longer. It is up to the Aborigines to tell us what to do. They are the only ones who know what the solutions are.’ Unless we demonstrate our bona fides by providing massive support and massive back-up services without impinging on their ability to make up their minds, the whole policy of selfdetermination will be little more than a charade.
I wish to touch on some of the policy measures which have been taken and which are a clear demonstration of the intentions of this Government. There is a very extensive program of purchasing pastoral properties in Western Australia to provide a firm and stable support system for communities which have shown a viability, a coherence and an ability to support themselves economically. That is clearly an important measure to be taken. Rather than providing these communities with a few tumble-down houses on the outskirts of towns in the north-west they are given the economic wherewithal to provide for themselves on a stable and friendly basis. That is what is done in the remote areas.
In relation to the metropolitan areas, I refer briefly to an organisation which has emerged as a result of this Government’s policy not only of supporting State governments in relation to Aboriginal Affairs but also of providing grants directly to organisations, particularly those which demonstrate a significant amount of Aboriginal control. One of the organisations in Western Australia which has benefited from this policy has been the Aboriginal medical service which in a very short life has grown into something of great significance not only in the Aboriginal community but in Western Australia generally. I have here a report of the Workshop on
Aboriginal Medical Services which was conducted by the Department of Health in Albury in July this year. An appendix to that report indicates the progress which has been made by the Western Australian Aboriginal medical service. For instance, the appendix shows that from October 1973 until April 1974 the daily average number of patients which attended before it has risen from two to ten. One wonders where those Aborigines would have gone had it not been for the Aboriginal medical service. On an average that is 70 people a week or 300 people a month now receiving medical attention. It is doubtful whether those Aborigines would have received that medical attention or medical attention as good if this service had not existed.
This medical service is controlled substantially by a committee of Aboriginal people, together with European doctors and nurses and other people who are assisting with the administration. The service is working extremely well and is filling needs as Aborigines see them. It is obviously filling a great need as far as the community is concerned. I point to this organisation as one of the indicators or demonstrations of the way in which this Government is helping to overcome an enormous problem. The Government is helping these Aborigines to become self-determining and self-sufficient in at least one of their needs.
-Mr Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Hunt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bryant) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 19 November on motion by Mr Bryant:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bryant) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 November on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-On the thirteenth of this month the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) introduced a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. When the honourable gentleman introduced the Bill he used a form of words in his second reading speech with which I find myself in complete and ready agreement. May I remind the House of what they were. He said:
This Bill is designed to introduce several reforms of a fundamental nature to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
The description ‘fundamental reforms’ is one with which again I find myself in complete and utter agreement. But there, I regret to say, our paths part. One of the melancholy facts of life under the present Government is that it is virtually impossible to have a considered Committee debate upon any measure. To stand in contemplation of having a leisurely- I do not use that term lightly- Committee debate on this Bill is not something that would fill one with encouragement after the recent performance in the vote of this House just a few moments ago. I say to the Minister, not with any heat at all, because that is rather foreign to my nature, that one of the great pities of this Parliament is the reluctance of the honourable gentleman and of many of his colleagues in the Government to allow a reasonable Committee debate upon Bills.
It is of the utmost importance that when we are dealing with the Electoral Act we should seek to reflect a bi-partisan attitude. Regrettably, if we take the view that amendments to the Electoral Act should reflect only one Party’s point of view, to that extent, we encourage cynicism and suspicion throughout the entire community. I regret to say that the Minister for Services and Property has done very little to seek to reflect a bi-partisan approach to the question of electoral reform. For example, it would be rather fanciful to say of the honourable gentleman that he speaks from a position of fierce neutrality in the matter of electoral reform. Some of his observations which I have listened to over a very long period of time certainly would not stir up in my mind the vision of one who is completely neutral in the matter of electoral reform.
I would have hoped that the honourable gentleman, having set his hand to the plough in the matter of electoral reform, would have heeded the simple fact of life in this country that people are suspicious and cynical of governments which do not treat the matter of electoral reform with impartiality. I am talking now about the administration of the Act, the provisions which are to be inserted in the Act and the like. I am not talking about electoral redistribution on which we may all hold our own separate views. But unless there is an impartial approach to the reform and amendment of the Act I believe it is quite impossible to encourage in the Australian community or in any community the belief that we are dealing fairly and impartially with people. As a consequence I would like to see the Minister withdraw this Bill and appoint a joint all party select committee to examine the whole field of electoral reform.
I will be referring to some of the aspects in the Bill which trouble me and which I know trouble some of my colleagues. There are 187 of us in this Parliament who are experts in the matter of electoral reform and I will be dealing with some of the matters that may possibly reveal the manner in which I am tinged in terms of disposition to give my support. But I hope the honourable gentleman will be inclined before we finish the second reading debate on this Bill to take a benevolent approach, to take a proper approach, to this Bill and withdraw it and ask the Parliament to appoint a joint all party committee to consider all aspects of the Electoral Act. I say to my friend in simple candour that there are a number of provisions contained in his amending Bill for which he would find generous support on this side of the House.
I hope that the honourable gentleman would recognise that there is no virtue in seeking to dragoon members of his Party or, indeed, to attempt to do so in respect of members of this side of the House by saying: ‘Vote for the Bill without having an opportunity to consider all of the proposals in detail’. After all, it is only 12 days since the honourable gentleman introduced the Bill. One could hardly describe that as being a substantial time for the members of this Parlia.ment or for the members of the community to reflect upon the consequences of the Bill. I point out that the amending Bill runs to some 43 pages.
It has 65 clauses. The Minister himself has identified 34 major alterations to the law. He has described some of the other amendments as fairly minor amendments of a procedural nature. But when we deal with 34 major alterations- I take the honourable gentleman’s assessment of what is major- we are dealing with a matter of very great substance.
Further, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I draw to your attention one clause of the Bill. Clause 2 1 deals with the printing of Party affiliations on ballot papers- a provision to which I would turn later. It has no fewer than 22 sub-clauses. The honourable gentleman would need to be swept into the very outer region of expansiveness to give to honourable members a proper Committee debate on some 22 sub-clauses. Our fear, promptly and explicitly expressed, is this: There is no prospect whatsoever of considering in a detailed way what the Minister and the Government have proposed. That is a very great pity indeed. I have referred to this one clause, clause 21, dealing with the registration of political parties. It would be to adopt an Alice in Wonderland attitude to imagine that this one clause is free of controversy. I suspect that the community at large has not had the slightest opportunity to consider all of the ramifications in clause 21 of the Bill dealing with the registration of political parties.
With your leave, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I would seek to illustrate my general thesis as to the complexity of the Bill and the fact that many of its provisions are studded with contention by turning to clause 2 1 dealing with the printing of Party affiliations on ballot papers. In summary, this provision seeks to register all political parties in Australia which contest elections. There are some rather curious provisions dealing with this aspect. For example, I turn to the clause which deals with the powers given to the very distinguished and able servant of this country, the present Chief Electoral Officer. These are immense powers. I have no quarrel with the present incumbent of the position holding those powers because those of us have known him over a long period of time recognise and accept the immaculate way in which he has discharged his duty. But the fact remains that these are powers of a very substantial nature which the Minister seeks to confer upon whoever the officer of the day may be. I shall read proposed section 58l. ( 1 ) to illustrate the point.
The Chief Australian Electoral Officer shall refuse an application for the registration of a name in respect of a party if, in his opinion, the name . . .
That is all that has to be satisfied- ‘if, in his opinion’. The sub-section lists various criteria ranging from (a) to (i). I shall deal with one or two of them. 1 am not culling them in terms of offensiveness or curiosity; I am instancing them to express the point. Paragraph (b) of proposed section 58L. ( 1 ) provides: . . . if, in his opinion, the name-
Why pick on 6 words? For myself I can see great virtue in 3 words- the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Country Party, the Liberal Party. But why 6 words? What is so splendidly virtuous about 6 words? Why not five? Why not four? The Minister, in his second reading speech, I know with his typical consideration for all honourable gentlemen, did not want to submit us to any form of tedium and so he restrained himself from entering into an elaborate exposition and indulging in detail on all points. I would be interested to hear, from the lips of the honourable gentleman, an explanation of why 6 words have been chosen in regard to the name of a party.
I turn now to paragraph (c) of proposed section 58l. ( 1 ) which states: . . . if, in his opinion, the name-
I can conceive- I speak now, I hope, as one with some affinity with genuine liberalism- of circumstances where, for example, a party may describe itself as the Independent Labor Party, the Independent Liberal Party or the Independent Country Party. Why trench upon basic rights further? Why trench upon rights in that fashion? I move to paragraph (d) which states: . . . if, in his opinion, the name-
I am delighted to see such a robust, monarchical sentiment expressed in a Bill drawn up by a Labor Government. I ask the honourable gentleman this question: What exactly does ‘Government of Australia’ mean? For example, what would happen if the term ‘Australian Party’ were to be used? As we all know, that Party played a role in recent elections. Could it be construed that the use of such a name might possibly infringe in the judgment of the person beckoned by law to determine whether there is an infringement? Paragraph (i) states: . . . if, in his opinion, the name-
Why not detail them in the Bill? I concede to the honourable gentleman a robust approach to political life and a readiness to resort to practical matters, but it is strange to include regulations. One could enisage some regulations being drawn up which might not necessarily receive the approval of the House sitting in its corporate nature. Proposed section 58d. (1) provides that only parties which have not less than one-quarter of the whole number of divisions contested can be registered. Again I ask the honourable gentleman: What is the virtue of 25 per cent? Why restrict the figure at all? What would happen, for example, if we had a political phenomenon in South Australia-I am advancing this argument not out of casuistry or out of complaint- where 4 candidates were fielded? I suppose with South Australia having 12 seats I should reduce the number to two to put myself -
– Two Liberal Parties too.
-I have seen the honourable gentleman’s Party in such a state of disarray on occasions that it reminded me of a jig-saw puzzle. Those days, I think, are coming back and more quickly than Government members suspect. I ask honourable gentlemen: Why 25 per cent in this instance? Let me move on and take as an example the State of New South Wales where, conceivably, we could imagine 5 or 8 candidates being fielded by dint of the eruption of some political attitude. Why should those people by the approach adopted in this provision find that they are to be fettered in a way that other people are not? Referring, for example, to the proposal to draw positions on ballot papers, I point out that the House has not had the opportunity to consider all the implications of that provision. I have heard murmers of disagreement with respect to the increase in the deposit for a Senate candidate to $1,000. I find myself in agreement with the need to get some reasonableness in the terms of the conduct of Senate elections. But I express simple, open doubt as to whether this would enable us to achieve that result.
I refer next to the closing time of the polls which this Bill seeks to change from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. As a Queenslander and with the prejudice of geographical associations I point out that we have seen for many years now State elections conducted on the basis of polling concluding at 6 p.m. I find myself in disagreement, albeit mild in character, with a number of my colleagues on both sides of the House who believe that the closing hour should remain at 8 p.m. I recognise the force of their argument. I must confess that I am not convinced by it. Conceded that many people because of religious convictions and beliefs could not vote, but in his second reading speech the Minister for Services and Property said that ample arrangements would be made for these people. I instance this to show to the Minister typically the sort of divisions that we find in all political parties with respect to electoral machinery and to the provisions in an electoral Act and hence the importance of having a bipartisan approach to the matter of electoral reform.
The honourable gentleman is not as obdurate as he tries to make out that he is. I believe that there are occasions when he responds readily and generously to suggestions which are made for the better conduct of parliamentary affairs. I think that this is one occasion when the Minister will have the opportunity to rise to it predictably and spontaneously and, I would hope, generously. Therefore, I would hope that the honourable gentleman would accept my appeal to establish a joint all-Party Committee to review the whole range of operations of the Electoral Act. When the first Electoral Bill was introduced in 1902 by Sir William Lyne- a Federal electoral division in New South Wales bears his namethat gentleman said: 1 have always felt that it is best to confer a liberal franchise and to pass liberal electoral laws.
That is a sentiment with which I find myself in complete agreement. I opened up by saying that I found myself in complete agreement with the Minister who has introduced the most recent amending Bill to the Electoral Act. I find myself in complete agreement with the man who introduced the first Bill to enact the electoral Act. I appeal to the honourable gentleman to heed the spirit in which this proposal is put forward by the Opposition and to appoint a joint all-Party select committee to examine the provisions of the Electoral Act.
-One is slightly amused at the suggestion from the Opposition that electoral reform is something that it now puts forward as a subject for inquiry by a joint all-Party Committee. One could imagine the members of the Country Party when they are in government saying: ‘Now look, fellows, we cannot go too quickly with this because we have not discussed it with the Labor Party. We would like to get its views on electoral reform in Australia before we bring any Bills into the House, so that we have a consessus’. Quite the opposite has occurred in Australia. The present system has in some ways served us very well but in others it is overdue for reform. I do not think this will be very difficult.
The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), in a very unusual manner, was not specific in his criticism of matters contained in the amendments. He spoke of one matter- the registration of parties- and I will deal with that briefly. The registration of political parties in Australia for electoral purposes and the recognition of parties in the Electoral Act are long overdue. Those 22 sub-clauses of clause 21 to which the honourable member referred are not difficult to understand. They clear up a lot of the questions that would be asked if they were not there. The honourable member spoke about the 34 amendments. Included in them are the 16 amendments which were held over from the proposition put up by the previous Government, of which he was a member.
I think we need to have a serious look at the proposition now being put up by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). There can be no doubt that it is the most comprehensive review of the Act that we have had for many years. As I say, it is long overdue because not only is the system not giving the results that it is meant to give but also it is being deliberately exploited, not just in some cases by the political parties themselves but by other groups and individuals who now see it encumbent upon them to make a farce of the voting system. I refer especially to the Senate election and to the May 1974 election after the double dissolution of Parliament. The vote in the Senate election was nothing short of an international disgrace when we had to wait so long before we could tell the rest of the world which party would govern. People must be amused by the fact that a party in this country can win 2 elections in the House of government- the House of Representatives- and yet not be able to maintain a majority in the Senate. I think the reasons for not being able to do so ought to be analysed. I do not think there is any need for a joint party committee to look at this question.
– It is the people’s wish.
– The honourable member may have benefited from the previous procedures that were adopted. What we are saying now is that the procedures being put up by the Minister in this Bill are fair to all those poeople and parties who wish to register or to run for a position in public life. It is interesting to note that in the 1974 election- I think this was a most sophisticated attempt to manipulate the system- a group calling itself the Independent Political Research Organisation conducted a very serious and comprehensive survey on the effects of having large numbers of candidates standing for the Senate election. They discovered that every additional candidate over a certain number- say, 40 in New South Wales- made the ballot paper far more complicated. They worked out that it resulted in an increase in the informal vote of 0.5 per cent. Of course, they estimated that the Labor component in that 0.5 per cent was about 80 per cent. What the group set out to do was to try to manipulate the system in such a fashion that the voting took on a class bias. I use the term because it is the term used by experts. Sometimes we on this side of the House are accused of having an element of class bias, but when I look at the honourable member for Moreton I lose mine.
If one looks at the result of the exercise conducted in New South Wales one realises why it is rubbish to talk about a joint party committee and why it is so urgent to bring this legislation into effect. Honourable members should look at the results in New South Wales of the informal vote at the Senate election and see where the highest informal vote exists. Not only does such a system deny 12 per cent of the people of New South Wales a vote but also the vast majority of those people live in Labor electorates. This is why honourable members opposite want to continue with the present system which, if it continues, will be completely unworkable. Members of the Australian Country Party, to a lesser extent, ought to be interested because where people are unable to obtain how-to-vote cards the informal vote also rises. We are penalising people throughout Australia largely on a class basis in relation to their rights to vote for the upper House. There can be an informal vote of between 2 per cent and 3 per cent throughout Australia for the House of Representatives and between 10 per cent and 2 1 per cent at a Senate election. I find it difficult to understand why honourable members opposite try to justify such a system and why they are prepared to tell people in their electorates that the differential of 8 per cent, or 9 per cent, or 1 5 per cent of people who vote informally between the elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate can be justified by saying: ‘That is all right. That is a good system. We are winning by it. ‘
In the electorate of Sydney, which has a 78 per cent preferred vote for the Australian Labor Party, there was a 20 per cent informal vote in the Senate election. One can go all the way down the list of New South Wales electorates until one gets to Bradfield, which happens to be the safest
Liberal electorate. Then one is getting down to a 5.6 per cent informal vote. To some people opposite that might mean that it is a good system. It may mean, of course, as it turned out in May 1 974, that the Labor Party was denied a majority in the Senate, not because people did not want it but because of the system, because of the informal votes for Senate candidates cast in the safe Labor electorates. In the electorates of Sydney; Grayndler, the seat of the Minister for Services and Property; Hunter; Chifley; Newcastle and Cunningham- it will be a long time before the Liberal Party holds any of these electorates- the proportions of informal votes were: 20 per cent, 1 6 per cent, 1 5 per cent, 1 4 per cent, 1 4 per cent, and 1 1 per cent. Thousands and thousands of voters throughout New South Wales were denied their rights not because they did not want to vote formally, not because they did not want to understand for whom they were voting- they wanted a Labor Government, which they returned in the House of Representatives- but because people were exploiting the system, the old archiac system by which if there are 73 candidates one has to vote one to seventy three.
Not one honourable member opposite from New South Wales can tell me the order in which he voted for Senate candidates in New South Wales.
– How do you know the people did not want to vote informally?
-I would be very doubtful whether the honourable member from Queensland could tell me the order in which he voted for the 25 candidates in Queensland.
– How do you know the people did not want to vote informally?
-If they wanted to vote informally for the Senate it is difficult to understand that they did not want to vote informally for the House of Representatives.
– They may have done.
– But the people today are a different generation from those who voted 20 or 30 years ago and if one looks at the system in other years it throws up the same result. Wherever there is a large number of candidates, as evidenced by all the analyses that have been done, especially the very expert analysis by the Department of Services and Property and by an observer, Malcolm Mackerras, there is a larger informal vote. In New South Wales, where there were 73 Senate candidates, no one knew for whom they were voting or in what order. All one knows is that one votes for one’s team. Perhaps one knows for whom one votes first and second but from then on it is a guess to make sure that one numbers the ballot from one to seventy three and that nothing happens in the meantime to make it an informal vote. There were 73 candidates in New South Wales and a 12.3 per cent informal vote. Victoria had 48 Senate candidates and an 11.1 per cent informal vote. Queensland had 25 candidates and a 6 per cent informal vote. It dropped because of the number of candidates. South Australia, with 38 candidates, had an 1 1.4 per cent informal vote, and so it goes on through the list.
The top percentages of informal votes of course are always in Labor held electorates. This is why honourable members opposite do not want amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. This is why they say that the proposed system is unfair. If people want to vote one to seventy three, under the amendments to the Act that we are proposing they can do so. The people who do not want to go to that trouble and who want to vote only for the number of candidates required- in the case of a double dissolution, 10 candidates for the Senate and one for the House of Representatives- may vote depending upon their likes and dislikes of political parties. The overwhelming majority of people vote for one of two teams. People do not want to vote one to seventy three. One cannot justify having to vote one to seventy three. One cannot convince the people that that is a good system. The present system, is being exploited.
Who argues against drawing for positions on the ballot paper? No one argues about drawing for positions in the case of the Senate, but members of the Opposition argue in the case of the House of Representatives. This is what they are opposing because the Democratic Labor Party is starting to lose its influence- the Party that used to endorse everybody whose name began with ‘A’. The list of people in this chamber shows that half way down the list one is less than one-third of the way through the alphabet. Some people are in this House and some people are out of this House because of the system under which the names of candidates are placed on the ballot paper. People like Fred Daly are advantaged and people like Young are disadvantaged because the names are listed alphabetically. So I find it difficult to understand the opposition to the proposed amendments.
Now I come to postal voting and voting facilities at hospitals. What a system we have here. Give us a list of those people who had a postal vote at the last House of Representatives election or the last Senate election. The theme of honourable members opposite was: ‘Prepare your applications and get them out. It does not matter where people are, whether they were on holidays, in hospital or in an old age home, we want to exploit the system’. This is what honourable members opposite are again saying in opposing the amendments that are being put up. We are saying that the electoral officers or their representatives should go to those places and the people should vote and put their ballot paper straight in the box. There should be no more of this farcical situation of candidates trying to beat each other by sending out thousands and thousands of applications. One of the strongest features of the amendments that have been put forward is the provision of voting facilites for those people who are unable to reach polling booths. Under the present system we must wait 10 days after an election for postal votes to come in, so that we have speculation in the newspapers every day about which Party is going to govern Australia. We see news stories to the effect that there are six more votes to come from New Zealand, five more to come from Coolangatta, two more to come from the United Kingdom, seven more to come from France or somewhere. What a stupid system it is that those opposite try to justify and under which they want the Australian people to live.
There is much in these amendments that requires very little of my support because other speakers from this side, of course, will touch on them. One of the simple ones relates to the authors of advertisements on radio and television. This rule has been broken so many times that we have come to accept that the provision has already been amended. In respect of signs and so forth, it is just a recognition of common sense that should apply under this Electoral Act. The strongest argument that one can use in putting forward the view that this optional preferential system should be adopted is not that it gives anybody an unfair advantage because it does not, and it is not that it cannot be followed because it is a simple system of voting for the number of people that are required in the ballot, while still allowing a voter to go on to give an exhaustive vote if he wants to. The strongest proposition that one can put forward in this chamber is that the present system is being exploited to the detriment of the voters themselves because they are not getting the government they voted for. In the May 1974 Senate election the government that the people got was the result of the number of candidates who stood in New South Wales, because 12 per cent of the voters in that State were disfranchised under the system which operates. The votes of hundreds of thousands of voters were not counted because of the system. Almost all of those people, I would say, would vote only for the team they wanted and perhaps one other if we introduced the system that is part of the amendments which have been moved by the Minister. I hope they speed through both Houses and become law in this country as quickly as possible because democracy is based on the justice of systems such as the electoral system and this is far more just than any previous system.
-I think the previous speaker, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), rather protested too much and in doing so he gave certain things away. I presume his remark that the people did not get the government that they voted for at the last election did not refer to the House of Representatives although one could perhaps carry on in this vein and say that perhaps the people of Australia did not deserve the government that they got at the last election. In his protesting too much I think the honourable member reveals why the Government is pressing this Bill through with indecent haste- that is, that the system, as the honourable member for Port Adelaide pointed out, works against certain Labor electorates with the percentage of informal votes, and what is being dressed up in the cause of a very democratic and just procedure is really something that Labor wants to alter in some ways because it can see some advantage to itself in these alterations. If this Parliament is to correct anomalies that exist in the present electoral laws, it will not do it in this manner. Many of the 34 amendments proposed by this Bill are good, but the way the Government is proceeding is not the way to achieve desirable results.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide thought it was an absurdity to wait for a postal vote registered by Australians in France, Britain or somewhere else to proceed in Australia before the result of an election could be determined. I thought that the right to vote was one of the democratic rights of every Australian. Under our system people are compelled to vote, therefore they have a right to record a vote. I believe every democratic Australian should insist on his right to record a vote irrespective of what country he is in. One does not have to go outside Australia to find postal problems. They arise here from time to time. I understand that even in the recent election in Australia there were problems with batches of postal ballot papers posted inside
Australia reaching their destination in time to be counted.
I think one interesting remark in the second reading speech of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has to be repeated. He said:
Australians can be justly proud of their electoral machinery. We have not suffered the electoral malpractices common in many other countries.
Those words make rather strange reading. After all the diatribe from the Minister from time to time both inside and outside this House on what he alleges are weaknesses, malpractices and undemocratic principles in our voting and electoral system, he is now saying: ‘After all, Australia is far better off than other countries’. Perhaps we should rename him the Minister for Changing Colours.
There are 34 amendments in this Bill and, as I have said, many of them are very good ones. One interesting exclusion from these 34 amendments is any proposal to drop compulsory voting. One reads about the Labour Party in Britain and Parties in some other countries saying that compulsory voting is not democratic. One would have thought that the Minister would have included the matter of compulsory voting in his list, or is the real reason for its exclusion the fact that the dropping of compulsory voting would work against the Labor Party?
– Our policy is compulsory voting.
-That may be the policy of the Australian Labor Party. It is probably the Party’s policy because it can see advantage in it. The point I am making is that the Government has proposed many amendments but it has not included an amendment to embody in the legislation what is in the policy of the Labor Parties in other countries, that is the elimination of compulsory voting. The Minister says that optional preferential voting, or first-past-the-post voting, which it really is, is an advantage. Reference is often made by the Government to the voting systems in Britain, the United States of America and other countries. I would have thought that from the Government’s point of view it would have been to its interest to have included in our electoral laws some features of those systems other than those proposed in the Bill. I think the reason for their exclusion and the Government’s wish to race this Bill through the House in the guise of electoral justice is really electoral advantage. If the Government is serious about having the good sections of the 34 amendments accepted by both Houses of this Parliament, it should adopt the procedure suggested by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He said that an allParty committee of both Houses of the Parlia-ment should investigate the matter of. electoral reform and report back to the Parliament early in the autumn session in plenty of time before any election. This would allow adequate time for all Parties to consider what is acceptable to all sections of the House so that meaningful reform can be introduced in this important area.
This Bill has to be through the House of Representatives by 9.30 tonight. There are many changes to consider, together with the long second reading speech of the Minister. I am told one of the clauses in the Bill contains 2,600 words. I think that the Government’s action in rushing the Bill through reveals a lack of sincerity on its part. It has not provided adequate opportunity for proper consideration of this complex and important legislation which was introduced only on 13 November. There is also a lack of opportunity for adequate discussion and investigation into what some of these amendments will mean in practice so that genuine electoral amendments can be made. We are told in the second reading speech that the purpose of the Bill is to simplify voting and accelerate results.
National elections are of tremendous importance to all Australians and one should not in the name of over-simplification create weaknesses and anomalies. For example, optional preferenTtial voting is first past the post voting and that is all. If people are given the option they will opt for the simplest and easiest manner and of course that is why the Government has introduced it. That is fair enough from its point of view but it should not dress it up in high sounding words. Optional preferential voting is less democratic for 2 very good reasons. First, it will reduce the real choice of the people by the range of parties which they are able to vote for at an election. One should look, from a Labor Party point of view, at what this could mean to its friends or supporters on a preferential basis- at what would be the attitude of the Australia Party to this proposal? If it is introduced, it will reduce the choice of Australians in respect of parties such as the Australia Party.
It is less democratic for a second very good reason. Rarely in a multiple party system does the final vote on first past the post voting bring with it a majority of votes for the party which is elected to government. How many times, particularly in recent years, has a British government been elected with more than 40 per cent of the primary vote? I suggest very rarely, if ever. If one looks at the votes for the Liberal Party in Britain where up to 20 per cent of the people have voted for that Party in recent elections, 20 per cent of the people of Britain are virtually disenfranchised because of first past the post voting. This means that the system is less democratic because there is very rarely, if ever, a 50 per cent vote for the government there. If one considers the present system in Australia where preferences are distributed, at the last elections the party that gained the greatest percentage of votes- it amounted to more than 50 per cent- is now in government. With first past the post voting and multiple parties the chance of having a government elected on the majority of votes is reduced dramatically. Britain is an example of this.
– This is not first past the post.
– Optional preferential voting is first past the post. Santa Clause did not come down in the last shower even if he was christened the Minister for Services and Property. Let us not dress up in high sounding phrases something that has been put in purely for electoral advantage. Any real chance of meaningful amendment to the Electoral Act disappears when that attitude is taken. If one wants to look seriously -
– You do not know what you are talking about. You have no knowledge of optional preferential voting if you think it is first past the post. That is a false statement.
– It is not and everybody knows it. The Minister knows it better than anybody else. That is why the Government has made this proposal. People will opt for the easiest option, which is first past the post voting under that system. If the Government does not like the present system of voting, which is not preferential voting but really should be called the alternative voting system because one’s alternative choice has the same voting capacity as the original choice, why does it not put forward some other system, such as a simple preferential system in which the second vote is worth half the first vote? If the Government wants the most democratic system I think the inverse preferential system is easily the most democratic. Under this system we add the numbers given to the votes for each candidate and the person with the lowest number is elected because he has the highest number of first or second preferences. Honourable members should not laugh at this suggestion because this is accepted by a large number of organisations as the most democratic system. All of them say it is far more democratic than first past the post voting, so let us not hear any nonsense about first past the post, disguised as optional preferential, voting being considered more democratic.
The Government also introduced the argument concerning 73 candidates from New South Wales in the recent Senate elections. I agree that people should not be expected to vote Nos. 1 to 73. The amendments also provide for increased deposits, with which I completely agree. They are long overdue. I believe that increased deposits, on the scale suggested by the Minister, would overcome the problem of large numbers of Senate candidates. Many people are prepared to pay the low deposit. They nominate for nuisance reasons or for taxation purposes. The higher deposits, which are in line with inflation, possibly would reduce dramatically the number of candidates seeking election to the Senate. I believe that if higher deposits are required the chances of reducing the number of candidates are so great that the scheme should be tested at a Senate election before any other changes to the method of voting for the Senate are attempted. I believe that the introduction of higher deposits would overcome the problem which the Minister mentioned.
He also mentioned the balloting for positions on the ballot paper. I must confess that I agree with that point also. Does he intend- I believe he does not- to have a circular voting paper? The best way to be completely democratic and to cut out any advantage which somebody might gain because of his name is to have a circular paper. That is something worthy of consideration also. All these matters point to the fact that there are many good points in the Bill, there are many doubtful points in the Bill and there are many points in the Bill which I believe Parliament has not had adequate time to consider. Therefore, if the Government is sincere in its desire to have electoral amendments on a genuine basis rather than for a Party political reason, it will defer a final vote on this legislation until the beginning of the autumn session so that there may be adequate time to consider all the implications of the BUI. The best way to do this, as the honourable member for Moreton suggested, is to set up an all-Party committee. That is the only positive way in which both Houses of this Parliament will agree to meaningful amendments to the present Act.
-The reforms contained in this Bill are long overdue, and I congratulate the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) on his foresight in introducing them at this stage. I for one would be completely opposed to the suggestion made by the Opposition that these matters be deferred until the autumn session and that an all-Party committee be set up to look into them. Perhaps the suggestion would have the advantage of getting rid of some of the false notions which some Opposition speakers have put this afternoon. In these days one cannot afford to wait too long. After all, one does not know when some steps will be taken to force an election. I remind the House of the recent spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) insisting on leading his supporters through the Valley of Death. It may be that they will have the death wish again very shortly and will seek to confront the Australian electorate with another election.
The voting procedures in Australia are outdated and outmoded. The last election result was so long delayed that it was laughable. What a ludicruous situation. Three weeks after Australian citizens had cast their votes nobody knew which Party would govern or which Party had the majority in the Senate. This is no reflection on the Electoral Office staff; this is a serious and a sad reflection on the system which this Parliament has laid down for the conduct of elections. No other country, no other civilised democratic nation would accept such a stupid position. Nobody else tolerates it. Why should we? The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) was . wrong when he said that the optional preferential system is the same as the first past the post system.
– It is, in effect.
-It is not in effect, nor is it in fact. It is nothing like it. Seventy per cent of people who vote in elections at present cast second, third and fourth preference votes which are never counted. They are completely irrelevant. In a normal metropolitan seat, only 2 parties have a chance of winning- the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Labor Party. I suppose one could say that in a marginal seat 40 per cent would vote Liberal and 40 per cent would vote Labor no matter what happens. Those people who vote one for the Labor candidate and those people who vote one for the Liberal candidate know full well that when they fill in 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 alongside the names of the respective candidates those preferences will never be counted. There is no way they can be counted. It is simply a waste of time and effort. It is a time consuming exercise which serves no purpose. Is it not sensible and efficient to say: ‘In those cases, people may vote No. 1 for the Labor candidate or No. 1 for the Liberal candidate’? That is as far as they need go. If they want to give their first vote to the Australia Party candidate and their second vote to the Labor Party candidate or the Liberal Party candidate, they have the option to do so.
Surely no party which claims that it supports the principle of freedom of choice can say: ‘We compel you to vote in order of preference for candidates whether you want to or not’. What an objectionable thing it is for some people to have to give a preference, even though it might be their 7th, 8th or 10th preference, to a Nazi candidate, a Communist candidate or a Liberal candidate.’ Some people may object strongly in principle to voting for a candidate of the Liberal Party or some other party. Why should they have to cast such a vote if there is no point in their doing so?
– Why have compulsory voting?
– The honourable member asks: ‘Why have compulsory voting?’
– That is your argument.
-Well, why have compulsory anything? I believe in compulsory voting because it is my view that every person should be compelled to discharge his or her responsibility. But having said that a person must vote one cannot say for whom that person must vote.
– Why not? You have already changed your ground.
– Let me enlighten you, my friend. We do not have compulsory voting in Australia. We have compulsory attendance at the polling place. There is an enormous difference. We compel people to go to a polling place, to have their name crossed off and to take a ballot paper. That is as far as it goes. If they choose not to vote, to put a blank ballot paper into the ballot box, that is their business.
The honourable member for Murray, who stands here as an expert in defining the optional preferential system of voting which he says is the same as the first past the post system, contends that what he calls the inverse preferential systemother people call it the Geneva system and it is more commonly known as the Nansen systemis the fairest system. Where has the honourable member been all these years? Does he not know that system is open to the most serious abuse of any system devised. Under such a system all one has to do to get elected is to pack up the ballot paper with bodgies. One gets in dummy runners so as to ensure that one’s opponent receives the lowest number of votes. In other words, if the honourable member and I were contesting an election all I would have to do would be to get three of my friends to contest the election with us and by giving the honourable member our fifth preference we would ensure that he finished on the bottom of the heap even though a majority of the people might have given him their No. 1 vote. The honourable member should not say that this cannot be done. I have seen it done. This is the system which is the most open to abuse of any system ever devised.
– Where is it being done?
-Where is it being done? I have seen it done in all sorts of places. I do not propose to list them here and now.
– What about naming them?
-If the honourable member for Murray wants to see me afterwards I will explain it to him in detail in words he can understand. I hope that he will then recant and drop that suggestion because he might convince someone that the Parliament should be elected under that system.
The essential purpose of this Bill is to ensure that the community view is expressed by the members elected to this Parliament. It is basic to democracy that people who sit in this chamber and in the Senate represent the majority view. There is an obligation on Australian citizens to vote, and the right to vote should be a right which is easy to exercise. At the present time we do not compel persons to fill in every square on a ballot paper. At least in the administration of the Act they are not required to fill in a number in every square. If they fill in all but the last square that is regarded as a formal vote. I do not know why the Opposition takes this intransigent view about this reform. It is a simple reform, it gives people a choice, and I think the Opposition should give some serious consideration to this matter.
There are many aged people in our community who found grave and serious difficulty in voting in order for 73 Senate candidates at the last election, and I ask honourable members on both sides of this House who come from electorates in New South Wales to think back just a few months and remember the old people in polling booths who could not cope with the list of 73 persons on a ballot paper, a ballot paper which was longer than the writing surface provided in a voting booth. They had to take the ballot paper outside the little cubicles, sit on floors, look for somewhere to write in order to fill in this complicated ballot paper. Is it any wonder that some 12 per cent of the ballots cast were informal and, in the majority of cases, they were informal through no fault of those who were filling in the ballot paper. They were informal because the ballot paper was beyond people’s capacity, due to the system and the number of candidates who were contesting that election. Do not cast reflection on older persons with failing eyesight, older persons who may be sick or infirm. It was a difficult task for them if it was not explained to them in great detail how to go about it in an easy and formal manner.
There is an obligation on this Parliament and on every member here to take every step open to them to reduce the informal vote. It is basic to democracy that the informal vote be reduced if that is possible. The basic franchise must be open to all citizens. Every person who is a citizen of this nation must be entitled to vote. It would be just as right to apply a literacy test or some other test as to give some citizens a ballot paper which is so complicated as to ensure that their vote is never counted. I believe also that reduction of the informal vote is desirable because it will significantly reduce the time taken in counting the ballot papers, in counting the votes, in determining the result of an election, and that is important in a democratic society.
I do not know why the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) decided to launch an attack on the registration of political parties. Surely that is a reasonable proposition? Its only significance is that the name of the party is registered so that there can be no duplication or manipulation of names to be placed on ballot papers by unauthorised persons. After all, trade unions in Australia are registered, with restrictions and constraints placed upon their activities, but not so political parties in this Bill. Business names have to be registered under various State company laws. Why should there be an objection to the registration of names of political parties? The honourable member for Moreton criticised the number of words to be permitted in a party name. Why six, he said? There has to be a limit otherwise some people would abuse that provision and write perhaps a page describing themselves as the name of the party. In the United Kingdom it has been found that 5 words is sufficient, and six seems to be a reasonable number to accommodate every conceivable political party which is operating in Australia at the present time. But this is an essential point. Do not let us lose the point of this provision by putting up a smokescreen. Do not let us lose sight of what is involved. It is essential to ensure that every elector knows for whom he is voting, essential that there should be no mistake about the identity of candidates. It should be easy for an elector to know and to understand for whom he is voting. It should not be a difficult process.
In respect of postal voting, I commend entirely the provisions in this Bill brought in by the Minister for Services and Property. We all know that the present system is wide open to abuse. We all know that there are ways of nullifying postal votes taken in hospitals and rest homes and elsewhere. The provision for mobile polling booths will overcome that to a very large extent, and every effort is required to ensure that all citizens exercise their rights. It is equally true that every effort must be made to ensure that all citizens exercise their right to vote in secrecy and that that vote is counted. These provisions are going to make a heavier load for the Electoral Office. I hope that when they are adopted by this Parliament, as I am sure they will be, the Minister for Services and Property will give urgent attention and consideration to ensuring that the Electoral Office has more permanent staff in order to carry out the heavy and burdensome duties that this Bill imposes on it. I conclude at this stage by commending the Bill and by asking all members of this Parliament to give serious consideration to the far reaching reforms contained in the Bill which, I hope, will be adopted without amendment.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill seeks to amend in some 34 respects the existing provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Whilst it is inevitable with legislation of this nature that there are some measures included in the amendments with which I agree and perhaps with which all members of the House agree, it is essential that we should turn our attention to the central provisions of the proposal. The central provisions of the proposal, I believe, are the introduction of optional preferential voting and the requirements that political parties henceforth be registered, thus facilitating the printing on ballot papers of the names of political parties beside their candidates. I am opposed very strongly to both of these provisions in the Bill.
I am opposed to optional preferential voting not just in a party political sense but also because I believe that the existing system of preferential voting in Australia is a system that can be favourably compared with systems employed by other liberal democracies throughout the world. In his second reading speech the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) said:
Australians can be justly proud of their electoral machinery.
I agree with that. I think that over the years Australia has had a commendable record of integrity in the conduct of elections and a commendable commitment by its electoral staff. But I think that the Minister might well have added that Australians can be justly proud not only of our electoral machinery but also of our electoral system. Australia in many respects had pioneered the introduction of electoral reforms, and it is rather a pity that this Bill represents in so many ways a going back on the fine standards that we have established throughout the years.
An optional preferential system of voting is, I believe, merely a half way house towards first past the post voting. I know that the Minister will respond by saying that we do not know what we are talking about, that the first past the post system is quite different from an optional preferential system and that you can express your preference if you wish. But I invite him in his reply to nominate any other country that can be categorised as a liberal democracy which uses an optional preferential system of voting. Our present system of preferential voting is as good a system for producing a majority result as can be devised with a minimum of inconvenience.
Of course, the best way of having a completely accurate reflection of the majority opinion is to have an exhaustive system of voting, as is used in single member constituencies in elections for the French National Assembly. I do not think that honourable members opposite would suggest that we should introduce that system here, but, in essence, that is the best system of all because on 2 separate occasions if a candidate does not get an absolute majority of primary votes on the first count people are forced to direct their minds to making a decision as to which of the three or four or whatever the number of candidates is they will vote for.
– What about the taxpayer?
-I thought that we were interested not only in taxpayers but also in achieving democratic results. I think that the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) has already categorised the electoral injustices of the first past the post system. In the elections in Britain in February 1974 the Liberal Party polled 6 million primary votes, the Conservative Party polled just on 1 1 million primary votes and the Labour Party polled just on 1 1 million primary votes, yet in the House of Commons the Liberal Party got 14 seats and the other 2 parties got almost 300 seats each. What sort of electoral justice is that? I ask honourable members opposite in their readiness to distinguish between an optional preferential voting system and a first past the post system to remember the words a few minutes ago of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He said that people do not want to express a preference and that people will, if they are given the option, just choose between one of two parties. I can just imagine that if this Bill becomes law there will be a massive propaganda campaign by the Government to remind people that they no longer have to express a preference. There will be a bias in its publicity towards people not expressing a preference.
Perhaps the shallowness of the Government’s case in favour of optional preferential voting is best demonstrated by the remarks of the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) when he said people should not be compelled. I agree with that. It is a great pity that he did not extend the argument right through. I find it very hard to accept that the Government’s arguments in favour of optional preferential voting are other than those to secure it electoral advantage when the Minister for Services and Property says, quite simply: ‘It is our policy to have compulsory voting’. I am sorry to hear that. I, for my part, believe that compulsory voting ought to go. I have never believed in compulsory voting. For supporters of the Government to come into this House and in high-sounding phrases to say that we ought not to compel people to express a preference beyond their first preference and then to say that they believe in compulsory voting is to remove from their arguments and their incantations all sense of principle and logic.
I turn to the second main limb of this legislation, that is, the registration of political parties. In a sense it belongs to the same stable as the proposals for payment into party funds of moneys from Consolidated Revenue and it belongs to the stable which believes that the system should be so ordered as to entrench the status quo. I do not believe in using the public purse to finance political parties, I do not believe in the compulsory disclosure of the sources of party funds and I certainly do not believe in the printing of party affiliations on a ballot paper. What has gone wrong with the supporters of the Government? Are they a little worried that in the next election they will not be able to get enough of their supporters outside the polling booths handing out how-to-vote cards? Is that their real concern? Is the real purpose of this legislation so to order the system that even if the Australian Labor Party suffers a massive deficiency on the ground it will be perfectly all right because ‘Australian Labor Party’ will be written after the names of its candidates? I am inherently suspicious of any system which will entrench the status quo in the electoral laws of this country. There is no reason why the Liberal Party, the Labor Party or the Country Party should be given any entrenched advantage. There is no reason why a splinter from any of those parties ought not in time to secure the same measure of electoral support in this country as the party from which it has splintered has at present.
I believe, with respect to the Minister who introduced this Bill, that the move towards the registration of political parties will present some horrendous legal difficulties. My mind goes back to the Labor Party split in Victoria in the mid-1950s when a court ruled that the former Victorian Branch of the ALP was legally entitled to certain property and certain funds. I wonder what impact such a court decision would have upon the provisions of this Act so far as the registration of political parties is concerned. Perhaps it is part and parcel of this Government’s approach to believe that every single thing can be altered by legislation, that it does not really trust the system and that it has constantly to patch up the guidelines under which the system is carried out.
There are a number of other peripheral provisions in this Bill. There is the reduction in the voting hours. I regret to say that I cannot agree with some of my colleagues on this matter. I believe that any reduction in the voting hours under a system of compulsory voting would be quite wrong. To compel people to vote and then to reduce their opportunities for casting their votes is, I think, an extremely odd form of electoral justice. We are left with a piece of legislation which contains a number of good provisions. I, too, support the idea of increasing deposits. I think that is a very good provision. I suppport the idea of drawing candidates’ names out of the hat to determine the order on the ballot paper. I think that is a reform that is long overdue. I support a number of the other reforms relating to the broadcasting of election advertisements and so forth.
We are left irresistibly with the impression that there are only really 2 things in this legislation in which the Government is greatly interested. They are the introducion of optional preferential voting and the registration of political parties. Australia certainly does have an enviable system. I believe that to introduce these 2 elements into the Australian system would be to remove a lot of the virtue that we have presently. I am a little surprised to hear that the Government proposes to introduce in this legislation a restriction on postal voting facilities. The Government’s leaders today have spent a great deal of time talking about how dreadful and how terrible it is that it took 2 or 3 weeks to determine the government. Of course, the truth of the matter, as honourable members opposite and all of us know, is that the real delay of 2, 3 or 4 weeks occurred because of the final calculation of the votes for Senate vacancies in the various States. What the Government will do now in the name of speeding things up and having a quicker finalisation of electoral results is to make it very, very difficult for a lot of people who are travelling overseas to cast their ballots. It will limit the opportunities that those people have to cast their ballots. I think that is a very, very odd kind of electoral reform for a Party that says that it is so interested in promoting the maximum amount of choice and the maximum amount of opportunity.
I think a great number of things in our electoral laws need improvement. I think the Government has gone completely the wrong way about it. The honourable member for Phillip was candid enough to intimate that the Government wishes to have this legislation passed very quickly. It wishes to get it through very quickly because it wants optional preferential voting. The Government knows that a naked transfer from the existing system of preferential voting to first past the post voting would be open to too much criticism. Through the back door of optional preferential voting it is trying to achieve the result that it has long wanted, because the Labor Party has been ravaged over the years by preferential voting. That is why it wishes to change optional preferential voting and thereby introduce first past the post voting. The members of the Opposition recognise this move for what it is. I think this legislation ought to be opposed.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity in these few minutes to support the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in his second reading speech explained several reforms of a fundamental nature to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. He also seeks to make a number of fairly minor amendments of a procedural nature. He carefully listed the total number of changes which are proposed in this Bill. Some of these changes have already been touched on by my colleagues, who have spoken previously. Tonight it is my intention to deal specifically with two or three of the proposed amendments but in passing I think it is appropriate to remind the Opposition that no fewer than 15 of the amendments currently being considered in this Bill were proposed by the Opposition while it had responsibility for administering the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I am sure it is also appropriate to remind honourable members opposite that while they like to criticise the optional preference provision which it is suggested should be incorporated as an amendment in the Act, and while they suggest that this provision is being used for political purposes by the Government, in the recent election in the Northern Territory when this provision was used for possibly the first time, honourable members opposite- particularly members of the Australian Country Party- loudly acclaimed the great advantages of the electoral system when so many of their candidates were successful. So it might be significant for them to think again about what is proposed here and to see how democratic the proposals really are.
The main amendment to which I wish to refer this evening relates to the conduct of postal voting. I applaud the Minister for introducing these amendments which will set up mobile booths and which will, to some extent, tidy up the existing postal voting system which operates under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Mr McVeigh- Joh Bjelke-Petersen did that.
– I must say that there are very few things for which I applaud the Queensland Government but I certainly applaud it for introducing the system of mobile booths or the electoral visitor system.
– Now that you have said that they will put in the ‘Courier Mail’ tomorrow.
– If, as the honourable member for Darling Downs suggests, that gets me headlines in the ‘Courier Mail’ tomorrow, it is the only way I will get them. Nevertheless, I am prepared to concede that it is a worthwhile system. On the occasion of the introduction of the mobile booths I am only sorry that the Government has not deemed it possible to go the whole way and to introduce a system of electoral visitor voting for each and every person who is unable to visit a polling booth within the electorate in which he is residing on polling day. I did my best to see that such a system was introduced but I am happy to accept this compromise as a start. I am pleased that this proposal will be initiated. At least we will overcome the grave malpractice which exists within the postal voting system currently whereby the Australian Labor Party- I speak specifically of the areas of Brisbane which I know- is at a grave disadvantage particularly in respect to nursing homes. I say that we would be lucky if our people were allowed to visit 5 per cent of the nursing homes in Brisbane before polling day. We would be lucky if there were 5 per cent.
The rest of the privately run nursing homes are kept as the exclusive preserve of Liberal candidates and Liberal members. Postal votes are almost exclusively preserved for Liberal candidates in the electorates around Brisbane that I know of. This is disastrous, of course, from the point of view of democracy. It is devastating from the point of view of the Labor candidates. It is singularly undemocratic and it is something that we seek to abolish in the amendment proposed to this Act. We seek to give the people who through age, infirmity or illness are hospitalised, or those who are permanent residents of aged persons’ homes or nursing homes, the opportunity to have once again the privilege that they enjoyed when they were in good health. They should have the opportunity once again to cast a democratic vote without the surveillance of party scrutineers and without the watchful eye of the Liberal Party canvassers.
I should like to cite an incident in my electorate during the last election on 1 8 May. It is only for the sake of saving the person concerned embarrassment that I will not mention names. But let me assure honourable members that I could in fact name the individual who visited several nursing homes in my electorate before the last election on 1 8 May and told people in the homes: ‘You must vote for the Liberal candidate. You must ensure that your vote is cast for the Liberal candidate because your future existence in this nursing home, where you are so comfortable, where you are so well looked after and where you know that you have got security of existence, is threatened if you return the Labor candidate and if he is part of a Labor Government returned to Canberra ‘.
How disgraceful it is when party politics stoop to this level, when Liberal canvassers solicit votes in this way from the aged and infirm in nursing homes. I see smiles, smiles of disbelief perhaps, on some of the faces of honourable members opposite. I suggest to them that if they are interested in going around to some of the nursing homes to which I refer and masquerading as Labor candidates or Labor scrutineers, they will find great truth in the words that I have uttered.
The picture I have painted here tonight of the situation is clearly 100 per cent correct. I say it without fear of contradiction. If it is not then let some of these people come out and deny that these practices have existed not only in my electorate but also in other electorates around the city of Brisbane. Let it be denied that scrutineers and canvassers for the Liberal Party, in particular, have gone to nursing home after nursing home and have stood over these people, the aged and the infirm, to extract votes for their candidates. This will be overcome by the system which we intend to introduce by the amendment to this Act.
I recall speaking in this House previously about the abuses and the malpractices to which the postal voting system is subject, and which have occurred in several electorates around Brisbane. I spoke one evening in this place- I think the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) also spoke- about the way some of these practices are carried out. I can recall that soon after the honourable member for Griffith came into this Parliament he took the opportunity to bemoan the problems that existed from his point of view. He believed that the Labor Party had supremacy as far as the collection of postal votes were concerned in his electorate. But of course, the situation has changed in recent times. It has changed to the extent that the Liberal Party in Griffith during the last election campaign was prepared to advertise in local newspapers and was prepared to solicit postal votes from people in the electorate of Griffith. Some advertisements were worded: ‘Do you need a postal vote, electors of Griffith? You may obtain a postal vote for the election to be held on 18 May’. The advertisements went on and gave reasons for the elector to have a postal vote. They continued: ‘We, the Griffith Liberal Party Committee to re-elect Don Cameron to Canberra and restore the same Government to Australia offer our assistance’. In fact, it was soliciting postal votes.
If time permitted I could elaborate on other practices that take place in many electorates, including the electorate of Griffith. It may be possible for the honourable member for Griffith to stand here tonight and deny that he knows anything of these practices that take place in his electorate and which are put into effect to try to re-elect him to this Parliament. He may not know anything of them. He may not even know about the postal vote application forms that are prepared many months prior to the election in order to be sent out on his behalf. I am proud to say that the Minister for Services and Property proposes to abolish these malpractices by means of the proposed amendments to the Act.
– You seem to have a fair knowledge of these malpractices.
-I certainly do. I am glad to hear that interjection from the honourable member for Wimmera. In Queensland it is vitally necessary, to have a full and adequate knowledge of these malpractices. I can tell the honourable member why one gets this knowledge, particularly if one is a successful candiate. I might instance my electorate of Bowman. In the House of Representatives election in 1969, when I was elected to this Parliament, the Liberal Party polled 42. 1 per cent of the total first preference votes counted and I, the successful Labor candidate, polled 51.14 per cent. But at that election the Liberal Party gained 47.14 per cent of the postal votes whereas the Labor Party gained only 44 per cent. Let me quote another instance. In 1972 the Labor Party polled 55.2 per cent of the formal first preference votes and the Liberal Party gained a massive total of 39 per cent. But in that year the Liberal Party gained 41 per cent of the postal votes as compared with 5 1 per cent for the Labor Party. Does what I say make Country Party members opposite wonder why a Labor Party member from Queensland has to make himself aware of the malpractices that take place in regard to the postal voting in that State?
Time this evening will not permit me to elaborate much more on that aspect. I do not have time to speak at any great length of many of the other worthwhile amendments included in this Bill that we are debating this evening. There is one other proposition upon which I congratulate the Minister. Finally voting hours are to be reduced from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as they are at the moment, to from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I know that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who is leading for the- Opposition in this matter, shares the Labor Party’s attitude on this matter. I recall the days of my closer association with him as a fellow candiate in 1966. He was a successful candidate on that occasion and at the declaration of the poll he spoke in high praise of such a change. I am sure that this evening he, on behalf of the Opposition, will support the proposal to close the polls at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
Finally, one other amendment that I believe is timely is the change in the deposit required of candidates. The Act requires, in relation to an election for the House of Representatives, a candidate to gain 20 per cent or one-fifth of the total number of first preference votes polled by the successful candidate in order to avoid forfeiture of his deposit paid upon nomination. The proposal is to amend the Act so that the candidate retains his deposit if the total number of votes polled in his favour as first preference votes is more than 10 per cent of the total number of first preferences polled in the election. There again, of course, it has been suggested that it is proposed to make this amendment because it will be to the advantage of the Labor Party. The Opposition has suggested that we are proceeding too quickly with all of these amendments. I have suggested to the honourable member for Moreton that he might give permission for the incorporation of a table in Hansard tonight. I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
– No objection.
-There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– The table examines the effects of various criteria on the refund or loss of deposits paid by candidates nominating for election to the House of Representatives in 1972. It shows no real or significant variation in the number of candidates who would lose their deposits because of this proposed variation in the Electoral Act. I commend those specific amendments to which I have referred the House, and I commend in total the amendments which have been mentioned by other speakers in the debate and, of course, which are being debated in full. I am very pleased to support them in full.
-Traditions run deep and so does partisanship in relation to debates of this nature. I must say that when the debate started off I was not at all in agreement with the propositions put forward by my friend, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). Perhaps a joint select committee should be set up to consider electoral reform. However, the further this debate has gone the more apparent I think it becomes to everybody that political rancour, political suspicion and doubts must intrude themselves on this sort of debate. Having listened to the remarks of several honourable members I have rather given up the unequal struggle. I rather doubt whether I will be able to adopt the lofty train of thought that I hoped I would be able to adopt. For instance, I was reminded by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) a little while ago of a story I heard the other day. I cannot vouch for its authenticity, but the story was that some union bosses and union shop stewards were under heavy siege. Two hundred or three hundred of the rank and file wanted a secret ballot on a certain issue. After a further half hour of debate the union bosses finally gave way and said: ‘All right, you can have your secret ballot. There will be 2 ballot boxes; the ayes to the right and the noes to the left’. To some degree or other this is exactly the sort of problem that is rearing its head now. I suppose it is quite true that all political parties are suspicious when another political party proposes changes to the Electoral Act, especially when the system as it exists is acknowledged to be fair. We need only refer to the words used by the Leader of the House and Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) when he introduced the Bill. He said:
We have not suffered the electoral malpractices common in many other countries.
We on this side of the House go along with that very much. Of course, I can quote no better authority in regard to these matters than the Leader of the House. He has specialised in this field. In fact, I would have thought that he was the expert political juggler of all time. I was interested in the comment of the honourable member for Bowman who said that he knew all about electoral malpratice, because in Queensland one could not win a seat unless one did know all about it. Quite frankly, here again is the problem with a debate of this nature. I must say that I am disappointed with the Leader of the House who has been in this place a great many years. One would presume that he would have acquired great wisdom, but he is not showing much wisdom when he attempts to bulldoze a Bill of this gravity through the House in a matter of 1 1 days since we first saw the Bill.
-We finish at 9.30 tonight.
-That is right. He has already given notice to the House that he will allow only 3 hours debate on this issue. Quite frankly, in my own Party 3 hours would have been insufficient time for a debate of this nature. I would like to do what I do not normally do, and that is tell the House a little more than I normally think proper about Party meetings. I have had a matter on our Party agenda for two and a half months, and that matter bears on the central point of the Minister’s Bill which we are debating tonight. Why have we in our Party not got to this agenda item? Again one enters this area of political rancour which makes objective opinions on this subject so impossible. The reason is quite simple. The Government, in its wisdom, decided that it did not want a major debate in Caucus so it brought this Bill into this Parliament midway through last Wednesday morning. The Opposition, without all the knowledge of the Department to back it up or the ability to seek further information, was forced into the position of having to consider it, together with an avalanche of minor legislation scooped up and dumped onto it as though with a front-end loader. The Opposition has to spend the whole of its Party meetings considering this plethora” of legislation, this rash of legislation which regrettably crops up towards the tail end of a sessional period.
I mention that as a point at issue because the Minister for Services and Property! does not do credit to his own aims embodied in this Bill, if he is deeply sincere about it- I see no particular reason to doubt that- by refusing to allow a proper atmosphere for rational consideration of this matter. To demonstrate my point, the matter I have had on my Party’s agenda now for well over 2 months deals with limited preferential voting. I saw problems with such a system. I had heard the Minister in general terms give his views on it in the past. I felt nevertheless that there was some merit in it so I produced a paper which I have here- quite a short one of 3 pages which many members of my Party have readcalled ‘The Simplified Preferential System’. The only major difference between my scheme and the proposal in the Minister’s Bill was that, whereas the Minister’s proposal gives rise to the obvious doubt which exists in my Party and no doubt outside it- for example, in certain intellectual quarters- and which is implied in the Minister’s scheme, as the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) described very accurately a while ago, that the proposal in the Bill could amount to a first past the post system with a certain amount of weakening, my proposal aimed at overcoming that. Might I add that I had a lot of support from many members in my Party, such as my South Australian colleague, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson).
My scheme aimed at giving 2 alternatives. It aimed at allowing people to vote precisely as they do now under the same conditions- there were minor amendments to the present voting method at the end of the paper but we will leave them aside- or to vote for one candidate and no more. However there was a provision in my scheme which made it mandatory for every Party and every independent candidate to register a week before polling day, according to law, his preferential order. His party’s preference would be superimposed on that one vote by the particular electoral officer.
– It is a fantasy.
– The Minister says that it is a fantasy. I do not know who presents the biggest fantasy at this stage, a person who tries to bulldoze a scheme through without giving Parliament a chance to consider its merits or a person who proposes a scheme, such as mine, which is in general use in countries like the United States of America. The difference, to get back to the point-
– He really recognises its value.
-I think that is right. I must applaud the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) for his comment. If the Minister says that the proposal is nonsense then, ipso facto, it makes sense. I go along with that comment to a limited degree. Let us get back to the point.
– Hear, hear!
-Listen to who is talking! If there is doubt as to whether a limited preferential system could in time through popular demand become a first past the post system, according to many of us that would not be in the best interests of the nation as a whole because we feel that the full preferential system has its merits. On the basis that it has, my scheme aims to superimpose the entire preferential voting pattern of a candidate on to the vote of the elector who votes for that candidate only. There is not much difference one might say but there is a big difference in other ways because at least every preference pro forma is exercised and has to be exercised under that scheme. This is only one of many interesting alternatives that people of intelligence and probity and people who are imaginative could have produced in a more rational situation. But it is hardly a rational situation when the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) points to the impossibility of a Labor vote being properly exercised under the present scheme. I would ask him to look at the percentage results and see whether the people’s wishes have not been properly mirrored within this chamber over the years.
– They have not been in the Senate.
– Of course, the obvious answer is that they have been accurately mirrored. As regards the Senate, I hasten to point out that my scheme is aimed only at Senate voting. I am completely happy with House of Representatives voting procedures and their administration. But quite patently, it is absurd to ask people to fill in a voting card numbered one to seventy-three. There is not a great deal of support in the community or in other circles for limited preferential voting. Given enough time- who knows- I might have been able to convince my own Party that my simplified method might have met the measure of the day and more accurately measured the wishes of the community. This is what the Minister tonight has not enabled this side of the House to do. If this Bill passes this House and is later defeated in the Upper House, it will be entirely the Minister’s own fault because he has not had confidence enough with the Parliament as such to develop a scheme and to produce an atmosphere which would have removed the partisanship and the backlash that we have seen from time to time during this debate.
I mention that particular scheme because, if I might repeat myself, it is only one example of how an intelligent sub-committee of the Parliament might well have approached the topic. Of course, what will happen is that by next year we will be in Government and we will produce a new electoral scheme. Honourable members opposite laugh. If it does not suit the cheerful galahs on the other side of the House, that is their funeral. I hope that if we produce a scheme such as this it is one that gives news of the Opposition party, as it will be then, a chance to toss these issues backwards and forwards within their own Party room. It will need five or six hours, whether it be our Bill or whether it be their Bill. This is exactly what has not happened on this occasion. In my view, the quickest way to sicken the people of an infinitely desirable method of preferential voting is to make the process too complex. There is no question about this.
– First past the post.
– The inanity of your interjections sometimes amazes me. Having said that, let us look at the by-products of that statement. I do not see my scheme leaning towards any eventful first past the post system. Nor do I agree altogether with a statement made by my Leader on 19 September in which he said that already there are really only 2 systems of voting- full preferential or first past the post. I suppose that it is possible to look at the scheme I have put before the House as an implied full preferential voting system. For instance, I do not think that one ought to worry very much in relation to whether people do want to vote for an individual specifically. 1 think that it has been one of the conditions of the Electoral Act for the lower House for some time that voters do not have to vote for the last person whose name is shown on a voting paper. Quite patently, it would be absurd for the House not to take the same point of view for a full voting card in the Senate. It is quite ridiculous that people who do not want to vote for the Communist team in fact have to do so. I know that in my own State in the last election the Communist Party drew No. 1 position and the Liberal Party drew No. 2 position on the ballot paper. It was strange how many people voted first for the Liberal Party, went right through the card and completely ignored the Communist Party because it happened to be No. 1 on the ballot paper. Fair is fair. If this principle applies to lower House elections I think the same should apply to Senate elections. I point out that the difficulty does not exist in House of Representatives elections; the difficulty quite patently exists in Senate elections. It seems quite absurd that people should be required to number 1 to 73 on a ballot paper in any Senate election at all.
– What if 73 candidates nominated for a seat in the House of Representatives?
– The State in which ALP malpractices are most legion and most well known throughout political circles at university level is, of course, Queensland. There is still no other State that has produced 2 circles joined by a line and looking like the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh). The dumb-bell mentality is entirely well known in Queensland. Let us face it: These are some of the problems we have to overcome. This is significant again of the partisanship and the gamesmanship of a political arena in which no calm and objective judgment can be made on these issues. I am quite sure the Minister knows very well how he sees the pattern emerging in the Senate. I give him credit for having a little political acumen and wisdom in his wish to have this Bill sent to the Upper House as soon as possible having already taken note of how the forces are drawing themselves up.
This House and this Parliament must take great care to protect a system that is fair and that mirrors the wishes of the people. The Government has tried to bulldoze its ideas through tonight. I do not think that the Minister, in spite of his great seniority, has been fair to the Parliament as such. He should know that there would be a more enlightened approach if he gave proper time for Parties to debate issues in the Party rooms. Five or six hours at least are needed. Wednesday a.m. sittings of this House have made null and void any proper attempt by Parties- I suspect including his own- at debate in Party rooms. It is not enough in this case for one Minister to wish to impress his ideas alone on this Parliament.
– I take a point of order. In my time as Minister the Parliament has not met a.m. on Wednesday.
– I should like to express some disappointment at one of the remarks of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who is, I understand, the Opposition’s candidate for Speaker if the Liberal Party takes the reins in this House. I wish to comment on a remark made by the honourable member about an election next year. He presupposes an election and I take it he supports the Senate’s blocking of Supply which, in fact, means that this House surrenders its powers of government and becomes subservient to the other House. I hope that no person who seeks to occupy the Chair in this House would wish to see that happen.
This Bill brings in a number of amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Several members have stated that the present system is fair. An electoral system is fair only if the most incapable person eligible to vote is able to cast a vote with ease, without fear and without having it denied to him by the system in practice. If a party, person or government seeks, by legal means, to deny a disadvantaged section of the community its voting rights this can be achieved by placing complications or difficulties in the way of voting which will prevent a substantial proportion of the population from casting formal votes. In the last Senate election a deliberate nomination of candidates took place in New South Wales for the purpose of creating informal votes- in your electorate, Mr Speaker, 20 per cent of the votes cast for the Senate were informalto the advantage of a political party which suffers least from the casting of informal votes. It in fact changed one seat in the Senate. It changed the majority in the Senate. Therefore, it changed the whole position of this Parliament.
– Why do you say it changed the voting for the Senate?
-I say that because the proportion of informal votes in Labor seats was nearly double on average the proportion of informal votes in Liberal seats, and the margin between 6 seats and 5 seats in New South Wales was only 4 per cent.
– Why were informal votes higher in Labor seats?
-What I am saying-I think if you look at the statistics I will not need to say it too often- is that the order in which the seats rank in accordance with the percentage of Labor votes almost exactly relates to the order in the number of informal votes cast in the Senate election.
– I am asking why. Why was it?
-It was because of the difficulty of casting a vote for 73 candidates in New South Wales and 46 candidates in Victoria.
– Why was it more in Labor seats than non-Labor seats?
-It was because of the fact, I would suggest, that most Liberal voters have had the benefit of greater education and most likely had other benefits.
– Are Labor voters less intelligent?
-I did not say that and I think the honourable member for Corangamite ought not to use those words. I suggest that what he has said is exactly what Sir Henry Bolte said. The honourable member is a person for whom I had some respect before he said that. I think it is a disgusting thing to suggest. What I am saying is that there are underprivileged people in this community who did not have the opportunity to go to a private college as the honourable member did, persons who have not had all the benefits of a big farm to live on and the advantage of plenty of time available to them, who are not quite capable of casting a vote and who went into the polling booths in the last election scared to death of casting an informal vote. These people are entitled to have their vote the same as your supporters. And you would seek to deny them! Make no mistake about it. You would also seek to deny them the full value of their vote by giving your friends, supposedly disadvantaged millionaire farmers, 2 votes to their one. That is what your Party is about to do in Victoria now by expanding the upper House. You are denying the people their right to vote in a democracy. I think it is a laughing matter too- that you would call yourself a democrat!
-What did he say?
-What he said was that people without education are not entitled to vote. I do not take any notice of the honourable member for Angas. You have sold yourself out.
-Order! Interjections will cease and the honourable member will address the Chair.
-The honourable member for Angas has sold himself out. He is now a slave of the Senate and prepared to do its will. I would hope that he would abandon any desire he has of holding the Chair in this House in any future government.
– I rise to take a point of order. Just because the honourable member said what he is accusing other members of saying, there is no need for him to wheel on me.
-There was no reflection. The honourable member for Corio will address the Chair.
– Before the sitting was suspended, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) said that an example of the effect of taking away compulsory preferential voting would be what happened to the Liberal Party in England where that Party gained 25 per cent of the votes and won no seats in the House of Commons. I suggest that that situation has been occurring in Australia for some considerable time. Certainly it has been happening in Victoria with respect to the Australian Democratic Labor Party. The fact that a preferential voting system operated did not help that Party in any way gain any seats. What it did was take away any disadvantage which may have been suffered by the Liberal Party through votes going to the DLP. In England, had a compulsory preferential voting system applied, possibly the Liberal Party votes would have gone to the Conservatives and the Conservatives may have won additional electorates. But the Liberal Party would never gain greater representation in the House of Commons than it has now. It would not have served the interests of democracy.
There are a number of provisions in this Bill which will, I believe, assist electors to cast valid votes. That is, after all, the important thing- giving electors an opportunity to cast valid votes. I do not, as some members do, sneer at people who have not the capacity to cast a valid vote. I suggest that honourable members go to some of their friends in industry and ask them what happens when a storeman, possibly well educated, possibly not, is asked to number from 1 to 100. Just before the last election I was speaking to people from the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd who said that the average error in numbering from 1 to 100 is 6 per cent and 2 per cent on the second try. Those same people were numbering the ballot paper for the Senate election in New South Wales under a situation of stress. Casting a vote, for some people, is a situation of stress.
– It is a simple transcription.
– It is a situation of stress. There are people who actually cast their own votes without assistance. There are people who do not get the benefit of how to vote cards, especially if they want to vote for a minority party. These people in fact vote under situations of stress and are likely to make mistakes. In the existing situation, if a person voting in New South Wales at the last election had correctly numbered his Senate card from 1 to 7 1 and had repeated or left out one of the last three numberseven though it might have been for a candidate who had less than 100 votes in the State and would have been the first eliminated; therefore the order of preferences would have made no difference at all to his vote, it would not have been counted- that person’s vote was wiped out.
Preferential voting is a system under which a person indicates his order of preference, not his party’s order of preference as the honourable member for Angas proposes. Even though a person may transcribe a party ticket he indicates his personal order of preference. That is supposedly the basis of the system. There is no person in this House- I point mainly to those prefessing support for preferential voting- who can tell me or anyone else what the 73 candidates- I would include the Chief Electoral Officer in this- from New South Wales in the Senate election or the 46 candidates in Victoria stood for. Nobody knew what they all stood for and there was no way, in many cases, that one could find out. Therefore how can one exercise a choice, a preference, in such circumstances? It cannot be done. Optional preferential voting in my opinion- I say this quite honestly- would work to the disadvantage of the Australian Labor Party, not to its advantage. I use the obvious example of the 2 parties which had substantial minority votes in the last election- the Australian Party and the Democratic Labor Party.
I suggest that it is far more likely that DLP voters would follow a party ticket and cast a preferential vote than it is that persons voting for the Australia Party would indicate a preference. They are compelled at this stage to indicate a preference. In that circumstance I would think that optional preferential voting would work to the disadvantage, not to the advantage, of the Labor Party. The situation with regard to the Senate under the proposed system would be that in all but a very small number of cases the number of votes required to be cast would cover the candidates elected. This situation exists in Tasmania in that State’s normal House of Assembly elections. And Tasmania is the only State which on a regular basis elects people other than those on the major party tickets. It appears to me that the fear of optional preferential voting is misguided and is based more on the advantage of political party rule than on the basis of what is a fair and reasonable system.
The putting of the names of parties on ballot papers and the registration for that purpose of party names is a simplification of the systems which would give those people who do not get the benefit of how to vote cards some benefit in that they would know what candidates stood for. I hope u would also in time lead to cessation of the distribution of how-to-vote cards. I would suggest to any member who likes to think that we have a resources problem that the amount of paper that is wasted outside electoral booths in this country is fantastic and I suggest that waste is totally unnecessary. Even if we must have howtovote cards there should be some more simple way of using them than giving out 60,000, 180,000 or 200,000 in each electorate on an election day. It seems to me a tremendously wasteful process.
I disagree with the proposition put forward by at least one honourable member that the distribution of these cards is a money-saving operation. I think it is a complete waste of resources to be printing useless how-to-vote cards. I would suggest that any system which makes it easier for people to identify and vote for the candidate or the parties which they choose is a system which advances the rights of people in a democracy.
I finish my speech by repeating the point I commenced with. A system of electing people to the national Parliament can only be judged by the capacity which it provides for the person least capable of casting a vote to cast, without fear, a formal vote. That those people who tend to vote Labor are the most disadvantaged by a complicated electoral system is an accident which this Government’s education policies, I hope, will shortly overcome. But the facts are that people are disadvantaged and are placed under stress by electoral laws which require them to undertake a too complicated system of voting, especially in Senate elections, and I believe that these amendments will assist greatly in simplifying the system so that all people will have their democratic right to vote, and vote formally, and will not have it taken away from them on a mere pointless technicality.
– I was amazed to hear the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) admit earlier in his remarks that the Australian Labor Party voters throughout Australia have not been educated to the same extent as the people who vote the other way. This to me is-
– I take a point of order. That is an unfair remark and the honourable member knows it. I ask him to desist.
– That is exactly what the honourable member said. He went on to criticise the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), suggesting that all the people who voted for those who sit on this side of the House are highly educated. He even got to the stage of calling us millionaire farmers. So I still repeat that that is what the honourable member for Corio said. I am sure that if he looks at his greens or at Hansard tomorrow he will probably change his view oh what he really said. I was surprised at him saying it and no doubt some of his constituents in the electorate of Corio will be somewhat disappointed with him.
We are tonight debating a Bill known as the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 1974. 1 want to say at the outset that there are in this BUI many amendments that I support. I cannot agree with the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) who put forward the suggestion that because there are members of the Liberal and Country Parties who support some of the amendments we should therefore support the BUI as a whole. This to me is ridiculous. As I said, I support quite a few of the amendments.
– Which ones?
– We will come to that directly; be patient. But there are many of the amendments that I do not support. For instance, by way of illustration, if a person carried out 99 very good deeds and was respected because he did so but then on the 100th occasion he decided he was going to rob a bank, would that absolve him from guilt? That is exactly what the members on the Government side are trying to say.
– That is the way they think.
– Maybe that is the way they think, I do not know. But of the 34 major amendments there are a mighty lot that I do support. I have not got time to go through all of them, but I want to mention a few. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in his second reading speech summarised these 34 amendments. I think the very first amendment referred to by the Minister related to the optional preferential marking of ballot papers, which is provided for in clauses 45 and 46 of the Bill. I am sure that a number of members on this side of the chamber have spelt out the reasons why they oppose optional preferential voting. There is no doubt in my mind and I am sure in the minds of many people that the present preferential system is the fairest system we could possibly have for elections. If optional preferential voting is what the Labor Party calls a democratic vote, all I can say is that it is horribly like democratic socialism. The word ‘democratic’ is used, but for what purpose I am not too sure.
– It is a misnomer.
– Of course it is a misnomer. I will oppose optional preferential voting wherever possible. As I have said, the present system is the fairest one we could have and there is no good reason why we should opt out of it. After all, if the honourable member for Corio is correct, people cannot count up to 4, 5 or 6 as they would be required to do if casting a vote for the House of Representatives. As the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) mentioned, this raises the question as to whether those people are really entitled to cast a vote.
-Is that so?
– I said if they could not count up to 4, 5 or 6. That is certainly nothing like the problem that the honourable member for Corio posed. He said that his supporters were uneducated completely. There are a lot of other clauses I would like to deal with so I will leave the matter of optional preferential voting because I believe it has been fairly well covered. The second and third amendments in the Minister’s summary are: printing or party affiliations of candidates on ballotpapers; registration of political parties for purposes of identification and printing of affiliations on ballot papers;
Proposed new section 5 8d, set out in clause 2 1 , is rather interesting. When the Minister summarised all the important issues, he did not bother to include this one. But he referred to it later on in his second reading speech. The proposed new section really deals with parties to be recognised officially as parties for the purposes of having their names appear on the ballot paper. It will not take me long to read the relevant portion.
– Which one? There are 6 clauses.
– If the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) looks at the Bill he will find that I am referring to clause 21, proposed new section 58d( 1 ), paragraph (a) which states:
Paragraph (b) explains the position with regard to the Senate. Paragraph (c) then refers to the situation with regard to by-elections. The provisions to which I have referred plus the remainder of the proposed new section 58D. form a very loaded section. The honourable member for Shortland shakes his head and does not agree. Twenty-five per cent of the various electorates will have to be contested by a Party before that Party is recognised. I make no apologies with regard to Victoria where the Country Party holds 6 seats out of 34. This really means that to qualify as a political party, for the purposes of having our candidates’ political affiliation printed on ballot papers we would have to contest 9 seats. I can guess why the Minister included this amendment. He must understand the situation in Victoria because, as most people realise, the Country Party contests country electorates. In Victoria in particular this is so. The strange thing about this is that not one country electorate there is held by the Labor Party. Therefore, what the Minister wants is to have some Country Party contests with the Liberal Party so that we can then get our numbers up to the required nine in that State. That is why this clause is included. Some months ago the Minister made a statement to the effect that when the redistribution proposals were brought forward members of the Country Party would have a heart attack. He knew what he was talking about. He deliberately framed this Bill and the Electoral Bill for that very purpose.
Let me turn to some of the other proposals because, after all, I said I would agree with some of them. It is proposed to introduce mobile polling booths at hospitals and similar institutions. I have advocated this for a long time and I certainly support it, so I need say no more about that. It is proposed to close polls at 6 p.m. The Minister and many other Government supporters have been very vocal about trying to speed up the elections. This is one instance where I agree with them. I believe that if the polling booths were closed at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. the decision that we normally wait for until midnight or 1 a.m. should be known, in theory, 2 hours earlier. I support this proposal. Queensland has it in its State elections and, as far as I can gather, there is very little criticism of that procedure.
I think the requirement relating to a candiate who changes his name within 12 months prior to nomination is another satisfactory alteration to the Act. I am not sure what is meant by ‘an earlier deadline for the return of postal votes and for the return of postal votes direct to respective returning officers’. Does this mean that postal votes will have to be returned to all returning officers by the close of the poll? That is my understanding from my reading of the Bill. What happens in an emergency? It is also proposed to increase the fine for people who do not cast a vote. To my mind the proposal for the return of postal votes is completely impractical.
– If I could interrupt, they are placed on the same basis as any other voter. They must vote before the polls close.
– The Minister points out that the vote must be made before the closing of the poll. What does that mean if a person is out of his electorate?
-He has to have it in by 8 o ‘clock that night, like any other voter in Australia.
– To the returning officers?
-Yes, like every other voter. No country lets people cast votes after the close of a poll.
– I do not suggest that voting should be permitted after the closing of polls. There are many people who may be affected by this proposal. It will be all right for people living in the Minister’s electorate of Grayndler where it is only a 5 minute walk to the returning officer. But there are many country electorates where it takes literally days to get a postal vote to a particular constituent and back again.
– They close pur post offices too.
– That is right. How in the name of fortune will these people lodge their votes? Therefore, I am afraid that I must strongly oppose this provision. Another provision refers to prohibiting the listing of names of persons who apply for postal votes, except in specified circumstances. I cannot see any reason for a postal vote to be made public so I support that proposal. It is also proposed to provide postal voting facilities for prisoners who have retained their franchise entitlements. I am not sure about this provision. I think the non-provision of such votes could be classified as one of the penalties of serving a sentence. I make no further comment on that proposal.
– Are you fairdinkum, Bob?
– The honourable member cannot think I am speaking for a joke. Of course I mean what I say and make no apologies for saying it. The increase in the amount of the deposit required for nomination from $100 to $250, I think, is a Utile steep. I feel quite strongly that a lot of members on the Government side would think likewise. It is not easy for a candidate, irrespective of where he comes from, what he does or the Party with which he is affiliated, to put up $250 in cash. He cannot write out a cheque. I think that if the deposit were increased by a moderate amount it would be acceptable to a lot more people.
– What figure do you suggest?
– I think that if the figure were doubled from $100 to $200 that would be ample. I would certainly favour $150 in preference to $ 100. The candidate has to put up the deposit in cash. The returning officer, as aU members know, returns the deposit by cheque. I recite a rather peculiar instance. On one occasion I collected my cheque and presented it to the nearest bank, which was opposite the polling booth, and the bank refused to cash it. After a lot of talking, I managed to get it cashed.
Precluding nomination for election to the Australian Parliament by a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory, I think, is a good amendment because it brings those members into line with the many other people who must resign from certain positions they hold if they wish to contest a Federal election. It is a case of doing away with a form of discrimination, if it could have been classified as such. Prevention of a person from nominating as a candidate for more than one Federal election held on the same day, I think, would be fairly popular. There is no dispute with that. Protection of candidates against the issue of misleading how-to-vote cards is another amendment. There is no doubt about the need for that protection, and I support the amendment. The elimination of the need to state the address of an author in the case of broadcasting or telecasting of political matters is an amendment about which, if my interpretation is right, I would be concerned because there may be certain libel cases. Naturaly if one wanted to issue a writ one would want to know against whom it should be issued.
I see that my time is rapidly running out. There are one or two other matters on which I would like to speak. I support the amendment regarding the responsibility for publication of matter or comment of a political nature in the Press between the issue of the writ and the close of the poll. I believe that we throw too much onus on the editors of certain newspapers. Therefore, this should be removed. The authorisation of certain political matters could be a dangerous amendment. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that there will be no loop holes in this one. The lowering of the permissible age for presiding officers or assistant presiding officers to 18 years is another amendment. I am not opposed to the reduction in the voting age to 18 years in accordance with the Electoral Act, but I am a little concerned that a person could be made a presiding officer at the age of 18 years. This could be very dangerous. I would think that the officers of the Department would want to look very closely at that amendment. The increase in penalties for failure to enrol is another amendment. The way in which this Bill is being put makes it very hard for a lot of people to cast a vote in the event of an emergency. Therefore, I think this provision is a bit severe.
I would have liked to have said a lot of things. I see that my Whip is indicating to me very pointedly that the time in which I can make my contribution has just about expired. I will conclude by saying that while I support the bulk of the provisions in the Bill I have no alternative but to oppose it in its entirety because of one or two issues which have been included. I certainly support the postponement of the consideration of the Bill so that we on this side of the House can have a thorough look at it and get some indication from the Minister and officers of the Department as to whether some of the things I have mentioned would be worth looking at and keeping in mind so that those people who find themselves in embarrassing situations will certainly not be penalised in this true democratic system that we have at present.
-Every Bill that comes before this House is deserving of careful consideration, but none more so than a Bill designed to amend our electoral laws. Each of the proposals contained in such a Bill must be examined to see whether they are designed to strengthen our democracy or merely to strengthen the position of the Party in office. Criticisms of the proposals in this Bill should be constructive, not destructive. In discussing the method of voting proposed under this Bill, I wish to put forward alternative proposals. In reviewing the electoral law we should strive to achieve a voting system which will do most for the elector, not one that gives to any political party a political advantage against the interests of the electors as a whole.
The method of voting I advocate must not only be more accurate in the reflection of people’s wishes but will simplify the voting for electors, be more easily administered by electoral officers, speed the finalisation of results and at the same time be fair to candidates and parties. The preferential system which we have now gives electors one of the best ways of expressing their views. In his second reading speech the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) criticised the requirement of this system which compels a voter to express a preference for candidates whom he does not know or for whom he has an extreme dislike. This obligation is neither undemocratic nor meaningless as is suggested by the Minister. It is an essential feature of a system which allows such dislikes to be recorded in a manner which effectively vetoes a candidate who is disliked by a majority of voters. The preferential system which we now use gives electors one of the best ways of expressing their views and from the electors point of view it achieves a result which is in accordance with the wishes of the majority.
It is argued that full preferential voting is complicated. According to Mr Ley, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer, it is complicated to the point of being ridiculous. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has acknowledged that there is need for the system to be simplified in the case of voting procedures for Senate elections. I believe that this need also exists in the case of voting in House of Representatives elections. The complexity of the present system is seen as causing unnecessary inconvenience to electors resulting in undesirable levels of informal voting. Electors want a simplified system. A large proportion of voters follow a party ticket. They would like a shorthand method of voting. They want a method which will enable shades of opinion to be reflected in the final outcome. They also want those who desire to record their preferences to have the right to do so.
The system of optional preferential voting that is proposed in this Bill is not first past the post voting. It is feared by many that it could lead to such a system. The Chief Australian Electoral Officer has said that he hopes it will not do so for in his eyes a move in that direction would be a backward step to an archaic system of voting. A move to a first past the post system would be anti-democratic and would reduce the range of voting choice to a minimum.
– Like the Northern Territory election.
– I said first past the post voting system. The danger in the optional preferential system as proposed is that Mr Ley may not be permitted to do what he believes should be done, namely, to encourage the elector to mark his ballot paper as fully as possible.
In order to demonstrate the alleged simplicity of the system there would be those who to serve their own political interests may require the Electoral Officer to promote the idea that the most effective vote is a vote given to only one candidate where subsequent preferences are ignored. Informal voting in House of Representatives elections has been relatively low. In Senate elections the proportion though higher is not only related to the number of candidates but also to the fact that more vacancies have to be filled at Senate elections. Whatever change is made in the voting system, there will still be informal voting. Some informal votes will arise from voting papers deliberately cast as informals. Every effort should be made to reduce the number of informal votes cast by those desirous of recording an effective vote. I believe that we should adopt a system which makes it as easy as possible for all voters to make their intentions known, but, in doing so, we should strive for a system that results in the election of those candidates who are both favoured or preferred by most of the electorate and not disapproved of by the majority.
A simplified preferential voting system is one which most successfully meets those conditions. It has the desirable effects of a full preferential system insofar as candidates are ranked accord: ing to preference, together with the simplicity argued as a strength of the optional preferential system. A simplified preferential system, which I advocate, permits a candidate to register his how-to- vote card so that a voter, by placing a vote beside, say, a Liberal Party candidate, would have his vote counted in accordance with the Liberal Party’s how-to-vote card. If he wished to deviate from these recommendations he would be free to do so. Such a system would enable all voters, whether they are supporters of major parties or minor parties, to use a form of shorthand to follow the party ticket. It would also give them a right to indicate their own preference should they so desire. Whether, in examining this system, they should be required to indicate a preference for all candidates or for, say, twice the number of vacancies to be filled is a matter for debate. A form of simplified voting such as this would tend to minimise the impact of the so-called donkey vote, as these unthinking voters, on becoming aware that they need number only one square for an effective vote, would not then blindly number down the card.
The procedure needed to permit the registration of how-to-vote cards would not, contrary to an earlier interjection made by the Minister, pose insurmountable difficulties. It is already done in South Australia under a scheme sponsored by a Labor government for the purpose of public display of how-to-vote cards in each polling booth. In addition to aiding the voter, the system would greatly assist electoral officers. In an optional preferential system most, if not all, political parties would undoubtedly find it expedient to issue how-to-vote cards indicating voting preferences beyond their own candidates. In these circumstances the counting of votes would be complicated by the need to check the votes for accuracy and the number of informal votes might not be significantly reduced. Under a simplified preferential system 75 to 80 per cent of voters would use the shorthand method of indicating their preferences where they were in accord with their party’s recommendations. These votes would be easy to check and easy to count.
Furthermore, in many close contests where preferences are required to be counted the results in many instances could be ascertained more quickly. The number of preferences to be distributed would in a significant number of cases be distributable in accordance with the registered how-to-vote card, and these votes could be separately counted and their prospective destination brought into account in making assessments as to the result of the election. Those preferences alone might be sufficient to give another candidate an absolute majority. In these instances the result would be available without it being necessary for other preference votes to be individually scrutinised. Insofar as speed of finalising the result is desirable, this method of voting would go a long way towards achieving this goal without either depriving the electors of a vote or impairing their present right to express shades of opinion.
This simplified preferential system would be far more effective than optional preferential voting, not only in leading to the speedier finalisation of election results but also in simplifying voting procedures, assisting the convenience of electors and reducing the number of informal votes. Though no system will be perfect we should at least strive to make our system as fair and as equitable as possible. Simplified preferential voting would do this and would at the same time respond to the proper public demand for greater simplicity and convenience for electors. It aims to achieve a result that most closely reflects the wishes of the people. Those having different shades of opinion and shades of thought as well as those with diametrically opposed points of view will be given an equal say in the outcome of elections where this system is used.
When we turn to the amendments which are designed to alter the circumstances in which postal votes are to be submitted we find that their effect is to reduce the franchise. These proposals would deprive may Australians of a say in our election. The speedier finalisation of election results is advanced as the reason for these changes. To achieve this by depriving thousands of Australians of a vote is too high a price to pay. With increasing opportunities to travel both for business and pleasure, more and more people are away from home on election day. One can illustrate that by looking at some of the figures for the Federal elections in May last. In some States there were public holidays after the weekend on which the election was held and, as a consequence, there was a significant rise in absentee and postal votes. There will always be those, too, who through illness are unable to get to a polling booth.
Any change in the law should be aimed at making it easier, not more difficult, for people to record their votes. There could and would be no electoral malpractices if there were no elections. If, with regard to postal voting, there is a need to amend the law to minimise the opportunity for malpractice, it should be done in a manner which does not effectively disfranchise large numbers of voters. The argument that the law as to postal votes needs to be changed to allow for a speedier finalisation of results is a specious one. After all, the fate of the government is in the balance from the day the Parliament is dissolved, and sometimes in practice for a longer period. If it takes a few days to finalise the result that should not matter if, by doing so, a more accurate reflection of the people’s wishes is achieved. There is no intrinsic advantage in completing the count within the shortest possible time after the close of polls. Those directly involved are anxious to know the result, but of course this is as true a week before the election as it is half way through the count on election night. There is no more difficulty for a government in office to administer the affairs of the nation until a count of votes is completed than there is for it to do so during the election campaign itself. If speed in the finalisation of election results involves a reduction in the opportunities of every elector to have his vote taken into account, it should be opposed. There are other ways in which the finalisation of the count can be accelerated, and I have already explained those.
Under the present law a person who is interstate on the day of an election may vote by means of a postal vote at an interstate polling booth. Under the proposed amendments he is to be deprived of this right. His right to such a vote will be exercised only if he can get an application for a vote to his own divisional returning officer by 6 p.m. on the Thursday preceding the election. Then if he gets a vote his vote will be counted only if he returns it not to any divisional returning officer but to his own divisional returning officer. In each instance the tightening of the time limits imposed for the lodging of postal votes have the effect of depriving people of their franchise. For years the Australian Labor Party has espoused support for the view that all votes should have an equal value, yet in a most hypocritical fashion it proposes a law which is designed to prevent people from having a say in the determination of the government in their country.
There are many proposals in the Bill that are deserving of careful consideration, and it is a pity that we are not being given a greater opportunity to study them. Each provision must be examined to see whether it is designed to strengthen our democracy or merely to strengthen the position of the Labor Party in government. Are the provisions designed to help the elector, or is their purpose to aid only the elected? Will they improve on the present system in ensuring that the Parliament is as true a reflection of the people’s wishes as is practically attainable? We have a good electoral system. I agree with the Minister for Services and Property, who, in his second reading speech, said that Australians can be justly proud of their electoral machinery. But any electoral system, even a good one, needs to be reviewed from time to time to see whether it can be improved.
Change designed to assist the administrators of the system and those who are or would seek to be elected under it should be made only if the change is in the interests of the electors as a whole. These interests would not be served by any change which would result in the system becoming less sensitive to public opinion. This House should be given the opportunity to examine each of the proposals contained in the Bill. Our approach to this debate should be positive, not negative. Our criticisms of the proposed changes should be constructive, not destructive. It is not a Bill which should, as a consequence of political posturing, be promoted as all good or all bad. In this debate each of the clauses of the Bill is deserving of independent consideration. That there are some bad clauses in the Bill is no reason to reject the lot. We should examine them all and reject or amend where desirable the bad and approve the good. We should all strive to improve our electoral system, including our method of voting, so that it provides a means of achieving the most accurate reflection of the will of the people. Consistent with this objective we should amend it to ensure its clarity and simplicity for electors, its fairness to all candidates and parties and its efficiency from the point of view of the Electoral Office staff.
According to the Minister the proposals contained in the Bill are designed to allow for speedier finalisation of election results, to improve voting facilities, to introduce some new and changed facilities and to correct some obvious defects in the existing electoral machinery. Alterations made with these objectives in mind may be superficially attractive, but each needs to be examined to ensure that it does not result in impairing the accuracy with which the electoral results respond to the people’s wishes. There are 76 clauses in the Bill. Many- indeed over twothirds seek to amend the law in accordance with this principle. Others- I have touched on somecould be adapted by minor amendment. There is a limited number of clauses- I have also dealt with them- the approval of which would be contrary to the principle I have enunciated and about which the Minister was noticeably silent.
Among the amendments which should be approved are the printing of party affiliations on ballot papers, the introduction of mobile polling booths at hospitals, the drawing of the positions of House of Representatives candidates on ballot papers and the preservation of the voting entitlements of Australian citizens. Indeed, the rights proposed by this legislation should go further to include not only public servants but also others who are temporarily posted overseas in similar circumstances. But, as I mentioned earlier, this offer of the right to enrolment should not be given with the one hand and taken away with the other by making the attainment and achievement of a postal vote so difficult that relatively few such persons will be able to register a formal vote. The retention on the rolls of the name of an elector who, though temporarily absent, retains a real place of living in the subdivision for which he is enrolled, the protection of candidates against the issue of misleading how-to-vote cards and a number of other amendments commend themselves. This Bill contains many such desirable amendments.
I urge honourable members on both sides of the House not to allow cynical attitudes to prevail with the result that political power is used either to amend the law in the interests of the Australian Labor Party, which is now in office, or to prevent its amendment in a way which would improve our electoral system in the interests of the electors. We should endeavour to make those changes where in fact there is no real dispute. Where there are opposing views, informed and meaningful debate should be permitted with a view to working out ways and means of responding to public aspirations for a simplified yet truly representative electoral system.
– One of the reasons given for the blanket opposition by the Opposition to this Bill is that it was to be bulldozed through this House. Where the Opposition got that idea is a mystery to me. One of the statements that has been made is that the Opposition did not have time to consider the proposals on which I have elaborated. On 31 March 1971 the then Minister for the Interior, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), introduced into this House a number of measures appertaining to electoral reform. At my suggestion or with my permission he sought recently the advice of the Chief Australian Electoral Officer to ascertain which of those proposals are included in the Bill presently before the House. I will now quote from the notes sent a few days ago to Mr Hunt, the honourable member for Gwydir, by the Chief Electoral Officer. Part of the document states:
This paper provides briefing notes on those clauses in the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 1974 which are substantially the same as the clauses contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1974. Reference is made by way of citation to the clauses of the present Bill with the corresponding clauses of the 1971 Bill in brackets.
Included in this Bill, against which the Opposition, including the then Minister who introduced the previous Bill, will note are 16 amendments introduced by a Country Party Minister. Tonight the Opposition will divide this House and vote against those amendments.
In 1971 it was all right to introduce the amendments. But now that a Labor Government has introduced them, like a lot of donkeys, the Opposition will line up and vote against proposals which it endorsed and we would have supported at that time. To prove what phoneys the Opposition members are I ask the permission of the House to incorporate a number of the clauses in the present Bill which the Country Party sponsored and which are today put forward by the Government but which the Opposition refuse to support.
– This document was produced by Mr Ley who has been described tonight by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who led the Opposition as one of the most prominent and reputable public servants. Now the honourable member is refusing to allow me to incorporate in Hansard the facts of the matter. The Opposition stands condemned if it votes against the proposals which it endorsed itself.
May I be permitted to incorporate the document?
-Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– The Opposition has said that it has not had time to consider the Bill. The Opposition is a very lazy lot. Opposition members have not read the Bill and they did not even know their own proposals from those of the Government. Tonight the honourable member for Gwydir will walk into this House and vote against 16 of the proposals which, as the then Minister, he asked the Parliament of Australia to endorse and which we, as the then Opposition, would have endorsed. Does that not prove to the Australian people what a phoney collection the Opposition is and how phoney are the arguments that have been brought down? The Opposition has asked for a non-Party joint committee to consider these matters. During the 23 years that the present Opposition was in government it brought forward only one reform, other than to gerrymander the electorates. The Opposition will vote tonight against that one reform, which in 1971 lapsed on the expiration and dissolution of that Parliament. Now the Opposition asks for a joint committee. That is a phoney way of saying that the Opposition is a lazy lot. None of the Opposition members have read the Bill. They have had months in which to do it. It must be 6 months since I gave the Opposition spokesman on electoral affairs in the Senate all the details of this Bill. It is weeks and months since I announced all the proposals to the Press and sent a statement of what was in the Bill to every member of this Parliament. Tonight these slow thinking, doddering, old men, as the Leader of the Liberal Party in Victoria described them, have not got round to registering the facts. Tonight they will vote against every proposal.
A member of the Country Party, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), said that optional preferential voting was first past the post voting. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) who has just resumed his seat said that it was not. He knows what he is talking about. Except for his speech he did not show a bad knowledge of electoral affairs. The Opposition knows it is phoney when it says that first past the post voting is optional preferential voting. It says that it is an undemocratic system. First past the post voting is good enough for the Opposition’s brothers in Britain. It is good enough for the New Zealanders. It is good enough for the United States. It is good enough for Canada. I do not subscribe to first past the post voting, but if the Opposition says that it is undemocratic it is saying that the people of all those countries have undemocratic governments. It was not until 1918 that the system was changed in this country, so every government in Australia up to 1918 was undemocratically elected if a first past the post voting system is undemocratic. The Opposition wants a bi-partisan approach to electoral affairs. Why?
– Only when we are in government.
– Yes. Can one imagine the Country Party sitting down with the Liberal Party in a bi-partisan approach on electoral affairs? The Opposition knows as well as I do that at the very mention of electoral affairs to the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) he nearly has a stroke. Tonight all the stars of the Opposition have sat aside because, behind the scenes, they have decided that they will salve their conscience and not come in and say how they differ on these issues. It matters little to me what the Opposition says about these matters but the people outside Parliament want optional preferential voting. They want fair postal voting. They do not want manipulated voting. People all over Australia, migrants in particular, are seeking electoral reform.
Let us take a look at optional preferential voting. The Opposition says that this type of voting is rigged for the Australian Labor Party. Let us have a look at what has happened. Optional preferential voting was introduced for New Guinea by a Liberal Government. Do honourable members opposite put the people of New Guinea in the category of second-grade citizens who can put up with rigged boundaries and with rigged electorates? If it was good enough for a Liberal-Country Party Government to introduce this system in Papua New Guinea, what is wrong with its being introduced for the people of this country? Do honourable members opposite say that they are second-class citizens? It was the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) who introduced that system for Papua New Guinea. Today honourable members opposite say that Australia cannot have it. They say: ‘Give it to those people in New Guinea. Who the hell gives a damn about them?’ Is that the attitude of honourable members opposite? If so, they should get up and say so. They say that a secondclass electoral system is all right for New Guinea but they will not have it in their own country. What contemptible hypocrisy by those honourable members opposite.
Recently in the Northern Territory optional preferential voting was introduced. The Australian Country Party says that optional preferential voting is no good. Of those seats in the Northern Territory, eleven went to preferences. In the end two were won by independent candidates and nine were won by the Australian Country Party. The fact of the matter is that that was the result of optional preferential voting in the Northern Territory. Do honourable members say that the Northern Territory election was rigged for the Labor Party? In the Australian Capital Territory the Labor Party won 4 seats under optional preferential voting. Do honourable members say that that is rigged voting? They know that their arguments are phoney. Why should people anywhere in this country, in this enlightened age, be asked to vote for seventy or eighty candidates? What is wrong with the system where they vote for the number of candidates equal to the number of vacancies? In certain circumstances I go along with the honourable member for Sturt who has just resumed his seat. Some people say that one needs only to vote for one candidate to have a formal vote.
Quite frankly, any system is better than the present one which honourable members opposite know is impossible. Members of the Country Party are not very intelligent but a few of them are as intelligent as the average elector. Idefy any honourable member to justify Voting for 73 candidates and to give his reason why he puts one candidate seventy-second and another candidate as twenty-second. Honourable members know that this is not logical. This is a system which is not followed anywhere else in the world. It only adds to the number of informal votes. Why would not the Country Party want the present system to continue? Any party which can get members in this House with from 17 per cent to 30 per cent of the formal vote ought to support the system. Why should not any party which can return the Queensland Premier with 19 per cent of the vote go along with the system? It is because honourable members opposite are not democrats that they do not want this kind of reform. That is why they are opposing it tonight. Now they want an all-Party joint committee appointed. What a phoney collection honourable members opposite are in relation to this matter. They know as well as I do that these reforms are a long time overdue. Tonight by voting against these proposals honourable members opposite are denying a vote to people working abroad in the government service. They are denying people in many walks of life the right to exercise a franchise. They want to allow the rigged postal voting system to continue where those who are the most apt or earnest, as the case may be according to their political convictions shall sway the vote irrespective of what the wishes of the people might be. Mr Speaker, the situation is that those opposite have not bothered to study these proposals which have been known to the public for a long time.
– That is not true.
– With due respect to my colleague who sits opposite, until tonight when he led for the Opposition on this issue I had not heard him speak on electoral affairs. Never have I seen a young man so conservative as the honourable member for Benelong (Mr Howard). He wants all the reforms in the world as long as he does not have to vote for them. That is the situation in this Parliament today. I have not the time to go through all aspects of this subject. I should like to refer to registration of political parties. Practically all other countries put the names of political parties on their ballot papers. What is wrong with that democratic proposal? What is wrong with putting the names of the parties on the ballot papers for people to see the political affiliations of those whom they are voting for? What is wrong with drawing for positions on the ballot paper? If honourable members opposite do not support it for this House why do they support it for the Senate? Honourable members opposite know as well as I do that their opposition to these proposals that we have brought down is phoney. The situation is, whether we like it or not, that those who sit opposite today are opposed to reforms in the electoral system just because they are not bringing them in.
I made no statement that I bulldozed this Bill through the Parliament. I expected it to get more examination in this House than has been given in the cursory speeches that have been presented here tonight. I am amazed at the silence of members of the Country Party, confident as they are that they have bulldozed in the Caucus room those on that side who ought to stand up for democracy in this country. Why, Mr Speaker, Country Party members opposite are voting against 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. polling time. Yet in Queensland this has been law since 1915. Now the Country Party says it is undemocratic for the people to vote for the national Parliament between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. In Queensland the people have been voting under those conditions since 1915. 1 wonder, if this had been a free vote, how many honourable members opposite would support these proposals.
The position is that those who sit opposite are opposed to electoral reform unless it is brought in at the point of the Country Party shotgun. Only by imposing on the people the most undemocratic proposals, be they on voting hours, electoral procedures or postal voting, will electoral changes be implemented by honourable members opposite. The suggestion by the Opposition of a joint committee is just a way of putting the matter aside. Does the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) sincerely believe that the Queensland method of regimenting postal votes is democratic in State and Federal politics in Queensland? Being quite honest, I do not exclude any parties from this; the Queensland system of postal voting is recognised throughout the nation as the crookest system of voting anywhere in the world. The Queensland system of postal voting, Federal and State, is the crookest system because of the manipulation that takes place. The Queensland members of this Parliament who intend to vote against the mobile polling arrangements are voting against the system that is in force in their own State and against the system that is in force in Western Australia. Yet, honourable members on the other side of the House tonight are voting against a reform that gives a person in hospital the right to see the electoral officer put his ballot paper in the ballot box in front of an official of the Government, instead of some Party organiser or some other unofficial person. Everybody knows that today people in homes are preyed upon by the over-zealous type of campaigner. We are seeking in every way today to find some reform that will bring to the people of this country real democracy.
Let me recite for the benefit of the people an article that appeared in the ‘National Times’ on 18 November 1974. 1 thought it was a good article, firstly because it was about me, and secondly because it was written by a person who would have a close affinity with that distinguished or undistinguished gathering which I sadly gaze on sitting in possum paddock in this Parliament. This is what the article had to say. Do not forget that this is the ‘National Times’. It says:
Daly’s bill: Let’s hope it’s not delayed -
And then it goes on to say-
Mr Daly’s new Electoral Bill is a thing or beauty and joy -
That has not been said about me for years- even if it has a brief life and the Liberal-Country Opposition in the Senate kills it.
It gets better as the article goes on. It states further: c
I am delighted with the Bill, and the principal source of pleasure is the fact that virtually all of the proposed amendments are, as far as I can see, free of obvious partisan advantage.
They are designed to aid the voter, to provide a quick result, and to discourage sharp practices. 1 hope that the Opposition views the Bill in this light too, and I will be very interested in its criticisms.
Why make such a fuss about minor amendments to the electoral system? Because they are fundamental to the whole business of government in our system.
Let me tell honourable members who wrote that article. It was written by none other than Professor Don Aitken. I understand he is a prominent ex-member of the Australian Country Party. I understand he left the Country Party because he woke up to what a lot of dead heads he was wandering around with. There is the argument. It is as non-partisan as can be. Every proposal in this Bill is as non-partisan as can be. How can one please the Country Party tonight? I have adopted 16 of its amendments, 16 basic points of its policy, yet the member who introduced them is going to sit on the Opposition side tonight and vote against me. You cannot please them. They are like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). When one does what he tells one to do he still gets cranky. That is the situation of honourable members opposite. Tonight we will pleasantly look at members of the Country Party, and every Opposition member who was here prior to the last election, vote against their own proposals simply because they have been introduced by a Labor Government.
– Order! I think the Minister is becoming a little provocative.
-I admit, Mr Speaker, it is a little out of character for me but I was carried away. Tonight I want to mention quickly in passing the points contained in this Bill. Optional preferential voting will give to the people of Australia the opportunity to vote without there being a waste of countless thousands of informal votes. Registration of political parties follows an electoral reform in practically all democratic countries. The introduction of mobile polling booths will bring to people who are sick, aged and infirm the opportunity to cast democratic votes. This provision also will do away with manipulation of the ballot, something experienced by many people. What can be more democratic than drawing for positions on the ballot paper? It applies in every trade union, every cricket club, every Hibernian Society and even in that old doddery place where the senators congregate.
The Bill also introduces closing of the polls at 6 p.m. Every Queenslander has voted under that system for more than a generation and what is wrong with it in this modern age? Why should not people state their change of name if the change has occurred up to 12 months prior to the election? Why should not postal votes be in on the night of the election? I can tell the people of this country that in the last election Labor lost a seat on postal votes because a lot of people voted after 8 o ‘clock on the night in question but signed that they had voted before that time. This Bill will prevent that kind of malpractice. If a person wants a postal vote why should he not put it into the ballot box before the close of the poll at 8 p.m. on election night? Why should not postal voting facilities be available to a man on remand at Long Bay Gaol, a man not convicted of anything and who still has all his civil rights but probably cannot raise bail. That man has not forfeited his freedom. He is innocent until proven guilty and consequently should be able to vote, This happens throughout the world.
I hope honourable members sitting opposite find at the next election that about 30 people have changed their names to theirs. Then they would realise why they should have voted to prevent people voting under their names. Tonight honourable members opposite, by voting against these things, will militate against the chances of a ( British subject voting. In addition to that, the Bill relates to failures and contains amendments relating to monetary penalties that go back to 1902. Those things have been brought up to date under this Bill. They, and a dozen and one other things, are reforms of a vital nature to the electoral system. If those things had been carefully studied I doubt whether any honourable member opposite could have objected other than in relation to optional preferential voting about which some people may have differences of opinion. Some honourable members may have differences of opinion on one or two minor issues. About 50 per cent of these propositions are Country Party proposals, and that made it pretty hard for me to support them, but tonight we find that honourable members opposite are going to vote against them.
Mr Speaker, there were those who said I was going to bulldoze this Bill through the Parliament tonight but I do not know where they got that idea. I am amazed that those who talked so much, the spokesmen on these issues, hid in the background tonight and would not come forward in this debate. Now they are going to vote blindly against the proposals in this Bill the vast majority of which are their own proposals. I say quite sincerely that the proposals in this Bill were designed in order to give to the people of
Australia an updated electoral system. No system is perfect. Every system needs reform from , time to time. Very few honourable members who sit opposite have studied this Bill, least of all, I; think, the honourable member who led in this debate for them. When they sit down and study the Bill which they will have voted against they! will find that they did a disservice to democracy , by trying to refuse to bring up to date the elec-. tora system of this country. The vast majority of these reforms were instituted and were sought in this Parliament as early as 1971 by the man who heads the Australian electoral system in this country, Mr Ley. This indicates that something should be done in the electoral system, and that is all we are endeavouring to do tonight.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The Minister has closed the debate.
– I rise on a point of order. I want’ to indicate that there were other honourable members who would have liked to speak in this, debate if given an opportunity.
-Order! The Minister has closed the debate.
That the Bill be now read a second time. . ,
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion ( by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, you will agree after looking at the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) that in the course of the last few minutes a splendid sense of contrition has come over him. I think that he is genuinely sorry that he has interjected a partisan approach into this debate. Beyond that I am convinced that the honourable gentleman sees the virtue of the suggestion that the Opposition has made that a joint all-Party select committee should inquire into electoral reform in this country. Whatever criticism may be made of the Minister for Services and Property, he is at least a reflective personality. He is one who is given to considering earnestly the argument that is put before him and I am convinced, and deeply so, that in the course of the last few minutes he has seen the error of his ways and the virtue of ours. I am sure that the Minister will realise that, by accepting this amendment, he will have the opportunity to consider in closer detail the views which have been put by the Opposition. I have heard it said that the honourable gentleman is slow to see and understand an argument. It is a point of view that I do not subscribe to and I think it is to treat the honourable gentleman in a most ungenerous fashion. I would be the last person to treat him in that way.
– I ask the Serjeant-at-Arms to arrange for the volume of the sound system to be raised. It is very difficult for honourable members at the back of the chamber to hear.
– I content myself by making the observation that I know that my friend, the Minister for Services and Property, is hearing me and he is the only one who counts on this occasion. I can see the honourable gentleman bit by bit surrendering. He has been described as a person given to a measure of density in his intellectual outlook. Again, I have defended the honourable gentleman against that assault because I regard him as having one of the most fecund minds in the Parliament. I am quite sure that the honourable gentleman, if he has the opportunity to think about this matter for 6 months, will come along and say to me in language redolent of years gone by: ‘Killen, you are magnificent’. When the honourable gentleman said that his Bill was, to use his own felicitous language, a matter of beauty and joy, I thought that he was sweeping himself to a new form of masochism. The honourable gentleman cannot be convinced that this is the case. I would like to think that we have accepted the sallies that he has made against honourable gentlemen here and there in the House with a magnificent sense of imperturbability and that the honourable gentleman, having looked at the measure of response coming from the Opposition, is convinced. That is the spirit in which I move this amendment that we take the third reading of this Bill 6 months hence. I am quite sure that the honourable gentleman has been eloquent, even in his silence. Merely to see that look of understanding on his face- that quiet, calm, tranquil-looking face- it is obvious that he has at long last accepted the merit of our argument. That is the spirit in which we move the amendment. I look forward to very boisterous support from my honourable friend who seconds the amendment.
– Is the amendment seconded?
-Mr Speaker, I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak on it.
– This is the first occasion on which we have seen members of the Liberal Party prepared to walk on hot coals for their leader while members of the Country Party make their way around the corner over the warm sands. Quite surprisingly, I suppose, we refuse to accept the amendment that has been moved. I suppose that this is a remarkable occasion. It must be the first time upon which neither the speaker who led for the Opposition nor the members of the Opposition read the Bill that is before the Parliament. We gave them 6 months to think over this matter. The honourable member for Gwydir ( Mr Hunt) who introduced sixteen of the amendments that we brought in has had since 31 March 1971 to read the Bill. It is obvious that they have not got around to it yet because they have voted against their own proposal. This includes the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) who asked the honourable member for Gwydir to move the amendments on his behalf on 31 March 1971. So if they cannot wake up after 2!£ years, what the hell is the use of holding up the Parliament for another 6 months?
In these proposals tonight we bring forward measures which we believe are designed to give the people of Australia a more democratic electoral system. We even stretched the limit to see that we included the proposals that were endorsed by the Country Party when in Government. The Country Party did not vote for those proposals tonight when they were brought in from this side of the Parliament. What is all this fantasy about waiting another 6 months? How do we know that honourable members opposite will read the Bill in that time? How do we know that they will know any more than they do tonight? I should have liked to hear the Leader of the Australian Country Party speak not so much on the Bill but on how he stood over the great man whom members of the Liberal Party will walk through the fires of hell to defend. I should have liked to have heard the Leader of the Country Party say how he told members of the Liberal Party to vote for this or else. This is typical of those who sit opposite. There is not an idea amongst them, not one bright idea on anything. All they seek to do is to frustrate and hold up to ridicule the Government of this country irrespective of the measures that are brought down.
I think a lot of old people would like better voting facilities in hospitals and other places.
There are lots of people, intelligent and unintelligent, who would like not to have to vote for 73 candidates or 48 candidates, as the case may be, but only for the 5, 6, 8 or 10 candidates of their choice. I think numerous people in the community would like voting to finish at 6 p.m. There are countless hundreds of people overseas who would like to know that their voting rights are protected. There are people throughout Australia who would like to know that the updated -
-Order! I remind the Minister that he can speak only to the amendment.
– Yes, Mr Speaker, but the amendment was very wide. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said that all these measures should be postponed for 6 months. I am normally a person of few words, but these measures take a lot to cover. Tonight the Opposition rejects the proposals put forward by the spokesman for the Opposition on this issue. It is just an endeavour to frustrate the policy of this Government and above all else to defeat the 16 proposals that the Country Party endorsed. We are now asked to postpone for 6 months the one bright idea that honourable members opposite had in 23 years of government. Therefore tonight we on this side of the Parliament cannot support this amendment. We will vote against it. We categorise it for what it is- an endeavour to hold up the democratic process of this country and a classic example to the people of Australia of members of the Opposition who are too lazy to read a Bill and who voted against their own proposals because they did not know what to do on the issues.
If honourable members opposite want a bit of sensible advice I will give it to them. I do not often do so for nothing. Let me tell members of the Opposition what they should have done on this measure. They should have voted for the second reading of this Bill and voted for the proposals which they agreed with. I am honest enough to say to honourable members opposite that I think there are certain proposals in respect to the registration of political parties which, by a combined and united course, we could have improved. But the situation is that members of the Opposition were not prepared tonight even to move that a joint committee be appointed. They only said that one ought to be appointed. They did not move for one to be appointed. If the Bill had been considered in Committee they could have brought forward ideas which I would have been prepared to consider in the light of events if I thought they would improve the Bill. Honourable members opposite did not study the
Bill; they did not move that a joint committee be appointed and they did not want to consider the Bill in Committee. I was prepared to give three or four hours for debating this Bill in Committee. Let me show honourable members today’s daily program. It states:
Electoral Laws Amendment Bill- Resumption of debate on second reading; second reading; committee.
Progress to be reported.
I was intending to allow all day Wednesday for debate on the Committee stage of the Bill. What a collection of mugs members of the Opposition are. They did not know when they had an opportunity in their grasp. They were not prepared to debate the Committee stage. All I wanted to get through tonight was the second reading stage of the Bill.
-The Minister must speak to the amendment.
– I wanted to finish the second reading stage of the Bill. Members of the Opposition refused to debate the Bill in Committee. Although I have not a high regard for the collection who sit opposite I thought I might have got one bright idea which might improve the Bill. The fact that honourable members opposite have not brought forward one bright idea and they are now trying to put the Bill off for 6 months shows that they did not read the Bill. They do not know what is in it. They do not even know the Bill contains sixteen of their own proposals, even though an electoral officer gave a copy of the proposals to the honourable member for Gwydir and told members of the Opposition what their own proposals were in order to prevent their making this major blunder tonight. Honourable members opposite voted tonight against 16 proposals which they introduced. They were too dumb to know that they were voting against the things they introduced. The honourable member for Gwydir came to this Parliament and asked it to vote for the 16 proposals and now, 2lA years later, asks it to vote against the same proposals. I have a lot of respect for the honourable member for Gwydir but I cannot follow his reasoning on that issue. We therefore reject the amendment.
- Mr Speaker - Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I rise to take a point of order. Looking at standing order 239, 1 find that it provides:
The only amendment which may be moved to such question -
That is, that the Bill be now read a third time: is by omitting ‘now ‘and adding ‘this day 6 months’.
I think my friend, the honourable member for Moreton, has been too moderate. In view of what the Minister is doing to the Parliament, it should have been ‘9 months’.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, said that I was in grave error when, in the course of my second reading speech, I said that the House is being called upon to sit during Wednesday mornings. I wish to make it quite plain to the Minister that, in spite of his opinion to the contrary, we have sat on 17 occasions on Wednesday mornings.
That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 October on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1974 was set out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport ( Mr Charles Jones).
-Where is Charlie?
-He’s flying up in the air somewhere. The purpose of the Bill is to appropriate funds to be allocated to the States for a variety of urban public transport projects that have been submitted by the States to the Commonwealth for approval. The total sum of money to be allocated is $66.1 lm. It is expected that $27. 85m will be allocated in 1974-75 and the remainder during the balance of the program period. In his second reading speech the Minister listed the projects that have been approved from the States. There is a wide variety of projects from each State. I cite, for example, the money made available for bus cleaning equipment in Sydney, additional fuel storage at Sydney Depot, bus workshop equipment at Chullora and Randwick, improvements for 50 buses not contained in an original contract- and so it goes on in relation to New South Wales.
There is also an appropriation for train cleaning equipment. Project number 12 is of particular interest. It refers to electric rail cars. It raises the question whether the Government, while it is sponsoring the provision of $80m for urban passenger train services, should still be prepared to spend what appears to be $3m on 14 electric rail cars of the older type. I ask the Minister. What type of electric rail cars will be obtained? Will they be the traditional type which New South Wales has been buying? Does the Government expect that the urban public transport trains system will be completed and the State will be provided with 14 electric rail cars? Provision is made for hydrofoils for the Manly service, spare parts for Manly hydrofoils, ferries for the Manly service and the like. In Victoria funds are to be appropriated for the Glen Waverley model line route construction, signal box amalgamations throughout the metropolitan area of Melbourne and upgrading communication networks, and also the replacement of Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board vehicles with 37 trams at a cost of $4. 84m and a contribution towards the acquisition of 50 new buses. In Queensland there is provision for a variety of programs including an electrification program and the purchase of 30 new buses. I am not sure whether the amount of $ 1.23m is the total sum for the 30 new buses or whether it is a contribution which is being made at this point in time.
So each of the States has in its own way secured a variety of projects that have been approved by the Australian Government for an allocation of funds. I must congratulate the Minister on the presentation of the second reading speech. He has been a slow learner but at last he is beginning to learn that when he brings down a second reading speech in this House what we want to see are the facts. I congratulate him on the difference, the marked difference between his first speech on 1 1 July this year and this speech. I had to chide him somewhat over his speech on 1 1 July. I quote from my own speech. I said:
Instead of being a correct technical document for the benefit of those interested in the principles in the Bill, it is a statement full of contradictions, self-aggrandisement, misleading statements, misrepresentations, inaccuracies and political bias. It is a far cry from the traditional and proper practice expected from such a document.
As I say, I do genuinely congratulate the Minister tonight because slow learner though he may be he has at least learnt his lesson. His second reading speech is not so full of political opportunism and self aggrandisement. It does now set out what the program is all about. The Opposition welcomes this Bill because it is really the continuation of the program that was started by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government back in 1969 when the Right Honourable John Gorton said in his policy speech that we would undertake studies for upgrading urban transport, and as a result of that, as history shows, the Bureau of Transport Economics made a study of a variety of proposals that were submitted to us to test their viability and whether or not they were worthy of public fund investment. I might say that as a result there was a promise in the 1972 Liberal-Country Party policy speech to continue an urban public transport upgrading program. I am delighted that the Labor Government has so swiftly joined in this program. In my speech on 30 July I pointed out that nowhere in Labor Party Policy right up to the election policy of December 1972 was there any mention of upgrading urban transport. Never in the 23 years that we were in Government did the Labor Party once mention the necessity to upgrade urban public transport, and not until that Party had seen the work that we had done did it follow our move. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who was then the Leader of the Opposition was given a copy of the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics and then, like a latter-day saint, he came out with a policy of upgrading public transport.
We welcome the measure. We have some concern about how it is being implemented and the problems which it is creating for the States. For example, I understand that Victoria sought $33.87m for projects to commence in 1974-75, but under the terms of this Bill that State will receive only $2 1.74m, or a reduction on what was sought of $ 12m. As I understand it, Victoria was refused money for a number of projects. The Australian Government provided funds for upgrading some rail routes but failed to make funds available for the provision of additional trains to operate on the routes, even though funds for this purpose were sought by Victoria. The additional rail track between Greensborough and Eltham was rejected by the Australian Government on the ground that it was not possible for it to evaluate the project in time for inclusion in the 1 974-75 program of assistance.
This brings me to a general complaint made by the States. I ask the Minister to see whether something be done about the length of time taken to evaluate programs submitted by the States because, almost without exception, the States are complaining that the time-table is such that the financial year is almost over before evaluation takes place and money is made available. Indeed with inflation running the way it is, there is a fair amount of erosion of the real value of the money being given to the States. The Victorian Government submitted its 1974 train replacement program on the basis that twothirds of the estimated $ 10m to be expended in 1974-75 would be met by the Australian Government. But the amount actually allocated by the Australian Government for the train replacement program for 1974-75 was only $4. 1 7m, which is $2. 5m less than the State anticipated it would receive by way of Australian Government assistance for its train replacement program. Some 93 old trains are yet to be replaced. Victoria wishes to increase its rate of replacement to 15 trains a year.
The method of allocating funds for train and other vehicle replacement on a year by year basis used by the Federal Government makes longterm ordering of replacement vehicles a risk for the States. Proper planning is hindered and confidence to enter contracts is weakened by the Australian Government’s unwillingness to make allocations for the replacement of trains, trams and buses beyond one year. Is the restriction of an allocation to one year related in any way to the introduction of standard vehicles- plans which have yet to be proven realistic? I am referring to the urban public transport train. I regret I have not had an opportunity to accept the kind invitation of the Minister for Transport to see it. I hope I will be able to see it privately, because of commitments I have not been able to see it on the day on which it has been displayed.
– I am pleased you have not declared it black.
-No, I have not declared it black. I would like to look at it because I understand that it is too wide for the Victorian rail system.
– It is a mock-up. It is not a muck-up; it is a mock-up.
-The Minister said it. He used the word ‘muck-up’. I understand the States are beginning to believe that it is a bit of a muck-up, as the Minister put it. For example, I understand the train is too wide for the present rail system in Victoria. New South Wales is moving towards a system using double-deck carriages, but as I understand it the urban passenger train has a single-deck car. Therefore I am not sure whether the $18m that the Australian Government is investing in the urban passenger train system is wisely invested, when one considers the fact that the Government demands such detail even down to time tabling from the States in respect of programs that they submit. It seems to me- I say that most kindly- that the Minister is being somewhat heavy handed in his approach to the States. The Federal Government requires the States to forward detailed submissions in order to obtain financial assistance for urban public transport. I make the point again that the Federal Government has allocated $18m for a standard train project and has even constructed a model- a muck-up, or mock-up, call it what you will- of the standard train without the viability of the project being proven and at a time when all the States- I am speaking specifically of Victoria have a real need to replace trains. In Victoria’s case the red trains need to be replaced as quickly as possible, but this is retarded because of lack of funds.
The Minister should realise that the failure of the Federal Government to provide Victoria with the funds for the train replacement program has a far reaching effect on that State’s railways works program and also on urban transport upgrading plans generally. The present Government has held office for nearly 2 years. One of the promises on which it was elected was a plan worked over by a previous Liberal-Country Party Government, but this Government has stolen it. I do not hold any grudge about that but point it out as a fact of life. Having done this, the Government should improve the mechanics of its handling of the whole matter. The States complain that the receipt of Commonwealth moneys is a most protracted affair and, as I understand it in Victoria ‘s case, no money has been received in respect of the 1973-74 program. The $9.6m promised for projects commenced in 1973-74 if received tomorrow would be reduced through inflation to $8.1m, a loss of real purchasing power of $ 1.5m. I think the Minister should realise that when these promises are made by the Australian Government they ought to be honoured as quickly as possible.
State authorities are still involved in the collection of extensive details demanded by the Federal Government before the amounts approved by Federal Parliament for 1973-74 will be made available. Provision of Commonwealth assistance for public transport is clearly necessary in view of the financial straitjacket in which the States are now placed. At the moment the Australian Government is attempting to make decisions on the basis of the most detailed operating information, even down to the level of timetabling. I think the Minister will agree that this can only result in inefficiency, frustration, long delays and an impossible diversification of responsibilities. Unless this lengthy and detailed administrative mess is cleared up quickly only the public will suffer. I do not see any reason why the public should wait any longer.
New South Wales also has some difficulties with the program because forward planning for rail-car and bus acquisitions has been interrupted to some degree by the Australian Government ‘s desire to develop this standard train and a standard bus. Firstly, there is the question of suitability of standard vehicles for all cities of Australia. New South Wales rightly points out the differences between the cities, including topography and basic requirements, and suggests different solutions. Basically, what is sought is planning for production continuity to avoid a stop-start situation that could lead to a production dislocation and staff retrenchments. There is a significant time lapse between the initiation of procedures for the letting of a contract and the delivery of the first car. It is not just a question of getting the money. Considerable gearing-up and organisational work is required to get a program of this nature off the ground.
Having made those points, I ask the Minister to please consider the machinery involved in the evaluation of the projects and the time it seems to be taking for some of the projects to be evaluated. More importantly, would he please consider the means by which money is then made available. If it is correct that Victoria, or indeed any of the States, has not yet received moneys that were made available-,through a Bill introduced to this House on 1 1 July and passed through the Parliament by the end of July, there is certainly something wrong with the machinery in respect of dealing with the whole question. The Opposition supports this Bill. As I have said, it is a further flow-out of initiatives that were taken by an earlier Liberal-Country Party government.
Road Transport- Standing Orders- Social Service Benefits- Parliamentary Allowances: Newspaper article
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In the time that is available to me tonight I wish to bring to the notice of the Parliament and the Government a serious problem which exists in the Singleton district in my electorate. I am pleased that the
Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is at the table because portion of this matter comes within his administration. It concerns the cartage of coal by road from the Wambo mine and the Buchanan Lemington mine at Warkworth, which is just outside Singleton. This coal is carted through the main street of the town and down the New England Highway to a coal dump at Branxton railway station. Then many of these trucks go beyond that point to Hexham and on to Newcastle. Most of these huge trucks carry 30 tons of coal and more. At present they are doing something like 50 full trips a day through the town. When one includes their return trips, that means 100 trips a day. This is extremely dangerous. John Street, Singleton, is a very busy thoroughfare which carries not only district traffic but through traffic from Sydney on the Putty road. It is dangerous from a traffic point of view to pedestrians, particularly to school children.
The use of this road by coal trucks is having a very damaging effect upon the John Street roadway, and deterioration in this area is taking place at a very rapid rate. Coal dust is entering the buildings which front John Street. The business premises have a very difficult coal dust problem not only in their premises but on the goods which they sell and display. This coal is for the export market. Recently the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) informed this House and the Australian people that the Government had invested $3. 7m in the Wambo mine and had made an immediate loan of $700,000. This was done through the Petroleum and Minerals Authority which was set up by this Government. It has given the Australian Government a 40 per cent interest in this mine. The other mine is the Lemington colliery which is conducted by Buchanan Borehole Collieries Pty Ltd. Four thousand acres in the Warkworth area have been taken over on lease by 2 very large mining interests. I will not name them tonight. They intend to start operations as soon as possible. This will double the traffic which already uses the road.
The way to overcome this problem is to provide a by-pass road around Singleton, around the Army camp, coming out on to the New England Highway at Whittingham. This will be a fairly expensive job. Only 4 miles of road are involved. I suggest that it might be a temporary expedient. This huge development of coal production in the area will probably warrant the construction of a railway line in the years that lie ahead. Coal is a valuable export earner. It will increase very considerably in value in the near future.
Only last week the Minister for Transport agreed to meet a deputation from the Singleton Municipal Council and the Patrick Plains Shire Council to look at the proposition concerning the road. Unfortunately, because of the airline strike the deputation was unable to come to Canberra but I know that the Minister is prepared to meet this deputation at a suitable time in the near future. I am suggesting that the Government should provide funds to build this road and also to give further consideration to the establishment of a railway line in the Warkworth area. I know that the Minister for Transport is sympathetiche has indicated this in his letter- and I know also that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) will come into the picture because of the coal being exported from the area.
This is a very hot question in the Singleton district. The 7,500 people who live there are extremely concerned at the dangerous situation which exists and which is increasing day by day. They have asked me as the Federal member for the area to do what I can to help. Therefore I have drawn it to the attention of the Government which I trust in its wisdom will see its way clear to provide this road and then, at a future date, to look at the possibility of constructing a railway line from the Warkworth area to link up with the main northern line at Whittingham.
-Mr Speaker, I rise tonight to draw your personal attention to gross abuses of Standing Orders of the House of Representatives last Thursday evening, which abuses I believe warrant your attention and the attention of the House. I wish to outline the facts. Firstly, at about 5.48 p.m. on Thursday 2 1 November I was correctly called by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Scholes, to speak on the Banking Bill 1974. A member of the Opposition had been the previous speaker so naturally the call came to the Government side of the House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) then abused the forms of the House by seeking the call on a point of order which did not exist. Secondly, when the Deputy Speaker properly put him in his place by reasonably pointing out that he could not have the call because he had already spoken in the debate, and anyway the call belonged to the Government side of the House, the Deputy Speaker went on to say:
There are certain procedures to be followed in this House which even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has to follow.
The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), with characteristic arrogance, proceeded to abuse Standing Orders by rising allegedly on a point of order to hurl abuse at the Deputy Speaker by saying:
We do not have to have insults of that kind.
That was, I believe, the pot calling the kettle black, if ever I heard it.
Thirdly, 10 minutes later the forms of the House were grossly abused once again by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition interrupting my speech by rising to take a non-existent point of order concerning which Minister was looking after the Bill in the House and then proceeding to attempt to move a motion which he did not have the slightest right to move. I believe there is no precedent in the House for that disgraceful behaviour. I repeat that it is quite unprecedented. Fourthly, when this abuse of Standing Orders was correctly pointed out to him by the Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition added insult to injury by moving a dissent from the Chair’s ruling on no grounds whatsoever, once again grossly abusing Standing Orders. Fifthly, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) was also grossly culpable by seconding this spurious dissent motion. The right honourable gentleman failed to take his call to speak to it. In fact, he gave way to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) whom the Deputy Speaker thought wanted to speak in the debate on the dissent motion but who indeed wanted to speak in the Banking Bill debate. Then the Leader of the Country Party had the hide to abuse Standing Orders still further by seeking to move yet another dissent motion. Hansard pages 3899 to 3902 show quite clearly that he had no grounds whatsoever for doing this.
Sixthly- this is my final point- at this stage, Mr Speaker, I was still seeking to speak on the Banking Bill but was prevented from doing so by further non-existent points of order taken by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) and the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who were warned but not named. By then, my time had expired and so, I repeat, I was prevented by abuses of the Standing Orders from exercising my rights in this House to partake fully in the debate on the Banking Bill 1 974. In short, my rights to speak were shockingly curtailed.
To summarise, in my opinion this disgraceful episode is just one more example of the rowdyism of the Opposition parties in this chamber. I believe that members of the parliamentary Liberal and Country parties must, by this persistent larrikinism in this Parliament, be seeking to bring about the downfall of the parliamentary system in Australia. It is not so much the Australian Labor Government which will suffer, it will be our whole system. I believe that the 5 members I have mentioned in the course of these remarks deserved to be named and thrown out of the chamber at the time. This was not done because of the understandable leniency of the Deputy Speaker. I believe the 5 members deserve to be severely reprimanded and made to apologise. Let me identify them again: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable members for Curtin, Cowper and Gippsland. These were the main culprits, aided and abetted by the rowdyism from the Opposition benches on that occasion. I believe it is my duty to draw this disgraceful episode to your attention, Mr Speaker, and to the attention of the House. This is just another episode in a long history of rowdyism since these people, who think they were born to rule, were thrown deservedly into opposition.
– I do not really want to comment a great deal on what has just been said by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), but never in all my life, frankly, have I heard such an amount of nonsense as I have just heard come from the honourable gentleman. I would remind him of the experience of a previous Speaker in this House who, because of the behaviour of members of the honourable gentleman’s Party, had to leave the chair and adjourn the House until the ringing of the bells. A member of the honourable gentleman’s Party was named, and refused to obey the direction of the Chair, and when the SerjeantatArms was instructed to ask the honourable member to leave the chamber two other members of the honourable gentleman’s Party literally took up their positions on either side of that member. Because of that action the then Speaker, Sir William Aston, left the chair and adjourned the House until the ringing of the bells. I should think that an honourable member on the Government side should at this stage also think of some of the things that have happened. I have mentioned to the previous member for Sturt on a number of occasions the number of points of order that he took- I can say that many of them were not really points of order- and the number of times that he objected and stood up for what he considered to be his rights. I will just say that the pious and sanctimonious utterance this evening of the honourable member for Adelaide is completely out of place and I think should be treated with contempt by every honourable member of this Parliament, whether on the Government side or on the Opposition side.
– Are you condoning the behaviour?
– I am not condoning it. I just dislike pious, sanctimonious tripe, no matter which quarter it comes from.
– Who are you to talk about pious and sanctimonious tripe?
-I should say that the honourable member for Prospect might know a lot about it as well. I want to say something this evening in regard to the question that I asked this afternoon of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Cameron). I regret that the Minister is not in the House at this moment. I went around to his office to inform him that I was going to raise the matter but unfortunately he is away on official business. I make no criticism of that whatsoever, but it is unfortunate that he is not here. I am a little disappointed about the answer that the Minister gave to me, although in the end he did say that he would discuss the matter with the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). I admit that the law as far as social security is concerned stands at exactly the same point at this present moment as it was under the previous Government of my political persuasion, but the point that I endeavoured to make this afternoon is that the primary producer at the moment is facing an extremely difficult situation. Because he has property and therefore has a certain amount of finance he is not eligible in the same way as other people to receive social service benefits, yet in many instances he is suffering a loss of income. He has endeavoured to get unemployment relief. He has applied for employment through the employment offices but employment is not available. Because of the particular circumstances he is not entitled to unemployment relief.
I concede that the Minister has done quite a deal in introducing schemes to retrain people who have lost employment in one particular sector. The Government has introduced schemes to provide financial assistance to certain industries to enable them to overcome the financial difficulties that they are presently facing. The point of my question and the fact that I was trying to bring to the attention of the Minister was that I felt that perhaps something could be done along the lines of giving primary producers who are facing this economic circumstance some return; it might be considered compensation for loss of income. The reason why I asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, in conjunction with the
Minister for Social Security, because I know that it also comes into his portfolio, to look into this matter was that I have 3 instances in my area where the primary producer- the man- may have to leave the district to go to Sydney to find employment. Of course, this will place an additional burden upon the wife and children who are left at home. In these circumstances, and for this reason, I should like the 2 Ministers to look at this matter to see whether something cannot be done to assist these people.
I appreciate that many problems are faced in times of flood or bush fire when a farmer-owner is not entitled to receive relief but a share farmer is entitled to receive relief immediately. It does not matter what assets you may have; if there is no income you cannot eat the dirt on the farm. I was rather disappointed that the Minister for Labor and Immigration went off on a sidetrack and talked about his own experiences and his appreciation of certain problems and difficulties. I would hope that he does have this appreciation. He said that at one stage he had thought of going into another honoured profession but had decided not to do so. I did feel that he went into another profession at a later stage, which was perhaps connected with shearing the sheep which were looked after by the profession that he contemplated entering in the first place. But quite seriously, I should like the Minister to look at this matter to see whether in conjunction with the Minister for Social Security something cannot be done to help these people in the particular circumstances and difficulties which they face at the present time.
-I should like to take a few minutes of the time of the House to refer to an article which appeared in the financial pages of the Sydney ‘Sun’ of Thursday, 10 October, 1974. It is headed: ‘MP’s tax perks are the lurk ‘. It begins:
How would you like $6,000 a year in expenses- not accountable to the tax commissioner?
We all know that in fact we do not receive $6,000 a year in expenses. The article continues:
Toss in a free car -
We all know that we do not get a free car- free telephone -
We do not get a free telephone-
That, too, is not true. Further on, the article states:
There are quite a few more refinements on the system. Like the stamp allowance which is not used if all a member’s letters come from Parliament House, Canberra.
The implication is that if we post letters from Parliament House, Canberra, somebody else pays for the stamps. There is reference to a statutory expense allowance of $6,000, which, of course, is not $6,000 but, if I remember correctly, $4,100.
This article was written by Ralph Wragg, who is the Financial Editor of the Sydney ‘Sun’. It is interesting to note, though not reported in the Sydney ‘Sun’, that one month later, as reported in other Sydney newspapers, certain things were said in a report into insider trading on the Stock Exchange in Sydney concerning Endurance Mining Corporation NL. The report stated that this case of insider trading was the largest example of such trading ever investigated in Australia. The report tabled in the New South Wales Parliament strongly criticised the role of the Press in promoting Endurance’s shares, which rose from a little more than $1 in December 1968to$10.60 in February 1969 and then fell back to about $2 in June 1969. That was all before the Labor Government allegedly depressed the stock market. The report said that ‘bullish’ articles by the then financial editor of the ‘Daily Mirror’, Mr Cliff Riggs, on Endurance and the Attunga Mining Corporation Pty Ltd, which Endurance took over, contributed substantially to the exposure of the stock to the public. It also criticised an article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. It went on to refer to the following:
The report noted that Mr R. Wragg, Financial Editor of the ‘Sun’, was allotted shares in Endurance by Clinton and Co., sharebrokers on December 4 1968, which were sold shortly afterwards for a net profit of $2,700.
The sum of $2,700 was made by Mr Wragg, the Financial Editor of the ‘Sun ‘, out of shares which were pushed by the newspapers, as reported in this case. Clinton and Co., sharebrokers, gave him enough shares to enable him to make $2,700. One would think that was pretty decent of Clinton until one read further on in the report that Andrew Clinton, stockbroker of Sydney, made $502,437.40 out of the same push. Another stockbroker or a number of stockbrokers made $568,000 each. A person called Peter Charles Murray made $402,000. Lawrence Charles O’Neill made $202,000. Leonard Robert Hall, a geologist, and Richard Edward Relph made $549,000. The public was taken down for a total of $5m. Clinton and Co., stockbrokers, and other stockbrokers made $502,000 plus. Wragg prostituted his job for just $2,700.
There was no criticism of Wragg in the newspapers, but Wragg is the same person who was prepared to tell absolute lies about members of this House and about the benefits we get but who was not prepared to admit that that was the case even when it was pointed out to him that he was telling untruths. It is typical of the behaviour of the Sydney ‘Sun’ and the way in which it denigrates mainly the Australian Labor Party but Parliament and parliamentarians in general that it employs a person such as Ralph Wragg who has been exposed by the State Government, following an investigation by it, to denigrate parliamentarians in this House. I draw the attention of honourable members to the conduct of this person. I hope that the newspapers, which do so much to denigrate the members of this House, as we heard earlier today from the Treasurer (Mr Crean), will take some note of the fact that if they are to have the privilege of running a newspaper they have to make every attempt possible to make sure that the stories they publish are true stories. It would not have been difficult for Wragg to check the facts. It is a matter of public record what benefits we get for being parliamentarians, what our salaries are and what our allowances are. He obviously did not check. He did not correct the statements that he made.
– I am rather reluctant to rise in my place this evening but I feel that I should like to support my colleague, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) in criticism of the outburst of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) earlier in this debate. I was rather amazed that the honourable member for Adelaide whom I thought was a pretty cool, calm type of member should personally attack and abuse the leaders of both the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party concerning actions that they had taken previously in this chamber.
It is pretty obvious that the honourable member for Adelaide has completely forgotten what the situation was when he, as a member of the Labor Party, was in Opposition. The honourable member for Lyne rightly reminded the House of the disturbances that had taken place from time to time brought about by members of the Labor Party. I had no intention of reminding the Government of such distasteful actions that took place years ago but when the honourable member for Adelaide decides to criticise the members of this side of the House in the Liberal Party and the Country Party, I am sure that these matters should be brought to his notice. Mr Speaker, you in your position as the honourable member for Sydney have no doubt been threatened by various Speakers and Chairmen for some of your minor actions. This is not unknown to any member. Therefore, the honourable member for
Adelaide should be ashamed of himself for introducing such matters. To suggest that we carried on like a rabble- I forget all the expressions that he used -
-‘ Rowdyism’ was one word. I thank the honourable member for Adelaide.
– And larrikinism
-And ‘larrikinism’. Evidently the honourable member’s memory is not very lengthy because I have full recollections of the times when his colleagues were on this side of the House and were equally as noisy. The point I wish to raise in particular is that there are numerous occasions when members of the Opposition are provoked into trying to make some sort of protest against what goes on in the chamber. After all, as the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), as the Minister in charge of the business of the House, has said frequently: ‘You can say what you like. You may have right on your side, but we win because we have the numbers. ‘ How often have we heard the Minister make this statement? That is hardly conducive to getting full co-operation from members of the Opposition parties. Is it any wonder that we show our objection, even by loud interjection, to various members and particularly Ministers when they are making some statements?
Mr Speaker, I know that you will not allow me to talk about debates that are in progress, but some of the statements that were made by the Minister for Services and Property tonight in summing up one of the Bills to my mind were completely ridiculous because we all know that they were false. For instance, I indicated quite categorically where I stood on a certain issue. I indicated that I was supporting 80 per cent or even 90 per cent of the Bill. There were only a couple of matters that I could not support but the Minister then accused me and all the members on this side of the House of opposing the Bill.
– He takes it a bit far.
-He takes the matter far too far. I felt that I could not remain in this chamber tonight without at least making some explanation to those people who may care to read Hansard tomorrow or at some time in the future. I say again to the honourable member for Adelaide that he would get little kudos by introducing the subject matter which he did tonight and by abusing the leaders of both the Liberal Party and Country Party on this side of the House.
– Do you support them continuing to abuse the Standing Orders?
– It is not a case of abusing the Standing Orders at all. What the honourable member is really saying is that the only people in this place who abuse or disregard the Standing Orders are those members on this side of the House. He knows very will that that is incorrect. There are just as many faults on the Government side. Mr Speaker, I do not want to accuse you of being biased but naturally enough we all appreciate that you have better hearing on your left than your right.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow morning.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) The formal committees, councils, etc., that have been established are:
(a) The Conferences of Child Welfare Administrators have been held since 1939. Originally only State Welfare Departments and the Department of the Interior (as the body responsible for welfare in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory) were involved. The Department of Social Security was first represented in 1 97 1 .
The conference was first held in 1970 and was originally restricted to State Government Welfare Ministers and the Minister responsible for welfare matters in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, (formerly Minister for the Interior, now Ministers for the Capital Territory and the Northern Territory). The Minister for Social Security .(formerly Social Services) first participated in 1 97 1 .
The Federal/State Co-ordinating Committees on Nursing Home Accommodation. The Committees were established after each Minister for Health was approached in July 1973. Committees have been established in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania but not yet in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
Ministers from New Zealand and New Guinea attend regularly. The Ministers from the Departments of the Capital Territory and the Northern Territory (formerly Interior), Aboriginal Affairs and a representative of the Minister for Immigration have also attended from time to time.
South Australia- two members
Western Australia- two members . Tasmania- four members
Australian Government representation on each Committee is as follows:
Department of Social Security
State Director (Chairman)
Senior Assistant Director, Health Benefits and Services Branch
Assistant Director, Rehabilitation and Services; and
Department of Health
State Director of Health,
The functions of the Conferences are as follows:
Western Australia; 7 May 1974, 12 June 1974
South Australia: 16 May 1974, I July 1974
Tasmania; 30 May 1974.
The purposes of the meetings are shown in the answer to part (3) (b) of the question.
My Department is also represented on the Hospitals and Allied Service Advisory Council.
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, in all States a rental rebate or rent reduction is available to tenants in necessitous circumstances. All States except South Australia administer a formal rental rebate scheme based largely on the formula laid down in the 1943 Housing Agreement which relates the family income of the tenant to the basic wage of the State concerned, the amount of rebate being the difference between the economic rent of the dwelling and the maximum rent payable in accordance with the formula. The South Australian Housing Trust has a system of rent reductions based on a scheme of graduated rent up to the level of economic rent. Rental rebates or reductions are reviewed regularly in all States.
New South Wales-65,082 Victoria-35,888 Queensland- 18,6 13 South Australia-35,592 Western Australia-22,228 Tasmania- 4,886
New South Wales-28,611 Victoria-28,793 Queensland-10,966 South Australia- 7,520 Western Australia- 14,592 Tasmania- 8,093
New South Wales-35,673
Victoria- 16,290 Queensland- 7,865 South Australia- 1 5,200 Western Australia- 11,813 Tasmania- 3,222
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
An additional 32 vessels under 500 tons gross to be built under shipbuilding assistance scheme are currently on order with other yards.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The cost of production, space and time used in 1973-74 over and above what was spent for early preparatory work and for Flood Relief advertising in New South Wales and Queensland was as follows:
MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITY SERIES:
The estimated cost for the 1 974-75 campaign is $800,000.
Provincial Press advertising is placed through N.S.W. Country Press Ltd (Sydney), Victoria Country Press Cooperative Ltd (Melbourne), S.A. Country Press Ltd (Adelaide), Australian Advertising Co. (Brisbane), and Marketforce Pty Ltd (Perth).
Radio and television advertising is placed through George Patterson Pty Ltd (Sydney) and duties for checking of its local appearances are performed by Best and Co. (Melbourne), John Clemenger Advertising (Melbourne), Adcrafi McCann Erickson (Perth), Leo Burnett (Hobart) and George Patterson Pty Ltd offices in Brisbane and Adelaide. As from I December 1974 media placing will be arranged by some newly appointed advertising agencies.
Officers of the abovementioned advertising agencies, working under the supervision of the Director and officers of the Australian Government Advertising Service, are the persons connected with these campaigns.
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commission to his Department
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As the submissions from the West Arthur, Murray, Ravensthorpe, Lake Grace and Kent Community Committees to the Southern Region Social Development Board for assistance under the Australian Assistance Plan concerns a health service, they were referred to my Department by the Department of Social Security to ascertain if financial assistance could be granted under any existing health program.
The Department of Social Security has been advised that, although the Hospitals and Health Services Commission is investigating health transport services with a view to making recommendations which could include proposals for the orderly funding of such services, no funds are available in 1 974-75 for providing the assistance requested.
The proposals will now no doubt be looked at in the context of a range of competing claims for assistance under the Australian Assistance Plan.
Murray-Drakesbrook St John Ambulance Sub-centre (Question No. 1035)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) I refer the honourable member to my answer to question No. 1033.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (I), (2) and (3) I refer the honourable member to my answer to question No. 1033.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
I ) Has a decision been made on assistance for purchasing equipment for the Nyabing St John Ambulance Association submitted by the Kent Community Committee to the Southern Region Social Development Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commission to his Department.
Workshop premises declared and grants approved
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
) While precise details of individual grants approved are not readily available in the form required by the honourable member, summaries of the position are given hereunder:
Capital grants are not made available under this Act: The Government does make available hospital, nursing home and handicapped children’s benefits to assist patients in meeting the cost of their care and treatment in approved premises rather than as a direct contribution towards the current expenditure of organisations.
It is not possible to make a reasonable estimate of Australian Government expenditure by way of hospital benefits in respect of patients accommodated in religious and charitable hospitals.
However, while precise details of payments to individual nursing homes are not readily available in the form required by the Honourable Member, it is possible to make a reasonable estimate of the total of Australian Government benefits paid in respect of patients in nursing homes categorised as religious/charitable for each of the years in question. The estimates shown hereunder have been calculated by applying the percentage of religious/charitable beds in the private nursing home sector (as at the 30 June for each year) to the overall expenditure for the private sector. As such, the estimates do not take account of the following factors:
Estimated Totals of Australian Government Nursing Home Benefits Paid to Religious/Charitable Nursing Homes: 1 97 I -72- $M 12.8: 1 972-73-SM 1 8.3; 1973-74-SM26.6.
Statistics relating to benefits under the National Health Act (Handicapped Children’s Benefit).
Details of capital grants and Personal Care Subsidy approved under the Aged Persons Homes Act are contained in the following tables:
The following tables show details of grants approved under the Aged Persons Hostels Act since its inception in September 1972:
Statistics relating to the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act are as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is expected that all Australian Government welfare orientated departments may be involved in a co-ordinated public education program, in order to ensure timely and efficient evacuation procedures.
The Queensland floods, this year, saw welfare worker mobilisation undertaken on a national basis, whereby the Australian Government through the Department of Social Security provided a total of twenty-seven social workers and seven welfare officers, these workers were posted to flood affected areas within four days of the disaster, each staying for an average period of three weeks.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No records showing the number of librarians employed by the Government in authorities outside the Public Service Act are held by the Public Service Board. .(3) and (4) This information is not obtainable from records held in the Board ‘s Office (assuming that ‘librarians . . . in senior administrative positions’ refers to officers holding librarian. qualifications but who are not currently occupying positions in the Librarian structure).
To obtain this information, and the information concerning ‘the number of librarians employed by the Government outside the Public Service Act, would require an extensive survey of the records held by all Australian Government departments and authorities.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
What was the estimated unused capacity in Government factories in 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It will be appreciated that the term ‘unused capacity’ can have a varied meaning depending on the definition of ‘capacity’.
In peacetime, the Department of Manufacturing Industry defines ‘capacity’ in its factories as the level of operations required to utilise the available facilities economically on a single shift basis. On that basis, it is estimated that for 1973 the overall ‘unused capacity’ of the Government factories was in the range of 40% to 50%.
Indonesian Fishermen in Australian Waters (Question No. 1664)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s questions is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Are any measures taken to review, on a continuing basis, the operation of interdepartmental committees in order to ensure whether or not matters under study by them are duplicated by other Government inquiries or are necessary in view of the fact that the matter on which the committee is deliberating has already been subjected to an inquiry by another source inside or outside Government; if so, what measures are taken and, who undertakes this review; if not, why not.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
By their nature, interdepartmental committees will be aware of other inquiries, completed or current, which may canvass matters that the committee is required to consider.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Does he still hold the view that the membership of interdepartmental committees is of public interest and should therefore be available to the public.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 have no objection to naming the departments represented on nominated interdepartmental committees. Indeed, I have already done so- see my answer on 24 October 1973 (Hansard pp. 2665-6).
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Which Minister is responsible for the Public Service Board.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Prime Minister- and as I indicated on 9 July 1974, in my statement on Ministerial Arrangements (Hansard, pp. 15-16), the Special Minister of State is Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Matters Relating to the Public Service.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741125_reps_29_hor92/>.